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We conduct book-length oral histories of families in each of the project’s three home cities. Then we adapt one of those oral histories from each locale into a short theater piece (in consultation with the families themselves).

 

We aim for a constellation of stories that represents diverse scenarios, themes and perspectives on guns and related issues. The theater pieces are produced as a season of podcast episodes, and are then staged as live performances in the form of audio theater, or radio plays.

Justin

Meet the Team Behind
Arms Around America

JUSTIN ALSTON (Actor/Collaborator) is a Brooklyn Born actor who is thrilled to be a part of Arms Around America. Justin got his start studying theatre at Duke university before heading to LA in 2002. He has been nominated twice for an NAACP Theatre Award, and he recently Guest Starred on 9-1-1 Lone Star opposite Rob Lowe and Gina Torres. His most important role to date is Dad to his daughter River who continually shows him the true meaning of love and growth.

SOLA BAMIS (Actor/Collaborator) is an actress, writer, performance artist, and filmmaker. A SAG Award nominee, she has appeared in television shows, regional theatre world premieres, and voiceovers in video games and commercials. She produced and starred in two short films shot in Nigeria. Her next film script Crocodile received awards from the 2021 Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival, Lecture Series Short Narrative Screenplay Competition, the 2018 Film Daily Screenwriting and Atlanta Film Festival Screenplay Competitions. Her one-woman show The Tutorial incorporates transformative storytelling, performance art, and Revolutionary Theater to deliver a vital prescription for Black women’s self-love and expression. She received her MFA from the California Institute of the Arts.

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NATALIE CAMUNAS (Actor/Collaborator) is a native Los Angeleno, USC graduate, queer second-generation Latinx actor, and playwright. Natalie has worked regionally in theatres across the country, favorites include Mother Road at Arena Stage in Washington D.C., Native Gardens at the Cleveland Playhouse and originating the role of “Gabby Orozco” in the World Premiere co-production of American Mariachi at the Old Globe Theatre & Denver Center for the Performing Arts. TV credits: Goliath opposite Billy Bob Thornton on AMAZON & Speechless on ABC. As a playwright, Natalie’s plays have been produced in Los Angeles, New York, and Ireland. nataliecamunas.com

DAN FROOT (Producer/Lead Writer/Director/Foley Artist)

Dan Froot’s work has toured internationally since 1983. Awards include a Bessie (New York Dance & Performance Award), a City of Los Angeles Artist Fellowship, and a Foundation for Jewish Culture Playwriting Fellowship. He has worked with Dan Hurlin, Yoshiko Chuma, Ping Chong, David Dorfman, Mabou Mines, Ralph Lemon, Cornerstone Theater Company, and Victoria Marks, among others. He teaches at UCLA’s Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance. www.danfroot.com 

Dan Froot, an older man with salt and pepper hair wearing a hunter green pullover sweater

KRYSTA GONZALES (Actor/Collaborator) is a TX-born, NY-trained, LA-based performer, writer, and chingona. Most of the plays they've written are available to view/listen to online for free, thanks to the support of HowlRound, the VORTEX, Teatro Vivo, the Generic Ensemble Company, and the Distilled Theatre Company. They’re excited and grateful for the opportunity to support the artistry and community-building of Arms Around America.  krystagonzales.com @itsmekrystag 

DONNA SIMONE JOHNSON (Actor/Collaborator) is a LA Native, actress, choreographer and liberator. Deeply rooted in arts leadership and activism, she is the Co-Founder of Hardcorps (an arts organization providing training to under-resourced artists) and leads various community organizing activations, including work with the LA Poverty Department, Watts Village Theater Company, We Charge Genocide, Calling Up Justice and Equity and Diversity Initiatives for Center Theater Group. An LA Native, she attended New York University, where she earned her MA in Dance Education and CalArts, where she received her MFA in Acting. Since then, she has enjoyed a vibrant career working in commercials, voiceover, on screen and international stages. She is a series regular on Y'all Family, premiering this fall and a Company Member in Oregon Shakespeare Festival's 2020 Season, playing Somerset in the Henry VI adaptation, Bring Down The House, (Parts 1 & 2). TV/Film credits include: The Inspectors, Agent X, and Dreamland and NETFLIX's animated Super Drags(recurring). She won the NAACP Award for Best Lead Actress for her work in Broken Fences at The Road Theatre and has worked regionally at The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The Pantages, Portland Center Stage, Virginia Stage, Playwrights Arena, African American Shakespeare, Co. The Broad, The Royal George and Off-Broadway's Union Square NYC to name a few. International credits and tours include CITIZENSHIP in Kampala, Uganda, Echoes of a Thousand Hills (alongside Mashrika and Center for New Performance, Kigali, Rwanda), and with the award-winning CLOUD 9 (RITu, Liege, Belgium). At a time where the power of the collective is being alchemized into tangible change and liberation, Donna is more energized than ever to continue the work with Dan Froot and Co towards empathy, change and harnessing the power of the collective. @dsimonejo across all platforms for joy and activism alike!

Donna Simone Johnson, a young woman smiling brightly with long curly dark brown hair and teal shirt

ANTHONY REY (Actor/Collaborator) is originally from Miami. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from Florida State’s conservatory-style theater program. Over the years in Los Angeles and New York he has worked in various film, television and commercial projects, including significant voice-over work, as well as appearing Off Broadway. He most recently played a young Andy Garcia in the new Latine centered Father Of the Bride. Anthony; the son of immigrants (and loving Husband of one) doesn’t take lightly the opportunity to represent a fuller, more rich representation of Americans in the mainstream narrative for the next generation, including his beautiful daughter Luna.

CHRISTOPHER RIVAS (Actor/Collaborator) is one of the most sought after multi-hyphenates as an actor, author, and storyteller. His book Brown Enough explores what it means to be Brown in America. The book is part memoir and part social commentary. He also developed two shows with SiriusXM's Stitcher: Brown Enough, which explores the parallel themes of his book; and Rubirosa, a 10-episode documentary-style investigation of Porfirio Rubirosa, a Dominican diplomat who is believed to be the inspiration for the famous character ‘James Bond.' On screen, Rivas is known for his work on the Fox series, Call Me Kat.

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BOBBY GORDON (Dramaturg) is a Berkeley born dramaturg, Theater of the Oppressed multiplier, & photographer with an M.A. in Applied Theater Arts from the University of Southern California (2012. Recent credits include FreeMind Free-Style (2021) with Versastyle Dance Company and Pang! (2017) with Dan Froot & Company. Gordon lectured at UCLA for twelve years, where as staff of the UCLA Art & Global Health Center he co-founded the UCLA Sex Squad (a Sex-Ed theater troupe) and produced Through Positive Eyes, a participatory photo project to fight HIV stigma. Gordon will join UC Santa Cruz as a lecturer this Fall. https://www.bobbygordonphotography.com/ @bobbygordonphotography

Dan Froot's Pang - Natalie Camuins, Chri

We feel that guns are a major issue in our country, and that lives depend on learning to listen to each other's experiences and perspectives.
 

There are plenty of statistics about guns. Arms Around America introduces each other to some of the people, and stories, behind the facts and figures.
 

We believe that telling our own and listening to others' stories decreases fear and increases respect and understanding, and that this can move us toward productive dialogue.

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Arms Around America is a National Performance Network (NPN) Creation & Development Fund Project

co-commissioned by The Myrna Loy, Miami Light Project, UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance, and NPN. The Creation & Development Fund is supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts (a federal agency). For more information: npnweb.org

 

This program is made possible with funding by the New England Foundation for the Arts' National Theater Project, with lead funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and additional support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and by a grant from the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, and by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture.

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