CO-FOUNDER & PRODUCING DIRECTOR
Dan Swern is the co-founder and producing director for coLAB Arts in New Brunswick, NJ, providing performance and developmental programs for emerging artists, and arts education and social engagement with the local community. For coLAB Arts, Dan created theOrphanage play development program. He has directed the New Jersey premiere of I Heart Kant, and a bilingual production of Romeo and Juliet / Romeo y Julieta. He is also the founder and owner of Smugbug Productions, providing services in creative development and stage direction, production consulting, and producing. Current directing projects include Shake and Bake: Love's Labour's Lost, the new musical Dumb Luck by R.C. Staab and Michael Sansonia, an adaptation of Chekhov's Ivanov with Sandy Simona, and Hiccups by Ben Rosenblatt for American Records. Previous credits include Merchant of Venice for Franklin Stage Company, I Hope They Serve Beer on Broadway by Tucker Max, Flight with Branch Street Productions, and Into the Labyrinth/Art of Love and Kafka Shorts for Voice Afire. Producing clients include The Secret City, Sprat Theatre Company, Foster Entertainment, Poetic Theatre Productions, Branch Street Productions, and National Theatre of Scotland. Previous positions include production coordinator for Holiday Image, associate producer for the New York production of Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More, associate producer for the national tour of Gazillion Bubble Show, and company manager for George Street Playhouse. He is a proud graduate of Rutgers University.
Twitter | @daswern
DIRECTOR OF EDUCATION
John Keller is the coLAB Co-Producer and Director of Education. He was born and raised in the City of New Brunswick and works in NYC and regionally as a freelance actor. Through his work at coLAB John is committed to creating projects that use the arts as a lens to examine complex issues that affect community - to integrate the arts into a wide variety of interdisciplinary areas, from the environment to social justice, as a process of communication, healing, and change. He has created and curates #HearMe, the Watershed Sculpture Project, theTABLE, and stART,. as well as the theaterMAKER residencies for teens.
CURATOR - theVOM
Dustin Ballard is a storyteller and creative artist who works as an actor, director, writer and teaching artist and originally hails from South Mississippi. With a B.F.A in Theatre Performance from Kean University, he was the 2009 Region II Winner and National Finalist of the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship. As an actor, he has performed at Lincoln Center with the Little Orchestra Society, Two River Theatre, Playwrights Theatre of NJ, and others. As a Teaching Artist, Dustin works with the George Street Playhouse in the New Brunswick Public Schools creating original theatre based on the American Revolution, Greek Mythology, Native American folk stories, and immigration. Dustin is also an improviser and live storyteller and has performed at the Upright Citizens Brigade, the Magnet Theatre, the People's Improv Theatre, and the Moth.
Karuna Lynne Elson has combined all her talents of teaching, writing, acting and Yoga to create books, videos and performance workshops for kids using her puppet friend, Swami Cat. Karuna Lynne has also published two books of monologues for teens entitled Guys Rule, Girls Rule with Meriwether Publishing and a full-length play, Holiday Shmoliday with Playscripts.com. Her full-length in one-act play Stolen is published online with indietheatrenow.com. When not creating, Karuna Lynne is a junior high public school theatre teacher and drama club director. Yes, she knows those years are the toughest, but they are also the most formative. She hopes to inspire a lifelong love of creativity and mindfulness, or at least the ability to laugh at ourselves.
gHyp:See & the Wichts combines the story-telling of vocalist, keyboardist, and poet, gHyp:See, with Justin Humphrey's dark electric guitar and Jack Leary's innovative rhythms. The music rises and swells with the emotional tone of the lyrics as gHyp:See invites the audience to look directly into her eyes during her most vulnerable breakdowns. The band started in gHyp:See's basement in New Brunswick, NJ as Justin followed along to gHyp:See's spoken word with his guitar and pedal board. After a short European tour for gHyp:See, Jack Leary joined in. Fans have dubbed the genre "uneasy listening," "horror jazz," and "psychedelic jazz punk;" but truth be told, there's no easy way to describe the way gHyp:See & the Wichts flows inside and brings everything out for all to see and feel.
Photo credit: Astarphotos
Aaliyah Habeeb is a Kent, Ohio native. She received her BA from the University of Pittsburgh and a Master of Fine Arts from Rutgers University Mason Gross School of the Arts. Most recently, Aaliyah wrote, produced, and starred in her own play, Love Ya Like A Sis, Off-Broadway at the Hudson Guild Theatre. Other Off-Broadway credits include: The Fabulous Miss Marie and Supernatural: The Play.
Adam Hardin is a creative artist who grew up in Stillwater, Oklahoma and has loved theatre all of his life. He most recently graduated from Rutgers University in 2016 with an MFA in Acting, and is the 2016 recipient of the John I. Bettenbender Award for Outstanding Graduate Artistic Achievement from Mason Gross School of the Arts. Adam is thrilled to be a coLAB Arts teaching Artist, and enjoys the opportunity to connect to students.
Bassam Kaado is a freelance actor and public relations specialist. Having graduated from Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Art in Communication and a minor in Cinema Studies, he has been active in both entertainment and public relations locally. His recent short film, KNOCK, was accepted in two film festivals and placed 2nd in Best Drama at the Rutgers New Lens Film Festival. In regards to public relations, Bassam has worked with the Law Offices of Eric Morrell, a local New Brunswick law firm, and the NJProgHouse Progressive Music Series, an organization dedicated to providing and promoting music. Since joining coLAB Arts, Bassam is dedicating to cultivating the growth of art in the local community.
Samantha is a singer, dancer, actor, musician, and teaching artist. She teaches dance and musical theatre throughout Somerset County, and performs in various roles with Princess Dreams in Roselle Park, NJ. Samantha has had the opportunity to play roles such as Joanne Jefferson in Rent, the Cat in the Hat in Seussical the Musical, Monteen in Parade, and many more. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Instagram: @samantha__chase.
Rachel Klein is a NYC based director, coined "Endlessly Clever," (The New York Post), "Nothing short of brilliant," (Broadway World) and of whose work The New York Times has praised: "What makes this show pop is the bracing vision of its director, Rachel Klein." Off-Broadway Direction: Around the World in 80 Days (Six month run at The New Theater on 45th Street AKA The Davenport Theater); The Anthem (The Lynn Redgrave Theater, starring Wicked's Jenna Leigh Green and Randy Jones, the Original Cowboy from the Village People); Gay Bride of Frankenstein (The inaugural iStar Theatre Lab); GRINDR The Opera (Theatre 777, slated for an extended commercial run in the 2016/2017 Season). Selected NYC Theater: Coming: A Rock Musical of Biblical Proportions (Fringe NYC); Symphony of Shadows (Jerome Robbins Foundation Commission); The Tragedy of Maria Macabre (Tides Foundation Commission); Circus of Circus (Innovative Theater Awards nominee for Outstanding Director of a Play); Secret Summer: An Immersive Midsummer Night's Dream (Shrunken Shakespeare); The Dead Dream Machine (featuring performances from Justin Vivian Bond, Constantine Maroulis, Michael Musto, and Lady Rizo). Notable Staged Readings: More Than All the World (The York Theatre Company); The Happy Hooker (Musical Theatre Factory). Projects with coLAB: A Midsummer Night's Dream; Behind the Moon, Beyond the Rain; Super. Miss Klein's direction and choreography have been seen all over New York City, including at the House of Yes, (le) Poisson Rouge, the Highline Ballroom, La MaMa, Night of 1000 Stevies, the Hiro Ballroom, Dumbo Dance Festival, the Kitchen, the Slipper Room, and at the National Arts Club. Miss Klein holds a degree in Theatrical Direction from Columbia College, is an SDC Associate, a member of Musical Theatre Factory, a Mike Ockrent Fellowship finalist, and studied at The Actor's Gymnasium School of Circus Arts, as well as The International Directors Symposium in Spoleto, Italy, where she trained with Andrei Serban, Yoshi Oida, and Oliver Stone.
Mariella Klinger is a teaching artist, singer, dancer, professional actor, and an Outreach Associate with coLAB Arts. She is really fun to be around. Mariella has appeared in the roles of Lucille Frank in Parade, Mimi Marquez in Rent, The Narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and many others. She toured the Northeast for two years with the Traveling Lantern Theatre Company, a theatre company that produces two-person plays based on popular literature. With this company, Mariella was performing as Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit, Lucy and The White Witch in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Professor Moriarty in Sherlock Holmes, and every single part in A Christmas Carol. You can reach her at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter, @mariellalynn.
Matthew Makin is a born performer. He first found comfort on stage at the age of five and has been consistently performing ever since. Though he studied acting and performed in many theatrical productions throughout his high school (East Brunswick High School), college (Montclair State University) and has appeared in several plays at various playhouses in NYC, Matthew is now immersing himself in the world of music. He started writing poetry at the age of fourteen and has been putting those works to life with his band 'Experiment 34'. The psycho-funk rock group has been playing shows all over the tri-state area for over a year and look to be spreading their sound throughout the great states at a venue near you in the immediate future.
Nicole Pandolfo has had plays developed through the Jerome Foundation, The Actors Studio, the Lark, and NJ Rep among others and was a finalist for the Edward Albee Foundation Fellowship. She most recently was selected as a member of The Actors Studio in the Playwright/Director Unit directed by Lyle Kessler and graduated with her MFA from Hunter College where she studied with Tina Howe, Arthur Kopit, and Mark Bly.
Sophie Peyton is a freelance director from the Philadelphia area. She is currently working as an Artistic and Community Engagement assistant at McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, NJ. She has had the pleasure of assisting directors Emily Mann (Baby Doll and Hoodwinked), Michael Unger (A Christmas Carol), and Adam Immerwahr (The Mousetrap). She has previously worked with Sympatico Theatre Project, PlayPenn, the Wilma Theatre, and the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center. She is continuously striving to bring new plays and musicals to our community, and to reflect our community on our stages. She is a graduate of Temple University with a B.A. in Directing.
Erik Ransom (Book, Lyrics, Music) is a composer, playwright, librettist and performer with a diverse body of work. Coming: A Rock Musical of Biblical Proportions was Erik’s first foray as a writer and, within a year of starting the first draft, he was fortunate enough to see it fully produced at The Prince Music Theatre in February 2011. In Philadelphia and later at the 2014 New York International Fringe Festival, Coming played to packed houses and glowingly positive reviews, including raves from The Huffington Post, BroadwayWorld, Edge Magazine and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Erik penned the lyrics for the recent Off-Broadway musical spectacular: The Anthem, which ran at The Culture Project's Lynn Redgrave Theatre. Erik recently signed on to the writing team for season two of the 2014 Emmy-nominated web-series, Tainted Dreams. On the musical front, his smutty opus, GRINDR The Opera, premiered in concert in Spring of 2014 and had a high profile staged reading in April 2015 which was covered by The Daily Beast, The Guardian, Salon.com and the National Public Radio of the Republic of Ireland.. He is currently developing The Severed Hand of Neverland, a dark, raunchy retelling of Peter Pan which was co-conceived by Erik and his frequent collaborator, director Rachel Klein. Erik’s musical, More Than All the World, adapted from Marlowe’s Edward II, has been read at the Musical Theatre Factory and was presented as part of the York Theatre’s reading series in Spring 2016. His other produced works include Saga: The Ragnarok Opera and Tragic Events, and he is a two-time champion of the York Theatre's Tune-in-Time improvised musical theatre writing competition. Erik is represented by Abrams Artists Literary Department.
Brandon Rubin (Rutgers M.F.A. 2014) Is a theater professional originally from Sacramento, California. He is a strong believer that Theater is a tool to teach and with that in mind he makes every effort to reach out to youth using his craft. He is happy to be entering his third year with coLAB arts and the awesome youth at New Brunswick Public High School.
Joshua Schnetzer (director, choreographer, teaching artist) graduated summa cum laude from Kean University holding a B.A. in Theatre with a minor in Dance. Committed to the integration of dance and theatre, Joshua created and directed a movement inspired retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid and the devised work Water Does, which focused on the metaphysical connection between women and water. Regional and NYC credits included: Paper Mill Playhouse’s New Voices Concert: Oh, What A Night and Hooray for Hollywood (Choreographer), The Little Orchestra Society’s Tchaikovsky: Bigger than Ballet (assistant director), and assistant to Broadway choreographer, Wendy Syeb, on the world premier musical Mosses Man, which was featured in NYMF. As the resident choreographer and a founding member of The Bullet Theatre Collaborative, Joshua has choreographed the Perry Award winning Razia’s Shadow (Best Original Musical), Assassins, Parade and directed and choreographed an all-female production of Godspell. Joshua serves as Dance Director of the award-winning Paper Mill Playhouse Broadway Show Choir and is a teaching artist for Paper Mill Playhouse’s Theatre School/Conservatory and Oak Knoll School.
PANDORA SCOOTER is a national touring artist. Currently writing a new solo show (her 13th) called Group: How I Learned to Tolerate People, Pandora returned in May 2015 from a two-month, 30-city tour of the United States during which she performed her show I Am Enough for LGBTQ youth audiences of more than 400. An outspoken advocate for Misfits and Fits of all shapes, colors and sizes, Pandora strives to relay her message of inclusivity and compassion everywhere she performs. Winner of the SpokenKnowledge DNC Contest for her anti-prejudice poem Other Cast in reality spoken word television show, RELE. In rotation on Women Of Substance radio. Endorsed by International Folk Poet Alix Olson and hailed as a Spoken Word Rock Star. Pandora Scooter has performed in NYC, Washington DC, Jackson, MS; Richmond, VA; Boston, San Francisco, Atlanta, Knoxville, Austin, TX; Houston, TX; San Bernadino, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Venice, San Luis Obispo, Torrence, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Santa Cruz, Sacramento, CA; Springfield, MO; New Orleans, LA; Birmingham, AL; Nashville, TN; Pittsburgh, PA; Salt Lake City, UT; as well as other cities and throughout the state of New Jersey. For five years, she hosted and curated an edgy, new wave show called HIP HOP: OUT, LOUD & PROUD, which brought together gay and lesbian hip hop artists to perform at New Jersey Performing Arts Center. Writer of twelve one-woman shows, hailed by nytheatre.com as a "masterful entertainer" and by Out in Jersey as "a Force of Nature." Pandora Scooter entertains, inspires and makes people laugh 'til it hurts. Pandora is pro-people, in all their glorious individualizations. Her hilarious spoken-word rhymes and rants thrill and inspire audiences. She's been compared to Dr. Seuss, Margaret Cho and Ani DiFranco. Awards: Levin Scholar. John I Bettenbeder Outstanding Performance Award. Tongues of Fire, 1st Place. Commendation from Newark City Assembly. Outstanding Volunteer, Pride Center of New Jersey. First place, Spokenknowledge DNC Contest. Influences include Carol Burnett, Eddie Izzard, Margaret Cho, Dr. Seuss, Lily Tomlin/Jane Wagner, Ellen Degeneres, Laurie Anderson, Arrested Development, Bertolt Brecht, Tracy Chapman, Caryl Churchill, Ani DiFranco, Maggie Estep!, ICE-T, Quincy Jones, Charlie Mingus, Alanis Morrissette, N.W.A., Suzan Lori Parks, Prince, Reno, and Tennessee Williams.
Victoria is a proud member of AEA and was most recently seen as Sylvia in Frame 313. Other New York City acting credits include Houdini Among the Spirits, Clive Barker’s The History of the Devil, Envoy, Dark Hollow: An Appalachian Woyzeck, and Romeo and Juliet. Favorite Regional credits include Elle Woods in Legally Blonde The Musical and Emilia in the Frantic Assembly Company’s production of The Othello Project. Victoria is also a member of SAG-AFTRA and has appeared on shows including The Big C and Gossip Girl and has been in several short films. She’s currently starring in the web series Lindsay’s World, available on Youtube. Favorite directing credits include A Stranger Here Myself, for which she won the Shoebox Festival Best Director Award this past summer, Envoy, Alice in Wonderland, Grease and Unturning: The Musical, which is getting remounted at the UnFringed Festival this August. Victoria is graduate of Interlochen Arts Academy and the University of South Florida. She is a past performer of the Walt Disney Company and truly believes that “Dreams Come True!” She resides in Jersey City with Kevin (who needs some love for understanding that she has to "finish the hat") and fur babies Max and Seamus. Victoria believes in glitter, Shakespeare, and birthday cake. @VictoriaRaeSook www.VictoriaRaeSook.com
Thomas has been directing and performing since 2010. He currently is the co-founder and Artistic Director of a local, zero-dollar budget theatre company, reThink Theatrical.