2013 Speaker Biographies

Magician Steve Cohen has delighted and mystified audiences all over the world. His long-running weekly show, Chamber Magic, presented in an elegant suite at the legendary Waldorf-Astoria hotel, is consistently reviewed as one of New York’s best kept secrets and must-see theatrical events. His audiences, now totaling more than 250,000 guests, include a who’s who of celebrities, royalty, and other notables: Woody Allen, William Goldman, Warren Buffett, Stephen Sondheim, the Queen of Morocco—the list goes on. The laws of physics are suspended when Steve Cohen is in the room. His performances include mind reading, telekinesis, conjuring, acrobatic card tricks, and an assortment of baffling physical tricks that include stopping his own pulse. In 2012 he starred in Lost Magic Decoded, a two-hour special on the History Channel, and Theater of Wonder, a sold-out solo show at Carnegie Hall. His work has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, CNN, and Late Night with David Letterman and in numerous publications including The New York Times, Forbes Magazine, and The London Sunday Times. Cohen earned a psychology degree from Cornell University and studied at Waseda University in Tokyo. He holds the esteemed rank of Member of the Inner Magic Circle with Gold Star, awarded by The Magic Circle in London. His first book, Win the Crowd (HarperCollins), in which he explores the power of suggestion and how it can help people in their everyday lives, has been published in seven languages.

tedx.diazKristoffer Diaz is a playwright and educator living and working in Brooklyn. Full-length titles include The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, Welcome to Arroyo’s, Rebecca Oaxaca Lays Down a Bunt, and #therevolution. Awards: 2011 New York Times Outstanding Playwright Award; finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama; winner, 2011 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play; winner, 2011 OBIE Award, Best New American Play; and the inaugural Gail Merrifield Papp Fellowship from The Public Theater (2011). His work has been produced, commissioned, and developed at The Public Theater, Dallas Theater Center, Geffen Playhouse, Center Theatre Group, The Goodman, Second Stage, Victory Gardens, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Actors Theatre of Louisville, American Theater Company, The Atlantic, InterAct, Mixed Blood, The Orchard Project, Hip-Hop Theater Festival, The Lark, Summer Play Festival, Donmar Warehouse, and South Coast Repertory. He has written short work for the 24 Hour Musicals and the 24 Hour Plays on Broadway. Kristoffer was one of the creators of Brink!, the apprentice anthology show at the 2009 Humana Festival of New American Plays. He is a playwright-in-residence at Teatro Vista; a resident playwright at New Dramatists; a co-founder of the Unit Collective (Minneapolis); and a recipient of the Jerome Fellowship, the Future Aesthetics Artist Regrant, and the Van Lier Fellowship (New Dramatists). His first musical, The Unfortunates, premieres in March at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Kristoffer holds a BA from New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, an MFA from NYU’s Department of Dramatic Writing, and an MFA from Brooklyn College’s Performing Arts Management program.

tedx.gassettoVincent Gassetto is the Principal of the Academy of Applied Mathematics and Technology, also known as M.S. 343, which is a small middle school located in District 7 of the Bronx. The school services 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students in the South Bronx community and is driven by his vision of providing a meaningful learning experience for students and families, focusing on technology and personal experiences, to prepare students for the 21st century. M.S. 343, despite being located in one of the poorest congressional districts in the country, is one of only 32 NYC Department of Education public schools, out of approximately 1,800, to receive an “A” on its city report card for five consecutive years.

Josh Harris started a leading Internet research firm Jupiter Communications in 1986. He took the company public and cashed out. In 1994, he founded the world’s first internet radio/television network, Pseudo Programs, Inc. He was the subject of the Grand Jury Prize winning documentary film “We Live In Public” at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival which made it into the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City; Josh ran the underground art scene in New York City during the 1990′s. He has also captained a sport fishing boat, played poker professionally, farmed apples commercially, lived at loose ends in Malta and rediscovered himself in the great country of Ethiopia. Of late, he is the protagonist of a biography, “Totally Wired: On the Trail of the Great Dotcom Swindle.” As well as the subject of a fictional film entitled “The Gent” to be released next year. Mr. Harris’ current project, “Cybership.tv,” enables the audience to watch and interact with each other via a working cybership (set).

As Vice President of Design for Westin and Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, Erin Hoover leads a design team responsible for providing brand direction over the look and feel of two of Starwood’s largest brands. With Hoover, the creative team develops global design concepts for guestrooms, public spaces, brand partnerships, marketing events and additional elements of the Westin and Sheraton brands. Hoover and her design team played a vital role in the $6 billion revitalization of the Sheraton brand. As part of this effort, Hoover unveiled the next generation of room designs for Sheraton. The new room schemes, from furniture to textiles, were custom created by Hoover’s design team with an industry leading, design-driven approach for Starwood’s most iconic brands. The new room schemes blend high design with intuitive functionality to provide a welcome solution for many of traveler’s reported pet peeves. Hoover masterfully created multiple design schemes to allow individuality and interpretation across this global portfolio of hotels and resorts. The team of designers crafted the soothing and healing environments of both Westin’s Signature Heavenly Spa and Sheraton’s Shine Spa through carefully selected color palettes, textiles and furnishings. Hoover is currently focused on public space design concepts for both Sheraton and Westin, and the next generation of room designs for Westin. Hoover’s extensive design background encompasses the architecture and fashion industries. Prior to joining Starwood Hotels & Resorts (NYSE: HOT) Hoover worked in-house at Armani for nearly a decade. Additionally, Hoover consulted for Calvin Klein, Edwin Schlossberg, and Polo Ralph Lauren. Hoover’s large scope of design experience ranges from designing textiles and exhibitions to visual merchandising and display, store design, nightclubs and hotels. Her eclectic and varied experience shapes her design perspective and continues to inspire her as a design professional at Westin and Sheraton. Hoover has a Masters in Industrial Design from Pratt Institute.

Ellen Isaacs is an ethnographer and user experience designer, which is a fancy way of saying she observes people in their natural settings, figures out how technology might help them, and works with engineers to design technology that people can use without the urge to smash it against the wall. She has designed technology for a wide range of uses, including remote collaboration, nursing, reminiscing, online learning, mobile leisure guidance, and urban parking. She uses a highly iterative approach to design that incorporates observations and testing at all phases of the process. Ellen has spent her career in Silicon Valley, moving between large product companies (Sun Microsystems, Intuit), research labs (AT&T Labs, PARC), the obligatory failed startups (Excite, Electric Communities), and her own design consulting company (Izix Consulting). She is currently principal scientist at Palo Alto Research Center (formerly Xerox PARC), which is known for having invented graphical user interfaces, the personal computer, Ethernet, and for pioneering the use of ethnography in industry. Ellen co-authored “Designing from Both Sides of the Screen,” a book about the design of usable technology written from the perspectives of a designer and an engineer (Alan Walendowski). She has published dozens of academic papers and has accumulated several patents for her innovations. She received her PhD in cognitive psychology from Stanford, where she studied the way people use language in conversation.

Christine Jones is a freelance set designer and the Artistic Director of the critically acclaimed, Theatre for One, a portable private performing arts space for one actor and one audience member. She won a Tony Award for her work on American Idiot, A Punk Rock Musical directed by Michael Mayer, with whom she will be making her debut at The Metropolitan Opera with their production of Rigoletto. Additional Broadway credits include: On a Clear Day; Spring Awakening (Tony Nomination); Everyday Rapture, (all directed by Mayer); and The Green Bird, directed by Julie Taymor. Currently she is designing Hands on a Hardbody, a new musical based on the cult documentary film. Additional credits include: The Book of Longing, based on the poems of Leonard Cohen, with music by Philip Glass (Lincoln Center Festival); The Onion Cellar (Elliot Norton Award) , which she co-created along with director Marcus Stern and The Dresden Dolls; Much Ado About Nothing (Shakespeare in the Park); and Burn This, starring Ed Norton and Catherine Keener, (Signature Theatre). Her designs were included in the exhibition “Curtain Call: Celebrating a Century of Women Designers for Live Performance” at Lincoln Center Library for Performing Arts, (2008). For achievements in her field she received an Award of Distinction from Montreal’s Concordia University, 2009, and was honored at NYU’s Tisch Gala, 2007. She is has lectured at Princeton University and is currently Adjunct Faculty at the Tisch School of the Arts.

Seth W. Pinsky was appointed President of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2008, seven months before the collapse of Lehman Brothers ushered in one of the most significant economic downturns in generations. Since then, Seth has responded to the crisis by re-evaluating the agency’s strategy, seeking to position the City as the global center for innovation in the 21st Century. NYCEDC’s agenda includes an aggressive slate of programs aimed at diversifying the City’s economy, helping legacy industries transition to 21st Century business models, and expanding entrepreneurship to ensure that the City is well-represented in the fields of tomorrow. The more than 60 programs launched during Seth’s tenure focus on industries such as the arts, bioscience, fashion, finance, green services, manufacturing, media, and technology and include: incubator spaces providing hundreds of low-cost work stations and business development services to startup companies; the first City-sponsored investment fund outside of Silicon Valley; and international competitions aimed at spurring the creation of new business plans and smart-phone applications using long-neglected government data. During his tenure, Seth has helped to negotiate the City’s involvement in some of the most complex development projects in recent years. These include the World Trade Center, the acquisition of Brooklyn Bridge Park and Governor’s Island, the creation of a new applied science and engineering campus with Cornell University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, an NYU-led consortium in Downtown Brooklyn which will study challenges facing cities, and a new institute for data sciences at Columbia University. An attorney by training, prior to joining NYCEDC, Seth was an associate at the law firm of Cleary Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton and a financial analyst at James D. Wolfensohn Incorporated. Seth is a graduate of Columbia College, where he majored in Ancient History, and Harvard Law School.

tedx.plumBernard M. Plum is a Partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department, co-head of the Labor Management Relations Group, and serves on Proskauer’s seven-person Executive Committee. He focuses mainly on collective bargaining, arbitration, and strategic planning in a variety of industries, including newspapers, arts, entertainment and utilities industries. He has served as chief spokesperson and strategist in a wide variety of collective bargaining situations, and also has litigated labor and employment matters in the state and federal courts of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Illinois, Delaware and California. Bernie has, for many years, served as chief spokesperson for numerous employers, including the New York Times and the Broadway theater owners and producers. He represented Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road in their precedent-setting suit to enjoin sympathy strikes by railroad workers in support of striking Eastern Airlines Machinists, as well as many other employers faced with unlawful work stoppages. Among the employers Bernie has represented are The New York Times Co., The Boston Globe, The Philadelphia Inquirer, ImpreMedia, The Broadway League, The New York City Ballet, The New York City Opera, The Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Carnegie Hall, City Center of Music and Drama, Inc., Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, Sony Music Group, EMI, Disney, PPL, Inc., and Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

Rasputina directress, Melora Creager began her performance career with East Village drag-performance artists in 1980′s NYC. She founded the alternative/historical cello ensemble Rasputina in 1991 and played cello for rock-band Nirvana on their final European tour in 1994. Since 1996 Rasputina has toured the US over thirty times, made seven albums, and influenced many other major artists. The sound and visual concepts that began in Creager’s 1991 Rasputina manifesto presaged and influenced movements and trends such as Modern Victorians, Steampunk, freak folk, corsetry, and crafting. In her many recordings, and countless public performances, Creager has led a 20 year exploration in cello amplification, recording, and performance. A pioneer for cellists in popular music, Creager was the first to make the cello the main (even only) instrument in a rock group. Creager is also an originator in bringing marginalized historical women and situations to light in the pop-song form.

Daryl Roth is proud to hold the singular distinction of producing seven Pulitzer Prize-winning plays: Anna in the Tropics; August: Osage County (2008 Tony Award); Clybourne Park (2012 Tony Award); How I Learned to Drive; Proof (2001 Tony Award); Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women; and Wit. This season she is represented by: Annie; Lucky Guy by Nora Ephron; and Kinky Boots, the new musical with book by Harvey Fierstein and music by Cyndi Lauper. Her over 75 award winning productions both on and off Broadway include: Caroline, or Change; A Catered Affair; Closer Than Ever; Curtains; De La Guarda; Die, Mommie, Die!; The Divine Sister; Driving Miss Daisy; Fela!; The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? (Tony Award); A Little Night Music; Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron’s Love, Loss, and What I Wore; Mary Stuart; Medea; The Normal Heart (Tony Award); Old Wicked Songs; Our Lady of 121st Street; The Play About the Baby; Salome; The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife; The Temperamentals; Thom Pain; Through The Night; Thurgood; Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992; Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; and The Year of Magical Thinking. Future projects: John Grisham’s A Time To Kill adapted by Rupert Holmes, and the new musical It Shoulda Been You. Recent honors include: The Stella Adler 2012 Harold Clurman Spirit Award; the 2012 Family Equality Council Hostetter-Habib Family Award; The 2011 Live Out Loud Humanitarian Award; 2010 Lucille Lortel Lifetime Achievement Award; and the Albert Einstein Spirit of Achievement Award. Ms. Roth was twice included in Crain’s “100 Most Influential Women in Business.” www.DarylRothProductions.com.

David Sabel was appointed the National Theatre’s first Head of Digital Media in September 2009, overseeing the National’s broadcast and digital output.  He trained as an actor at Northwestern University in Chicago and Jacques Lecoq in Paris.  After having worked as a chef for three years, he received an MBA from Cambridge University.  David launched National Theatre Live, the ground-breaking initiative to broadcast plays live from the National’s stages to cinemas worldwide, and continues to act as Executive Producer for the programme. He produced the National’s first documentary commission, Making War Horse, served as Executive Producer for Alan Bennett and the Habit of Art, which was BAFTA nominated and won the Royal Television Society Award for Best Arts Documentary, and is currently working on a documentary and live broadcast event for the fiftieth anniversary of the National Theatre in autumn 2013.

tedx.salgadoSusan Salgado founded Hospitality Quotient with Danny Meyer in 2010. Her twenty year relationship with USHG began as a guest of Union Square Cafe; before she went on to conduct her dissertation research on USHG’s organizational culture while pursuing a Ph.D. in Management and Organizational Behavior at New York University’s Stern School of Business. She later joined the company in 2003 as its first Director of Culture & Learning. Susan’s initial work with USHG focused on building systems and infrastructure to support the culture of Enlightened Hospitality at USHG and to effectively transfer the culture to new business units as the organization grows. Susan’s expertise in organizational behavior focuses on assessing, building, and sustaining culture through effective leadership. As part of that body of work, Susan created and implemented the company’s training programs that have helped cultivate USHG’s distinct brand of hospitality and upon which HQ’s programs are based. Susan serves as HQ’s Managing Director and thought-leader. Whether consulting with clients, giving large-scale presentations, or working with small groups in training workshops, Susan brings passion, energy, and intellect to the intuitive notions of hospitality as she helps clients shift their mindset and adopt effective leadership strategies to put hospitality at the center of their business models. In addition to her Ph.D., Susan holds a BS and an MBA from Lehigh University. She has also served as a guest lecturer and instructor for classes in organizational behavior and business strategy at NYU and Lehigh University, and has been an invited speaker for leaders in a wide range of industries, including hospitality, finance, retail, healthcare and non-profit.

Zachary A. Schmahl is the CEO & Cookie Master of Schmackary’s Cookies. A bright-eyed and warm-hearted Nebraska-native, his success is the product of big risk and even bigger determination. What started out as an online business just over a year ago has become a Manhattan favorite— and daily hangout for Broadway district stars and tourists, alike. From the humblest beginning, Schmackary’s has grown to become a celebrity favorite– making mouths from Kristin Chenoweth to Kathie Lee & Hoda happy– and Tweeting about it! Nothing brings out the child in all of us like a cookie, and self-proclaimed ‘big kid’ Zach says nothing validates his hard work like the long line of smiling customers he sees all day at his shop. Holding true to his small-town, all-American values, Zachary found his niche by traveling the country sampling here and there, taking familiar flavors he loved and adding a tasty twist that evokes all that we love in homemade treats—much like Norman Rockwell, who is the inspiration for the shop’s decor. As a former actor, Zach knows the importance of following a dream, no matter how difficult, because it will come true with enough hard work. From day one, the Twitter-savvy Broadway community has supported and spread the word about this local business, and Zach has made it a point to give back– offering cookies to charities including The Actors Fund, BC/EFA, and The Trevor Project.  Learn more at www.Schmackarys.com / @Schmackarys , and follow him directly at @Zbinx

Thomas Schumacher was intensely passionate about theatre from an early age. Before coming to Disney in 1988, he spent time at the Mark Taper Forum, the Los Angeles Ballet, the Olympic Arts Festival and the LA Festival of the Arts where he presented the American premiere of Cirque du Soleil and the English-language premiere of Peter Brook’s The Mahabharata. His Broadway credits include King David, The Lion King, Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida, TARZAN®, Mary Poppins, The Little Mermaid. This season’s Peter and the Starcatcher and Newsies received a cumulative 7 Tony® Awards. On tour and internationally, he produced On The Record, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, High School Musical and Aladdin. Also for Disney, he oversaw some 21 animated features including The Lion King, Rescuers Down Under, Mulan, Lilo & Stitch, Pocahontas, Tarzan, and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Mr. Schumacher is the author of the book “How Does the Show Go On? An Introduction to the Theater” as well as a member of the Board of Trustees for BC/EFA, the Tony® Administration Committee, the Actors Fund Board and the Advisory Committee of the American Theatre Wing. He is a mentor for the TDF Open Doors program and serves as an adjunct professor at Columbia University.

George Takei is best known for his portrayal of “Mr. Sulu” in the acclaimed television and film series “Star Trek.” Takei and Tony Award winner Lea Salonga are featured in a new Broadway-bound musical called “Allegiance.” The musical is an epic story of love, family and heroism during the Japanese American internment. Allegiance’s world premiere took place at the Old Globe theatre in San Diego in September and October 2012.Takei’s acting career has spanned five decades, with more than 40 feature films and hundreds of television guest-starring roles to his credit. Takei is a member of Actors’ Equity Association, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. A community activist, Takei serves as chair of the council of governors of East West Players, the nation’s foremost Asian Pacific American theater. Takei shared a Grammy nomination with Leonard Nimoy in 1987 in the “Best Spoken Word or Non-Musical Recording” category. Takei also received a star on Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame in 1986. And in 1991 he left his signature and hand print, in cement, in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater. In December 2012, Takei released “Oh Myyy,” his first book since his autobiography, “To the Stars,” was published in 1994. Takei and his husband, Brad Takei, were married at the Japanese American National Museum on Sept. 14, 2008.

Terry Teachout is the drama critic of The Wall Street Journal, the critic-at-large of Commentary, and the author of “Sightings,” a biweekly column for the Friday Journal about the arts in America. He also writes about the arts on his blog, “About Last Night” (terryteachout.com). Satchmo at the Waldorf, his first play, was produced in 2012 by Shakespeare & Company of Lenox, Mass., and Long Wharf Theatre of New Haven, Conn. The production starred John Douglas Thompson and was directed by Gordon Edelstein. Teachout has also written the libretti for two operas by Paul Moravec, The Letter (commissioned and premiered by the Santa Fe Opera) and Danse Russe (commissioned and premiered by Philadelphia’s Center City Opera Theater). His most recent books are Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong (Harcourt), All in the Dances: A Brief Life of George Balanchine (Harcourt) and A Terry Teachout Reader (Yale University Press). He is currently at work on Mood Indigo: A Life of Duke Ellington, which will be published by Gotham Books, and received a Guggenheim Fellowship to support the completion of the book.

Adam Thurman is the Director of Marketing and Communications for Court Theatre, one of the largest nonprofit theatres in Chicago. During his tenure, Court has had some of the highest grossing production in their 57-year history. He is also the founder of Mission Paradox, an organization devoted to connecting art and audience. Under the Mission Paradox banner he has worked with artists and arts organizations from all over the USA. He authors a widely read blog on the arts, marketing, leadership, diversity and other issues at MissionParadox.com. He has been featured in Time Out New York, the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Artist Resources. He has also been a featured speaker at the Theatre Communication Group (TCG) Annual Conference, the National Arts Marketing Conference and TedxMichiganAve. Adam is a former board member of the League of Chicago Theatres and has served on the Illinois Arts Council’s Advisory Panel. He has been recognized as an Emerging Leader by Americans For the Arts and TCG. His ebook, Authentic Arts Marketing, is available at Amazon.com or as a free download from his website.

Randi Zuckerberg is the founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media, which launched in Fall 2012. As an early executive at Facebook, Randi created and ran the social media pioneer’s marketing programs. She led the company’s U.S. election and international politics strategy and created Facebook’s live streaming video capability during the2008 Presidential Inauguration. Randi was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2011 for her innovative coverage of the 2010 mid-term elections that integrated online and TV coverage in unique formats. Since starting Zuckerberg Media, Randi has produced shows and digital experiences for BeachMint, the Clinton Global Initiative, Cirque du Soleil, and the United Nations and most recently, Randi signed on as executive producer of a new show for Bravo, titled “Start-Ups: Silicon Valley” which premieres November 5, 2012. Randi has appeared on CNN, Good Morning America, the Today show, Bloomberg News, and ABC’s World News. She was also a correspondent for the 2011 Golden Globe Awards and the World Economic Forum in Davos. Randi was recently appointed to the United Nations Global Entrepreneurs Council and the World Economic Forum’s Global Council on Social Media. Randi holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Harvard University and resides in Palo Alto with her husband Brent Tworetzky and their son Asher.