Courtney Bailey is a St. Louis-based playwright. With Prison Performing Arts, she's collaborated on multiple scripts, including The Golden Record (PPA Alumni Theatre Company), The Society of Dream Interpreters (Missouri Eastern Correctional Center), and The Caverns of Wingwood (Northeast Correctional Center). Coming up, she'll develop a new play for WERDCC with support from an Artistic Research Grant from The Folger Shakespeare Library. Her most recent play in St. Louis was Brontë Sister House Party (produced by Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble in 2022), which was originally commissioned by St. Louis Shakespeare Festival and won the St. Louis Theatre Circle Award for Outstanding New Play. She is so grateful to be part of the PPA family! (www.courtney-bailey.com)
John Blair is adjunct instructor in writing and psychology and has taught at several colleges in the St. Louis area. He was a contributing writer for All the Art magazine, a visual arts quarterly magazine in St. Louis until the magazine ceased publication due to the pandemic. Additionally, he is a visual artist and has most recently exhibited his painting at St. Louis Community College, Forest Park.
e.k. doolin (she/her) is an emerging writer/theatre artist from Southern Illinois. Her plays have been read and produced by the Slightly Askew Theatre Company, Tesseract Theatre, Q-collective, (all of St. Louis, MO), as well as The Geneva Theatre Guild (Geneva, NY), Theatre is the Cure (San Diego, CA), the CutlerBay Community Theatre (Cutler Bay, FL), and York College (York, PA). Her short play Running Uphill to Smooth Criminal will be featured in the Mike Dobbin's Festival of New Plays in July of 2022 at the Heartland Theatre in Bloomington, Illinois. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Playwriting from Southern Illinois University (SIU) in Carbondale, and will be representing SIU as a playwright in the One Act Play Division at the Region 3 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in January, 2022.
Stacie Lents’s PPA New Play Initiative commissions include Run-On Sentence, which was nominated for a 2019 St. Louis Theatre Circle Award for Outstanding New Play, and the stage adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel Hag Seed. Stacie’s plays have been licensed in the United States, Canada, and the UK. She is an Associate Professor of Theater at Fairleigh Dickinson University and a member of the Dramatists Guild of America, Actors’ Equity Association, and SAG-AFTRA. Stacie received her MFA from Rutgers, Mason Gross School of the Arts and her BA from Yale University.
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My work with PPA continues to inspire and change me. I am grateful to the organization helmed by Chris Limber and, of course, to Margaret Atwood, since my admiration for her novels pre-dates not only my work on this project, but also my writing plays. Above all, I’m grateful to the incarcerated men of NECC and the women of WERDCC for proving to me that art is a window to hope. They’ve also taught me that we rely on theater for empathy, compassion, and social change. I wish I could say it was I who taught them.
Joel Moses is an actor and teaching artist living happily in St. Louis since 2019. He is a former adjunct faculty member at Northern Illinois University and Governors State University where he taught courses in Acting and Introduction to Theatre. Joel’s St. Louis theatre credits include Murder on the Orient Express (Repertory Theatre St. Louis), The Christians (West End Players), Bronte Sister House Party (SATE), Laughter on the 23rd Floor (New Jewish Theatre), The Zoo Story, and The Dumb Waiter (St. Louis Actors’ Studio). He spent several years with the Organic Theater Company in Chicago where favorite performances include Picasso at the Lapin Agile, Emilie: la Marquise du Chatelet Defends Her Life Tonight, The Diviners, and King Ubu. Other Chicago credits include work with First Folio Theatre, Assassination Theater (Museum of Broadcast Communications), 16th Street Theater, Theatre Y, and Stage 773. He received his MFA in Acting from Northern Illinois University, and studied abroad at the Moscow Art Theatre.
Bess has been a versatile Theatre Artist in the St. Louis region for over 13 years. In 2018 she had the privilege to collaborate with Prison Performing Arts and SATE Ensemble theatre as an actor/designer for the inaugural production of "Run-on Sentence." Throughout the region, Bess has held the title of Managing Director (HotCity Theatre), Executive Director (Mustard Seed Theatre) and Production Manager (Ozark Actors Theatre, Washington University). She has designed scenery and lighting for various regional companies (*3 Nominations-Theatre Circle Award), as well as Stage Managed and Directed. Along with her work in the Transition Centers for PPA, she also teaches various workshops for COCAbiz. Bess has been a proud Resident Artist at SATE Ensemble Theatre for the past 5 years. Currently, she is a Faculty member at East Central College teaching Technical Theatre and Communications.
Maria is passionate about using art for self-expression and encouraging change, awareness, and healing. She co-founded Arts, Writing, and Expression Collaborative (AWE) to provide expressive art and writing opportunities to men transitioning out of the criminal justice system at the Transition Center of St. Louis. She is a Visual Art for Well-Being Instructor who has led workshops for educators, medical and mental health professionals, cancer survivors, and victims of trauma for the Missouri Institute of Mental Health, the Kemper Art Museum, the Cancer Support Community, Webster University, Siteman Cancer Center, and other institutions regionally and nationally.
Through the Center of Creative Arts (COCA), she has worked with numerous under-resourced students from the Ferguson-Florissant School District, St. Louis Public School District, and University City School District. Since 2016, Ojascastro has taught visual arts primarily to adults enrolled in the Stress Management Program at PALM Health, an integrative medicine wellness center.
Carl Overly, Jr.
Carl Overly, Jr is a full time artist living in St. Louis. His most recent credits include, Cornwall in St. Louis Shakespeare Festival's production of King Lear, Poochie in COCA's production of Suffer the Children, Chebutykin in ERA Theatre's virtual production of MOSCOW!, Coach in Metro Theater Company’s production of Ghost, and Wolf in the Black Rep's production of Two Trains Running. Carl has worked with St. Louis Shakespeare Festival, SATE, Upstream Theater, Insight Theatre, West End Players Guild, Unity Ensemble Theater, Solid Lines Productions, Mustard Seed Theater, and Magic Smoking Monkey, among others. His directing credits include MotherFu&@$er with the Hat (R-S Theatrics), Anansi the Spider (The Black Rep touring company), Baby Black Jesus (Q Collective) and Assistant Director for We are the Levisons at The New Jewish Theatre. He was a producer for The Every 28 Hour Project (2015 and 2016). Carl was named a Rising Leader of Color by Theater Communications Group (TCG) in 2018 and is a three time St. Louis Theater Circle Award winner.
For PPA, Carl has taught improvisation and theatre at Hogan Street Regional Youth Center and St. Louis County Juvenile Detention Center since 2018. He has also performed in several productions produced by SATE at Hogan Street Regional Youth Center and Women's Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center.
LaMar "Finsta" Williams
LaMar "Finsta" Williams grew up on St. Louis' South Side. He honed his MC skills throughout the 1990s as part of the hip hop group The Ruckus Crew, as host of St. Louis' longest running the iconic hip hop club night, the Hi-Pointe Café, (where up and coming artists honed their skills and platinum recording producer scouted for talent) as a part-time on-air personality for a show called, “Phatlaces” with DJ Needles.
His focus turned to youth in 2003, when he worked with Better Family Life, teaching children from ages 7-11 about the world of hip hop: breakdancing, graffiti writing, rapping, and DJing. He ran a summer program with Human Development Corporation for on the job training experience with inner-city kids (15-17) and for those that wanted to learn more about the music industry. He joined the Center for Recording Arts staff in 2005 and is an integral part of the teaching team there. Later that year, he became the Music Director for a Prison Performing Arts (Literacy) program entitled 'Hip Hop Project Project' where the kids in the Juvenile Detention Center learned how to write poetry, rhyming skills, choreographed dance and performing in front of their peers and family.
Continuing as Staff Coordinator at Ch’rewd Marketing, Finsta soon became an account manager for Capitol Records, Interscope Records, and Atlantic Records, among supervising other Major Label account managers as well. In 2007 Williams made his exit from Ch’rewd to pursue his own goals in the Entertainment Industry. After a few demands, Finsta started his own Marketing and Promotion company (AMPStLouis - Authentic Marketing & Promotions) in 2008 working with local, indie, and National record labels until today.
Freeman Word is a writer, poet, performer, and occasional playwright following in the traditions set forth by his ancestors. Freeman works as a Teaching Artist, viewing art education as a vehicle for cultural expression and an essential ingredient in the liberation and advancement of African people worldwide. As a traditional linguist, Freeman has high proficiencies in Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs and Kiswahili, as well as proficiency in Spanish, French, Chinese, Arabic, Russian, and Nepali. His conviction in propagating “Kujichagulia” (Self-Determination) pushes him to learn languages, aesthetic motifs, and communication styles of humanity worldwide. In addition to his various linguistic trainings and abilities, Freeman holds a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and Masters of Education in Advanced Teaching. For nearly a decade, Freeman has worked with detained youth and incarcerated adults in his Right To Express class to provide humane avenues for self-expression and self-development. He aims to recover the lost history and heritage of African people worldwide and restore humanity to its traditional greatness.