I am a first-generation college individual from a working-class Italian-American family. My parents were raised on the east side of Detroit in the 1940s and moved to the suburb of Livonia, MI., which was and continues to be one of the whitest cities in America. Although much too young to remember the Detroit rebellion ("riots") of 1967, even as a child, I saw and understood the racial disparity between my hometown and school and what kids in Detroit experienced, less than 20 minutes away. My commitment to diversity began at this young age with my recognition of personal privilege and my experiences as a member of other "marginalized groups."
This awkward, too-tall, overweight, effeminate kid struggled to find his place in the world. I was a devoted student but only sometimes an outstanding scholar. I struggled at home, looking for acceptance and affirmation. It was not until I was told by an advisor to "maybe try choir or theatre" that I understood what I was missing. Discovering the theatre was revolutionary for me. It was a world where you felt accepted and allowed the freedom to be yourself - no matter what race, gender, and sexual orientation.
Unlike many of my peers and siblings, I attended college at the University of Detroit in the BFA Theatre program. The years spent at the university have informed me how I wanted my world to look, specifically, my world of theatre. I aspired to create a diverse community of storytellers, an environment where everyone from any background can grow and do their best work.
I ground my commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion in my experience and reflected in my many years of leadership and teaching. As a theatre professional and educator, I am dedicated to cultivating diversity and acceptance through my selection of work, casting, and hiring practices. The arts can build bridges and unite people to celebrate their diverse backgrounds and create something unique. I am passionate about creating an inclusive workplace that promotes and values diversity in age, gender identity, race, sexual orientation, physical or mental ability, ethnicity, and perspective.
My early career was as a freelance director and choreographer in High School and community-based youth programs in the inner city and the suburbs. Working with Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit, I acted as Choreographer and Assistant Director for a production of Liz Swados' Runaways, bringing together Black and Latino youth from Detroit's economically disadvantaged families and under-served communities with White kids from the city's wealthy suburbs. As a director and actor with Crossroad Productions, we took performances in urban schools and facilitated post-performance conversations with our student audiences.
After my move to New York, I taught for several years at The Professional Performing Arts School (PPAS) in Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan. I also worked in Brooklyn with a diverse cast of teenagers and young adults to create original performances at the FACES Maimonides Theater Network. An Emmy award-winning, multi-cultural performing arts program within Maimonides Medical Center's Child and Adolescent Outpatient Services Department. The program used improvisational theater, group therapy, and community outreach to promote insight, emotional literacy, self-expression, and optimal health.
Over the past ten years, holding leadership positions in regional and stock theatres, I have produced visionary and inclusive new material and worked proactively to cast and hire diverse artistic talent. As Artistic Director of ReVision Theatre, I was most proud of our production of Kingdom, A Hip-Hop Musical, inspired by the true stories of current and former Latin Kings. Kingdom follows the journey of two kids from "the barrio" who want to belong—and the power struggle that tears the two friends apart. In 2018, under my Artistic Direction, the Millbrook Playhouse presented the first regional production of Fun Home, based on Alison Bechdel's memoir about discovering her sexuality and her relationship with her gay father.
I am inspired by the current movement in the American theatre to be inclusive of BIPOC and LGBTQ artists as performers, writers, production designers, and other leadership positions.