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TDF Teaching Artists

The people behind our education programs

The people behind our education programs


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Gamze Ceylan

Gamze Ceylan hails from Berlin, Germany. She was born into a Turkish family that immigrated to Germany in the 1970s. Gamze has moved from Berlin to Istanbul, where she attended middle and high school, then moved to London, UK, where she attended drama school. After a decade in London, Gamze found herself in New York, which she still calls home. She is a graduate of the William Esper Studio, under the tutelage of the late, great William Esper. Gamze has acted in the UK and US, and she recently moved into writing. Her first short film Ubermensch was completed in 2023 and is making the rounds on the film festival circuit. Gamze started her work as a teaching artist in 2018, with her own company Skip Theater in Istanbul, mostly with Syrian refugee children. She has been with TDF since 2021, first as an assistant teaching artist, and now leading residencies throughout NYC schools introducing students to theatre.

Dominic Colón

Dominic Colón is an actor, writer, director and producer. He is most recognized for his work on The Electric Company. Dominic has appeared in more than 50 films and TV shows, including guest appearances on Power, The Blacklist, Orange Is the New Black, and alongside Benicio del Toro and Patricia Arquette in Showtime's Escape at Dannemora directed by Ben Stiller. Dominic is two-time BRIO Award winner, first in 2011 for his play Crush. His screenplay for Crush won the 2011 HBO/New York International Film Festival Short Film Script Competition. Dominic’s second film, Skin, a comedy about a man who, after extreme weight loss, is afraid to have sex with his boyfriend without a shirt, won the 2016 BRIO Award for screenwriting. Skin recently premiered at the New York Latino Film Festival and is currently on the film festival circuit.

Neil Dawson

Neil Dawson is a Harlem-based, award-winning actor and master teaching artist originally from the Bronx who is equally passionate about both vocations. Favorite acting credits include The Mountaintop (Weston Playhouse), Parable of the Sower (LA tour), Stick Fly (Majestic Theater), The Blacks (Classic Stage Company), New Amsterdam and Law & Order, with national commercials, voice-overs and industrials in the mix. Neil educates young people in theatre throughout the NYC area and is currently a master teaching artist with the DreamYard Project, New Victory Theater and TDF. He finds joy in sharing his art with young people in his hometown. When he’s not teaching, auditioning or acting, he serves as a mentor to high school boys at the Eagle Academy for Young Men. He is a member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Screen Actors Guild, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and holds an MFA in Acting from the University of Washington Professional Actor Training Program.

Stephen DiMenna

Stephen DiMenna is an Off-Broadway and regional theatre director. He is the Artistic Director of The International Theatre Project, which uses theatre as a catalyst for education, self-discovery and empowerment for young people living in disenfranchised communities worldwide. He has been a senior teaching artist for TDF since 1996. He was the Artistic Director of The MCC Theatre Youth Company for 11 years. He was on the faculty of New York University's Program in Educational Theatre for 14 years. He was the director of The Hennepin County Home School Drama Project, where he conducted workshops with incarcerated juvenile felons in a detention facility in Minneapolis. He was the Co-Artistic Director of The Stargate Theatre Company, a program of Manhattan Theatre Club that works with court involved youth in NYC. He has directed over 60 productions Off-Broadway and around the country. He directs theatre workshops regularly for The Stratford Festival of Canada. He is a theatre facilitator for the NYC DOE and was a co-author of The Theatre Blueprint. He is the director of the high school theatre studio for Summer Arts Institute for the NYC Department of Education. He is a member of The Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers and the Artistic Director of the Park Square Theatre in Minneapolis-St Paul. For more information, visit

Carrie Ellman-Larsen

Carrie Ellman-Larsen (she/her) is a born and bred NYC theatre-maker and teaching artist. Carrie has been creating community and student-based theatrical work for almost two decades. As a teaching artist, she has worked with students and adults to create original theatre based on social issues that they care about. She also works in classrooms using theatre as a tool for language acquisition of ELLs, community building, connecting to literacy and social studies curriculum, and developing life skills with students with disabilities. She works for arts, theatre and community-based organizations including the Roundabout Theatre Company, TDF, ArtsConnection and Strike Anywhere. She has also worked for the People's Theatre Project, Marquis Studios, Girls Leadership Institute, the Museum of the City of New York and others. Carrie served as the arts education consultant for the Grand Pistachio, a theatre company that uses puppetry and masks to create shows for young audiences in NYC and nationally. Carrie recently joined Keen Company, an Obie- and Drama Desk Award-winning Off-Broadway theatre company as its Education Director. Carrie created and produced The Staten Island Dialogue Project, a documentary theatre piece in which she interviewed Staten Island residents about the life experiences that influence their vote. She is a recent recipient of the DCLA Premiere Arts Grant from Staten Island Arts for Buried Stories: An Oral History Project about the Fresh Kills Landfill. Carrie can acts and directs with local theatre companies such as Ghostlight Players and the Staten Island Shakespeare Company. Education: MA in Applied Theatre, CUNY SPS and BA in Drama, NYU.

Irisdelia Garcia

Irisdelia Garcia is a Nuyorican interdisciplinary practitioner and educator exploring the body as archive, theatre as ritual and intergenerational storytelling. She explores gender politics and the idea of becoming while interrogating embodied (de)coloniality using interview based-theatre, devising and movement-centered practice. Garcia is currently investigating "conjuring" and memory's mutation in performance. Holding a BA in English (summa) from Amherst College with a Digital Humanities concentration and a Multicultural Theatre Practice Certificate, Garcia is pursuing an MFA in Contemporary Theatre and Performance at The New School minoring in Creative Community Development.

Danny Gomez

Danny Gomez, a Colombian-American artist from Queens, New York, and a Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts alumnus has starred in four Baruch College plays and performed in various stage readings. A Unit 52 member at INTAR Theatre, he made his Off-Broadway debut in 2023 in José Rivera's Sonnets for an Old Century. His film credits include Invisible People, POKENO and The Shot. Danny is also a comedian, singer, writer and graduate of the Meisner Technique program at the Neighborhood Playhouse. As an arts educator with Park Avenue Armory, TDF and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, he enriches NYC public schools by blending creativity with academic learning, celebrating diverse cultures and pioneering new art experiences. @dannygomezz

Nancy Katheryn Gomez

Nancy Katheryn Gomez is a Colombian-American actor/arts educator based in Queens, New York. She aims to create art for systemic change and seeks to generate narratives to represent marginalized groups through storytelling. She has appeared in staged productions including Significant Other, Arsenic and Old Lace and Dreams/Nightmares. Her film credits include More Than a Woman and Where Do You Draw the Line. Nancy co-directed the show Women/Mujer, celebrating stories by Black and Latinx women. She trained in theatre at Talent Unlimited High School, Baruch College, is currently studying the Meisner Technique at the Neighborhood Playhouse and is a Unit 52 member of INTAR Theatre. She is an arts educator at the Park Avenue Armory, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, TDF and CUNY Creative Arts Team.

Allie Hackett-Relihan

Allie Hackett-Relihan is an arts educator in New York City. She received her BA from Keene State College in New Hampshire with specializations in acting, modern dance and choreography, and devised theatre. She has been working with TDF’s Education Department since 2014. Allie has traveled the world studying the performing arts, including at the National Theater Institute, Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, Waterford, CT; Russian State Institute of Performing Arts, Moscow; Hellenic American University, Athens, Greece; Purnati Art Center, Bali, Indonesia; The Hess Collective, New York, NY. As a former English teacher is South Korea, she loves having the opportunity to continue to work with ESL students in NYC.

Michael Leibenluft

Michael Leibenluft (he/him) is an Obie Award-winning theatre and film director whose work is rooted in the intersection of collaborative storytelling, multilingualism and cultural exchange. Leibenluft’s theatre directing credits include I’ll Never Love Again (a chamber piece) by Clare Barron at The Bushwick Starr (Obie Award for Direction, 2016; New York Times and Time Out Critics’ Picks), Salesman之死 by Jeremy Tiang at the Connelly Theater produced by Yangtze Repertory Theatre, The Whore from Ohio with New Yiddish Rep, How I Learned to Drive by Paula Vogel with Drum Tower West Theater in Beijing, Lost Tribe by Agnes Borinsky at Target Margin Theater, The Subtle Body by Megan Campisi at 59E59 Theaters and the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre, and other projects with Ars Nova, New York Theatre Workshop, Atlantic Theater Company/NYU and several theatres in China and Taiwan. Leibenluft is the Artistic Director of Gung Ho Projects, a platform for intercultural theatre, learning and performance. Under his leadership, Gung Ho Projects has produced Flood in the Valley, a bilingual folk musical performed in Chengdu and Beijing; a festival of Taiwanese queer plays hosted by the CUNY Segal Center and the Taipei Cultural Center; and yearly residencies in performance and storytelling for immigrant adults and seniors in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park and Manhattan's Chinatown, in collaboration with senior centers and a community-based public health nonprofit.

Gianfranco Lentini

Gianfranco Lentini (he/him) is a NYC-based queer playwright, teacher and first generation Italian American. Gianfranco's work has been developed and produced across New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Texas and Toronto. His work has also been published by Fire Island Tea, Apricity Magazine, The Coachella Review, Mini Plays Review and Molecule Literary Magazine. He is currently an Adjunct Professor at NYU for Tisch Drama's New Studio on Broadway and a Wendy Wasserstein Project mentor for TDF. He is also a proud member of the Dramatists Guild of America. Learn more at and on Instagram at @HeyGianfranco.

Taryn Matusik

Taryn Matusik is a theatre and visual arts teaching artist, museum educator and education consultant with more that 20 years of experience in arts and educational institutions at home and abroad. She engages learners of all ages and abilities in experiences with theatre and visual arts in museums, classrooms and virtual spaces. As a staff developer for Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility, Taryn coaches school administrators, counselors and educational staff in their fostering of greater well-being within schools through the development of their own skills and knowledge around restorative practice, social-emotional learning and intersectional equity. Taryn has taught courses and workshops at higher education institutions including Columbia University, City College and NYU. Her work as an artist spans the realms of theatre and the visual arts, with particular focus puppetry and the fiber arts. Her embroidered sampler project “Lessons in Thread; Unstitched” was awarded NYSCA grant support. As an avid backyard farmer, Taryn grows food to eat, preserve and share, and serves as a caretaker to her egg-laying friends Haricot, Aubergine and Courgette.

Raphael Peacock

Raphael Peacock is an award-winning actor. Peacock also works as a teaching artist, director and fight choreographer. Selected acting work: Film/TV-Proud, Brother to Brother, Everything’s Jake, The Last Step, The Courtroom, Showtime’s City on the Hill, Blue Bloods. Selected theatre: New York Theatre Workshop, Barrow Group, Classic Stage Company, Arden Theater, MCC Theater Company, Huntington Theater, Utah Shakespeare Festival, Milwaukee Rep, Virginia Stage, Kansas City Rep, Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey and Weston Playhouse. Selected teaching artist work: The Kennedy Center, Atlantic Theater Company, TDF, Bank Street College, Brooklyn College, Hunter College. Lincoln Center Theater's Learning English and Drama, High School and Shakespeare Programs. Juilliard K-12 programs and initiatives. Cultural exchanges through the US State Department in England, Jamaica, Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Training: London Shakespeare Studio and the MFA Program at American Conservatory Theater.

Crystal Skillman

Crystal Skillman is an internationally award-winning playwright, fictional podcast writer and comic book author. She has written for Stories Podcast (Wondery Kids), Girl Tales, Adventure Time comics, and Marvel comics. New Plays include The Rocket Men and Rain and Zoe Save the World. She is the author of the New York Times' Critic's Pick plays Open, Geek, Cut and King Kirby, which you can listen to on Broadway Podcast Network. She currently teaches writing at CoPA at The New School and the History of Television at Pace University. She is passionate about teaching playwriting to young playwrights and teaches for educational programs for teens with TDF, The Alley Theatre and the Dramatists Guild Institute.

Lisa Strum

Lisa Strum is an actor, director and playwright. Acting credits include Dream, Girl! at the Apollo Theatre, Death of a Salesman on Broadway, and King Lear and The Sound of Music at the Utah Shakespeare Festival. Directing credits include Fall at Ensemble Studio Theatre, Torn Asunder at Luna Stage and A Raisin in the Sun at Bristol Riverside Theatre. Awards: Young Howze Theatre Award for “Mind Blowing Shortie” of the Year for her play By the Way...; finalist for the Doric Wilson Independent Playwright Award; recipient of the Djerassi Resident Artists Program; nominated for a Best Actress New York Innovative Theatre Award; Received a United Solo Festival Best Solo Show Award for her play She Gon’ Learn; Broadway World Best Actress Award for Fences.

Nilaja Sun

Nilaja Sun is best known for her award-winning solo piece No Child..., which has garnered more than 25 awards, including an Obie Award, a Lucille Lortel Award, two Outer Critics Circle Awards including the John Gassner Playwriting Award for Outstanding New American Play, a Theatre World Award, the Helen Hayes Award, two NAACP Theatre Awards and the Edinburgh Award. Her solo piece Pike St. had its world premiere at the Abrons Arts Center followed by an international tour including stops at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Pillsbury House, Detroit Public Theatre, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, as well as Scotland, Ireland and Australia. Film and television includes Madam Secretary, The Good Wife, BrainDead, 30 Rock, Law & Order: SVU, Unforgettable, Louie, The International, Youth in Oregon and Rubicon. A native of the Lower East Side, she is a Princess Grace Award recipient and has also worked proudly as a teaching artist in New York City for over 20 years.

Kirya Traber

Kirya Traber is a writer, performer and cultural organizer. She is a 2024 New Harmony Project Fellow, a 2021 Hermitage Artist Retreat Fellow, a 2021 Djerassi Artist Residency Fellow, the Curator in Residence with Hi-ARTS from 2020-2023, New York Stage and Film’s 2020 Founders Award recipient and Lincoln Center’s lead Community Artist in Residence from 2015-2020. Her collaborative work with Ping Chong + Company, Undesirable Elements: Generation NYZ, was a New York Times Critic's Pick in 2018. Her work with First Person PBS received a NY Emmy Nomination in 2019. Her plays include Both My Grandfathers (workshop, Lincoln Center in 2015), Ready or Not (formerly Lucky, development, NYSAF 2020), the musical If This Be Sin (development, Kennedy Center 2021) and Beyond Punishment: Stories of Justice and Healing (commissioned by Columbia Center for Justice 2023). Her debut novel, Ready or Not, will be published by Dutton Books. Kirya has received a Robert Redford’s Sundance Foundation award for Activism in the Arts.

Eric "Wally" Wallach

Eric "Wally" Wallach has directed, choreographed and produced new musicals and original happenings since the 1990s, including The Jack of Tarts: a bittersweet musical (La Mama E.T.C.), The Breasts of Tiresias: a surrealist musical (Le Reine Blanche, Paris) and Suc Daddy: an urban operetta (Culture Project). As a playwright and performer, Wally crucified himself to protest the 2005 invasion of Iraq in his one-page play Radical Jew, 33 in Astor Place. In the early 2000s, Wally was also the television host of Manhattan Neighborhood Network’s political game show, Do You Know Anything?! Wally is also known as Captain Wally Bruce, the creator of FLIGHT18, which has offered space travel for all since 2010. The propellant of the Spaceship Kaleidoscope is the spontaneous combustion of real people dancing and playing on the earthbound spacecraft. He is a co-director of Brooklyn Arts for Kids, empowering young artists for 15 years now. For over 20 years, Wally has worked with all ages throughout New York City and beyond as a theatre teaching artist, now proudly with TDF. Wally is author of the forthcoming book The Audience Makes the Show & other insights, prose, and plays. His writing is found in periodicals including the BRIDGE Journal and The Brooklyn Rail. He is a longtime member of SAG-AFTRA and a founding member of the Lower East Side Biography Project. He is an avid bicyclist and ecstatic dancer. A collection of his work is at

Joe White graduated cum laude from the University Of Rhode Island with a BA in English and a BFA in Theatre. He is an active member of the theatre community in New York City, performing at Off-Broadway theatres, including Soho Rep, The Public Theater and Ensemble Studio Theatre. He has performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, toured India and acted in regional theatre. Joe’s film and television acting credits include Goodfellas directed by Martin Scorsese, and numerous episodes of TV’s Law & Order and Blue Bloods. As a director, Joe has worked at the Ensemble Studio Theatre, the Lincoln Center Institute and the Williamstown Theatre Festival, to name a few. He is an Acting Coach at Fordham Law School and a Teaching Artist for Manhattan Theatre Club and TDF. He also teaches playwriting with NYC local unions for Working Theater. Joe has spent many years volunteering for The 52nd Street Project, a program that brings theatre professionals together with the underserved children in Hell’s Kitchen. Joe is a member of Actors & Writers, a theatre company in the Catskill Mountains of New York, where he maintains a home.