Lab Directors + Artistic Staff

Cheryl_LWZ1Cheryl Katz (Lab Co-Director)

Cheryl Katz has been developing and directing new plays for over 30 years. She began her career in New York City, developing and directing early works by Deb Margolin, Bryan Goluboff and Stephen Dolginoff, among others. Upon moving to New Jersey, she served as Director of Play Development at Luna Stage from 2003 to 2011, before becoming Associate Artistic Director (2011-2013), and Artistic Director (2013-2018). During her tenure at Luna, she contributed to the development of over eighty new works for the stage, most notably taking a leading role in the development of The Whipping Man by Matthew Lopez, The Dangers of Electric Lighting by Ben Clawson, and Lines in the Dust by Nikkole Salter.  On the Luna MainStage, she directed the world premieres of Razorhurst, a musical by Kate Mulley and Andy Peterson, Tranquil by Andrew Rosendorf, The High Water Mark and King of the Mountains by Ben Clawson, Tar Beach by Tammy Ryan, Carnaval by Nikkole Salter, Mercy and The Firefly by Amy Hartman, The Fastest Woman Alive by Karen Sunde, the critically-acclaimed NJ professional premiere of Thrill Me by Stephen Dolginoff, and three Luna Stage productions of The Man In Room 306 by Craig Alan Edwards (1995 and 2008 in New Jersey, 2010 in New York). Cheryl is a graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

kaitlin-stilwell-01Kaitlin Stilwell (Lab Co-Director)

Kaitlin is so pleased to be developing plays again with Cheryl Katz. Kaitlin spent four years as dramaturg at Luna Stage, where she assisted Cheryl in the development of world premieres Old Love New Love by Laura Brienza, King of the Mountains by Ben Clawson, Indian Head by Nikkole Salter, Tranquil by Andrew Rosendorf, and Razorhurst: a new musical by Kate Mulley and Andy Peterson.

During her time at Luna, Kaitlin also created the audience engagement space The Context Room, and the new play development class PlayGym. She spearheaded the development of several suites of plays inspired by and in celebration of the city of Orange, NJ  including The 280 Project, Secret Cities, and The Orange Project: Lights Up on Education with the BA Theatre Studies program at Montclair State University where she currently teaches.

Kaitlin has worked in the literary offices of Urban Stages, The Mint Theater Company, the Hangar Theater, and McCarter Theatre, where she assisted playwrights Marina Carr, Danai Gurira, and John Guare on premieres of their new plays. As a freelance dramaturg, she has developed plays with Alabama Shakespeare Festival and the Southern Writers’ Project at Alabama Shakespeare Festival; McCarter Theatre’s Youth Ink! Festival, Teen Solo Performance Camp, and Spotlight on Playwriting series; and with many individual writers. Kaitlin has done research for the Abbey Theatre in Dublin and the Rodgers and Hammerstein Company in New York. Her postgraduate work in England culminated in a dissertation on the dramaturgy of climate change plays.

LD_050118_THEATRE_Dzioba_Emily_263_F.jpgEmily Dzioba (Literary Manager and Associate Dramaturg)

Emily is a dramaturg, arts administrator, and educator specializing in devised and ensemble generated work. She is tickled to begin her foray into professional play development with Cheryl and Kaitlin! Artistic homes include George Street Playhouse; Tectonic Theater Project and the Moment Work Institute; Keen Company; the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey; and the Writers Theatre of New Jersey. Her most memorable project is serving as the dramaturg on the devised piece 4320p: IMMERSION, conceived under the mentorship of Barbara Pitts McAdams and Scott Barrow of Tectonic Theater Project, and Dr. Lisa Brenner and Chris Ceraso of Drew University. In August of 2019, Emily presented her work on 4320p and her undergraduate thesis research as a Dramaturgy Debut Panelist at the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) National Conference in Orlando.

Emily is a reader for She NYC Arts, the Playwrights Foundation/ Bay Area Playwright’s Festival, Kitchen Dog Theater, and Campfire Theatre Festival, and she has assisted various artists in production, including Jamie V. Richards (Ensemble Studio Theatre), Eric Parness (Resonance Ensemble), the late Rodney Gilbert (Yendor Productions), and Daniel LaPenta. Emily is also a director and embraces new development projects; credits include a beta production of Heathers the Musical in collaboration with writers Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe, a premiere production of the student-written play Boys Rule, and numerous staged readings of student-written work. Emily is a graduate of Drew University, where she received her BA in Theatre Arts, and is a proud member of LMDA. She credits her deep love and respect of form and content to her mentor Dr. Brenner.

Board of Directors

John croppedJohn Penn Lewis

John lives in Montclair, NJ with his wife and two children. John’s career includes extensive work in both the theater and the retail and hospitality industries.

His business management resume includes working for leaders in several fields, such as working on opening the New York City market for Starbucks Coffee Co., and converting a Princeton hotel property for Novotel Hotels.  Prior to that, he spent several years in management at the Lotos Club in NYC, the city’s oldest Arts and Literature club. He has also worked on training programs for major pharmaceutical companies.

As an arts administrator and producer he served as the Managing Director for Luna Stage for four seasons, and as the Executive Director for both the Park Performing Arts Center and the world-famous children’s educational theater company, The Shoestring Players. Additionally, he produced a series of updated classics at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (ScapinKing StagServant of Two Masters) as well as working as an Associate Producer on the World Premiere of Rick Sordelet’s Buried Treasure.

Mr. Lewis majored in theater at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon where he studied Acting and Directing with Jack Leigh Featheringill. Moving to NYC, he continued his studies at the H.B. Studios. While in New York, Mr. Lewis performed leading roles in several World and American Premieres in addition to working in theatres across the country. He also sang with NY City Opera for three seasons. With a lifelong interest in directing for the stage, he worked with Stephen Pickover (Metropolitan Opera) on the direction of the original revue, Where or When. Other directing credits include, A Thousand CranesThe WagerThe Little FoxesLootRobert Patrick’s Cheap Theatricks, and Hansel and Gretel

jane-mandelJane Mandel

Jane founded Luna Stage, and served as Artistic Director for over 20 years. Jane holds an MFA from NYU Tisch School of the Arts and has had a career in the theatre as actress, director, teacher, and producer. With her inspired guidance, Luna earned its reputation for producing excellent, intelligent and provocative theatre. Scores of new and classic plays have been shared with audiences through readings and full productions. Creating “devised theatre” is one of Jane’s passions. She created and directed In The Name of The Woman (the first show done at Luna Stage), and we don’t have enough sugar for the public (an exploration of racism), created and co-directed The American Project (an exploration of what it means to be an American), and co-created and directed Mi Casa Tu Casa (a bilingual Latino-based play with music that has been touring in New Jersey.) Other directing credits include: Reckless by Craig Lucas, Rosa Loses Her Face by Kitty Chen, Burying FionaRapture and Little Beasts by Jeanne Marshall, The Queen of Thebes and Friends and Relations by Arnold Rabin, Ghosts by Henrik Ibsen, The Other Side of Newark by Enid Rudd, Fair and Decent by Thomas Diggs, and Vita and Virginia adapted by Eileen Atkins.

As Artistic Director she oversaw the productions of Death of a SalesmanMacbethThe Whipping ManThe Dangers of Electric LightingThe Old Settler and A Moon for the Misbegotten, to name a few. She taught theatre games and improvisation/acting at NYU Tisch School of the Arts where she was a full time faculty member while also teaching at The New SchoolWhole TheatreMontclair State University, The Teaching Artist’s Collective, and Luna. She was a member of The Shaliko Theatre Company and acted in The Measures Taken, Ghosts and Woyzeck while in residence at The New York Shakespeare Festival and on tour. Jane currently directs, acts, and coaches acting.

nikkole 2Nikkole Salter 

Hailed by Variety as “thoroughly convincing”, Los Angeles-born, OBIE Award-winning actress and writer Nikkole Salter arrived onto the professional scene with her co-authorship and co-performance (with Danai Gurira) of the Pulitzer Prize nominated play, IN THE CONTINUUM (ITC). For its Off-Broadway run at Primary Stages and the Perry Street Theatre and for its US State Department and Bloomberg sponsored international tour, Ms. Salter received an OBIE Award, and the NY Outer Critics Circle’s John Gassner Award for Best New American Play, the Seldes-Kanin fellowship from the Theatre Hall of Fame, and the Global Tolerance Award from the Friends of the United Nations to name
a few. Ms. Salter also received Helen Hayes and Black Theatre Alliance nominations for Best Actress for her performance. ITC, published by Samuel French, was pronounced by New York Times, Newsday and New York Magazine – as one of the best plays of 2005 and was featured in numerous esteemed media outlets including Essence Magazine, American Theatre Magazine, the Los Angeles Times and NPR’s Leonard Lopate Show. ITC has received over 20 productions across the world to date.

As an actress, Ms. Salter can be seen in Gavin O’Connors feature film “Pride & Glory” starring Ed Norton, Colin Farrell and Jon Voight, and heard as the voice of ‘LATICIA’ in Rockstar Games’ video game release, Midnight Club: Los Angeles. Ms. Salter has received an Independent Reviewers of New England (IRNE) award nomination for Best Actress for
her performance in TONY winner Kenny Leon’s production of STICK FLY co-produced by Arena Stage (Washington, DC) and the Huntington Theatre (Boston), starred in the role of ‘Cookie’ in the West Coast Premiere of OSCAR winner Tarell McCraney’s play HEAD OF PASSES at Berkeley Repertory Theatre (dir. Tina Landau), was featured in Harold Jackson, III’s independent film “Last Night,” (winner of the Audience Award for Best Film and the Grand Jury Prize for best Screenplay in the 2015 American Black Film Festival), starred as Lady Macbeth in TONY-nominated Liesl Tommy’s controversial production of MACBETH at the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, DC, and in a recurring role in Forest Whitaker’s new series, Godfather of Harlem.  Ms. Salter was most recently seen originating a starring role in McArthur Genius Award, TONY nominated playwright Dominique Morisseau’s new play MUD ROW.

As a dramatist, Ms. Salter has written 8 full-length plays, been commissioned for full-length work by 6 institutions, been produced on 3 continents in 5 countries, and been published in 12 international publications.  Her work has appeared in over 20 Off-Broadway, regional and international theatres, and the Crossroads Theatre production of her play REPAIRING A NATION (directed by Marshall Jones, III) was regionally aired during the second season of the WNET program “Theatre Close-Up”on NYC’s channel THIRTEEN, WLIC, NJTV.  The National Black Theatre production of her play CARNAVAL was nominated for 7 AUDELCO awards including Best Playwright and Best Production and won for Best Ensemble Performance.  Ms. Salter is a 2014 MAP Fund Grant recipient, a Eugene O’Neill Theater Center National Playwrights Conference semi-finalist, USA Fellowship nominee, a two time Playwright’s of New York (PoNY) Fellowship nominee, is currently working on commissions from Woolly Mammoth, the National New Play Network/Cleveland Public Theatre, a musical with Neworks Productions, and is in development to write the television adaptation of Claude Brown’s New York Times Bestselling novel, Manchild in the Promised Land.

Amid an emerging acting/writing career, Ms. Salter’s deep sense of social responsibility led her to co-found (with NSangou Njikam) and serve as Executive Artistic Director of THE CONTINUUM PROJECT, INC., a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that creates innovative artistic programming for community empowerment and enrichment. Their first bi-annual endeavor, The Legacy Program: Residency – an arts education, youth development initiative – launched in 2009 at the William Alexander Middle School in Brooklyn, NY. The Continuum Project, Inc. received the 2010 and 2011 Brooklyn Arts Council Regrant Award (Local Arts), a grant funded by the New York Council on the Arts’
Decentralization Program, in support of the LP: Residency.  Ms. Salter as the Exec. Art. Dir. of the CP and conceiver of the Legacy Program was featured on WBAI 99.5 FM’s “Talkback with Hugh Hamilton”  in NYC and was featured on the nationally broadcast PBS series, “Finding Your Roots,” hosted by Harvard Professor Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.  The Legacy Program was most recently in residence at the Harlem School for the Arts.

Ms. Salter is an active member of the Actors Equity Association, the Screen Actors Guild/American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and the Actors Center; and sits on the board of the Theatre Communications Group and on the Council of the Dramatists Guild.  She received her BFA in theatre from Howard University under the instruction of Al Freeman, Jr. and Sybil Roberts; and her MFA from New York University’s Graduate Acting Program under the tutelage of Zelda Fichandler and Ron Van Lieu.

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