Directors Gathering announces new lineup for 2021 JAM

Pictured are (first row) Nikki Brake-Silla, Brett Ashley Robinson, Briana Gause, (second row) Briyana D. Clarel, Katrina Shobe, (third row) Ang Bey, Alexandra Espinoza, and Vanessa Ogbuehi.

One local organization is taking its annual event to a whole new level this year.

Directors Gathering (DG), the Philadelphia-founded membership organization that, through the power of community, “provides development, connections, and process-based opportunities for regional theatre directors” recently announced its new incentive for their annual (DG) JAM.

The JAM typically is a celebration of early-career director-driven work to “provide directors the opportunity to share their artistry and process with DG’s membership and extended community via a digital platform.” For their 2021 event, DG will be highlighting six Black directors, all prominent visionary voices throughout Philadelphia.

“This year’s program is a new approach to JAM,” notes co-curator Shobe in a release. “It’s not just about the process of the director; it’s about directing as an experience. Directors can at times feel isolated, so JAM this year is about bringing directors together. The presentations are going to be new explorations of ways to do theatre in a virtual setting. While the work is all in progress, you will not want to miss the art being showcased by our cohort of talented directors.”

Victoria Goins, Iraisa Ann Reilly, and Marisol Custodio. Tommy Butler

Director Gathering’s 2021 JAM will be curated by Briyana D. Clarel, the founder of The Starfruit Project, a platform supporting radical healing and brilliant growth through creativity and Katrina Shobe, a Philly based theatre artist and teacher, and will take place on Feb. 27. Both curators have roots in the city’s artistic culture—Shobe most recently directed ‘Egoli’ at EgoPo, co-produced by Theatre in the X and Clarel has worked with Philly Improv Theater among many other organizations in the past.

Aside from the co-curators, the lineup and directors for this year also will show some promising works from a few well-known artists/creatives who call the City of Brotherly Love home.

According to the release, this year’s JAM will feature directors Alexandra Espinoza, Ang Bey, Brett Ashley Robinson, Briana Gause, Nikki Brake-Sillá, and Vanessa Ogbuehi. The event will be held via DG Zoom and hosted by DG JAM partners and co-curators Clarel and Shobe. Audiences will get to enjoy pieces in progress by the six DG JAM directors, providing a rare opportunity to witness their work. The directors have received a multitude of resources, including a mentorship day and pre-JAM gatherings to discuss current projects, future ideas, experiences, and more.

Grace Szczepkowski and Amir Lembrick. Tommy Butler

The digital format provides a safe way to celebrate the event with the current pandemic, with each work also touching on a different visionary focus from the director’s viewpoint.

Director Ang Bey is a Black, queer storyteller from Southwest Philadelphia. They are the co-artistic director of Shoe Box Theatre Collective and the co-creative director of Wings of Paper Theatre Company.

“I am committed to the transformative power of storytelling,” they note in a statement in a release. “I create to ignite decolonization, radical healing, and compassion. We must strive for the Utopia we will not live to see.”

Ang Bey. Tommy Butler

According to the release, the other directors also have strong roots in the city. Brett Ashley Robinson is a Barrymore Award winning devisor and a two time nominee for the Golden Tassel Jawn, Philadelphia ’s Drag and Burlesque awards, for best comedy act as “Patricia!” She was also a collaborator and performer in Lightning Rod Special’s The Appointment at New York Theatre Workshop, which was a New York Times Critics Pick and voted best play of 2019 in The New York Times, Vulture Magazine, Time Out New York, and New York Magazine.

Nikki Brake-Sillá is a filmmaker and playwright and the founder of DrAW (Dramatists At War) and an inaugural member of Jouska Play Works.

Vanessa Ogbuehi is a Philadelphia-based artist making original, devised theatre and the most recently directed The Bodice Ripper Project for Philly Fringe Festival 2020, a digital opera-cabaret with mezzo-soprano Maren Montalbano.

Alexandra Espinoza makes plays as a playwright, performer, director, dramaturg, and more, while a Philadelphia based filmmaker, theatre maker, painter, and teaching artist, who says her life mission “is to create opportunities for love and education to thrive through art.”

The public is invited to register for the free showcase event, which takes place on Feb. 27, from 5 to 7 p.m. Registration is available at

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