National Council on the Arts, March 27, 2024: Panelists Biographies

Annie Burridge
General Director & CEO, Austin Opera

Annie Burridge was named general director and CEO of Austin Opera in October 2016. Upon arrival, she led the development of the company’s new strategic plan centered on artistic growth, innovation, and civic engagement. She launched a new artistic initiative—Opera ATX—bringing groundbreaking artists to unexpected and unique venues throughout Austin; appointed the company’s first Curator of Hispanic and Latinx Programming funded through the creation of the Butler Fund for Spanish Programming; established a new model for co-production partnerships; secured four national innovation grants totaling $800,000; established numerous community partnerships including the Consulate General of Mexico in Austin; and tripled the company’s endowment funds.
Burridge joined Austin Opera following a nine-year tenure at Opera Philadelphia, where she most recently served as managing director. She holds a graduate certificate in nonprofit administration from the University of Pennsylvania and a MM in Voice Performance and a MM in Opera Studies from the New England Conservatory. She graduated the valedictorian of the College of Arts and Architecture at Penn State University, where she earned a BM in Voice Performance with a minor in business administration. Burridge is an alumnus of Wharton’s Women’s Executive Leadership program and OPERA America’s Leadership Intensive program. She was a 2017 Nonprofit Leadership Fellow at the Aspen Institute.

Kelvin Dinkins, Jr.
Executive Director, American Repertory Theater

Kelvin Dinkins, Jr. is the executive director of American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) at Harvard University. Dinkins joins A.R.T. following his roles as assistant dean and assistant professor adjunct in theater management at the David Geffen School of Drama at Yale University and the general manager of Yale Repertory Theatre. Prior to Yale, Dinkins served as general manager of Two River Theater in Red Bank, New Jersey, where he produced over 25 productions and two original cast albums, including Be More Chill. Dinkins currently serves on the board of directors for the League of Resident Theatres (LORT) and the board of trustees for the Theatre Communications Group (TCG). Dinkins has served as the chair of the LORT Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Committee since 2016. Dinkins is a coordinator for the LORT-Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival ASPIRE Fellows program supporting the development of future theatre industry leaders. Dinkins developed his passion for theater management and producing while an undergraduate at Princeton University where he received his AB degree in English and received a certificate in theatre and dance from the Lewis Center for the Arts. He earned his MFA in Theatre Management and Producing from Columbia University’s School of the Arts.

Kerry Lee
Co-Artistic Director, Atlanta Chinese Dance Company

Kerry Lee is the co-artistic director of the Atlanta Chinese Dance Company, where she began her dance journey under the direction of her mother, Hwee-Eng Lee, while also immersing herself in the pre-professional ballet world. After graduating from Stanford University with an engineering degree, she followed her heart into the professional dance world in New York City. As a traditional Chinese and modern/contemporary dancer, she toured nationally and internationally with the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company, H.T. Chen & Dancers, Dance China NY, and gloATL before returning home to co-lead the Atlanta Chinese Dance Company with her mother. For many years, Lee worked at the intersection of the arts and activism on staff at Alternate ROOTS (a regional arts service organization based in the South), where she is still a longtime member. She has also been politically active in the Asian American community in Georgia. These life-changing experiences have been instrumental in propelling her toward addressing social justice issues and sharing rarely told Chinese-American stories through Chinese dance choreography. Her work has been discussed in China’s Beijing Dance Academy Forum as an example of innovative Chinese dance choreography reflecting Chinese diaspora communities and performed at the national Dance/USA conference. Lee enjoys sharing Chinese dance and Chinese American stories in spaces traditionally dominated by western aesthetics. She has created dances, set work, and taught workshops/residencies for university dance programs, performing arts high schools, and ballet schools in Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia. Kerry has served as a grant panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts (Our Town) and was a Dance/USA Institute for Leadership Training mentee (mentored by Jawole Willa Jo Zollar).

Laura Penn
Executive Director, Stage Directors and Choreographers Society; Labor Activist; PCAH member

Laura Penn has been executive director of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC) since 2008. Under her leadership the union’s membership has grown over 100 percent, a result of her work expanding SDC’s jurisdictions, leading bold and successful negotiations, and furthering its Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion initiatives and political engagement. She serves on the general board of the Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO (DPE) and is an active member of DPE's Arts and Entertainment and Media Industry Coordinating Committee. She is co-chair of the Coalition of Broadway Unions and Guilds, the first woman to hold a leadership position with this coalition of 18 influential unions representing workers on Broadway. Penn serves on the Tony Awards Administration Committee and is a Tony Voter. She served as a panelist for the New York State Council for the Arts, for more than a decade was a site evaluator for the National Endowment for the Arts, was Vice President of the League of Resident Theatres, and was two-term chair of the Seattle Arts Commission. Recognized with Seattle’s Distinguished Citizen Medal, she is an advocate for civic dialogue and public participation and has been dedicated throughout her career to the idea that artistic excellence and community engagement are intrinsically connected. Penn previously served as an arts executive for Intiman Theatre and Seattle Repertory Theatre and began her career at Washington, DC’s Arena Stage, Living Stage Theatre Company. Penn currently teaches Labor Relations in the graduate program at the David Geffen School of Drama at Yale and is a member of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

Christy Bolingbroke
Executive/Artistic Director, National Center for Choreography – Akron

As the founding executive and artistic director for the National Center for Choreography in Akron, Ohio (NCCAkron), Christy Bolingbroke is responsible for setting the curatorial vision and sustainable business model to foster research and development in dance. Previously, she served as the deputy director for advancement at ODC in San Francisco, overseeing curation and performance programming as well as marketing and development organization-wide. A key aspect of her position included managing a unique three-year artist-in-residence program for dance artists; guiding and advising them in all aspects of creative development and administration. Prior to ODC, she was the director of marketing at the Mark Morris Dance Group in Brooklyn. Bolingbroke earned a BA in Dance from the University of California, Los Angeles; an MA in Performance Curation from Wesleyan University; and is a graduate of the Arts Management Fellowship program at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. She is a former board president of the Dance Resource Center of Greater Los Angeles; a founding member of Emerging Leaders for New York Arts; a retired board member of California Presenters; a consulting advisor for the Bloomberg Philanthropies Arts Innovation Management initiative; and a part of the Akron Civic Commons. Bolingbroke curated the 2020 American Dance Platform at The Joyce Theater, and in 2017, DANCE Magazine named her among the national list of most influential people in dance today.

Leslie Ishii
Artistic Director, Perseverance Theatre

Leslie Ishii, artistic director of Perseverance Theatre (PT), has directed at PT and throughout the U.S. at regional and university theater; at Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF): API 2x2 Lab New Works Residency, Founder/Co-Producer, Dramaturgy, FAIR Assistant Director Program Recipient and co- facilitation of OSF’s E/D/I/A Initiative with artEquity; Native Voices at the Autry in Dramaturgy, and many more. As an actor, Ishii has worked throughout the regional theater and with legacy theaters of color, on Broadway, and in film and television. She is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including a United States Artist Fellowship, 2022-23; SDCF Zelda Fichandler Directors Award Finalist, 2021; Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Integrity Award; NEA Grant Panelist; National Theatre Conference Member; Stage Directors and Choreographers’ Union E/D/I Standout Moments, 2016, 2017; Doris Duke Charitable Foundation National Theatre Grant Recipient; James P. Shannon Leadership Institute; Los Angeles County Teachers Making A Difference Award.

Blake-Anthony Johnson
President & CEO, Chicago Sinfonietta

Noted as a “business heavyweight” by Crain’s Chicago Business, arts executive Blake-Anthony Johnson has, throughout his career, extended the artistic, commercial, and technological boundaries of what an orchestra can be in the 21st century through creative leadership, commitment to innovation, and progressive vision. With a focus on community-centric, multi-disciplinary, and educational initiatives that enable cultural institutions to provide equitable access and public service to all, Johnson has been universally recognized and applauded for his civic engagement and transformational leadership. He is the first African American executive to guide a nationally renowned orchestra and serves on numerous boards and panels throughout the country by invitation. Johnson was named a 2022 Top 30 Professionals of the Year by, Chicago Tribune’s 2022 Chicagoan of the Year in Classical Music, and a member of Crain’s Chicago Business magazine’s Class of 2022 40 Under 40. Since May 2020, Johnson has served as chief executive officer of the award-winning Chicago Sinfonietta, an acclaimed cultural leader in the field and powerful champion of diversity, equity, and inclusion. He was appointed president and CEO in April 2022 and serves as chairman of the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events Council.

Annalisa Dias
Independent artist, theater director, playwright

Annalisa Dias is a Goan American transdisciplinary artist, community organizer, and award-winning theater-maker working at the intersection of racial justice and care for the earth. She is director of artistic partnerships and innovation at Baltimore Center Stage (BCS) and a co-founder of Groundwater Arts.

Prior to joining BCS, Dias was a producing playwright and acting creative producer with The Welders, a DC playwright's collective, and a co-founder of the DC Coalition for Theatre & Social Justice. Dias’s work has been produced or developed by arts institutions across the United States and United Kingdom, and her artistic work has taken her to South Africa, India, Malawi, Arctic Norway, and more. Dias frequently teaches theater of the oppressed and decolonization workshops and is a sought-after speaker about race, identity, and performance.