It is not enough that I will get to usher Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AANHPI) by receiving Prospect Theater’s Inaugural Muse Award at the Spring Gala being held at the Edison Ballroom (240 West 47th Street) on Sunday, May 1, but Tony, Emmy, and Grammy Award winner and Hadestown star André De Shields, accompanied by Music Director Sean Mayes, and Gold Mountain stars Ali Ewoldt (The Phantom of the Opera) and Jonny Lee Jr. will also be singing for me. What is my life?!!!
I am so grateful to my family, friends and collaborators that will be in attendance and to those who have expressed their good wishes from around the world. I am overwhelmed.
Tony Award nominee Anika Larsen and Drama Desk Award winner Jose Llana are co-hosting this epic party, and the other three extraordinary members of the Prospect and musical theater community who will be receiving the first annual Muse Award include Naima Kradjian, Leonard Majzlin, and Grammy Award nominee and Drama Desk Award winner Kenita Miller.
Drama Desk Award winner Gretchen Cryer, Drama League and Outer Critics Circle Award nominee Nick Corley, Artistic Director of The Acting Company Kent Gash will also serve as presenters. There will also be performances by indie-folk-pop-americana group Bandits on the Run; Adam B. Shapiro (Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish), Sherz Aletaha, and Jovan E’Sean. Additional vocalists will include Liz Casasola, Genesis Adelia Collado, Michael Protacio, and more.
The band for the Spring Gala will be lead by music director Andy Roninson, and features Mike Forzano, Sasha Ono, Sunny Sheu, Brandon Wong, with a special appearance by jazz artist Anthony Ware.
The evening includes cocktails, dinner, and entertainment from special guests in celebration of the inaugural Muse Award recipients.
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.
MUSE AWARD RECIPIENT BIOGRAPHIES
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 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.a??
CO-HOST, PERFORMER, & PRESENTER BIOGRAPHIES
Sherz Aletaha (Performer)
Sherz, which is pronounced like more than one Cher, most recently appeared as Lalume in Kismet (directed by Lonny Price). She has been seen on stage at The Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, Ars Nova, as Aldonza in Man of La Mancha (Triad Stage), in Archetypes (Prospect Theater Company), and in Spring Alive (Dixon Place). On Camera work includes “The Detour”, “The First Wives Club”, Three Trembling Cities, “Wing Women”, “Insomnia”, and numerous commercials.
BANDITS ON THE RUN (Performer)
is an indie-folk-pop-americana outfit consisting of three lead singers, a guitar, a cello, a suitcase drum, an accordion, and various toy instruments, helmed by Adrian Blake Enscoe, Sydney Shepherd, and Regina Strayhorn. In addition to being a fixture of the NYC music scene, their songwriting careers have run the gambit from writing songs for animated Netflix series, to creating site-specific theatre pieces, to scoring feature films, to working with Grammy-nominated producers, to writing musicals. The three are also actors, with Enscoe appearing on TV (Apple TV’s “Dickinson”), Shepherd appearing on Broadway (First Date), and Strayhorn taking her talents behind the table and casting for The Telsey Office. Their genre-defying sound has been lauded by the likes of NPR, Rolling Stone, Earmilk, Paste, and Billboard. They hail from Brooklyn, NY and are known for their vivacious performance style, unexpected theatrical antics, soaring harmonies, and ability to make music-magic happen everywhere from a lonesome subway platform to a crowded concert hall. a??a??
Nick Corley (Presenter) co-wrote and directed the award winning Woody Sez – The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie which has played all over the world. Other writing includes: Normal Teenage Girl (writer/director), A Young Lady Of Fashion (co-author/director), Eliot Ness…In Cleveland (additional material/director), The Life and Adventures of Davy Crockett (additional material/director), and the streaming productions of The Jerry Duncan Show and Positive Exposure’s Change How You See Celebration. As Director, his NY productions include Flight (Callaway Directing Nom.), About Face (NYMF Best Director Nom.), Tim and Scrooge, Mother Russia (Carnegie Hall), and Associate Director on Burn This (B’way revival), Plaza Suite (pre-B’way revival), Is There Still Sex In The City (Off-B’way), and God Bless You Mr. Rosewater (Encores). Other directing credits include plays and musicals at major theaters across the country. Acting credits include 6 B’way shows, Off-Broadway, regional, film, recordings, and television.
Gretchen Cryer (Presenter)
is most well known for writing the book and lyrics and starring in I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road (with music by Nancy Ford) which won the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Musical, Best Actress, and a Grammy nomination for the album Gretchen has written numerous other shows with Nancy Ford – Now is the Time for All Good Men (Lortel Theater), The Last Sweet Days of Isaac (Obie Award – Best Musical Drama Desk Award, Outer Critics Circle Award), Shelter (Golden Theater), Hang On to the Good Times (Manhattan Theater Club), Eleanor (Williamstown), The American Girls Revue (American Girls Place – Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles), Circle of Friends (American Girl Place – Chicago and New York), Anne of Green Gables (Theaterworks USA), and Still Getting My Act Together (Laguna Playhouse). Gretchen is on the Dramatist Guild Council and is President Emeritus of the Dramatists Guild Foundation. Gretchen also teaches a workshop entitled “Creating Your Own Solo Performance” and has helped dozens of solo artists develop their pieces. She will be presenting five of her solo artists at the Cherry Lane Theater in May 2022 in a festival entitled True Stories.
ANDRÉ DE SHIELDS (Performer / Presenter)
In a career spanning more than half a century, André De Shields has acquired a number of sobriquets, among them–“Broadway Deity,” “Professional Charmer” and “Papa Dré.” A showstopper at age 76, André was the triple-crown winner of the 2019 award season, garnering Tony, Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk, and Grammy Awards for his universally praised role as Hermes, Messenger to the Gods, in Hadestown. De Shields has also distinguished himself as director, philanthropist, and educator. His defining theatrical performances include roles in the original Broadway productions of The Full Monty (Tony Award nomination), Play On! (Tony Award nomination), Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Emmy Award), and the titular role in The Wiz. Currently, De Shields is experiencing growing pains as he prepares for his next adventure as Actor/Activist, eradicating the inauthentic while elevating the inexplicable. Ubuntu!
JOVAN E’SEAN (Performer)
Film: BROS (Universal Pictures) which premieres this summer. Off-Broadway: Maury Yeston’s Anything Can Happen in the Theater (York Theatre Company) & The Secret Life of Bees (Atlantic Theatre Company). Regional: “Seaweed J. Stubbs” in Hairspray (Laguna Playhouse). BFA from Pace University. All the glory to God!
Ali Ewoldt (Performer)
has appeared as Christine Daaé in The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, Cosette in Les Miserables (Broadway, National Tour), The King and I (Broadway, Tour, Lyric Opera of Chicago), Maria in West Side Story (National Tour, International Tour, PCLO, The Muny, MTWichita) and Luisa in The Fantasticks (Off-Broadway). Regionally, she has played Amalia in She Loves Me (Signature Theatre), Philia in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (The Muny), Fan/Mrs. Bonds in A Christmas Carol (McCarter Theatre), Martha Jefferson in 1776 (The Muny) and Sarah Brown in Guys and Dolls (Sacramento Music Circus). Ali’s concert/symphony work includes: Feinstein’s/54 Below, Alice Tully Hall, The Town Hall, Canyon Ranch, NY Pops at Carnegie Hall, American Pops Orchestra, Houston Symphony, Kaohsiung Symphony and The Boston Pops with Maestro Keith Lockhart. Her TV/Film credits include “The Michael J. Fox Show”, Yield, and the short films Mia and The Cactus. Ali has a BA in psychology from Yale University and is a proud Filipina American.
Kent Gash (Presenter)
is an artistic director, author, director, actor, and educator. His impact on the theatre industry spans decades, dozens of productions, and work at the finest theatres across the country. Gash is the founding director of NYU Tisch School of the Arts Department of Drama’s New Studio on Broadway, and former associate artistic director of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre. In December, Gash was named the new Artistic Director of The Acting Company. Gash has served on the Board of Directors of National Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts and on the Tony Awards Nominating Committee. He currently serves on the Arts Advisory Board of the Princess Grace Foundation and on the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation’s Lloyd Richards New Futures Residency Committee for Black Directors. With Broadway veteran Walter Marks, Gash is also co-author and director of the musical, Langston in Harlem.
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.
Jonny Lee Jr. (Performer) most recently starred in the world premiere of the new musical Gold Mountain by Jason Ma at the Utah Shakespeare Festival. Previous acting credits include Thuy in Miss Saigon, Ito in Mame, Brad in The Rocky Horror Show, Bobby in Company at the Oguma Playhouse, and more. Jonny is also a writer and co-wrote and co-starred in the popular web series “City of Dreams” previously featured in Playbill, USA Today, and the New York Times.
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.
Adam B. Shapiro (Performer)
is an award winning actor and singer who has performed all over the country and the world in both English and Yiddish. Off-Broadway, Adam has been seen in Fiddler on the Roof-In Yiddish, Bastard Jones, The Mikado-Reimagined, and Death of a Salesman. He also is a regular performer with the National Yiddish Theatre-Folksbiene, where he has appeared in The Golden Bride, The Megile of Itsik Manger, and Gimpel The Fool. TV/Film, audiences might remember Adam from “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”, “Master of None”, “Friends From College”, “30 Rock”, Adam Sandler’s The Cobbler, and as Bella in HBO’s emmy-winning film, The Normal Heart. Additionally, Adam has performed regionally and on cruise ships and is a MAC Award winning solo performer. His debut album, Let Love In was released in 2021 and is available on all digital platforms.