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Sharing Experiences of Black Creatives

Sunday, April 14, 2024 to Sunday, April 14, 2024
2:00 PM

Location: Bitz Opera Factory

Join us for a free panel discussion about the themes and ressonances surrounding The Passion of Mary Cardwell Dawson. Special guests will share their insights into this work as well as their own experiences working in the arts. 

A panel of Black-identifying creatives and arts leaders who will share the story of their successes and struggles while working in the arts.

Our panel is to include:

  • Thomas Douglas, Director of Opera Studies, Director of Choral Studies – Carnegie Mellon University, Artistic Director – Bach Choir of Pittsburgh
  • Shaunda McDill, Managing Director – Pittsburgh Public Theater
  • Joanna Obuzor, Vice President of Operations – Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
  • Izear Winfrey, Professional expert stylist and make-up artist
  • Claudia Brownlee, Costume Director – Pittsburgh Opera

Special thanks to Candace Burgess for her research and creation of an interactive timeline of Mary Cardwell Dawson's life! 




Thomas W. Douglas is a compelling and passionate conductor, having performed more than 250 opera, oratorio, orchestral and musical theater productions. As the Artistic Director of the Bach Choir of Pittsburgh, he regularly receives accolades for innovative, creative and dramatically provocative productions. He was also the music director/conductor of the Newton Symphony in Kansas from 2012 to 2017. Career highlights include conducting Webber’s Phantom of the Opera in Basel, Switzerland, Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, the Pittsburgh premiere of the classic silent films The Passion of Joan of Arc, with live orchestra and chorus, the U.S. premiere of David Chesky’s The Agnostic, the rousing Carmina Burana Africana, Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte and Don Giovanni and a production of Ain’t Misbehavin’ in Malaysia.

He has been a vocal soloist with the River City Brass, Pittsburgh Opera, Pittsburgh Symphony, Canton Symphony, the Children’s Festival Chorus and sings frequently with jazz legend Joe Negri in his Mass of Hope. Thomas is the Director of Opera Studies and Choral Activities at Carnegie Mellon University. 



Shaunda McDill joined Pittsburgh Public Theater as Managing Director in February 2023. Previously, she was a program officer at The Heinz Endowments, supporting a suite of Pittsburgh-based artists and arts organizations. Shaunda has over a decade of non-profit executive and arts management experience, working for theater companies across the country, including The Goodman Theatre of Chicago, Pasadena Playhouse, and Cornerstone Theater Company. In 2006, she also founded DEMASKUS Theater Collective. In Pittsburgh, Shaunda served as vice president of programming and cultivation at the (then) August Wilson Center for African American Culture, where she managed all artistic and educational programs. As the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s director of public relations, she headed both national and local public relations campaigns. Shaunda is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Yale University. Shaunda is an adjunct faculty member at Carnegie Mellon University and serves on the Boards of Jada House International, Inc., the Office for Public Art, and Little Lumpy’s Center for Educational Initiatives. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, and the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Pierians, Incorporated. She worships at Macedonia Church of Pittsburgh and is married to Pittsburgh native Sager McDill and the proud bonus mom to four children.



With over 30 years in the beauty industry, Izear Winfrey has shared his passion for hair design as Studio Booth’s Artistic Director since 2000. He excels in working with all types and textures of hair while committed to maintaining healthy hair and scalp. He is dedicated to customizing a haircut, color, or texture to suit each guest’s lifestyle.Izear has been a member of Local 798 for theater and film for 25 years and volunteers at the Hillman Cancer Center with the Look Good Feel Better program.




Claudia Brownlee is a costume designer from the Washington, DC, metropolitan area. Throughout her career Claudia has worked in various positions in theatre, opera, and film. She is excited about projects that bridge cultural gaps, and costume history. Claudia is also interested in finding sustainable practices for the costume industry. She is currently the Costume Director of Pittsburgh Opera and an adjunct professor at Carnegie Mellon University.