Prospect Theater Company (Cara Reichel, Producing Artistic Director; Melissa Huber, Managing Director) is holding their annual Spring Gala on Sunday, May 1st at The Edison Ballroom (240 West 47th Street), and is honoring four extraordinary members of the Prospect and musical theater community with the first annual Muse Awards: Lia Chang, Naima Kradjian, Leonard Majzlin, and Grammy Award nominee and Drama Desk Award winner Kenita R. Miller.
Tony Award nominee Anika Larsen and Drama Desk Award winner Jose Llana will co-host the evening which will include cocktails, dinner, and entertainment from special guests in celebration of the inaugural Muse Award recipients.
“We are thrilled to be able to lift up and celebrate these extraordinary muses,” said Producing Artistic Director Cara Reichel, “Their talent and dedication to creating new musical theater not only inspires and encourages Prospect Theater Company, but the entire theater community. We are honored to sing their praises!”
Prospect’s Board Gala Committee members include Jane Abramson, Tira Harpaz, and Jason Ma.
For more information including how to reserve event tickets, please visit ProspectTheater.org.
LIA CHANG (Muse Award Recipient) is a Chinese-American actor, a multi-media content producer, an award-winning filmmaker, and a photo activist and documentarian, who lifts up and amplifies BIPOC communities and artists and the institutions that support them. Lia moved to New York from her home in San Francisco when she was 17 years of age and made her stage debut as Liat in a national tour of South Pacific with Barbara Eden and Robert Goulet. She spent many years working extensively Off-Broadway, including Signature Theatre’s revival of Sam Shepard’s Chicago. Her film work includes Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, and The Last Dragon.
The decades of being viewed by others through the narrow lens of ‘Asian actor’ in the industry brought Lia to a turning point, and she picked up her camera, determined to create awareness by documenting the work and the lives of her BIPOC colleagues, resulting in the creation of thousands of photographs and pieces of video. Her photo archives are housed in the AAPI collection in the Library of Congress’ Asian Reading Room under ‘Lia Chang Theater Portfolio collection,1989-2011’ and in the ‘Lia Chang Photography Collection’ in The Billy Rose Theatre Division of the New York Public Library.
Lia’s awards include the 2000 OCA Chinese American Journalist Award and the 2001 AAJA National Award for New Media. She is also an AAJA Executive Leadership Graduate, a Western Knight Fellow at USC’s Annenberg College of Communications for Specialized Journalism on Entertainment Journalism in the Digital Age, a National Press Photographers Association Visual Edge/Visual Journalism Fellow at the Poynter Institute for New Media, and a Scripps Howard New Media Fellow at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.
More recently, Lia co-founded Bev’s Girl Films, which makes films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. She executive produced and starred in the indie films Hide and Seek (AA Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Best Actress Nomination), Rom-Com Gone Wrong, and When the World Was Young (2021 DisOrient Film Audience Choice Award for Best Short Narrative).
Lia is honored to have worked with Prospect Theater Company on a shared mission of lifting up BIPOC theater artists and creating a more diverse and inclusive musical theater canon. A retrospective of Lia’s photographs will be on view at the Museum of the City of New York later this year, documenting her BIPOC colleagues and contemporaries in the performing arts, which will include photos of Prospect Theater Company artists at work.
NAIMA (ERIKSEN) KRADJIAN (Muse Award Recipient). Since 1987, Naima has devoted her efforts to making a difference in the Greater Binghamton arts community. She is currently the CEO of Goodwill Theatre, Inc. which operates the Schorr Family Firehouse Stage which will be integrated into a Performing Arts and Conference Center Complex. Naima spearheaded the Johnson City Health and Cultural District Master Plan and was one of the founders of the multi award winning First Night® Binghamton New Year’s Eve Festival. She has received many state and local awards for community service including the national Jefferson Award for public service. Having worked with numerous arts and human services organizations, she currently serves on the board of the UHS Foundation and was previously a SUNY Broome Community College Trustee, a chair of Binghamton Forum, and on the advisory board of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company in NYC. Naima also coordinated the Opening Ceremonies events for the three Empire State Games held in the Southern Tier. She resides happily in Endwell, NY with her dog Gunnar.
Prior to living in Greater Binghamton, Naima was a professional actor, performing Off-Broadway and in several regional theaters. During that time, she also appeared on the soap opera “All My Children” as the gossip columnist Audrey Wilson and in national television commercials. While in Manhattan, Naima performed her one-woman cabaret act in several cabaret clubs and as the opening act for Eartha Kitt. She holds a B.F.A. degree in Performance and Theatre History from the University of Florida and attended Penn State University’s M.F.A. program.
Naima has been a strong supporter of Prospect Theater Company for many years, partnering through the Goodwill Theatre’s “Broadway Bound” program on the development of multiple new musicals including The Hello Girls in 2018. During 2020, the Goodwill Theatre was a key partner for Prospect’s VISION series, providing residencies for Prospect artists and making it possible for the company to film four new short musicals in its historic theater property in Johnson City, NY.
LEONARD MAJZLIN (Muse Award Recipient). Born in Brooklyn, Leonard graduated from George School, a Quaker school in Bucks County, and from Fairleigh Dickinson University. He worked alongside Joseph Papp as a charter member of the New York Shakespeare Festival, and subsequently assisted producers Henry Guettel and Arthur Cantor on their national companies of Broadway musicals. After serving as an agent at the William Morris Agency, Leonard began writing, directing and producing films and videos in the corporate sector.
In the 1980s, he shifted his focus to media and interpretive plans for museum exhibits. For a number of years, he produced media and museum exhibition plans with the American History Workshop in Brooklyn, NY. His work has been featured at BAM, The Museum at Eldridge Street, The Jewish Museum, The Arizona Historical Society, and The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, among others. He also produced the highly praised Off-Broadway musical To Whom It May Concern, written by Carol Hall and directed by Geraldine Fitzgerald. For NYU Steinhardt, Leonard developed and teaches its graduate course, Media Design for Learning in Museum Exhibits & Public Space.
He is the Media Advisor to the Dramatists Guild Foundation Legacy Project, a series of video documentaries featuring thirty prominent playwrights, lyricists, and composers on the craft of writing. He continues to support The Music Hall at the Dramatists Guild Foundation, a free work space for playwrights, composers and lyricists established by his late wife, composer/lyricist Carol Hall. With Carol, Leonard was also a Trustee of the Grisham Foundation, which has supported Prospect Theater Company for over eighteen years. Most recently, Leonard underwrote script commissions for Prospect’s exciting VISION SERIES, a music-theater-on-film initiative. Leonard applauds Cara, Melissa, Pete and all the artists who have made Prospect one of the preeminent theater companies in New York.
KENITA R. MILLER (Muse Award Recipient) was a cast member of Prospect’s Off-Broadway hit “revisal” production of Working, which won a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Ensemble. She is currently appearing as ‘Lady in Red’ in For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf and has performed in multiple Broadway productions including Come From Away (Hannah), the Original Broadway Production of The Color Purple (Celie), Xanadu (Erato/Kira understudy), and the Broadway revival of Once On This Island (Mama Euralie – Grammy Nominee/Drama Desk Nominee). Her Off-Broadway productions include Langston In Harlem, for which she earned an Audelco Award as well as a Drama Desk nomination for her portrayal of Zora Neale Hurston; Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin (Granny); Bella: An American Tall Tale (Miss Cabbagestalk/Mama); Merrily We Roll Along; Wild Party; and Avenue Q. Some of Kenita’s memorable regional credits include the dual roles of Minnie McKnight and Angela in Parade, for which she won a 2014 Barrymore Award, Sarah in Ragtime and Timoune/MamaEuralie in Once on This Island. Her numerous film and television appearances include roles in tick, tick…Boom!, “Sesame Street”, “Bull”, “Hostages”, “Blacklist”, and Liberty City is Like Paris To Me. With her collaborative ensemble, The HawtPlates, she co-created Waterboy and the Mighty World, which was presented at the 2020 Under The Radar Festival, hosted by the Public Theater. In addition, Kenita is a faculty member at AMDA, the American Musical and Dramatic Academy.
ANIKA LARSEN (Co-Host) has performed on Broadway in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Avenue Q, Xanadu, All Shook Up, and Rent. Off-Broadway, she did Myths and Hymns with Prospect Theater Company, Zanna, Don’t!, Closer Than Ever, Miracle Brothers, How to Save the World and Find True Love in 90 Minutes, Disaster!, and Unbroken Circle. Anika has written and performed in a musical about her childhood growing up in Cambridge, MA with nine brothers and sisters from different races and countries, and she released an album of lullabies for all ages called Sing You to Sleep. Anika majored in theater at Yale University and is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association, SAG-AFTRA, and the board of NYC Children’s Theater. Anika looks forward to returning to Broadway in the fall of 2022 in Almost Famous the Musical.
JOSE LLANA (Co-Host) starred as The King of Siam in Lincoln Center Theater’s Tony-Award winning production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King & I, directed by Bartlett Sher, opposite Kelli O’Hara and Ruthie Ann Miles, and on the US Tour opposite Laura Michelle Kelly. Jose is perhaps best known for his portrayal as President Marcos in David Byrne & Fat Boy Slim’s Here Lies Love at The Public Theater, directed by Alex Timbers, garnering a Lucille Lortel Award nomination for Best Actor in a Musical. Other Broadway: Chip Tolentino in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Drama Desk Award), El Gato in Wonderland, Wang Ta in Flower Drum Song, Angel in RENT, Jessie-Lee in Streetcorner Symphony, and Lun Tha in the 1996 Revival of The King & I, opposite Donna Murphy and Lou Diamond Philips. Other Off-Broadway: Orsino in Shaina Taub’s Twelfth Night (Public Works), Gabey in On the Town (Delacorte) and Adam Guettel’s Saturn Returns (Public). Regional: Bill Sikes in Oliver! (Papermill),Guillaume in Martin Guerre (Guthrie Theater, US Tour), Tin Man in Ballad of Little Jo (Steppenwolf), and Candide in Candide (Prince Theater). Concerts: Lincoln Center’s American Songbook Series in 2015 and 2019. TV/Film: “Sex and the City” and Hitch.
ABOUT PROSPECT THEATER COMPANY
Prospect Theater Company is dedicated to fostering and showcasing today’s new voices shaping tomorrow’s musicals. Over two decades, the company has premiered more than 35 musicals in New York City, in addition to new plays and numerous re-inventions of classic works. Reflecting its investment in the future of the field, Prospect leads a variety of developmental initiatives: including an annual Musical Theater Lab for emerging writers, and the IGNITE Series of new musical theater in concert. In 2020, Prospect launched the VISION Series of original music-theater works on film, created for online streaming. In recognition of its enterprising and risk-taking new musical theater, the company has received an OBIE Award grant, and its role as a community anchor for emerging artists that strengthens the quality, diversity, and dynamism of American theater was honored by the American Theatre Wing.
Recently, Prospect produced the musical song-cycle Notes From Now – Songs of Resilience & Renewal (2022) featuring a lineup of newly-commissioned original songs created by 21 of today’s brightest musical theater writers, the Drama Desk Award-nominated Einstein’s Dreams (2019) by Joanne Sydney Lessner & Joshua Rosenblum, adapted from the novel by Alan Lightman, and The Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award-nominated The Hello Girls (2018), by company founding artists Peter Mills & Cara Reichel. Both shows ran Off-Broadway at 59E59 Theaters, and have original cast albums available from Broadway Records. Other notable productions include: Kerrigan & Lowdermilk’s The Mad Ones (2017); Milburn & Vigoda’s Long Story Short (2015); Ryan Scott Oliver and Hunter Foster’s Jasper in Deadland (2014); the Drama Desk nominated Tamar of the River (2013) by Joshua H. Cohen and Marisa Michelson; Carner & Gregor’s Unlock’d (2013); Gordon Greenberg’s revisal of Working (Drama Desk Award, Outstanding Ensemble, 2012) including new songs by Lin Manuel Miranda; Elizabeth Lucas’ re-imagining of Guettel’s Myths and Hymns (2012);and John Gregor’s With Glee (2010).