First Draft Discussions

hosted by Andrew Lippa

The Dramatist Guild Foundation and Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit has launched, First Draft Discussions, a new speaker series aimed at empowering Detroit-area youth to share their stories and create career pathways to off-stage careers. The speaker series is a part of DGF’s Roe Green Traveling Masters program and will run February – April 2021. These inspiring monthly panel discussions and Q&A’s connect youth with professional playwrights, composers, lyricists, and librettists.

  • Sunday, February 14  |  3-4PM ET
  • Sunday, March 14  |  3-4PM ET
  • Sunday, April 11  |  3-4PM ET

The series creates opportunities for youth that would not otherwise have access to these transformative professional development experiences and supports Mosaic’s effort to empower youth, elevate diverse voices and equip young people with opportunities to explore creative careers that support thriving communities.

For more information contact Aleesa Searcy at

First Draft Discussions


Salakastar​ (she/they)

SALAKASTAR​ (she/they) is a Detroit born and based actor, singer-songwriter, poet, and teaching artist working in theatre, television, film, and music. She earned her BFA and completed her classical acting training at the State University of New York at Purchase College. She is an ensemble member at A Host of People, a member of the touring company of ​I, Too, Sing America​ at the Michigan Opera Theatre, and a founding member of iii Sisters, a Detroit-based feminist writing ensemble. She is a 2018 Gilda Award Winner and a 2020 Kresge Artist Fellow in Live Arts awarded by the Kresge foundation. She serves as teaching artist at Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit, Living Arts and Youth Arts Alliance. Her debut album ​All Blue: Part One (Majorelle!)​ will be released independently through her label Salakastudios in 2021. Outside of her professional artistic practice she loves fashion, spending time with her cat, listening to records, being an auntie, and making delicious vegan meals.

Jay Adana (she/her)

JAY ADANA ​(she/her) is a hapa musician here to move people and make them move. The Loophole ​(Public Theater Studio​,​ ​music and lyrics​), T​he Woodsman  (New World Stages, lyrics)​, ​Fingerpaintings ​(Playwrights Horizons Downtown,  music and lyrics)​, ​LeFay ​(Musical Theater Factory,​ book and lyrics​), ​The Last Tiger in Haiti (​Berkeley Rep/La Jolla Playhouse, contributed music and lyrics​).

Currently developing several musical movies. 2020 Richard Rodgers Award, 2018 Jonathan Larson Award, 2019 Dramatist Guild Foundation Fellow. Work featured by PBS, The American Theater Wing, Joe’s Pub, and The Dramatist Magazine. Residencies: Public Theater #BARS residency writer under Jeanie O’Hare, SPACE on Ryder Farm. #BARS workshop founded by Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs, BFA SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Theater Arts and Film.​ @jayadanaflow

Khiyon Hursey (he/him)

KHIYON HURSEY​ (he/him) is a writer and composer based in Los Angeles and New York. He was a staff writer for Netflix’s romantic musical drama, SOUNDTRACK and is currently co-writing ​LOVE IN AMERICA​,​ a movie musical to be produced by Issa Rae at Universal. He is the recipient of the ASCAP Foundation’s Irving Burgie Scholarship, Bart Howard Songwriting Scholarship, and the Lucille and Jack Yellen award, a 2016 NAMT Writers Grant, a 2016 – 2017 Dramatists Guild Foundation Musical Theater Fellow, 2017 Space on Ryder Farm Residency, 2018 Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project residency, 2019 ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshop with Stephen Schwartz, 2019 Rhinebeck Writers Retreat, the 2020 Johnny Mercer Writers Grove at Goodspeed Musicals and the 2020 Stephen Schwartz Award. His musical, EASTBOUND (Book and Lyrics) was selected for the 2020 National Alliance of Musical Theatre Conference and he has worked in development at New York Stage and Film and Ars Nova. Khiyon got his start as the music assistant on the off-Broadway and Broadway productions and the Grammy Award Winning Cast Album of ​HAMILTON​. He’s been a guest lecturer at Columbia, Yale and Berklee College of Music on Musical Theater. He is a graduate of Berklee College of Music with a degree in Songwriting.

Benjamin Velez (he/him)

BENJAMIN VELEZ​ (he/him) is a composer/lyricist and Columbia graduate (114th Varsity Show), born and raised in Miami, FL. Proud member of the Advanced BMI workshop (2012 Harrington Award), his work has been at MTF, Ars Nova, NAMT, NEO, the Civilians, 4@15, and Joe’s Pub. He was a Sundance Artist at the UCROSS Foundation, and his musical AFTERLAND, written with Katie Hathaway, was developed at the Yale Institute for Music Theater and the York Theater. He developed STARBLASTERS (also with Hathaway) at Dixon Place and will workshop it at Manhattan School of Music in 2021. His musical BORDERLINE, written with Aryanna Garber, won the 2018 Weston Playhouse New Musical Award, and opened the 2019 O’Neill Musical Theater Conference. He was a 2018-2019 Dramatist Guild Foundation Fellow, the 2019 Fred Ebb Award Winner, a 2020 Thom Thomas Award winner, and a 2020 Jonathan Larson Grant recipient. His musical KISS MY AZTEC, written with John Leguizamo, Tony Taccone, and David Kamp, had a reading at the Public Theater (2018), before premiering at Berkeley Rep (2019), followed by a run at the La Jolla Playhouse (2019).

Previous Discussions

From our Real Talk Series

Aeryn Williams

In October 2020, writer, director and filmmaker Aeryn Williams came to kick it with us.

Aeryn is a writer, director and filmmaker living in Los Angeles, CA by way of Detroit, MI , known for Keanu (2016), The Umbrella Academy (2019) and My Roommate’s Girlfriend (2016) She continually strives to create engaging and thought-provoking work that will engage audiences in a dialogue of understanding. She has worked for such television shows as Key and Peele, Pitch, and Lucifer.

Siobhan Redy Best

In November 2020 we sat down with Siobhan Redy Best.

Siobhan Reddy-Best is a Chicago based talent agent. Originally from the East Coast, Siobhan moved to the Windy City to pursue a career as an actor and fell into her career as an agent after discovering a love for helping others find opportunities and fight for more equity within the entertainment industry.

Her background as an actor gives Siobhan a unique perspective that allows her to advise, advocate for, and empower actors at every stage of their career.

Antea Birchett

In January 2021, Grammy award winning songwriter Antea Birchett joined Mosaic young artists for an artist real talk series Q & A.

Antea Birchett is a Grammy award-winning music industry songwriter, artist, and music educator.

She has written and licensed songs for major recording artists such as Beyoncé, H.E.R., Justin Bieber, Jennifer Lopez, Mary J Blige, Ciara, Mary Mary, Vanessa Bell Armstrong, Candice Glover, Teyana Taylor, and KeKe Palmer.

She has been signed to Universal Music Publishing Group since 2009.