Join Black theater makers and community organizers from the Seattle area to envision a theater landscape that centers Black voices equitably. The panelists will set the stage, but we invite all Black community members and theater artists to join in the discussion.
Presented in collaboration with HowlRound Theatre Commons.
Artistic Director, Spectrum Dance Theater
Donald Byrd has been the Artistic Director of Spectrum Dance Theater since December 2002. Formerly, he was Artistic Director of Donald Byrd/The Group, a critically acclaimed contemporary dance company, founded in Los Angeles and later based in New York, that toured both nationally and internationally. His career has been long and complex, and his choreographic and theatrical interests are broad. The New York Times describes him as “a choreographer with multiple personalities … an unabashed eclectic.” He is a Tony-nominated (The Color Purple) and Bessie Award-winning (The Minstrel Show) choreographer.
Mr. Byrd has frequently been referred to as a "citizen artist," a descriptive that perfectly aligns with an important component of Spectrum Dance Theater’s mission and Mr. Byrd’s personal beliefs – “dance as an art form and as a social/civic instrument.”
Throughout the 40+ years of his choreographic career, Mr. Byrd has created over 100 works for his companies as well as works for many leading classical and contemporary companies. This list includes Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, The Joffrey Ballet, The Philadelphia Dance Company (Philadanco), Dance Theater of Harlem, and many others. He has worked extensively in theater and opera, both in America and abroad, including Seattle Opera, San Francisco Opera, The Israeli Opera, New York City Opera, The New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theater, Intiman Theatre, and Baltimore Center Stage.
Currently the Head of Performance—Directing at the University of Washington School of Drama, Valerie Curtis-Newton also serves as the Founding Artistic Director for The Hansberry Project, a professional African American theater lab. She has worked with theaters across the country including: the Guthrie Theater, PlayMakers Repertory Company, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Intiman Theatre, Seattle Children’s Theatre, The Mark Taper Forum, New York Theatre Workshop, Tacoma Actors Guild, Southern Repertory Theatre, Capitol Repertory Theatre, among others. Awards: 2016: Seattle Times Footlight Award (Best in Show); 2014: Stranger Genius Award in Performance and the Crosscut Courage Award for Culture; 2012: Gypsy Rose Lee Award for Excellence in Direction; 2001: Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation’s (SDCF) Gielgud Directing Fellowship; 1997-1999: NEA/TCG Career Development Fellowship for Directors.
Partner, Keller Rohrback L.L.P.
Juli Farris practices in Keller Rohrback’s nationally recognized Complex Litigation Group, where she represents parties in federal class action lawsuits involving securities, financial fraud, environmental law, and consumer protection. Prior to joining Keller Rohrback in 1991, she practiced law at the Washington, D.C. office of Sidley & Austin LLP and served as a judicial law clerk for Judge E. Grady Jolly of the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. Juli has been recognized for her expertise and has been named a “Super Lawyer” by Super Lawyers Magazine for the past several years.
Outside of her law practice, Juli is an active civic volunteer and has been involved with many community and professional organizations. She currently serves on the boards of Treehouse (recently completing her tenure as Board President), The Links, Inc., Greater Seattle Chapter (an African American women’s service organization), and Susan G. Komen Puget Sound, where she holds the position of Board Secretary. (In 2013 she was recognized for her active engagement and commitment as a volunteer to Komen Puget Sound with the “Promise of One” award.)
In addition to the above, she has served on the Boards of the Seattle Fringe Theater Festival (where she served as Board Chair), the Pacific Northwest Ballet, and the Board and Alumni Board of Forest Ridge School. She is also a former member of the Seattle Parks Legacy Committee.
Toyia T. Taylor
Founder and Executive Director, We.APP
Toyia T. Taylor has used her voice to inspire audiences nationally and internationally. As she continues to grow she is currently the Chair of the Seattle Children’s March (Movement) #YouthShallLead. She was featured in the 2016 City Arts Magazine for her work with youth through the arts. She is the first recipient of the Wonder of Women (WOW) Community Award, an award reserved for women who inspire women and girls to find their voice, stand in their truth, and celebrate their wonder by telling their story. She is the recipient of the 2015 National Council of Negro Women Incorporated, Style and Substance Award. Also the recipient of the Education for Social Justice Award from Girls for Gender Equity, Incorporated. Toyia has also spoken and performed for O Magazine at the Women Rule Leadership Training Conference, co-sponsored by the White House Project.
Dedicated to community service, social justice, and the performing arts, her passion for inspiring others won her the title of Miss District of Columbia, which advanced her to the 1999 Miss America Pageant where she is the first woman of color to perform oratory at the Miss America Pageant.
Toyia is the proud founder and executive director of the We.APP (We Act. Present. Perform.). We.APP is the only public speaking program offered in Seattle Public Schools as an elective or common course integration. Within the school day, young scholars learn that public speaking is not about presenting but creating authentic conversations that allow every young adult to be heard, celebrated, and more importantly understood regardless of race, gender, or class. We.APP is currently offered in five schools with the vision of expanding nationally and globally. Toyia earned her Master of Fine Arts in Arts Leadership from Seattle University.
Sharon Nyree Williams
Executive Director, CD Forum for Arts and Ideas
Sharon Nyree Williams is a storyteller and arts administrator. Originally from Fayetteville, NC. Sharon has been writing and developing her stories in Seattle, WA for 16 years. She is the Executive Director for the Central District Forum for Arts and Ideas. Sharon is purposeful in sharing stories about her imperfections in hopes that she can change the world one story at a time. She’s passionate about sharing her truth as it relates to family, religion, depression, being Black in America, to name a few of her storylines. She hopes her stories will act as a bridge in bringing communities closer together. Sharon has had the privilege to perform throughout the United States and in Rwanda. Dare to Claim the Sky is her third solo performance, she has a book of the same name, and three poetry plus storytelling albums: Humanity, Consciousness of Love, and newly released SHOOK. For more info about Sharon, visit www.sharonnwilliams.com, Instagram & Facebook @SharonNyreeWilliams, and Twitter @ambitiousSNW.
Photo by Brett Love.
Actor, Creator, Collaborator
Dedra Woods is an Actor/Educator/Creator and Collaborator. She has been working in the Seattle arts scene since 2012. She has had the privilege to perform with several companies around Seattle including The Williams Project (A Bright Room Called Day, Small Craft Warnings, The Time of Your Life), Seattle Public Theater (Fire Season), Intiman (Wild Horses, Wedding Band), Seattle Shakespeare Company (Medea), upstart crow collective (Bring Down the House, Richard III), Book-It Repertory Theatre (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings), and ArtsWest (An Octoroon, The Revolutionists). Dedra has also worked in television, film, and as a voice-over artist. She is the creator and curator of Artists of Color in Seattle. AOC(S) is a place to celebrate the BIPOC artists in our town and their work, while inviting everyone in to bear witness to their humanity and artistry. AOC(S) strives to lift the voices of marginalized folx and support local Artists in the Seattle area and on the national scene.
Alex Lee Reed
Youth Engagement Manager, Seattle Rep
Alex Lee Reed (he/they) is a recent Seattle transplant via Flint, MI. Alex received a B.A. in Theatre Performance from the University of Michigan – Flint in 2012. In addition to their current role as Youth Engagement Manager at Seattle Rep, Alex has worked locally as a teaching artist for Seattle Children's Theatre, Lathyrus Theater Company, and The 5th Avenue Theatre.
As a writer, director, poet, performer, artist, educator, and mentor, their work is centered on the intersection of being a Black, queer, gender nonconforming individual. With a strong focus on equity and social justice, Alex is a champion for underrepresented groups, particularly QTPOC youth.
Off the clock, Alex lives for new adventures, puppy cuddles, chocolate-cherry ice cream, and chasing sunsets.
Director of Arts Engagement, Seattle Rep
Nabra Nelson is a community organizer and theater creator from Egypt, Nubia, and California. She is also the Director of Arts Engagement at Seattle Rep. As an arts administrator, director, playwright, dramaturg, and teaching artist, she works with theaters, universities, and community organizations to create positive change, strengthen community, and amplify under-heard voices through theater. She is a founding company member of Dunya Productions and Heard Space Arts Collective, and is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara.