Writers: 2011 -12

Lauren Smart, co-founder, editor

Lauren Smart was raised by people who believed that art was a vital component of a well-rounded life. Lauren developed a passion for theater by way of a young acting career, which began as Rooster in a Smart Sister’s production of “Annie.” This eventually developed into community and school related acting stints, until college where Lauren ventured into the world of theater criticism. She earned Bachelor’s degrees from Southern Methodist University in Creative Writing and Journalism. Lauren is currently earning her master’s at Syracuse University in Arts Journalism. This spring, she is also working for American Theatre magazine in New York City.

Leah Stacy, co-founder/ social media coordinator

During middle school, Leah Stacy convinced her parents to transform their basement into a theater, where she operated a drama club with friends and family members. Over the next 13 years, she worked as an actor, mime, playwright, drama educator, director and freelance theater critic. Favorite collaborations include teaching for DramaKids International and working in PR/marketing for RWCCT and Encore! Theater Arts. Her most recent credit was directing an original production of Edgar Lee Masters’s Spoon River Anthology in May 2011. Leah is currently pursuing her master’s degree in arts journalism at the SI Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, where she works as communications coordinator for the Office of the Arts Presenter and an assistant instructor at Newhouse.

Zoha Arshad, Staff Writer

Zoha Arshad is a magazine, newspaper, and online journalism student at S.I Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. Her interests range from criminology to politics to film, and she wants to write about every single one of them, but ultimately wants to become a political reporter. As an undergraduate at Lahore University of Management Sciences in Pakistan she studied anthropology and political science, which motivated her to learn about other cultures, and peoples, and write their stories.

Chris Baker, Staff Writer

Chris Baker acted in his first and only play when he was 12 years old. His one line in a middle school production called “A Summer in Shorts” was enough to bring the show to a screeching halt when he panicked and forgot that one line. While the critics (his parents) gave the performance favorable reviews, he decided it was time to retire and pursue other artistic ventures. He is now part of the Goldring arts journalism cohort studying music journalism. He also serves as the arts & entertainment editor for TheNewshouse.com. An avid concertgoer and reviewer he covers the music scene locally and nationally. Though he has never overcome his debilitating stage fright, Chris enjoys watching those who have. Check out his theater reviews here at GRR, but also check out his music blog.

Chris Ballard, staff writer

Chris Ballard loves the stage, but prefers to have a guitar in his hand. He’s played nearly every run-down dive bar in Binghamton, N.Y., and miraculously, didn’t see any Atlantic Records talent scouts in his short-lived music career. Without a record deal, though, he’s turned that passion into writing news, arts, music and sports pieces for several major upstate New York newspapers and websites as a multimedia journalist. He’s currently a journalism graduate student at Syracuse University. In the spring, he will be a lead producer for The NewsHouse and an intern with the Utica Observer-Dispatch.

Amy Brueckman, staff writer

From playing the flute for over half of her life to having an interest in slice of life documentaries, Amy Brueckman has always been fascinated by the arts. Her high school job of fitting brides in designer gown and sewing tuxedos has pointed Amy towards a career in fashion journalism. She graduated from Illinois State University with a B.A. In English and Cinema Studies. While a regular contributor of film reviews and local news to The Indy newspaper, she has also had a short fiction piece published in Euphemism literary magazine. Visit her blog.

Sarah DeSantis, Children’s Theater Writer

Sarah DeSantis was a lonely child who grew up in a house in the middle of a cornfield. She cultivated an overactive imagination as she sat in a tree in her backyard and watched her mother–who could only have been her adoptive mother since she didn’t have red hair and wasn’t royalty like Sarah certainly was–hang laundry. At 12, Sarah was convinced she was both Ella from Ella Enchanted and Dinnie Doon from Bloomability. These fantasies have never really faded, and Sarah continues to expand her imaginary world as she reviews children’s theater for Green Room Reviews. In between children’s shows, Sarah is working on a master’s degree in arts journalism with an emphasis in architecture. She earned her undergraduate degree in English from Penn State.

Mary Gibble, staff writer

Mary Gibble hails from Ft. Myers, Florida by way of Pennsylvania. She attended an arts magnet high school where she studied acting, playwriting, and technical theatre. Currently, she is the dramaturgical intern for the Syracuse Stage, Syracuse’s finest repertory theatre. In May 2011, she received her undergraduate degree in creative writing from the Florida State University.  Mary is a theatre, popular music, and fashion fanatic. You can usually find her with her nose inside a Vogue Magazine, her iPod ear buds in, and a play inside her purse.

Leah Harrison, Opera Critic

Leah Harrison is a musicologist turned arts journalist, specializing in how cultures use and appropriate masterpieces in the classical music canon. Leah interns in the arts department of the Post Standard and serves as research assistant to Gustav Niebuhr of the Carnegie Corporation. She is published by www.cnycafemomus.com, the Post Standard, NewsHouse, and Florida State University, where she received a master’s degree in musicology. Leah also holds a bachelor’s degree from Converse College where she studied music history and philosophy. She grew up in the Blue Ridge foothills of South Carolina and adores southern folk music, travel, and dogs, and is among America’s most enthusiastic pro-cycling fans.

Aasimah Navlakhi, staff writer

A graduate of economics, politics and international studies from Warwick University, Aasimah Navlakhi‘s love for different cultures, people and languages was deepened through her college years, during which she headed the Film Festival Committee at One World Week, co-produced a full-length film and actively pursued theater as part of the drama club. After graduating with honors, she went on to work at the Bangalore School of Speech and Drama, teaching and practicing theatre at a professional level. Editor of her school publication and a frequent contributor to the same, Aasimah recently joined the Goldring Arts Journalism program with the wish to combine her love for travel, theater and culture with the craft of writing.

Frank Ready, staff writer

 Frank Ready burst out laughing when Maria Rainer ran singing onto the stage in a local production of “The Sound of Music.” His mother had taken the family to theater in order to expand their horizons, and had obviously given too much credit to the boy who had somehow simultaneously positioned himself as both her most immature child and eldest son. Frank went on to make amateur films throughout high school and college, including an Indiana Jones-inspired adventure where his leading man rolled groin first into a tree during a stunt. Frank, once again, burst out laughing. After college, Frank was accepted into the Goldring Arts Journalism program, where he hopes to expand a geek’s love of all things film into a mature and well-reasoned appreciation for the power of visual storytelling.  Until then, Frank will keep on laughing.

Kelundra Smith, staff writer

Theater enthusiast Kelundra Smith has studied acting, directing, make-up and administration as it relates to the performing arts. She is currently working toward a master’s degree in Arts Journalism at Syracuse University and she is a marketing and public relations intern at Syracuse Stage working on social media outreach and writing press releases for productions. Her last undergraduate internship was at Arcola Theatre in London, where she wrote press releases, copy for season brochures and press managed their show “Boy with a Suitcase” as a part of London Refugee Week. She aspires to work in media relations for Broadway and major regional theatres, helping to improve coverage of the performing arts in major media outlets. Some of her work can be seen in Encore Atlanta and Plan Your Meetings magazines.

Katrina Tulloch, Staff Writer

Katrina Tulloch was Grand Prince of Moscow from 1533 until her death. She became the first ruler to be crowned as Tsar of All Russia. When she wasn’t studying magazine, newspaper and online journalism at Syracuse University, Katrina managed countless changes in Russia’s progression from a medieval state to an empire and emerging regional power. She is The Post-Standard‘s spring 2012 Web intern and hopes you believe everything you read on the Internet. Katrina is also the assistant executive producer of TheNewsHouse.com and any similarities between her and some terrible guy named Ivan are purely coincidental.

Dani Villalobos, Staff Writer

When she was eight years old, Dani Villalobos landed the leading role in the winter musical production of “The Christmas of the Snow Queen.” Well, at least that’s how she saw it. During a reprise of the finale, the pint-sized ensemble member put a little more emphasis on the choreographed steps and power behind her voice—this was her big debut and she wasn’t going to be outshined. Since then, Dani’s passion for the performing arts has only grown. She hopes to couple this interest with her love for the written word and present the arts in a vibrant, multidimensional way. Dani is currently in the Goldring Arts Journalism program at Syracuse University and interning for the monthly magazine Today’s CNY Woman. She graduated with a B.A. in Mass Communications and Journalism from Fresno State, where she worked as an online video reporter for The Collegian.

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