Many managers are artists first, leading their organizations with a deep, personal knowledge of what it takes to foster and manage creativity. This panel explores the how and why of artists who have transitioned into a leadership role, examining how their artistic background has been a benefit to their success in steering unique organizations and projects. These leaders will share their insights on the importance of maintaining their artistic practice while navigating between the roles of artist and manager.

Danielle Drakes, Panelist 

Danielle A. Drakes is equal parts artist and educator. She is a theater practitioner, acting/directing/producing in the Washington, DC area for 16 years. Her core work as a headshot.jpgteaching artist includes literacy enrichment, community engagement, and training emerging theater educators at American, Bowie State, and Howard Universities. Ms. Drakes is a two-time Theatre Communications Group, Young Leaders of Color award recipient and Founder and Producing Artistic Director of the Hegira Theatre Company, where she has directed and produced contemporary and new plays by and about women of color. Other professional credits include Arena Stage, The Kennedy Center, Ford’s Theatre, and African Continuum Theatre. She received her BA from Goucher College and MFA from The Catholic University of America and is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association and the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society. Ms. Drakes is currently the Manager of School Programs for the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Mark Chalfant, Panelist

ChalfantMark Chalfant helped refound Washington Improv Theater in 1997 and since then has spearheaded the group’s evolution into a hotbed of smart, spontaneous creativity. He has served as the company’s Artistic and Executive Director since 2005 and is passionately engaged in all of WIT’s program areas: creating spontaneous musicals with iMusical as a performer, teaching narrative and storytelling in the company’s training program, and directing such projects as Lore and POTUS Among Us. Mr. Chalfant has shared ideas and skills from improvisation with client organizations including The World Bank, Geico, Goodwill Industries, and with hundreds of individual students.

Caleen Jennings, Panelist

calleensinnettejenningsCaleen Sinnette Jennings is a Professor of Theatre at American University; since joining the faculty in 1989, she has directed for the main stage season and taught thirteen different courses in the theatre and general education programs. In 2003, she received American University’s Scholar-Teacher of the Year Award. She is a faculty member of the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Teaching Shakespeare Institute. Dramatic Publishing Company has published her plays: “Elsewhere in Elsinore: The Unseen Women of Hamlet”, “Inns & Outs”,” Playing Juliet/Casting Othello”, “Free Like Br’er Rabbit”, “Sunday Dinner”, “Chem Mystery”, “A Lunch Line”, and “Same But Different”. “Uncovered” is published in the Lane/Shengold Anthology, “Shorter, Faster, Funnier” and her play, “Classy Ass” is published in five anthologies. She received a $10,000 grant from Kennedy Center’s Fund for New American Plays and the Heideman Award from the Actor’s Theatre of Louisville. She is a two-time Helen Hayes Award nominee, and founding member of The Welders, a D.C. based playwrights’ collaborative

Moderator, Steven Dawson

Dawson.jpgSteven Dawson is the Associate Director of Sales & Marketing at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. After an eight year career as a full-time actor, he attended and received his Master’s degree in Arts Management from American University, where he also served as the Executive Chair of the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium. His thesis work on social media use for arts organizations has been used as a reference by arts organizations, and he speaks at conferences on the subject. Besides his work at Woolly Mammoth, he also serves on the steering committee for Emerging Arts Leaders DC and on the DC area Arts Marketing Task Force.