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Scholarship Winners 2015 | Great Performances


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Scholarship Winners 2015
Company News
by Claire Kennedy

Artists are the people that make our world a better place. Great Performances started as a staffing company for women in the arts and, over 30 years later, it continues to welcome and support artists from all walks of life. The GP staff includes

writers, dancers, comedians, musicians, actors, woodworkers, cinematographers, florists, designers… well, you get the point. The GP Scholarship, which annually helps four employees create films, concerts, magazines, cookbooks and more, and the generous support Great Performances has offered The GP Arts Festival, which is produced, performed, curated and designed by GP staff, makes it clear that Great Performances loves artists. It’s a place where they can work while pursuing their passions. It’s an ethos that makes Great Performances different from other catering companies and it makes a significant difference in the service experienced in their events.                                                                         

Claire Kennedy, Actor, GP Service Staff

As a service staff member with GP and an actor, I’m very excited to facilitate this feature that highlights my fellow artists. The Artist Page showcases GP artists and what they do, who they are, where they’re from, what their passions are, and what they’re currently working on. It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn about these amazing people and glimpse into their projects and passions. This is a chance to celebrate our community and the outstanding artists that make the Great Performances staff the best in the city.

This month we are highlighting the Great Performances Scholarship winners from 2015! What’s happening with their creative projects? How has the scholarship contributed to their artistic endeavors? What’s next?

The GP Scholarship has been a biennial scholarship awarded to three GP staff members. For 2016, GP has graciously increased the award amount, expanded to four scholarship winners and will now be awarded annually. Thank you GP for your generous support of our artists!



Warm. Blunt. Festive. 

With GP since 2010

I am originally from the Kansas City area but have been living in and out of New York City since college. Throughout my twenties, I spent most of time working in musical theatre, touring with shows like Cats (Skimbleshanks), and the first national tour of The Wedding Singer (George). As my twenties came to a close, I began to look for new outlets to release my creativity. My partner of four years, Sasha, is a comics artist and many of our friends are self-publishers. It was these wonderful people who inspired me to create an art magazine about drag. Currently, I am on hiatus from GP having accepted an offer to perform with Disney Cruise Lines aboard the Disney Fantasy. I look forward to returning to Brooklyn, GP, and my partner, in the spring. 

Claire Kennedy: Tell me everything about your magazine VYM! Where can I buy a copy?

John Jacob Lee: I’d love to! Well, drag has always meant a lot to me as a queer person and a performer - I’ve played drag queens or gender-fluid characters for most of my theatrical career. So when it came time to decide what my dream magazine would be about, drag was the natural choice. Drag is such an important part of the LGBT culture but because of where it is often performed (in bars, clubs, and now on television) we don’t have a venue to discuss its meaning. So that’s where VYM comes in. VYM Magazine is a 100 page, ad-free magazine dedicated to the art, theory, and philosophy of drag. 

We had a successful string of launches in June for the first issue which can be found in 14 bookstores in the US — very exciting for an indie mag like ours. Response has been fantastic and it is fueling the work for issue 2! We sell issues on our website ( or here in NYC you can find us at McNally Jackson (SoHo), The Strand (Union Square), Book Culture (Columbia), and The Bureau of General Services Queer Division (Greenwich Village) just to name a few!

CK: How has the GP scholarship helped you achieve your creative goals for the magazine?

JJL: One of my biggest concerns about creating a magazine was that we would put an incredible amount of work into the first issue, then not be able to create a second issue because of funding. Receiving the GP Artistic Fellowship covers nearly all the cost of printing the 2nd issue, ensuring a future for VYM. That security has allowed my partner and I to pay our artists and focus on creating solid content without stressing about funding.

CK: What’s something not many GP people know about you?

JJL: People may not know that my partner Sasha and I wrote a show together when he was in graduate school. We created a one-act drag musicale and performed it at a curiosities museum in Vermont. They keep begging us to come back!


World traveler. Artist. Baking enthusiast.

With GP since 2012 

I am Hayet, a choreographer and dancer for the Vissi Dancer Theater and a world traveler. I moved to London at age eighteen and haven’t limited myself to a physical frontier ever since. When I arrived in New York City in 2010, I fell in love with the house dance scene and decided to learn more about the underground dance world. As a freelance dancer, I perform at well-established festivals such as Fringe, White Wave and Making Moves dance festivals with Kinematik and Vissi Dance Theatre. I am also interested in the production side of a show and have nurtured my interest by working as a house and stage manager for the Jamaica Performing Arts Center.

Claire Kennedy: Tell us all about your dance piece! What inspired this? How did the GP scholarship help you make this happen? What's next for you?

Hayet Moutfi: My dance piece was inspired by life experiences to which anyone can relate to. I’m also very excited to announce that I will be collaborating with other Great Performances staff members for this production. 

CK: How has the GP scholarship helped you make this happen? 

HM: I always wanted to produce my own work and when I heard about the scholarship I saw an opportunity to kick start my project. The show is planned tobe showcased in March. The scholarship has helped me re-imagine my project and allowed me to have a legitimate venture. 

CK: What's something not many GP people know about you? 

HM: I have a small cooking venture. I have held a food stand at various dance events.


Nomad. Performer. Daddy. 

With GP since 2013 

I was born and raised in San Francisco, 'til my mom moved to San Rafael in Marin County when I started high school, I think I fell in love with theater when I was 4. There’s this great place for tiny kids in Oakland called Fairyland, and they had puppet shows, which were always at the top of my agenda. I started making puppet shows with stuffed animals behind the living room couch, adapting books to scripts at 5!  When I was 7 my mom put me in the S.F. Boys' Chorus, and we ended up performing in the Oakland Opera's Carmen. I was sick and miserable through the entire rehearsal process, but I still remember the absolute joy I felt performing on opening night.  I went to NYU/Tisch for my BFA  and went to Wayne State U's Hilberry Rep in Detroit for my MFA. Then I hopped around the country with my wife to be: Philly, Buffalo, Savannah, Atlanta (got married in 2011 while living there), till we finally moved back to NYC in 2012, and had our son Miles. Now, at the beginning of 2016, we're buying a house and moving back to Detroit, where my wife is Producing Director of the new Detroit Public Theatre!

CK: What artistic project is the GP scholarship helping you to create?

CC: I’m working towards my certification as a speech and dialect specialist through the Knight-Thompson Speechwork organization. One the workshops for the certification, that I just started this week, focuses on developing proficiency with the International Phonetic Alphabet.  It's a tool for hyper-specific transcription of speech.  It's really tedious stuff and might seem arcane to an outsider, but I love it!  Once I get the Certification, I plan to push forward in a career as a dialect coach, and specifically to create a series of dialect resources and references for actors of color -- resources I find to be woefully lacking currently. 

CK: Are you pursuing any other artistic projects while studying for your certification?  

CC: I’ve spent 2015 doing a lot of devised work, and I’m currently working on two longterm projects. One is a piece on cowardice. The inaugural production of this piece will be at a company out of Providence called HiveMind. The idea is to workshop the piece through a series of retreats held in different cities to be formed through morphing groups of artists together. The other is an Uncle Vanya-related theatre/film project that blurs the lines between the play and the lives (inner and outer) of the actors. I'm also looking forward to becoming a homeowner and I’m working on acquiring the “skill set” that’s required for that!

CK: What's something not many GP people know about you? 

CC: I’ve done a few ridiculous things for money: pulled a rickshaw in Dublin, Ireland, a pedicab in NYC, been a bike messenger, and... "Got a minute for Greenpeace?”

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