2023 FORGE FELLOWS
Alex Carson (she/her) is a writer and podcast producer. Originally from Michigan, she currently lives in Washington State after a decade in Portland, Oregon. Alex earned her BA in acting from Columbia College Chicago, and completed most of an MFA at the Actors Studio in NYC. After obtaining a yoga teacher certification and working as a senior writer for YogaCityNYC, she lived in Berlin for a year on an artist visa. There she was chosen to represent her adopted city and write for a global craft summit in Copenhagen with the Adam Mickiewicz Institute.
After moving to Portland, she wrote her first feature-length screenplay, Pocket Girl, and directed its proof-of-concept movie trailer. The screenplay won two awards, and she’s currently turning it into a novel.
She wrote and produced the Pocket Girl Podcast with Robert Ouimet, and writes and produces My Acronym Life, a podcast about healing from complex trauma (CPTSD). She’s also writing a memoir on CPTSD.
During the work week, Alex writes and designs in the tech world. Her favorite projects are chatbots and voice AI, and she’s passionate about making digital tools that are accessible, inclusive, and ethical.
More than anything, she wants to create work that helps people with CPTSD find their voice and learn to thrive.
Alex Rubin (she/her) is the kind of person that wants a coffee chat to last three hours and listens to true crime podcasts before bed.
She began her career in theater, taking a gap year after high school to serve as an apprentice for The New 42nd Street Project/New Victory Theatre. She earned her BFA in Theatre Direction from Hofstra University and, upon graduating, put herself through an unofficial secondary BFA by taking playwriting classes all over New York City and winning a spot in BMI’s Lehman Engle Musical Theatre Workshop as a lyricist. She’s the recipient of the 85th Annual Writers Digest Award in Playwriting, the Big Vision Empty Wallet Playwriting Fellowship, and residencies at SPACE on Ryder and HBMG’s National Winter Playwrights Retreat. Her plays and musicals have been produced across the US, Canada, Mexico, and the UK.
Alex completed her MFA in Writing for Film & Television at The University of Southern California’s School for Cinematic Arts where she received the Harold Lloyd Scholarship and Annenberg Graduate Fellowship. During that time, she wrote for iHeart Radio’s “Solve” and PEG’s “Jackie Cox Variety Show.” She’s placed in competitions including Final Draft Big Break, Austin Film Festival, and ScreenCraft.
She was selected for the 2021 WIF/Blacklist Episodic Lab with her pilot “Lost Hope Hotel” and is one of ISA’s 25 Screenwriters to watch in 2023.
Alex was the Showrunner’s Assistant/Script Coordinator for Amazon’s upcoming series “The Horror of Dolores Roach” and is the current Writers Room Assistant on Netflix’s “Sweet Magnolias.”
Photograph by Michael Hull
Ayana Ayo (she/they) is an independent art & cultural worker whose New York City upbringing has heavily inspired & motivated her career path. She believes in the transformative power of art to impact the socio-emotional and intellectual development of individuals and society, and has remained committed to spreading and fostering these ideas and values.
Since 2016, Ayana Ayo has carved out a niche for herself bringing her art administrative experience to the street art sphere to produce and coordinate initiatives for various organizations & corporations whether it be a nomadic nonprofit to an international street art focused human rights campaign. Other prominent clients have included Lyft, TIAA and the US Census Bureau.
She has an BA in American Studies & Organizational Management from Claremont McKenna College, is a graduate of the UPENN & National Art Strategies Executive Program in Arts & Culture and was a 2018 Singapore International Foundation Arts for Good Fellow. In 2020, she founded Let’s Paint in August to launch her own curatorial public art initiatives and partnered with urban arts nonprofit, Hi-ARTS to co-create The One Wall Movement – the only mural initiative of its kind centering the voices of BIPOC & women muralists & street artists.
Photograph by Laurie Markiewicz
Brandon Rumaker (they/them) is a Non-Binary, Queer playwright based in New York City, born and raised in the Hudson Valley. Their work explores how to make the epic intimate and the intimate epic, often touching on themes of sexuality, mental health, shame, and reckoning with the past through a fantastical lens.
They have developed work as part of the DTA Draft One Festival (2022), Exquisite Corpse Company’s Writing Lab (2022) and Broadviews on Broadway (2019). Recipient of the Stillwright Retreat (2022).
Their work has been shown at Prime Produce, The Rochester Fringe, and the historic leather bar, The Eagle, produced by National Queer Theatre. Semi-finalist: Pipeline PlayLab (2022). Beyond writing, Brandon can be found reading tarot or volunteering as a peer counselor for Identity House, a service for LGBTQIA2S+ peoples. Proud member of the Dramatists Guild of America.
Photograph by Maya Louis
Camila Galaz (she/her) is an Australian artist of Chilean descent based in New York. Working in video, text, and drawing, her multimodal research-based practice looks to understand how intimate connections to history exist through personal narratives, social media, collective memory, and cultural texts. She often plays with the perceived intimacy of direct speech, journal entries, correspondence, ephemera, and annotations, alongside elements such mistranslation and reenactment to create slippages between fact and fiction, past and present.
Recent projects include: a reenactment of “Crocodile Dundee III” through Instagram for Outback Arthouse, Los Angeles (“Dead End. Brilliant.”); a meta-analysis of Camus’ “The Plague” (“Unwelcome Visitant”); and an interactive web-based documentary on Chilean socialist computer histories for External Pages, London (“REDES: bread and justice, peaches and bananas”). Her experimental documentary “Vecino Vecino” exploring intergenerational legacies of the Chilean dictatorship and developed through a residency at EMPAC, New York, has screened at festivals in New York, Chile, Peru, and Argentina. She is a contributing editor of the Millennium Film Journal and co-hosts the technology history podcast Our Friend the Computer supported by the Media Archaeology Lab, University of Colorado.
Photograph by Mandee Johnson
Cris Eli Blak (he/him) is an emerging playwright whose work has been produced Off-Broadway and around the country; on university stages (Columbia University, Northwestern University, New York University); as well as in London, Australia, Ireland, and Canada.
He is the winner of the Black Broadway Men Playwriting Initiative, the artist in residence at the State University of New York - Oswego, the recipient of the Emerging Playwrights Fellowship from The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre and a resident playwright with Yonder Window Theatre Company and Pipeline Theatre Company. He was a resident playwright with Fosters Theatrical Artists Residency, Paterson Performing Arts Development Council and La Lengua Teatro en Español/AlterTheater Ensemble; the recipient of the Michael Bradford Residency from Quick Silver Theatre Company; was in the inaugural class of fellows for the Black Theatre Coalition, and is currently a commissioned artist developing work for We Hear You: A Climate Archive with the Royal Dramatic Theatre of Sweden, the Napa Valley Shakespeare Festival, and the Pikeville City Commission . His work has been published by Smith & Kraus, Inc., Applause Books, New World Theatre, Breath of Fire Latina Theater Ensemble, and in the Black Theatre Review.
Danny Rocco (née Mitarotondo) (he/him) is an LA-based playwright with the sole ambition to push the craft of playwriting forward. Born in New Jersey to his single, indefatigable mother and raised by the wonderful, overlapping tongue of his Italian family the Rocco’s, he was inspired to write by his former mentor Edward Albee. His work has been developed and produced in New York, Los Angeles, Cape Cod, Colorado, Romania, at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, Oregon Shakespeare Festival and most recently at the Irondale Theater Center.
In 2013, Danny and director Shannon Fillion formed Brontosaurus Haircut Productions, a company devoted to producing plays written in “the Score,” a sheet music-inspired format that allows for acrobatic and layered dialogue with large casts. This work has defined his career for the past decade and was the subject of a residency at the Atlantic Acting School from 2015 to 2020, where Danny was commissioned to write new plays annually. His play What the Sparrow Said is now a short film, directed by Tim Guinee, executive produced by Anson Mount (@SparrowTheMovie). Danny received a grant from the Arctic Circle and the Jeffrey L. Simons Foundation to further develop the Score in the high Arctic this April 2023. He is a Yaddo resident artist, an Edward F. Albee Fellow and a graduate of NYU’s Gallatin School and Columbia University’s School of the Arts with an MFA in playwriting. He works on the creative team of screenwriters Joshua John Miller and M.A. Fortin in LA. Follow him @dwrocco617.
Photograph by Monica Vilela
By day, Kyra Wills-Umdenstock (any) is the Center of Excellence Administrator and Industry Liaison for NYU Game Center at Tisch School of the Arts - and by night, they run the EGD Collective as board chair and CEO. They are a games industry nomad, having been involved in games education, events, QA, sound design, esports, and marketing for 10 years. They worked with Games for Change, the Paley Center for Media, BrookLAN, Super League Gaming, Game Builders Academy, the Brooklyn Children's Museum, and many more - but their favorite gig was being a professional Jackbox Party Pack player for NYXL, and their most notable achievement was getting to pet SonicFox's dog while working East Coast Throwdown: The Pit. They were honored in 2021 by the Game Awards as a part of Future Class, are also a recipient of the JBL Quantum Grant, AnyKey Changemakers Grant, and Girl Scout Gold Award. Kyra currently serves on Mayor Adams's NYC Game Development Industry Council, created to advise the city's policies and programs in the games development sector alongside executives from Microsoft, Zynga, Rockstar, and Take-Two. They are also the Chair of the International Game Developers Association Student SIG. Kyra’s most recent publication is Just Esports, a handbook on diversity, equity, and inclusion in collegiate gaming for university administrators, student leaders, and esports directors that they co-authored.
Skye Guan (he/they) is an artist, educator, and storyteller that manifests worlds infused with the unending depths of thought and love through visual art and games. Born in Guangzhou but raised in New York City, he grew up seeing and feeling the differences actual and constructed between people and pondered the philosophies of self and others, which make their way into his writing and games. As a queer immigrant and the first of their family to attend college, he grew to enjoy both the pursuit of knowledge in academia and the pursuit of soul in art. Based in New York, they earned a Bachelor's in Game Studies from CUNY Baccalaureate for Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies. Skye joined the EGD Collective as an undergraduate student before developing and committing to game development as a medium for art and human experience. He is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Game Design from Lindenwood University while teaching undergraduate students about game design and development as the Program Manager at the EGD Collective.
Daquan Griffith (he/him) is a game design student who specializes in programming, design, and music/SFX. He is currently studying through CUNY Baccalaureate for Interdisciplinary Studies, as a part of EGD Collective's Game Studio Program Fellowship. He also serves as Development Coordinator for EGD. Daquan is also an Assistant Teaching Artist for Urban Arts' School of Interactive Arts. Previously, he was a design intern for the MTA, as well as part of the 2020 cohort of NYU Tisch School of the Arts' Future Game Designers Program.
Jaimes Mayhew (he/they) is a transgender artist who makes participatory, interdisciplinary work that addresses identity and how it is expressed through land use, speculation and ecology. From installation, photography and video to fiber art and performance, Mayhew’s work is conceptually tied together through experimentations of queering relationships between humans, places and things.
Jaimes’ collaborative and solo work has been shown at the Baltimore Museum of Art, Eyebeam (New York City), Mass MoCa (Massachusetts), Conflux Festival (Brooklyn), The Chapel of St. Cecilia (Brooklyn, NY), This Is Not a Gateway (London), 808 Gallery (Boston), The Transmodern Festival (Baltimore, MD), Goucher College (Baltimore, MD), George Mason University (Fairfax, VA), Hoffmannsgallerí (Reykjavík, Iceland) among others. He has received grants and fellowships from The Fulbright Commission of Iceland, Maryland State Arts Council, Rubys Artist Grants, The Saul Zaentz Innovation Fund and Provisions Library, among others.
Reviews of their work have appeared in Hyperallergic, Art Papers, and The Creators Project, among others. An article about Mayhew’s work titled “Performing Trans Ontology: The Body (and Body of Work) of Jaimes Mayhew” was published in the academic journal Feminist Frontiers in late 2020. In the the Fall of 2021, a book chapter of Mayhew’s was published in “Out of Place: Artists Pedagogy and Practice”, edited by Zoë Charlton and Tim Doud.
Mayhew holds an MFA in Intermedia and Digital Art from University of Maryland Baltimore County. Mayhew is a Lecturer at University of Vermont.
Photograph by Mike Morgan
Mar Hwa Wei (Marlynn Wei, MD, JD) (she/her) is an interdisciplinary artist, board-certified psychiatrist, certified yoga teacher, and author. She is an expert contributor to UX Magazine, Psychology Today, Huffington Post, and Harvard Health and is the coauthor of The Harvard Medical School Guide to Yoga.
Her interactive immersive performance Elixir: Digital Immortality has been developed at Pipeline Theatre’s Playspace artist residency in 2020 and presented at the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence at the University of Cambridge in 2021.
Her research interests include human-AI collaboration, empathic design, existential tech, and emerging neurotechnology. Inspired by her studies in philosophy, medical ethics, and the intersection of science and technology, she aims to create “thought experiences” that expand our notions of mortality, legacy-making, self-actualization, and authenticity.
Her work explores existential questions, ancient rituals, and spirituality through the lens of technology. How does one find authenticity, mindful connection, and meaning in today’s world? She has a holistic psychotherapy private practice in New York City.
Photograph by David Wei
Orode Faka (she/her) is a community artist, theatre maker and writer. Director of R.O.C.K.S! International Arts (Responsibility, Ownership, Community and Sustainability), an interdisciplinary artist collective committed to using their crafts to spark new ideas and innovate proactive and sustainable actions in the practice of arts for social change.
Orode is passionate about bringing creativity, innovation and enjoyment in learning and used this approach to work in a diverse range of mainstream and alternative education settings and community groups.
She is currently a resident Teaching Artist at a local primary school as well as establishing Roehampton R.O.C.K.S, a community arts space on her housing estate that provides creative arts programs to children and the local community.
So Mak (they/them) cuts hair.
They are a queer, gender non-conforming, Hong Kong Chinese American interdisciplinary artist and educator who graduated from Arrojo Barbering Academy in 2021, and has been cutting professionally as “Cuts by So” since then. On the surface, hair is just hair… but when someone sits in a salon chair, the barber becomes part of their journey to look the way that they want to look, which for queer and trans people of color, can feel like the longest path. So takes on the spirit of a confidante, a guide, an architect, supporting their community in navigating the trickiness of “feeling good about how you look”, in all its pain and joy. In this FORGE fellowship, they are working to combine the functionality of the cut with their background in education, where they also provide gender coaching and hair care education to individuals, as well as gender expansive training to salons and shops. Outside of hair cutting, So holds an MA in Art and Public Policy from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and has over 15 years of teaching and facilitation experience in nonprofits, schools, universities, and collectives. So’s creative performance practice is rooted in the body as a site of knowledge and infinite awakenings, in which they investigate gender, sexuality, race, intergenerational trauma, and family/ancestry, drawing from their own life experiences. They are currently one half of the performance duo So + Bex. Learn more about So’s artistic practice at somak.work and soandbex.com
Photograph by Carlos David
T. Carlis Roberts (he/him) is an artist and scholar who engages sound as a tool for transformation and liberation. His professional work has straddled theater, film, television, dance, performance art, music, and education. As a composer, sound designer, and music director, T has worked around the U.S. at theaters including Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, About Face Theatre, San Jose Repertory Theater, California Shakespeare Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, and Oregon Shakespeare Festival. As a songwriter and performer, T appeared on the Grammy-nominated album THE LOVE by Alphabet Rockers, wrote original music for the Starz series VIDA, and toured the country in A QUEER STORY OF THE BOY BAND, a theatrical concert he co-created with QTPOC boy band The Singing Bois.
T is co-founder of the Spiritual Technologies Project, a research and performance consortium that explores the metaphysical dimensions of African diasporic music, and author of multiple books and articles on music, identity, and cultural politics. T is also a teacher, most recently serving as Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology at UC Berkeley.
Photograph by Catrina Marchetti
Vickie Yu-ping Wang (she/her) is a translator-turned-writer and model-turned-standup-comedian from Taipei, Taiwan. She just moved to New York after nearly 10 years in Shanghai, China with her 3 cats, Tigger, Nutella, and the Abyss. She worked as a writer and editor for Disney, LEGO, and Gensler, and is working on a book on Taiwanese identity and creativity under censorship. Or a comedy special. It can really go either way.