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True Life: I Have $150,000 Worth of College Debt and a Theatre Degree

A Community Discussion on Student Loan Debt’s Crushing Effects on Young Artists

Co-Produced by: Co-Op Theatre East, Girl Be Heard, Double Down Productions, Eagle Project, Betty’s Daughter Arts Collaborative,  Estrogenius Festival at Manhattan Theatre Source 

Schedule: Sunday, May 18th at 11:00 am
Venue: Gene Frankel (24 Bond Street)
Tickets: This panel is FREE! Click here to reserve your seats


Americans have accumulated over 1 trillion dollars in student loan debt. This is higher than the total amount of credit card debt in the United States. With many of the best undergraduate and graduate theatre programs averaging over $50,000 per year, young artists are emerging with devastating debt that even the best “survival job” cannot pay off. Federal bankruptcy law makes it nearly impossible to discharge student loan debt so many new graduates end up with loan payments that devastate them before they have a chance to get on their feet. This panel and community discussion honestly addresses the crushing realities of student loan debt, rising prices of artistic training programs and what the future landscape of theatre could look like when an entire generation is in serious debt while working toward finding collaborative and creative solutions to end the student loan debt crisis.

Gwendolyn Alker
Drama Department, Tisch School of the Arts at New York University
Grant Kretchek
Chair of Performing Arts Department, Pace University
Morgan Jeness
Literary Agent, Abrams Artists Agency
Dominique Fishback
Actor and Spoken Word Artist, Recent College Graduate
Pamela Brown
Founding Member, Occupy Student Debt Campaign and Strike Debt

Performance by Dominique Fishback
Moderated by Ashley Marinaccio, Founder/Artistic Director of Girl Be Heard and Founder/Co-Director of Co-Op Theatre East

Morgan Jenness spent over a decade, from intern to literary manager to Associate Producer,  at the New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theater, with both Joseph Papp and George C. Wolfe.   Was Associate AD at NYTW, and an Associate Director at LATC and Creative Consultant at Helen Merrill Ltd.  Current at Abrams Artists Agency where she also continues to work as a dramaturg, teacher, and artistic consultant at theaters,  new play programs, funding panels and universities across the country.  Adjunct faculty  member at Fordham University.  2003 Obie Award Special Citation for Longtime Support of Playwrights.  Active in occupy movement, particularly the People’s Puppets of OWS.


Grant Kretchik has appeared Off B’way: Silvio in The Servant of Two Masters and a youthful Sean O’Casey in I Knock at the Door and Pictures in the Hallway, both directed by Stuart Vaughan. Film/TV: Law and Order, Guiding Light, As The World Turns, Man on the Moon, and When Harry Tries to Marry (Official Selection Austin, Mumbai  and London film Festivals) and Broken currently in Post Production. Kretchik has worked as both an actor and director at La Mama etc. In 2012 Kretchik assisted Michael Grief on the first Broadway National Tour of Next to Normal. Other directing credits include Scottish Sperm (world premier) the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and selected for Zoofest and Just for Laughs in Montreal, Canada. He has also directed The Parade by Tennessee Williams at the Tennessee Williams Theater Festival in Provincetown, MA. Kretchik is a proud member of Actors Equity and The Stage Directors and Choreographers Society. Mr. Kretchik has created and is the Director of the  BFA Acting Program at Pace University. He has been a featured guest in Lehman College’s emerging artist series. He has also held positions with Entertainment Tonight and Warner Bros. Television Casting. His Essay “With Talent Comes Responsibility! Defining your Dream” was published in The Soul of the American Actor. Grant Kretchik holds an MFA in Acting from the New School University.


Dr. Gwendolyn Alker is a teacher, scholar and curator of events that seek to move between the theory and practice of performance. She has taught at the Gallatin School, Naropa University and is currently a full time faculty member in Department of Drama at New York University. Her areas of interest include gender and performance, the body in performance, religion and performance, Latin American and Latino theatre.  Gwendolyn has published in a variety of books and scholarly journals including Theatre Journal, TDR (The Drama Review), Dance Research Journal, andWomen and Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory, where she was also the general managing editor.  In 2010 she created and organized the NY Fornes Festival with INTAR and various other NYC theatres. More recently, she was the conference planner for the 25th Anniversary Conference of the Association of Theatre in Higher Education in 2011. She is also mom to son Beckett who keeps her on her toes on a daily basis.


Dominique Fishback has been a member of Girl Be Heard since the first workshop in 2008 and now teaches the girl-empowerment curriculum in public schools throughout the City. In addition to writing about her personal experiences growing up in East New York, she developed a large body of work through GBH’s human rights education program dealing with issues affecting girls in the developing world including rape in the Congo and forced child marriage. Dom has toured the country with Girl Be Heard and the UN Girl Up Foundation, performed at the White House and makes regular appearances at the United Nations. Dominique is in the honors program at Pace University.


Pamela Brown was a founding member of the Occupy Student Debt Campaign and Strike Debt. She has been involved in campaigns and writing projects including the student debt pledge of refusal, the Debt Resistors Operations Manual, the Rolling Jubilee, and Shouldering the Costs, a public service report on debt and Hurricane Sandy. Pam is a member of the national leadership team of Move to Amend and an organizer with A People’s Investigation of Money, Debt and Power. She writes a column on the Tidal Magazine blog entitled Melting Into Air. She holds her undergraduate degree in Philosophy from Dartmouth College, a Master of Arts in Media Studies from The New School, and is currently a doctoral student in Sociology at The New School for Social Research.


Ashley Marinaccio is an activist and artist dedicated to creating theatre that challenges the status quo. She is an award winning theatre maker that has received numerous national and international accolades. Her work has been seen at TED conferences (where she’s also been a featured speaker), The White House, United Nations, and on tour across the United States. She has received critical acclaim for her work from the New Yorker, Backstage, Huffington Post, and NY Times. Ashley is the Founder/Artistic Director of Girl Be Heard and Co-Founder/Director of Co-Op Theatre East. She is alumna of the Hemispheric Institute for Performance and Politics – EMERGENYC and American Theatre Wing’s – SpringboardNYC and member of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab and Old Vic/New Voices. She holds her MA in Performance Studies from NYU – Tisch and degrees in theatre and anthropology from Pace University.

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