Alton Fitzgerald White
Alton Fitzgerald White captivates audiences whenever and wherever he performs. The triple talented singer, actor, dancer has starred in six smash Broadway hits! He made his Broadway debut as John in "Miss Saigon" and then moved on to the role of The Hawker in The Who’s "Tommy." Next was "Smokey Joe’s Café" which lead to his West End debut in the original London company of the smash hit. Not long after returning to the States, Alton landed the coveted starring role of Coalhouse Walker Jr. in "Ragtime: The Musical."
Alton’s next Broadway role was that of Mufasa in Disney’s "The Lion King," where he was then offered the amazing opportunity to play the role of Mister in Oprah Winfrey’s "The Color Purple." After then being invited back to the Broadway company of "The Lion King," Alton ended his rein with a record breaking 4,308 performances as King Mufasa. Alton is looking forward to the release of his upcoming book tentatively titled "PRIDE: My Journey From The Projects To The Pride-lands, Mastering The Challenge Of Daily Performance," published by Hyperion. Alton's prayer is that his book inspires others to discover, tap into and nurture their dreams and passions.
Caroline Bragdon, MPH is Director of Neighborhood Interventions for the Pest Control Services Program at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Her work focuses on improving neighborhood level responses to rat infestations. She develops curricula and teaches urban Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for diverse audiences including building managers, custodians, gardeners, businesses and City employees. She is the author of “Characteristics of the Built Environment and the Norway Rat” published in June 2016 in the "Journal of Environmental Health." She is also the author of “Evaluation of a Neighborhood Rat-Management Program – New York City, 2007-2009” published in 2012 in the "Centers for Disease Control’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report." Ms. Bragdon joined the New York City’s Division of Environmental Health as a research scientist in 2004 and coordinated the Bureau of Veterinary and Pest Control Services outreach and education program from 2007-2014. She became the Director of Neighborhood Interventions for the Pest Control Services Program in 2014. Caroline Bragdon received a Bachelor’s degree in Community Health and Social Psychology from Tufts University and a Master’s degree in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University.
Dr. Desmond Upton Patton is an Assistant Professor at the Columbia School of Social Work and a Faculty Affiliate of the Social Intervention Group (SIG) and the Data Science Institute (DSI). His research utilizes qualitative and computational data collection methods to examine how and why gang violence, trauma, grief, and identity are expressed on social media and the real-world impact they have on well-being for low-income youth of color.
His current research projects examine:
1. How gang involved youth conceptualize threats on social media.
2. The extent to which social media shapes and facilitates youth and gang violence.
3. Developing a natural language processing tool for detecting aggression and grief in social media posts in partnership with the Data Science Institute at Columbia University.
Dr. Patton’s research on Internet Banging has been discussed nationally on media outlets to include the "New York Times," the "Chicago Tribune," "USA Today," NPR, "Boston Magazine," ABC News and many more. Dr. Patton also provides expert witness testimony using social media during trials. He was recently cited in an Amici Curae Brief submitted to the United States Supreme Court in the Elonis vs. United States case which examined the issues of interpreting threats on social media.
Ella Martin is a 15-year-old actress who believes in diversity in theater and the arts. She's an advocate for everyone taking a personal responsibility to bring access to the arts to everyone.
Gardiner Comfort is an actor, writer, and teacher who was born and raised in New York City. He was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome at age 7. He holds an MFA in acting from the American Repertory Theater Acting Institute at Harvard University and has traveled the world as an actor in many productions, from Shakespeare to contemporary works. His original solo show "THE ELEPHANT IN EVERY ROOM I ENTER," created with director Kel Haney is about his life with Tourette Syndrome and his visit to the 2014 TAA National Conference in Washington, DC. He is an adjunct professor of theatrer at Queens College and is on the board of the NYC Chapter of the TAA.
Gus Rogerson, Producing Director of The 52nd Street Project, started at the Project as a volunteer in 1992, and joined the staff in 1999. During his 18 years as artistic director, he has produced hundreds of original plays, by children and by adults, overseen the establishment of new programming, and enhancement of existing programming; he has consulted with people from all over the world who are inspired by our work and wish to put it to use; he shared in the leadership of a capital campaign that raised 20 million dollars and built the Project’s first permanent home, with our own 150 seat theater, teaching/tutoring spaces, and rehearsal rooms, etc.; and he has gratefully participated in the well-being of hundreds of young people.
He has been a member of the New York theater community for more than 30 years. His acting credits include the original productions of "Six Degrees of Separation," "Face Value," and "The Grey Zone," and the film "In and Out," opposite Matt Dillon. His directing credits include the American premiere of David Harrower’s first play, "Knives in Hens." He served as associate producer for the feature film "Sunday," which won the Grand Jury Prize at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College.
Jon Albert is a native of Tampa, a graduate of Vanderbilt and the University of Florida where he achieved his master’s in business; Jon began his career with Frito-Lay. Jon then moved to Atlanta to establish and launch the GA operations for PageNet which grew into a wonderful success story. He then had the unique opportunity to serve as a Director for The Atlanta Olympic Games (a $1.8 billion start-up). After The Olympics, Jon became President of the Builder Division of Apex Supply which was bought by The Home Depot years later.
Jack & Jill Late Stage Cancer Foundation was inspired by Jill and Jon Albert’s real life story. Jon found himself, his wife, Jill, and their two young children Jake and Jamie facing Jill’s Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. Jill and Jon realized early on in Jill’s fight, the disease was not just attacking her body, but it was affecting their entire family. Jill and Jon decided they needed to treat their family along with the cancer. The Alberts knew that for their kids, strong memories of special times together would be their greatest inheritance. From this notion, JAJF was born. Jill died a week before Thanksgiving 2006.
Jon was honored as the 2010 Humanitarian of the Year in a ceremony sponsored by American Airlines and in 2011 as the Avis National Spirit recipient at Yankee Stadium. US TRAVEL named Jon their inaugural National Inspiration Award honoree in 2015. And, in 2016 Jon was honored as the Tampa Bay Community HERO by the Lightning Foundation.
Jamie is now at UVA; Jake at Yale. Jon is blessed to have remarried Karen who has inspired him personally to Hurry Up and Live!
Kanya Balakrishna is the co-founder and president of The Future Project, a national initiative to revolutionize education by transforming schools into places where every young person can discover their passion and purpose and build the skills to change their lives and world for the better.
Launched in 2011, The Future Project recruits, trains, and dispatches transformational leaders into high schools across the country. These leaders partner with teachers and community members to inspire and equip students to build passion-driven Future Projects in order to transform schools from the inside out. The Future Project has launched in more than 50 schools across seven major American cities, served more than 30,000 students, and raised $22 million in seed funding from prominent businesses, leaders, and philanthropists.
Kanya previously taught and coached students in Memphis, Tennessee, and New Haven, Connecticut. Kanya graduated from Yale, where she studied anthropology and served as managing editor of the "Yale Daily News." She launched The Future Project after working as the chief speechwriter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg. Kanya has been recognized by DRK Foundation, MAKERS, Glamour, and Generation Progress.
Lance Weiler is a storyteller, entrepreneur and thought leader. An alumni of the Sundance Screenwriting Lab, he is recognized as a pioneer because of the way he mixes storytelling and technology. "WIRED" magazine named him “one of 25 people helping to re-invent entertainment and change the face of Hollywood.” Always interested in experimenting with new ways to tell stories and engage audiences, Lance has designed experiences that have reached millions of people via theaters, mobile devices and online. In recognition of these storytelling innovations, "Business Week" named Lance “One of the 18 Who Changed Hollywood.”
He sits on a World Economic Forum steering committee for the future of content creation and is a founding member and director of the Columbia University Digital Storytelling Lab. In addition Lance teaches a course on the art, craft and business of storytelling in the 21st Century. Lance is currently developing a slate of film, TV and gaming projects.
Lester Vrtiak is an arts administrator and musician based in New York City. He has several years of experience in arts programming specializing in music education and community engagement. Currently, he is managing The Sing for Hope Pianos program, the country's largest recurring public arts project of artist-designed pianos placed throughout the parks and public spaces of the five boroughs each summer for anyone and everyone to enjoy. He is a graduate of the John J. Cali School of Music, part of Montclair State University with a major in Music Theory/Composition.
Rachelle Pereira is the Co-Founder of EQUALibrium Group, a leadership and communication consulting firm dedicated to nurturing and building Powerful Modern Leaders.
In her 15 years as an executive coach, facilitator and educator, she has had the privilege of working with a diverse group of organizations ranging from small start-ups to Fortune 100 companies. For all of her clients, she focuses on what she believes are the cornerstones to quality communication: empathy and curiosity. With this approach, she has taught surgeons how to apologize after medical errors; worked with human rights activists to help them stop fighting each other and instead fight for their cause; shown senior executives how they can get better financial results by demonstrating vulnerability; and helped entire organizations change the way they view and interact with their consumers.
She began her career in Britain and later relocated to New York City where her consulting practice takes her around the world. She lives by the creed that there is always more to learn, something to practice and a new skill to hone. In addition to working with clients and running a business, Rachelle has two young children at home and is in constant pursuit of finding her EQUALibrium, which for her means work-life balance.
Tina Landau is a writer, director, and teacher whose work includes directing/conceiving "The Spongebob Musical" (which opened in Chicago ahead of its upcoming Broadway run), Tarell McCraney’s "Head of Passes" (The Public, upcoming at the Mark Taper Forum), "Wig Out!" (Vineyard Theatre) and "In the Red and Brown Water" (The Public), Bill Irwin/David Shiner’s "Old Hats" and Chuck Mee’s "Big Love" and "Iphigenia 2.0" (all Signature Theatre), Paula Vogel’s "A Civil War Christmas" (New York Theatre Workshop), and her musical "Floyd Collins" (also bookwriter/additional lyrics, Playwrights Horizons.) On Broadway, Tina directed Tracy Letts’ "Superior Donuts" and the revival of "Bells Are Ringing," and at Steppenwolf Theatre Company where she’s an ensemble member, numerous productions including "The Wheel," "Hot L Baltimore," "The Brother/Sister Plays," "The Tempest," "The Time of Your Life" (also Seattle Rep, ACT), "The Diary of Anne Frank," "The Cherry Orchard," "The Ballad of Little Jo," "Berlin Circle," and her own play "Space" (also Mark Taper Forum, the Public.) Tina has co-authored "The Viewpoints Book" with Anne Bogart and has taught regularly at such schools as Yale, Columbia, Harvard, and Northwestern. She’s currently at work on their follow-up book, "Viewpoints on Viewpoints."