Meet the Artists of Tarot V
Your Host, The Fool
Summoner & Your Host, The Fool Joan Cummins (She/Her/Hers) is a dramaturg, historian, and educator who has been with Tarot since its first iteration. She appreciates excellent couches and believes in answering children's questions honestly. Artistically, she specializes in new plays and interactive performance, especially when used as a tool to make history accessible to the public. She's particularly proud of her solo performance Converse(ations), which used her personal history wearing Chuck Taylor All Stars along with the larger history of the shoes to bring to light how we make ourselves into who we are and what to do when the past turns out to be more uncomfortable than you thought (it always does). Other engagements include dog & pony dc, Signature Theatre, Young Playwright's Theatre, Pinky Swear Productions, Mosaic Theatre and the Welders. When not Fooling around, she works to bring everyone's favorite introverted president Lincoln back to life at President Lincoln's Cottage, your local genius loci and a home for brave ideas.
Gwen Grastorf (She/Her/Hers) is a performer and actor in the DC metro area, who is returning to Tarot for the third time after Fooling for Tarot II and being a Medium for Tarot III. Since 2012, Gwen spends most of her creative time devising new works with Happenstance Theater, a small ensemble devoted to poetic visual performances with an emphasis on physical comedy. She doesn't do much else. She does not identify as a clown, but she is clown-adjacent and works and lives with many people who have committed their lives to the serious art of making people laugh. Gwen has a part-time data entry job that soothes some of her inner demons. She likes savory foods, soft clothing, and bringing order to chaos. She has a website, which you can find if you google her name, because there aren't very many of her.
David S. Kessler (He/Him/His) has written numerous sonnets, including one in 45 minutes for WNYC’s The Next Big Thing, songs for the mercifully short-lived Fidel’s Marching Marimba Band and Diaper Service, three novels for nobody in particular, and a multitude of scientific papers. He spent almost four decades at the National Zoo, many of them as a small mammal biologist. The next totally logical career choice was, of course, as writer/performer/producer for Uncle Funsy Productions (www.unclefunsy.com) where he created Wombat Drool, One Mutual Happiness and Numesthesia for the Capital Fringe Festival. In June, Nu Sass (www.nusass.com) will premier his new play, Gwen and Ida: The Object is of No Importance. Also in June, he will be appearing in Pointless Theatre’s (www.pointlesstheatre.com) production of Navid Azeez’s Forest Treás. Get yer tickets for both of these now! He is humbled and thrilled to once again be a part of The Tarot Reading.
Rachel Menyuk (She/Her/Hers) is an artist, archivist, and aerialist-in-training. She is very excited to be joining the Tarot team for the first time. A lifelong Marylander, she enjoys spending time with friends and family, reading science-fiction, and doodling on post-it notes. For the last eight years, she has been an archivist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, and would happily explain to you what an archivist does. Artistically, she smashes artistic boundaries and is a company member with Pointless Theatre— performing, directing, and designing puppets. She just received her first Helen Hayes nomination for Pointless Theatre’s 2018 adaptation of Don Cristobal with (Eric Swartz and Patti Kallil), which was also her directorial debut. She dances with PARC (Performing Arts Repertory Company) and feels privileged to be working with dancers of all ages as an acting coach. Lastly, she has spent the last two years navigating the tricky world of trying to do it all as a working, loving mom while fulfilling artistic passions. How does she do it? MAGIC.
Toni Rae Salmi (She/Her/Hers) will answer to either "Toni" or "Toni Rae," because she doesn't have a name hang up. She is a person of many hyphens: left-handed, Indipino-Caucasian, adopted-and-reunited, twice-married, actor-singer-director, and probably more. She supports art that gives voice to individuals outside of the traditional theatre canon, particularly stories about women and persons of color. Raised in the wilds of Michigan's Upper Peninsula makes Toni a member of a small population outside of Finland who know the proper pronunciation of "sauna." You can see her perform this summer with Hub Theatre in their production of American Spies and Other Homegrown Fables.
Rebecca Speas (She/Her/Hers) was born and raised in the South, which has given her a lifelong appetite for Cheerwine, humidity, fried foods, complicated history, and ghosts. She returns to The Tarot Reading after acting as the Proto-Fool in Tarot I and a Medium in Tarot IV. With a background in history, dance, and classical theatre, Rebecca is particularly interested in the transitory nature of folklore, the deliberate smashing of genres, and how the accumulation of centuries shapes us into who are today. By day (and often by night), Rebecca is a fiercely independent bookseller and events coordinator for One More Page Books in Arlington, VA, and co-hosts the podcast Tortallan Knights, a book-by-book reckoning with the works of Tamora Pierce. She lives in Virginia with her fiancé, her murder cat, and her books.
Shaquille Stewart (He/Him/His) is an actor, poet, director, musician and many other obnoxious things. This will be his first Tarot Reading, and he is ecstatic to take the stage alongside such a talented, multi faceted team. Previous credits include Hamlet at the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory (Polonious) Anonymous at Theatre Prometheus (Pascal) and Othello with the 69th cycle of the National Players. Loving this craft more everyday, remember Theatre heals. Art is necessary.
Yasmin Tuazon (She/Her/Hers) is thrilled and petrified to make her Tarot debut. One of her dream jobs is writing greeting cards, though she has close to zero business sense, and her dream home is Fallingwater. She gets easily obsessed with British detective shows, Wikipedia rabbit holes, and cleaning tiny corners. She is fascinated by movement and teaches hot yoga, but hates to sweat if there is no yoga, performance, or dancing involved. Visibly, she has worked with Rorschach Theatre (where she is a proud company member), dog & pony dc, and the Welders. Invisibly, she performs with Graphic Audio, Jabberwocky Audio Theater, Talking Fish Podcasts, and The Coil Project – whose variety show can be heard every other Sunday evening on takomaradio.org. And she is a fervent supporter of the Oxford comma.
Summoner Alan Katz (He/Him/His) is a cofounder of The Tarot Reading. Sometime Medium and Fool for the same. Vice President of the Arcanists’ Board of Directors. Punk-ass book jockey for the world's greatest museum. Dramaturg to the willing and paying. Maker of mistakes and fixer of the same. Decidedly amateur painter and singer. Newshound. Hound caretaker and fanatic. Curator of numerous Spotify playlists. Cheerful nihilist. Expert in magical cards. Wanderer by compulsion turned to predilection. Sonneteer and Somniac. Epicure and Epicurean. Father and Husband. Critic and Translator. Raconteur and Rapscallion. Verb avoider. Of all the blessings and curses once held precious by his youth, he misses his righteousness the most.
Technomancer Niomi Collard (She/Her/Hers) is a conjurer of illusions and transformations, taking audiences into new worlds and far away places through production design. While this is her first Tarot to design, she is a freelance lighting and projections designer based in the DC area. She lights the fine performing folks of Step Afrika! as they tour around the country from exotic places like The Strathmore to Miami to Brooklyn to Anchorage, and has been an associate lighter of folks at Synetic Theater and Studio Theater. With the time she isn’t designing or traveling for work she is an avid traveler, cosplayer, and rock climber. She takes an annual workcation to lead the TechOps night shift at DragonCon every labor day weekend in Atlanta, and her favorite gel is R318 Mayan Sun. Come see her work on the upcoming Klytemnestra at Theater Alliance and Step Afrika!’s 25th anniversary season. Or, catch photos of her wrestling with colors and shadows through her website at LumosTheater.com
Allyson Harkey (She/Her/Hers) is the Beta Lead on Tarot V, and an actor/director/singer/producer/writer/human being who makes art for herself and for others to enjoy. You might know her as a former co-Artistic Director and Founder of Pinky Swear Productions. Or you might have seen her in plays at other theatres, like Factory 449, New Game Theatre, Venus Theatre Company, Taffety Punk, Source Festival, and Single Carrot Theatre. Or you might even have heard her voice in audio descriptions for the blind and visually impaired at any of 19 National Parks (one of her all-time favorite gigs). But you've never seen her like this. Unless you saw Tarot III. Likes: Brebirousse d'Argental, human connection, Waffle House, audience-involved performance forms, her cats. Dislikes: ketchup, beige, liars, the morning, the necessity of day jobs.
Doug Robinson (He/Him/His) is the Beta Second and a theatre artist based in the D.C. Metro Area and is excited to back with The Tarot Reading. Doug has directed and assisted directed with the Hub Theatre, Adventure Theatre, Avant Bard, NY Emerging Writers festival and this spring he will be assistant directing Describe the Night at Woolly Mammoth Theatre. Be on the lookout for his play Pride of Doves at the Capital Fringe Festival this summer!
Head Alchemist Cody Whitfield (She/Her/Hers) is a stage manager, an electrician, and the most responsible punk you know. This is her thirteenth year in the industry, and she's been seen in various capacities at Signature Theatre, Arena Stage, The Kennedy Center, Studio Theatre, and elsewhere, though she spends most of her time as an ASM at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, where she picks things up, puts things down, and learns several obscure talents. In another life, she performed music, fought crime, put out fires, and crafted stories, but in this life, she is returning to The Tarot Reading as Head Alchemist for her fourth time. To be fair, there's a decent amount of overlap.
Alchemist Bryan Boyd (He/Him/His) is a Stage Manager in the DMV. Previous Credits include: Theater J: ASM/Talley’s Folly, WSC Avant Bard: SM/Illyria, Or What You Will, Adventure Theater MTC: SM/Les Miserables. Creative Cauldron: ASM/Witch, SM/The Mistress Cycle, Constellation Theatre Company: ASM/The Skin of Our Teeth, ArtsCentric: SM/Sincerely Holidays, ASM/Sister Act, Mosaic Theater Company: ASM/Hooded or Being Black for Dummies, ASM/Charm, Montgomery College Summer Dinner Theater: SM/West Side Story, SM/Into The Woods. He holds a BA in Communication from Arizona State University, and AA in Theater Performance from Montgomery College.
The Head Honcho, The Big Cheese, The Top Gaffer Quill Nebeker (He/Him/His) is co-creator of The Tarot Reading and the Board President of The Arcanists, Inc. He is a producer, director and administrator who has helped make entertainments with the likes of Capital Fringe, The Hub Theatre, Forum Theatre, Rorschach Theatre, and Theatre Alliance (among others). He is also the Director of Audience Engagement for Avant Bard Theatre. Quill lives in Arlington with his family, his fiancée, and his contemptuous-but-secretly-warm-hearted cat. He loves many things, some of which include: games of all sorts, obsolete technology, the Washington Capitals Hockey Club, gated reverb, anime & when people he just met accidentally get too excited about something they're passionate about. He holds unusually elaborate theories about things like the anthropology of the internet, the importance of soccer to the global narrative, and the underappreciated artistry of Carly Rae Jepsen & Nicholas Cage (not together, necessarily, though he hasn't put much thought into it yet.)