Our staff is a small, diverse group with rich backgrounds in education, theatre, music, film, gender and cultural studies. Due to the size of our organization, we all work very hard and wear many hats to make each element of every project a meaningful and educational experience.
MELANIE CLOSS, FOUNDER/DIRECTOR, PROGRAM DIRECTOR
Coming from a background in Theatre and Music Education (Emerson College ’06, Orff-Shuelwerk Level 1 ’08) and extensive international travel, Melanie Closs founded The Other Side Intercultural Theatre in 2013. She was inspired by her volunteer experience at Pardada-Pardadi Educational Society (Anupshahr, UP, India) to find ways to bring girls from different cultures together, using theatre as a tool for self-expression and communication. She saw the need for girls in her own backyard, New York City, to have safe spaces to be themselves and support each other. She started The Other Side with a project called “Listen”, which included a group of teens from New York and a group of teens from Anupshahr exchanging their dreams and stories using Theatre of the Oppressed approaches. The Other Side has continued to grow with a unique drama exchange and sisterhood building curriculum serving girls around the world and around New York City.
When she is not leading The Other Side, Melanie is a musician with Mela, Melangu, Jagged Little Pills, and gives private music lessons.
ASHLEY NEASE, DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
Ashley Nease is a theater maker, writer, filmmaker, and fundraiser. Her successful development experience with affordable housing organizations and other socially responsible non-profits, has emboldened her to continue to search for funding for important causes. Living abroad and traveling the globe fostered her interest in cross-cultural understanding and advocacy. She strongly believes that art and empowered imaginations are necessary to create positive change. When she isn’t happily searching for grants for The Other Side, she can be found sitting on her roof in Brooklyn, memorizing lines or reading science fiction.
LANA RUSSELL, TEACHING ARTIST
Lana is a Brooklyn based freelance director, producer and teaching artist who seeks to reimagine the human experience. Lana is dedicated to building a bridge between the audience and the performer and more importantly, the theater and our local and global communities. Selected Credits: Vigils by Noah Haidle , Salute* by Alex Kveton, Henry VI Part 3, George Bell* by Melisa Annis Cloud Tectonics by Jose Rivera, Human Resources by R. Eric Thomas, The Coming World by Christopher Shinn, Gibraltar by Octavio Solis and Around The Block*-a community based theater project about New York neighborhoods with collective, 5D. Lana is the resident director and producer for Goldfish Memory Productions. She has worked in Literary at Primary Stages and LCT3 and was a producing fellow at Naked Angels and Cape Cod Theatre Project. Lana is a member of the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab.
RANTEA THOMPSON, TEACHING ARTIST
Rantea is an actress, singer, dancer, producer, and director. She was born and raised in Akron, Ohio. Moving here in 2007, Rantea graduated from Amda with honors. She has been seen in countless roles over the span of 16 years including Effie White (Dreamgirls) and Audrey (Little Shop) just to name a few. Her career started to branch out in other avenues including some featured spots on HBO, CBS, and ABC as well as a few cabarets around the city. Last year Rantea founded a company called Emir Productions. They provide professional theatre experiences for actors not based on sexual orientation, gender, or ethnicity. Rantea made her NYC directorial debut this past summer and will be directing a musical next summer. She would like to thank The Other Side for giving her an opportunity to be involved in something that has always been a passion of hers teaching young people about their rights and following their dreams. You can follow Rantea on instagram @ranteat and Emir Productions @emirproductions for the latest updates and auditions.
We collaborate with participating teachers to keep pen pal theatre alive throughout the year.
REENA RANA, ENGLISH TEACHER, Pardada-Pardadi Inter College
ANUPSHAHR, UTTAR PRADESH, INDIA
Reena is a young & dynamic English teacher at Pardada Pardadi School. She holds a masters in English with a six years teaching experience. At Pardada Pardadi, she is a student favorite. Reena has a bold personality with smiling courage to face this male dominated world. She has a vision to travel the whole world. Reena thinks drama is an important process to show someone’s own thoughts and feelings to their society. Drama works like a mirror to society and shows the reality of rural people. Through The Other Side, rural girls can show their problems and conditions to people through drama. Girls can effectively share their pain and stories with girls in New York City using drama. Since working with The Other Side, Reena has improved her drama teaching capabilities. Reena sincerely feels that we can represent ourselves to others with drama.
PRIYANKA CHAUDHARY, ENGLISH TEACHER, Bhagwati Sarla Paliwal Education Society (B.S.P.E.S)
JATTARI, UTTAR PRADESH, INDIA
My name is Priyanka Chaudhary. I am an English teacher. I am teaching in BSPES Jattari (Aligarh). I am a graduate. I am feeling good after joining The Other Side programs. My hobbies are reading & singing. I like to live very simple life.
SANJU ATTRI, COMPUTER AND TECHNOLOGY TEACHER, Bhagwati Sarla Paliwal Education Society (B.S.P.E.S)
JATTARI, UTTAR PRADESH, INDIA
I have a computer diploma from Aligarh. I have experience in technology and English from Pardada-Pardadi Educational Society (PPES).I have been teaching Computer skills in BSPES since January. I am very interested in computers and technology. I am also interested in meeting new people and sharing experiences, traveling, and listening to music.
Drama is a very interesting and very important process. In The Other Side, girls can show their problems and learn how to solve them. Communication skills improve from The Other Side because there are so many types of activities, like talking with New York City girls. I did The Other Side process twice as a participant at PPES, and the second time I was a teaching assistant. I am excited to be a lead teacher again.
LYDIA ACHIENG, MENTOR, PolyCom Development Project
My name is Lydia Achieng. I am eighteen years old. Right now I am a volunteer at PolyCom Development Project as a mentor. This is an organization that helps girls to manage their lives positively despite all the challenges they might be undergoing. My dream job has always been to be one of the best IT experts in the world.
BRENDA KALECHE, MENTOR, PolyCom Development Project
Hi, my name is Brenda Kaleche I work in polycom as a mentor whereby polycom is an organization that deals with empowering young girls and also fighting violence against women.It also introduces talking boxes in schools where girls can express themselves without any fear. They write a note and drop it in a talking box then we the mentors try to find a solution and when we find a very sensitive story we try to trace the student. I Am also working as a teacher in The Other Side project which was introduced in polycom by Melanie Closs this year on December 2nd. The Other Side is all about empowering girls globally using drama. During The Other Side classes girls are able to create a cross-cultural exchange of dramatic storytelling amongst girls which support their common experience, inspires leadership and develop community .In this class we always start with a game, like this week we played ‘Walk stop’. Then we asked who the inspiring woman of the week was. Then we move on to the question of the week which was “What is something you wish you could wear/look like but think people would judge you?” and the students drew their choices and the class was very active and enjoyable! The students are very happy about the other side because they have found a new way of expressing themselves especially the dramatic way.
IRINE AWOUR, MENTOR, PolyCom Development Project
I’m Irene Awuor, I’m 17 and a mentor at polycom development project.I currently live in Kibera,Nairobi. Since December 2nd after being introduced to Melanie Closs,I decided to volunteer with The Other Side Project. In order to get the chance to interact and share my ideas with the girls globally through drama exchange. I hope for the best for The Other side project as we continue working together.