October 2022 Residency: Jay Adana and Zeniba Now

The University of Wisconsin–Madison Division of the Arts welcomed playwrights, musicians, and composers Jay Adana and Zeniba Now to campus October 6–16, 2022, launching the Interdisciplinary Arts Residency Program series for 2022–2023 in partnership with the Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives (OMAI).

The residency included participation in the first Just Bust! Open Mic and Workshop events of the academic year along with guest lectures, workshops, and rehearsals leading to a performance of The Loophole at the 16th Annual Passing the Mic (PtM) Festival.

About the Artists

Jay Adana headshot

JAY ADANA (she | her) is loud and shy. The Loophole (Public Theater Studio, music and lyrics), The Jordan & Avery Show (The O’Neill Theater Center, book, music, and lyrics), The Woodsman (New World Stages, lyrics), Notes From Now (59E59, contributed music and lyrics), Fingerpaintings (Playwrights Horizons Downtown, music and lyrics), LeFay (Musical Theater Factory, book and lyrics), The Last Tiger in Haiti (Berkeley Rep/La Jolla Playhouse, contributed music and lyrics). Currently developing The Jordan & Avery Show as a musical movie. 2020 Richard Rodgers Award, 2021 Vivace Award, 2018 Jonathan Larson Award, 2019 Dramatist Guild Foundation Fellow. Work featured by PBS, The American Theater Wing, Joe’s Pub, and The Dramatist Magazine. Residencies: Public Theater #BARS residency writer under Jeanie O’Hare, Rhinebeck Writers Retreat, SPACE on Ryder Farm. Education: #BARS workshop founded by Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs, Acting BFA SUNY Purchase Conservatory. www.jayadana.com

Zeniba Now headshot

ZENIBA NOW is a musical storyteller and artscientist from Los Angeles. Millions of people have enjoyed her performances online and on stage. As a writer of musicals, her work includes Beloved (PBS, #BARS at The Public), Human Resources (St. Louis Rep, Woolly Mammoth), The Loophole (The Public Theater), and Take the Lead (forthcoming). Her one-woman specials “IQuit: Millennial Retirement Gala” and “Sincerely, Z” can be seen on Tik Tok and YouTube. Z has also collaborated with Buzzfeed, The New York Times, Mixed Blood, NYU Playwrights Horizons, Goodspeed Musicals, NYMF, Theatre Raleigh, Theatre by The Sea, RWS & Associates, La Mama, The Dramatist Guild Foundation, The American Theatre Wing, Joe’s Pub, The GreenRoom42, 54 Below, The Gibney, Ring of Keys, Democracy Now, Caveat, SPACE on Ryder Farm, SpeakEasy Stage, Signature Center, Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre, Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, Rhinebeck Writer’s Retreat, and more.

Zeniba is passionate about the effects of heart and brain coherence on human consciousness and has completed Alpha Brainwave Training 1 at Dr. James Hardt’s Biocybernaut Institute and two advanced retreats on piezoelectricity with Dr. Joe Dispenza. She has a degree in Musical Theatre from The Boston Conservatory at Berklee with an emphasis in Directing. Additional training in antiracism and leadership from Urban Bush Women, and graduate coursework in Trauma & Communal Suffering, The Shape of The Story, and Artist Identity from NYU Gallatin where she briefly pursued an Independent Masters in Musical Film and Television. Zeniba is the winner of the 2021 Jonathan Larson Award, 2021 Vivace Award, the 2020 Richard Rodgers Award, and West High’s Funniest Senior. www.zenibanow.com


Just Bust! Open Mic

October 7 @ 8:00 pm – 10:00 pm CDT
Wisconsin Historical Society 816 State Street, Madison, WI

Madison’s longest running all-ages open mic, Just Bust! Open Mic, includes community performances, First Wave and alumni spotlight performance, and performances by Jay Adana and Zeniba Now. Performance sign up (in-person) begins at 8 p.m. and goes on throughout the night until all slots are filled. Free, all ages, and open to the public.

Just Bust! Hip Hop Theater Workshop

October 8 @ 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm CDT
Play Circle, Memorial Union 800 Langdon Street, Madison, WI

Just Bust! Hip Hop Theater Workshop led by Jay Adana and Zeniba Now. This workshop centers around an upcoming performance of The Loophole at the 16th Annual Passing the Mic Festival (October 15). Free, all ages, and open to the public.

Residency Reception at Rob Dz – Spoken Word Night

October 13 @ 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm CDT
Café CODA 1224 Williamson Street, Madison, WI

Jay Adana and Zeniba Now invite you to join in celebrating their residency at UW–Madison with Rob Franklin, also known as Rob Dz, as he hosts a Spoken Word Night at Café CODA. As part of celebrating this residency, the presenters are offering a limited number of free tickets to attend.

Passing the Mic Public Showcase

October 15 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm CDT
Play Circle, Memorial Union 800 Langdon Street, Madison, WI

All are invited to join for this intergenerational hip hop festival dedicated to the theme Love & Revolution, featuring a performance of The Loophole by Jay Adana and Zeniba Now. Free, all ages, and open to the public.

Guest Artists

The duo was accompanied by guests Jess McLeod (Hamilton), Blu Rhythm Collective (Lyric Opera of Chicago), Christian Thompson (Devil Wears Prada, Ain’t Too Proud) Le’Asha Julius (Random Acts of Flyness), Tyler Fauntleroy (Tambo & Bones), Alessandra Valea (West Side Story), Jason Simon (Metropolitan Opera), Andrea Yohe, and Kelsey Baehrens for a performance of The Loophole at the 16th Annual Passing the Mic Festival.

Kelsey Baehrens

Kelsey Baehrens (she/her) is a bicoastal human who gets to do so much fun stuff, specializing primarily in positive vibes. Recently, she’s contributed vibes as an assistant with Broadway For Racial Justice, the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Music Theater Conference, and Kainalu Elementary School’s special education pre-K program. Associate directing credits: the NYCLU’s “Sing Out For Freedom” 2021 benefit concert (dir. Jess McLeod), We Won’t Sleep, a new musical about the right to vote (dir. Erin Ortman). Fave acting credits: Cambodian Rock Band (Manoa Valley Theater), Wild Swimming (KOA Theater), Lizzie, the Rock Musical (Playhouse Square), The Magic School Bus: Lost in the Solar System (Theaterworks USA, first national tour).

Blu Rhythm Collective

The Blu Rhythm Collective is a tribe of experienced artists that can produce or provide dancers, choreography, original music, and authentic storytelling. BRC offers a unique option to theater, television and film makers who need work for hire artists that can collaborate with efficiency. Based in Chicago, BRC is a platform for thriving adult creatives. The collective explores all forms of art and media content to fully engage audiences and spark conversations, possible solutions, and inspire a positive change in our communities. The Blu Rhythm Collective is Brandy Ford, JC Hopkins, Ricketa Davis, Troy Mayo and Tanji Harper.

Tyler Fauntleroy

Tyler Fauntleroy is a NYC based actor/singer. Off-Broadway: Tambo and Bones (Playwrights Horizons/CTG), Looking for Leroy (New Federal Theatre). Regional: Fences (Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival), Tempest (Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival), The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington (Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival), 1 Henry IV (Folger Theatre), Cinderella: A Musical Panto (People’s Light), Romeo and Juliet (Westport Country Playhouse), Next to Normal (Syracuse Stage). TV: Succession, FBI, The Oath. Audelco Award for Best Acting Ensemble. BFA: Virginia Commonwealth University.

Le'Asha Julius

Le’Asha Julius is an actress from Washington D.C. She attended Duke Ellington School of the Arts and went on to receive her BFA from SUNY Purchase College. She is known for her role as Wendy in HBO’s Random Acts of Flyness and Jasmine in Still Here which premiered at Sundance Film Festival. Le’Asha has worked with The Public Theater, The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, Howard University, and Carnegie Hall among many other endeavors. In her free time, she’s a songwriter and has performed at Black Thought’s “School of Thought” and has opened for several artists including Kendrick Lamar, Salt ‘n’ Peppa, Noname, and Talib Kweli. Le’Asha is currently the first year acting teacher at SUNY Purchase’s Conservatory of Acting BFA program.

Jess McLeod

Jess McLeod is a director & social justice advocate specializing in risky new work about America. Woolly Mammoth BOLD Resident Director; NYCLU Artist-In-Residence; Artistic Associate, Broadway Advocacy Coalition. Resident Director, Hamilton Chicago. Regional credits include There’s Always the Hudson, Woolly, Steppenwolf, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Goodman, San Diego Rep, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Long Wharf, The Gift, and A Red Orchid Theatre. Jess has created operas with community groups at the Lyric, musicals with incarcerated teen Chicagoans through Storycatchers Theatre, and recently co-curated BAC’s first-ever Arts In Action Festival. Currently under commission at La Jolla Playhouse and Co-Chair, with Michael Korie, of the Dramatists Guild Foundation Musical Theatre Fellows. MFA, Northwestern.

www.jess-mcleod.com | @mcjessmc

Jason Simon

Most recently Jason Simon was seen as The Surgeon and Son of Stalin in the world premiere production of The Last Match: A Pro Wrestling Rock Musical. You might recognize Jason from PBS’ Great Performances as Dick Dead-Eye in HMS Pinafore, Cleopas in Easter Mysteries, and the Maitre’d in Susan Stroman’s production of The Merry Widow at the Metropolitan Opera, or as Sheriff Vallon in the Live from Lincoln Center NY Philharmonic’s concert of Show Boat. Other TV/Film: BULL, An Angry Boy, Little Voice, Spongebob Squarepants: Sponge Out Of Water, White Collar, Exploitation, and I’d Kill For You. Plus a multitude of characters/voices in many commercials, movies, and video games. Nat’l tours: Sister Act, Wizard of Oz, The Producers, CATS!, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and Funny Girl. Regional: The Metropolitan Opera, The Guthrie, Gulfshore Playhouse, Cape Playhouse, Fulton Theatre, MSMT, Barrington Stage, Ogunquit Playhouse, The Argyle, Weathervane, Seaside Theatre, Merry-Go-Round, and was a founding member of Festival 56. Love and thanks to my beautiful wife, Tara!

Christian Thompson

Christian Thompson is a mixed race, multi-hyphenated artist from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Broadway: Thoughts Of A Colored Man, Ain’t Too Proud. Regional: Devil Wears Prada (World Premier), Catch Me If You Can (Arena Stage), Skeleton Crew (Marin Theatre/Theatreworks). Tour: Rent (Benny, u/s Roger). Commission Writer at Penn State, ’22. Catalyst Finalist (Pilot) and Resident Writer with Fosters Residency in ’21. BFA Musical Theatre from Penn State. @christianthompsonactor

Alessandra Valea

Alessandra Valea is a performing artist, director, choreographer, a certified teacher through Dance Educators of America, and also currently serves as the Artistic Director of both Metuchen Dance Centre and the Theatre Arts Conservatory in New Jersey. She is also the Director MDC’s pre-professional dance company, Dance Reflections. Notable choreo & directing projects include: Cabaret (Brook Arts Center, NJ), The View Upstairs (SpeakEasy Stage, Boston), #BARS III: The Loophole, (The Public Theater, NYC), Public Speaking’s HAIR:50 (The Public Theater, NYC), Spamalot (N.H.T. Award Nom.), Fingerpaintings (Playwrights Horizons NYU), Jay Adana’s Larsen Legacy Concert (American Theatre Wing/Adelphi), Dirty Secrets (Tony & the Kiki), Cabaret, Reefer Madness, Dancing At Lughnasa, Urinetown, I Love You Because (The Boston Conservatory), and The Duke Ellington Nutcracker (Metuchen Dance Centre). Alessandra has her BFA from The Boston Conservatory with a triple emphasis in Acting, Dance and Choreography, and is a member of Actors Equity Association. www.alessandravalea.com

Andrea Yohe

Andrea Yohe is a recent NYC transplant from Nashville, Tennessee Although primarily a pianist, she is a theatre major turned Music Director and has been working on musicals in various capacities for many years. Most recently, she’s been fortunate enough to work on a handful of original new works in the city. Andrea is a proud Maestra member.


The October 2022 Interdisciplinary Arts Residency was presented by the UW–Madison Division of the Arts with aryn kresol as program coordinator and by the Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives (OMAI) with Director Sofía Snow as residency lead.