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Theatre may be dark, but we are turning the spotlight on! NLT wants to celebrate theatre creators and change makers that we admire, that inspire us, and that we think are acting as a light in their community. Join us each month as we uplift the voices that are working to positively impact our industry and our fellow humans.

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A graduate of Temple University, LaNeshe is an absolute powerhouse of talent, inspiration, and leadership in the greater Philadelphia theatre community.  In addition to her work as a performer, LaNeshe has served as marketing manager at Painted Bride Arts Center, and is a co-founder  and current Executive Director of Theatre in the X, serves on the steering committee for BTAP, the Black Theatre Alliance of Philadelphia, is the Philadelphia Co-Chief Representative for the Parent Artist Advocacy League, and is the Executive Director for Theatre Philadelphia.  

 

We deeply admire LaNeshe's incredible dedication to the community, her pursuit of balance in work and self care, and her unifying voice guiding the industry through these challenging times. 

NLT: When did you first get involved with theatre, and when did you know it was going to be something you devote your life to? 

 

LMW: Early in life I was a dancer. In high school I was cast in a production of Anything Goes because I could tap dance. That’s when the acting bug bit me! I always knew performance was going to be a long-standing part of my life, but in high school I joined a group call Bridgeport Profiles Theater which was a troupe of high school actors who devised pieces for middle schoolers about issues like gun violence, suicide, and LGBTQ acceptance. It was then that I truly realized the power of the arts to change lives and I knew I wanted to do that. 

 

NLT: Of all the roles you’ve filled, on and off-stage, is there one that has challenged you the most? 

 

LMW: I think my role as Executive Director of Theatre in the X has challenged me the most because I have to put the most of myself in it. Brain, sweat, and sometimes tears. And that’s just on the administration side. I’m often having to simultaneously wear Theatre in the X admin hat at the very same time that I’m wearing a Theatre in the X performer hat, and that can be difficult at times. But it's the role I absolutely love the most. 

 

NLT: Is there a part of yourself that you see recurring in your work? 

 

LMW: My commitment to community is almost always, if not always, showcased in my work. I choose projects for their impact, both on audiences, or on the representation the project brings for the artists involved. Anything I do comes from a greater purpose than simply entertainment. 

 

NLT: As the Executive Director for Theatre Philadelphia, what are your hopes for our post-pandemic theatre community? 

 

LMW: During my time as the leader of Theatre Philadelphia I hope to create a HEALTHIER theater community - increased audiences, better working conditions, more diverse opportunities for a more diverse set of people. 

 

NLT: What is one thing you wish more people knew about the Greater Philadelphia theatre community? 

 

LMW: That it is great! That it can be compared to New York City and that you don’t have to go to Broadway to see amazing work!

 

NLT: What is something you’ve learned about yourself over the course of the pandemic that you will carry into your work from here on out? 

 

LMW: You can always make change. Just because you’ve been doing the same thing the same way forever, doesn’t mean you can’t do something different, and even moreso, something different might be even better than what you’ve done before. Don’t be afraid to make change and pivot. 

 

NLT: One of your many roles is Executive Director of Theatre in the X; can you share with our audience why their mission is important to you? 

 

LMW: We created Theatre in the X to give opportunities to artists of color and to bring theater to the community. As Black theater artist in the city we felt a huge gap in the amount of opportunities available to me at the mainstream institutions in the city so we decided to change that. We also felt like quality theater shouldn’t be limited to Center City so to break down the barriers of location and price we bring theater right to the people in Malcolm X Park. 

 

NLT: Why do you think theatre is vital to preserve and persevere, even in a global pandemic? 

 

LMW: Theater is an essential part of storytelling, an essential part of helping people understand the experiences of others. It can change lives, both in creation and presentation. 

 

NLT: Is there a person, cause, or event in your life that you return to when you are in need of motivation to keep going?

LMW: My motivation usually comes from what has not happened yet! I’m motivated by what will become, what the result of the work I need to put in will be. 

 

NLT: What is the last piece of writing you read that you had to share with a friend? I recently shared this Facebook status from Beau Thom:  

 

LMW: People love to say, “I can’t wait to see you on the big screen.”

No, see me in the Black Box theater. See me in the undergraduate production where I only have a few lines. See me in the student film that’s probably horrible, but worth seeing because you want to see me make it, right?

Stop telling artists “I can’t wait until you make it.” ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU DON’T SUPPORT THEM WHILE THEY’RE FIGHTING TOOTH AND NAIL FOR A CRUMB OF RECOGNITION.

It stood out to me because oftentimes people think that I produce theater in a park as some placeholder to something bigger and better, but I produce how I produce by design. I could be making theater in MUCH EASIER circumstances than in a public park lol. It’s important to understand that Broadway and Hollywood are not everyone’s goals. 

 

NLT: What was the last song or album you listened to that you had on repeat? 

 

LMW: Beyonce’s “The Lion King: The Gift.”

 

NLT: What’s the last television show, movie, or recorded theatre piece you watched that deeply moved you? 

 

LMW: Raya and the Last Dragon.

Learn about previous Spotlight Artists