Featured Artists

Chantal Bilodeau is a Montreal-born, New York-based playwright whose work focuses on the intersection of science, policy, art, and climate change. She is the Artistic Director of the Arts & Climate Initiative (formerly The Arctic Cycle), an organization that uses theatre to foster dialogue about our global climate crisis, create an empowering vision of the future, and inspire people to take action. Awards include the Woodward International Playwriting Prize as well as First Prize in the Earth Matters on Stage Ecodrama Festival and the Uprising National Playwriting Competition. Her plays have been presented in a dozen countries around the world. She is working on a series of eight plays that look at the social and environmental changes taking place in the eight Arctic states. In 2019, she was named one of “8 Trailblazers Who Are Changing the Climate Conversation” by Audubon Magazine.

Featured Artist Frank CollisonFrank Collison and his wife Laura Gardner are excited to be here for their sixteenth year and to once again teach the Monologue Workshop. They are eternally grateful to Dawson Moore and his merry band who have worked so hard to make the Conference such a rich experience. Frank was born into the theatre, appearing at age four months in the role of a baby at a tent theatre in Granville, Ohio. His mother directed him in his first non-crying role, the boy in William Saroyan’s My Heart’s in the Highlands. Frank briefly flirted with the idea of becoming an archaeologist but after seeing his father as Otto Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank, he decided he wanted to be an actor. He earned his BA in theatre at San Francisco State University where he performed street theatre and helped establish Pinecrest Theatre in Sierra, Nevada. He trained at the American Conservatory Theatre and then went on to earn an MFA in acting at UC San Diego. Appearing in over 150 stage productions, Frank has worked Off-Broadway, with the New Jersey Shakespeare Festival, Denver Center Theatre Company, and Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts. He once toured 39,000 miles in nine months with Chamber Repertory Theatre of Boston. In Los Angeles, Frank has acted in productions at the Bilingual Foundation of the Arts, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Los Angeles Theatre Company, Rogue Machine, The Road Theatre Company and Pacific Resident Theatre where he is a founding member. The LA Weekly honored his performance as Mr. Peachum in PRT’s The Beggars’ Opera as best supporting actor. He is a father to three amazing humans. Please ask him about his kids. Frank funds his theatre habit by working in film, television, and voice-over. Most recently, Frank guest starred in Young Sheldon, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and Big Shot. He is sometimes approached by people on the street who ask, “What have I seen you in?” It’s usually O Brother, Where Art Thou?Twin Peaks, or Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. www.frankcollison.com

Featured Artist Ben CorbettBen Corbett returns for his eighth year at Valdez Theatre Conference. He is an Assistant Professor of Voice and Acting at the University of Arkansas. He is also a Designated Linklater Voice Teacher and a Certified Colaianni Speech Instructor. Ben previously taught voice and acting at the William Inge Center for the Arts/Independence Community College as an Associate Professor of Theatre, and at Oklahoma City University as an Associate Professor of Voice and Acting. He also served a voice residency at the University of Kansas. His professional vocal coaching credits include Ronin Theatre Company, TheatreSquared, City Rep, the William Inge Theatre Festival, the Last Frontier Theatre Conference, the Hollywood Fringe Festival, Nashville Shakespeare Festival, Barter Theatre, Burning Coal Theatre Company, Bare Theatre, Shakespeare Dallas, and Shakespeare Santa Cruz. He is a Senior Editor for the International Dialects of English Archive, and the creator of the Arkansas Accent Project. He will be shooting a documentary based on the Arkansas Accent Project this summer.

Featured Artist John Dayo-AliyaJohn Dayo-Aliya is an Akron Arts Alive and Knight Arts Challenge Award-winning playwright, actor, and musician. He is also the recipient of the 2020/2021 Nord Family Playwright Fellow and is developing a new play Our Lady of Common Sorrows at Cleveland Public Theatre. Dayo-Aliya studied Theatre Arts at Kent State University and Pan-African Studies at the University of Akron. He is Artistic Director of the nationally-recognized theatre company, Ma’Sue Productions. With Ma’Sue, Dayo-Aliya has produced eight plays in the past nine years that have received numerous accolades and press in local media such as The Devil Strip, Akron Beacon Journal, The Plain Dealer, Akronlife Magazine, and many other locally and regionally published media outlets. His work has been produced at Balch Street Theatre, Cleveland Public Theatre, and Akron Civic Theatre. His work explores various aspects of the Black experience and is specifically interested in Black modern lives and the questions arising out of the challenge of holding on to faith, love, community, and familial ties while living against a backdrop of structural racism. He creates work that provokes audiences to call out to their higher humanity in order to face social and cultural issues with intelligence, clarity, and empathy.

Featured Artist Patti D'BeckPatti D’Beck’s Broadway credits as actor, associate choreographer/director and supervisor include Applause, A Chorus Line, The Will Rogers Follies, Pippen, Evita, and many more. She has also directed at regional theatres including the Alaska Light Opera, Pioneer Theatre, Papermill Playhouse, Wichita Music Theatre, Virginia Repertory Theatre and others. Representative performers coached include Reba McEntire, Bernadette Peters, Liza Minnelli, Brooke Shields, and Keith Carradine. Her production of Nunsense starring Sally Struthers is currently running at the Riverside Center for Performing Arts. In addition, she also works at the VCU School of Medicine as a Standardized Patient (SP) to instruct and train doctors in critical thinking, patient safety, and communication. Patti has taught at VCU, New York and Pace Universities and is a Certified Mediation Trainer.

Featured Artist Laura GardnerLaura Gardner is delighted to return for her sixteenth year as a Featured Artist. Frank and Laura had the pleasure of being directed by Dawson Moore in Lia Romeo’s Sitting and Talking, on Zoom, as a Benefit for the Actors Fund. What a joyful experience! Laura also did two benefits on Zoom of Luke Yankee’s Marilyn, Mom & Me for the Actors Fund and Broadway Cares, playing Luke’s mother Eileen Heckart. She also played Constance in King John for All the Web’s a Stage for Australia’s award winning Shakespeare Republic. Laura was nominated for Best Supporting Actress by the LA Weekly for her performance in Fighting Words, which opened at the Celtic Arts Center in Los Angeles and then transferred to the Millennium Center in Wales. She was also nominated for an ADA Best Actress for Idle Wheels at The Road Theatre, by Alaska writer/actor James Morrison. Laura appeared on Broadway in Smile. Her Off-Broadway credits include The Cocktail Hour with Nancy Marchand and Bruce Davison, Other People’s Money, and Welded, directed by Jose Quintero. She toured nationally with Showboat, My Fair Lady. Her extensive regional credits include the Arena Stage, Huntington Theatre, Cleveland Playhouse, McCarter Theatre, and the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival. LA credits include The Road Theatre, The Rogue Machine, Pasadena Playhouse, Will Geer Botanicum, Westwood Playhouse, Greenway Court, Tiffany Theatre, Fountain Theatre, Deaf West, Road and Sacred Fools. Some of her TV and film credits include Law and Order SVU, Seal TeamAnimal KingdomThe RomanoffsDoubtOutcast, ScandalFresh Off the BoatSecrets and LiesCriminal MindsCastleLaw and Order LATorchwoodThe ForgottenCrashERClose to Home, and The West Wing. You may have seen Laura and Frank recurring on the NBC hit My Name is Earl. Laura also shot the pilot Shredd, playing Jason Lee’s wacky mother. Laura trained at Boston University, Rutgers, and HB Studio, where she studied with Uta Hagen, Carol Rosenfeld, and Ken McMillan and now studies with Jessica Hecht and Austin Pendleton. She was on the faculty of The Howard Fine Acting Studio in LA, and in Australia for over 19 years and now teaches her own classes in Los Angeles and her popular ‘Authenticity Workshop’ across the country and abroad. www.lauragardner.org

Featured Artist Michael HoodMichael Hood retired in 2018 after 20 years as Dean of Fine Arts at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. In 2019 he was named IUP’s first Dean emeritus. For 22 years he served on the faculty at the University of Alaska Anchorage, where he was department chair in Theatre and Dance for 10 years, and Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences for six years. At UAA four of his productions were selected for regional presentation and honors by the KC/ACTF, and Arms and the Man received National Honorable Mention. Hood has worked professionally as an actor/director/fight choreographer, has twice directed professionally in Russia, and has presented fight workshops regionally, nationally, and internationally in Russia, China, and Indonesia. He is an SAFD Certified Teacher emeritus of stage combat, served as President of the National Theatre Conference, and now serves on the Board of the College of Fellows of the American Theatre.

Featured Artist Arlene HuttonArlene Hutton is the author of Letters to Sala and The Nibroc Trilogy. The Rubicon Theatre production of her play Gulf View Drive received a 2018 Ovation Award for Best Production. Other regional credits include B Street, Chester Theatre, Cincinnati Playhouse, Florida Studio Theatre, Kitchen Theatre, Mad Cow, and Washington Stage Guild. An alumna of New Dramatists and member of Ensemble Studio Theatre, New Circle Theatre Company, New Light Theatre Project and Honor Roll!, she is a three-time winner of the Samuel French Short Play Festival, nine-time finalist for the Heideman Award, Francesca Primus Prize finalist, recipient of an EST/Sloan Commission and NYFA Fellowship. Residencies include the Lark, the MacDowell Colony, SPACE at Ryder Farm and Yaddo. Hutton’s works have been presented at FringeNYC, Off- and Off-Off-Broadway, regionally, in London and at the Edinburgh Fringe. Her scripts are published by DPS, Playscripts and TRW. She teaches playwriting at The Barrow Group.

Leslie Ishii is the Artistic Director of Perseverance Theatre (PT). Her directing credits include Pangea World Theatre, East West Players; Artists At Play; and more; Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF): FAIR Assistant Directorships, API 2×2 New Works Residency, Founder/Co-Producer, and E/D/I/A Initiative, co-Facilitator. Dramaturgy:  Native Voices, OSF, PT, and other independently commission research projects. Leslie has worked as an actor for Penumbra; Theatre Mu; Northwest Asian American Theater, El Teatro Campesino; American Conservatory Theater; Southcoast Repertory Theatre, Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts, PT, Broadway, and tv/film. She is the Board President for the Consortium of Asian American Theatres & Artists; National New Play Network: Board Member; National BIPOC/BITOC Theatre Coalition/Commons, Founder; artEquity, National faculty; Theatre Communications Group, BIPOC Advisory Circle. Other affiliations and awards include Arts For LA ACTIVATE; Los Angeles County Supervisors’ Cultural Equity Inclusion Initiative; New England Foundation for the Arts Capacity Grant; Doris Duke Charitable Foundation National Theatre Grant; LA Women’s Theatre Integrity Award; LA County Teachers Making A Difference Award; SDC E/D/I Standout Moments, 2016, 2017 and is a 2022 SDC Zelda Fichandler Directing Award Finalist. SDC, AEA, SAG-AFTRA.

Featured Artist Rob LecroneRob Lecrone is a former Alaskan (1978-2012) who recently moved from Los Angeles to Albuquerque. He began acting in Anchorage in 1995 and was voted Best Thespian in the Anchorage Press Picks in 2000. As an Alaskan, Rob helped clean up the Prince William Sound following the Exxon Valdez oil spill and once enjoyed bear stew made from the bear that almost ate him. He is excited to return home to Alaska for his thirteenth Conference. Rob performs multiple jobs at the Conference, embarking this season on his seventh year as both a coach in the Monologue Workshop and as a co-producer and one of the hosts of the Fringe. Rob holds an MFA in Acting from Cal State LA as well as a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Alaska Anchorage. He trained at the Howard Fine Studio in Hollywood, is a graduate of the Upright Citizens Brigade improv program, and was a participant in Hagen Teachers Lab at HB Studios in New York. Rob co-produced and acted in the world premiere of Conference playwright Nicholas Walker Herbert’s Bloodless in 2020. Also in 2020, he served as lead producer for the U.S. version of international digital theatre production The Art of Facing Fear (which included Conference actors Danielle Rabinovitch and Megan Skye Hale, among others), partnering with Brazil’s Os Satyros, Sweden’s Darling Desperados, and LA’s Company of Angels in a show which won Best Production in India’s Good The@tre Festival and the Worldwide Award for Collaborative Work of the Year in the Young-Howze Theatre Awards. In 2017, he co-produced and acted in Julia Lederer’s With Love and a Major Organ for the Conference mainstage, along with fellow actors/co-producers Laura Gardner and Michelle Gardner. Rob performs on online improv team Squirrely Bird with another Conference attendee, Veronika Gribanova, and teammates from across the states. His most recent project has been working as Production Coordinator on a feature film written by Conference playwright Adam Seidel. Some of the above facts might lead you to believe that, given the right opportunity, Rob is open to collaborating with his fellow Conference attendees, and that would be a fair assessment.

Featured Artist David LeongDavid S. Leong, Professor Emeritus and former Chair of the VCU Department of Theatre, currently teaches in the VCU School of Business’ Executive Master of Business Administration program. His ebooks Real-World Presentations: How to Increase Your Speaking Presence and Stop Stage Fright and Real-World Presentations: How to Strengthen Your Message and Make It Stick are used by leaders in business, science, and healthcare all over the U.S. David is a professional theatre director and fight choreographer whose work has appeared on the stages of most every major theatre in the United States. He has collaborated on dozens of Broadway, London West End and New York Metropolitan Opera productions. His fight choreography is now seen in the Broadway production of Macbeth starring Daniel Craig.

Dawson Moore is entering his twentieth year as Coordinator of the Valdez Theatre Conference. He is a playwright, producer, and actor. He recently added politician to the list when he was elected to the Valdez City Council. Since January his has been in located in San Francisco, assisting his father with various aging challenges while spending his spare time cataloging the 40,000-volume book collection. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America and the National Theatre Conference.

Featured Aritst Teresa K. PondTeresa K. Pond is Producing Artistic Director of Cyrano’s Theatre Company (CTC). She has a BFA in Theatre from Chapman University and an MFA in Drama-Directing from University of California-Irvine. Her professional directing career spans New York City, Anchorage, and regionally across the country with credits Off-Broadway and regionally across the country from California to Kentucky and more. In Alaska, she has directed with Anchorage Opera, Perseverance Theatre, Anchorage Community Theatre, Alaska Native Heritage Center, and, of course, Cyrano’s Theatre. Teresa previously served as Executive and Artistic Director of Millbrook Playhouse (PA) and Anchorage Community Theatre. A New York DramaLeague finalist, she was co-leader of the play development group NewShoe (offshoot of The Women’s Project Theatre in New York City) for several years and member of the Director’s Lab at The Women’s Project Theatre (off-Broadway). Teresa is a proud member of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC).

Carmen Rivera holds an MA in Playwriting and Latin American Theatre from New York University. Her play La Gringa was part of the OBIE Award Winning Series New Voices in 1996 and has celebrated its 22nd year anniversary in repertory at Repertorio Español; it is now the longest running Spanish-language play in Off-Broadway history and was published in both English and Spanish by Samuel French/Concord Productions. Her play La Caída De Rafael Trujillo (The Downfall of Rafael Trujillo) was produced by Teatro Círculo and received multiple ACE and ATI Award nominations and won 4 ATIs, including Best Production. She co-wrote, with Cándido Tirado, Celia: The Life and Music of Celia Cruz (HOLA Award, Outstanding Achievement in Playwriting), which played Off-Broadway at New World Stages and toured Florida, Chicago, Tenerife, Canary Islands and the Centro de Bellas Artes (Center for the Fine Arts) in Puerto Rico. Other Off-Broadway productions include: La Lupe: My Life, My Destiny (ACE Award – Best Production); Julia de Burgos: Child of WaterTo Catch The Lightning (Nomination ACE Award – Best Production); The Next Stop (INTAR / Repertorio Español); Under The Mango Tree(INTAR). Her work has also appeared in theatre festivals in New York, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, England, Puerto Rico, and Russia. Carmen has been the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), ATT On-Stage and New York State Council of the Arts (NYSCA). She is a Founding Member and Co-Executive Director of E.P.P. (Educational Play Productions), which brings plays, that deal with social issues into the public schools. She teaches Playwriting at The School for Drama at The New School. For more information on Carmen, check out www.carmenrivera-writer.com. For more information on EPP, check out www.educationalplayproductions.com.

Featured Artist Aoise StratfordAoise Stratford is a playwright and dramaturg with more than 100 productions in the US and internationally. Most recently, her short play Jo was performed at the National Theatre in London. She has twice been a finalist for the Actors’ Theatre of Louisville’s Heideman Award and was nominated for The American Theatre Critics’ Association New Play Award for The Ghost of Molly Malone (first read at the Valdez Conference!). Her play The Unfortunates (“haunting and engrossing” NY Times) was a Time Out NY Critics Pick and winner of The Susan Glaspell Award. SoloChicago’s production resulted in a Jeff Award nomination and the play has recently been published by TWR. Recent commissions include A Christmas Carol for the Hangar Theatre and two award-winning historical site-specific audio plays for the Cherry Arts, where she regularly serves as dramaturg. She teaches playwriting and dramaturgy at Cornell University and is represented by Beacon Artists Agency.

Featured Artist Candido TiradoCándido Tirado has has had over 50 productions of his plays. His Off-Broadway productions include Celia: The Life and Music of Celia Cruz (co-written with Carmen Rivera), which had a nine month run at New World Stages; King Without a Castle (also worked shopped at Sundance), Checking Out, First Class, The Barber Shop, Momma’s Boyz and La Cancíon. Fish Men was produced by the Goodman Theatre in collaboration with Teatro Vista; it was also produced at INTAR, NYC. He’s a four-time recipient of the New York Foundation for the Arts Playwriting Fellowship. candidotirado.com

Featured Artist Jayne WengerJayne Wenger is a director and dramaturg whose exclusive focus is the development of new works for the theatreHer work encompasses opera, dance, solo performance, new music and site-specific collaborations. She is the past Artistic Director of the Bay Area Playwrights Foundation and Women’s Ensemble of New York. For the last five years she has been the Director of Creative Process for the Bay Area Playwrights Festival. She was the original director and dramaturg for The Winter Bear Project, written by Anne Hanley, an on-going performing arts and social outreach initiative focused on teen suicide in rural Native Alaskan communities. She has collaborated with many artists and playwrights from Alaska, including Arlitia Jones, Schatzie Schaefers, Sandy Harper, among many other talented artists. She has been working for over 20 years with longtime collaborator Deke Weaver, currently they are embarking on Deke’s new multi-media performance piece entitled WHALE, part of his lifetime work, The Unreliable Bestiary ( www.unreliablebestiary.org ). Other projects include Lisa Scola Prosek’s The Lariat, an opera about colonial Spaniards’ destruction of the California Esselen Native American world; Michelle Carter’s Rose In America; Pamela Rose’ Blues is a Woman; Men Think They Are Better Than Grass with the Deborah Slater Dance Theater; and Colette Uncensored by Lorri Holt and Zack Rogow. She is an alumna of Djerassi Resident Artist Program; a guest artist and advisory board member for the Valdez Theatre Conference. She has taught at ArtWorkshop International in Assisi, Italy, and San Francisco State University. She wrote the libretto for Neuromancer, adapted from William Gibson’s novel. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild, Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas and the League of Professional Theater Women. She works privately with playwrights across the country.