About Mills Performing Arts
Mills Performing Arts is committed to promoting action and exchange in the performing arts, and supporting artists and scholars who reflect, explore, and celebrate the abundant cultural, racial, gender, and economic diversity of our society.
We bring together the work of the Mills College Dance, Music, Theater, and Literatures & Languages Departments with the goals of fostering deeper ties with our Bay Area community and championing a dynamic, boundary-breaking performing arts scene.
To further these goals, we host the Mills Performing Artist-in-Residence Program, create opportunities for artists to collaborate with Mills students and faculty, and provide access to Mills Performing Arts resources and venues—including Littlefield Concert Hall, Holland Theater, Rothwell Theater, the Greek Theatre, and the Digital Performance Theater.
For more than 120 years, these five theaters have hosted performances by groundbreaking artists such as Pauline Oliveros, Dave Brubeck, Morton Subotnick, Anna Halprin, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Yvonne Rainer, Trisha Brown ’58, Muhal Richard Abrams, Molissa Fenley ’75, Fred Frith, and Rebeca Mauleón ’89.
Mills Performing Arts makes these venues available to today’s vanguard of performing artists and offers spaces where all voices and communities can be seen, heard, and welcomed. The creation of safe, supportive places for the rigorous, creative practice of innovation and craft in performance work is at the heart of our mission. We believe that every performance is an opportunity, and with every telling of a story, sharing of a song, or participation in a dance, we gain insight into our shared humanity, our imaginations, and the interconnectedness of the world.
Situated on the Mills College campus in Oakland, California, we acknowledge that Mills Performing Arts and our venues operate on the traditional lands of the Ohlone People.
- Showcasing a dynamic, diverse roster of performance-based artists and teachers
- Creating affordable access to resources for both makers and audience
- Providing a safe, professional, and inspiring creative environment for all artists, staff, and guests
- Opening the door to a variety of personal experiences, values, and worldviews
- Encouraging rigorous inquiry and dialogue
- Engaging in community partnerships that create opportunity and support creative practice and the production of performance work
Gender and Racial Justice
- Committed to challenging social, cultural, and economic inequalities imposed and arising from any differential distribution of power, resources, and privilege at Mills College and in the larger society
Alexander Zendzian is a dancer, musician, theater producer, and arts administrator originally from the Penobscot Valley in Central Maine. They arrived at Mills College in 2018 following eleven years with the Joe Goode Performance Group, as both a performing member of the company and as program/operations manager. During that time, they were instrumental in launching and operating the Joe Goode Annex, a multi-purpose performance venue in San Francisco, California, and developing community-centered programming.
Zendzian’s career as a performing artist is rooted in work with dance pioneer Anna Halprin, Sara Shelton Mann, and Joe Goode, as well as multiple organizations including Capacitor, Motion-Lab, Gamelan X, touring nationally with Brass Menažeri Balkan Brass Band and internationally as a member of Project Bandaloop. Their work in theater production includes lighting design for Bay Area dance theater artists including Fog Beast, Heather Baer, and James Graham; and extensive production stage management, including for Sara Shelton Mann’s 40-year retrospective Erasing Time in December 2015 at the Forum at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco and Bandaloop’s local and touring projects.
Zendzian is committed to cultivating opportunities for artists to engage in their creative practice and to craft and share performances as a mechanism of our society’s necessary seeking of shared understanding and repair. A long-time resident of Oakland, California, Zendzian is inspired to be working to create a new point of access to the performing arts, housed in such historic venues in East Oakland, that serves the local community as well as the greater Bay Area and beyond.
Brendan Glasson is a composer, performer, and multimedia artist originally from Providence, Rhode Island. He has shown work internationally, including at the Centre Pompidou-Metz, the MUDAM Museum in Luxembourg, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, and the RISD Museum. Glasson moved to Oakland to pursue an MFA in electronic music and recording media at Mills College, where he composed works around ideas of stillness, slowness, and imperceptible change. In his work as audio director, Glasson is interested in connecting the line from the rich history of innovation and experimentation in the arts at Mills to the new resources, people, and ideas that define the College today.
In 2021, Mills Performing Arts launched an Advisory Council drawing together leaders from the Mills, regional performing arts and East Oakland communities to collaborate with and consult on community engagement, outreach, and programming.
During the 2012 International Association of Venue Managers Performing Arts
Managers Conference in New York City, Mount Allen introduced the concept of non-
higher-education performing arts venue participation in research and education
networks. Since that introduction, he has worked to integrate advanced networking
technology into the arts industry, highlighting the use of JackTrip in NMP involving
world-renown jazz artists: Where latency truly matters.
Presently, Mount is the Director of Operations for the San Francisco Jazz Organization.
He opened the SFJAZZ Center in 2013, which is now a first adopter of research and
education network technology in a non-academic arts environment.
Prior to joining SFJAZZ, Mount was on the opening team of Jazz at Lincoln Center in
New York City, the world’s first venue specifically designed for jazz. Before this
appointment, Mount was on the opening team for the New Jersey Performing Arts
Center, the nation’s sixth largest performing arts center.
In recognition of the value of higher education, between the openings of SFJAZZ and
Jazz at Lincoln Center, Mount worked at Lehigh University as a Director Scheduling,
where he achieved a Bachelor’s degree in organization management, and a Master’s
degree in educational leadership. He currently is in the final year of his doctorate in
education with a research focus on the intersection of jazz and technology. He also
holds the professional designation of Certified Venue Executive (CVE).
David W. Bernstein is Professor of Music and Head of the Music Department at Mills College. His publications include The San Francisco Tape Music Center: 1960s Counterculture and the Avant-Garde; Writings through John Cage’s Music, Poetry, and Art (co-edited with Christopher Hatch), Cage (Re)Considered, a special double issue of Contemporary Music Review, and essays for Cage & Consequences, ed. Julia Schröder and Volker Straebel; The Cambridge Companion to John Cage, ed., David Nicholls; John Cage: Music, Philosophy, and Intention, 1933-50, ed., David Patterson; The New York Schools of Music and the Visual Arts, ed., Steven Johnson; Alvin Curran: Live in Roma, ed., Daniele Margoni Tortora; Intimate Voices: Aspects of Construction and Character in the Twentieth-Century String Quartet, ed., Evan Jones; the Cambridge History of Western Music Theory, ed., Thomas Christensen; Theoria, Journal of the Arnold Schoenberg Center, Music Theory Spectrum, Contemporary Music Review, and Current Musicology. He is presently writing a book on Pauline Oliveros for the University of Illinois Press and Experiments in the Fault Zone, a history of experimental music at Mills College. He also served as editor of Music Theory Spectrum, the flagship journal of the Society of Music Theory.
Mills College Music Department, Chair
Sarah Crowell has taught dance, theater and violence prevention for over 30 years. She just recently left her position as the Artistic Director at Destiny Arts Center in Oakland, CA where she served in different capacities from 1990-2020, including Executive Director from 2002-2007. She founded and directed the Destiny Arts Youth Performance Company from 1993-2020, which has been the subject of two documentary films, and won the National Arts & Humanities Youth Program Award. Sarah has facilitated arts integration, violence prevention, cultural humility and team building professional development sessions with artists and educators since 2000, both locally and nationally. She is the recipient of the KPFA Peace award, the KQED Women’s History Local Hero award, the Bay Area Dance Week award, the Alameda County Arts Leadership award, and the National Guild for Community Arts Education Milestone award. She is also a four-time finalist for a Tony Award for Excellence in Theater Education.
Sarah is a retired professional dancer, having performed and toured with numerous dance and dance/theater companies including Impulse Jazz Dance Company in Boston and the Dance Brigade in San Francisco. She also co-created the dance/theater company i am Productions! She believes that the arts are an essential component of the journey to social justice, especially art forms that involve moving the body. She believes that movement must be part of all movements for social change.
East Bay Queer Arts Center
Carolyn Johnson (“C.J.”) joined the East Oakland Black Cultural Zone Collaborative and Black Cultural Zone Community Development Corporation in 2019 with thirty years of experience in entrepreneurship and business management, non-profit operations, finance and commercial real estate. She is a native of Oakland, California and a proud graduate of Castlemont High School. She brings to the Black Cultural Zone her homegrown knowledge of East Oakland, where she was born and raised, and her commercial real estate experience encompassing thirty years of commercial development, investment and leasing transactions from New York to California. She has completed over $250 million in Investment Sales transactions and has leased hundreds of spaces throughout the bay area, particularly Oakland. Most recently, CJ was the Broker for and Director of Commercial Real Estate at a leading Bay Area affordable housing community development corporation. Currently, she is also a tenured Professor at the College of Alameda in the Business Department and is in the process of launching its first online Entrepreneurship Certificate Program.
C.J. has a BA from the University of California at Los Angeles in Psychology with a specialization in Business Administration; a MPH from the University of California at Berkeley in Health Policy and Administration; a MBA from Columbia University in Marketing, Corporate Finance and Real Estate Finance; and her Doctorate (EdD) from Saint Mary’s College of California in Educational Leadership.
Peter J. Kuo (he/him) is the Director of the Conservatory at American Conservatory Theater
(A.C.T.) He is a theatre director, producer, writer, and educator focusing on raising the visibility of marginalized
communities. He is on the Advisor Council for the Intimacy Directors of Color; and has started a meeting group for BIPOCs working at Predominately White Institutions. He earned his MFA in Directing at The New School for Drama in New York City. Named as one of Theater Communication Group’s Rising Leaders of Color in the Round 3 cohort, he is also a co-founder of Artists at Play, an Asian American theatre collective that produces Los Angeles premieres of works for Asian Americans.
Adriana Marcial is the Interim Executive Director at San Francisco Girls Chorus where she leads all operations in order to achieve the artistic and educational goals of the organization. Marcial has an extensive background in the performing arts, and believes that exposure to the arts, and a meaningful investment in our young people are integral to a thriving community. Prior to SFGC, Marcial served for four years as Executive Director of Joe Goode Performance Group, a dance theater company based in San Francisco. Marcial is a member of Women of Color in the Arts and is a graduate of Northwestern University.
Dr. Julia Chinyere Oparah, Professor of Ethnic Studies for twenty-four years at Mills, became Provost and Dean of the Faculty in January 2017. She continues to teach, advise and support the Ethnic Studies Program and its students. Previously, she pursued a career in nonprofit administration, taught within the University of California system, and served as Canada Research Chair in Social Justice at the University of Toronto. For the past two decades, she has provided leadership around social justice, inclusive excellence, racial equity and queer and trans inclusion at Mills. Oparah has edited and written numerous books, chapters and journal articles and received the 2019 Maternal-Child Health Champion Award Visionary of the Year award for her most recent work, Battling Over Birth.
Provost and Dean of Faculty, Mills College
Kirsten Saxton is an award-winning teacher, a professor of English at Mills, and an alum from the class of 1990. Her scholarly work focuses on how reading eighteenth- and nineteenth-century texts (broadly understood) through anti-racist, feminist, queer, and crip theoretical positions offers us productive ways to understand not only historical texts and contexts, but also our own cultural moment. Her writing is centrally concerned with embodiment and gender, often as it is presented in popular narratives, from the eighteenth century to the present.
Her scholarly books include a monograph on the murderess, a collection on early British woman writer Eliza Haywood, and a 2019 edited collection on teaching entitled, Adapting the Eighteenth-Century: A Handbook of Pedagogies and Practices. She's a founding editor for two scholarly journals and currently runs a mentorship program for women and non binary scholars in her field. As an Oakland native, she is particularly delighted to be part of the We Are The Voices Mellon project on Oakland Arts Scholarship and Activism with Mills Professors Sheila Lloyd, Ajuan Mance, and Stephanie Young. Her scholarly work and her teaching are braided, ongoing conversations, and her work with students at Mills Colleges motivates and shapes both her intellectual and activist commitments.
Professor, Literature and Languages Department, Mills College
Sheldon B. Smith has been making dances, music and video art for over 30 years in both the Midwest and California. Originally trained in ballet and french horn, his interests have since shifted. He now makes cross disciplinary presentations with movement at the core. He has been interested in technology for many years and, with Lisa, regularly performs work that integrates technology and dance in order to allow both elements to speak to common human experience. He has collaborated on projects with many significant local and international artists including Kathleen Hermesdorf, Scott Wells, Jess Curtis, Bob Eisen and many others For the last ten years he has been a full-time Visiting Assistant Professor in the Mills College Dance Department. There he teaches various composition, music, technology and theory related courses. He has a BA in Dance from Colorado College and an MFA from the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign.
Adjunct Professor, Dance and Theater Studies Department, Mills College
Susan Stryker is Professor Emerita of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Arizona, and currently holds the Barbara Lee Professorship in Women’s Leadership at Mills College, 2020-2022. Stryker is founding executive editor of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, author of Transgender History: The Roots of Today’s Revolution, and co-director of the Emmy-winning documentary film Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria.
Victor Talmadge is an educator, actor, playwright and director. He is currently Professor of Practice and Director of the Theater Studies Program at Mills College. Most recently he was Interim Chair of the Performing Arts Department and Faculty Professor of Acting at Santa Fe University of Art and Design. He has taught acting/playwriting for Johns Hopkins University, New York University and served as an Adjunct Assistant Professor for the City University of New York. As an actor he has performed in over 100 professional classical and contemporary plays on the New York stage and in regional theaters throughout the country. He worked on Broadway in the world premiere of David Mamet's, November. He played “The King” in the Tony Award winning production of the Broadway National tour of The King and I for which he received the Bay Area Theater Critics Award, and was seen as Scar in the Los Angeles production of The Lion King. Victor Talmadge boasts extensive film and television credits, as well. He is a recurring character on two TV series, Manhattan and The Night Shift. As a playwright, his play, The Gate Of Heaven, was awarded The Nakashima Peace Prize. It was the first live theater to be produced at The U.S. Holocaust Memorial and has been subsequently performed at The Old Globe Theater, Fords Theater, and The Annenberg Center, as well as various venues around the country. As a director, Mr. Talmadge has presented both experimental and classical pieces. His directing work has been seen on both coasts. He has served as a Trial Consultant for the international litigation firm of Latham and Watkins.
Professor, Dance and Theater Studies Department, Mills College
Deborah Brooks Vaughan is the Artistic Director, and co‑founder of Dimensions Dance Theater, a contemporary dance company, founded in Oakland, California in 1972 and she also received her Masters Degree from Mills College. Throughout her career, Deborah has been committed to investigating, producing, creating, performing, and teaching dance that reflects the historical experience and contemporary life within the African Diaspora. She is well-known for initiating cross-cultural and issues-oriented collaborations. Under her artistic leadership, Dimensions Dance Theater presents original contemporary choreography drawn from African, Caribbean and Modern dance idioms. Dimensions also sponsors Rites of Passage (ROP) for underserved youth and Dimensions Extensions Performance Ensemble (DEPE) the youth dance company. Dimensions DanceTheater is based at The Malonga Casquelourd Center for Arts in Oakland.
Mills College, Alumnae '71
Mills Performing Arts
5000 MacArthur Blvd.
Oakland, CA 94613