About the Program
What’s the story? What are these four cooking up? Get in on this conversation. Get a sneak peek into the creation of MARIA, a new work, from the beginning stage. Begin the journey with Mildred Ruiz-Sapp and Steven Sapp (UNIVERSES) as they move to ink a black page, accompanied by their collaborators, Laurie Woolery and Tony Taccone.
Celebrating its 25th year, UNIVERSES is a National Theater Company of Color dedicated to the creation, development, production, touring, community engagement, and educational dissemination of new theatrical and performance works for stage and screen. It supports artists within and outside of its core company to foster artistic excellence in the American Theater. Its core company consists of a revolving and evolving set of multi-disciplined writers and performers who fuse Poetry, Theater, Music, and Dance to bring American voices to life through moving, challenging and entertaining theatrical works. Led by its Founders/Artistic Directors, Steven Sapp and Mildred Ruiz-Sapp, the core group of writers breaks the bounds of traditional theatre; building on UNIVERSES’ aesthetic and unique brand to invite/challenge old and new generations of theater crafters as well as theatergoers and newcomers to envision a new American Theater.
Founded in The Bronx, New York in 1995, the original members of UNIVERSES came together in the urban poetry and music scene of the late 1990s; moving through the “downtown” performance scene to build a home for themselves nationally. They have taken their original pieces around the world, electrifying crowds and sparking conversation about just what it means to be an ‘American’, right here and right now.
Laurie Woolery is a director, playwright, and citizen artist who works in theaters across the country including The Public Theater, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Yale Repertory, Trinity Repertory, Goodman Theatre, Cornerstone Theater Company, and South Coast Repertory. Projects include the world premiere of Mary Kathryn Nagle’s Manahatta at both Yale Repertory and Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the world premiere musical of As You Like It co-created with Shaina Taub for the Public Theater.
In 2020, Laurie produced the documentary Under The Greenwood Tree that tells the story of how the Public Works community banded together amidst the global pandemic and antiracist uprising as well as curating the national community public art installation The Seed Project on the façade of The Public Theater featuring 164 Public Works community members sharing their hopes for the future. Laurie has developed new work with diverse communities ranging from incarcerated women to residents of a Kansas town devastated by a tornado. She creates site-specific work ranging from a working sawmill in Eureka to the banks of the Los Angeles River.
Laurie is the Director of Public Works at The Public Theater, a program that seeks to engage the people of New York by making them creators and not just spectators. Working with partner organizations in all 5 boroughs, Public Works invites members of diverse communities to join in the creation of ambitious works of participatory theater. Laurie is the former Associate Artistic Director of Cornerstone Theater Company and Conservatory Director at South Coast Repertory. Laurie is a founding member of The Sol Project, a 2020 United States Artist recipient, and a 2021 Americans for the Arts Johnson Fellow for Artists Transforming Communities. www.lauriewoolery.com
Tony Taccone most recently directed Kiss My Aztec, a new musical he co-wrote with John Leguizamo. He recently ended his tenure as Artistic Director of Berkeley Rep, during which time the theatre presented more than 70 world, American, and West Coast premieres and sent 24 shows to New York, two to London, and one to Hong Kong.
He has directed new work by Tony Kushner, Julia Cho, John Leguizamo, Lemony Snicket, Culture Clash, David Edgar, Danny Hoch, and Itamar Moses. Two of his shows, Continental Divide and Tiny Kushner, transferred to London, and three have landed on Broadway: Bridge & Tunnel, Wishful Drinking, and Latin History for Morons. Prior to working at Berkeley Rep, Tony served as artistic director of Eureka Theatre, where he commissioned Tony Kushner’s legendary Angels in America and co-directed its world premiere. His regional credits include Actors Theatre of Louisville, Arena Stage, Center Theatre Group, the Guthrie Theater, the La Jolla Playhouse, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and The Public Theater. In 2015, Mr. Taccone received the Margo Jones Award for “demonstrating a significant impact, understanding, and affirmation of playwriting.”