July 18, 2018

BoxFest Detroit Mentoring Program

In 2017, BoxFest Detroit launched a brand new mentorship program. In its inaugural year, there were two mentorship opportunities available: Assistant Directing for Frannie Shepherd-Bates and the Tipping Point Theatre Sandbox Directorship. These positions granted two BFD 2017 directors the opportunity to shadow, learn, and collaborate with established, experienced, female-identifying directors. After the success of our first year, BFD decided to continue the program and recruit more directors and theatres to participate. We hope by expanding the program and investing in it, our directors will develop lasting, valuable, relationships with professional companies and practitioners across Southeast Michigan.

Our 2019-20 Mentors are Frannie Shepherd-Bates, Casaundra Freeman, Courtney Burkett, Sherrine Azab, Leah Smith, Angie Kane Ferrante, and Sara Lipinski Chambers. Our 2019-20 Partner Theatres are Detroit Repertory Theatre, Tipping Point Theatre, Kickshaw Theatre, Matrix Theatre Company, A Host of People, Detroit Public Theatre, and Williamston Theatre.

Goals & Purpose for the BoxFest Detroit Mentoring Program:

  • Connect BoxFest directors with the greater Metro Detroit professional theatrical community
  • Support the education of female-identifying directors
  • Connect BoxFest directors with other female-identifying directors working in the Metro Detroit professional theatrical community
  • Remove challenges for BoxFest directors associated with the cost of education and travel
  • Remove challenges for professional theatres associated with artist salaries

Mentorship Biographies

Frannie Shepherd-Bates

Frannie Shepherd-Bates (Mentorship Associate 2017 – current) is an accomplished prison theatre practitioner, director, educator, designer, choreographer, administrator, and performer.

Frannie has directed nearly 40 productions and staged readings throughout Southeast Michigan, including for Detroit Public Theatre, Williamston Theatre, Tipping Point Theatre, Magenta Giraffe Theatre Company, Shakespeare in Detroit, Planet Ant Theatre, Jewish Ensemble Theatre, Water Works Theatre Company, the Abreact, Michigan Opera Theatre Children’s Chorus, and the Roeper School. She has taught, directed, and/or coached for Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit, Matrix Theatre Company, and Royal Oak High School.

Frannie’s direction of “King Lear” for Shakespeare in Detroit garnered the “Best of the Bard’ Wilde Award in 2015. “Sex With Strangers,” which she directed for Detroit Public Theatre, was nominated for the “Best Play” Wilde Award in 2016. Her work as an artist and arts advocate has been recognized by the Critics’ Choice Wilde Award (2013), CBS Detroit, and an Arts Achievement Award on behalf of Magenta Giraffe Theatre Company, which she led from 2008-2014) from Wayne State University’s Department of Theatre and Dance.

Frannie is Director of Programs and Shakespeare in Prison at Detroit Public Theatre. As the founder, director, and lead facilitator of Shakespeare in Prison, she has spoken about prison theatre at conferences such as Shakespeare in Prisons (2013), Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed (2017), Art X Detroit (2015), and Human Rights Through Education (University of Michigan, 2013). Her prison work has been featured numerous times in local, regional, and national media. Frannie also serves as Director of Education and Development for Water Works Theatre Company.

Image result for casaundra freeman

Casaundra Freeman

Casaundra Freeman (Mentorship Associate 2018 – current) is a director, actor, and sound designer and a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association. She has appeared on stages throughout Michigan and the country. Some of her favorite roles are from Countdown to the Happy Day and Hannibal of the Alps, for which she won Wilde Awards. She has also won the Detroit Repertory Theatre’s Subscriber Award for Best Actress multiple times. She recently directed Who Will Sing for Lena? at Matrix Theatre Company, appeared in Flint at Purple Rose Theatre Company, and was the sound designer for Kayak also at Matrix Theatre Company.


Lynn Lammers

Lynn Lammers (Mentorship Associate 2018 – current) is the Founder, Artistic Director & Board Vice Chair of Kickshaw Theatre. Lynn is a director, producer, and arts leader. Her most recent directing credits include The Wizard of Oz at Flint Youth Theatre, Best Brothers at Williamston Theatre, and What I Did Last Summer by A.R. Gurney for Michigan State University’s Summer Circle. Lynn has also directed for Tipping Point Theatre, Boarshead Theatre, Michigan State University’s Department of Theatre, Young People’s Theatre, Performance Network’s Mosh Pit Theatre, and Peppermint Creek Theatre. Ms. Lammers serves as a mentor for the Wharton Center’s Young Playwrights Festival, is a member of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab in New York City, has been published on Theatre Communications Group’s Circle Blog, and presented at LaMaMa Theatre Company’s 2008 Directors Symposium in Spoleto, Italy. Lynn has a Master’s Degree in Theatre from Michigan State University and is an Associate Member of the Society for Stage Directors and Choreographers.

Sherrine Azab

Sherrine Azab
(Mentorship Associate 2018 – current) is the Co-Director of A Host of People. In addition to directing she’s also a producer, performance curator, and educator. She holds a BFA from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle where she founded the critically acclaimed company Strike Anywhere Productions before moving to New York City. There she served as the Associate Producer for The Foundry Theatre (NYC) during their 2011 and 2012 seasons and is a proud Associated Artist with Target Margin Theater (NYC). She holds a postgraduate certificate from the Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance at Wesleyan University and was a member of the 2008 Lincoln Center Director’s Lab. Azab is currently the Engagement Manager for the Network of Ensemble Theaters. She was a 2017-18 UMS Artist in Residence and recently worked with the Arab American National Museum and NYC-based Ping Chong & Co on a project about the Arab American experience in Dearborn, MI which premiered in May 2018. Sherrine is a 2018 Kresge Artist Fellow.


Courtney Burkett

Courtney Burkett (Mentorship Associate 2018 – current) For five seasons Courtney was the Director of Theatre Programs with Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit, directing the internationally-acclaimed Mosaic Acting Company. Prior to joining Mosaic, Burkett was a founding Artistic Partner with Breathe Art Theatre Project. She also served as the Business Manager for the University of Detroit Mercy Theatre Company, and the Managing Director of the CRLT Players at the University of Michigan. Burkett performs and directs with Detroit-area theatres on a regular basis. Her work has been recognized with several local theatre awards and nominations. She received her BFA from Webster Conservatory of Theatre Arts in St. Louis, and her MFA from Wayne State’s Hilberry Theatre program.


Angie Kane Ferrante

Angie Kane Ferrante (Mentorship Associate 2018 – current) has directed and choreographed over 20 plays and musicals in the last ten years. Some of her favorite experiences include The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance at Tipping Point, Spring Awakening at AKT Theatre, Talley’s Folley at the Purple Rose Theatre, and Calypso’s Corner at Open Book. She is a proud Resident Artist of the Purple Rose Theatre Company in Chelsea, MI where she serves as an AEA stage manager, director, and vocal/movement coach. Immediately following Every Brilliant Thing at Tipping Point Theatre, Angie directed Vanya, Sonia, Masha, and Spike at Open Book Theatre, and assistant directed and vocal coached Willow Run at the Purple Rose.

Leah Smith (Mentorship Associate 2019)

Sara Lipinski Chambers (Mentorship Associate 2019)

About Our Partner Theatres

Tipping Point Theatre (Partner Theatre 2017 – current) Tipping Point is Northville’s live professional theatre. Just 20 minutes from Ann Arbor and 30 minutes from Downtown Detroit, they present six main stage productions each year, attracting over 15,000 audience members. As they enter their 12th season, Tipping Point’s audiences have come to expect consistently high-quality productions featuring some of Michigan’s best actors, directors, and designers.

Under the leadership of Producing Artistic Director, James R. Kuhl, the theatre continues to grow and aims to support all artists, including those that are otherwise underrepresented in the theatre community. In an effort to address the issue of gender-parity in theatre, five of the six shows during Tipping Point’s 10th season were directed by women, and 50% of the 11th season was directed by female-identifying directors. The partnership with BoxFest Detroit is just one of many new initiatives that will continue to position Tipping Point Theatre as an organization dedicated to helping the arts grow and thrive in Southeast Michigan.

Detroit Repertory Theatre (Partner Theatre 2019) The Repertory is recognized for its pioneer efforts in all phases of theatre and its strong community involvement. Born and bred in the heart of Detroit, the Repertory, since its inception (1957), has remained in the theatre vanguard by staunchly advocating interracial casting, creating novel audience development techniques, stressing theatrical relevancy, inventing an array of cultural and educational community services and playing an active role in neighborhood revitalization. The theatre has been guided by the belief that the sense of community is stronger than the forces that splinter and that efforts to preserve unity deserve the same attention and support as the justly cultivated efforts to retain diversity. The implicit goal in all the theatre’s efforts is to produce the best possible professional theatre while fighting, by example, the disturbing level of racism that persists.

The Detroit Repertory Theatre

In order to continue the quest to culturally, socially and artistically help to transform their city, region, and state into a more civil society and “a more perfect union,” the Detroit Repertory is constantly looking for ways to expand its sphere of influence. Otherwise, in the years ahead the Repertory will become a quaint anomaly, a faded vision that came, that saw, then slipped from memory.

While The Repertory can be justly proud of the elegant, intimate, cultural and civic force we have become, making a few friends, changing a few minds, winning a few hearts, and providing a few glimpses into a different future, it’s not enough. To pass the baton to a new generation of leaders and keep the mission alive, the Repertory must continue to grow physically, artistically and civically and relentlessly help to build bridges across and between all Metropolitan Detroit communities.

Detroit Public Theatre (Partner Theatre 2018 – current) produces nationally recognized plays and programs with world-class writers, directors, actors, and designers in the heart of Midtown Detroit’s thriving cultural district. They invite Detroit audiences to experience bold plays that illuminate the thrills, joys, and challenges of our shared human experience. 

A Host of People (Partner Theatre 2018 – current) is a Detroit-based ensemble theater company creating original work that celebrates complexity, imagination, and the synthesis of seemingly disparate elements—at once epic and intimate, political and personal, poetic and approachable. AHOP exists to create aesthetically rigorous, intellectually challenging theatre that is also warm, welcoming, and inspiring to people from all walks of life. All of our programming moves the company in this direction. They choose their subject matter and themes very carefully with an eye to stories, topics, and aesthetic approaches that will be equally thrilling to the most adventurous theatre fans as well as those with less exposure to the form.

Kickshaw Theatre (Partner Theatre 2018 – current) excites the curiosity of their audiences and creators with plays that represent humanity in all its complexity and multitudes. Kickshaw Theatre increases empathy, artistic literacy, intellectual stimulation, and a sense of social connection in their audiences and themselves. Kickshaw means “rare delight.”  And that’s what each of their shows are. Kickshaw is known for uncommon stories and stylistic daring. They invite their audiences to bring their curiosity. They believe that one’s perception of the world is one’s reality, and by expanding that perception through storytelling, we challenge our previously held assumptions. Their work exalts theatre as unique, showcasing the medium at the height of its powers: magic, beauty, human connection, empathy, and deeper understandings of the human condition.

Matrix Theatre Company (Partner Theatre 2018 – current) teaches, creates, and shares theatre as an instrument of transformation. Their mission is to build community, improve lives, and foster social justice. Matrix is committed to creating outstanding, affordable, and inclusive professional and educational theatre that addresses issues of community concern. Through a socially-engaged and collaborative artistic process, they think critically, act collectively, and serve a common purpose. Their work offers artists and audiences opportunities to participate in powerful artistic exchanges that stimulate meaningful dialogue and foster empathy and equity for all. They empower and inspire people of all ages and backgrounds through theatre to create positive change in their own lives and communities

The Williamston Theatre (Partner Theatre 2019) began as the Williamston Theatre Project in the spring of 2004 when four Michigan-based theatre professionals, actor John Lepard, director Tony Caselli, arts administrator Christine Purchis and actress and producer Emily Sutton-Smith, chose Williamston as a location to found a not-for-profit, small, professional live theatre company. Since that first summer, the Williamston Theatre has produced nineteen World Premieres of new works, fifteen by Michigan playwrights, and mounted regional and state premieres of countless other works. During its first full season, the Detroit Free Press named their production of Rounding Third as one of the Top Ten Shows of 2006. In 2008, the Lansing State Journal Awarded the Theatre and its four founders the prestigious Robert Busby Award for extraordinary contribution to theatre in the Greater Lansing Area. That same year, the Williamston Area Chamber of Commerce named the Theatre as the Chamber Member of the Year for their contribution to the vitality and economic health of the downtown area. In 2014, the American Theatre Wing recognized the Williamston Theatre as one of the top twelve up-and-coming young theatres across the country with a National Theatre Company Grant Award.