About SOPAC’s Creative Community Brain Trust

SOPAC’s groundbreaking Creative Community Brain Trust is a committee of five advisors and industry experts that will guide SOPAC toward inclusively excellent, radically creative, and community-powered programming.

Each expert focuses on one of SOPAC’s five pillars of programming: for Experiential and Immersive, artist, performer and curator Adam Rei Siegel; for Kids + Family, Founding Mothers Founder Dr. Alissa D. Gardenhire; for Broadway in Concert and New Musicals Development, Dana Spialter & SOMA Stage; for Comedy, Comedian Liz Glazer; and for Music, bassist and producer Mike Griot.

“This moment for SOPAC is about radically reimagining our relationship with our regional community, and lifting up voices and visions to power transformational change,” says SOPAC Executive Director Stephen Beaudoin. “These five individuals were selected for the SOPAC Creative Community Brain Trust to animate our community-powered programming.  Each bring a commitment to inclusive excellence, as well as significant industry and community capital to the assignment. Both individually and together, this Brain Trust will envision an ever more creative, community-centric, connected, and empathic northern New Jersey, with SOPAC as its central beating heart.”

SOPAC launched it’s Creative Community Brain Trust in the spirit of community curation, which it would like to embrace in upcoming seasons. The five Brain Trust members will work as individuals and as a collective to create and curate SOPAC experiences, artists, acts, and gatherings across the SOPAC campus in the creatively kinetic downtown Village of South Orange, including on the SOPAC mainstage, in the Loft at SOPAC, and additional spaces across the campus.



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Meet the Brain Trust Members

Click on Brain Trust members’ photos to view their bios


Adam Rei Siegel

Adam Rei Siegel

Experiential & Immersive

Adam has curated immersive experiences at House of Yes, Public Hotel, Norwood Club, and Spring Studios. He is widely regarded in the industry as an artist, performer, curator, and producer working in the vanguard of experiential and immersive live performance. Based in Brooklyn, Adam is proud to be connected with the SOPAC regional community through this role.

Dr. Gardenhire started her career supporting social policy research at Harvard and MDRC. She is the founding executive of the South Orange/Maplewood branch of Best in Class Education, an organization dedicated to supporting all kids in achieving their fullest potential as learners and leaders. Her creative approach to community and change centers on breaking down paradigms and reconsidering norms.

Dana Spialter & SOMA Stage

Dana Spialter & SOMA Stage

Broadway in Concert + New Musicals Development

Dana aims to make her theater company SOMA Stage the hub of live theatre and the development of important new theatrical works in South Orange/Maplewood, Essex County, and beyond. Her experiences include Creative Coordinator to acclaimed Broadway producers Barry and Fran Weissler, and producer of Broadway talent at industry staples such as 54 Below and Webster Hall in New York City. She is a proud Maplewood resident.

About SOMA Stage

SOMA Stage is a new non-profit theater company based in the South Orange/ Maplewood (aka SOMA), NJ area that provides our many local professional theater artists with a creative home in their backyard and allows our community to support and enjoy the talent of their neighbors.

Liz is an award-winning standup comedian, actor, and writer. She won first place in the Boston Comedy Festival and Ladies of Laughter of Competition and will be part of the upcoming HBO Women in Comedy Festival. Drawing from her own life as a lesbian, a rabbi’s wife, and a former lawyer, Liz uses her self-proclaimed “loud, unsecretive, and bold” style to connect with all those who simply want to FEEL. Liz and her wife call West Orange home.

An internationally sought-after bass player and producer, Mike has toured Europe and performed with the likes of Queen Latifah and Hezekiah Walker. Mike is proud to have founded SOPAC’s “In the Loft” series, and served for many years as curator of our “Blues in the Loft” events. He received the 2014 HANDS Community Leadership Award. Mike is proud to call Orange Valley his home.



Laura Benanti

SUN, MAY 7 at 3PM

Brain Trust Member: Dana Spialter, Broadway in Concert + New Musicals Development

Experience Tony-Award winner Laura Benanti as she returns to SOPAC. Hailed by The New York Times for her “effortless” vocals, and by the New York Post for her ability to “whip up laughs out of thin air,” Laura Benanti first took Broadway by storm at the age of 18 as Maria in The Sound of Music, and has subsequently starred in ten more Broadway shows (musicals, straight plays, comedies and dramas) including Into the WoodsNine (opposite Antonio Banderas), Gypsy (for which she won a Tony Award), She Loves MeMy Fair Lady, and Steve Martin’s Meteor Shower opposite Amy Schumer and Keegan Michael Key.
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An Evening with Eleri Ward

FRI, MAY 19 at 8PM

Brain Trust Member: Dana Spialter, Broadway in Concert + New Musicals Development

Making her SOPAC debut, conservatory-trained Eleri Ward took social media by storm with her groundbreaking fusion of Broadway and Indie-Folk.  American Theatre Magazine lauds her album, A Perfect Little Death, as “incandescent” with its soulful, crooning interpretations of Sondheim classics such as “Not A Day Goes By” and “Unworthy of Your Love”.  The New York Times aptly describes Ward’s musical style as a fusion of “Sondheim’s Emo register with a familiar coffeehouse Folk sound,” and Broadway World lauds her album as “a one-of-a-kind fusion of Musical Theatre and Alternative music that reveals colors of Sondheim that are revelatory.”
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SOMA backStage Reading Series

New Play: STILL

By Lia Romeo
SAT, JUN 3 at 3PM
SUN, JUN 4 at 7:30PM

Brain Trust Member: Dana Spialter, Broadway in Concert + New Musicals Development

Be the first to experience Lia Romeo’s newest play, STILL, and share your thoughts with the creative team in a talkback following the matinee!  Part of the new SOMA backStage Reading Series, Romeo introduces her newest protagonists, exes Helen and Mark as Mark runs for Congress and Helen hides a secret that could derail his campaign.  This reading features Tony Award nominee Christiane Noll (Dear Evan Hansen) and Jeffy McCarthy (Urinetown).
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SOMA backStage Reading Series

New Musical: REVIVAL

By Chris Miller & Nathan Tysen
SAT, JUN 3 at 7:30PM
SUN, JUN 4 at 3PM

Brain Trust Member: Dana Spialter, Broadway in Concert + New Musicals Development

Be the first to hear Chris Miller (Tuck Everlasting) and Nathan Tysen’s (Amélie) newest musical, REVIVAL, and share your thoughts with the creative team in a talkback following the matinee!  Part of the new SOMA backStage Reading Series, Miller and Tysen’s musical follows fiddler Elin Hermannson and Manhattan socialite Margaret Elliott as they undertake a journey changing both their lives forever. This reading features Danielle Ferland (Into the Woods), Lauren Hooper (Ragtime), Autumn Jones (The View Upstairs), Jamie LaVerdiere (Motown), Ross Lekites (Tina), Charlie Pollock (Pretty Woman), Allison Posner (The Magnificent Seven), Ashley Spencer (Rock of Ages), Lauren Jeanne Thomas (Fiddler on the Roof), and Jacob Keith Watson (Merrily We Roll Along).
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Ladies of Laughter
Funny & Fabulous Tour

THU, JUL 27 at 7:30PM
THU, OCT 19 at 7:30PM
FRI, APR 26 at 8PM

Brain Trust Member: Liz Glazer, Comedy

This is SOPAC’s first all female comedy series!  The July event will be hosted by the 2021 Ladies of Laughter Professional winner, and SOPAC Community Brain Trust member, Liz Glazer, and will feature 2016 Ladies of Laughter Newcomer winner, Jocelyn Chia, and 2012 Ladies of Laughter winner, Robin Fox. Stay tuned for more information about the comedians for October and April!
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