Brenda Wong Aoki is a storyteller, anthologized playwright, producer, artistic director, and performer. Her song/dance/dramas are drawn from her family’s 121-year history in San Francisco and the Bay Area, Kabuki legends, ghost stories, and her personal experience. Known for her agility across disciplines, she creates monodramas rooted in traditional storytelling, dance movement, and music. Her sensei is Living Treasure, Nomura Mansaku, a Kyogen master; she also studied Noh with Nomura Shiro, who is a Cultural Intangible Property. It is extremely rare for a woman (and especially an American woman) to get to study with masters like these; ironically, it is because she is an American that she was able to work with artists of this caliber. Her other teachers/coaches/mentors include stage director, choreographer, performer, and former director of Theatre of Yugen, Yuriko Doi, and longtime director and coach, Jael Weisman of Dell’Arte Players and the San Francisco Mime Troupe.
Laura Simms is an award winning performer, writer, and educator advocating storytelling as compassionate action for personal and community transformation. She performs worldwide combining ancient myth and true life story for adult and family audiences. She is the Artistic Director of the Hans Christian Andersen Storytelling Center in NY and the founder of The Center for Engaged Storytelling (new). She has been a Senior Research Fellow for the International Peace institute at Rutgers University Newark under the auspices of UNESCO. As a spokesperson for storytelling she presents keynotes and workshops in conferences, villages, schools, universities and community events. She is a member of the Therapeutic Arts Alliance of Manhattan, and a senior teacher of Shambhala Buddhist meditation. Laura received the Brimstone Award for Engaged Storytelling, CHOICE award for best story collection and Sesame Street’s SUNNY DAYS award for work with children worldwide. In 2011 she recieved a Life Time Achievement Award from the National Storytelling Netwrok. She is co-faculty with Terry Tempest Williams’ at University of Utah, consults with ETSU’s CANCER STORIES project, and is spoken word consultant for Foundations, NGOS working in post disaster and conflicts. She recently appeared at the Newark Peace Summit and the Conference on World Peace and Values in Monterrey, Mexico. Her Most recent book is OUR SECRET TERRITORY: The Essence of Storytelling (Sentient Publications, June 2011). She is completing a new work: THE SANCTUARY OF A STORY (TBA). Laura is the mother of best selling author Ishmael Beah.