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BIPOC Theater Creative Team Panel

Black Box-Power Station 441 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019

Ron Simons is a five-time Tony Award-nominated and four-time Tony Award-winning producer and a four-time Sundance Film Festival selected producer. He is the Founder and CEO of SimonSays Entertainment whose mission is to tell the stories of underrepresented communities (the trademark of the company is Tell Every Story®). Mr. Simons was recently nominated for his 5th Tony Award for the run-away hit Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations which will return to the Imperial Theater this fall. Next up on Broadway is Thoughts of a Colored Man which begins performances on Oct 1 after rave reviews in Syracuse and Baltimore.  

Mr. Simons is the highest African-American Tony Award-winning producer of all time, cementing him as the leading Broadway producer working today bringing diversity to the stage.  

As CEO of SimonSays Entertainment, Mr. Simons leads the strategic planning and development of theatre, film, and television projects including the critically acclaimed Sundance films Night Catches Us (w/Kerry Washington, Anthony Mackie and Wendell Pierce), Gun Hill Road (w/Esai  Morales and Judy Reyes), Blue Caprice (w/ Isaiah Washington and Tequan Richmond) and Mother of George (w/Danai Gurira) - three of which premiered in competition). His first documentary 25 to Life premiered at the American Black Film Festival where it won Best Documentary. He also produced the Broadway productions of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder (Tony Award for Best Musical), The Gershwin’s’ Porgy & Bess (Tony Award for Best Revival of a  Musical), Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (Tony Award for Best Play, Drama Desk, New Drama Critics and Outer Critics Circle Awards for Best Play, Drama League Award for Outstanding Production of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Play). Mr. Simons won his fourth Tony Award for  August Wilson’s Jitney. He also produced Hughie (w/Forest Whitaker), The Gin Game (w/Ceci ly Tyson and James Earl Jones), and the all-black Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire (winner of AEA’s Extraordinary Excellence in Diversity on Broadway Award). Broadway-bound shows include the revival of For Colored Girls, Thoughts of a Colored Man and Blue (w/ Leslie Uggams and Lynn Whitfield directed by Phylicia Rashad with composition by Nona Hendryx and John Legend producing).  

Mr. Simons is a recipient of the Heritage Award from Columbia College’s Black Alumni Council,  Columbia College’s esteemed John Jay Award, 150 Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Washington, and is a Johnson & Johnson Leadership Award Fellow, IFP Cannes’ Producer’s  Network Fellow, and a Sundance Producers’ Summit Fellow. He was also honored as the  Emerging Producer of the Year by the National Black Theatre Festival. He holds a BA from Columbia College, an MBA from Columbia Business School, and an MFA from the University of  Washington and is a proud member of the PGA.  

Ron Simons is a highly sought out speaker, advisor, and expert in keynotes and workshops educating filmmakers and artists on achieving success in the entertainment industry. Simons teaches artists what funders and producers seek at such prestigious organizations as Columbia  University School of the Arts, Tribeca All-Access, Independent Film Project (IFP), Sundance  Film Lab, and the Black TV & Film Collective - igniting thought-provoking exploration into the essence of 'the why' and 'the how' when pitching successful projects.  

As an accomplished actor, Simons has appeared on stage, in film, and on television. He and fellow cast members won the London Stage Award for Acting Excellence for the play Boy Steals Train which he co-developed. He has performed in numerous regional theaters including Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Utah Shakespeare Festival and the Classical Theatre of Harlem. Film and television credits include After the Wedding, Ordinary World, Then Came You, The Ticket, Blue Caprice, Night Catches Us, 27 Dresses, Mystery Team, as well as The Resident, Law & Order, Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Law & Order: SVU among others. He also holds a membership with the prestigious Producers Guild of America (PGA). Simons was a recurring star in Netflix’s hit cross-over Marvel series The Defenders.  

Simons is also involved in many philanthropic efforts in New York and Seattle including board memberships with The Technology Access Foundation, Columbia College Alumni Board, Columbia College Board of Visitors, The Eagle Academy Foundation, The Hetrick-Martin Institute,  NewFest, Harlem Stage, and the University of Washington School of Drama to name a few. 

Joseph Joubert is a native New Yorker and Grammy award-winning musician whose wide-ranging accomplishments and talent as a pianist, arranger, orchestrator, Broadway conductor, and music director have taken him around the world. Most recently Mr. Joubert was Musical Director and Orchestrator for Roundabout’s Revival of Caroline, or Change. He just finished being guest conductor for Encore’s Tap Dance Kid and is currently orchestrator for Ford’s Theatre Grace opening March 18, 2022.  He has orchestrated and played for Respect starring Jennifer Hudson. As a record producer and arranger/orchestrator he has worked with Diana Ross, George Benson, Patti LaBelle, Whitney Houston, Cissy Houston, Jennifer Holliday, Dionne Warwick, Luther Vandross, Norm Lewis, and Diane Reeves as well as classical singers including Denyce Graves, Esther Hinds, Harolyn Blackwell, Florence Quivar, Simon Estes, and Kathleen Battle. His orchestrations are used by symphonies across the USA including The New York Philharmonic and Philadelphia orchestras. He is a founding member of MUSE - musicians united for social equity.  

His theatre credits include: The Color Purple (Drama Desk Nomination), Disaster, Violet (Drama Desk Nomination), Leap of Faith, and Caroline, or Change (original and revival), Barry Gordy’s Motown The Musical, Nice Work If You Can Get It and Billy Elliot on Broadway as well as Hercules by PublicWorks for Disney, and Classic Stage Company’s Carmen Jones Starring Anika Noni Rose.  Television and Film Credits include: Three Mo’Tenors, Three Mo Divas, Smash, Night’s In Rodanthe. He received a Grammy nomination for Best Arrangement Accompanying A Vocal for the Broadway Inspirational Voices Great Joy

Mr. Joubert’s extensive recording catalog can be found here:

Niegel Smith is a Bessie Award-winning theater director and performance artist. He is the Artistic Director of NYC’s Obie Award-winning theater, The Flea; board member of A.R.T./New York; and ringleader of Willing Participant ( an artistic activist organization that whips up urgent poetic responses to crazy shit that happens.

His theater work has been produced at The Alley Theater, The Barbican, Classical Theatre of Harlem, The Flea Theater, The Goodman Theatre, HERE Arts Center, Hip Hop Theatre Festival, The Invisible Dog, Luna Stage, The Melbourne Festival, Magic Theatre, Mixed Blood, New York Fringe Festival, New York Live Arts, Phoenix Theatre Ensemble, Playwrights Horizons, Pomegranate Arts, The Public Theater, St. Ann’s Warehouse, Summer Play Festival, and Under the Radar, and his participatory walks and performances have been produced by Abrons Arts Center, American Realness, The Brooklyn Museum, Dartmouth College, Elastic City, The Invisible Dog, Jack, The New Museum, Prelude Festival, PS 122, the Van Alen Institute and Visual AIDS. He often collaborates with playwright/performer Taylor Mac. 

Smith is co-director of the critically acclaimed A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, winner of the Kennedy Prize in Drama, Bessie Award, the Edwin Booth Award and a Pulitzer Prize finalist. He associate directed the Tony Award-winning musical FELA! – restaging that production in London, Lagos, and its world tour, assistant directed the off-broadway production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and both the Broadway and off-Broadway productions of Tony Kushner’s Caroline, or Change.  He has worked on the artistic staffs of The Public Theater, Trinity Repertory Company, and Providence Black Rep. 

A graduate of Dartmouth College, Smith has received residencies, grants and/or fellowships from Brooklyn Arts Council, Brooklyn Arts Exchange, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, the MAP Fund, New York Stage and Film, Sundance Theatre Lab, Theater Communications Group, Tucker Foundation, Van Lier Fund and VoxFest. Before surviving high school in Detroit, he grew up in the North Carolina piedmont, fishing with his dad, shopping with his mom and inventing tall-tale fantasies with his two younger brothers.

Valencia Yearwood is a co-producer of the critically acclaimed Broadway play Thoughts Of A Colored Man, and recently joined the producing team for the Broadway revival of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf.  She started her career as a dancer, joining the Dance Theatre of Harlem, where she performed various soloist roles. Her television appearances include Bull, FBI, Lincoln Rhyme: Bone Collector, FBI: Most Wanted, Law and Order SVU, and The Guiding Light. She has appeared in numerous national and regional commercials, including Verzenio, Liberty Mutual, Capital One, Colonial Penn, Footlocker, Santander Bank, Advair,, Verizon, FedEx, BJ’s Warehouse, Publix, New York Lotto, and Partnership for a Drug-Free America. Her voice-over work includes Nickelodeon, McDonald’s, Goodwrench, Soft Sheen Carson, Grand Theft Auto, and BellSouth. Valencia’s Broadway credits include The Lion King and Once Upon a Mattress with Sarah Jessica Parker. She is a proud member of Actor’s Equity Association, SAG-AFTRA, and New York Women in Film & Television. 

Valencia Yearwood is a graduate of Syracuse University, where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology.

Valencia currently serves on the Dance Advisory Committee for the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. She is a past Chair of the Board of Directors of 651 Arts, an arts organization in Brooklyn, New York, dedicated to supporting emerging and established artists from the African Diaspora. She has also served on the Programming and Educational Advisory Committees of the South Orange Performing Arts Center located in South Orange, New Jersey. Valencia is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and she has served as Chair of the Eastern Regional Arts & Letters Committee. She is also a member of The Links, Inc., where she has served as the Co-Chair of the Arts Facet and Chaplain for the North Jersey Chapter. Valencia resides in West Orange, New Jersey with her husband, Marvin K. Pettus, Esq.

IRENE GANDY, winner of the 2020 Tony Honors Excellence in Theatre Award, has recently been appointed to the Drama League Board of Directors. She is the only Black female press agent member of ATPAM (Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers) for over 50 years. Working with Producer Jeffrey Richards for over 3 decades, she is a Tony-Award-winning producer on Broadway for The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess and was a producer for Lady Day At Emerson Bar and Grill starring Audra MacDonald. She was also co-producer with Voza Rivers of the National Tour of the South African musical Sarafina. In 2008, she became the first female press agent to be immortalized with a Sardi’s caricature. A fashionista known for her furs, in 2015 she launched a signature collection featured in Vogue Magazine and will debut a Lady Irene Fur line in 2022. Gandy’s recent productions include The Great Society, American Son, China Doll, Fiddler on the Roof, and You Can't Take It With You. Gandy began her career in 1968 as a publicist with Douglas Turner Ward and Robert Hooks’ Negro Ensemble Company. Since then, she has worked on over 100 Broadway shows, including August Osage County, Glengarry Glen Ross, Radio Golf, Bubbling Brown Sugar, Smokey Joe’s Cafe, Lena Horne: The Lady, and her Music, and The Wiz. In addition to her work in theatre, she was Associate Director of Special Markets for CBS Records, working with such artists as Earth, Wind and Fire, The Jacksons, and Labelle, and her personal music clients include Freddie Jackson and Nona Hendryx. Gandy is the Press Consultant for Harlem Week, recipient of the 1997 National Action Network’s “Woman of Excellence Award,” the 2007 Vanguard Award from Black to Broadway Productions, the 2004 Black Public Relations Society Award, the 2013 “Inspire in New York” Award, 2015 Pioneer Award for BLACK PRIDE NYC, and the 2015 Café Mocha “Salute Her” Media Legend Award. Other awards include "Project 1 Voice Lifetime Achievement" for outstanding achievements and vision to artistic excellence in the American Theater; 2017 HARLEM WEEK Vivian Robinson Arts & Culture Award; and "Life Changers" presented by WNBA players Teresa Weatherspoon and Rita Haywood for inspiring, transforming, and empowering others. In 2018, she was honored with Vivian Robinson/AUDELCO "Pioneer Award" for Recognition Awards for Excellence in Black Theatre. In 2019, she was honored with the NAACP-LGBTQ David Weaver Prize for Excellence in the Arts. In 2020, Gandy was inducted into New York Public Lincoln Center Performing Arts Library as part of The League of Professional Theatre Women’s Oral History Project. Gandy currently serves on the boards of City College for the Arts, HARLEM WEEK, and New Heritage Theater.