Founded in 1985, Critical Mass Performance Group is a Los Angeles-based collaborative ensemble that creates category-busting new works and adaptations of classic texts. Known for its exuberant theatricality and historical-poetical subject matter, the ensemble was named 2013's Best Theatre Company by the LA Weekly.
We are passionately committed to theatrical inventiveness in which movement, image and text have equal weight in telling the story, to discover the most theatrical and poetic expressions that work their way through the audience's nerves. We are compelled by surprising collisions of ideas, by material which reflects humanity’s struggle to navigate a difficult world, and by untold aspects of these stories and how they relate to the American experience. We aim for work that is historically aware, politically charged, deeply felt, rigorous, accessible, and wildly entertaining. We work for as long as it takes to finish a piece, and we perform the piece at various stages of development.
In 2016 CMPG premiered AMERYKA, which was honored with awards for Production of the Year and Best Ensemble by Stage Raw, nominated for 7 Ovation Awards, including Best New Play, Production, and Ensemble, and nominated for Best Ensemble by LA Drama Critics Circle. ALCESTIS (2013) was developed at the Getty Villa Theatre Lab and premiered at Theatre @ Boston Court in Pasadena. Named in 10 Best Plays by LA Weekly, the production won a Best Adaptation Award from the LA Drama Critics Circle, the LA Weekly, and Arts In LA, and was nominated for best direction, sound/score, production design, choreography. APOLLO (2002-2009), an epic trilogy exploring the US space program, its relationship with Nazi rocket scientists, and the surprising intersection with the Civil Rights Movement, premiered Parts 1 & 2 at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in 2005, won a Garland Award for Best New Play, and was named in the Top 10 Plays by LA Alternative Press. Part 3 premiered with the full trilogy at Portland Center Stage (Oregon) in 2009. THE AKHMATOVA PROJECT (2000), a movement-theatre piece inspired by the life and work of Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, was named one of the 10 Best Productions by the LA Times, received four LA Weekly Award nominations including Best Production, and won for Best Choreography.
Other CMPG productions: BAD MEDICINE (2014), commissioned by Heretick Theatre Lab, live-streamed with the Noir Project; PARATAXES FROM THE NEAR SIDE OF THE HEART (2015), commissioned by Stage Raw Digital Play Festival/Polish Edition; BREAD (2011), site specific interactive performance-salon, Cornerstone Theater commission; 365 DAYS/365 PLAYS #47 by Suzan-Lori Parks (2007), site specific, Angels Gate Cultural Center; adaptation of ANTIGONE (2001), Portland Center Stage; SUN SONG & STORIES OF THE SUN (1990 & 1991) community-based, multi-media festival performances); Shakespeare's MEASURE FOR MEASURE (1991) one of 10 Best Productions by LA Reader, performed in alternative spaces; Aphra Behn's THE ROVER (1990, site specific in a house); Marlowe's DR. FAUSTUS (1988, site specific, performed in a bar); Brecht's BAAL(1985).
Fran de Leon
Fran de Leon is an actor, writer, and director born in Downtown Los Angeles, raised in Hollywood and Manila. As a performer, Fran toured her one person show, Faces of America, to over 500 venues across 49 states, including performances for the United Nations Associations, California and New York. She is the Co-Artistic Director of Will & Company, Director of New Talent for Playfair, and an ensemble member of Critical Mass Performance Group since 2015. Fran's work is featured on Center Theater Group’s newly launched Digital Stage with her video short “Valor,” a mini-documentary of her research in writing a play about the Filipino-American veterans of World War II. As a performer, her last venture was an immersive, devised theater piece in a co-production for Cornerstone Theater and CMPG. Fran is currently in post-production for East West Players’ audio theater podcast of The Fantastic Kim Sisters. Fran has worked with Center Theater Group, South Coast Rep, The Pasadena Playhouse, Playmakers’ Rep, The Music Center, Artists at Play, Playwrights’ Arena, Cornerstone Theater, and the Garry Marshall Theater. Writer/Director credits include commissioned work for Segerstrom Center’s Arts Teach, TreePeople, and Twelfth Night Rep. In response to Covid and the need for streaming content, Fran has just formed Top Seed Productions to create online shows and entertainment events.
Lorne Green, a proud member of SAG-AFTRA, is a native of Philadelphia who moved to Los Angeles as a teen. He has been Critical Mass Performance Group ensemble member since 2006, and past projects include: Ameryka, Alcestis, Apollo, Untitled Communion, Bad Medicine (The Noir Series), and Suzan-Lori Parks' 365 Days/365 Plays. His professional performance career spans over twenty years in theatre, film, television, and numerous commercials. He trained in the Stella Adler technique with Ron Burrus and has a background in long form improvisational theatre. In addition to performing improv, he has taught improv to all ages as well as directed long form genres.
Nancy Keystone is a multi-disciplinary theatre and visual artist, and the founding artistic director of Critical Mass Performance Group. She is the ensemble's chief writer, director, and scenic designer. As a freelance artist she has directed and designed dozens of award-winning theatre productions and opera around the country. Most recently she directed Next To Normal with East West Players (Ovation Award for Best Director of a Musical). And with Cornerstone Theater Company, she wrote and directed an interactive spectacle A Jordan Downs Illumination, created in collaboration with the Watts community. Her work also has been seen at Center Theatre Group, LA Phil, Portland Center Stage, Denver Center Theatre, Georgia Shakespeare Festival, Long Beach Opera, Actors Express, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival. As a visual artist she works in mixed media, and has made several short films. Keystone is the honored recipient of a Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, a United States Artists Hoi Fellowship, Theatre Communications Group's Alan Schneider Director Award, and she was named one of LA Times' "Faces To Watch." She holds a BA in theatre from UCLA, and an MFA in Directing from Carnegie Mellon. She is on visiting faculty at UCLA, and is a frequent university guest lecturer.
Nick Santoro graduated from Carnegie Mellon’s acting program and has performed in numerous theatrical venues, commercials and films throughout his career. He’s been a member of CMPG since 2007. Nick also is a proficient drummer and musician who enjoys creating sound with others. All possibilities are achieved in the arts, and they played a significant role in the development of how he views the world.
Ray’s theater credits include: King Lear at Yale Rep, Apollo at Portland Center Stage, ALCESTIS at the Boston Court, Taming of the Shrew at Westport Playhouse, Blues for an Alabama Sky at Cincinnati Playhouse, Hole in the Dark at City Theatre, God’s Heart and Angels in America at Trinity Rep, The Colored Museum at the Alliance Theatre, Wilberforce at NY Theatre Workshop, Love Suicides at La Mama ETC, Sunset and Hollis Mugley’s Wish at The Public. Television/Film: Touch, Switched at Birth, Jane Doe, Grey’s Anatomy, So Notorious, Man Up, Good Luck Charlie, Don’t trust the B in Apt. 23, The Real O’Neals and Brother to Brother, which was awarded the Special Jury Prize at Sundance. Ray received a Best Featured Actor Ovation Award nomination for his work in Critical Mass performance Group’s Ameryka and is currently a staff writer on ABC’s upcoming drama, Rebel.
Russell Edge is a member of Critical Mass Performance Group, with whom he most recently appeared in Ameryka at the Kirk Douglas, and is currently working on developing a new piece, Mariology. Other CMPG shows include Alcestis, The Akhmatova Project and Apollo. Regional Theatre: The Trip to Bountiful, Henry IV, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, MacBeth, Mr. Roberts, Three Sisters, The Rivals, Richard III, Love’s Labour’s Lost; TV: Castle, Agent Carter, ER, Private Practice, CSI Miami, West Wing, Boomtown, Numb3rs, Cold Case; FILM: Changeling, Charlie Wilson’s War. He also works as a Voiceover Artist and can prepare your taxes.
VALERIE SPENCER is a longtime member of Critical Mass Performance Group, and has devised and performed in Ameryka, Apollo, Alcestis, The Akhmatova Project and Untitled Communion, among others. Other theatre: Indecent at DCPA, Out of Our Father’s House, Edinburgh Fringe. TV: Veep, The Jury. FILM: A One Time Thing, The Moment I Was Alone, Grams. POCDAST: Blackout, a dramatic thriller, opposite Rami Malek. Valerie has a long-standing career as a voice actor. She has also appeared in several works by renowned video artist Bill Viola.