The Arts in Oklahoma – Panel

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The Arts in Oklahoma – Panel

The Arts in OKC Panel: Michael Baron, Lyric Theatre; Elizabeth Gray, OKC Broadway; Ryan Jolicoeur-Nye, OKC Ballet; Moderator: Sunny Cearley

MICHAEL BARON (Producing Artistic Director) – At Lyric, he directed Concerto, The Prom, Carousel, Head Over Heels, Master Class, Grease, Lyric Kids’ Clubhouse, Frost/Nixon, Titanic, Singin’ in the Rain, Bright Star, When We’re Gone (world premiere), Disney’s Freaky Friday, Fun Home, Disney’s When You Wish, James and the Giant Peach, I Am My Own Wife, Assassins, Fiddler on the Roof, Dreamgirls, Mann…And Wife (world premiere), Bernice Bobs Her Hair (world premiere), Big Fish with David Elder and Tony-nominee Emily Skinner, Oklahoma!, An Inspector Calls, A Little Night Music with Tony-nominee Dee Hoty, Les Misérables, Triangle, Big River, Tarzan, The Glass Menagerie, The Mystery of Irma Vep, Call Me Madam with Tony-winner Beth Leavel, Spring Awakening, Ragtime, Oliver!, Boeing Boeing, Always…Patsy Cline, December Divas, The Rocky Horror Show and the annual production of Lyric’s A Christmas Carol (also adapted).

He has directed over 100 productions at theaters across the country, including co-directing with Sandra Mae Frank an ASL/Spoken English production of The Music Man at The Olney Theatre in Washington, D.C., co-directing with Brian Cheslik an ASL/Spoken English production of Cinderella at Zach Theatre/Deaf Austin Theatre, and the current production of A Christmas Carol at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. Other regional directing highlights include ZACH Theatre: Peter and the Starcatcher, Spring Awakening; Signature Theatre: The Little Dog Laughed, Songs for a New World starring Tony-winner Alice Ripley, Tony-nominee Brian D’Arcy James, Emmy-nominee Titus Burgess, and music direction by Jason Robert Brown; Adventure Theatre: James and the Giant Peach, the world premiere musical Big Nate; Goodspeed Musicals: Meet John Doe; Trinity Repertory Company: The School for Scandal. La Mama: The Whore of Sheridan Square (wrote and directed, published in anthology Plays and Playwrights 2006). NEA and Poetry Foundation 2010-2023: Poetry Out Loud National Competition Finals with hosts Joy Sunday, John Leguizamo, Kerry Washington and Anna Deavere Smith. Teaching: American University, Brown University, Holy Cross College, Oklahoma City University, and Rhode Island College. Michael has been a theatre grant panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Alliance for Musical Theatre. Training: B.A. in Theatre Arts, Wake Forest University; M.F.A. in Directing, Trinity Repertory Conservatory. Michael served as the Associate Director of Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia-winner of the 2009 Regional Theatre Tony Award. Michael received the 2012 Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Direction of a Resident Musical in Washington, D.C. for Adventure Theatre’s production of A Year with Frog and Toad, the 2016 Oklahoma Governor’s Arts Award, a 2016 special award from Oklahoma City Mayor’s Committee on Disabilities Concerns, the 2021 Yad B’Yad, Hand in Hand Award from the Jewish Federation of OKC and the 2022 Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Direction of a Musical for Olney Theatre’s production of The Music Man. He is a member of the Rotary Club of Oklahoma City and an emeritus board member for the National Alliance for Musical Theatre.


Ryan Jolicoeur-Nye is a choreographer, arts advocate, teacher, and Oklahoma City Ballet’s seventh Artistic Director since its founding in 1963. Originally from central Maine, Jolicoeur-Nye began his ballet training with Andrei Bossov at the age of 16, and after graduating from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, he danced professionally for Eugene Ballet, Ballet Idaho, Kansas City Ballet, plus many guest roles throughout North America before retiring from the stage in 2016.

In 2018, Jolicoeur-Nye was named Artistic Director of Northwest Arkansas Ballet Theatre based in Bentonville. Under his tenure, the company experienced exponential growth, creating more than 80 performances and reaching over 28,000 area residents.
As a choreographer, he has created ballets for Northwest Arkansas Ballet Theatre, Ballet Idaho, Chicago Repertory Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, Moving Arts Dance Festival, Ballet Des Moines, Oklahoma City Ballet, among others. Jolicoeur-Nye was named “Outstanding Choreographer” at the 2017 Youth American Grand Prix as well as “Best Choreographer” at the World Ballet Art Competition (WBAC) Grand Prix 2019.

Jolicoeur-Nye joined Oklahoma City Ballet in August 2020 as a Rehearsal Director, working closely with company dancers. Since 2020, he has choreographed crowd favorite short pieces such as Chan Chan, Abbey Road, Playlist, and feature-length ballets The Sleeping Beauty and a fresh version of The Nutcracker to debut in December 2022.

Jolicoeur-Nye took on the role of acting artistic director in January 2022 and was officially named Artistic Director of Oklahoma City Ballet in October 2022 following an international search. Jolicoeur-Nye is married to Racheal Nye, School Director for the Oklahoma City Ballet Yvonne Chouteau School and together they have two children. In his free time, Ryan enjoys playing music, painting, cooking, and family time.


Elizabeth Gray is the Executive Director of the Civic Center Foundation and General Manager of OKC Broadway. She was appointed to the Foundation Board of Directors by Oklahoma City’s Mayor Cornett in 2012 and transitioned to Executive Director in 2015.  Prior to the Civic Center Foundation, she was the Director of Corporate Operations for Walters Power International, an Oklahoma based power development company. An Industrial Engineering graduate from the University of Oklahoma, she has vast business and international experience on site in Pakistan and the United Kingdom.  She was the co-manager of a series of standby power generation projects in the United Kingdom from 2010-2014. Her work has ranged from renewable, small-scale standby to large-scale gas turbine base load plants. She also has a background in commercial real estate acquisition, financing, budgeting, management and leasing as the former lead manager of a 500,000 square foot office portfolio. In addition to her current role as the Executive Director, she also oversees the annual OKC Broadway Series presented at the Civic Center Music Hall in partnership with The Nederlander Organization. Together they are responsible for bringing the blockbuster Broadway shows to Oklahoma City such as The Lion King, The Phantom of the Opera, The Book of Mormon and of course, Hamilton. Elizabeth is a 2012 award recipient of ‘okcBiz’s Forty under 40’ and of ‘NextGen’s 30 under 30’. For the past three years, she has been selected as one of OKC Friday’s ‘50 Most Powerful Young Professionals’. Elizabeth is also the Vice President of The Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation Board of Directors. Elizabeth resides in Oklahoma City with her husband, Michael, their three year old son, JD and golden retriever, Walt.

Moderator: Sunny Cearley

Sunny Cearley serves as President/CEO for Allied Arts. Cearley came to Allied Arts from her role as Senior Vice President of Membership for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber. Prior to that, she spent almost a decade leading sales efforts for The Journal Record Publishing Company. Before working in the arts full-time, Cearley sat on the executive committee for The Civic Center Foundation and on the advisory board for El Sistema Oklahoma. She is passionate about the fact that art improves the quality of life and supports economic development in our community. Cearley holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Baylor University and a Master of Journalism from the University of North Texas. She is graduate of Leadership Oklahoma City Class 30 and LOYAL Class III


Chair of the Day
Kathy Williams

Kathy L. Williams earned her Master of Arts in Nonprofit Leadership from Oklahoma City University in 2011 to better serve as a community volunteer, to enhance her understanding of the operations of nonprofits involving the arts, early childhood education, youth leadership programs, women’s health issues, and disaster relief efforts. She is a graduate of Leadership Oklahoma City Class X1 and
Leadership Oklahoma Class XXVI and became a Rotarian in 2013.

Kathy’s career as a community volunteer began in 1983. Her passion is to help people through her community work. She currently serves as a Trustee of the Oklahoma City Riverfront Redevelopment Authority, Scissortail Park Foundation, United Way of Central Oklahoma, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, The Civic Center Foundation, Trustee for Oklahoma City University,
and the OCU Petree College of Arts and Sciences Advisory Council and is Co-Chair for the Capital Campaign for the Oklahoma Center of Nonprofits where she just completed 9 years on the board.

Kathy was Rotarian of the Year in 2018, a recipient of the Distinguished Leadership Award presented by Leadership Oklahoma City, and recently received Leadership Oklahoma City’s Paragon Award.

A breast cancer survivor, Kathy said her role with the American Cancer Society is one of her greatest personal accomplishments. Kathy, a member of St. Luke’s Methodist Church, has been married to John Michael Williams for 41 years and together they raised four children, and they have nine grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.


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