Staff Bios

Meet the Staff of The Forum Project!

S. Leigh Thompson, Executive Director and Co-Founder
Alex Santiago-Jirau, Artistic Director and Co-Founder
Sarah Giffin, Program Coordinator
Clara Kiely, Performance Troupe Intern
Arianne Napier, Program Intern
Faith Lawson

S. Leigh Thompson, Executive Director and Co-founder

S. Leigh Thompson is a social justice artist, a critical educator and a raging queer and has spent his adult life working for political and social justice, especially within the queer and trans* communities. He has been studying and working with Theatre of the Oppressed techniques since 1997 and has worked with and learned from dozens of skilled trainers and facilitators around the world, including founder Augusto Boal on multiple occasions. Leigh is the President Elect of Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed, Inc. and has been a member since 2001. Leigh has worked for several local, state and national organizations, including the Empire State Pride Agenda, the ACLU, GLSEN, and the Applied Research Center and Colorlines.com. In 2012 Leigh became The Executive Director of The Forum Project and works to guide the operations and programming of the organization. He has worked with many different communities, including immigrants, survivors of sexual violence, transgender people, people with disabilities and queer youth. Leigh has a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre with an emphasis in Directing from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and an individualized Master of Arts from Gallatin at New York University, focusing on utilizing Theatre of the Oppressed for political and social change. Email Leigh at leigh@theforumproject.org.

Alexander Santiago-Jirau, Artistic Director and Co-founder

Alexander Santiago-Jirau is a theatre artist, advocate and educator with extensive experience in popular education and theatre for social justice. He has studied Theatre of the Oppressed techniques for over twelve years, working with Augusto Boal on several occasions. Alex is a past President of Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed, Inc. and a current Board Member of the New York City Arts in Education Roundtable. Throughout his career he has worked in neighborhood planning, environmental justice, teacher recruitment and arts education. Currently, he is Associate Director of Teaching and Learning at The Center for Arts Education, where he manages a roster of over sixty teaching artists in dance, music, theatre and the visual arts, counsels youth pursuing arts careers, and facilitates professional development for educators. He is an Adjunct Instructor in the Program in Educational Theatre at New York University where he teaches courses in Theatre of the Oppressed, and a Visiting Lecturer at Drew University where he has taught courses in Latin American/Latino political theatre. Alex holds a BS in Urban and Regional Studies from Cornell University and an MA in Educational Theatre from New York University, focusing on Theatre of the Oppressed, applied theatre and drama in education. Email Alex at alex@theforumproject.org.

Sarah Giffin, Program Coordinator

Sarah Giffin is BA candidate at Eugene Lang College studying Psychology, Theatre, and Creative Arts/Drama Therapy. She is a long time advocate of using the arts to create community dialogue and social change. On her campus, she utilizes interactive arts installations to address issues of community, identity, privilege, justice in the classroom, and student wellness. At school, she works as a Peer Health Advocate, SafeZone Ally, Social Justice Initiatives student leader, and Research Assistant in theTrauma and Affective Psychophysiology Lab. She has learned all she knows about Theatre of the Oppressed from The Forum Project and is always finding ways to bring this critical pedagogy and activated learning to her New School Community. Email Sarah at sarah@theforumproject.org.

Clara Kiely, Performance Troupe Intern

Clara Kiely is an activist and ex-student who loves theater in all forms. She graduated from Brown University with a B.A. in linguistics (because she’s fascinated with the ways in which people communicate). She worked for the Brown University Theater department for three years, and interned at the Public Theater and the Playwright’s Realm. Her own activism focuses on gender and sexuality, but she believes in the power of Theater of the Oppressed to address many different intersections of oppression, and hopes to continue working in those intersections. Email her at clara@theforumproject.org.

Arianne Napier, Program Intern

Arianne Napier is social justice advocate from Brooklyn, NY. Arianne is pursuing a Master of Social Work from Smith College School for Social Work and received her Bachelor of Arts from Simmons College in Women & Gender Studies and Africana Studies.  Arianne is experienced in facilitating anti-oppression dialogues with high school and college students. Arianne has worked with several communities and organizations providing gang violence prevention initiatives, sexual health education, and crisis intervention services for sexual assault survivors. Arianne is excited to have the opportunity to learn the Theatre of the Oppressed (TOP) techniques with the Forum Project, and can’t wait to begin using TOP techniques to facilitate dialogue and social awareness to challenge oppression. Email her at arianne@theforumproject.org.

Faith Lawson

Faith Lawson is a theater artist, arts educator and social justice advocate who has been involved in the performing arts for 13 years. Faith received a Master of Arts in Educational Theater from New York University, where her passion for Theater of the Oppressed began to take flight. Faith has served numerous organizations and communities in NYC , Europe and Asia which include refugees, prison inmates and troubled youth. Faith has and continues to use Theater of the Oppressed as a platform for social awareness both as an educator and artist. Faith is a firm believer in using theater techniques as a means to entertain as well as educate and looks forward to working with The Forum Project in its endeavors to create change.