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Event Details
  • Town Hall Open Discussion: Accessibility
    April 30, 2024
    6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
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Town Hall (live) – Adding Accessibility to the D.E.I. Conversations

Tuesday, April 30 - networking at 6:30 pm, open forum starts at 7:00pm ET
Polaris North Studio, 245 W. 29th Street, 4th floor, NYC

Our return to our live monthly panels/discussions, with a simultaneous streaming for our friends outside of New York City. (Everyone should receive the zoom link when you register. If you don't receive it, email TRUnltd@aol.com to request link.)

Co-hosted by Carey Cox, actor (Rolling with the Punches, TV's The Handmaiden's Tale); Jo-Ann Dean, founder and CEO of SIGNmation L.L.C. and Broadway SIGNs!; Carl Hansen, disability ally and advocate, award-winning filmmaker and Emmy-winning television producer; Nick Viselli, artistic director of Theater Breaking Through Barriers; Sundra Jean Williams, actress; Marc Winski, actor (Rolling with the Punches). Co-facilitated by Lynnie Godfrey, president of the League of Professional Theater Women, and TRU executive director Bob Ost.

TRU monthly conversations continue about issues of current cultural significance, with a particular focus on diversity, equity and inclusion. This month we consider an often neglected aspect of theater's move towards greater inclusion: accessibility and accommodation for both artists and audiences with disabilities. For theater (and all of the arts) to truly reflect the human experience and represent our populations fully, it is important to be conscious of both the spectrum of disabilities and the limitless ability of artists.

Theater Breaking Through Barriers was founded in 1979 with an initial focus on showcasing the talent of blind artists and has expanded to include, as a matter of course, all artists regardless of physical challenges. For the rest of us, casting characters with disabilities by using actors who are similarly disabled is of course an ongoing goal, but breakout moments like Tony winning Ali Stoker in the most recent revival of Oklahoma! – as well as the Oscar win for deaf actor Tony Kotsur in CODA – suggests that physical limitation does not limit talent or the ability to shine in a wide range of roles. From ramps for wheelchairs and accessible bathrooms to the differences between open captioning and ASL for the deaf and hard of hearing community to the specific struggle of neuro-divergent artists, we will look at the steps we can take towards greater consciousness and accommodation. TRU offers this as an opportunity for everyone to learn from actual experiences and find ways to support each other while exploring initiatives that might bring us closer to genuine respect and acceptance. All attendees are welcome to participate in this conversation.

Doors open at 6:30pm for networking and roundtable introductions of everyone in the room – come prepared with your best 20-second summary of who you are, and what you need. The Open Forum will start at 7:00pm. Free for members of TRU, Polaris North and members of LPTW; $15 for non-members (with a $5 ticket option available to anyone who needs it). Please use the bright red reservation box here on our web page, or email or phone at least a day in advance (or much sooner): e-mail TRUStaff1@gmail.com

Panelists
  • CAREY COX

    is an NYC-based disabled actor. Born in El Paso, TX, Carey has a BFA in Musical Theater from Santa Fe University and an MFA in Acting from UNC Chapel Hill. Carey has performed on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and in more than ten regional theater productions, including the Guthrie Theater and PlayMakers Repertory Company. A writer/performer for the 2022 Viacom/CBS Showcase, Carey currently plays Rose Blaine on The Handmaids Tale and stars in the upcoming Indie feature Where Did the Adults Go?. She recently starred in the TRU Voices presentation of Rolling with the Punches by Joel Bailey. Other passions include visual art, playwriting, singing, guitar, reading, and volunteering. Carey has Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and promotes disability inclusion.

  • JO-ANN DEAN

    is a Creative Producer and CEO of SIGNmation L.L.C. and Broadway SIGNs! live and virtual productions. A Grant Writer and Recipient of the 2023 National Endowment for the Arts Challenge America Award for Deaf Austin Theatre’s The Laramie Project. Dean launched Broadway SIGNs! Off Broadway at The Triad Theatre in NYC and in 2022 debuted at the legendary Feinstein’s 54 Below to rave reviews from Broadway journalists and theater critics. Hailed for bridging Deaf Artists with Broadway talent in Cabaret with sold out shows working with Oscar, Tony and Grammy winning artists. Accolades include On Stage: Broadway SIGNs! Off Broadway Pick of the Week by NY1’s Emmy Award Winner Frank DiLella; a featured segment in Fox 5 News Emmy Winning Broadcast “Breaking Sound Barriers” by Anchor Chris Welch on Broadway Actor Russell Harvard’s stage performance with To Kill A Mockingbird and his musical Off Broadway debut with Broadway SIGNs!. Dean is the Coordinator of ASL Tutoring Classes with Deaf Actors for the 2023 National Tour of Into The Woods Broadway Cast, a pilot program helmed by the Harriet Tubman Effect. Dean’s Commercial Off Broadway Producing credits include Cody Lassen’s A Commercial Jingle for Regina Comet at the Darryl Roth Theater, NYC featuring Alex Wise (Good Night, Oscar, Waitress), Ben Frankhauser (Newsies) and Joe Iconis’ Broadway Bounty Hunter. Dean is the CoProducer and Cofounder of ASL Cabaret creating a platform for Deaf Artists in Los Angeles performing at Hollywood’s Catalina Jazz Club, the iconic Rockwell Table & Stage & Prospect Theatre, with invitations to produce at The Wallis Annenberg’s Center for Performing Arts Sorting Room and at Fountain Theatre, the birthplace of Deaf West Theatre. Dean’s company SIGNmation is a proud Sponsor and ASL Interpreter Coordinator for Broadway Producer Ken Davenport’s TheaterMakers Summit 2020. A Broadway first, an all access ASL Interpreted virtual three day industry event. Jo-Ann is the recipient of Davenport Theatrical’s 2020 TheaterMakers Studio Producer of the Year Award for Broadway SIGNs!.

  • LYNNIE GODFREY

    is a multifaceted talent, with experience as a performer, director, and producer. She trained under Broadway luminary Lloyd Richards (renowned for directing A Raisin in the Sun) and Carnegie Hall's Dr. Chauncey Northern Sr. She was honored with the Scrimshaw Distinguished Visiting Artist Fund. Notable achievements include a drama desk nomination for her Broadway debut in Eubie! and receiving the Tyrone Guthrie Award for directing excellence. She’s also earned NAACP recognition for producing. Further accolades include Dramalogue and NAACP Awards for Supporting Actor, and an AUDELCO Award for her performance in Shuffle Along. Her recording of “Snow Queen” garnered both the Audio Earphone and Benjamin Franklin Awards, while her CD's received Grammy nods. Actively engaged in the arts community she serves on board such as the New York board of the League of Professional Theatre Women and Artsquest’s E.D.I.A. Council, among others. As president and CEO of GodLee Entertainment, Inc., and the Artistic Director of Essence of Acting Inc., she's a driving force in both business and nonprofit spheres. Her radio /podcast program “Lynnie Godfrey Straight No Chaser,” explores the arts’ societal impact. Notable performance productions like Charles White’s Unentitled and readings of new works such as Celeste Bedford Walker’s Greenwood: An American Dream Destroyed. In television and film, she appeared in Norman Lear’s 704 Hauser, 227, Amen, and LA Law, among others. She is an active member of various professional organizations and is currently President of The League of Professional Theatre Women and is the author of Lynnie Godfrey, Sharing Lessons Learned While Seeking the Spotlight. www.lynniegodfrey.com

  • CARL HANSEN

    is a disability ally and advocate, award-winning filmmaker and Emmy-winning television producer who has been involved in various capacities with many successful unscripted and variety series. He won a Sports Emmy award for his involvement in "100,000 Cameras: Ohio State at Michigan" (Fox Sports) and was previously nominated for "89 Blocks" (FOX Sports). As a Co-Executive Producer he was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for "Shark Tank" (ABC). He is the vice president of production for Fox Sports Original Programming and a co-chair of the ABLE ERG for the Fox Corporation. Carl is also an acclaimed 34 x timed-short filmmaker - producing and directing films from conception to completion in very strict time frames with his team, Cultural Detritus, made of people with and without disabilities. Their work has played at multiple film festivals around the globe where they have won a number of awards including Best Film and Best Director in the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge and 48 Hour Film Project. Carl is a passionate advocate for diversity and inclusion in the Entertainment industry, most especially for people with disabilities.
  • NICHOLAS VISELLI

    is the artistic director of Theater Breaking Through Barriers, New York City’s only Off-Broadway theater company dedicated to advancing the work of performers, writers and directors with disabilities. As an actor, director, sound designer, administrator and core company member since 1997, Mr. Viselli has acted in more than 22 TBTB productions and has produced and coordinated several of TBTB’s international tours, including their visits to Japan to attend both the Bird International Theatre Festival and Japan’s National Festival for People With Disabilities. Most recently, he directed TBTB’s critically acclaimed 2023 revival production of Yasmin Reza’s God of Carnage, and was voted by New York City’s Off Broadway Alliance as one of their 2023 Legends of Off-Broadway.  He studied at the Royal National Theater in London and is a graduate of Hofstra University. 

  • SUNDRA JEAN WILLIAMS

    is an actress singer with a B.F.A Degree in Drama from Howard University, has performed in New York, Regional and Dinner theatres. She’s been a principal in television and radio commercials, industrial films, print ads, and guest-hosted the cable television show, “Yesterday Meets Today”. A few of Sundra Jean’s theatre roles include Dionne in Hair at Canal Fulton Summer Arena, Akron, OH, Soul Sister in Jesus Christ Superstar at Cecilwood Theatre, Fishkill, NY, Grandma Wilhelmina Brown in The River Niger at National Black Theatre, Rosa Parks in Sistah Songs for the New Perspectives Theatre’s Voices from the Edge 4.0 Series, Mrs. Patterson in The Cotillion at New Federal Theatre, Sheila in Eddie ‘Heartbreaker’ Malone for the Women of Color Festival at New Federal Theatre, Muriel in House on Fire at Theater For the New City, and Louise in The Long Dance for PACT at the Sanford Meisner Theatre. She performed Old Lady in Pigeon, a short film screened at the VAEFF 2022 International Film Festival. Sundra Jean is a breast cancer survivor living with Multiple Sclerosis since 2005, who continues to work as an actress whenever possible, despite her mobility and other challenges. AEA, SAG-AFTRA

  • MARC WINSKI

    is an actor/singer/Disability Representation Creator in NYC and a person who stutters. He is striving to give a voice and be an advocate for people who stutter in theater/film/media/ television. Fave credits include: ABC’s 'What Would You DO?; Grease natl tour, and Disney. He appeared recently in the TRU Voices presentation of Rolling with the Punches by Joel Bailey. Using a large TIKTOK/IG following of 500,000 as a bigger platform, he continues creating content and spreading stuttering awareness with wit and creativity for the disability community, a group of people who often go (quite literally) unheard and unseen in our culture. He is helping to give many more opportunities to show truthful representation and inclusivity in our world. #speakyourtruth Follow him at @marcwinski

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