Thank you for your interest in Co-Lab, please stay tuned to this webpage for information about future iterations of this program. 

Commonwealth Shakespeare Company and The Front Porch Arts Collective present Co-Lab An On-Line Training Program

Building upon and amplifying the success of Co-Lab 2020, Co-Lab 2021 is a 7-Day Intensive for Black Actors and Indigenous and POC Allies that places training in Shakespeare verse text in dynamic conversation with training in the works of August Wilson, Suzan Lori-Parks and other Language-Rich Playwrights of the Black Diaspora. With core classes in Voice & Text, Movement, Shakespeare Monologues & Sonnets, and an August Wilson & Suzan Lori-Parks Scene Study Class, Co-Lab will immerse actors in the rich aesthetic traditions of the Black Diaspora and expand our aperture on the Elizabethan world view to acknowledge that Shakespeare was born just two years before the first British slaving voyage to Africa, thus dispelling the notion that Shakespeare’s sense of the world was in no way informed by the same forces that would later displace the ancestors of August Wilson. In a space that affirms care, worth, and access, Co-Lab provides actors with the tools to resist erasure and reclaim a fully embodied sense of belonging while attending to the rewarding and  rigorous craft of working in heightened text. In addition to the Core Classes (described above), participants will enjoy a Special Session on Hip Hop Theatre, opportunities for ensemble exploration, and a small group Master Class with Guest Artists, 

Please click the player below for a message from our Program Director Nehassaiu deGannes!

WHO: Co-Lab is open to actors with a solid foundation in the craft of acting. Co-Lab is not suitable for beginning actors. It assumes at least *two* years of previous acting training or commensurate acting experience. Applicants must be at least 18 years old or older by the start of the program (August 16, 2021) to be eligible to apply.

We are equipped to respond to disability-related accommodation requests. If you have questions, please get in touch with us at

WHEN: The 2021 Co-Lab will be held within the following days/hours with frequent breaks throughout the day:

Week 1:

  • Monday, August 16: 11:00AM- 9:00PM EST
  • Wednesday, August 18: 11:00AM-9:00PM EST
  • Friday, August 20: 11:00AM-9:00PM EST
  • Saturday, August 21: 12:00PM-9:00PM EST

Week 2:

  • Monday, August 23: 11:00AM- 10:00PM EST
  • Wednesday, August 25: 11:00AM-10:00PM EST
  • Thursday, August 26: 11:00AM-4:30PM EST

This program is a two-week intensive that requires students to be present and committed through the entire process. The program is structured so that students will have one day of classes and the next day off, this way students are able to rest in between class days along with preparing for assignments and performances. Students interested in applying should be prepared for class days that will start as early as 11AM and end by 9PM or 10PM EST. There will be breaks throughout the class day along with optional breakout rooms for rehearsals after classes. Along with the core classes, students will also participate in Master Classes, a Monologue Jam and a Devised workshop. Due to the intensive schedule and classes we recommend applicants review the proposed schedule to determine if they are able to commit to the entire program. Students will be allowed a maximum of ONE excused absence for the entirety of the program. You will be asked to indicate conflicts or absences on your application form. 

WHERE: The Summer 2021 Co-Lab will be held entirely on Zoom.

COST: Tuition for this intensive is $150.00 (If this tuition fee presents a particular hardship for you, please reach out to us).

QUESTIONS? Please email us at

Core Classes

Voice & Text – Taught by Nehassaiu deGannes, MA, MFA

To Stand, Speak and Breathe at The Crossroads: To drop in, be on our voice, be in our bodies and with the tools to courageously embrace the formal rigors of Shakespeare verse text, while also illuminating and tuning our instruments to the Blues Aesthetic principles running through August Wilson’s work. To be safe to play, fail, explore, learn again and begin to discover “what changes?” “what shifts?” “what cracks open?” We will also bring our expanded awareness to an exploration of monologue excerpts by Lynn Nottage, Aleshea Harris, Lydia Diamond, Pearl Cleage and other Black women playwrights. To assert and celebrate that in honoring Shakespeare, Wilson, Nottage et al, we can and must bring our whole selves, attuned, yes, *to the different technical demands of each playwright and in service to the words, an honest conduit of text to audience, but we have never to abandon, or amputate ourselves, or become something or someone other than who we are to embody this work, wholly, truthfully and exquisitely!

Embodied Movement for the Actor – Taught by Lynnette Freeman, MFA

Compassionately empowering the bodies, hearts, minds and imaginations of Black Actors and Indigenous and POC allies, this Lab Class immerses actors in a four-part training: “Grounding our Movement Through the Senses,” exploring the question, how do we ground, live and therefore receive with our bodies? Where does reaction live? “Exploring our Instruments through Contra-rhythm,” an introduction to Black Diaspora movement vocabularies found in Mande and Jamaican Traditional Dances and Forms;” “The Rhythm & Energetic Body: Working with Energy and Tempo;” and “The Body and the Word: Putting It All Together (Embodying the Text.) What is presence? How do we work with energy, and breathe to engage? Supporting the work done in the Voice/Text, Shakespeare and Scene-Study Core Classes, this embodied movement work will lend itself to character study & transformation, physical behavior, status play, and cultivating ease and power when working with heightened language.

Shakespeare Monologues & Sonnets – Taught by Peter G. Andersen, MFA Directing Fellow, CMU

For this Core Class, participants will be asked to arrive at Co-Lab with one Shakespeare verse monologue and one Shakespeare sonnet fully memorized and open to a continued, rigorous and deepening exploration of the structure of the verse, character, thought as action, desire and objective.  Given his work in this area, Peter G. Andersen will also encourage participants to disrupt the conscious and unconscious internalized messaging that seeks to erase, white wash and “heterogenize” Black and Brown queer bodies in classical spaces.  In conversation with the Black Diaspora explorations in the Voice/Text and Movement Core Classes, this Shakespeare class will invite participants to dive into an essay by James Baldwin, alongside their work in Shakespeare, to explore how the structure of Baldwin’s language, the flight of his ideas, his searing and necessary unpacking of American racism, may liberate our hearts, minds and voices, grant us ancestral permission and return us to the powerful solar-plexus of energy we must harness as actors, especially when doing classical text! 

Gem & Blood: August Wilson and Suzan Lori-Parks Scene Study Class – Taught by Pascale Florestal

Working on scenes from August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean and Suzan Lori-Parks’ In the Blood, participants will refine their text analysis and partner work, and with the guidance of gifted director, Pascale Florestal, bring the work done in the Voice/Text, Movement and Shakespeare Core Classes into dynamic exchange and collaboration. Acting is as much about listening as it is about speaking. In a scene, we must give and receive, actively go after what we want, be surprised, make discoveries! Yes, and what are the rhythms of exchange to which Wilson and Parks tune their characters, the structure of their scenes? What archetypes? Which ancestors? Which train whistle? What song? How is language, itself, a character in their plays?

Special Sessions

Hip Hop Theater Master Class – NSangou Njikam (Hip Hop Theater Playwright & Actor)

Distilled from his multi-week Hip Hop Theatre course taught at Julliard, Howard, and Penn State, NSangou Njikam will offer CoLab participants a 3-hour Hip Hop Theater Special Sessions MasterClass. With the first hour dedicated to the History of Hip Hop, beginning in West Africa and tracing its trajectory through the Caribbean Diaspora and into the Bronx, this workshop provides a corollary Black Diaspora aesthetic tradition to the Blues; it traces another migratory path. The second hour will explore contemporary Hip Hop Theater (as distinct from plays with elements of hip hop,) the aesthetic principles, the modes of transmission and the intrinsic African-centered interdisciplinary nature of the form. As a playwright and collaborative theater maker, NSangou will also guide participants in how, from a Hip Hop Theater perspective, one might dynamically approach text analysis, character embodiment and ‘staging.’ In the third hour, participants will have the opportunity to actively apply principles of Hip Hop Theatre to text they are working on for their other classes to see what discoveries they may glean.

Black Diaspora Monologue Jam – Co-Facilitated by Nehassaiu deGannes and Pascale Florestal

To offer participants an opportunity to work on and rehearse the Wilson monologues they will perform in the Guest Masterclasses as well as monologues by other language rich playwrights of the Black Diaspora, and to provide, as well, a space for the full ensemble to gather, collaborate, share resources and “work out,” the Black Diaspora Monologue Gym will be comprised of three parts 1) Monologue Audition Tool-Kit and open rehearsal; 2) Breakout Rooms for rehearsing in pairs and small groups; 3) culminate in a Monologue “open mic.”

Concurrent Guest Master Classes: Shakespeare & August Wilson Monologues (2-4 students each)
with Guest Artists Patrice Johnson Chevannes, KenYatta Rogers & Keith Randolph Smith

With a ratio of 4:1, each participant will enjoy an opportunity to perform their August Wilson and/or Shakespeare monologue for feedback, direction and coaching by a Master Guest Artist, each one, a veteran Black actor, skilled in Shakespeare, Wilson and other language-rich playwrights of the Black Diaspora. 

Guest Artist Panel

Immediately following the Concurrent Master Classes (and after a 15 min bio-break,) the full Co-Lab ensemble will convene for a Panel Discussion and Q&A with our four distinguished Guest Artists. Moderator TBD 

Going to the River, Parts 1 & 2 – Nehassaiu deGannes

In this 2-part devising workshop, facilitated by Nehassaiu, participants will create and perform original small-group works, culled from personal stories, memories and the repository of texts they have been working on all week. This generative workshop empowers actors to be theater-makers and provides an ensemble mode of processing and reflecting upon the collective work of the week, the histories exhumed, the discoveries made, the wounds both uncovered and healed. 

Faculty & Staff Bios

Core Instructors

Nehassaiu deGannes (Program Director & Voice/Text) is a multi-hyphenate actor, poet and theater maker whose classical credits include Stratford Festival of Canada, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Chicago Shakes, Shakespeare & Co., Driftwood Theatre, Take Wing and Soar, Harlem Shakespeare Festival’s all-female Julius Caesar, and Luna Stage’s all-Black benefit reading of King Lear with Frankie Faison, Andre Braugher et al. Equally at home in new and contemporary works, she was “Angie” in Soho Rep’s world-premiere of Aleshea Harris’ Is God Is, “Prudence” in Danai Gurira’s The Convert (Central Square,) “Esther” Intimate Apparel (Shakespeare & Co.,) “Cynthia” in SWEAT at both Cleveland Play House and Canada’s Theatre Aquarius, as well as many more roles Off-B’way, regionally and internationally. Nehassaiu holds an MA in African American Studies (Temple U,) an MFA in Poetry (Brown U,) completed her 3-year Graduate Acting Training at Trinity Rep, and has taught at RISD, Brown U. and Rhode Island College. Currently she lives in Brooklyn, ancestral home of the Munsee-Lenape, and is Part Time Lecturer in the Theater Program at Princeton U. when her professional acting schedule allows. Invited to be Voice/Text Master Teacher for Boston Co-Lab 2020, Nehassaiu is thrilled to return as Program Director and Voice/Text Master Teacher for Co-Lab 2021. More at

Pascale Florestal (Program Facilitator & Scene Study) is a Director, Educator, Dramaturg, Writer and Collaborator based in Boston, MA. Directing Credits include; SpeakEasy Stage, Opera Del West, NorthEastern University, Boston Conservatory, Huntington Theater Company, The John F. Kennedy Center and others. New Play development with Marcus Gardley, Obehi Janice, Phaedra Michelle Scott, and others. As an Assistant to the Director she has worked with Kimberly Senior, Liesl Tommy, Billy Porter, Paul Daigneault and M. Bevin O’Gara. Recent dramaturgy for Christina Anderson’s play The Resurrection of Michelle Morgan, Antoinette Nwandu’s Pass Over and Breathe & Imagination by Daniel Beaty. She is the Education Director for The Front Porch Arts Collective where she created The Young Critics Program, an educational program that strives to foster and incubate the next generation of arts critics. She is an Assistant Professor of Theater at Boston Conservatory and is the recent recipient of The 2020 Greg Ferrell Award for her excellence in teaching and serving young people.

Madison Baker (Stage Manager/Program Assistant) is a rising senior at Boston College, majoring in Theatre with minors in Environmental Studies and Management & Leadership. She is currently an intern for MUSE (Musicians United for Social Equity) which seeks to create more racial equity for historically marginalized people of color within theatrical music departments. Previously, she served as the stage manager for Front Porch Collective and Actors’ Shakespeare Project’s joint production of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale.

Peter G. Andersen (Shakespeare Monologues & Sonnets) is a director whose work interrogates, adapts, and reimagines classical plays with Queer and POC artists.  He is currently pursuing his MFA in directing at Carnegie Mellon.  He is also a graduate of Emerson College where he obtained his BFA in Acting.  Some directing projects include: Queer Shakespeare, 21, The Cafe Collections, O/A: The Sophocles Project, As You Like it, Macbeth, Measure for Measure.  He has also worked at TimeLine Theatre, Huntington Theatre Company, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Yale Repertory Theatre, Writers Theatre, and American Players Theatre as an assistant director.  As an actor he has performed professionally in Boston, The Berkshires, Chicago, and NYC. 

Lynnette R. Freeman (Movement) is a NYC-based teacher, actor, dialect coach, movement instructor, Narrator, Voiceover Artist and Doula. She has performed on regional stages around the country (A Raisin in the Sun, Trinity Rep; Intimate Apparel, New Century Theatre; Clybourne Park, Dorset Theatre Fest; An Act of God, Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theatre; The White Card, Penumbra Theatre; Gutting, The National Black Theatre…) and is a member of the Ensemble Studio Theatre (Kentucky, Travisville…) Lynnette is an experienced teacher of West African Dance (Mande), Jamaican Folk & Dancehall, Hip-Hop, Modern and Ballet and is a highly certified Yoga instructor. She holds an MFA in Acting and a BA in Africana Studies (Creative Writing/Performance) from Brown University. 

Guest Artists

Patrice Johnson Chevannes (Guest Artist Master Class) is an award-winning, Brooklyn-based filmmaker, actress, writer, educator, director and the founder and executive producer of God-and-all-o-wee Productions. She was born in Jamaica, West Indies, grew up in New York City and started her undergraduate career at Cornell University, where she discovered that acting and not engineering was her calling. She studied acting at The City College of New York (CUNY), graduating Phi Beta Kappa, with a Bachelors of Fine Arts.

She has shared the stage with acclaimed actors such as Academy Award Nominees, Liam Neeson and Laura Linney in The Crucible and Sir Patrick Stewart, opposite whom she played Desdemona, in Othello.  Patrice also has collaborated with acclaimed directors, Sir Richard Eyre; Sir Trevor Nunn; Sir Michael Boyd; John Ortiz; Rebecca Taichman and SITI Company’s, Anne Bogart.  Patrice was also honored to be a part of Kristin Linklater’s acting company, The Company Of Women.  In 2020, Patrice garnered Drama Desk and Drama League nominations for her work in Mfoniso Udofia’s, runboyrun/In Old Age, and an Audelco nomination for her role in Stephen Adly Guirgis’, Halfway Bitches Go Straight To Heaven.  Patrice can be seen in the NetFlix drama, ChambersPOSESHRILL, EVIL and upcoming in Showtime’s THE FIRST LADIES and THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL.  

Patrice has coached professional and aspiring actors in voice, speech, articulation, audition preparation and acting technique.  She also has worked with a variety of professionals including lawyers, doctors, teachers, academics and entrepreneurs in preparing for their public speaking engagements including TedX presentations and Keynote addresses.  Patrice currently teaches acting in The School of Drama at The New School.  

NSangou Njikam (Hip Hop Theater Master Class)- is an actor, playwright, and Hip Hop Theatre practitioner. His works include Syncing Ink, Re:Definition, When We Left Pt. 1, Freaky Dee, Baby, and he’s one of seven writers for Hands Up:7 Plays; 7 Testimonials. He has also collaborated with Grammy-award winning artist Common on several projects including Bluebird Memories for NSangou has taught Hip Hop Theatre at Howard University, Juilliard, and Penn State University. His work focuses on using West African performance aesthetics as well as African Diasporic traditions to build relevant works. He received his BFA in Acting from Howard University and is a member of the 2015 Emerging Writers Group at the Public Theater.

KenYatta Rogers is an alum of Clark Atlanta University and the University of Pittsburgh. He is currently a faculty member at Montgomery College where he serves as collegewide coordinator for the Theatre Discipline as well as advisor and producer for co-curricular programs such as the Black Box Players theatre club, the Broadway Bound lecture/workshop series, and the College Performing Arts Series.  He was named the 2014 Maryland Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and in 2015 he was a WRC-TV NBC 4 Black History Month Honoree.  He remains an active member of the DC-Baltimore arts community having directed and acted in over 60 professional productions and has received several Helen Hayes nominations for his work.  His performance credits include 6 August Wilson plays at Round House, Arena Stage and Ford’s Theatre, as well as Suzan Lori-Parks’ Father Comes Home From The Wars  and Topdog/Underdog!  He played “Orlando” in Washington Shakespeare Theatre + African Continuum Theatre’s joint adaptation,  As You Dig It! and he is preparing to play MLK in Ford’s production of The Mountaintop this season. KenYatta has produced and created several community-based arts programs, served on numerous grant panels, served as board president for the Welders Playwright’s Collective, and participated in local and national discussions advocating for inclusion, access, and equity in collegiate and professional theatre.

Keith Randolph Smith (Guest Artist Master Class) Keith’s Broadway credits include: Jitney, American Psycho, Fences, King Hedley II, Come Back Little Sheba, Salome, and Piano Lesson. Off-Broadway: Paradise Blue; The Revolving Cycles; Tamburlaine the Great; First Breeze of Summer; Fabulation; Intimacy; and Lockdown, as well as both Regional and Off-Broadway productions of Antony & Cleopatra. Film and TV: Malcolm X; Girl Six; Anesthesia; Dead Dogs Lie; Path to Paradise; Steve (short) Journeymen (short); The Good Fight; Law and Order; Cosby; I’ll Fly Away; Onion SportsDome.



Thank you for your interest in our 2021 Co-Lab Program. Applications are now closed. Please stay tuned to this website for information about future iterations of this program.

Questions? Please email us at



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