Following our recent leadership transition in which Producing Artistic Director Zak Berkman succeeded former Executive Artistic Director Abigail Adams, we're excited to announce an expansion of the artistic team with four new appointments. Broadway-favorite Steve H. Broadnax III (Thoughts of a Colored Man) transitions from Resident Director to People’s Light Associate Artistic Director. Lisa Portes leads new play development as Associate Producer, Director of New Works. Mieke D joins the company as Director of Community Programs, and Nikko Kimzin serves as Associate Producer for the much-anticipated world premiere of Eisa Davis’ Mushroom.
Producing Artistic Director
"This is a turbulent time when we need to ask big questions, to probe who we are and who we want to be, as an organization and as a culture," explains Zak Berkman.
"Steve, Lisa, Mieke, and Nikko are all joyful inquisitors who lead with care and curiosity. I’m ecstatic to have them join our artistic team as we plan and pursue the next evolution of People’s Light."
Steve H. Broadnax III
Associate Artistic Director
A highly sought-after actor, educator, director, and writer, Steve H. Broadnax III has worked extensively in regional theatre for over 20 years and serves as co-head of the MFA Directing Program at Penn State University. His Broadway directorial debut, Thoughts of a Colored Man, recently received a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Broadway Production, and the world premiere of Bayard Rustin Inside Ashland, written and directed by Broadnax, runs on the People’s Light Leonard C. Haas Stage through June 12. As Associate Artistic Director, Broadnax will direct select People’s Light productions, develop and serve as lead producer for various projects, and oversee a program for emerging directors in partnership with Penn State.
"I’ve been calling People’s Light 'the light of the People' since I directed my first production here in 2016," says Broadnax. "It's such a supportive environment for artists to call home. I’m thrilled to join Zak for this next evolution of the company, and to make work that is deeply meaningful for our region, and for the theatre field as a whole. I’m excited to begin with Bayard Rustin Inside Ashland and go from there!"
Associate Producer, Director of New Works
Lisa Portes is an award-winning director, advocate, leader, and educator whose aim is to define and promote a new American theatre that is driven aesthetically and politically by the world we are becoming rather than the world we’ve been. As Associate Producer, Director of New Works at People’s Light, Portes will lead New Play Frontiers—the theatre’s Residency and Commission Program where nationally renowned playwrights create new works inspired by our region—and serve as lead producer of a new works festival in spring of 2023.
"I’m thrilled to join the incredible team at People's Light under the visionary leadership of Zak Berkman, who follows in the footsteps of the legendary Abigail Adams," Portes says. "I am particularly excited by the possibility of making People's Light a destination for directors and writers in the development of the new American canon."
Director of Community Programs
"I am passionate about theatre as a vehicle for civic engagement," Mieke shares. "People’s Light has demonstrated their commitment to integrating civic practice, arts education, and theatrical excellence as spokes on a shared wheel. I’m excited to breathe new life into community-focused initiatives by getting to know stakeholders, actively asking questions, inviting fresh ideas, and creatively problem-solving new ways to address local issues."
Mieke D brings to People’s Light over fifteen years of experience in professional theatre as an experimental and community-based writer, performer, director, administrator, facilitator, teaching artist, and cultural organizer. As Director of Community Programs, they will lead in-community initiatives, cultivate local partnerships, and produce community-centered events.
Associate Producer for Mushroom
Nikko Kimzin is a producer, teacher, performer, director, and arts consultant (Kimzin Creative) who guides organizations in creating equitable change that is community-created and upheld. As Associate Producer for the upcoming world premiere of Eisa Davis’ Kennett Square-inspired Mushroom—the next play to emerge from New Play Frontiers—Kimzin will steer the multifaceted production and help engage local Latinx community partners.
"I am excited to work in collaboration with People's Light and our local partners as we honor the strengths and cultural wealth of the communities reflected within Mushroom," Kimzin offers. "Our work will be to advance these communities artistically, economically, and socially."
With Berkman and his Executive Leadership team of Erica Ezold (Director of Finance & Operations) and Erin Sheffield (General Manager) at the helm, the reconfigured artistic cabinet—which also includes Director of Production Charles T. Brastow and Director of Education & Civic Practice Kathryn Moroney—will lead strategic planning and season selection for the 48-year-old Malvern theatre.
"We’re excited to conspire with this new group of artists, along with one more full-time position we plan to hire by the fall, to invest in creative work that builds on our history of collaboration as well as engages us more purposefully with our distinctive region."
Pictured: Erica Ezold, Zak Berkman, Erin Sheffield
ZAK BERKMAN (he/him) is a multifaceted, award-winning artist—a director, dramaturg, writer, composer—with over 25 years of experience producing theatre and developing new American plays. Prior to joining People’s Light in 2011, Berkman was the Founding Executive Director of Artistic Programming with Epic Theatre Ensemble, an OBIE, Amnesty International, and Drama Desk Award-winning Off-Broadway company that premiered nationally and internationally acclaimed plays such as Nilaja Sun’s No Child…, Judith Thompson’s Palace of The End, and Jeanne Sakata’s Hold These Truths. Epic Theatre Ensemble was also heralded for its extensive arts-in-education programming, receiving the 2010 Coming Up Taller Award. Berkman served as Associate to Broadway producer Margo Lion (Angels in America, Seven Guitars). As a playwright, works include his adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (with original music also by Berkman), Such Things as Vampires (co-writer/composer, Barrymore Award for Original Music), The Harassment of Iris Malloy, Beauty on the Vine starring Olivia Wilde, and A Breath Short of Breathing. From 2000 to 2004, he wrote for NBC’s Days of Our Lives and ABC’s All My Children. He remains a contributing writer to field publications HowlRound and American Theatre Magazine. Zak is married to People’s Light company member Teri Lamm. They have two sons, Eliot and Theo.
STEVE H. BROADNAX III (he/him) serves as Associate Artistic Director at People’s Light. People’s Light directing credits include the world premiere production Bayard Rustin Inside Ashland (Writer and Director), America 2am, 20/20 Vision (Writer and Director, digital short film), Mud Row, Skeleton Crew, and The Mountaintop. Other theatre includes Thoughts of a Colored Man (GLAAD Media Award Winner for Outstanding Broadway Production), Katori Hall’s 2021 Pulitzer Prize Première The Hot Wing King at The Signature Theatre, Lee Edward Colston’s The First Deep Breath at Chicago’s Victory Garden Theatre (Premiere and Winner of Jeff Awards Best New Work), Dominique Morisseau’s Blood at the Root at the National Black Theatre (Winner of Kennedy Center's Hip Hop Theater Creator Award), and William Jackson Harper’s Premiere Travisville at NYC Ensemble Studio. Steve is an Ensemble Studio Theatre member and a Professor of Theatre at Penn State University; Co-Head of MFA Directing.
MIEKE D (they/them) is a mixed-race genderqueer femme of Asian and European descent who makes documentary and collaboratively-devised theater, teaches anti-oppressive curricula, and facilitates spaces for healing and community building with Philadelphia Asian Performing Artists and beyond. As Director of Community Programs at People’s Light, their goal is to build reciprocal relationships with communities directly affected by the subject matter of our plays, histories, and social issues, in order to build dialogues for a just world through theater and cultural programming.
NIKKO KIMZIN (he/him) is a joy-filled performer, creative producer, and arts consultant (Kimzin Creative) that seeks to create greater communities of belonging. He works with city and county governments, schools/districts, and arts & culture organizations to create equitable access to culturally relevant arts programming and processes. From 2018-2021, he served as the Director of Education and Community Engagement at Transcendence Theater Company where he produced all education and community programming with a focus on equitable arts access for underserved communities. From 2015-2018 he was the producing director at Epoch Creative NYC, a company dedicated to producing work of BIPOC artists where he co-wrote, produced, and directed the hit web-series
"The Great Black Way," and "#Unbooked." He has created Corporate Professional Development programs for Google, Sotheby’s, and other Bay Area Executive Teams. Keynote speaker at CA Migrant Education, Stanford University, Emory University. He has devoted his career to a more inclusive and diverse theater world, particularly providing visibility to Latinx performance making. For performance credits please visit: www.nikkokimzin.com
LISA PORTES (she/her) is a co-founder of the Latinx Theatre Commons and serves on the board of the Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the executive board of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC) and on the Directors Circle of the Drama League. Her work has been seen regionally at Cal Shakes, Cincinnati Playhouse, Goodman Theatre, Guthrie Theatre, Olney Theatre, South Coast Repertory Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, and Victory Gardens Theatre. In New York she has developed and/or directed new work for Soho Rep, Playwrights Horizons, the Public, New York Theatre Workshop, and the Flea. In 2016 she was honored with the SDC Zelda Fichandler Award for Directors. She heads the MFA Directing program at The Theatre School at DePaul University and lives with her husband, playwright Carlos Murillo, and their two teenagers, Eva Rose and Carlos Alejandro.