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.
Chris Ajemian parlayed his writing and directing career into CATES, a global advising, education, and innovation firm based in New York and London. A member of both the National and International Associations of College Admissions Counselors, Chris holds a Bachelor of Arts in Pre-Med and Theater Arts from Boston College, where he received the J. Paul Marcoux Award for Academic & Artistic Excellence; a Specialization in Entrepreneurship through the Wharton School of Business; and his Ed.M. in Technology, Innovation, and Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. 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.
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. Additionally, he is passionate about traveling and looks forward to exploring other countries and new cultures.
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.
Since 2019, Vallejo Gantner has served as 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. For 20 years, working across live performance in all disciplines, cinema, design and hospitality Gantner has sought innovative artists, work, and ideas building new experience and forms of communication for audiences.
He is the chair of Hoovie – a new model of film distribution developing innovative ways that enable independent film screenings in private spaces, and MAKRS, a company supporting creative urban ecosystems of artists, artisans and ideas people. 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.
He also serves on the boards of In Between Time (Bristol), and various philanthropic institutions in Australia.
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For 22 years Stephen 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. Formerly, at St. Mark’s Church In-the-Bowery, he developed the Arts Projects at St. Mark’s (comprising Theatre Genesis, The Poetry Project and Danspace) and the Preservation Youth Project, a work and training program for young residents of the Church’s lower East Side neighborhoods, directing their work to restore St. Mark’s after a devastating fire. Subsequently, he directed the restorations of the Church of St. Luke In-the-Fields and Hitchcock Presbyterian Church.
Stephen holds an A.B. in English Literature from Boston University and a Master in Public Administration from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. 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.
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. At Reuters she was on the team responsible for investments in new information technologies. She has been an adjunct professor teaching “Business Plans and Entrepreneurship” at St John’s international MBA program and is currently a consultant to AxiomSL, an industry leader delivering risk management tools to Financial Institutions.
As a supporter of the arts, Diane has volunteered on strategic projects for nonprofits through the Taproot Foundation.
Diane is a graduate of M.I.T. and earned a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from Columbia University, an M.B.A. from Columbia Business School and a certificate in global management from INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France. She is President of the Board of The Chocolate Factory Theater, and Assistant Treasurer of Town & Village Synagogue in Manhattan.
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.
Sheila Lewandowski is co-founder and executive director of The Chocolate Factory Theater. Through her leadership, the theater has supported over 800 artists and as many as 35,000 visitors since opening its doors in 2004. In addition, Ms. Lewandowski instituted the annual Taste of Long Island City as an economic and community development project, the proceeds of which further the work of The Chocolate Factory’s artists each year.
Bio to follow…
Jonathan 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.
Prior to Applications Integrations Jonathan was Technology Director at Avenue A Razorfish, SBI Group and Scient where he serviced numerous clients including NCCI Holdings, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Genzyme Corporation, Aetna US Health Care, GlaxoSmithKline, MetLife, Price Waterhouse Coopers, and Cirqit.com. While at Scient, Jonathan led the Media Asset Lab and was a key member of the Program Management Office.
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.
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.
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. Nothing makes Mary happier than helping clients find their own perfect spot in LIC and she works tirelessly to guide them through the process of renting, buying or selling both residential and commercial properties in Long Island City and throughout New York City.
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.
Mary’s superb communication skills, strong business acumen, and global market experience give her the ability to work with a diverse array of clients. Whether they are looking to rent, buy or sell, Mary ensures her client’s needs are met and moreover, that they are at ease with the process form beginning to end.
Mary holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mathematics, and is certified as a Buyers Representative and a Certified Negotiation Expert. She is a registered member of the Real Estate Board of New York.