Our Team

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DANAI J GURIRA
Executive Artistic Director & Co-Founder

Danai Gurira is a playwright and actor. Her plays include Eclipsed, which received premiere productions at the Wooly Mammoth, Center Theater Group and Yale Repertory Theater and won Best New play at the 2010 Helen Hayes Awards and Best Playwright at the NAACP Theater Awards. She co-created and performed in the award-winning “In the Continuum”. Danai won a 2006 Obie Award, the 2006 Outer Critics John Gassner Award, and the 2004 Global Tolerance’ Award, in addition to being honored by the Theatre Hall of Fame. In 2007, she received a Helen Hayes Award for Best Lead Actress at Woolly Mammoth. Danai starred in the acclaimed film “The Visitor” and on Broadway in “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone”. She is also featured in films “3 Backyards” (Sundance 2010), “My Soul to Keep” (Wes Craven 2010) and “Restless City” (Sundance 2011) and “Ma George”. She has appeared in TV shows “Law and Order”, “Life on Mars”, “Lie to Me”, and “Treme”. Danai appeared as Isabella in “Measure for Measure” ( Equity’s 2011 Callaway Award). She has taught playwriting and acting in Liberia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Her newest play, “The Convert” appeared at the McCarter, Goodman and Center Theater Group Theaters. This play is the first part of a trilogy on Zimbabwe’s coming of age from a feminine perspective for which she received the prestigious NEA New Play development grant. She was the 2011-12 Hodder Fellow at Princeton University. Danai is a commissioned playwright with Yale Rep. In 2012 she was awarded the prestigious Whiting Award. She received her MFA in Acting from Tisch, NYU. Currently she stars as “Michonne” in the AMC hit series “The Walking Dead”. Danai was born in the U.S. to Zimbabwean parents and raised in Zimbabwe where she attended the Dominican Convent Highschool and was a member of Rep Teens. She divides her time between New York and Los Angeles | danai@almasiarts.org

 

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PATIENCE G TAWENGWA
Co-founder

Patience Gamu Tawengwa is a Zimbabwean film and theatre director and producer. She attended Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia, she studied film-making at Movietech Film and Television College in Durban, South Africa and is also an alumni of the Berlinale Talent Campus, a creative training summit in Berlin, Germany. Patience has won the following awards: the Zimbabwe International Film Festival Best Short Film Project Award (2008), International Images Film Festival Short Film Award (2008), National Arts Merit Awards (NAMA) Outstanding Theatrical Production Award (2009) Zimbabwe Theatre Association (ZITA) – Best Production Award (2011) and University of Zimbabwe Theatre Arts Award –Inspirational Woman in theatre (2012). Some of her theatrical work, which includes the plays Loupe, Allegations, Ebony & Ivory, and Comrades have been showcased at the Harare International Festival of the Arts (2008/2009), the 2nd Pan African Cultural Festival in Algiers and Bejaia State Theatre, Algeria(2009), the Dublin Winter Theatre Festival, Dublin Ireland (2009), Market Theatre in South Africa(2010), Eastgate theatre in the Scottish Borders(2010), The Edinburgh Fringe Festival (2010), Improvisationsteater in Stockholm, Sweden(2012) and the Musho Theatre Festival, Durban, South Africa(2013). In 2010 Patience was profiled as one of the emerging outstanding African director’s in the book Theatre Sudlich De Sahara/Theatre in Sub-Saharan Africa by Rolf Hemke. Patience is based in Harare, Zimbabwe.

 

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MUSHAMISI KAHARI
Managing Director

Born and raised in Zimbabwe, Mushamisi attended St Johns College in Harare before going to the United States in 2001 for undergraduate studies. While there he earned two bachelors degrees and a minor in fine arts from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU); the primary being Communication Arts (Commercial Arts), the secondary being Sculpture and Extended Media with a Minor in Painting in Printmaking. While pursuing education in the United States in 2002 he accumulated experience as a patent illustrator and researcher for potential applications. After graduation he continued working for the VCU Resident Education Department as a Graduate assistant. He then worked for Envision EMI as a Faculty Advisor for the 2008 Presidential Inaugural Youth Conference and the Global Young Leaders Conference in the same year. Musha then returned to his family’s law practice in Zimbabwe. His training in the United States, paired with the practice’s legal resources, allowed him to act as a consultant to clients within the Fine Art and Commercial Art community. In that time he also earned a Masters in Intellectual Property from Africa University in Mutare. He returned to VCU in 2013 for graduate studies in Art Education and gained experience working with students from Kindergarten to High school using a variety of platforms including digital media. He has since returned to Zimbabwe to helm Almasi’s operations. We, at Almasi, welcome him and are excited by what his unique brand of abilities will bring the organization. “Almasi is leading the charge in what history will describe as a new era in the Zimbabwean dramatic arts. I am honored that I will have an opportunity to contribute to this movement.” ~ Mushamisi Kahari
mushamisi@almasiarts.org

 

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ELIZABETH ZAZA MUCHEMWA
Associate Artistic Director

Elizabeth Zaza Muchemwa is a Poet/Writer/Theatre Director and upcoming Playwright. She has been involved in the Zimbabwean performing art scene since the year 2006. She has performed at festivals that have included HIFA, Intwasa Arts Festival and Protest Arts International Festival. In 2014 she was shortlisted in the Poetry International Zimbabwe Competition and is the first runner up in the BN Poetry Award 2014. Her Short story Positive Death was published in the Zimbabwe Women Writers Magazine in 2006. And in 2012 her short story Radio Culture is Dead was shortlisted in the Intwasa Short Story Competition. In early 2013 she attended a writing workshop facilitated by Canadian writer, Madeline Thien and Zimbabwean Writers Tsitsi Dangarembga. This workshop, part of The Breaking Silence Project by Icapa Trust, culminated in the publication of a short story anthology in 2014. In pursuit of gaining directing skills, Zaza participated in the HIFA-DIRECT training program in the year 2009 as an assistant director on In Living Colour, 2010 as a director for Just papers and 2011 as an assistant director on Colours of Dreams. She was selected in 2013 to be one of two directors who would be mentored by American Director, Adam Immerwahr on the African Premier of Danai Gurira’s The Convert. This was part of an Almasi Collaborative Arts training initiative which culminated in the Director, Adam, leaving the show after its premier in Zaza’s hands. In 2014 she also participated in a directing workshop led by South African director, Roel Twijnstra. Zaza has directed plays for the stage which include Wedding Day in 2010 and Khayelitsha in 2012.She has in the year 2010, 2011 and 2014 directed Katswe Sistahood’s young women’s monologues and performances. In 2014 she attended the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in London as part of the Katswe Sistahood delegation where they performed Hands Over, A short theatrical presentation written and directed by Zaza. The end of 2014 had Zaza being selected in the Almasi Mentor Director Stage Reading Series. In February this year under the mentorship of Julia Wharton, she worked on her first stage reading, directing In the Blood by Suzan-Lori Parks.
In order to deepen her playwriting ability and to develop the skill of writing for the stage, in 2013 she took part and successfully completed the Royal Court Theatre Playwrights Intensive. She is in the process of further developing a play she wrote during this intensive. This year she took part in the Almasi Collaborative Arts-Ojai Playwrights Festival’s Almasi African Playwrights Festival. She is also in the process of further developing the play, The Fourth Interrogation that was developed in the Almasi African Playwrights Festival. Elizabeth is part of the board of trustees for LitFest Harare, a budding literature festival in Zimbabwe. And she is part of the management committee for (Zimbabwe Theatre Association) ZITA. She was part of Arterial Network Zimbabwe committee in 2010-2013, the Development Officer for International Theatre Institute Zimbabwe Centre in 2010-2014. Elizabeth went to Victoria High School, Masvingo-1999-2004. She has a DELF, a French elementary diploma through Alliance Francaise-2006. She has a diploma in performing arts from CHIPAWO-2009. She has a Certificate in Arts Management from the University of Zimbabwe-2014. Elizabeth currently works for Almasi Collaborative Arts in the capacity of Associate Artistic Director  |
elizabeth@almasiarts.org

 

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JULIA A WHARTON
Associate Artist

A theater director and educator with over 25 years of experience, Julia has taught, performed, directed and managed theater and dance in 7 different countries. With a BA in Theater and Dance from Connecticut College, Julia feels passionately that performance art, and especially theater, is a powerful tool for leading, inspiring, building and nurturing individuals as well as communities. Her varied and far reaching career began in Washington, DC, working at the Folger Shakespeare Theater (now known as The Shakespeare Theater). Her many positions have included School Director and Modern Dance teacher at Austin Ballet Theater in Austin, Texas; dancer and teacher for the Dragadanza Modern Dance Company in La Paz, Bolivia; founder and director of the theater department at Harare International School in Zimbabwe; Theater Department Chair at the American International School in Guatemala City; and Theater Department Director at Rocky Run Middle School in Fairfax County, VA. Julia has Virgina State Teacher Certification and was a Fairfax County Teacher of the Year in 2012. She has taught acting, directing, teaching Shakespeare, improvisation and theater history and has worked with students ages 3 to 73. In addition to her teaching and administrative positions, Julia has a long directing resume, including more than 25 school, community and professional productions. She is busy directing Dead Man’s Cell Phone by Sarah Ruhl, her third theater production for the globally acclaimed Harare International Festival of the Arts. Other productions include The Curious Savage by John Patrick, You Can’t Take It With You by G. Kaufman and M. Hart, The Visit by Friedrich Durenmatt, A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare, The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde and Stefanie Hero by Mark Medoff | julia@almasiarts.org

 

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SUSAN KELECHI WATSON
Social Media Coordinator

Susan Kelechi Watson is an actor, producer, and director. She trained as an artist at Howard University in Washington, DC where she received a fellowship to study classical theater, with a concentration in Shakespeare, at Oxford University as a part of the British American Academy of the Arts. After graduating from Howard, Susan continued her classical training at the Shakespeare Lab at The Pubic Theater in NYC. She received a full scholarship to New York University and graduated with her Masters of Fine Arts from the Tisch School of the Arts Graduate Acting Program. As an actor, Susan has been on Broadway as “Juliet” in “A Naked Girl on the Appian Way” written by Pulitzer Prize nominated and Tony Award winner Richard Greenberg. She has enjoyed roles Off Broadway at The Public Theater and Ars Nova as well as regionally at Westport Country Playhouse in Westport, CT. Her television credits include guest star roles on “Law and Order”(s), “Medium”, “Private Practice”, “Numbers”, “ The Good Wife”, “Golden Boy” and “The Blacklist”, amongst others. She has recurred on “Third Watch”, “Kidnapped” and “NCIS”. Susan is currently recurring on the Emmy Award Winning FX comedy series “Louie” as “Janet”, Louie’s ex-wife. Her film credits include “Blackout” (Tribeca Film Fest 2007) and Small Beautifully Moving Parts (SXSW Film Fest 2011) amongst others. Her film production credits include the MBIB documentary “Imagine A Future” (Tribeca Film Festival 2013) and “Time After” (March 2014), from Silvadollar Productions. She is set to produce a short film scheduled for release in 2014. Susan was born in Brooklyn, NY to Jamaican parents and raised in both Brooklyn and Long Island. She is first generation American | susan@almasiarts.org

 
 

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