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 musician as Mela, with Angad Singh, and with the 90’s cover band Jagged Little Pills, and she gives private music 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.
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.
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.
We collaborate with participating Ambassadors 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.
CHANCHAL AGRAWAL, ENGLISH TEACHER, Bhagwati Sarla Paliwal Education Society (B.S.P.E.S)
JATTARI, UTTAR PRADESH, INDIA
Chanchal is an English teacher at BSPES. She holds a bachelors degree in English. She also has a web design diploma. Chanchal’s nature is very friendly, so students love her. She is always looking for the future in her students. She likes singing, dancing and drama. She wants every student to have success in their life. She helps every student. She thinks The Other Side programme is a very helpful programme for girls. She wants to do something for students with The Other Side. The Other Side programme helps both teachers and students. The Other Side creates a friendship for students. It makes them have a strong mentality. Chanchal is feeling good with The Other Side.
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.
PRASHANT SINGH, ENGLISH LAB TEACHER, Pardada-Pardadi Educaitonal Society
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.
LINDA LOMBARDO, PARTNER, VOICE OF EVOLUTION RADIO
Actor, facilitator, life coach, radio producer and host and forest therapy guide; an archaeologist of people, places and things; I am all this and more. Claiming my renaissance soul is part of my journey.
I’ve been curious about conversation for some time now; real conversation, deep conversation; conversation without answers – unless there are some – believing it’s the only thing that can save us.
As producer and host of Voice of Evolution Radio, I engage in deep conversation with changemakers, conscious Evolutionaries who are following their purpose to create compassionate and sustainable change in their worlds.
As a professional certified life coach, I work with perspective and purpose; the stories we make up about ourselves, others and the world.
I am a Bigger Game certified trainer, an Awakening the Dreamer trainer through the Pachamama Alliance and a volunteer moderator for the Pachamama Alliance’s Game Changer Intensive. I’ve just begun a forest therapy guide certification through the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides to take people into nature to find real connection.