TheatreWorkers Project is dedicated to providing opportunities for working people, the unemployed and youth to tell their stories through theatre by creating and presenting performance pieces about historical and current social and political issues,  and transforming the classics, making them accessible to all ages.


  • All human beings possess the ability to create works of art
  • Each person has an important story to tell
  • It is the responsibility of the artist to partner with each community of participants to bring their stories to life through high quality theatre experiences
  • The artist has a responsibility to use her/his creative skills to address and illuminate social and political issues and to offer opportunities for audiences to grapple with these subjects
  • Participating in and witnessing the creative process can be a transformative experience


TheatreWorkers Project was conceived in 1983 by Susan Franklin Tanner.  Funded by a grant from the California Arts Council and sponsored by the Steelworkers Oldtimers Foundation, the Project was housed in the Steelworkers Local 1845 union hall that had been turned into a food bank and community center after the closure of Bethlehem Steel in Vernon, California.  Tanner and a small staff of professional theatre artists worked with a core group of former steelworkers to create “LADY BETH: the steelworkers’ play” which was performed locally and toured to 16 US cities co-sponsored by Bruce Springsteen.   The project and the tour were profiled in the PBS documentary “A Steel Life Drama”.   Subsequent to working with the steelworkers, Tanner and TheatreWorkers Project developed and produced numerous documentary performance pieces including "S.E.L.A", about the culture and community of Southeast Los Angeles and others with populations including shipbuilders, meatpackers, Latino immigrant workers and critical care nurses, then went on to create plays about longshoremen and "Journey to Singapore: the Infertility Play".  TheatreWorkers Project also participated in and/or sponsored discussions and events including A Day's Pay for a Day's Art. Over time, the work has focused on Tanner’s collaborations with college students and young people which led to the creation of performance pieces about cultural diversity, personal identity, labor history, human rights, 9-11 and the Patriot Act. Other programs have included Youth to Youth, which utilizes plays by young, emerging playwrights as a springboard for youth from underserved communities to respond to the content and create their own poetry and performance pieces.  In 2009, TheatreWorkers Project partnered with Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles to create Audition Prep workshops for students seeking to enter competitive high school and college programs. In 2010, we launched Will Play, later named Shakespeare Remixed, a summer theatre experience for youth. 

TheatreWorkers Project is a non-profit collaborative venture, fiscally sponsored by Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA.


  • Susan Franklin Tanner, Founder & Artistic Director, (SAG-AFTRA, AEA) has worked for over thirty years as a producer, actor, director and teaching artist.  As a member of Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA, she has initiated and directed numerous staged readings, one acts and theatre for young audiences projects, and continues to provide opportunities for young and diverse actors to participate in the company's ventures.  As a member of the Living Stage Company at Arena Stage/D.C. for 6 years, she worked as an actor and improvisational theatre workshop leader under the mentorship of Robert Alexander.  With Living Stage, and during the years that followed, Tanner did workshops and performances in correctional institutions including Massachusetts State Prison, worked for Artsreach at California Institution for Women (CIW),  and at half way houses and juvenile facilities. She also co-taught writing workshops at California Institution for Men (CIM). She has performed at the Old Globe/San Diego, The Mummers Theatre/Oklahoma City, Utah Shakespeare Festival, Mark Taper Forum, LAAT, Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA, LATC, Theatre 40 and is a former intern member of The Actors’ Gang. She worked with the Firesign Theatre as an actor, production coordinator and costumer and is a member of the SAG-AFTRA Radio Play Committee (SARP).  After founding TheatreWorkers Project, Tanner led the nationally recognized company in the development of 13 documentary plays including Lady Beth: the Steelworkers' Play that toured 16 cities, co-sponsored by Bruce Springsteen and was profiled in a PBS documentary.  She was a key organizer for former City Councilman Joel Wachs' LA Endowment for the Arts and has served as a presenter on numerous panels and conferences, including one where major Los Angeles directors and producers explored the definition of "documentary theatre". Tanner was honored to share her work as the director and producer of a production of Brecht's "A Man's A Man" with members of the Berliner Ensemble. She initiated and directed audition prep workshops in partnership with Shakespeare Center/LA and founded and directs Shakespeare Remixed, a summer theatre experience for youth. Teaching Artist positions include/have included LACHSA, Sequoyah School, Mark Taper Forum Saturday Conservatory, Woodbury University, College of the Canyons, UCLA Extension, CSULA/EOP, LACC Theatre Academy, LAUSD and PUSD. She has been a VAPA Standards trainer through the Armory Center for the Arts, is the past Drama Teachers of Southern California (DTASC) A/B VP, is the recipient of a 2011 Bravo Award and CTG Chase Fellowship, and a 2014 National Artist Teacher Fellowship.    Through 12 California Arts Council grants, Tanner has been the lead TWP teaching artist for school and/or community residencies. In 2015, she collaborated with Woodbury University on a theatre project with La Colmenita, the Cuban national children’s theatre, and served as a mentor and guest workshop leader at For a Muse of Fire in Vancouver, British Columbia. She has a B.A. in Theatre from University of California at Riverside, a Lifetime Community College Teaching Credential and a CTE Credential in Arts, Media and Entertainment.
  • Kimiko Warner-Turner, Master Teaching Artist for Artist in Schools programs, brings over twenty years of experience in theatre education as a teaching artist and program designer. She currently works in secondary schools, colleges and community organizations using Liberation Arts and Aesthetics of the Oppressed techniques. She completed her M.A. at USC in Applied Theatre Arts. Kimiko trained with Aesthetics of the Oppressed founder, Augusto Boal, and also at CTO-Rio in Brazil, Sanjoy Ganguly in India, and Brent Blair, Ph.D. in Los Angeles.  Kimiko is an actress in the TeAda Ensemble dealing with Social Justice Performance, programming for people of color. She was a ballroom dance Instructor and Liaison Mentor at Dancing Classrooms Los Angeles. She has also worked for ArtworxLA, arts instructor for UCPlay with United Cerebral Palsy, and the Community Arts Theatre Project (CAP) for Cal Arts Institute at Plaza de La Raza. She has served as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts. and as Associate Producer for Hungry Woman and Trio Los Machos written by Josephina López, at Casa 0101 Theatre. She was a teaching artist for Erin Kamler’s musical which was produced for the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, providing services as an arts educator as well as a participant in the research project, “Art, Social Justice and Women’s Empowerment: Dramatization and Research in the Trafficking of Persons ‘Space’ In Thailand.” She’s was a musical choreographer for the South Pasadena Education Foundation and SPUSD for MulanAlice in WonderlandCharlie and the Chocolate FactorySeussical, Jr.Into the Woods.

  • James Macdonald, Collaborating Teaching Artist/Moving Forward at Dad’s Back! Academy and the LIFER project, is a writer/actor/director.  His one-man show, Big Frame Shakin’, enjoyed a run off-Broadway before it was optioned by HBO. After appearing on and off Broadway, James relocated to Los Angeles, where his plays have been performed at ARCADE, E.S.T, IAMA and The Mark Taper Auditorium. Heavy Lifting, the film he wrote and directed, garnered multiple awards at film festivals across the country. James has also appeared in dozens of TV series, pilots and feature films, including Spike Lee’s Malcolm X, John Dahl’s Joy Ride, John Woo’s Broken Arrow, Clint Eastwood’s Space Cowboys, Joel Schumacher’s Tigerland & Phone Booth, Ron Shelton’s Hollywood Homicide, Texas Chainsaw Massacre-3D, and opposite Jessica Biel in Home of The Brave. James was a Big Brother for over a dozen years and has taught writing to beginners and professionals alike using the tools of meditation, visualization, role-playing and sensory exercises—techniques he employs in his own writing. James has a recurring role in the fall 2016 season of Sweet/Vicious.

  • Marlene McCurtis, Collaborating Teaching Artist for Moving Forward at Dad's Back Academy & Theatre Intervention Projects has over 20 years filmmaking experience.  She  worked at Arnold Shapiro Productions for 10 years where she produced several documentaries including the award winning film “Hidden Victims: Children of Domestic Violence.”  She was also a segment director for the KCET Peabody Award winning PBS series “A Place of Our Owen/Los Niños en Su Casa.”  She is currently producing and directing her first independent documentary feature, entitled Wednesdays in Mississippi  about the only national civil rights project organized by women, for women. The film-in-progress has screened at the Athena Film Festival, the Cucalorus Film Festival, the Museum of Tolerance, the Brooks Museum, and the Civil Rights Museum. Marlene is an Alum Fellow of Stanley Nelson Firelight Producers’ Lab. She is also the founder and director of Yoga@,  a grassroots dedicated to providing  free yoga and meditation to youth and adults in Los Angeles’ underserved communities.  Yoga@ recently received a grant from the GRYD Foundation to teach yoga during the city-wide gang-prevention Summer Night Lights Program.  Under McCurtis's leadership,Yoga@ partnered with TheatreWorkers Project to teach writing, yoga and meditation to women dealing with stress and depression at MetroHealth Center-Mount St. Mary’s University in Los Angeles.  

  • Jeanette Horn, Collaborating Teaching Artist for TWP Corrections & Theatre Intervention Projects, has worked in multiple areas of theatre as an actor, and has been a teaching artist in NYC, San Diego and Los Angeles since 1989. She was the Education Coordinator for Circle Repertory Theatre in NYC for 4 years, created the department and was Director of Education for the Manhattan Theatre Company in NYC for 10 years, and was the Director of Education and Outreach at the La Jolla Playhouse for 7 years. She has been a lead teaching artist for TheatreWorkers Project,  has taught playwriting and improvisation, has created original work with at-risk students, has worked in community centers serving youth and seniors and has done professional development for teachers. In 2010, Jeanette created and ran The Shakespearites at Nevin Avenue Elementary School and in the 1990's, she created a theatre & playmakingproject for the Bronx Correctional Facility for Juveniles in NYC.  As part of team of artists with the International Playwriting/Literacy Project, she worked with students in Tanzania and Kolkata, India.  From 2009 to the present she has been a teaching artist with the The Actors' Gang Prison Project at California Rehabilitation Center (CRC), California Institution for Men (CIM) and California Institution for Women (CIW).

  • Nicole Keating, PhD, documentarian and humanities advisor for TWP Corrections Projects, is an associate professor of Communication in the School of Media, Culture and Design at Woodbury University. She specializes in media for social justice. Nicole began her professional career at Blackside, Inc., producers of the acclaimed PBS documentary series Eyes on the Prize: America at the Racial Crossroads. She received her doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania, and then joined the faculty of The University of the Arts in Philadelphia. After teaching there for nearly a decade, she moved to Los Angeles to work in documentary production. Nicole completed a documentary trilogy for Philadelphia public television entitled Three Women in the City of Brotherly Love, and recently co-produced a documentary (We Can Build On This) with architect Jeanine Centuori on architecture and civic engagement.  
  • Kathleen Coyne, Workshop Leader for TWP Corrections Projects, has worked as an actor in New York, Los Angeles and regionally on stage, film and television.   She is a member of Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA, and The Elephant, and has appeared on stage at LATC, Theatre 40, The Colony, Cornerstone, The Met, Company of Angels, EST/LA and Chino State Prison.  A member of Imagination Workshop (IW) since 1986, Kate has served as Co-Artistic Director, Director of Training, and Artist Leader and led improvisation workshops and created performances with children, adults and elders in day patient, locked wards and forensic settings.  Twice awarded grants by the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, Kate has taught acting to low income, multicultural elders and 9 year olds in the inner city and created performance pieces with them based on stories from their lives..  With Cornerstone Theater Company she staged Traveling in Time - Stories of LA for the Museum Of Contemporary Art as part of the UnCommon Sense exhibit. She has a Lifetime Community College Teaching Credential and is currently leading a literature workshop at Edelman Children’s Court. 
  • Damian Darnell Lewis, Associate Artistic Director for Shakespeare Remixed;  Lead Teaching Artist: Acting, Stage Combat, Voice & Speech, is an L.A. boy with Louisiana roots, who loves being a husband and a father. He is an actor and director, whose passion for theater dates back to his Jr. High days, where he toured with the show “Dreams Over Drugs”.  From there, Damian went on to study acting at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA), and then The Juilliard School in New York City. Since graduating, Damian has acted in numerous Film, TV, and Commercial productions, and over 35 Theater productions. His directing credits were born out of his heart of service, and his belief that, “Theater is the safest classroom in the world”. Since his first production of James Baldwin’s “Amen Corner” in 2002, Darnell-Lewis has gone on to direct over 20 shows, including productions of “In The Heights”, “Twilight L.A. 1992”, “Tartuffe”, “Macbeth”, and “For Colored Girls who have Considered Suicide when the Rainbow is Enuf”. Damian is also the director of Culture Machine’s documentary film “Clean SLATE”. A program held annually in New York City, for youth and young adults with prior offenses, who show interest in the arts. He is also the director of the Independent short, “Like Father, Like Son”. A film about a young Latino gang member’s encounter with an elderly black male in jail, produced by TheatreWorkers and Last Few Artists.  He worked as a teaching artist and director at LACHSA for 12 years and is currently on the Theatre faculty CalArts