Each year, Wheelock Family Theatre tells untold stories in astonishing ways. This winter, we would like to honor those empowering stories shared on our stage by taking our message beyond. Each week during our run of Little Women, the Broadway Musical, we will be highlighting women in our community who embody the spirit of Louisa May Alcott’s independent female characters.

January 31 - Nancy Birne, DeAnne Dupont, Julie Kremer

Nancy Birne

Nancy Birne has been a Development professional in the Greater Boston area for more than 20 years. She is currently the Director of Development Administration and Special Projects at Harvard Divinity School. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, reading, singing, and travel adventures with her family. She and her husband are the proud parents of two delightful children. Nancy is honored to be recognized by Wheelock Family Theatre as part of the “Astonishing Women Campaign”.

Nominated by: Marissa Birne, Daughter

“I’m nominating my mother for her kindness! She is not only the greatest mom a girl could ask for but she is also a gift to every person she encounters, whether it be at work, in the grocery store, or anywhere else she goes. She never fails to find something good about another person and to let that person know of her appreciation with a genuine compliment or a thoughtful gesture. I love seeing her words and actions bring a smile to people’s faces. She inspires me to be more generous, positive, and compassionate. I love her more than words can express!”

DeAnne Dupont

DeAnne Dupont founded Food Link with Julie Kremer in 2012 and is the Board President. Food Link brings together three of DeAnne’s passions: protecting the environment, reducing waste, and alleviating hunger. She has been active in, or on the boards of, the Massachusetts Climate Action Network, Sustainable Arlington and Boston Building Resources. Her financial and operational background in the corporate sector and her experience as a CPA has been greatly beneficial in launching Food Link. DeAnne enjoys bicycling, hiking, and traveling.

Nominated by: Deb Holland, Volunteer at Food Link

“The organization delivers the nutritious food to over 42 social service agencies serving people in need, including after school programs, programs for at-risk youth, low income housing facilities, homeless shelters, food pantries, and senior centers. Food Link is based in Arlington, MA and serves 18 communities throughout Greater Boston, from South Boston to Lawrence. It operates 363 days a year, and is powered by 200 volunteers.”

For more information on Food Link, please visit: https://www.foodlinkma.org/

Julie Kremer

Julianna (Julie) Kremer, Co-Founder of Food Link (2012), Board Vice President, and Governance Committee Chair, joined the board in 2014 when Food Link incorporated. She is a regular volunteer. Prior to Food Link, Julie had extensive volunteer experience with school and religious organizations. Her professional work included cooking, baking and administrative management. Julie enjoys cooking, camping, hiking and being with family.” Julie and DeAnne found out that lots of food was being thrown out by local cafes and bakeries. They started to rescue the food and distribute it to low income seniors, food banks, etc. Now, Food Link is a registered non-profit that collects high-quality fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy, bread and prepared foods that would otherwise be wasted from 24 local grocery and prepared food stores.

Nominated by: Deb Holland, Volunteer at Food Link

“The organization delivers the nutritious food to over 42 social service agencies serving people in need, including after school programs, programs for at-risk youth, low income housing facilities, homeless shelters, food pantries, and senior centers. Food Link is based in Arlington, MA and serves 18 communities throughout Greater Boston, from South Boston to Lawrence. It operates 363 days a year, and is powered by 200 volunteers.”

For more information on Food Link, please visit: https://www.foodlinkma.org

February 1 - Andi Genser, Susan Kosoff, Jane Staab

Nominated by: Thousands of members of the Wheelock Family Theatre Family.

“The founders of Wheelock Family Theatre were ahead of their time in so many ways. Their years of dedication to building an inclusive home for artists of all ages, backgrounds, races, and abilities has had a resounding impact on thousands of lives. I’m proud and honored to have had the opportunity to work alongside Jane and Sue and be shaped by their kindness, support, commitment to excellence and love. I’ve grown as an artist and a person within these walls because of the foundation built and legacy left by Jane Sue and Andi. Our community is a brighter place because of their hard work and dedication to improving the lives of children and families through theater and the arts.”

“The founding of this theatre gave many people the courage and license to grow as artists, as people, as teachers and as leaders. Sue, Jane and Andi have all continued to support the mission and further the legacy. For those of us who have been here almost from the beginning, we express our eternal gratitude.”

February 2 - Cathy Vargas

Cathy got inspired to serve when she advocated for a bus stop for her children, she collected data, aligned the neighbors and sought approval from public officials. Which she won! This led to 20 years of service to the town of Rocky Hill, CT serving on the Board of Education and later as a member of the Town Council. She was a fierce advocate for funding the arts, she knew this was as vital to some kids as sports are to others.

Cathy also sponsored and led many volunteer efforts through her Church, including Feed-a-Friend which delivered almost 2000 lunches to the homeless / victims of domestic violence through Loaves & fishes in 2019. She also supports many activities and special events for Veterans through the Chrysalis Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting people in need to transform their lives. In 2018 she was recognized by the Chrysalis Center for her volunteer work and became the first recipient of their “Starfish” award. She has touched many and continues to make a difference to her Church, to her Community and to her family.


Nominated by: Nick Vargas & Family

“Mom, you may not be astonishing to everyone, but you are to me and everyone’s life you have touched. With your endless hours volunteering at church and the school board, working, and raising Nick and I (which wasn’t easy), you did it all. Now being a mother myself, I hope that I can be the same to Carter. Thank you for showing me the way and congratulations on your nomination.”

“A life dedicated to family and service is a life well lived. My mom, Cathy Vargas, is living her best life. Now it may not always be easy but good things, great things never come easy. My mom embodies the intelligence, perseverance, tenacity, passion, and love found in the characters of Louisa May Alcott. Her commitment to providing for her family and giving to her community continues to inspire me every day. She finds joy in seeing others find their joy and she has helped so many do just that.”

February 7 - Cici Hunt, Jo K. Gray & Jenny D. McBride, Deborah Mason, Lucy Wheelock

Cici Hunt

Cici Hunt is a choral director, song leader, music educator, singer-songwriter and motivational speaker. With a bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Boston University and a master’s Degree in Educational Communications from the State University of New York in Albany, Cici has been bringing people together in and with song for 50 years. Cici was in one of the first international casts of Up With People back in the ‘60’s, where she learned the art of raising people’s spirits with singing. Since then, Cici has worked with people of all ages to design and execute programs that bring everyone together, the singers and the audience. Cici currently is the choral director at three senior residences in the Boston area, North Hill (Needham), Fox Hill Village (Westwood) and Orchard Cove (Canton). She has found working with these wise and wonderful people most rewarding. They have found with Cici that if they were told “to mouth the words back in elementary school,” that indeed, they can sing! The greatest reward comes from witnessing their successes and seeing the joy on their faces. And hearing their voices connecting with their hearts? Well, that’s the greatest sound of all!

Nominated by: Marissa Birne

“I met Cici Hunt as a sophomore in high school, when I began volunteering with a chorus of elderly singers at North Hill Senior Living Community. Cici is the Director of this chorus, which provides older adults with weekly musical experiences and community, as well as numerous other choruses at similar senior residences in the Greater Boston Area.

In all of her work with this population, she demonstrates humor, energy, love, and compassion (not to mention musical expertise and leadership). She is an incredible mentor to me, modeling the meaningful difference that music can make in people’s lives. I am so grateful that we have remained close friends through my high school and college years and still today as I enjoy my first job post-graduation, working at The Rivers School Conservatory. Cici is most definitely an astonishing woman!”

Jo K. Gray and Jenny D. McBride

Nominated by: Cheryl D. Singleton

“I’ve nominated these women together for creating a successful wellness center where individuals and families feel welcome. For fourteen years Inman Oasis has proven to be a place where a person’s well-being comes before anything else, which is especially important to those who have been othered by society. This view is shared not only by the owners but by the staff and massage therapists as well. Jo K. Gray (original and current owner), Renee Farster-Degenhardt (original owner) and Jenny McBride (current owner) make sure that the staff feels as well taken care of as the clients. Seeing clients’ health improve over the years while continuing to come and destress from the pressures of the outside world is a rewarding experience. Many lasting friendships have formed as a result. These women put much sweat and tears into Inman Oasis to make it a reality that continues to be an important part of the community.”

Fun Fact: Jo was named after “Jo” in Little Women!

Deborah Mason

Deborah Mason, Artistic Director, recently profiled in The Story Exchange, in partnership with the New York Times 2014, takes her passion and commitment to the class and community. She inspires young dancers, setting high standards for creative excellence and physical prowess. She is the Founder and Artistic Director of the Deborah Mason School of Dance, which has served as a training ground for dancers since 1975. She is the Founder and Executive Director of the Cambridge Youth Dance Program, a non-profit dance and performing arts program for serious dancers. Her credits include a leading role in the musical Cinderella in SummerStock, touring New York City, Chicago, Kansas City, and Boston. Deborah has worked with some of the finest dancers such as Brenda Buffalino of the American Tap Dance Foundation, Leon Collins, Sue Ronson, Nina Pillar, and Luigi. She has been honored with the Key to the City of Cambridge and has been cited from the city of Boston for her continued success. Deborah has been honored by Mayor Sheila Russell and Hillary Clinton for her dedication to young women’s development, received the Galluccio Award for her commitment to youth sports, and was cited by the United States Senate in Washington, DC for providing a high quality arts education for decades. Deborah was nominated for Coca Cola Company’s Distinguished Teachers in the Arts award program, as well as Energizer’s “Keep Going” Hall of Fame. The studio was awarded Boston.com A-List’s Best Dance Class, 2011-2016. Deborah’s expertise in training continues to produce accomplished dancers and the studio’s outstanding faculty is the tradition of excellence that is synonymous with the company.

Nominated by: Joanne Barrett

“Born and raised in East Cambridge, Deborah Mason Dudley’s empowering story encompasses many roles–amazing dancer, teacher, community leader, and activist. Deb often says ‘dance saved her,’ and from age 14 to today, she has used dance as a vehicle to save others–and change lives. She founded her school in 1975, fostering and nurturing creative spaces where all are valued and welcome. After moving her studio five times in this era, she now works from Deborah Mason Performing Arts Center in Somerville. In 2004, she founded the not-for-profit Cambridge Youth Dance Program (CYDP) which has blossomed into a performing arts program with a robust schedule and extensive community outreach programs that include the annual holiday season production of WHAT THE DICKENS!, “CYDP presents” in the Spring, and numerous Master Classes. While fostering an appreciation for the performing arts, CYDP’s versatile dancers captivate audiences with an impressive range of styles in ballet, modern dance, character, Broadway, tap, jazz, and drama. Beyond performing and learning, Deb encourages aspiring young artists to pursue their interests as choreographers, administrators, instructors, and other dance-related occupations. Deb inspires all who work with and learn from her with her passion for sharing dance and art in ways that uniquely meet the needs of each individual.”

February 8 - Maria F. Cabrera, Dominique Herard, Paula Langton, Katie McBrine, , Pauline Jen Ryan

Maria F. Cabrera

Maria F Cabrera came to the US from Cuba at the age of 4 where she lived and grew up in a caring, hard-working Spanish speaking family in the inner city neighborhoods of Boston. After she contracted Gullain Barr Syndrome, an inflammation of the nerves in the extremities, she became more aware of physical barriers not only in everyday scenarios but at museums, theaters and other cultural institutions that her family loved to visit. And so for 40 years she worked at Boston Children’s Museum and Museum of Science to diversify museum visitors, and break down barriers of access, finances and language through many community events, programs, staff trainings and staff recruitment. Maria has been on several boards including New England Museum Association (NEMA),La Alianza Hispana, and the Boston Family Engagement Network. Maria has received awards for her advocacy efforts including Black Church Project, Kids of All Learning Abilities, the North End Against Drugs and a NEMA Excellence Award. Since retirement she continues her advocacy through being on the board of Cultural Access New England, advancing access to cultural institutions for people with disabilities and as Community Relations Liaison at Families Creating Together, an art based program for youth with disabilities.

Nominated by: Charles Baldwin

“Mara Cabrera understands community development and how to center folks on the margins so they might participate in our cultural treasures. Just retired from the Museum of Science, Maria was instrumental in breaking down language and financial barriers through the development of strategic programming and patron discount programs.”

Dominique Herard

Dominique Herard is a first grade teacher at the John D. Pierce School in Brookline, Massachusetts. She has taught first grade for nine years and is an educator strongly committed to social justice and educational equity. She is also co-leader of her school’s Equity Team, bringing professional development opportunities to teachers to discuss how racial equity impacts academic and personal growth for both teachers and students. She is the Associate Director of the Boston Writing Project, a professional development network which allows teachers to teach each other. This position also allows her to serve as a teacher-consultant, meaning she travels to schools in Boston and surrounding areas to lead professional development workshops for teachers of varying grade levels (K-12). Additionally, through this particular role, she has presented at national conferences in St. Louis, Houston, and Atlanta, specifically about the importance of writing in all academic areas and how the exploration of teacher identity relates to the success of marginalized/ underrepresented learners. She has presented research at Stockholm University (Stockholm, Sweden) and Ehime University (Matsuyama, Japan) in front of international communities for work related to building the capacity for early elementary students to use imaginative thinking for writing and communicating with a social justice lens. She travelled to South Africa to visit and work in schools in Cape Town, Johannesburg, and East London. The East London school experience paired her with a first grade teacher in that city and also allowed for her to teacher South African literacy-based lessons. She loves to read, write, visit museums, and spend time with family and friends.

Nominated by: Danielle Rabina

“Ms. Herard is a phenomenal teacher who makes sure every single child in her room is seen and celebrated for who they are. She inspires children to be proud of their differences and teaches them to respect each other and learn about social justice at a young age. She teaches through positivity and creativity and is a gem among the world of education. If we had more people growing our youth the way Ms. Herard does, our world would be filled with a generation of children who have compassion, tolerance and the courage to stand up for what is right.”

Paula Langton

Paula Langton is a local actor/teacher- born & raised in Waltham, MA. In her college days you might have seen her touring throughout New England entertaining and educating children in her very first professional theatre gig as a performer/teacher with Crosswalk Theatre for Children, as she worked her way through her BA in Theatre Arts at U Mass Boston. Her theatre professors, who were also working professionals, were strong role models for her, and as a recent college graduate attempting to build a life in the arts, teaching became a viable way to begin to make a living and continue to grow as an actor/artist. She worked in dozens of elementary schools in communities around the Boston area running theatre workshops funded by the then well supported National Endowment for the Arts. She developed her skills further working in Shakespeare & Company’s education program as a member of their schools team, directing Shakespeare plays in schools throughout Berkshire County. It was while she was teaching and training as an actor with Shakespeare & Company that she met Master Voice teacher Kristin Linklater and became a member of Linklater’s all female Shakespeare Company – Company of Women where she was in productions of Henry V and King Lear and was director of The Company of Girls. She apprenticed with Linklater for several years before becoming officially designated to teach Linklater Voice work. She joined Kristin Linklater at Emerson College in 1991 as a full time Artist in Residence for five years, where she assisted in the development of the acting program under Linklater’s direction. She regularly co-teaches with Linklater at The Kristin Linklater Voice Centre in Orkney, Scotland. She is currently an Associate Professor on The School of Theatre faculty at Boston University where she has taught since 1996 and served as Head of Acting for the past 20 years. Other teaching credits include: Trinity Rep Conservatory, University of Massachusetts, Wheaton College, Shakespeare & Company, Actors’ Shakespeare Project, and Festa Di Teatro Ecologico, in Stromboli, Italy. Acting credits include productions with American Repertory Theatre, La Mama etc., Actors Shakespeare Project, Potomac Theatre Co. NYC, LA Women’s Shakespeare, The Olney Theatre, New Rep, Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theatre, The Charles Playhouse, Boston Theatre Works, Boston Playwrights Theatre, and Festa Di Teatro Eco Logico, to name a few. Paula has a band called The Crazy Neighbors, and is a member of Actor’s Equity Association, Screen Actors Guild and Voice and Speech Trainers Association, Inc.

Nominated by: Tootie Larios

Paula is truly an astonishing woman, as well as teacher.”

Katie McBrine

Katie McBrine, MD is a board-certified pediatrician and Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She worked at Boston Children’s Hospital and is currently working at HealthCare South-Scituate Pediatrics. She grew up on the south side of Chicago. She went to medical school at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine and completed her residency at Rush University Medical Center. In addition to practicing general pediatrics, she has a passion for educating others. She trains Nurse Practitioner students for various colleges. She has given numerous community talks to families on a variety of medical topics. Her favorite educational activity is the Saturday Science program that she started with a friend which involves teaching K-5th graders about women in science and then performing fun science experiments. She recently ran for State Senate and is now campaign manager for State Rep candidate, Melissa Smith. She is involved in numerous organizations including Education Director for Hingham SEPAC, town appointed member of the MassPort Community Advisory Committee, chair of the Massachusetts Womens Political Caucus South Shore and founder of Emergency Medical Stuffies. She is married and has two kids, two dogs and a cat to round out the chaos of her life.

Nominated by: Mark Swartz

Katie is an amazing individual who combines raising a family with two young children, serving as a practicing pediatrician, and being active in her community. She speaks on science topics to young people in her community. When no one stepped up before the 2018 legislative elections to run against the incumbent State Senator in her district, she ran – and ran with enthusiasm, passion, and commitment. (Although she lost, she ran an unexpectedly competitive race and galvanized many “novices” to become more active in the political process.) She has started an initiative to “recycle” used stuffed animals that ordinarily aren’t accepted by charities and donate them to hospital pediatric emergency rooms so frightened/anxious kids have things to cuddle while awaiting treatment of various sorts. She personally collects, washes, and distributes the stuffed animals. Katie speaks on issues of concern to her community, including a proposed gas compressor station and acts of hatred and bigotry. She also serves as campaign manager for another women seeking a state legislative seat. In my opinion, she’s an amazing woman!”

Pauline Jen Ryan

Pauline Jen Ryan is a Partner at Red Sky Partners LLC, a boutique advisory firm advising biotechnology companies on corporate strategy, corporate development and business development matters. She has 30 years’ experience in the biotechnology industry and was responsible for the business deal that created Kadcyla, a drug for breast cancer. She has been an advisor for life sciences startups incubating at the Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship at MIT. She is the former Chair of the Board of the Advanced Math and Science Academy Charter School, the #2 ranked high school in Massachusetts. Currently, she is on the Board of Directors for the Distinguished Young Women Scholarship Program, a national organization providing scholarships for high-achieving high senior girls. She is most proud of her role as a mom to former WFT actor Lexi Ryan as well as her son, Colby and is an avid supporter of WFT and its mission of diverse, multicultural, accessible theater.

Nominated by: Lexi Ryan

“My mom has been a biotech executive for years, having broken into a heavily male-dominated industry young. She’s currently a partner at a consulting firm where she steps into temporary C-level (CEO, COO, etc.) roles at biotech startups. She is working toward a cancer-free world, and was instrumental to the approval of Kadcyla – a breast cancer treatment.”

February 9 - Kerry Thompson

Kerry M. Thompson

Kerry M. Thompson is the Founder & Executive Director for Silent Rhythms, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to achieving inclusion in the arts while promoting inclusion in society. She is a renowned dance instructor and has performed worldwide including in Paris and Havana. Kerry has taught more than 5,000 people with disabilities including those who are Deaf and DeafBlind as well as more than 10,000 people without disabilities on how to be inclusive. In 2013, she was casted as the Angel Mama in Wheelock Family Theater’s production of Pippi Longstocking. Kerry herself is a person with DeafBlindness and has been featured in Boston Globe, Boston Herald, and ABC News’ More In Common. In addition, Kerry is also the Inclusion & Analytics Officer for the Disability Rights Fund where she has worked since 2008 to advance human rights and United Nations treaties for marginalized populations in the developing world. She has been a powerful advocate for the rights of people with disabilities in Massachusetts and at the global level. She completed a Master’s degree in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education with a focus on international law and human rights. She was named a 2014 Marshall Memorial Fellow.

Nominated by: Diane Samarasan

“Kerry Thompson fully embodies the fiery independence of the Little Women characters. As a woman with Deafblindness growing up in Louisiana, Kerry realized she needed to set out on her own and move to a bigger city to find meaningful employment as a person with disability. She moved to Boston, found work in healthcare, went to graduate school at Harvard, created a program to better connect Deaf people to their healthcare providers, fell in love with Salsa dancing and founded her own non-profit to ensure dance is inclusive of all people (Silent Rhythms), and came to work at the Disability Rights Fund – a global grant maker supporting disability rights movements around the world – as the Inclusion & Analytics Officer. Kerry is unstoppable, passionate, and deeply committed to an inclusive world. She has worked with Wheelock and the Boston Ballet, among other places, to make dance performances accessible to all. She has been featured on TV programs and in newspapers. I believe Kerry is a modern Little Woman, who uses her multiple talents to break down barriers and question exclusion.”

For more information on Silent Rhythms, please visit: http://silentrhythms.org/

February 14 - Mary Bigus & Alyse Clinton

Mary Bigus

Teacher, student, wife, and mother, Mary Bigus is blessed to wake up each day and truly love what she does. She is currently an English teacher and director of the fall play and DramaFest at Beverly High School, as well as pursuing a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study at Salem State University. She loves her daughter and son who are both attending Berklee College of Music, and her husband John who she has been happily married to for 34 years.

Nominated by: Grace Bigus

“Mom astonishes me every day with her drive, selflessness, and can-do attitude. When she was laid off from her job in marketing, she made the difficult decision to go back to school, in the hopes of becoming a teacher. After years of hard work, filled with ups and downs, she became an English teacher at Beverly High School. She goes above and beyond for her students, pouring hours into planning lessons, correcting papers, and spending time with students, doing whatever she can to help them succeed. Through of all this, she is always there for my brother and me. She doesn’t miss a concert, play, or band gig. She always looks out for us and encourages us to speak up for what we need. She reminds me very much of Jo March in this way– she puts appearances and comfort aside for what’s right, especially when it comes to those she cares about. She gets no sleep and her wants and needs often come second to others, but she consistently does what she feels is right and constantly seeks to be better. If I can be half the woman she is, I will be very pleased with myself.”

Alyse Clinton

Alyse Clinton is a 21 year old theatre artist and student from Hull, MA, where she grew up with her parents, Lindsay and Dave, and younger brother, Charlie. She is currently a fourth year Theatre (Performance) major, American Sign Language/English Interpreting major, and Psychology minor at Northeastern University. There, she serves as the Vice President of the Interpreting Club at Northeastern University, a costume shop stitcher, and a member of the board and tech squad for Silver Masque, NU’s student work focused theatre group. Raised in the performing arts, Alyse always knew that theatre was going to be a part of her future. Whether that is acting, costuming, stage managing, or hanging lights – she wants to be a part of the magic of theatre. She believes that theatre is a place for everyone, no matter their story. It was actually while seeing her brother in an ASL Interpreted show at Wheelock Family Theatre (WFT) that she first realized the importance of accessibility for theatre and discovered her passion for interpreting ASL/English and working with the Deaf community. WFT came back into her journey as she worked as the Education and Access Support Intern last spring for WFT – an experience she will forever be grateful for. Alyse strives in all her work, both as an interpreter-in-training and as a theatre-maker, to include everyone. No matter your size, age, disability, neurodivergence, race, gender, religion, or any other difference: your story is important, you are needed, and you deserve to have a place at the table.

Nominated by: Lindsay Clinton

“Alyse is one of the most astonishing people I know. I am proud to be her mother! She is a scientist, an actress, a singer, an advocate for accessible arts, an ASL/English interpreting candidate, a teacher, and an all around good person. As soon as you tell Alyse that she can’t do something she wants to do, she sets out to do it. In high school, she was told she couldn’t write a paper on deaf education because she wouldn’t find enough original source material. She did it. In college, she was told she couldn’t find a co-op that combines her love of theatre and accessible arts. She did it (at WFT!). Currently, she is a double major, Theatre and ASL/Interpreting, with a minor in Psychology at Northeastern University. Additionally, she works in the costume shop at her college, in the Hypermobility Clinic in the Division of Genetics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and at WFT from time to time, too! Always on the go, she still manages to find more things to do – eboard at Silver Masque (college theatre club), and the Interpreting Club. Each summer she travels to Appalachia to repair homes in some of the poorest parts of the country. This year she hopes to add a stage combat intensive to her summer line-up. She is a lover of animals (especially giraffe), and a great big sister. I couldn’t be more proud of the person she has become. Alyse is someone who finds purpose in every experience. She is especially thrilled when a situation takes her in an unexpected direction. She has always made me think of Jo in “Little Women” and we are excited to see it!”

February 15 - Rachel Bertone

Rachel Bertone

Rachel Bertone is an award-winning director/choreographer and a professor of theater and dance. Direction/Choreography credits: Cabaret (IRNE Award Best Direction, Choreography, Best Musical), Carousel (IRNE Award Best Choreography), In the Heights (IRNE Award Best Musical), The Wild Party (IRNE Award Best Musical), Kiss of the Spider Woman, Gypsy, Billy Elliot, Show Boat, Little Shop of Horrors, Hair, Barnum, Musical of Musicals, Joseph…Dreamcoat, Brundibar, But the Giraffe, and Creative License. Recent choreography credits: West Side Story, My Fair Lady, Guys and Dolls, Mamma Mia, South Pacific, Les Miserables, Company, City of Angels, Big River, Animal Crackers, Camelot, A New Brain, Marvelous Wonderettes, Floyd Collins, and Lucky Stiff. Bertone has served on the faculties of The Boston Conservatory at Berklee, Emerson College, The American Repertory Theater Institute at Harvard University, and Long Island University. She privately coaches performers both in New York City, where she currently resides, and Boston. She also proudly holds a BFA from The Boston Conservatory.

“Honored to be recognized for this award and to work in a city that is FULL of FIERCELY ASTONISHING women!!”

Nominated by: Brian Balduzzi

Rachel is a champion for positive body experiences and growing emerging performers through movement and stage direction. She is an inspiring force in the rehearsal room as a director, choreographer and collaborator, and as an advocate across the Greater Boston and now New York City area. She has held innovative workshops, challenged assumptions and best practices in the community, directed award-winning productions, taught in small group and academic settings, and used her words and efforts for advocacy in creating a safe space for all persons, and especially for female-identifying performers. She is astonishing in her values and how she lives them as an example for all performers and community members, and especially for emerging female-identifying performers. I believe she deserves this honor for her tireless efforts and impact.”

February 16 - Elizabeth Addison, Susan Emmanouilidis, J. Samantha Gould, Meg O'Brien, Mary Howland Smoyer, Traci Griffith Walker, Anne Whitman,

Elizabeth Addison

Elizabeth Addison is a composer, lyricist, actor, producer, and woman in long term recovery, in the midst of writing, work shopping and producing her musical “This is Treatment,” which was most recently seen at Feinstein’s/54 Below in New York City and her new show, “F**K! Now what?!” most recently seen at Dorchester Art Project She is the former Associate Artistic Director and founding member of The Dreamscape Project Group, an all-female theatre troupe dedicated to developing pieces that address diversity through dance, movement, music and dramatic narrative. She is an actor and teaching artist with the Improbable Players.In 2015, Elizabeth was granted 1 of 2 playwrighting fellowships with Company One Play Lab. Elizabeth has been awarded three grants: The Bob Jolly Grant, The Boston Opportunity Fund Grant and most recently the TBF Lab Grant for her new one-ish woman show, “F**k! Now what?!” A story about rebuilding finding community, belonging, and reviving childhood dreams. She has been featured in Scout Cambridge Magazine, Boston Voyager Magazine and The Boston Herald. She has been twice featured on the Emmy Award winning television show CityLine, and has been heard on radio programs in Boston and New York City. Elizabeth has just finished the demo album for “F**k! Now what?!” and will be bringing her musical, “This is Treatment,” to the Tank in May 2020. She is also working on launching on-camera interview series called Chasing Beads, and has just launched her company, This is Treatment LLC, a company dedicated to acting as the connective tissue that surrounds, embraces and supports Artists, People of Color, Women, Entrepreneurs and Organizations that align with This is Treatment’s core values.

Nominated by: Masha Sten-Clanton

“Like Jo March, Elizabeth is a writer and an independent spirit. She nurtured a longtime dreaming of writing a musical. In order to fulfill that dream, she needed to overcome addiction. So she entered a residential treatment program. She decided to make this experience the basis of her original musical, “This Is Treatment”. In it, she explores the feelings of women in recovery and sheds light on a little-understood part of American life. She has staged the musical in the Boston area and in New York. She’s currently developing other original musicals.”

Susan Emmanouilidis

Susan is the Choral Director at the Rivers Upper School in Weston, directing the Men’s and Women’s Choruses as well as being one of several faculty members who founded and designed the Conservatory Program, an after-school initiative for highly motivated student musicians. In this program she has led the Vocal Performance Class, the gold winning CP Vocal Ensemble and more. She is the Founding Director of the Brookline A Cappella Chorus, an adult vocal ensemble which performs Early Music through newly composed repertoire, from American Music of all genres to music from cultures throughout the world in a variety of styles including classical, jazz, and folk. Susan sings with and serves on the board for Jameson Singers, a 60 singer group based in Belmont. In addition to enjoying life as a choral director and teacher, Susan enjoys time with her husband, children and three grandchildren.

Nominated by: Marissa Birne

“I’ve known Susan since I was about 7 years old, when I began singing in her children’s chorus at The Rivers School Conservatory. I sang with her throughout my childhood and ended up applying to and going to The Rivers School so that I could keep singing with her in their Conservatory Program. Even after my graduation, we remained in touch and Susan has now become my close friend, role model, and colleague. She has helped so many young people fall in love with singing, due to her incredible warmth, kindness, and musicality. She changed my life for the better by inspiring a lifelong love of music in me.”

Samatha Gould

Samatha Gould (“Sam”) is the President and Executive Producer of Open Door Theater. Open Door Theater is an all volunteer, non profit, multi generational community theater with a mission since 1980 of inclusion and diversity. Being involved in and even watching an Open Door production can be life-changing as it is evident that the participants develop confidence, feel support, and find their voice on the stage. Inclusion means making our space and our performance as welcoming and accessible as possible so that everyone can participate, onstage and off, in the communal experience of a live performance. By listening to our cast and community members, who represent every aspect of the human spectrum, we learn more every year about how to create a positive experience for all and implement their suggestions to increase our accessibility, i.e. ASL inclusion, sensory friendly programming, audio description, tactile tours, open captioning. In this time when some would build barriers and label others, it is critical that we build bridges and think outside of the box to integrate and include everyone. Arts are a natural doorway into cross cultural exchange and understanding by sharing a different perspective en masse. Open Door’s last production included 100 actors on stage, 35 of whom self identify as differently-abled. Open Door will continue breaking barriers and bringing community together to create magic into the future. While Sam works full time at Open Door and moonlights an additional 40 hours a week as a Lawyer in private practice to support her family, she currently consults on access and inclusion in the arts in MA. Creating accessible arts is her true passion and she hopes one day to give up her practice and pursue accessible theater 168 hours instead of her usual 40-60.

Nominated by: Charles Baldwin

“Sam Gould has made Open Door Theater a remarkable inclusive community theatre- their shows are captioned, interpreted, described, and include players with disabilities, both visible and invisible. it’s a tremendously inspiring model.”

Meg O’ Brien

Meg O’Brien (she/her/hers) is in her 12th season at the Huntington Theatre Company where she is the Director of Education and the Access Coordinator. Meg is an actor, dancer, singer, director, producer, administrator, and stage manager; however, her passion lives with theatre education. For the past 15 years, Meg has made her living teaching students of all ages about the world of the theater. She joined the Huntington Theatre Company in 2008 and has directed, stage managed, and produced more than 35 performances and showcases for the Huntington’s Education Department. As Access Coordinator, Meg has significantly expanded programming in the past decade helping to make Huntington productions more inclusive and accessible which included successfully shepherding the return of Open Caption performances for the first time in 10 years. In 2019 Meg was awarded the Community Access Award from the Bay State Council for the Blind. In 2017 Meg was awarded the Huntington’s Cohen Award for Excellence. Meg was most recently elected to be the national Network Chair of the Professional Theatre Network with AATE (American Alliance for Theatre and Education), has presented at AATE’s National Conference, and was selected with Sydney Chaffee, Codman Academy’s 9th grade Humanities Teacher (and the 2017 MA and National Teacher of the Year) to present a master class at the 2016 EL National Conference (centered around their partnership in the classroom teaching theatre as a way to bring their humanities curriculum to life in performance). After receiving her B.F.A in Acting from the University of Connecticut in 2004, Meg lived in Stockbridge, MA for four years and was an Artist in Residence with the Berkshire Theatre Group. Meg was a member of the stage management team for BTG’s first three community productions (The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, and Oliver!) each of which had casts with more than 125 children. In 2005 Meg helped launch BTG’s Richie Dupont Fund which provides scholarships to students to enable them to pursue their dreams of being onstage and afford them the opportunity to participate in BTG’s education programs. Favorite professional acting credits include Assassins, Amadeus, and A Christmas Carol (Mrs. Fezziwig, twice) at the Berkshire Theatre Group, The Taming of the Shrew (Biondello) and King John (Prince Henry) at Shakespeare & Company, as well as Candide, Violet, Sweeney Todd, The Crucible, The House of Bernarda Alba, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Measure for Measure, and Seeing Laughter at the Connecticut Repertory Theatre. In addition to her work at the Huntington Theatre Company, Meg was the Producer and Managing Director at the award-winning Bad Habit Productions from 2011 – 2015, where she helped BHP develop and launch their popular family programming and sensory friendly performances. From 2015-2017 Meg served as the President of the Board of Directors at BHP, which closed in 2017 after 10 seasons.

Nominated by: Leslie Sears

“Meg’s positivity and dedication to increasing access to the arts for Boston students is overwhelming. She dives into programing to help young people understand themselves better through art in a completely supportive and selfless way.”

Mary Howland Smoyer

Mary Howland Smoyer worked as a librarian and teacher in public, parochial and private elementary schools for over 30 years, in Boston and in Philadelphia. Since 1989 Mary has volunteered with the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail (BWHT) an organization dedicated to recovering, documenting and celebrating Boston women’s history. Mary helped blaze all ten self-guided trails which highlight women’s stories across Boston, as well as the six student-designed trails. She has served as president of BWHT, written curriculum, given workshops, courses and talks, led tours, and served on committees for public art. Mary taught at the William Monroe Trotter School for 15 years and still volunteers there championing outdoor teaching and learning. She co-founded Friends of the Boston Schoolyards to advocate for and support outdoor teaching and learning in the Boston Public Schools, as well as to support the maintenance of the schoolyards. Mary has been a recycling activist since Boston’s recycling program began in 1987. She lives in Jamaica Plain with her husband David, and sees as much as she can of her three children and their spouses and her seven grandchildren. The woman Mary admires most in history is Rachel Carson.

Nominated by: Libba Ingram

“Mary has been a tireless advocate and educator for women’s history for ages. In 1989, she became a founding member of the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail (BWHT) and continues to be an active member of the Board of Directors today. Without her guidance, support and energy, I’m sure the BWHT would not have survived its more than 30 years. She often leads school groups, from elementary to high school, on BWHT tours, making the women who contributed to the history of Boston come alive and relates that history to the action that women need to do and are doing today to make a difference in women’s lives. She worked with committees to raise the funds and steer the design of the Boston Women’s Memorial that now stands on Commonwealth Avenue and depicts three women who lived in Boston and changed the course of history: Abigail Adams, Phillis Wheatley, and Lucy Stone. She is instrumental in encouraging greater representation of women in the naming of Boston public schools. After spending her career as a teacher and librarian at the Trotter School in Boston, Mary continues to volunteer her time to in the Boston Schoolyards.

“Mary is an inspiration to all who know her in any capacity and has the gift of getting along with anyone, giving grace to in conflicts, while simultaneously holding firm to ideas and philosophies that are important in her mind.”

Traci Griffith Walker

Traci Walker Griffith is the proud Executive Director and Principal of the Eliot K-8 Innovation School, a Boston Public Innovation School serving 750 amazing scholars in grades Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 8. Having just celebrated her 13th anniversary as the leader of the Eliot School, Traci has been a part of the Boston Public Schools system since 1992, serving as both a teacher and administrator at the Trotter Elementary School in Dorchester and Maurice J. Tobin School in Mission Hill. Under her leadership, the Eliot has become a supportive professional learning community that embraces high standards for both adults and students, progressing from a state-identified, under-performing school in 2007 to recognition as a Commendation School in 2010, 2011, and 2012. In addition, each year the Eliot continues to have some of the highest proficiency rates on the Massachusetts’ state assessment. The Eliot strives to change the lives of children in its community by growing best practices, constantly evolving its incredible instruction, and ensuring dedicated teaching professionals have the tools and knowledge to transform educational trajectories for all students. Traci and her team prepare students for the future of work because the world needs students who are innovative, collaborative and cognitively flexible to keep up with the lightning pace of today’s modern markets. Fostering a life-long love of learning while supporting a students’ social and emotional growth has been a theme throughout Traci’s career, and can be seen whether she’s engaging with students in the Eliot’s Digital Arts and Media Studio or embodying leadership during a pick-up soccer game with her students. Traci was awarded a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Educational Administration from the University of Massachusetts, a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Lesley University, and a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Plymouth State University. Traci is also a member of the Plymouth State University Hall of Fame. She currently lives with her husband, John, in Charlestown, MA. Her two children, Joe and Elizabeth, are both former Eliot School students. Joe is a sophomore at Harvard University and Elizabeth is a senior at Boston Latin School.

Nominated by: Jaime Dutton

“Principal Traci Griffith has transformed the Eliot School, a Boston Public School from an under performing and low attended school to one of the BEST public schools in Boston. Principal Traci arrives every day to school with a huge, warm smile. She knows every child’s name across the whole school, which now spans 3 buildings and educates over 700 Boston Public School Children in the North End. She is incredibly engaged in every child’s learning journey. Through daily routines, the school curriculum, special opportunities and surprise moments she creates a fun, active and imaginative space for the students that attend the school to learn. Through her passion, energy and leadership she instills self confidence, motivation, dedication, rigor and excitement in our kids to come to school every day and learn. She is an incredible leader of a staff of teachers that she admires for their commitment and dedication to the students at her school. Hands on is an understatement when talking about Principal Traci. She is an incredible woman who has dedicated herself to the public service of educating the children in Boston and at our school. We feel lucky to know her and that our children have the wonderful experience, especially as two young girls (ages 8 and 11), to see what they can do to impact so many young lives and minds in a positive way. Principal Traci never stops dreaming ways to enhance her students education and her staff’s development. She embraces new methods of teaching and change to stay in touch with our ever changing environment to prepare her students for the world outside her buildings. I cannot say enough about her, but one thing I know is the she loves reading and instills in our children the importance of reading. I know that Louisa May Alcott has inspired Principal Traci and that she would admire the work that she has done for all of the young girls and boys in her school.”

Anne Whitman

Anne Whitman holds a Ph.d in Anthropology from Harvard University and an M.S in education and a BA in Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania as well as an MBA from Boston University. She has held significant academic, administrative, and outreach positions at Harvard, MIT, and Wheaton College. She is also a co-founder of Bright Horizons Work Family Solutions and her daughter was the first child in the first center. Anne Whitman is a person with lived experience with mental health challenges and has over 30 years of experience in starting and guiding, peer mental health communities in providing mutual support while maintaining core values of empathy and resiliency. She is a co-founder of the Metro Boston Recovery Learning Community and the Cole Resource Center which is located on the grounds of Mclean Hospital. She is also a consultant to the Southeast Recovery Learning Community and a consultant to the Center of Excellence for Psychosocial and Systemic Research at MGH. With her diverse background in research, building innovative organizations combined with significant experience in peer and family communities, she continues to build communities which hold families and persons with lived experience with mental health challenges at their very core and inspires them to strive toward wellness, growth and recovery.

Nominated by: Howard Trachtman

Anne Whitman is a true visionary, first in the business world and now in the mental health recovery community. Anne Whitman is a person with lived experience with substance use and mental health challenges and is a Certified Peer Specialist. Like myself she is committed to breaking the stigma of mental illness and facilitating wellness with those who are pursuing recovery. She is a pioneer of the peer movement having co-founded the Cole Resource Center at McLean Hospital with Evie Barkin, the first such peer based resource center located in a hospital based in the nation! Anne and I started working closely together when she had a vision of us starting another center together. That single center, the Boston Resource Center at BMC has become the flagship of the MBRLC, the Metro Boston Recovery Learning Community of which she and I are co-founders. While we are colleagues by choice, Anne is one of my best friends! Anne’s CV is impressive. In addition to what is already mentioned, she is the co-founder of Bright Horizons which is now publicly traded on the stock exchange and operates over 800 locations. She started Bright Horizons because she couldnt’ get good child care for her daughter Katie. Katie became the first child ever to experience Bright Horizons. Anne also co-chairs the State Mental Health Planning Council, serves on the executive team of the MBRLC and as a consultant to the Southeast Recovery Learning Community and the Massachusetts General Hospital Center of Excellence for Psycho-Social Research. She has held several academic and administrative positions at Harvard, MIT and Wheaton College. Anne holds a Ph.D in Anthropology from Harvard University, an MS in Education from the University of Pennsylvania, and an MBA from Boston University as well as a BA in Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania. Anne has mentored many people with mental health issues to work in human services and is seen as a leader.”