Advisory Board

Photo by Leah Ryan

Arlene Avakian
Arlene is emeritus professor and founder of the Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is the author of Lion Woman’s Legacy: An Armenian American Memoir (1992), Turkish translation and publication; editor of Through the Kitchen Window: Women Explore the Intimate Meanings of Food and Cooking (1997, 2005), and co-editor of From Betty Crocker to Feminist Food Studies: Critical Perspectives on Women and Food (2005) as well as many articles and conference presentations. She is currently working on a book of conversations with two colleagues from Turkey, one of whom had a grandmother who was a survivor of the Armenian genocide. Arlene is Leah Ryan’s mother.

Edward Cheetham
Ed is the Producing Director of the Powerhouse Theater at Vassar College, the place where Ed and Leah met as fellow apprentices in 1991. In 1999 & 2000, Ed directed members of the Training Company in Leah Ryan’s adaptations of Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard and The Seagull. Ed is most proud of his work directing many of Leah’s plays: The Jesus Thing, Debt, Bleach and Chopper, to name a few. He also collaborated as the original director of Susan Mele and Leah Ryan’s Just Say Blow Me at theaters and festivals around the country. Ed earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Theater Arts from Niagara University. In addition to his work with the Fund, Ed serves as the literary manager of the Leah Ryan estate and is a trustee of the Grinnell Public Library District in his hometown of Wappingers Falls, NY.

Cusi Cram
Cusi Cram’s plays have been produced by LAByrinth Theater Company, Primary Stages, The Denver Center, South Coast Repertory, The Williamstown Theater Festival, The Atlantic Theater Company, Cornerstone Theater Company, New Georges, and on stages large and petite all over the country. She has written on numerous television programs for both kids and adults and has been nominated for three Emmy Awards for her work on the animated program, “Arthur.” Her play, Novenas for A Lost Hospital, about St. Vincent’s Hospital in the Village premiered in September, 2019 at Rattlestick Theater directed by Daniella Topol, starring Kathleen Chalfant. Cusi is an Assistant Arts Professor in the Goldberg Department of Dramatic Writing at NYU, Tisch.

Dan Gunderman
Dan is a screenwriter, who has been teaching for the Jacob Krueger Studio since 2016. For more than 12 years, he worked at Big Duck, a Brooklyn-based branding firm that works exclusively with nonprofits, serving as creative director for his final seven years. Prior to Big Duck, he worked as a fundraising and communications consultant at Hall Farm, where he first met Leah. Originally from Kansas and now living in Scotland, Dan graduated from Sarah Lawrence College with a concentration in theater and literature. While in college, more than 15 years before meeting Leah, Dan portrayed Jay in a London production of her play The Jesus Thing.

Peter Hirsch
Peter is a writer of children’s television and is the head writer of the series, “Arthur” and the series “Molly of Denali.” He has won seven Emmys and a Peabody Award. He is also an occasional actor, starring in films and the plays of his wife, Cusi Cram.

Jennifer Krasinski
Jennifer Krasinski is a Brooklyn-based writer and critic. She is the digital editorial director for Artforum magazine, and formerly an art columnist for the Village Voice. A regular contributor to Bookforum, and a contributing editor to Yale University’s Theater magazine, she is the recipient of a 2013 Creative Capital / Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant.

Marta Martinez
Marta Martinez is originally from Nicaragua.  She is the founder and director of Stay In Touch Center and has run a small business for 20+ years.  Marta has a Doctorate in Acupuncture and Integrative Health from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. She practices acupuncture and Chinese Herbal medicine.  Marta is an adjunct professor at Smith College and an executive coach trained in the Co-Active Model. Marta is passionate about essay writing, storytelling, poetry, playwriting, and epistolary writing. Her mission is to preserve Leah Ryan’s work and keep her name alive.

Melissa Ross
Melissa’s plays include Thinner Than Water (LAByrinth Theater Company), A Life Extra Ordinary (The Gift Theatre), Nice Girl (LAByrinth Theater Company), An Entomologist’s Love Story (San Francisco Playhouse), Of Good Stock (South Coast Repertory and Manhattan Theater Club) and The Luckiest (La Jolla Playhouse). Her plays have been developed and produced around the country at theaters including: Dorset Theater Festival, Iama Theatre Company, Kitchen Dog Theater, New York Stage and Film, The New Group, Raven Theatre, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, Summer Shorts, and TheatreWorks Palo Alto. She is twice commissioned by both South Coast Repertory and Manhattan Theater Club and is currently commissioned by San Francisco Playhouse and The Raven Theatre. Melissa is a graduate of Bennington College and the Lila Acheson Wallace Playwriting Program at The Juilliard School, and a proud member of LAByrinth Theater Company.

LB Thompson
LB Thompson’s poetry has won national awards from The Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation and the Rona Jaffe Foundation, and has appeared in The New Yorker and other literary journals. Her collaborative work with artist Ellen Wiener has been exhibited in New York and at Vanderbilt University, and collected by museums and libraries internationally. LB teaches at Suffolk County Community College and The New School/Parsons in New York City. She lives with her wife and book collection in Greenport.