Meet the Artists
Melis Aker (Writer, Actor, Musician) from Turkey. Her plays have been commissioned by and developed at Atlantic Theatre, NYTW (2050 fellow), Ars Nova (Play Group member), New Group, Dramatists Guild (DGF fellow), LaMaMa, the Lark, Noor Theatre, Prelude Festival, Golden Thread Productions, Corkscrew Theatre Festival and BRIC in the U.S., as well as the Finborough and Park theatres in London. Her plays include: Field, Awakening (2019 Kilroy's List, Columbia@Roundabout finalist, Sundance final-round, Berkeley Rep Ground Floor final-round, Van Lier New Voices Fellowship final-round); Manar (Columbia@Roundabout finalist, Theatre503 Playwriting Award semifinalist); 330 Pegasus: A Love Letter (Jerome NY Fellowship final-round); Dragonflies (2019 Sundance final-round); When My Mama was a Hittite (Columbia@Roundabout finalist), Azul Otra Vez [Blue, Revisited] and Gilded Isle. Melis' screenplay "ARI" ("Bee") was recently at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival as part of Maison des Scenaristes, and her pilot of "Manar" was accepted to Trans Atlantic Partners, Orchard Project's Episodic Lab and IFP week. Selected acting credits include: "The Blacklist: Redemption" (NBC), "Seneca" (HBO's NYLFF), Love in Afghanistan (Arena Stage & Roundabout), We Live in Cairo (NAMT, New World Stages), Proof (Edinburgh Fringe). Her song "The Unknowing" made it to the final reel of the 2017 NPR Tiny Desk contest. Melis has worked as Ayad Akhtar's assistant, and given a StoryCorps and TEDx talk. Upcoming: she will be developing a screenplay with Revelations Productions, headed by Morgan Freeman and Lori McCreary. Training: Columbia (MFA), Tufts (BA), RADA (Acting). Representation: CAA.
The Lazours (Composers, he/him and he/him) Daniel and Patrick Lazour are brothers and music theater writers. Their musical We Live in Cairo premiered at the American Repertory Theater in May 2019 directed by Taibi Magar. Their album Flap My Wings (Songs from We Live in Cairo) was recorded in quarantine and features the Lazours as well as major activist-songwriters from across the Arab world. Their new musical community project, Night Side Songs, about cancer treatment, patients and caretakers was workshopped at the Johnny Mercer Writers Colony at Goodspeed Theatre, Yaddo and is being developed with the American Repertory Theater and Harvard University. They are working with Ritesh Batra to adapt his film The Lunchbox for the stage, commissioned by Lincoln Center Theater. Their movie musical Challenger: An American Dream is about Teacher in Space Christa McAuliffe and the Reagan White House; and they are developing a 60-minute song titled Romulus & Remus, or How We Came to Live in the Festering Wound of the West. Patrick and Daniel were 2015-16 Dramatists Guild Fellows, MacDowell Fellows and are New York Theatre Workshop Usual Suspects. They were artists-in-residence at the American University in Cairo and are teaching artists at Lincoln Center Theater. @frereslazour
Machel Ross (Director) (she/her) is a Dominican American director and creative collaborator based in NYC, who specializes in the development of new work and aesthetic world building. Regardless of medium, she’s invested in generating rigorous images, in support of framing stories to their fullest potential. She’s developed work with Aziza Barnes (NANA), Agnes Borinsky (A Song of Songs) Daniella De Jesús (Mambo Sauce), Deaf West (T), PigPen Theatre Company (Phantom Folktales), Ellen Winter (This House Is your Home), and directed the world premiere of Jeremy O. Harris’ Black Exhibition at The Bushwick Starr, where she is now the Associate Artistic Director. Machel is a 2022 Lily Award winner, a 2020-2022 WP Directing Fellow, a 2020 Sundance Theater Lab fellow, and a 2019 grant recipient of the Women's Fund for Film, TV and Theatre for her short film Signs He Made at Home. BFA-NYU Playwrights Horizons Theater School.
Avi Amon (Sound Designer, Composer) is an award-winning, Turkish-American composer and sound artist. Avi’s multi-genre work has been developed or presented by: HBO Films, Hulu, Spotify/Gimlet, Tribeca Film Festival, Ars Nova, LCT3, New York Theater Workshop, The O’Neill, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Playwrights’ Center, Prague Quadrennial, Roundabout, SoHo Rep/Page 73, Spoleto USA, and Target Margin among others. Avi is the resident composer at the 52nd Street Project, an inaugural fellow with THE WORKSHOP, and teaches at NYU Tisch.
Ellena Eshraghi (Actor) Originally from Southern California, Ellena moved to New York to earn her BFA in Drama and Dramatic Writing from NYU Tisch School of the Arts— where she studied at the Atlantic Acting Studio and Stonestreet Studios. She served as a member of NYU’s premier sketch comedy group Hammerkatz for four years, serving as the director of the group for two years. Hound Dog (Ars Nova/PlayCo).
Ashley Baier (Actor) An avid theater musician, percussionist/drummer Ashley Baier has performed on Broadway with Six and The Lightning Thief, appeared at La Jolla Playhouse and on tour with Hundred Days, and toured nationally with How the Grinch Stole Christmas. A proponent of new musical theater, she originated the drum books for several musicals including Interstate, American Morning, and Pryor Rendering. She can be seen playing throughout NYC with Brass Queens. www.ashleybaier.com
Jonathan Raviv (Actor) is an Emmy award winner and original cast member of the 10-time Tony Award winning musical, The Band's Visit. He has extensive Off-Broadway and Regional Theatre credits having worked at some of the most prestigious theatres in the country. He has also had several guest star appearances in major network television and films and has done extensive voice over, commercial and motion capture work.
Olivia Abiassi (Actor) (she/her) is a LebaneseAmerican actor + writer based in Brooklyn. Recent theater credits include: First Down (59E59), Eh Dah? Questions For My Father (NYTW Next Door), and The Commons (59E59). Additionally, she is working on a new motion-capture video game project, performing stand-up, and co-writing/producing her first comedy pilot. IG: @justoliviadoingthings
Laith Nakli (Actor) is a Syrian actor/writer. He studied acting at the William Esper Studio and made his stage debut in War at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater Company. Other credits include Cry of the Reed (Huntington Theatre), Inana (Denver Center), Aftermath (NYTW), Food and Fadwa (NYTW). His play, Shesh Yak, premiered at the Rattlestick Playwrights. He can currently be seen as Uncle Naseem on the HULU series Ramy and Sheikh Abdullah on MARVEL’s Ms Marvel. Film & TV credits: Swallow, 12 Strong, The Wall, The Long Road Home, The Blacklist, Third Watch, The Sopranos, among others.
Matt Magnusson (Actor) made his Off-Broadway debut in HOUND DOG. Other favorite credits include: Mr. Holland’s Opus (World Premiere), Jersey Boys (Ogunquit Playhouse), Grease (ElginWintergarden Theatre), Spring Awakening (Over the Moon Prod.), American Idiot (Glory Struck Prod.), Floyd Collins (La Miranda PAC). Film: American Girl, Nightingale: A Melody of Life, The Secret Life of College Girls, Saint, Hallpass Nightmare. When not acting Matt is writing and recording music with his wife in their band Big Sur Bound.
Mel Hsu (Musician) is a sonic painter of impossible worlds. As a multi-instrumentalist, Mel often ventures from her classical roots as a cellist into unexpected, cross-disciplinary collaborations. Rooted in Philadelphia, Mel’s restless spirit finds adventure across time zones and oceans as musical and administrative support for others who inspire her. Mel is a spreadsheet nerd, a slow reader, and a shameless instigator of kitchen dance parties. melaniehsu.com
Sahar Milani (Actor) is an Iranian-Lebanese actor, singer, and musician based in Brooklyn. She studied music theatre at Elon University before moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting on screen. After spending four years working with legendary music producer and former CEO of Epic Records, LA Reid, Sahar moved to New York City to devote herself to acting and music full-time. Sahar has appeared onstage at prestigious theaters such as BAM and The Public. She can also be seen on TV in The Endgame (NBC), Let the Right One In (Showtime), Law & Order (NBC), and stars in the upcoming film “The Visitator” alongside Kevin James.
Maya Sharpe (Actor, Musician & Music Director) is a multi-passionate maker and thinker. Maya’s passion lies in exploring simplicity in humanity through composition to demonstrate that there is more of a connection and love between everything than the politically derived disconnect and hatred. Maya has been seen on stage in such things as; HAIR (Broadway, West End & The Public Theatre), Anything That Gives Off Light (The TEAM), La MaMa Cantata (La MaMa), 1969: The Second Man. (NEXT DOOR @nytw), Animal Wisdom (Bushwick Starr) HOUND DOG (Ars Nova, PlayCo) and steeped knee high in the developmental world. Maya has a band called Maya Sharpe & The Natural, performing in various venues in NYC and Los Angeles. www.mayasharpe.com
Frank J Oliva (Set Designer) is an award-winning Cuban-American Stage Designer. Recent work includes world premieres and new productions with Geva Theatre, The Shed, Ars Nova/PlayCo, Clubbed Thumb, Weston Playhouse, Capital Repertory, Juilliard, Olney Theatre Center, TheatreWorks USA, Two River Theatre, Miami New Drama and The Cincinnati Symphony. Associate Designer: Death of a Salesman, The Collaboration, Hangmen, Oklahoma!, and West Side Story. Member of Wingspace and United Scenic Artists.Training: NYU Tisch.
QWEEN JEAN (Costume Designer) is a New York City based Costume Designer who has fully committed her voice to the advocacy of marginalized communities, emphasizing Black Trans people. Recent theatre: soft, Corsicana, Wedding Band, On Sugarland, Black No More, I Need Space, Macbeth In Stride, Semblance, Our Dear Dead Drug Lord, Siblings Play, Amen Corner, Rags Parkland Sings The Songs For The Future, Good Grief, Othello, and the acclaimed What to Send Up, When it Goes Down. MFA from NYU Tisch. Black Trans Lives Matter!
TUÇE YASAK has been following light in NYC since 2008, creating over 100 site-specific light installations for performance in the US and abroad. Yasak received the 2018 BESSIE (…Memoirs of a… Unicorn by Marjani Forte-Saunders at Collapsable Hole and NYLA) and 2019 BESSIE (Oba Qween Baba King Baba by Ni’Ja Whitson at Danspace) for Outstanding Visual Design with her lighting design. Light, movement, and architecture intertwine in Yasak’s work to support space-making and story-telling.
Bryan Bauer: Broadway: Slave Play. Off-Broadway: Mrs. Murray’s Menagerie, KPOP (Ars Nova); Richard III (The Public Theater); Slave Play (New York Theater Workshop); The Things That Were There (The Bushwick Star); Tambo & Bones, Selling Kabul, Dance Nation, Miles for Mary, Bella: An American Tall Tale, (Playwrights Horizons); We’re Gonna Die (2ST). Regional: The Black Clown (A.R.T/Lincoln Center); Skeleton Crew (WCP); A Christmas Carol (Lyric Theatre); Bernstein’s MASS (Canterbury Chorale Society). Dance: Oklahoma City Ballet, Vail Dance Festival. OCU Alum.
In Melis Aker’s world premiere play HOUND DOG, a young musician returns from abroad to her hometown of Ankara, Turkey to look after her widowed father. Forced to reckon with the family and community she left behind, an investigation into her grieving parent’s strange pilgrimage to Graceland unravels into a sonic mirage of memory packed with humor, nostalgia and the love we cultivate across generations.
Reviews for HOUND DOG:
"Nakli gives a particularly impactful portrayal of an older Turkish liberal
disenchanted with the failed promise of the Republic, but who still maintains a puckish rocker spirit. AbiAssi, Magnusson, and Raviv deftly navigate multiple roles, working hard to turn the flow of Hound Dog's imagination into a physical reality." - TheaterMania
"Aker's play movingly depicts the emotional strain between the father and daughter and reflects the political tensions that make Hound Dog's retreat understandable." - Talkin' Broadway
Olivia Abiassi Ashley Baier Ellena Eshraghi Mel Hsu Matt Magnusson Sahar Milani Laith Nakli Jonathan Raviv Maya Sharpe
Music Director & Sound Designer
Frank J. Oliva
Production Stage Manager
Ars Nova @ Greenwich House 27 Barrow St New York, NY