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
Melanie Closs is the founder and director of The Other Side. In 2009, she created her first solo performance with original music of The Other Side in San Francisco, exploring cultural competency and what it means to be an “other”. After a video/street performance (by Samantha Cornwell) and an ensemble incarnation of The Other Side in New York City, she embarked on a 9 month round-the-world journey in 2010, which included teaching and directing at Pardada-Pardadi Educational Society in Uttar Pradesh, India, and performing her final two-woman version of The Other Side based on her cultural experiences of traveling, called Hang Up The Moon at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. After 2 years as Educational Director of Green Theatre Collective, Melanie is re-igniting The Other Side with this project empowering girls in Brooklyn, teens in New York City, and girls of all ages in Anupshahr, India, through cross-cultural exchange, theatre, and music. When not focused on this project, Melanie is a singer/songwriter as Mela, and she gives private voice, guitar, and ukulele lessons in Brooklyn.
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.
LUCY ANDERSEN, GRAPHIC DESIGNER
Lucy Andersen works at the Brooklyn-based graphic design studio, Eight and a Half. She graduated from Harvard University in 2012 with a degree in the History of Art and Architecture, and she traveled to southern India in the summer of 2010 to volunteer at a rural artists’ village. Therefore, she is particularly excited to be part of the ongoing cross-cultural arts initiatives of The Other Side. Upon joining The Other Side in 2013, Lucy inspired us with her visual concept for our brand and has designed our logo, newsletters, flyers, postcards and press kit.
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.
SHANTEZ MARIE TOLBUT, TEACHING ARTIST
Shantez Marie Tolbut is an Educator, Performance Artist, Poet, Advocate and Activist. Born and raised on the South side of Chicago to a Vietnam veteran and physically handicapped mother with Autism, she is committed to social justice and changing the world through education and the performing arts. She received her B.A. in Communication, Media, & Theater and Women’s and Gender Studies from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, IL. Newly a New York City transplant, Shantez has worked within the urban education movement reaching over 600 children in the NYC/NJ surrounding areas. She also works as a freelance stage manager for local and regional theaters and shows. You can find her singing and acting on NYC stages and performing her poetry at any open mic/showcase she can find. With hopes to pursue a career in Broadway and to become a theater professor, she is currently pursuing her M.F.A. in Performance and Performance Studies at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY.
FREDERICA LEWIS, TEACHING ARTIST
Frederica Lewis is a Dance Artist, Actor, and Performance Arts Educator based in Brooklyn, NY. Originally from Kentucky, she moved at a young age with her family to the island of St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands. Her childhood was spent between these two rich and diverse places, and her experience growing up within these two differing cultures produced a love of travel, curiosity of the unknown, and a desire to know her “other.” She completed her undergraduate studies at Asbury University, Wilmore, KY, where she majored in Secondary English Education. She taught dance, wellness, and musical theater at the School for the Creative and Performing Arts Bluegrass, as well as multiple dance studios in and around Lexington, KY. In 2015, she moved to NYC in pursuit of adventure, dance, artistic collaboration, and education. She is currently working with schools throughout the 5 boroughs teaching dance and drama, and performing both on and off stage around NYC. Frederica joined The Other Side in the summer of 2016, and co-taught with the amazing and talented woman, teacher, dancer Kayla Hamilton at Global Tech Prep in Harlem, partnering with The Other Side sister school Pardada-Pardidi Inter College, during the 2016-2017 school year. Frederica comes from a family-line of bold and loud woman with courageous male-allies who from a young age told her she could do anything she wants. She is forever indebted to the voices of her mother, father, sisters, brother, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins who encourage her pass on the gift of empowerment to other young women.
KAYLA HAMILTON, TEACHING ARTIST
Kayla Hamilton is an artist, mover and educator from Texarkana, Texas. She currently dances with Sydnie L. Mosley Dances and Gesel Mason Performance Projects. Under the name K. Hamilton Projects, Kayla shares her love for adolescent education and the arts. She is also a member of The Skeleton Architecture, a collective of black women and and gender non-conforming artists who use the practice of improvisation to create, organize, advocate, gather, play and challenge.
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.