Spring Gala Special Guests


2014 gala eviteticket image




Peter-Francis-JamesPETER FRANCIS JAMES   Actor   Faculty   Yale Drama School

Peter Francis James was born into an interracial family on Chicago's South Side, and, on his way to an Obama–esque, legal/public role in life, he found the Shakespeare off-ramp—and a place at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. His first year in N.Y. found him in Shakespeare in Central Park with Morgan Freeman, and the first (only?) black production of Long Day's Journey Into Night, at the Public Theater. He has since appeared in London opposite Maggie Smith in Albee's The Lady From Dubuque and, opposite Jane Alexander, reprised his role to open the new Signature Theater in N.Y. He's a two-time Obie winner for his performance as Colin Powell in Stuff Happens and in The Maids at CSC. He has appeared in numerous films, on TV in OZ and Boardwalk Empire, and recorded more than 60 books. Since 2000, he's been the resident Shakespeare acting teacher at the Yale School of Drama, and heads the charity American Supporters of RADA.


Kelsey_LauritanoKELSEY LAURITANO    Mezzo Soprano


Mezzo-soprano Kelsey Lauritano, a native of San Francisco, is a second-year undergraduate at The Juilliard School in New York City, where she studies with Edith Wiens. This season, Ms. Lauritano will be seen as a Spirit in The Juilliard Opera’s production of Cendrillon.  She appeared this past summer at the Chautauqua Music Festival, performing in a number of recitals and in the opera productions of Don Giovanni and Dialogues des Carmélites. She also performed as Frantik in The Juilliard Opera’s 2013 production of The Cunning Little Vixen. In 2012, Ms. Lauritano was named a Presidential Scholar in the Arts by President Barack Obama and was presented the Silver Award in classical voice from Young Arts. She was also a first place winner in Musical Theatre for the 2013 Hal Leonard Competition (University Division). 



jpenna_rdax_100_0J.J. PENNA   Faculty   Juilliard School of Music

J.J. Penna is a musician and writer, and serves as a faculty member for The Juilliard School. As a pianist, he has performed with many singers, including Kathleen Battle, Denyce Graves, Andeas Scholl, Harolyn Blackwell, and David Daniels. He received an MFA in poetry from Warren Wilson College in 2008, and has been a Fellow at the MacDowell Colony, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, the Ragdale Foundation, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

J.J. Penna’s writing has appeared in The Florida Review, Nimrod, and Brilliant Corners. He is a frequent lecturer on the interrelationship of song and poetry, and is at work on a novel.



rdbReginald Dwayne Betts is a writer and poet. In 2010 he received his MFA in Poetry from Warren Wilson College, where he was a Holden Scholar. Four Way Books will publish his latest collection of poems, Bastards of the Reagan Era. His first collection of poems, Shahid Reads His Own Palm, won the Beatrice Hawley Award. Betts’ memoir, A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison, was the recipient of the 2010 NAACP Image Award for non-fiction. His writing has also led to a Soros Justice Fellowship, a Radcliffe Fellowship, a Ruth Lily Fellowship, and a Pushcart Prize. In addition to his writing, Mr. Betts serves as the national spokesperson for the Campaign for Youth Justice and was appointed to the Coordinating Council of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention by President Barack Obama. He is currently a student at Yale Law School.


chloe martinezChloe Martinez graduated from Barnard College, where she was a Mellon Mays Fellow. She holds a MA in Creative Writing from Boston University, an MFA for Writers from Warren Wilson College where she was a Holden Scholar, and a PhD in Religious Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and has appeared in various journals and magazines, including Crab Orchard ReviewThe Cortland ReviewThe Normal School, and The Collagist. She teaches courses on South Asian religions, as well as on religion and poetry, at Haverford College and Swarthmore College. She is working on her first book of poems, as well as a book on religious autobiography in South Asia. She lives in Haverford, PA with her husband and daughter.


Debra Allbery
Natalie Baszile
Andrea Barrett
Charles Baxter
Reginald Dwayne Betts
Robert Boswell
Lan Samantha Chang
Michael Collier
James Franco
Louise Glück
Alva Greenberg
David Haynes
Elizabeth Holden
Bill Irwin
A. Van Jordan
Victor LaValle
Krys Lee
Thomas Lux
Pablo Medina
Heather McHugh
Antonya Nelson
Meghan O’Rourke
Carl Phillips
Greg Pierce
Martha Roth
Richard Russo
Harry Streep
Peter Turchi
Ellen Bryant Voigt
Rohan Weerasinghe
Eleanor Wilner
C. Dale Young


Abigail Wender &
Mary Jo Thompson
Event Co-Chairs 

Maudelle Driskell
Maeve Kinkead
Geoff Kronik
Martha Rhodes


Ellen Bryant Voigt
President and Treasurer 

Catherine Brown 
Nan Cuba 
Maudelle Driskell 
Elizabeth T. Gray, Jr. Secretary 
David Haynes 
A. Van Jordan 
Maeve Kinkead 
Peter Klank 
Geoff Kronik 
Mike Puican 
Martha Rhodes, Vice President 
Mary Jo Thompson 
Daniel Tobin, Vice President 
Abigail Wender, Vice President
Eleanor Wilner, Vice President 
Rolf Yngve
Debra Allbery, Ex Officio
Joan Aleshire, Founding Director