Meet the Cast

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UPCOMING:

Who’s Who: Cast, Producing Team, Writers!

READINGS, RESILIENCE, AND REPRODUCTIVE FREEDOM

May 7 at 7 pm ET on Zoom

RSVP or INFO: reprofreedomarts@gmail.com

Repro Freedom Arts and  the National Institute of Reproductive Health

Download: Cast, Writers, Producing Team of Readings, Resilience

Performers and Presenters:

Dr. Grisel Y. Acosta, writer/presenter, is an associate professor at the City University of New York-BCC. She is the editor of the recently published Routledge anthology, Latina Outsiders Remaking Latina Identity, and her book, Things to Pack on the Way to Everywhere, is a finalist for the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize. Select works can also be found in the American Studies Journal, VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, The Lauryn Hill Reader, and the forthcoming sci-fi anthology, Speculative Fiction for Dreamers: A Latinx Anthology. Dr. Acosta is a Macondo Fellow and a Geraldine Dodge Foundation poet.

Cait Cortelyou, actor, is a Brooklyn-based actress and producer. Her first feature film Ask For Jane is based on the true story of the Jane Collective, an underground abortion network in the 1960s. Cait has also appeared as Nurse Monk in Steven Soderbergh’s The Knick, and as Delilah in the fashion week episode of CBS’s Bull. On stage, Cait originated a role in Sleep No More, and serves as the Director of Community Outreach for The Shelter, a long-running independent theatre company in NYC. She is an escort for Planned Parenthood and an activist with the National Institute for Reproductive Health. www.CaitCortelyou.com

Kimiye Corwin, actor, is an actor, dancer, choreographer and teacher living in Brooklyn, NY. She danced professionally with the Jose Limon Dance Company prior to expanding into acting. NY theater credits: Red Bull, Ma-Yi Theater, NAATCO. Regional theater credits include Guthrie, McCarter, Actors Theater of Louisville, Syracuse Stage, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis. TV/Film credits include Blacklist, The Family, One Life to Live, Five Dances (film by Alan Brown). She trained in dance at Juilliard and acting at Brown/Trinity. Kimiye is grateful to her theater community and the chance to contribute during this challenging time.

Alinca Hamilton, actor, has appeared in Reproductive Freedom Is What We Want and on the Reproductive Freedom Walking Tour. Her favorite credits include: Calphurnia in Julius Cesar, Classic Stage Company; Philly in Someone Dies at the End, Edinburgh Fringe Festival; Sorin in The Seagull, Columbia University, and the title character in Melody June Cooper: Actress* for Hire, which she conceived and produced. She is a recent graduate of Columbia University’s MFA Acting program and holds a BBA from Baruch College.

Yvette Heyliger, actor, is a playwright, producing artist and actor.  Yvette has performed her work in various theatre festivals, most recently #Heal MeToo Festival and United Solo Theatre Festival. Author of What a Piece of Work is Man! Full-Length Plays for Leading Women she has also contributed to various theatre anthologies including Short Plays on Reproductive Freedom edited by Cindy Cooper.  Yvette is a recipient of the AUDELCO Recognition Award for Excellence in Black Theatre’s August Wilson Playwright Award and an NAACP Annual Theatre Award Best Playwright nomination.  She is the co-recipient of the first National Black Theatre Emerging Producer Award.  Yvette was an Obama Fellow (2012), a founding member and longtime volunteer leader with Organizing for Action where she worked on issues like gun violence prevention and immigration.  A citizen-artist, she has also worked on equal opportunity and pay for women artists and most recently the #MeToo movement.  Memberships: AEA, SDC, AFTRA-SAG and the Dramatist Guild where she serves as the first Dramatists Guild NYC Ambassador.  She is also a member of Honor Roll! and serves on the board of the League of Professional Theatre Women. https://newplayexchange.org/users/30298/yvette-heyliger

Crista Marie Jackson, actor, is an actor, aerialist, and model. She toured and performed with Words of Choice for several years. http://cristamariejackson.wixsite.com/actor

Carl H. Jaynes, actor, appeared in New Light Theater Project’s premiere of Still Dance the Stars by Jayme McGhan. He has performed with the Negro Ensemble Co., Ensemble Studio Theater and Flock Theater of New London CN, where he performed the title role in Shakespeare’s Othello. A member of the Words of Choice company since 2006, he has travelled to a dozen states helping present dynamic theatre on reproductive freedom to vulnerable communities.

Stacey Linnartz, actor and co-producer, is a professional actor, director, and teacher of acting. Recently, she starred in the Off-Broadway hit Life Sucks by Aaron Posner, directed by Jeff Wise (Drama Desk Nomination.) Last fall, the solo show she directed As Soon As You’re Born (They Make You Feel Small), had its Off-Broadway premiere at The United Solo Festival, where it received a Critic’s Choice Award. She has acted in and directed several projects for Words of Choice, including the Reproductive Freedom Theatre Festival. She is currently a professor of Acting at Playwrights Horizons Theatre School at NYU / Tisch. MFA, Graduate Acting, NYU. StaceyLinnartz.com.

Producing Team

Francesca Mantani Arkus, director, has worked at the Hudson Guild, Anne Frank Center, HERE, Signature, Blue Heron, Phil Bosakowski Theatre, 78th Street, The Director’s Company, Barrow Group, Pulse Ensemble, with Words of Choice, and in readings at New York Theatre Workshop and the Public Theatre. Regionally, she’s worked at Mark Taper Forum, Capitol Theatre and the Open Eye, and served as Assistant Dir. to Tina Landau on Floyd Collins at Playwrights Horizons.

Cindy Cooper (co-producer) is an award-winning playwright and journalist in New York. Her plays have won awards from Pen & Brush, Samuel French, Nantucket Playwrights Festival, Malibu Intern’l Festival, and others. Running On Glass about women in sports won accolades at Venus Theatre. Her work has been produced in New York at The Women’s Project, Primary Stages, Wings, EST, Art and Work Ensemble, WOW, Theatreworks USA, Anne Frank Center, Center for Tolerance, Ronald Feldman Gallery, Center for Jewish History, Lincoln Center Clark Studio, New Circle Theatre Company and more. Elsewhere, her plays have been produced in Boston, Philadelphia, LA, Chicago, Minneapolis, Buffalo, Reno, Vancouver, Budapest, Montreal, Helsinki, and others. A two-time Jerome Fellow, her plays are published in 16 publications, including Women Heroes and Front Lines. She edited Short Plays on Reproductive Freedom. The founder of Words of Choice and the Reproductive Freedom Festival, she has been honored by NARAL Pro-Choice America, the Abortion Conversation Project and Quixote Foundation. She formerly worked at the Center for Reproductive Rights; with Social Justice Tours in New York, she gives Reproductive Freedom Walking Tours in Manhattan.

Stacey Linnartz, co-producer, see above.

Emory Kemph, assistant producer, is an NYC-based writer and performer. She is graduating (or rather, Zooming out of school) next month from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she has studied at Playwrights Horizons Theater School and Stonestreet Studios. She is committed to creating and engaging in projects (both theatrical and non-theatrical) that focus on mental health advocacy and gender rights!

Declan C Zhang, Zoom Producer, is a producer, playwright, actor, and musician. Recent credits: Hyacinth and Apollo and The Sun Club at Dixon Place, Frankenstein at The Tank, and The Wizard of Oz and The Wildness at NYU Tisch. They are a 2050 Administrative Fellow at New York Theatre Workshop, in the Executive department, and an amateur chef. BM: NYU. @dclnzhang

Writers

Dr. Grisel Acosta (see performers, above).

Melissa Bell’s productions include Lady Capulet, Henley Rose Finalist 2017, presented by Barefoot Shakespeare in Central Park in 2019, and COURAGE by NACL Theatre (Honored Finalist, Women in Arts and Media Coalition 2019 Collaboration Awards) presented on Governor’s Island, NYC, and the Catskills, featuring Debra Winger.

Justice Harry A. Blackmun (d.1999) was appointed to the United States Supreme Court in 1970 by President Richard Nixon, and served until his retirement in 1994. In 1973, he wrote the majority opinion in Roe v. Wade, which, by a vote of 7-2, held that states could not criminalize all abortion care. The decision held that the right of privacy in the U.S. Constitution prevents the government from interfering in intimate decision-making. More letters were received by Justice Blackmun about the Roe decision than the court had received on any other matter. In subsequent cases, Roe was reconsidered many times, but its core holdings stood.

Esosa Edosomwan is a producer, writer, actress, model and health expert who was named one of ‘10 African Artists and Entrepreneurs You Should Know’ by The Root. Also known as Esosa Edo and Esosa E, she played Ngozi in the hit web and TV series An African City.  Her film work has appeared on Canal Plus, Ebony Life TV, VOX Africa, BET, MTV, the Whitney Biennial and MOMA. Esosa’s one-woman show, The Woman Who Would Be King, about Hatshepsut, the first female pharaoh, has been performed at The Smithsonian Museum of African Art, Kennedy Center for Performing Arts and the Sundance Institute. Esosa is also a certified Clinical Nutritionist, the creator of Raw Girl in a Toxic World, a health website that features holistic lifestyle tips, and the author of Got Veg? How to Thrive on a Plant-Based Diet, and other books.  http://www.esosae.com

Jessica Feder-Birnbaum is a playwright, author and theatre artist. Her plays have had readings, workshops and productions in New York and regionally. Her plays and other writings appear in print and on-line. Recent readings/productions: Coronavirus One Minute Play Festival (Queens Theatre, NYC), The Director’s Workshop Theatre of Western Springs (Illinois), Bechdel Group’s 9th Overnight Writing Challenge (NYC), Clutch Productions EmpowerHER Reading Series (Primary Stages Studios NYC), Burning Coal Theatre (Raleigh NC); Words of Choice, Short Plays on Reproductive Freedom at Bluestocking (NYC); 5 Minute Jewish Play Festival Second Prize recipient; Lawrence Family JCC (San Diego)

June Jordan (1936–2002) is one of the most widely-published and highly-acclaimed Jamaican American writers of her generation. A poet, playwright and essayist, Jordan was known for her fierce commitment to human rights and political activism, writes the Poetry Foundation. Over a career that produced 27 volumes of poems, essays, libretti, and works for children, Jordan engaged readers in the struggles for civil rights, women’s rights, and sexual freedom.

Florynce (“Flo”) Rae Kennedy (1916 – 2000) was an American lawyer, feminist, civil rights advocate, lecturer and activist. She was a lawyer on the first class action to challenge the anti-abortion laws in New York State in the late 1960s. An early member of the National Organization for Women, she co-founded the National Black Feminist Organization which then sponsored the candidacy of Shirley Chisholm for President. A fiery speaker known for her punditry and witticisms, she traveled the lecture circuit with Gloria Steinem in the 1970s. She co-wrote the book, Abortion Rap with Diane Schulder. and penned an autobiography, Color Me Flo: My Hard Life and Good Times. In 2005, Sherie Randolph released a biography, Florynce “Flo” Kennedy: The Life of a Black Feminist Radical.

Jacqueline E. Lawton is a playwright, dramaturg, producer, and advocate for Access, Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in the American Theatre. She received her MFA in Playwriting from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a 2012 TCG Young Leaders of Color award recipient and an alum of National New Play Network (NNPN), Arena Stage’s Playwrights’ Arena, and Center Stage’s Playwrights Collective. She is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Dramatic Art at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a dramaturg for PlayMakers Repertory Company. She is also the Dramatist Guild’s North Carolina Regional Representative.

Alix Olson is an internationally touring spoken word artist-activist who has ignited stages from Lincoln Center to the March for Women’s Lives, from South Africa to Australia. She is featured in TV and radio appearances including on HBO, Rachel Maddow, CNN, Oxygen and more. Olson has published several volumes of poetry, three spoken word albums, the award-winning documentary Left Lane, and is the editor of Word Warriors: 35 Women Leaders in the Spoken Word Revolution (Seal Press) and co-author of Burning Down the House (Soft Skull Press). She has been featured in Ms., Curve, The New York Times, Time Out, OUT Magazine, Poets and Writers and others, and has been voted OutMusic’s Out Musician of the Year.

Marge Piercy has written 17 novels including The New York Times Bestseller Gone To Soldiers; the National Bestsellers Braided Lives and The Longings of Women; the classic Woman on the Edge of Time; and most recently Sex Wars. Among her 19 volumes of poetry the most recently published include The Hunger Moon: New & Selected Poems 1980-2010, and Made in Detroit. Her critically acclaimed memoir is Sleeping with Cats. She is active in antiwar, feminist and environmental causes.

Mary Ann Sorrentino, author of the The A Word, served as Executive Director of Planned Parenthood of Rhode Island, where she was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church. After leaving Planned Parenthood she went on to become the top-rated talk host on Rhode Island s flagship radio station WPRO where she worked for 12 years, appeared in a weekly television show, wrote newspaper opinion articles and won several Associated Press Awards.

 Dr. Susan Wicklund is a doctor who provided abortion care for nearly 30 years, working in Montana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota. She became vocal advocate for reproductive health and rights, appearing on 60 Minutes, Fresh Air and elsewhere. Her top-rated book, This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor, co-written with Alan Kesselheim, describes her work as an abortion provider and the harassment she experienced from the anti-abortion ideologues.


New Image
Carl H. Jaynes, Crista Marie Jackson, Claudia Schneider

CAST MEMBERS in the performing ensemble have included:

Alinca Hamilton (2019-2020) is a born and bred New Yorker with a B.B.A in Entrepreneurship from Baruch College. Her artistic talents range from being an actor to behind the scenes work producing, writing and directing. Her favorite acting credits include Calphurnia (Julius Cesar, Classic Stage Company); Philly (Someone Dies at the End, Edinburgh Fringe Festival); Sorin (The Seagull, Columbia University); Melody June Cooper: Actress for Hire, a short film in which she stars as the title character and co-created. She is a recent graduate of Columbia University’s MFA Acting program. http://www.alincahamilton.com

Donna Jean Fogel (2019) is an actor, director, and theater devisor who strives to illuminate the simple, complex, and sometimes mysterious connections between people, places and events. She loves to move and believes in the power of tenderness. Based in NYC for over 20 years, she worked with The Barrow Group (her NYC artistic home), Circle Rep Lab, Blue Light Theater company, among others, and regionally, including Playwrights Theater of NJ, People’s Light, and most recently at Boise Contemporary Theater in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. She directed A Walk in the Woods at The Barrow Group in 2018 and has directed productions at Stella Adler Conservatory/NYU, Long Island University CW Post, and American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She recently earned her MFA in Devised Performance from UArts/Pig Iron in Philadelphia, where she is currently developing a new work, The Next Thing, with Migration Theory.

Crista Marie Jackson (2008-2017, 2020) has performed with Words of Choice since 2008, appearing in New York and traveling to Kansas, Colorado, Maryland, D.C. and Virginia. With a BFA in theatre from Hofstra University, she performed in various Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway productions. After studying aerial acrobatics, including silk and flying trapeze at the Circus Warehouse in Long Island City, she started performing aerial ballet at Sea World in San Diego in 2011.

Leah Jacobs

Leah Jacobs (2012) is a graduate of the USC School of Theatre, where she originated two plays by playwright Boni B. Alvarez.  Leah has been seen onstage in NYC with the Manhattan Theatre Source, The Leviathan Theatre Lab, Queens Theatre in the Park, Mortal Folly Theatre Company, and The Players Theatre, and has developed work with Ensemble Studio Theatre, CAP 21, and Primary Stages.

Carl H. Jaynes (2006-2020) most recently appeared in New Light Theater Project’s world premiere production of Still Dance the Stars by Jayme McGhan. A graduate of Northwestern University’s school of communications, Carl has also performed with the Negro Ensemble Company, Ensemble Studio Theater and Flock Theater of New London Connecticut where he performed the title role in Flock’s recent production of Shakespeare’s Othello. Carl has been a member of the Words of Choice company since 2006. In that time, he has traveled to more than a dozen states helping present dynamic theater on reproductive freedom to vulnerable communities across the country. Off-Broadway: Fortune and Men’s EyesRobin’s Band, Goin’ Back Home. Most often, Carl can be found working in the administrative areas of theater, having been producer or general manager for such notable works as Hedwig and the Angry Inch, by Stephen Trask and John Cameron Mitchell, Sakina’s Restaurant, by Aasif Mandvi, Wonderland, by Julia Dahl and the world premiere of Living in the Wind by Michael Bradford. 

Stacey Linnartz (actor, artistic coordinator)(2006-2018, 2019-2020): Off-Broadway: Modotti (Theatre Row), Amendment 13 (Clubbed Thumb), Lost In Light (The Public), Heaven Can Wait (Actors Studio Theatre), Down The Road (ATA). Regional: Shipwrecked! (Capital Rep), A Streetcar Named Desire (New Harmony), Eclectic Society (Walnut Street), Romeo and Juliet, As You Like It (Smoky Mountain Shakespeare). London: Old Times, Sirocco (Royal Court). Film: The Weekend, Shallow Point, Swinging In Between, Saturday Afternoon. Television: Gossip Girl, As The World Turns, Rescue Me. Stacey is also a writer / producer / actor in the web series The Ghost of Shakespeare, and FIRST WORLD PROBLEM. She teaches with the Kids Creative Collective and is the Artistic Director of the non-profit Alive Process Theatre Company. Please visit http://www.staceylinnartz.com. MFA, NYU Graduate Acting.

Stacey Linnartz and Krystel Lucas

Krystel Lucas (2011,2016) Theater includes: Elizabeth in In the Next Room or the vibrator play (St. Louis Rep); Market Woman in Death and the King’s Horseman, Gentlewoman in Macbeth (Oregon Shakespeare Festival); Kennedy in The Summer House (Passage Theatre Company); Linda in Postcards from Earth (Guthrie Theater); Rosaline in Love’s Labor’s Lost (Shakespeare in the Park(ing) Lot); Perdita in The Winter’s Tale, Inez in Our Lady of 121st Street, Jane in Smash, Mrs. Linde in A Doll House, Black Mary in Gem of the Ocean, Dirty Water in Sliding into the Beast, Angel in Angels in America: Millennium Approaches, Honey in Tiger Tiger, Helena in All’s Well that Ends Well (NYU, Tisch School of the Arts); Josephine Baker in Memories… (Salt and Pepper Mime Theater). NYU Graduate Acting Program, MFA

Cassandra Nwokah (2019) is a theatre artist whose work centers on identity politics and the intersectional stories of women of color. She is the founder of Smash the Box, an arts collective serving women of color. She is a graduate of Columbia University’s MFA Acting program.

Abigail Ramsay (2014, 2010-2012) works in the performing arts as an actor, director and administrator. A graduate of England’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, she worked in London, acting in theatre and BBC-4 Radio Plays. She has performed in “Lush Valley” Culturemart 2011 at HERE, Off-Broadway in “Shoot 2 Win,” as Donelle in Joe Scanlan’s visual art piece at the Institute of Contemporary Art (UK), Wallspace Gallery (NY), Princeton and Chicago, devised autobiographical story-telling pieces with resettled refugee teenagers through the International Rescue Committee’s Summer program, and directed amateur actors in a French language one-act farce at the National Arts Club (NYC). She received her BA from Brown University. Abigail was born in London and grew up in New York City.

Julissa Roman (2016-2017), originally from Perú, is a graduate of HB Studio, LAByrinth Theater Master Class and the New York Film Academy short term filmmaking program. She has most recently been seen as “Rosa” in the feature film Exposed, performing next to Keanu Reeves and Ana de Armas. She has previously worked with Catherine Filloux at La MaMa Theatre in the play Luz interpreting the character of Luz and directed by Jose Zayas. Other theater credits: A is for Abortion Play (NY Fringe); The Death of a Dream (directed Obie Award winner Frank Perez); Crossings (N.Y. Fringe and Europe Theater Encounters); Girl Who Died Often (Repertorio Español); Build Your Own (by Padraic Lillis). Film credits: Nueva York (Tribeca and NY Latino F.F.); 4 Latas (San Diego F.F. and Human Rights F.F. Argentina) and her latest leading role in the short film, Marie, which will be showing at the Women in Action Festival (Santa Monica) http://www.julissaroman.com

Claudia Schneider (2008-2018): Performances include: A Single Woman (The Culture Project, NYC), Correct Usage and Common Errors (Playwrights Horizons), Cindy Cooper’s The Dwelling Place (The Actor’s Chapel, NYC), Martin Charnin’s WINCHELL (Brooks Atkinson-Broadway Workshop), Frank McCourt’s The Irish and How They got That Way (The Irish Repertory Theatre, National Tour), Cowgirls (NY Workshop with Judy Kaye}, Six Degrees of Separation (Queens Theatre in the Park), A Name for the Moon ( Lincoln Center with Barbara Barrie), Waiting for the Parade (Redfield Company),  A Williams’ Evening (with Patricia Neal & Eli Wallach, National Arts Club);The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, The Last Night of Ballyhoo, Tale of the Allergist’s Wife, The Diary of Anne Frank, California SuiteBroadway Bound. She recently played Hannah in the Maine premiere of The Spitfire Grill. Recent Film and TV: Third Watch, Mona Lisa Smile, Black Rain. She performed in a special Words of Choice benefit in 2006, and has performed in the cast of Words of Choice since 2008. In Summer 2011, she is performing in theater in Maine.

Also meet:

Francesca Mantani Arkus(director 2006-2020) has directed and collaborated on numerous pieces in New York City at New York Theatre Workshop (reading series), HERE, Blue Heron Arts Center, Phil Bosakowski Theatre, Access Theatre, 78th Street Theatre Lab, TADA, The Director’s Company, Barrow Group, Pulse Ensemble Theatre, Joseph Papp Public Theatre, Playwrights Horizons, Emerging Artists and Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles.  She has served as Assistant Director to Tina Landau on Floyd Collins at Playwrights Horizons and Time of Your Life at Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago, Seattle Rep, and A.C.T. in San Francisco. Francesca is a director with New York University’s First Look Theatre Company, and a board member of Alive Process Theatre.

Kelly Vieau (stage manager, 2011-2013) is a graduate of the Purple Rose Theatre Company’s apprenticeship program in Chelsea, MI, where she worked on five shows and trained with stage management. She stage managed Guys & Dolls, Little Shop of Horrors, Oklahoma and Sweeney Todd at The Encore in Dexter, MI. Kelly has recently moved to New York and has stage managed The BEcompany holiday Cabaret, the workshop of Blood Potato and has recently been named Resident SM with the company. She has toured with Words of Choice in spring 2010 and served as SM for Peking Roulette in the MITF, and done production work on a music video that aired in Istanbul.

Cindy Cooper (creator, producer) is an award-winning playwright and journalist in New York. Her plays have won awards from Pen & Brush, Samuel French Off-Broadway Short Play Festival, Nantucket Playwrights Festival, Malibu International Festival, and others. How She Played the Game about six women from sports history, was produced in New York at The Women’s Project and at Primary Stages, as well as 100 other venues, including in Budapest, Montreal, England and Helsinki. A two-time Jerome Fellow, her plays are published in 14 volumes, including Women Heroes and Hit the Nerve. Her articles have appeared in Women’s eNews, Ms. Magazine, The Nation, Marie Claire, In These Times, On The Issues Magazine, others, and she has written seven non-fiction books, including Mockery of Justice, made into a CBS movie. A former practicing lawyer, she served as the Communications Director at the Center for Reproductive Rights. In 2009, she was named Anne E. Fisher Champion of Choice by NARAL ProChoice America.