Aurora Connects

Theatre is all about connection. While the measures we're all taking in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are necessary to save lives, they're also leaving us isolated at a time when we need human connection more than ever. At Aurora, there's not much we can do to directly address the pandemic, but even with our stage dark it remains our role to make connections between artists and audiences.

Aurora Connects is our monthy live broadcast featuring interviews with Aurora artists, important members of our community, and more. We stream Aurora Connects live on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitch, allowing you to react, comment, ask questions, and engage in real-time. Have suggestions for Aurora Connects? Let us know what you want to see.

Join us for Aurora Connects monthly; please check the episode dates listed below. You can listen to Aurora Connects audio here.  


EPISODE 10 | Friday, May 20, 2022
Meet Francesca Gabourel, Aurora's New Managing Director


Josh Costello, Artistic Director
Josh Costello is the Artistic Director of Aurora Theatre Company. Throughout his career, Josh has worked to make theatre more accessible for more people, sharing a passion for the visceral experience of live theatre with new audiences and underserved communities. He was the founding Artistic Director of Impact Theatre, which focused on audiences in their teens and twenties. As the Artistic Director of Expanded Programs at Marin Theatre Company, Josh created and administered several programs that built relationships with new audiences. At Aurora, Josh initiated student matinee and Community Partner programs and led a revision of Aurora’s mission to emphasize the theatre’s role as storyteller to the community. Josh has directed Exit StrategyThe Importance of Being EarnestDetroitWittenberg, and The Heir Apparent for Aurora, as well as the world premiere of Eureka Day, which won every Bay Area new play award. His world-premiere production of Aaron Loeb’s Ideation with the San Francisco Playhouse in both SF and NYC won the Glickman Award for best new play in the Bay Area and the Theatre Bay Area Award for Outstanding Direction, and was named a New York Times Critic’s Pick. Other directing work includes My Children! My Africa! at Marin Theatre Company, House of Lucky at Magic Theatre, and his adaptations of Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother and Aphra Behn’s The Rover. Josh was the Education Director at Marin Shakespeare Company, and a faculty member at Cal Shakes, ACT, SF Shakes, UC Riverside, Cal State Long Beach, South Coast Rep, and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Josh holds a BFA in Theatre from Boston University, and an MFA in Directing from the University of Washington, Seattle.

Dawn Monique Williams, Associate Artistic Director, joined the Aurora team in August 2019. A native of Oakland, CA, Dawn was previously the Artistic Associate at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival where she directed Merry Wives of Windsor in 2017. Her recent directing credits include Aurora’s Bull in a China ShopEarthrise at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, TiJean and His BrothersWomen on the Verge of a Nervous BreakdownThe Secretaries (Willamette Week’s Top 10 Portland Theatre Productions of 2018), Romeo & Juliet, August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson, and Lynn Nottage’s By the Way, Meet Stark. She’s directed a range of plays including the English language premiere of Gracia Morales’ NN12OthelloTwelfth NightIn the BloodSteel MagnoliasChildren of EdenThe 25th Annual Spelling BeeLittle Shop of HorrorsBurial at ThebesMedeaAntigone Project, and La Ronde; international directing credits include Edinburgh Festival Fringe productions of Scapin the CheatAnna Bella Eema, and The Tempest. Dawn was a 2016 Princess Grace Theatre Fellowship recipient, was awarded a TCG Leadership U residency grant, funded by the Mellon Foundation, and was a former Killian Directing Fellow at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. She is an alum of the Drama League Directors Project and holds an MA in Dramatic Literature and an MFA in Directing. Dawn is a proud member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society.



EPISODE 10 | Friday, May 20, 2022
Meet Francesca Gabourel, Aurora's New Managing Director



EPISODE NINE | Friday, April 22, 2022 at 5PM

Join Director Dawn Monique Williams as she gives us a behind-the-scenes look at The Incrementalist. Learn how this Originate+Generate commission became a full production on the Aurora stage.


EPISODE EIGHT | Friday, March 18, 2022 at 5PM

This week on Aurora Connects, Josh and Dawn are joined by Cleavon Smith, the recipient of Aurora's Originate+Generate commission for his play The Incrementalist, which begins rehearsals next week. We'll learn about Cleavon's background and about how he found his way to the Bay Area. We'll then learn about The Incrementalist, what it's about, and what made Cleavon want to write this particular story, set in Berkeley in the here-and-now. We'll also learn about Cleavon's writing process and about the play's multiple title changes.

Cleavon Smith
The Fall 2020 premiere of The Flats co-written with Lauren Gunderson and Jonathan Spector was Cleavon Smith’s first commissioned work with Aurora Theatre Company before he was named the 2021 Originate and Generate New Works Initiative commissioned artist. The Incrementalist is the play he began and developed through that commission. As Playwright in Residence at Berkeley’s TheatreFIRST (T1) for three years, he wrote and produced six new works.  T1’s production of his critically acclaimed full-length work, The Last Sermon of Sister Imani was nominated for a 2018 Theatre Bay Area (TBA) Best Production award, and his short play Just One Day was included in T1’s TBA “Best Anthology” award-winning production Between Us. Additionally, Cleavon has had a multitude of short plays performed by theaters in Ann Arbor, Berkeley, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, and San Jose. Cleavon lives in Oakland and teaches English at Berkeley City College. Upcoming work includes a podcast series about the relationship between spiritual leader Howard Thurman and Martin Luther King, Jr. as well as an immersive theater project based on Bop City, a restaurant and jazz club located in San Francisco’s Fillmore District and decimated by the city’s failed redevelopment program of the 1950’s.


EPISODE 6 | Friday, January 21, 2022 at 5PM

Tomorrow on Aurora Connects, Josh and Dawn are joined by TheatreWorks Silicon Valley Artistic Director Tim Bond and Barbara Hogden, Executive Director at the New Conservatory Theatre Center for an episode about pivots in producing theatre during a pandemic. We'll learn about each company and, setting aside covid, our guests' vision for them. We'll learn how TWSV and NCTC are handling omicron and how covid has impacted or changed our guests' visions for their companies. We'll ask our guests what they see happening in the near future for their companies and for the theatre industry, and what long-term changes they see happening due to this pandemic.

Tim Bond began his career in Seattle with Seattle Group Theatre in 1984 where he directed over 20 productions, many that were West Coast and World Premieres. He served as Associate Artistic Director and was also Director of The Group’s nationally recognized MultiCultural Playwrights Festival. Tim served his last five seasons at The Group as its Artistic Director from 1991–96. From 1996 to 2007, Tim was an Associate Artistic Director of Oregon Shakespeare Festival. While there Tim directed 12 productions for OSF, promoted equity and inclusion efforts throughout the company, and created the FAIR Program which cultivates the next generation of diverse theatre artists and administrators.

After 11 seasons at OSF Tim assumed the post of Producing Artistic Director at Syracuse Stage and the Syracuse University Department of Drama from 2007 to 2016. During his time in Upstate New York he directed 18 plays, produced over 100 plays and musicals, and fostered a number of new partnerships and co-productions between Syracuse Stage and other regional theatres nationally and internationally.

Over the last 35 years Tim has directed at many theatres including The Market Theatre (Johannesburg), Baxter Theatre Centre (Cape Town), Guthrie Theater (Minneapolis), Milwaukee Rep, The Wilma Theater (Philadelphia), Arena Stage (DC), GEVA Theatre Center (Rochester), Cleveland Play House, Indiana Rep, Actors Theatre of Louisville, PCPA (Santa Maria), Arizona Theatre Company, Portland Center Stage, Dallas Theater Center, Seattle Rep, A Contemporary Theatre (Seattle), Empty Space Theatre (Seattle), Paul Robeson Theatre, and Seattle Children’s Theatre.

Most recently Tim has had tenure as a full Professor at University of Washington’s School of Drama where he served the last two years as Head of the Professional Actor Training Program. He will conclude his tenure there this spring after directing Cabaret. He will direct The Children by Britain’s Lucy Kirkwood at Seattle Rep in February, will helm a workshop of a music-filled play inspired by the imagination of young Jimi Hendrix entitled The Boy Who Kissed The Sky written by Idris Goodwin at the Kennedy Center’s New Visions/New Voices Festival in May, and will direct Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Sweat for the Guthrie Theater in July.

Tim’s production of Sweat at Dallas Theater Center in January was awarded a Dallas-Fort Worth Critics Forum Award for Outstanding Direction, and his production of Pass Over by Antoinette Nwandu received several Seattle theatre Gregory Award nominations this fall. Tim has also received two Backstage West Garland Awards for Outstanding Direction and two Syracuse Area Live Theatre (SALT) Awards for Outstanding Production and Director of the Year. He has served on the national boards of trustees for both Theatre Communications Group and ASSITEJ: The International Association of Theatre for Children and Young Audiences. His work as an organizational leader, teacher, and stage director has led him to South Africa, The Republic of the Congo, Beijing, Hong Kong, Japan, Mexico, Uzbekistan, Austria, France, England, and Belgium.

Tim received his BFA in Dramatic Arts from Howard University in 1980 and his MFA in Directing from the University of Washington in 1983.


Barbara Hogden is the Executive Director of New Conservatory Theatre Center in San Francisco. She came to NCTC from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles, where she was Interim Managing Director. Her prior Bay Area experience includes Conservatory Administrator at The American Conservatory Theatre, Managing Director of the California Shakespeare Festival, and Assistant Managing Director at Berkeley Rep. She also spent a fun – and hot! - five years in the desert as Company Manager for Blue Man Group in Las Vegas. Barbara holds an M.F.A. from the Yale School of Drama and a B.A from Vassar College.



EPISODE FIVE | Friday, December 17, 2021 at 5PM

Today on Aurora Connects, Josh and Dawn are joined by This Much I Know dramaturg Sarah Rose Leonard.

Sarah Rose Leonard is a dramaturg and creative producer. She is currently a Live Events Producer at KQED, Northern California’s NPR and PBS member station. Previously, she was the Literary Manager at Berkeley Repertory Theatre and the Literary Associate at Signature Theatre in New York. Favorite dramaturgy credits include Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Denver Center), twenty50 (Denver Center), Angels in America (Berkeley Rep), A Good Neighbor (Z Space), In Braunau (SF Playhouse), Iron Shoes (Shotgun Players), You For Me For You (Crowded Fire), Big Love (Signature Theatre), and The Hotel Colors (The Bushwick Starr).


EPISODE FOUR | Friday, November 19, 2021 at 5PM

Father/Daughter: Playwright and Company
Today on Aurora Connects, Josh and Dawn are joined by Father/Daughter Playwright Kait Kerrigan, Director M. Graham Smith, and actors William Thomas Hodgson and Sam Jackson. We'll learn from Kait about what inspired her to write the play and how she decided on the play's back-and-forth, intertwined structure. We'll discuss any discoveries she had about herself and her relationship with her dad while writing the play, and how it was being here with her dad for previews. We'll also discuss with both Graham and Kait how they collaborated on this world premiere production.

Kait Kerrigan
Kait Kerrigan is a playwright, lyricist, and bookwriter. Off-Broadway: The Mad OnesHenry and the Mudge, and Rosie Revere, Engineer, and Friends. Her work has been developed and performed internationally. Her plays include Disaster Relief, Imaginary LoveTransit, and We Have to Hold Hands. Other musicals include RepublicUnbound, and The Bad Years, an immersive house party. Awards, fellowships, and residencies include the Kleban, Larson, Dramatists Guild Fellowship, I-73 Writer’s Group, Lark Playwright’s Week and Winter Retreat, and MacDowell. Kerrigan is an alumna of Barnard College, and a member of ASCAP, the Dramatists Guild, and founding member of For more information, visit
M. Graham Smith is a San Francisco-based Director, Educator and Producer. He spent five years as Producer of Aurora Theater’s new play development program and festival The Global Age Project and he is delighted to be directing his first full production here. Graham is an O’Neill/NNPN National Directing Fellow, an Oregon Shakespeare Festival FAIR Fellow and a proud Resident Artist at SF’s Crowded Fire. He grew up outside of New York City and has been based in San Francisco for the last fourteen years. He’s directed in New York City, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Portland Oregon, Washington DC, and in the San Francisco bay area. He directed the West Coast Premiere of Jerry Springer: The Opera and Truffaldino Says No at Shotgun Players, winning Best Director for the Bay Area Critics Circle. Recent productions include the World Premiere of Obie winner Christopher Chen’s Home Invasion, Kevin Rolston’s Deal with the Dragon at ACT’s Costume Shop & Edinburgh Fringe, Mia Chung’s You for Me for You at Crowded Fire, James Ijames’ White at Shotgun. In April he directed his first full length film, a hip-hop musical adaptation of As You Like It with music and lyrics by Ryan Nicole Austin produced by ACT. You can visit him online at

William Thomas Hodgson is an acting company member at the Oregon Shakespeare Company where he has played: Demetrius in A Midsummer Night's Dream; Malcolm, Macbeth; Stokes, How to Catch Creation; Romeo, Romeo and Juliet; Dumain, Love’s Labor’s Lost. Locally, his work has been seen at a number of theatres: Dr. Fowler Greenhill in It Can’t Happen Here (Berkeley Rep); Silvius in As You Like It (California Shakespeare Theater); James Hemmings in Thomas and Sally (Marin Theatre Company), Charlotte in I Am My Own Wife (Ubuntu Theater Project); Eamon Jameson in Calligraphy (TheatreWorks); Cat in the Hat in Seussical the Musical (Berkeley Playhouse). HIs regional credits include: BJJ in An Octoroon (Mixed Blood); Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame (La Jolla Playhouse), El Jonny in El Henry (La Jolla Playhouse/San Diego Repertory Theatre); Puck (understudy) in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (PCPA); Bart Simpson in Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play (UCSD); Louis in Angels in America (Santa Fe University of Art and Design). William is the Co-Founder of Ubuntu Theater Project, and was awarded the BroadwayWorld Award for Best Actor and a Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award for Best Actor and Outstanding Direction. He has an MFA in Acting from UCSD and has trained SFUAD and PCPA.

Sam Jackson is a San Francisco based actor, vocalist and teaching artist. Her most recent acting credits include: Shotgun Player's Vinegar Tom (Ellen), Aurora's Exit Strategy (Sadie), Shotgun Player's Kings (Sydney Millsap) and Kill The Debbie Downers! Kill Them! Kill Them! Kill Them Off!! (Olga). She is also a company member of Nice Tan Comedy, a queer WOC led sketch comedy group based in San Francisco. Jackson would like to send her deepest gratitude to her family (blood and chosen) for their love, support, and moments of sanity in these trying times. (she/her) IG: @little_miss_sj 


EPISODE THREE | Friday, October 22, 2021 at 5PM
Staging Intimacy
This week on Aurora Connects, Josh and Dawn are joined by  We'll learn from Natalie about what intimacy directors do, a little history about intimacy direction and why it's important, and how she found herself in the field. We'll then discuss Natalie's intimacy work for Aurora's production of The Children before diving deeper into Father/Daughter, the show's intimacy needs, and what we can expect. Natalie will also share with us a story or two about her intimacy and movement work at other theatres.

Natalie Greene (Intimacy/Movement Director) is an artist and educator working at the intersection of dance, theater, and community engagement. Her choreography and intimacy work was last seen at the Aurora in The Children and has also appeared at Cal Shakes, Custom Made Theater, Portland Center Stage, and Shotgun Players. Natalie worked with the award-winning devised performance ensemble Mugwumpin for a decade and became Artistic Director in 2016. Her choreography has been presented by the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco Airport, ODC Theater, Dance Mission Theater, San Francisco City Hall, and through schools, senior centers, and non-traditional performance spaces throughout the Bay Area.



Season four | Episode Two

Friday, September 17,2021 at 5PM  | WATCH THE EPISODE HERE
Stoop Stories Creative Team
This week on Aurora Connects, Josh and Dawn are joined by the Stoop Stories Creative Team: Costume Designer Regina Evans; Director Elizabeth Carter; Jonathan Luskin from Flying Moose Pictures; and the star of the show, Jeunée Simon. We'll begin our show with a clip from Stoop Stories, followed by an introduction to the play from Elizabeth.  Next, Jeunée will tell us about the characters she played and how the process was different from an in-person performance, and Jonathan will tell us about his process as a videographer. We'll learn more about the costume designing experience from Regina who will also talk about the special detailing she added to the inside of Jeunée's jacket, and then everyone will share what makes Stoop Stories special for them.

Elizabeth Carter returns to The Aurora Theatre Company as a director, after appearing several times on its stage.  She has had the great pleasure of directing Bondage (Alter Theatre) and since has directed King Lear (SF Shakespeare Festival), Feel the Spirit (Shotgun Players/Colt Couer), Every 28 Hours Plays and A Place To Belong (A.C.T), for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf  (African American Shakespeare Company), From the Ground Up, Participants and Just One Day (TheatreFirst). She has directed for the California Shakespeare Theater Conservatory for nearly 20 years . Elizabeth is the inaugural SDCF Llloyd Richards New Futures Resident Artist at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.


Regina Evans is an Abolitionist in the fight against Child Sex Trafficking, a Playwright and a Costume Designer.


Jonathan Luskin worked for 17years as an animator and technical director at Industrial Light and Magic, Colossal Pictures, UC Berkeley, and San Francisco State University, amoung others. He writes, produces, and directs for both film and theater. Jonathan has directed for many Bay Area Theater Companies, recieving the Goodman Choice Award for Directing for three productions. His plays have been produced by The Best of PlayGround, the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, and commissioned by the Magic Theatre. Jonathan is currently developing several full-length works for theater and film.

Jeunée Simon is an actor, director, and intimacy coordinator in the Bay Area. Recent credits include: La Ronde (Cutting Ball Theater), Men On Boats u/s (American Conservatory Theater), HeLa (TheatreFIRST), and When My Mama Was A Hittite (Magic Theatre). Simon is a proud recipient of the 2017 RHE Artistic Fellowship and a 2019 Directing Apprentice with PlayGround. She was last heard in Aurora’s audio production of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye adapted by Lydia R. Diamond.

Season four | Episode one

Friday, August 20, 2021 at 5PM | WATCH  THE EPISODE HERE
Porch Stories: Conversations About Urban Change

An Interactive Community Conversation
Featuring Susan Moffat, Karen Chapple, June Grant, Carolyn Johnson, and David Peters

Join Josh and Dawn on Friday, August 20th for the first episode of Season Four, where they'll be joined by Susan Moffat — Executive Director of UC Berkeley Global Humanities Initiative and Creative Director of UCB's Future Histories Lab — for a lively interactive community conversation about memory, gentrification, and change in Oakland and other cities.
What wisdom do stoops and porches hold? Where is the urban knowledge stored and shared? Do different cities provide different kinds of stages for the performance of neighborhood narratives? Inspired by playwright Dael Orlandersmith's Harlem-focused Stoop Stories, to be presented in September by Aurora Theatre Company, we'll listen to local storytellers tell tales of Oakland. Come and listen and show your own stories if you like.

Join us for this live event by clicking the link below to register!

Karen Chapple is an Urban planning and data scientist. Chapple recently left her position as professor and chair of city and regional planning at the University of California, Berkeley to join the University of Toronto and lead the School of Cities in the department of geography and planning. Renowned for her community engagement and innovative use of analytic methods including data science, Chapple’s research focuses on inequalities in the planning, structure and governance of regions in the U.S. and Latin America, with a focus on economic development and housing. She co-founded the Urban Displacement Project, an online research hub examining patterns of residential, commercial and industrial displacement, as well as policy and planning solutions. Chapple has been published widely and her recent books include Planning Sustainable Cities and Regions: Towards More Equitable Development (Routledge, 2015), winner of the John Friedmann Book Award from the American Collegiate Schools of Planning; Transit-Oriented Displacement or Community Dividends? Understanding the Effects of Smarter Growth on Communities (with Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, MIT Press, 2019); and Fragile Governance and Local Economic Development: Theory and Evidence from Peripheral Regions in Latin America (with Sergio Montero, Routledge, 2018). She holds a bachelor of arts in urban studies from Columbia University, a master of science in city and regional planning from the Pratt Institute and a PhD from Berkeley.


June A. Grant, RA, NOMA, is a visionary architect, Founder and Design Principal at blinkLAB architecture; a small trans-disciplinary design studio with projects bridging architectural form, urban economics, urban design, industrial design, furniture and digital fabrication. BlinkLAB applies their design-build skills towards the amplification of cultural narratives under-represented or erased. Since 2015, blinkLAB architecture has worked with Oakland’s neighborhood groups towards reclaiming of African-American public spaces for a more inclusive projective future.


Carolyn "C.J." Johnson is the Executive Director of the East Oakland Black Cultural Zone Collaborative. C.J. joined the East Oakland Black Cultural Zone Collaborative in 2019 with 30 years of experience in entrepreneurship and business management, non-profit operations, finance and commercial real estate. She has completed over $250 million in Investment Sales transactions and has leased hundreds of spaces throughout the bay area. Recently, CJ was the Broker for and Director of Commercial Real Estate at a leading Bay Area affordable housing developer. She is a native of Oakland, California.


Susan Moffat is the project director for the UC Berkeley Global Urban Humanities Initiative. She coordinates the academic program, organizes symposia, supports the development of publications, and conducts outreach across disciplines to faculty, graduate students, and the off-campus community. She is responsible for grant management, budgeting, fundraising, curriculum coordination, and communications.

Susan also teaches courses in the Initiative, including a course on Cities and Bodies, an interdisciplinary colloquium and a course on mapping and storytelling. Her research focuses on issues including perceptions of nature and culture in public space, parks, homelessness, and methods of spatial narratives. She has also has taught planning and leadership development at San Jose State University and UC Berkeley’s Center for Cities and Schools.

As a curator, Susan has mounted exhibitions on cartography and on the San Francisco Bay shoreline. Her oral history and mapping project, Atlas of the Albany Bulb, collects place-based stories from users of wild space at the urban edge, including unhoused people and artists, and was part of the SOMArts Cultural Center exhibition Refuge in Refuse: Homesteading Art and Culture Project. She also served as a consultant on the Detour audio tour of the Albany Bulb. She organized symposia including Mapping and Its Discontents and Art, Politics, and the City in Mexico and China; and, in collaboration with the Arts Research Center, Reimagining the Urban and Public Art/Housing Publics: Conversations on Art and Social Justice.

Susan has worked in the fields of affordable housing, environmental planning, land conservation and regional planning advocacy, and journalism. Her writing on Asian cities, ethnicity and place, and environmental issues has been published in The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, Fortune, Planning, and the edited collection The Misread City: New Literary Los Angeles.


David Peters is a community advocate and organizer of the Black Liberation Walking Tour. The Black Liberation Walking Tour is a self-guided audio tour that transports the listener back in time to the height of West Oakland’s prosperity. Peters is a walking encyclopedia of knowledge about the Hoover-Foster neighborhood (Hoover-Durant being another name for the neighborhood). An accounting consultant, Peters grew up in Hoover-Foster and has collected numerous stories of the people who’ve called the area home for over a century to preserve the legacy of Oakland as an incubator of Black culture. Peters is a board member of Friends of Hoover/Durant Public Library, a group that’s been organizing to bring an Oakland Public Library branch back to the neighborhood.