Mentors, Teachers, & Ancestors

Mentors & Teachers

We all have many teachers; and I’ve had many who are not on this list and have been meaningful to me. This list represents teachers, mentors and elders whose work is most influential to the work I do now.

Manny Azenberg

Manny Azenberg's distinguished career has spanned more than 50 years, 65 productions for Broadway, 25 Tony Award nominations and eight Tony Award wins. Azenberg is the recipient of the 2012 Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre. Manny was a producer on Ragtime. He supported and taught me during that project when I was working as Assistant to the Director, in my first role in a commercial theatre context. When I began to work on Trevor, Manny guided me and our team toward collaborators who could help bring the project to fruition.

Debra Bluth

Debra Bluth is an herbalist, flower essence practitioner, homeopath, and movement teacher living and practicing in coastal southern Maine and New Hampshire. She is a longtime student of energetic, martial, and healing arts -- including Tai Chi, Integrative Yoga Therapy, Zen Shiatsu, and Experiential Anatomy -- and has taught nationally and internationally in the field of dance and movement. I have studied with Debra in various disciplines since 2003 including Contact Improvisation, Dance and Movement Composition, Experiential Anatomy, the Chakra System, and Western Herbalism.

Paul & Emily Bray

Paul and Emily Bray, my parents, have been leaders in building and envisioning equity in the healthcare system for the past 45 years. They’ve worked individually and as a team to redesign systems of care in chronic pain management, diabetes, geriatrics, rural and family medicine. Both share a passion for creating models of health care that increase access to people who have experienced poverty and systemic oppression. I’ve known my parents since the day I was born! They have hugely influenced my thinking on race, class, gender, and equity.

Gail Burton

Joker, Educator, Thought Leader, Public Intellectual. Director, Center for Theater and Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Gail is an elder and a sister; we have collaborated on multiple projects, including devised work, dialogue, and study. I continue to train with her in Theatre of the Oppressed.

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is a meditation, mindfulness, and conscious leadership expert. He offers practitioners an effective and accessible pathway to personal transformation through his one-on-one mentorship company called INSIGHT, an event-series known as The Eightfold Path, weekly meditations on IG Live, and collaborations with iFit, Gaia Online, and The Class. I began taking Asana classes with Kevin in 2007 in New York City, and have since continued to study meditation and Yoga with him through his INSIGHT mentorship program.

Marcia Milgrom Dodge

Marcia Milgrom Dodge “MMD” is a Tony Award & Drama Desk Award nominated director & choreographer who has built her busy career on bringing bold new approaches to classic plays and musicals, directing and choreographing at major regional theaters across the USA and abroad, receiving considerable acclaim and numerous awards, especially for her stirring, lovingly staged revival of RAGTIME. She appears as herself in Disney+ ENCORE! as the “Theatre Director” in Ep1/ANNIE and Ep12/RAGTIME, streaming now. I was Marcia’s SDC Observer for the tour of Seussical and Assistant for the Kennedy Center & Broadway run of Ragtime; She guided and mentored me as a director for several years when I first moved to New York City.

Ann Drake

Ann Drake is a psychotherapist (since 1972) and shamanic practitioner (since 1992) who works toward a clinical and theoretical synthesis of psychology and shamanism through her workshops, trainings, and books. She was initiated into the Unani tradition of shamanic healing in ​​Malaysia Borneo by the Bomoh, a wise and gifted healer, and has since devoted herself to the study and practice of shamanism. I began training with Ann in Shamanic Practice in 2021.

Eric Franklin

Eric Franklin is a Swiss dancer, movement educator, writer, and founder/director of the Franklin Method. Eric has authored over 21 books and is a regular speaker at international conferences, such as the World Congress for Lower Back and Pelvic Pain, the Pilates Method Alliance and the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science. I’ve been studying the Franklin Method with Eric since 2007 and am one of the few level 3 Franklin Method Educators in the world.

Nityda Gessel

Nityda Gessel is a trauma specialist, Founder of The Trauma-Conscious Yoga Institute℠, and creator of The Trauma-Conscious Yoga Method℠: a integrative healing modality that combines trauma-informed yoga with somatic psychotherapy techniques borrowed from EMDR, Somatic Experiencing, Internal Family Systems and mindfulness-based therapies. She is a licensed psychotherapist, registered yoga teacher, and trauma-informed yoga therapist. I have nearly completed Nityda’s TCYM training and take inspiration from her synthesis of yoga, trauma-informed practice, and embodied social justice.

Rich Kent

Professor emeritus at the University of Maine and its National Writing Project site, Richard Kent studies the way writing informs learning in the arts, athletics, and classroom. The author of 20+ books and many articles, Rich is an avid hiker, lives out of a van for part of the year, and is the devoted uncle of 43. Rich is a teacher’s teacher; I originally had him for 10th grade English and have continued to learn from his student-centered pedagogy and as a collaborator throughout my lifetime.

Tommy Neblett

Tommy Neblett, Dean of Dance at Boston Conservatory at Berklee, has been in the dance profession for more than 35 years as a performer, choreographer, educator, entrepreneur, artistic director, and administrator. He has performed in and choreographed for the concert stage, musical theater, films, operas, nightclubs and fashion shows, and has had his work featured at John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Lincoln Center, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Bates Dance Festival, Joyce SoHo, Institute of Contemporary Art, and many more places domestically and internationally. Tommy was one of my first modern dance teachers, encouraged me to continue training in spite of my lack of experience, and inspired me early on with his integration of art direction, storytelling, and dance.

Marcus Schulkind

Marcus Schulkind is a nationally recognized dancer, teacher, and choreographer of more than fifty years; founding director of Green Street Studios; dance professor at Boston Conservatory at Berklee; and teacher at New England School of Acupuncture. Originally trained in Graham Technique and Graham-based variants, he went on to study with Antony Tudor and Maggie Black, Zena Rommett, and Kathy Grant. He has maintained a private acupuncture practice for the past 20 years. I began training with Marcus in 2001 and since then have assisted him on multiple projects and continued to learn from his expertise and mentorship as a teacher, as an energy worker, as a dancer, and as an artist.

Zabie Yamasaki

Zabie Yamasaki is the Founder and Director of Transcending Sexual Trauma through Yoga and works as Program Director of Trauma-Informed Programs at UCLA, and oversees a number of holistic culturally-affirming healing programs at each UC campus. Zabie has trained thousands of yoga instructors and mental health professionals and she has created a model trauma-informed yoga program and curriculum for survivors which is now being implemented at universities across the US. I have just begun training with Zabie online, and am highly inspired by her synthesis of yoga knowledge, sexual trauma recovery, and anti-oppression techniques.


Kati Bray

Katherine Bray-Strickland was a 2009 graduate of Brody School of Medicine and a first year Family Medicine resident when she lost her almost five-year battle with bone cancer. Her friends and family remember her courage, humor, selflessness and optimism through this long struggle, but her passion was being an advocate for those who had special needs or whom society left behind. Kati was my little sister and my dear friend. The presence of her spirit continues to guide me on a daily basis.

Bob Colby

Bob Colby was a faculty member and leader at Emerson for 44 years where he taught theatre education, theatre for young audiences, and directing. He was twice honored for his contributions to the field of Theatre Education by the AATE with the Lin Wright Special Recognition Award (2003) and the Campton Bell Lifetime Achievement Award (2020); directed the regional or national premiere of more than 30 plays written for Young Audiences; and was a fierce advocate for social justice, equity, and equal opportunity. Bob was my teacher in graduate school, gave me my first professional musical theatre gigs, collaborated with me on several projects when I was a young person, planted the seeds of my interest in theatre and young people, and was a warm colleague when I returned to Emerson as an adult to teach.

Robbie McCauley

Robbie McCauley was an American playwright, director, performer, and Emerson professor emerita known for her work that addressed racism in the US. She is especially known for her plays Sugar and Sally’s Rape (for which she received an Obie Award and a Bessie Award for Outstanding Achievement in Performance) and her performance in Ntozake Shange’s Broadway play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow is Enuf. Robbie introduced me to the concept of Theatre for Social Change when I was a young person and was a generous colleague when I returned to Emerson to teach. I followed all of Robbie’s theatrical work, and continue to learn in her lineage through my sister-friend Gail Burton.

Father's Side

My Grandfather and his father were workers in the West Virginia coal mines. I didn’t know much about this ancestry until I started researching, and was surprised to discover that coal mining was originally an unpaid labor, like cotton picking, reserved for enslaved people. My European ancestors would have come over to work in the mines once slavery was made illegal, and worked alongside former enslaved people and their descendants. My father and I were both born in an all-Black neighborhood in Chicago, where my grandfather settled once he and his friends escaped the mines. The Devil is Here in These Hills tells the story of 50,000 coal mine workers in West Virginia whose most fundamental rights were violated, and who stood up in a bloody battle against the powerful corporation in the fight for unionization and workers’ rights.

Mother's Side

My mother’s side of the family were Mennonite farmers who immigrated to Southern Illinois from Germany. The Mennonite tradition is steeped in pacifism. Up until my Mother’s generation, my family would not fight in wars. Family lore says that they had a stop on the Underground Railroad but I have not researched this to confirm it.



Terrence McNally​

Terrence McNally was a heralded and prolific playwright, best known for his musicals Ragtime and Kiss of the Spider Woman. He received five Tony Awards and a Lifetime Achievement Award. Terrence brought gay characters to the center of theatrical storytelling, in a way that had not been done before in mainstream theater. I met Terrence in 2009, when I was working on Ragtime at the Kennedy Center in DC and on Broadway. This was my first commercial production; Terrence was so supportive of all the young people working on the production, including me. He was genuinely curious about the kind of theater I wanted to make and wanted to support me in this early part of my career. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to work with him. Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP/Shutterstock

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