Writer, Director, Choreographer
Debbie Allen, a BFA graduate of Howard University in Theater and Classical Greek Studies is an award-winning director/choreographer who has choreographed the Academy Awards a record ten times. She directed and choreographed for legendary artists such as Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, James Earl Jones, Phylicica Rashad, Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, Gwen Verdon, Lena Horne, and Sammy Davis Jr. Ms. Allen received the Golden Globe for her role as Lydia Grant in the 1980s hit series Fame, and is a three-time Emmy Award winner in Choreography for her series Fame and the Mot-town 25th. Awarded ten Image Awards as director, actress, choreographer and producer for Fame, A Different World, Motown 25th, The Academy Awards, The Debbie Allen Special and Amistad, she has also directed the best that Network TV offers, including Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, Jane The Virgin, Empire and is currently serving as directing Executive Producer of Grey’s Anatomy. She is daughter of Vivian Ayers and Dr. Andrew Allen, wife to NBA All Star Normal Nixon and mother of Vivian and Thump. She dedicates this work to the Life of Ms. Edna Owen Anderson a champion for the young people of our World.
Eric Butler has had a long and prolific career as a composer, arranger, orchestrator and vocalist in theater, film and television. He composed, orchestrated and produced the themes and underscored music for the films: The Club, The Gifted, Images, Realities’, and ABF-America’s Black Forum. His compositions, arrangements, and orchestrations have contributed to The Tonight Show, UNCF Parade of Stars, The 1992 U.S. Olympic Festival, and the TV series Fame. In the musical-theatre world, he was the conductor and rehearsal pianist for the world premier of Ray Charles Live - The Musical. Eric has also arranged, orchestrated, composed and given musical direction to Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill; Viva La Vida - Frida Kahlo; Stormy Weather - The Lena Home Story; Hips, Lips & Fingertips; Duke’s Place; De Obeah Mon; Four Seasons; Thunder Knocking on the Door; On TobyTime; and Broadway’s Your Arm’s Too Short To Box With God among many others.
What musical touchstone does President Barack Obama share with Aretha Franklin? The answer is the music expertise of Tena Clark. The company she founded, DMI Music & Media Solutions, programs the President’s music for Air Force One. Clark recently produced the Queen of Soul’s most recent album. In 2009, Natalie Cole was honored with two Grammy awards for Still Unforgettable, which was executive produced by Clark. Clark was commissioned to create I Believed, a commemorative song to honor Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in celebration of the 100th Anniversary of International Woman’s Day. The song was performed for an audience that included First Lady Michelle Obama at the 2011 International Women of Courage Awards.
Associate Production Designer
Elizabeth Gadsby is a Sydney-based performance designer. With a background in installation and performance work, she holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Painting) from NAS and a Bachelor of Dramatic Arts Design from NIDA. Since graduating in 2013, she has designed set and costume for Australian and International companies and festivals including Perth International Arts Festival, Western Australia Ballet, Louisville Ballet, The London Handel Festival, Brighton Early Music Festival, Belvoir St. Theatre, Griffin Theatre Company, Adelaide Fringe and Edinburgh Fringe Festivals, Buzz Dance Theatre and Sydney Theatre Company. In 2016, Elizabeth will take up the position of Resident Designer at Sydney Theatre Company, to work with director Sarah Goodes on Disgraced and The Hanging. She is also designing Phill Kavangh’s new work Deluge for Adelaide Festival 2016. She is a recent recipient of an Australia Council Art Start Grant, a William Fletcher Scholar and is a current resident in the City of Sydney’s ‘Creative Living Work Space’ Program.
Mic Gruchy was awarded an Australia Council Outstanding Artist’s Fellowship in 2012. His video artworks have been shown around the world and he has directed and edited feature films, documentaries and TV commercials. Credits include A Streetcar Named Desire, The Girl of the Golden West and Aida, Opera Australia, the Helpmann Award winning A Flowering Tree, Perth Festival 2009, Wrong Skin featuring the Chooky Dancers, Adelaide & Darwin Festivals 2010, My Bicycle Loves You, Sydney & Perth Festivals 2011, and I am Eora, Sydney Festival 2012. He has just completed video design for the award winning The Bauklham Hills African Ladies Dance Troup at Belvior Street Theatre.
James Ingram is an American soul musician, famous for his vocal performance. A Grammy Award-winning and Oscar nominated producer/songwriter and self taught musician who plays piano, guitar, bass, drums and synthesizer, Ingram provided the vocals to Just Once and One Hundred Ways on Quincy Jones’s album The Dude. Ingram’s debut album, It’s Your Night, appeared in 1983, including the ballad, There’s No Easy Way. He also worked with the other great musical artists such as Ray Charles, Michael Jackson, Michael McDonald, Patti Austin, Natalie Cole and Kenny Rogers. His biggest hit was Somewhere Out There with Linda Ronstadt on soundtrack to the 1986 film An American Tail. He also won a 1985 Grammy Award for the Yah Mo B There, a duet with Michael McDonald. In October, 1990, he scored a No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with the love ballad I Don’t Have the Heard, from his It’s Real album. James has worked with Ms. Allen on five musicals which played to the Kennedy Center to SRO crowds.
Grammy-nominated composer, arranger, producer, and pianist Wally Minko was born in Akron, Ohio; he studied classical piano with renowned professor Laura LaGarda for many years before embarking on a career in jazz and popular music. Residing in Los Angeles for over 25 years, Wally has performed with jazz superstars Jean-Luc Ponty and Arturo Sandoval, prog-rock superstar Jon Anderson of Yes, pop stars Tom Jones, Barry Manilow, and Deneice Williams; R&B artists Pink, Toni Braxton, En Vogue, New Edition, and Expose’, and Rock & Roll Hall-of-Famer Gregg Rolie of Santana and Journey. Wally is currently the Director of Music and Worship at Calvary Church of West Hills. He collaborated with Ms. Allen on the Presidential Scholars for Young Arts at The Kennedy Center last spring.
Musical Director Composer
Rickey Minor is a multitalented music director, composer, arranger, and music producer, best known as the music director and band leader for the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and American Idol. Minor was born in Monroe, Louisiana and raised in South Central Los Angeles, CA. Minor has served as music director for numerous superstars including Whitney Houston, Christina Aguilera, Ray Charles, Alicia Keys and Beyoncé, for television productions including the Grammy Awards, the NAACP Image Awards, the Super Bowl, and the Kennedy Center Honors.
Cathie Nicholas is the youngest Granddaughter of Fayard Nicholas of the legendary Nicholas Brothers. She was tap dancing before she could walk. Trained by Pail and Arlene Kennedy at Universal Dance Designs, she has traveled the world as a member of Kennedy Tap Company (KTC) and with her sister Nicole as the “Nicholas Sisters.” In 2001, she was accepted to the Debbie Allen Dance Academy and trained the faculty in 2009 and has assisted Debbie Allen in numerous productions such as Twist in Atlanta and at the Pasadena Playhouse, as well as FREEZE FRAME...Stop the Madness in Brisbane, Australia. Cathie has worked with artists Mariah Carey, Miguel, Chris Brown, Michael Feinstein, Berry Gordy, Chaka Khan, and many more. She is currently the Assistant Director of the Hot Chocolate Nutcracker and co-Director alongside Jason Samuels Smith of the Los Angeles Tap Festival (LA Tap Fest). Cathie is now the Creative Director of her Tap Company Rythm n’ Shoes featuring six of the most talented teenagers on the West Coast.
John Rayment lights up the world. As one of Australia’s most prolific designers, he has created the lighting for an extraordinary range of projects. Some of John’s most remarkable lighting design projects include the Opening and Closing Ceremonies for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, Singapore’s 2002 National Day celebrations, Hong King’s extraordinary Symphony of Light permanent city scape display, Singapore’s 2005/2006 New Year’s Eve display on Marina Bay, and the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games.
Michael Mitchell is regarded as one of the most outstanding designers and educators in Australia. His extensive credits in opera, theatre and special events include set design of the State Opera of South Australia’s production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, World Youth Day- Stations of the Cross and the Cauldron & Ceremonial Stage for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. Recent and upcoming designs include Dr. Zhivago directed by Des McAnuffon Broadway for which he won the 2015 APDG (Australian Production Design Guild) Award, Storm Boy, Arms and the Man, Arcadia and Switzerland for the Sydney Theatre Company, and Tosca, Lélisird d’amore and Carmen for Opera Australia. He is Deputy Director of NIDA (National Institute of Dramatic Art) in Sydney, and also holds the positions as Head of Design and Director, Undergraduate Studies and sits on NIDA’s Academic Board.
Roselee Showe has designed costumes for over 20 years in television, theatre and film. Her extensive work includes: Television: The Brenda Hampton Project, 7th Heaven, Everybody Hates Chris, and The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Film: Alvin and the Chipmunks, For Your Consideration, and American Dreamz. Theatre: Freeze Frame, Hair and The Chocolate Nutcracker. Additionally, she has designed costumes for Sundance Film Festival, Lucy in My Eyes, and Whispers on an Easy Sunday. Roselee began her training in Brooklyn NY, studying fashion design at Fashion Institute of Technology, Long Beach City College Fashion Design and California State University Long Beach Professional Design of Costuming in Film and Television. In her spare time, Roselee volunteers teaching youth sewing classes.
John Simmons, ASC (cinematographer) has worked in the film industry since 1973. He was born in Chicago and began his career as a newspaper still photographer for the Chicago Daily Defender at the age of sixteen. His photographs have been and are today exhibited all over the world. A graduate of Fisk University with a degree in Fine Arts, Simmons also has a degree in cinematography from USC. He teaches cinematography and has been a faculty member of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television since 1992. Simmons is a member of the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) and the Directors Guild of America (DGA). His extensive resume includes feature films, commercials, music videos, television shows and documentaries. His feature film was Once Upon a Time When We Were Colored, directed by Tim Reid. John’s current project is the new Jonas Brothers Show for The Disney Channel. John has collaborated with Ms. Allen for years on numerous Network TV and Cable TV projects.
John Simmons, ASC
Thump, born Norman E Nixon Jr., is a graduate of the Los Angeles School for Recording. The 28 year old, born in L.A., created quite a stir in the acclaimed Lifetime Movie The Fantasia Barrino Story as Fantasia’s abusive boyfriend. He is currently working as a stand up comedian, touring with Mike Epps. A talented young composer, his music has been featured on Disney’s That’s So Raven and Girlfriends. He is brother to Vivian and DeVaughn and son of Mr. and Mrs. Norman Nixon.
John Valadez a realist painter and muralist who takes as his subject the urban landscape and people of Los Angeles, was born, raised and continues to live in LA. His style might be compared to that of a photo-realist, such as Richard Estes, who gained prominence in the 1970s. However, his work is not a pure documentary reflection of mainstream society. With his own subjective lens, Valadez focuses on the gritty reality of urban life, fashion pictures that resonate differently with each viewer, depending on his or her own experiences and prejudices.
Stevie Wonder is an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer and activist. Wonder signed the Motown’s Tamla label at the age of eleven, and continues to perform and record for Motown to this day. Among Wonder’s best known works are the singles such as Superstition, Sir Duke, I Wish and I Just Called to Say I Love You. Well-known albums also include Talking Book, Innervisions and Songs in the Key of Life. He has recorded more than thirty U.S. top ten hits and received twenty - two Grammy Awards, the most ever awarded to a male solo artist. Wonder is also noted for his work as an activist for political causes, including his 1980 campaign to make Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday a holiday in the United States. In 2009, Wonder was named a United Nations Messenger of Peace. In 2008, Billboard magazine released a list of the Hot 100 All-Time Top Artists to celebrate the US singles chart’s fiftieth anniversary with Winder at number five.