The Chocolate Factory acquired its current space at 5-49 49th Avenue in 2004, and began public performances in 2005. This is a (mostly) comprehensive list of everything we’ve done since then.
Sheila Lewandowski, Executive Director and Co-Founder of The Chocolate Factory Theater where she successfully worked with the City of New York to acquire a building for the theater to have a permanent venue in Long Island City. Sheila has over 30 years of non-profit management and financial experience. In addition to her work at The Chocolate Factory Sheila is a community organizer and advocate for artists, and works to increase awareness of the importance of the arts in policy making in everything from education to housing to economic development and in regards to labor on a local, regional, state and national level. Sheila has received recognition for her activities most recently as a Business Person of the Year by the Queens Chamber of Commerce and as a Community Leader in and for the arts by the Queens Council on the Arts in 2018. Prior recognition includes the Elizabeth Coleman Visionary Leadership Award from her alma mater Bennington College, Woman of Distinction by New York State Senator Michael Gianaris and proclamations from the New York State Assembly and New York City Council for her work in and for her local community. Sheila serves on Community Board 2 in Queens and chairs the Transportation Committee. She is a member of the Steering Committee of the Coalition to Advance Nonprofits of Nonprofit New York after eleven years as an active Board member.
Sheila has been a guest professor at the Academy of Theater & Dance in Amsterdam and Marymount Manhattan College in NYC. She has been a guest speaker and panelist on topics ranging from Nonprofit Management to community organizing and development for Van Alen Institute, Dance NYC, LIC Partnership, WNYC among others.
Director of Operations
Madeline Best grew up in Durham, North Carolina, and has lived in New York City for the last 17 years. She studied dance at Bennington College and has been a lighting designer for over 20 years. Her recent design projects include collaborations with Moriah Evans, Yve Laris Cohen, Heather Kravas, Ursula Eagly, Milka Djordjevich, Efrian Rozas, luciana achugar, Andrea Kleine, Anne-B Parson/Big Dance Theater, and many others.
Madeline brings her many years of experience working collaboratively with dance, theater and interdisciplinary artists to her administrative practice – using project management, collective visioning, and creative problem-solving as the bases for her approach to organizational operations.
In more than 15 years at The Chocolate Factory Theater, Madeline has held diverse roles ranging from Production Intern, to Production Manager, to her current role as Director of Operations. In addition, Madeline brings her experience as a working theater artist to The Chocolate Factory Theater’s current capital design and renovation project. Her unique perspective has helped to guide the project while simultaneously prioritizing ease of use and optimized functionality of the facility.
Frank Wu has lived in NYC the last 9 years, being in LIC/Queens the last four years. Prior, he lived 2 years in Boston, 3 years in Chicago, and usually tells folks he’s from California/Bay Area where he went to college/high school, although he also grew up in the MidWest for part of his life. He strongly feels NYC is the best City having lived and traveled in a lot of places, and is a busy single parent raising a 6 year old while also involved in local community issues, learning muay thai, and working in a fast-paced software technology industry that is constantly changing.
The Chocolate Factory Theater is an artist-centered organization, built by and for artists. Co-founders Sheila Lewandowski and Brian Rogers began making work together in 1995 and quickly saw the need for a creative home to support their work and the work of fellow experimental performance-based artists. The Chocolate Factory therefore has grown and developed within and through a creative process that centers the development of new work, as guided by makers.
Please consider a monthly recurring donation. It really helps!
Originally from the Caribbean island of Curaçao, Regine Pieters is an arts administrator, producer, choreographer, and dancer. In addition to creating her own work as a choreographer, she has performed in works by Elizabeth Dishman, Vincent Hardy, Marc Wayne, Sung Yong Kim, and Faizah Grootens, and studied contact improvisation with Nancy Stark Smith. Regine received a BFA in Dance from Belhaven University. Upon moving to NYC in 2018, she found a deep joy in organizing the logistical aspects of performance, prioritizing providing artists with the support and resources to develop their work and thrive creatively. She has worked in administrative, producing, development, and management capacities at Gibney Dance Center, Center for Performance Research, Dishman + Co. Choreography, Brooklyn Arts Exchange, The Bessies, and New Yorkers for Culture and Arts. She’s excited to be joining The Chocolate Factory Theater full time as a Development Associate, longing to make non-profit funding more equitable within underrepresented communities. With her deep appreciation for the performing and visual arts, she aspires to create leverage within the structures of arts organizations to foster sustainability and opportunities for artists.
Director of Development
Shaniyat Chowdhury was born and raised in Queens, NY. He dedicates his life to public service having served 6 years in the United States Marine Corps until 2017. As an experienced political organizer and activist, Shaniyat worked with his neighbors to address social issues affecting communities in NYC, and he helped raise funds for political campaigns. Shaniyat received his Bachelor of Science in Sociology from CUNY John Jay College, and is completing his masters thesis on the influence of art and globalization at the Graduate School of Arts & Science at New York University.
Angie Pittman is a New York-based dance artist, maker, and educator. Her work has been performed at The Kitchen, Gibney Dance, BAAD!, Movement Research at Judson Church, Triskelion Arts, STooPS, The Domestic Performance Agency, The KnockDown Center, The Invisible Dog(Catch 73), The Chocolate Factory, Danspace Project, and Roulette. Angie has had the pleasure of being able to create collaboratively with A Sef, Jasmine Hearn, Jonathan Gonzalez, Athena Kokoronis, and Anita Mullin. She holds a MFA in Dance and Choreography from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a graduate minor in African American Studies and is a certified Professional teacher of the Umfundalai technique. Her choreographic work has been supported by Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant and residencies through Tofte Lake Center, Movement Research, New Dance Alliance Black Artists Space to Create, and Djerrassi. Angie’s work resides in a space that investigates how the body moves through ballad, groove, sparkle, spirit, spirituals, ancestry, vulnerability, and power. As an educator, she is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance at Marymount Manhattan College.
Neil Greenberg came to New York from Minnesota in 1976 and danced with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company from 1979-1986. He is known especially for his “Not-About-AIDS-Dance,” which employs his signature use of projected words as a layering strategy that provides doors into “meanings” in the dance, while also raising questions about the nature of meaning-making. He has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and two Bessie Awards, repeated fellowships from the NEA and NYFA, a fellowship from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, a NDP Production grant, a Doris Duke Creative Exploration Award, and repeated support from the MAP Fund and NYSCA. He has created two works for Mikhail Baryshnikov’s White Oak Dance Project. Greenberg is currently Professor of Choreography at Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts, The New School, and has previously taught at Purchase College, Sarah Lawrence College, and UC Riverside. He served as dance curator at The Kitchen from 1995-1999. His most recent project, To the things themselves! (The Chocolate Factory, 2018) continues his interest in the move away from representation toward an experience of the performance moment in and of itself. Most recently he created “The Disco Project” Installation, recontextualizing documentation of his1995 work for exhibition at Greene Naftali (NYC, 2021) and White Columns (NYC 2022).
Jerry LaSpisa is a Vice President, Branch Manager for M&T Bank’s Business Banking Center located in the rapidly growing areas of Long Island City, Queens. He has been an active community member since the office broke ground back in 2007. He supports organizations such as the Long Island City Partnership, Queens Chamber of Commerce, Queens Economic Development Corporation, and the Sunnyside Chamber to name a few. Currently responsible for Business Development, Commercial and Residential Lending, Consumer Banking, and the daily operations of the Long Island City branch. He is very well respected and loved by his colleagues, clients, and by all the local communities he has helped and served. For over the past 25 years in Banking, his successes are attributed to all the hard work and the wealth of knowledge he shares with others seeking his guidance. Not to mention, a proud resident of Queens for 50 years – born and raised. He earned a degree in Finance from Baruch College – Zicklin School of Business.
Hospitality industry veteran Diana Manalang brings more than a decade of experience to her two Long Island City businesses, Little Chef Little Kitchen and Little Chef Little Café. Building on expertise developed in marketing for brands like Swarovski and restaurant management, Diana brings a passion for food and customer care to everything she does. Prior to launching her own businesses, she helped develop restaurant and food hall concepts while also playing a pivotal role in the success of the Bareburger Group, where she rose to the position of Managing Partner. Ready to build something of her own, Diana started working as a private chef and caterer, launching Little Chef Little Kitchen in 2018. Working as her own boss allowed Diana to take a personalized approach to creating dishes and menus that are tailored to every type of event from intimate celebrations to large catered affairs. Launched in 2019, Little Chef Little Café brought a new breakfast and lunch option to fast growing Long Island City, where she also introduced dishes drawing on her Filipino-American heritage. Showing Diana’s resilience in the face of business challenges, she pivoted to selling prepared meals for adults and kids during the pandemic while the café became a to-go destination. Building on the success of the prepared meals, Diana now supplies healthy lunches to a number of neighborhood schools. Diana’s charity work includes sitting on the board of Sprouting Scholars, an organization dedicated to children’s education abroad, since 2015 and as a current member of the junior board of the Food Education Fund, a nonprofit supporting culinary-focused public high school students in New York City.
Chris Ajemian parlayed his writing and directing career into CATES, a global advising, education, and innovation firm based in New York and London.In 2016, Chris was recognized by The Chocolate Factory with its inaugural “Artist in Industry” Award for his creative contributions to the education field. His creativity, entrepreneurial spirit, and drive toward innovation find kinship at The Chocolate Factory, of which Chris has been a proud Board Member for almost a decade.
Diane Eisenstat has over twenty years of experience with digital packaging and delivery of global financial data, information and news. As Vice President of Product Management at McGraw Hill Financial she increased revenues over $100M by developing new strategies to package and price content and devising methodologies to protect intellectual property. She is President of the Board of The Chocolate Factory Theater, and Assistant Treasurer of Town & Village Synagogue in Manhattan.
For 22 years Stephen Facey served as the Executive Vice President of The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine where he had administrative responsibility for the Cathedral’s array of cultural, educational, and social outreach programs. He also coordinated the Cathedral’s preservation and capital improvement initiatives. He is a trustee of the St. Mark’s Historic Landmark Fund, the New York Preservation Archive Project, Movement Research, and The Chocolate Factory Theater.
Jonathan Kratter is President and Chief Architect of Applications Integrations LLC working as a senior systems architect with more than 20 years experience designing and implementing enterprise- scale computer systems on the Unix and Microsoft platforms for clients such as Pfizer, Forest Labs, Omgeo, Japan Tobacco International, Trius Therapeutics, and The Yankee Group. Earlier Jonathan was a Senior Architect at Merrill Lynch Enterprise Technical Services division where he worked on the Corporate Product Master and with Global Equity Derivatives. Before Merrill Lynch Jonathan was lead architect for Global Broking Services at Marsh & McLennan and prior to that Jonathan was a consultant to Texaco Inc for the Middle East Far East Division.
Alton Murray retired from Con Edison where he managed relationships with Arts and Culture and Environmental nonprofits organizations. Alton is an ardent patron of the arts. He currently chairs the board of Company SBB, and continues to support emerging artists with an interest in women artists making work on paper.
Since 2019, Vallejo Gantner has been Artistic Executive Director of the Onassis Foundation USA, an innovative programming foundation based in Athens with satellites in New York and Los Angeles. Artistic Director of Performance Space 122 (now Performance Space New York) from 2005-2017 and a consulting curator for BAM and Theater de Welt. A board member of Myer Family Investments, and Jianguo, both diversified investment companies based in Melbourne. He is currently engaged in driving these toward a new strategy of sustainable investment.
Mary Torres has happily called Long Island City home since 2009 when she bought an apartment in Citylights – LIC’s first waterfront luxury high-rise condop. Mary joins Modern Spaces with over two decades of combined experience as a business developer and community banker. It’s her love of the community combined with her professional experience in client and business development, which compelled her to pursue real estate in Long Island City.
Daniel Fish is a New York-based director who makes work across the boundaries of theater, film, and opera. He draws on a broad range of forms and subject matter including plays, film scripts, contemporary fiction, essays and found audio. His 2019 production of OKLAHOMA! transferred to Broadway from St. Ann’s Warehouse and won the Tony Award for Best Musical Revival. His work has been seen at theaters and festivals throughout the U.S. and Europe including, The Walker Arts Center, PuSH, Teatro Nacional D. Maria, Lisbon/Estoril Film Festival, Vooruit, Festival TransAmériques, Noorderzon Festival, The Chocolate Factory, The Public Theater’s Under The Radar, Opera Philadelphia/Curtis Opera Theater, American Repertory Theater, Richard B. Fisher Center at Bard College, Yale Repertory Theater, McCarter Theater, Signature Theater, The Shakespeare Theater Company, and many . He is graduate of Northwestern University’s Department of Performance Studies and has taught at The Juilliard School, Bard College, Princeton University, and The Department of Design for Stage and Film at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Daniel is the recipient of the 2017 Herb Alpert Award in the Arts for the Theater.
Antonio Ramos was born and raised in Puerto Rico where he trained in jazz, salsa and African dance. He later received a B.F.A. in Dance from SUNY Purchase. Antonio began his career performing with Ballet Theatre of Puerto Rico, Ballet Hispanico of New York, Ballet Concierto and Ballet Municipal (PR). His choreography has been produced at Hostos College, The Kitchen, New York Live Arts, Dance Theater Workshop, SUNY Purchase, BAAD!, Dixon Place, P.S. 122, Joe’s Pub, Danspace Project, Lexington Center for the Arts NY, DanceNow Downtown, and many more. Recently, he presented work at the American Realness Festival at the Abrons Arts Center, presented the world premiere of Almodovar Dystopia at Dixon Place, was commissioned by the High Line , and premiered Part 2 of El pueblo de los Olvidados at The Chocolate Factory Theater. Antonio is also a Licensed Massage Therapist, Zero Balancing, and a certified instructor-practitioner in The Feldenkrais Method.
Tracy Capune is Vice President of Kaufman Astoria Studios. A key member of KAS’s team, Ms. Capune oversees the Studio’s expansion plans as well as initiatives to further economic growth in the neighborhood surrounding the Studio. Ms. Capune played an integral role in creating the Studio’s backlot, managed the development of the Stage K building and was a key team member in developing The Marx, a 33-unit condominium building. She recently led the successful drive to designate the area surrounding the Studio as the Kaufman Arts District. Ms. Capune is now overseeing the Studio’s latest expansion project, building Stages O and N.
Prior to joining KAS, Ms. Capune spent eight years as a Managing Director at Stadtmauer Bailkin LLP. She is a graduate of The American University and earned a Masters in Urban Planning from New York University. Ms. Capune is a member of the Boards of Directors of the Queens Theatre, the Queens Economic Development Corporation, The Chocolate Factory Theater, RIOULT Dance and the Kaufman Arts District.
Brian Rogers, Artistic Director/Chief Curator is a filmmaker, director, video and sound artist, co-founder and artistic director of The Chocolate Factory Theater, which supports the creation of theater, dance, music and multimedia performances at its 5,000 sq ft facility in LIC, Queens. Since 1997, Brian has conceived and/or directed numerous large scale performances at The Chocolate Factory and elsewhere including Screamers (Queens World Film Festival at Museum of the Moving Image, March 2018 / Abrons Arts Center, August 2018 / Gund Gallery at Kenyon College, October 2018 / Zukor Theater at Kaufman Astoria Studios, November 2018 / Baryshnikov Arts Center, February 2019 / University of Michigan, April 2019 / University of Colorado, September 2019), Hot Box (September 2012, co-presented with FIAF’s Crossing The Line Festival / January 2013, PS122’s COIL Festival / February 2013, EMPAC Center, Troy NY – supported by a MAP Fund grant), the Bessie-nominated Selective Memory (July 2010, Mount Tremper Arts / September 2011, The Chocolate Factory / January 2011, PS122’s COIL Festival) and the horror the horror (Movement Research Festival 2011, Abrons Arts Center / 2012). Brian recently composed the soundtrack for Shaun Iron & Lauren Petty’s film Standing By: Gatz Backstage; and has collaborated as a sound and video artist with numerous experimental dance and theater artists in NY and elsewhere. Brian is a MacDowell Colony Fellow and has had residencies at Yaddo and Mount Tremper Arts.
In addition to his own work, Brian curates The Chocolate Factory’s Visiting Artist Program (now in its 15th year), which supports the work of more than 100 theater, dance, music and multimedia artists each year.
Brian has recently taught at Kenyon College, University of Michigan, University of Colorado, Long Island University, The School at The Art Institute of Chicago, St. Johns University, Carnegie Mellon University, Sarah Lawrence College, The New School, New York University, Princeton University and others; and has served as a panelist / recommender for NYSCA, Queens Council on the Arts, Fresh Tracks, NYC Dept of Cultural Affairs, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Creative Capital, Pew Charitable Trust, the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Kresge Foundation, Yaddo, the Macdowell Colony, and others. He is a graduate of Bennington College.
Bio to follow…
MARY ROSE LLOYD
Mary Rose Lloyd is a curator of performing arts, recognized for her expertise in family and young audiences programming and for her passion in supporting the creation of extraordinary work for audiences of all ages by innovative artists across all disciplines. She is currently the Director of Artistic Programming at The New Victory Theater in New York – a leading arts presenter dedicated to championing outstanding theater, dance, music, circus, and puppetry arts for kids, their families and classmates. During her tenure, several shows have won and/or been nominated for Tony, Obie and Drama Desk Awards. In 2012, the New Victory received a special Drama Desk Award for “providing enchanting, sophisticated children’s theater that appeals to the child in all of us, and for nurturing a love of theater in young people.”
Mary’s work at the New Victory has been recognized by Time Out New York: “There’s more sheer inventiveness and wonder in a single New Victory season than in most venues combined.” She has been instrumental in bringing the work of bold international artists including the nouveau cirque and physical theater prodigies James Thiérrée and Aurélien Bory (France), the aerial dance company of Brenda Angiel (South America), inventive theater groups Kneehigh and the Young Vic (England) and the National Theatre of Scotland, Catherine Wheels, and Visible Fictions (Scotland), powerhouses Circus Oz and Belvoir (Australia), puppet auteurs Improbable and Blind Summit (UK) and the intensely fresh Ontroerend Goed (Belgium) to the attention of U.S. viewers and programmers. She has regularly supported and programmed works from important American companies as well, including Rennie Harris RHAW (Philadelphia), Black Violin (Miami), Lookingglass Theatre Company and Steppenwolf Theatre Company (Chicago), Children’s Theater Company (Minneapolis), Seattle Children’s Theater (Seattle), and New Yorkers Phil Soltanoff, Tectonic Theater Project, Mabou Mines, Ping Chong + Company, The Acting Company, Fiasco Theater and Don Byron, among others.
An accomplished speaker and frequent panelist and juror, Mary has attended numerous arts festivals and conferences as an invited guest and as part of various international delegations for curatorial research. Her writing has been featured in Inside Arts and TYA Today, as well as on other platforms. She has been a board member of TYA/USA (formerly ASSITEJ USA) and International Performing Arts for Youth (IPAY) and was the Chairman of IPAY’s Artist Showcase Selection Committee. In 2014, Mary received the Mickey Miners Lifetime Achievement Award, IPAY’s highest honor for making a significant impact on the field of performing arts for young audiences.
Mary has served on the curatorial selection team for the Made in Scotland program at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and was a delegate to the U.S./Netherlands/Flanders Touring and Exchange Project as well as a member of the East Coast Advisory Board for the US COMEDY ARTS FESTIVAL. She has served on grant giving and funding panels, including for the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and Pennsylvania Performing Arts on Tour.
Most recently, Mary was a selected juror for the 37th Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain in Paris, a respondent for the Southeastern Theater Conference (SETC), a member of the Artistic Advisory Committee of Circus Now, and a member of the Board of Directors of The Chocolate Factory Theater in New York. In January 2017, Mary received the William Dawson Award for Programmatic Excellence and Sustained Achievement in Programming from the Association of Performing Arts Professionals (APAP).
Previously, Mary programmed the Special Events Series at the Yale Repertory Theater and served as its Associate Managing Director and was the Managing Director and a Board member of Connecticut’s Ensemble Company for the Performing Arts. She has an MFA in Theater Management from the Yale School of Drama where she received the Morris Kaplan Award for Excellence in Arts Administration.
RYAN SUDA, ESQ.
As a partner in the Banking & Finance practice at Mayer Brown LLP, Ryan focuses in particular on securitizations of institutional leveraged loans, known as collateralized loan obligations (CLOs), which provide funding to the corporate credit market.
In addition to CLOs, he advises clients on regulatory issues in relation to securities laws, the US risk retention regulations and the Volcker Rule, and has experience in derivatives, secured and unsecured credit facilities, private placements, asset finance and acquisition finance.