ABOUT THE ARTISTS
CATHY TAGNAK REXFORD (Playwright)
Cathy Tagnak Rexford is a playwright, poet, and fiction writer from Anchorage, Alaska. She is of Iñupiaq, French, German, and English descent. She holds a BA from The Evergreen State College in Native American Studies; a BFA with honors from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Creative Writing; and an MFA from The University of British Columbia in Creative Writing and Theatre, where she was a Full Circle Aboriginal Ensemble Member and an Aboriginal Graduate Fellow.
Rexford has written four full-length dramas: The Namesake, Land Claims, Whale Song, and Cold Case. In 2008, The Namesake was selected by Native Voices at the Autry’s First Look Series. The 2019 Perseverance Theater staging of Whale Song was the first professional production of one of Rexford’s plays. Rexford began writing Cold Case, as a Playwright’s Circle Fellow at Perseverance Theatre.
Rexford’s poetry has appeared in various anthologies. Her chapbook Black Ice appeared in Effigies: An Anthology of New Indigenous Writing, Pacific Rim (2009), and individual poems have appeared in collections such as Sing: Poetry from the Indigenous Americas (2011) and When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through (2022). She is the author of A Crane Story (2013), a young adult novel based in Arctic Alaska. She has received fellowships from the Truman Capote Scholarship Foundation at the Institute of American Indian Arts, the Alaska-based Rasmuson Foundation, and the First Peoples House of Learning at The University of British Columbia.
In addition to writing, Rexford has worked extensively in Native education and language efforts as a grassroots organizer, film producer, non-profit director, and coordinator of Iñupiaq education in Alaska's northernmost school district. This fall Cathy’s excited to be serving as a Producer on True Detective: Night Country, an upcoming HBO series starring Jodie Foster and Kali Reis that will be shot in Iceland and set in Alaska. She is one of the lead Iñupiaq advisors to consult on Alaska Native culture featured in the show. Rexford writes in Portland Oregon, where she lives with her husband and son.
LESLIE ISHII (DIRECTOR)
Leslie Ishii, Artistic Director, Perseverance Theatre (PT), has directed at PT, Pangea World Theatre, East West Players; Artists At Play; UC, Irvine; USC; CSLA; Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF): API 2x2 Lab New Works Residency, Founder/Co-Producer, Dramaturgy, FAIR Assistant Director Program Recipient and co- facilitation of OSF’s E/D/I/A Initiative with artEquity; Native Voices Theatre in Dramaturgy and other productions, and where she began, Northwest Asian American Theatre. (Actor, recent) PT and Penumbra/Theatre Mu Co-Production; El Teatro Campesino; Southcoast Repertory Theatre, American Conservatory Theatre; Broadway, and more regional theatre and Film/Tv credits upon request.(National) Professional Non-Profit Theatre Coalition (PNTC): Website/Coalition Subcommittee Co-Chair, advocating for Federal Relief support; Consortium of Asian American Theatres & Artists: Board President and CAATA hosts the National BIPOC Theatre Networks Coalition/Commons for the sustainability of artists and theatres of color (Founder); National New Play Network: Board Member, Strategic Planning Co-Chair; artEquity, original core faculty working throughout the US to support anti-racism/anti-bias/JEDIA training and transformation with arts and culture organizations. New England Foundation for the Arts: Theatre Capacity Building Grant Recipient for the Sunrise Prayer Project; a project in development to tell the story of the WWII US Concentration Camps, the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans, and that this system is/was built on the Indian Reservation System.(Affiliations & Awards) SDCF Zelda Fichandler Directors Award Finalist, 2021; Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Integrity Award; NEA Grant Panelist; National Theatre Conference: PT is a member; Stage Directors and Choreographers’ Union E/D/I Standout Moments, 2016, 2017; Founder/Director, National BIPOC Theatre Coalition/Commons, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation National Theatre Grant Recipient; James P. Shannon Leadership Institute; Los Angeles County Teachers Making A Difference Award; Union membership: SDC, AEA, SAG-AFTRA
Tonantzín Carmelo is an award-winning, multifaceted actress playing lead and supporting roles for movies, television series, documentaries, video games, and theater. Her break-out performance in Steven Spielberg's, Into the West, earned her several awards and nominations, including a Screen Actors Guild nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Female in a Television Movie or
She is currently a series regular on La Brea (NBC) and has recurring guest stars on The English (Amazon/BBC) and Spirit Rangers (Netflix).
Muriel Miguel (Kuna/Rappahannock) is the founder & Artistic Director of Spiderwoman Theater, the longest running Native feminist theater in the Americas. Miguel is an award-winning activist-artist, theater maker, director and educator working extensively in the US, Canada and across the globe for over sixty years.
Most recent creation/directorial credits include The Unnatural and Accidental Women - National Arts Centre in Ottawa and the world premiere production of Misdemeanor Dream – Spiderwoman Theater.
Muriel is a 2018 Doris Duke artist and in 2016, was a John S Guggenheim Foundation Fellow. She most recently received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Trent University and has received an honorary DFA from Miami University in Ohio. She is a member of the National Theater Conference and the Southeastern Theatre Conference.
MICHAELA ANN ESCARCEGA
Michaela Escarcega (she/they) is a director and performer who’s work has been seen at The Tank, The Wild Project, Native Voices, Perseverance Theatre, and the streets of New York City. Michaela was a 2017 KCACTF Actors Nominee, 2018 NY Stage and Film Powerhouse resident, a 2019 LCT Directors Lab member, a 2020 Tank Resident Director, and a 20-21 Clubbed Thumb Directing Fellow, wherein she devised and directed an original mini-series for Instagram, @IndefiniteDraft. Michaela holds a B.A. in Theater Arts with honors from CSU, Northridge. www.michaelaescarcega.com
Jake Hart is a performer who has worked across the country: onstage, onscreen, & in sound studios. He started off in the Bay Area in California, and then he headed to Seattle for high school and college. Jake traveled the country doing theater, ultimately settling in NYC - over 13 years ago. Since then, he’s built a steady career, and he has even managed to start a family. He also voices everything from audiobooks and instruction manuals to industrials and puppet films. Currently, he is a professional actor, voice actor, a SAG-AFTRA committee member, the Development Director of Nevada’s Cordillera Film Festival, and a parent/slave to his 6 year old overlord.
BROADWAY: In The Heights, Richard Rodgers Theatre. NATIONAL TOURS:
In The Heights; Cats, La Cage Aux Folles. REGIONAL THEATRE: In The
Heights, TUTS/ Pittsburgh CLO/ Madison Theatre; Between 2 Knees, Oregon
Shakespeare Festival; Distant Thunder, Lyric Theatre OKC; Sunsets and
Margaritas and Barrio Babies, Denver Center; Medea/Macbeth/Cinderella,
Yale Rep; Bright Ideas, Laguna Playhouse. OFF BROADWAY: Tio Pepe/
Somewhere, Public Theatre; The View Upstairs, Culture Project,
Transformations, HomeSpace, A Woman’s Work, Flatiron Playhouse. FILM:
Father Of The Bride I&II, The Majestic, Frame Of Mind. TELEVISION:
Uncoupled, Fosse/Verdon, The Golden Girls, Elementary, Instinct; Braindead,
Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Everybody Loves Raymond, Law and Order:
CI, Coach; Empty Nest, Mad About You.
Shaun was in the original Broadway cast of In the Heights and closed the show in the role of Sonny. He also played Frankie Valli in the 2nd National Tour of Jersey Boys. His original Indigenous musical, Distant Thunder, premiered in 2022 at Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma, and recently was presented at the Ware Center in Lancaster, PA. Shaun is a proud company member of Native Voices at the Autry and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival where he performed for three seasons. He has narrated over 30 titles, including There There and The Only Good Indians. www.distantthunderthemusical.com