Performance Companies


Together these ladies wrote the Audience Development Committee ( AUDELCO)-winning play, Renaissance in the Belly of a Killer Whale, which is a growing theatrical production that focuses on preserving the rich culture and history of Harlem through the arts. Jaylene Clark Owens is the director.  It is a look into the multifaceted issue of gentrification in Harlem through a fusion of spoken word poetry, theatre, song, and more!

Harlem KW Project

Hollis Heath, Jaylene Clark Owens and Janelle Heatley (left to right)

Hollis Heath is an AUDELCO award-winning actress, writer and educator from Harlem, NY. Heath received her BA in Creative Writing from The City College of New York with a minor in Theater. Heath has developed and facilitated drama programming for young people throughout NYC. She is a recipient of the Harlem YMCA Community Impact Award for “dedication to the enrichment of the Harlem Community.” For the conference, she will be part of the cast of  “Renaissance in the Belly of the Killer Whale,” which is a play that deals with gentrification and its impact on home. 

Jaylene Clark Owens is an AUDELCO-winning and Barrymore-nominated actress, a spoken word poet, and a producer from Harlem, NY. Owens received her BFA in Acting from Ithaca College. Her most recent work includes Priscilla in “The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington” and Lydia in “Red Speedo.” Her use of both classic and hip-hop theatre has a unique appeal to viewers of all ages. She and cast members will perform “Renaissance in the Belly of the Killer Whale,” at the conference which addresses the marginalization of home through gentrification.​

Janelle Heatley is an AUDELCO award-winning actress, producer, and singer. Hinnant received her B.F.A. in Acting from SUNY Purchase. Her recent credits include “The Odyssey” (Circe) and “Intimate Apparel” (Mayme). For the conference, she will be part of the cast of  “Renaissance in the Belly of the Killer Whale,” which is a play that deals with gentrification and its impact on home.  ​

​La Tasha Stephens is a native New Yorker who proudly hails from Queens. She is an actress, writer, director and educator. Presently she is working with the CAMBA Beacon program, a non-for-profit agency, teaching acting in an underserviced area in Brooklyn. La Tasha received her B.A. in Acting and Directing from Binghamton University and her MFA in Acting from the University of Texas at Austin.  Her recent credits include: Tiny Things (Erica);The Holding Room (Black Suit); Durang/Durang (Mrs. Sorken/Ginny). La Tasha is also a resident guest artist at the Open Hydrant Theatre Company where is she currently developing two new plays.


Shabutaso Inc., literally translated as “House of Shabu” is a family of artists hailing from Guinea and Liberia West Africa, with blood ties to Barbados, South Carolina and the richest parts of the African Diaspora.  Believing there is rhythm in everything, Shabutaso’s mission is to connect and reconnect to traditional African culture and values. (Photo by Kathy A. Perkins)


Aya Shabu is a writer, teaching artist, dancer, and theater choreographer. She has choreographed for some of the Triangle’s best theatrical productions: The Parchman Hour, I Love My Hair and The Brothers Size. Aya is the creator of Unforgettable Neighborhoods, monthly walking tours of Durham’s historically black Hayti neighborhood. She has studied African Diasporic dance forms with the late JeanLeon Destine, Dr. Yvonne Daniels, Baba Richard Gonzalez, Isaura Oliveira, and Ballet Folklórico Cutumba (Santiago de Cuba, Cuba). An Alum of the nationally and internationally recognized African American Dance Ensemble, Mrs. Shabu currently enjoys performing with The Magic of African Rhythms and serving as board chair of Shabutaso Inc.

Teli Shabu is the Executive Director of Shabutaso Inc. and Musical Director of The Magic of African Rhythms. Originally from Liberia, West Africa, Teli grew up in a family performance ensemble where art was a way of life. Teli was awarded Best Original Music 2012 for his work on The Brothers Size by Indy Weekly Magazine and was the
recipient of the Emerging Artist Award for 2013/2014. An alum of the African American Dance Ensemble, he currently directs the music and instruction for Collage Dance Company. Director of Shabutaso African Drum Institute, Teli seeks to guide young people on the drummer’s path. Tasuma is his latest cd release featuring the kora.