Lights Up! 2020 profiles

Lights Up! 2020 profiles

In 2020, we turned our annual in-person festival into a podcast series (#thankscovid). This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as an audio production allowed us to put the focus squarely where it belonged: on the playwrights’ words.

Learn more about our 2020 artists below.

The playwrights

E.H. Benedict’s Orhan was in Golden Thread’s 2012 ReOrient Festival. In 2005, Jesus in Las Vegas was included in the BAPF. In 2013 it was given a round table read at the Lark in NYC. In 2009 the Lark also  read American Royals. She has been a semifinalist for the O’Neill Conference twice: (2008) American Royals and (2013) Rashomon in Kansas. Golden Thread included War on Terror in its 2017 ReOrient Festival.

Arcadia Conrad is a writer, educator, theatrical intimacy professional and director. Her work was most recently featured in Play On Words San Jose’s “Beyond Boundaries” show at the San Jose Museum of Art, and her ID work at The Dragon as part of the Spring Awakening team in partnership with Portola Valley Theatre Conservatory. An excerpt from her new play, still untitled, will be read as part of the second stage offerings of Dragon and Fuse Theatre’s Redwood City Play Festival in June.

Lauren Doyle is a playwright, director, actor and visual artist, and mother to two toddlers and four cats. She is a Creative Writing graduate student at SJSU. Her amazing husband Justin deserves full credit for her sanity and productivity. Lauren is secretly a calico cat trapped in a human body.

Rebecca Kurland took up playwriting after retiring from a 30-year career as a business attorney. Her short play The Ten Thousandth Hour was staged as part of the 2019 Short Cuts competition at PianoFight in San Francisco, and readings of other short plays were presented by Stagebridge in Oakland.

Shannon Murdoch’s plays include New Light Shine (Yale Drama Series Award, National Play Festival), Virus Attacks Heart (Venus Theatre Company) break, or catch fire (Finalist, Patrick White Award) and Dog & Boy (Finalist, Griffin Award, Patrick White Award and Rodney Seaborn Award).

Erin Marie Panttaja explores humanity and community in the present dystopias. If You Have To Go There is based on her short play And Yet. Her play Preapocalyptica had several readings around the Bay Area. Other works have appeared in the Best of PlayGround, the SF Fringe, and the SF Olympians. She is a winner of the June Ann Baker award and the TBA ATLAS award.

Cary Pepper has had work presented throughout the United States and internationally. Among his full-length plays, How It Works won the 2012 Ashland New Plays Festival and Cufflinked was a semifinalist for the 2014 festival. Among his one-act plays, The Walrus Said won the Religious Arts Guild Playwriting Competition. Cary is a member of the Dramatists Guild, and a four-time contributor to Applause Books’ Best American Short Plays series.

Alexis Standridge is a student at Santa Clara University, where she studies playwriting under a queer female lens. Alexis has participated in SCU’s New Playwrights Festival with her play Night of Winter Formal, and achieved a Certificate of Excellence in Playwriting from TheatreWorks Silicon Valley Young Playwrights Project for her play Typewriters and Idiots.

The directors

Caitlin Lawrence Papp is a local actor, director and children’s theater instructor/director. She has worked as a director for Theatre In The Mountains, The Dragon Theater and has acted in such productions as Present Laughter at the Pear Theater (Monica), The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler (Hedda Gabler), Three Musketeers with Silicon Valley Shakespeare (Milady), and The Beard Of Avon at The Pear Theater (Anne Hathaway). She has been seen both onstage and offstage at City Lights; she directed the 2018 production of Making God Laugh and was seen in past City Lights shows including Truce (Anna), Calendar Girls (Cora), and Cabaret (Fraulein Kost).

Melinda Marks is a longtime California Bay Area actor, director, writer, and educator. Since 2014, they have also been the co-editor and casting director of San Jose-based production company Play on Words. Recent directing credits include The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time at Pear Theatre, Anne of the Thousand Days at Dragon Productions, and Macbeth at Silicon Valley Shakespeare. Recent acting credits include roles in Shakespeare in Love and Teatro Vision’s world premiere of Departera.

The actors

Damaris Divito‘s recent performances include: Playwrights’Center of S.F. (Multiple Characters), Present Laughter (Joanna, Pear Theatre), Between Riverside and Crazy (Church Lady-San Jose Stage), Hedda Gabler (Thea Elvsted-Pear Theatre), The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler (Woman In Pink & Others-Dragon Theatre), In the Next Room (Elizabeth-Pear Theatre) and Vanya and Sasha and Masha and Spike (Cassandra-Palo Alto Players). By day, she is a speech and language pathologist.

Evelyn Huynh was most recently seen as Green Snake in Silicon Valley Shakespeare’s The White Snake in 2019, and now finds herself in one of her comfort zones — behind the microphone — on this project. When not doing voiceover work, Evelyn can be found devoting her time to Family Giving Tree, working to provide joy and tools for learning to those in the community who need it most.

Ivette Deltoro‘s actor credits include: Anne of the Thousand Days (Anne Boleyn) at The Dragon, Spending the End of the World on OkCupid at The Pear Theatre, and Hamlet (ensemble/dance) with Silicon Valley Shakespeare. At City Lights, Ivette originated the character of Clara Krieger in the world premiere of Truce: A Christmas Wish from the Great War. She was also a TBA nominee as Caroline in Lauren Gunderson’s I and You. Ivette is a graduate of the Foothill Theatre Conservatory and serves as the casting director for City Lights.

Josie Burgin Lawson‘s stage work includes: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (Pear Theatre); Macbeth, Much Ado About Nothing, Julius Caesar (Silicon Valley Shakespeare); Spring Awakening (Sunnyvale Community Players); multiple characters in A CHRISTMAS CAROL (Northside Theatre) and the one-woman show Georgia O’Keeffe: Painting from the Faraway Nearby (Tabard Theatre).

Juanita Harris is a musician/vocalist/actor who has been actively entertaining audiences around the Bay Area and internationally. A native of Sunnyvale, she is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music and excels in myriad genres such as jazz, R&B, musical theater, gospel, rock and opera. She was voted “Best Jazz Singer” by KDFC’s Best of the Bay in 2018 and 2019, and has been nominated twice for Theatre Bay Area Awards, in 2017 for Roar of the Greasepaint, Smell of the Crowd and in 2018 for The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler. She travels internationally to Austria and Germany to perform for UNICEF in many of the concerts and fundraisers they host around Europe. She is also a vocal coach, director, vocal and music director.

Melissa Jones was previously seen at City Lights as Sherry in Tigers Be Still. Other credits include The White Snake (White Snake), Hamlet (Gertrude), and Comedy of Errors (Dromio of Syracuse, TBA Finalist) at Silicon Valley Shakespeare; Curious Incident… (Judy) and Sojourn (Marta) at The Pear; The Revolutionists (Charlotte Corday) at Dragon Productions; and How to Succeed… (Miss Jones). During the day, she works as SVS’ development manager and education director, while at night, she moonlights as a local hair/makeup designer.

Phaedra Tillery is a Bay Area actor and arts advocate.  She has been performing around the Bay Area and Central Valley since the age of 13. Her past productions include Newsies, The Color Purple, To Kill a Mockingbird (Hillbarn). Caroline or Change, Little Shop of Horrors (Ray Of Light Theatre), Newsies (Woodminster), Tarzan (PAP), Avenue Q (NCTC).

Ron Talbot‘s favorite roles include: Enemy of the People (Thomas Stockman) for The Pear, As You Like It (Duke) and Sherwood (The Sheriff of Nottingham) for SVS, Twins (Zeus) for Piano Fight, The Philadelphia Story (C.K. Dexter Haven) for The Western Stage, The Three Musketeers (Rochefort), Lysistrata (Socrates) for City Lights, and Romeo and Juliet (Friar Lawrence) for Los Gatos Shakespeare.

Stephanie Baumann has been involved with the theatre community for 6 years, and has performed primarily in musicals. She was previously seen at City Lights as Daniela in In the Heights in 2018. She’s had a huge interest in working in voiceovers; maybe this will be the start of a new journey!