2023 Alumni Award Recipients
Presented by the School of Music, Theatre, & Dance Alumni Board
HALL OF FAME AWARDS
Priscilla Lindsay (BA ’71, MA ’72, theatre), Claribel Baird Halstead Collegiate Professor of Theatre, served as chair of SMTD’s Department of Theatre & Drama from 2010–21 and then spent the following two years focusing on teaching and directing.
Lindsay spent the bulk of her career with the Indiana Repertory Theatre (IRT), performing for more than 30 seasons in upwards of 50 roles. She also directed dozens of productions and served as associate artistic director for 12 years. She headed up the IRT’s Summer Conservatory for Youth program and was director of the Young Playwrights in Process playwriting competition. Lindsay has returned to perform with IRT several times since joining the SMTD faculty, most recently in the role of Mrs. Jennings in Sense & Sensibility.
In addition to employing her theatrical talents, Lindsay has had a long and successful voiceover career, with clients including Maytag, Cool Whip, Gerber, Hyundai, Kraft, Kellogg’s, and McDonald’s, among many others. She recently began doing voiceover work for animation. Lindsay retired from SMTD in spring 2023.
Ava Ordman (BM & MM ’75, trombone) served for 24 years as principal trombone with the Grand Rapids Symphony – a job she attained at age 19. At age 41, Ordman returned to school to pursue a master’s degree in counseling psychology from Western Michigan University. In 1997, she began her work as a psychologist while subbing with the Detroit Symphony and Detroit Opera orchestras and teaching low brass at Oakland University. In 2002, Ordman was appointed professor of trombone at Michigan State University. She is principal trombone of the Lansing Symphony Orchestra and the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music Orchestra, and she performs with the Monarch Brass, the flagship brass ensemble of the International Women’s Brass Conference.
Ordman played her solo debut at Carnegie Hall in 1990 with the American Symphony and has been a featured artist at numerous festivals and conferences. She performed the world premieres of Steven Smith’s Trombone Concerto with the Eugene Symphony and Libby Larsen’s Mary Cassatt with the Grand Rapids Symphony; both works were written for Ordman. Ordman’s most recent venture was leading a consortium to commission a new trombone concerto by David Biedenbender; Their Eyes Are Fireflies received its world premiere in 2018 with the MSU Wind Symphony. Ordman released a solo CD in 2017, It’s About Time: Music for Trombone by Women Composers. In 2018, she was named the recipient of the Neill Humfeld Award for Excellence in Trombone Teaching by the International Trombone Association.
EMERGING ARTIST AWARDS
Leah Claiborne (MM ’14, DMA ’18, piano pedagogy & performance) promotes diversity in the arts by championing piano music by Black composers in her performances, research, and teaching. She has established the first diversity, equity, and inclusion column for the journal American Music Teacher, where she regularly publishes articles. Claiborne was recently named the inaugural winner of the Stecher and Horowitz Power of Innovation Award through the Music Teacher National Association for her artistic excellence, pedagogical leadership, nurturing spirit, and community service. In 2023, she was named one of Yamaha’s “40 under 40,” a list of the most influential music educators in America.
Claiborne serves as director of diversity, equity, and inclusion for the Frances Clark Center and is the co-chair of the DEI track for the National Conference of Keyboard Pedagogy. She is a highly sought-after adjudicator and clinician in national piano competitions. During the 2022–23 academic year, she was an invited guest lecturer for master classes, seminars, and recitals throughout the United States. Claiborne received early promotion with tenure at the University of the District of Columbia, where she serves as coordinator of keyboard studies and teaches history of African American music.
Thomas Laub (BFA ’19, musical theatre) is a creative producer committed to entertainment that tells unapologetically authentic stories and pushes the form forward with creativity, transparency, and innovation. Laub founded Runyonland Productions in 2018 and, since its inception, has produced over 50 new plays and musicals both on Broadway and across the country. He is the co-founder of Standing Room Theatrical Solutions, a live entertainment revenue agency that promotes accessibility in the arts with data-driven solutions. Select Broadway credits include David Byrne’s American Utopia (Special Tony Award); Jeremy O. Harris’s Slave Play (Tony nomination); Plaza Suite, starring Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker; Selina Fillinger’s POTUS; Mike Birbiglia’s newest special, Old Man & the Pool; and The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window (Tony nomination).
Off the stage, Thomas leads the production planning team at Apple TV+, where he manages their global infrastructure strategy. He is passionate about creating art that sparks necessary conversations and building spaces for emerging artists to grow and develop their work, while making a living. A former EXCELerator Fellow, Thomas is proud to support the work done by the EXCEL Lab within SMTD, and he looks forward to collaboratively building structures to promote transparency and financial literacy within the arts industry.
Erika “Red” Stowall (BFA ’08, dance) is an educator, dancer, and choreographer residing in Detroit, Michigan. Stowall is a recipient of the Kresge Artist Fellowship, Applebaum’s Emerging Artist Award, and a Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad grant, awarded through the University of Detroit Mercy. Stowall uses her classical training, combined with her background in West African dance, as the foundation of her work. She also enjoys adding her love of mythology, anime, and comic books/graphic novels into her dances.
Many of her works explore her real-life experiences navigating being a Black woman in society. Her work is based on positive portrayal of Black stories and advocating for Black women’s voices. Stowall sees dance as a calling and is passionate about creating performance pieces that invite conversation on safe spaces for women of color, restoration, and positive narrative/images of Black communities. She is currently the dance teacher at Martin Luther King Jr. High School in Detroit, her alma mater. Stowall is the founder and current artistic director of Big Red Wall Dance Company, which has been active since 2011.
PAUL BOYLAN AWARD
Héctor Flores Komatsu (BFA ’16, theatre: directing), an international theatre-maker, was born in Mexico of Japanese descent and is an immigrant to the United States. He is the founder and artistic director of Makuyeika Creativo Teatral, which is dedicated to the narratives and theatricalities of indigenous people. He founded the company after a year-long journey across Mexico as an inaugural recipient of the Julie Taymor World Theatre Fellowship. His original creations include Andares, Rematch (based on the Popol Vuh), Ix-kik: Blood, moon, sister, and Canek. His work has been performed all over Mexico, in the United States (Chicago Shakes, the Public Theatre, Historic Asolo Theatre), China, Germany, Chile, and elsewhere.
Flores Komatsu has worked with Peter Brook as an apprentice in Battlefield, as an actor in The Valley of Astonishment, and as co-director of the Spanish-language premiere of The Suit. He was a recent fellow at the Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics of Georgetown University, and he co-directed Stay in Mexico: 360° Migrant Opera in Tijuana. He recently returned to the University of Michigan to direct somebody’s children by José Casas. He has trained with the Suzuki Company of Toga, Japan, interned with Théâtre de la Ville – Paris, and facilitated theatre workshops in Rio de Janeiro through UNIRIO’s Teatro na Prisão.
CHRISTOPHER KENDALL AWARD
A 2022 Tony nominee for excellence in arts education, Janeece Freeman Clark (BM ’99, voice) serves on the musical theatre faculty at Manhattan School of Music and is a professor of theatre at Seton Hall University. She is the founding, producing, and artistic director of Vanguard Theater Company in Montclair, New Jersey, which has a mission to challenge social and cultural narratives through theatre dedicated to DREAM: Diversity, Reciprocity, Education, Activism, and Mentorship.
Freeman Clark’s NYC productions of Everything Is Fine Until It’s Not and A Portrait of Ray have won numerous awards and critical acclaim. Under her direction, Vanguard Theater has presented NYC productions of Runaways, Spring Awakening, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Children’s Letters to God, and A Little Princess, and New Jersey productions of works including Memphis, Hairspray, Heathers, Carrie, The Music Man, Into the Woods, Chorus Line, Passing Strange, and A Portrait of Ray.
Freeman Clark’s signature educational initiatives, Broadway Buddy (a three-month mentorship program with Broadway artists) and VTC Next, cultivate a training ground for a diverse group of performing and behind-the-scenes artists with the goal of creating a more equitable pipeline. Freeman Clark directed the first and second national tours of Showtime with Shakespeare in collaboration with George Street Playhouse. As an actor, she has appeared in Broadway, Off Broadway, and national tour productions, as well as in television, film, commercials, and voiceovers.