Centering Black Leadership in TYA

On June 16, TYA/USA hosted a webinar discussion with Black artists, educators, and leaders in TYA for a virtual town hall exploring the current moment and the response of the TYA field. The town hall was led by TYA/USA Board Members Idris Goodwin and Dexter J. Singleton, in conversation with Michael J. Bobbitt, Courtney J. Boddie, Gloria Bond Clunie, and Jacqueline Handy.





Michael J. Bobbitt (Artistic Director) joined New Repertory Theatre as an arts leader, director, choreographer, and playwright in 2019. Michael J. Bobbitt served as Artistic Director for Adventure Theatre-MTC in Maryland since 2007, where he led the organization to be a respected theatre/training company in the DC region, as well as a nationally influential professional Theatre for Young Audiences. He led a merger with Musical Theater Center, increased the organizational budget and audience, commissioned new works by noted playwrights, transferred two shows to Off-Broadway, built an academy, and earned dozens of Helen Hayes Award Nominations including eight wins. Bobbitt has directed/choreographed at Arena Stage, Ford’s Theatre, The Shakespeare Theatre Company, Olney Theatre Center, Studio Theatre, Woolly Mammoth Theatre, Center Stage, Roundhouse Theatre, The Kennedy Center, and the Washington National Opera. His national and international credits include the NY Musical Theatre Festival, Mel Tillis 2001, La Jolla Playhouse, Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, Jefferson Performing Arts Center, and the Olympics. As a writer, his work was chosen for the NYC International Fringe Festival and The New York and Musical Theatre Festival. He has two plays published by Rogers and Hammerstein Theatricals. He trained at Harvard Business School’s Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management, The National Arts Strategies Chief Executive Program, Certificate in Diversity and Inclusion from Cornell and other top leadership programs. He earned the Excel Leadership Award (Center for Nonprofit Advancement) the Emerging Leader Award (County Executive’s Excellence in the Arts and Humanities), and Person of the Year Award (Maryland Theatre Guide), among others.

Courtney J. Boddie, New Victory Director of Education/School Engagement, oversees all programs related to school communities including the New Victory school partnership program, teacher professional development training in the performing arts and an innovative approach in the professional development of more than 50 New Victory Teaching Artists. In the last 7 years alone, Ms. Boddie has expanded the theater’s scope of work in such programs as Victory Dance, which provides free dance and dance education to NYC summer schools; Create, a theater-based teacher professional development track for the city’s Pre-K expansion, the largest in the nation; and GIVE, a brand new initiative to address equitable student engagement in inclusion classrooms.

In 2019, TYA/USA awarded Ms. Boddie with the TYA Community Impact Award for her leadership in New Victory SPARK (Schools with the Performing Arts Reach Kids), a robust multi-year arts program that has transformed New York City school communities previously underserved in the arts. Through intensive relationships with schools’ administrative and teaching staff, New Victory SPARK utilizes the theater’s existing school programs–including live performances by international arts companies, a highly trained ensemble of Teaching Artists and smartly-designed classroom curricula–to supply performing arts engagement that is as sustainable, creative and impactful.

During her tenure at New Victory, the Theater received the Arts Education Award (2008) from Americans for the Arts and a special Drama Desk Award (2012) for “…nurturing a love of theater in young people.” Ms. Boddie is the Creator and Host of Teaching Artistry with Courtney J. Boddie, a monthly podcast featuring engaging and investigative interviews, roundtable conversations and panels with artists and arts education leaders. She is an adjunct professor at New York University. Ms. Boddie is a Hermitage Artist Fellow. She was on the Board of Directors of the Association of Teaching Artists (ATA) for 5 years (President, 2015 to 2017; Treasurer, 2018-19). Additionally, she serves on the Teaching Artist Committee of the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable, the editorial board for the Teaching Artist Journal and is a Women’s Center Media SheSource. Prior to joining The New Victory in 2003, Ms. Boddie was Program Associate for Empire State Partnerships (NYSCA) and a teaching artist for Roundabout Theatre Company. She received her Master’s degree from the Educational Theatre Graduate Program at New York University.

Gloria Bond Clunie is a founding member of the Playwriting Ensemble at Chicago’s Regional Tony Award winning Victory Gardens Theater where her plays North Star, Living Green and Shoes premiered. She is also the founding Artistic Director of Evanston’s Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre where she directed scores of productions including Ain’t Misbehavin’, Ceremonies in Dark Old Men, Home and Raisin.

Other plays include Sweet Water Taste, SMOKE, Sing, Malindy, Sing!, BLU, Buck Naked, DRIP, Patricia McKissack’s Mirandy and Brother Wind, Bankruptcy, Merry Kwanzaa, Mercy Rising and QUARK. She is published by Dramatic Publishing and in the anthologies Seven Black Plays, Reimagining A Raisin In the Sun and The Bully Plays. Her plays have been produced and workshopped in a variety of theaters including Victory Gardens Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre, ETA, Alliance Theatre, Triad Stage, Her Story Theatre, MPAACT, Chicago Children’s Theatre, American Blues Theatre, Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre, Penobscot Theatre and Orlando Shakespeare Theater.

Ms. Clunie has been recognized for her work in theater and education by the NAACP, AKA and DST Sororities, American Alliance for Theatre and Education and the Vision Keepers. Awards include a Chicago Jeff, a Children’s Theater Foundation of America Orlin Corey Medallion, a Scott McPherson, a Dramatists Guild Fellowship, Theodore Ward African-American Playwriting Prizes, New York’s New Professional Theater Award, Chicago Black Theatre Alliance Awards, NEA and Illinois Arts Council Fellowships, the Evanston Mayor’s Award for the Arts and most recently the 2018 YWCA YWomen Leadership Award.

This Northwestern graduate (B.A. Theater, MFA-Directing) is honored her drama Shoes was included in the 2015 Women Playwrights International Conference in Cape Town, South Africa; that SMOKE was featured in Chicago’s Her Story Theater Writers Series, Dayton Playhouse’s 2015 FutureFest, 2015 New Works at Playhouse On The Square in Memphis, 2016 Barter Theatre’s Appalachian Festival of Playwrights in Virginia, and a part of 2017 New Play Lab at Florida Rep. In July 2016, with the goal to explore violence in America, Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre commissioned and premiered A Shot-#Love Stories inspired by Black Lives Matter.

In 2014, Ms. Clunie was an Artist-In-Residence at Byrdcliffe Arts Colony in Woodstock New York and at 360 Xochi Quetzal Arts Residency, Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico where she completed BLU– as both a two act drama and a new musical exploring bullying. BLU was read at The Growing Stage Children’s Theater of New Jersey New Play Festival, was the featured play in the AATE Utah Playwrights In Our Schools Program and workshopped in Arizona at 2017 WRITE NOW, a TYA collaboration between Childsplay Theatre and Indiana Rep. Thanks to a grant from the Children’s Theatre Foundation of America, BLU– The Musical was workshopped in September 2017. Her comedy Buck Naked was featured in the inaugural 2017 Women Playwrights Initiative at Ivoryton Playhouse in Connecticut.

In January 2018, she served as both playwright and director for My Wonderful Birthday Suit commissioned by Chicago Children’s Theatre, while her adaptation of The Last Stop on Market Street (2016 Caldecott/ 2016 Newberry/ 2016 Coretta Scott King Book Awards) premiered in November at Children’s Theatre of Charlotte and will be part of the upcoming 2020-21 seasons at both Dallas Children’s Theatre and Bay Area Children’s Theatre. She is excited her comedy Sweet Water Taste enjoyed nightly standing ovations last summer at Atlanta’s Horizon Theatre Company. Currently, she is working on the musical SKY, begun at California’s Djerassi Resident Artists Program and inspired by her love of Chicago architecture, and Tall Enough, a 2019-20 DePaul University Cunningham Commission.

Originally from Henderson, North Carolina, she and her husband Basil live in Evanston, Illinois and are the proud parents of daughter Aurelia.

Across two decades Idris Goodwin has forged a multi-faceted career as an award-winning playwright, Break Beat poet, director, educator, and organizer. Idris is the newly appointed Director of The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College.

A catalyst for culture, Goodwin uses his full creative powers to galvanize people to the community square. He is a creative voice for change, impassioned by art for social good.

His critically acclaimed plays like And In This Corner Cassius Clay, How We Got On, and Hype Man: A Break Beat Play are widely produced across the country at professional theatres, college campuses, and non-traditional spaces alike. He’s been honored to receive developmental support from institutions like The Kennedy Center, The Eugene O’Neill Conference, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Arena Stage, and The Playwrights’ Center.

In addition to the recently released poetry collection Can I Kick It?, he’s had several publications from Haymarket Books including Inauguration co-written with nico wilkinson, Human Highlight: Ode To Dominique Wilkins, and the play This Is Modern Art co-written with Kevin Coval. He’s appeared on HBO Def Poetry, Sesame Street, NPR, BBC Radio, and the Discovery Channel.

Passionate about cultivating new audiences in the arts, Goodwin served two seasons as Producing Artistic Director at StageOne Family Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky. He actively serves on both the advisory boards of Theatre for Young Audiences USA and Children’s Theatre Foundation Association.


“What’s in a name?” Though called sometimes by “Jacqueline” and other times by “Jackie,” the names of Jacqueline Handy stand as testament to her singular ability to flow professional and familiar. In this, her fifth year serving school and family audiences at Lincoln Center Education, Jacqueline is building community within Lincoln Center while building support for its artistic offerings around the City. In her current role as Programming Manager, Jacqueline continues her bridge-building as a scout for up and coming ensembles, keen on extending dance, music and theatre performance opportunities to young and artistically underserved audiences. So, what’s in a name? That which we call Jacqueline Handy, by Jacqueline, Jackie, or any other name, would be as collaborative?

Dexter J. Singleton is from Detroit, MI. He is a director, actor, activist, playwright, educator and producer. He is currently the Founding Executive Artistic Director of Collective Consciousness Theatre, a multicultural theatre for social justice in New Haven, CT. Since 2007, this company has reached thousands of youth and adults with plays and workshops across the U.S. and Europe. They have produced the work of playwrights Dominique Morisseau, Idris Goodwin, Jackie Sibblies Drury, Katori Hall and many others. As a director, Dexter’s work has been seen at TheatreSquared, University of Michigan, University of Arkansas, The Flea Theatre (NYC), Long Wharf Theatre, Passage Theatre and many others. Recent credits include Skeleton Crew, The Royale, Flint, Jesus Hopped The A Train, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Among The Western Dinka, Black Book, Topdog/Underdog, and The Mountaintop. Dexter is also an Assistant Professor of Performance at the University of Connecticut and a Board Member for TYA/USA. He was recently awarded the 2019 Artistic Excellence Award from the State of Connecticut and Distinguished Director of a Play for Black Book from The Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival.