About The Advisory Committee

The advisory committee is comprised of colleagues who worked with Leah, and friends and fans who admired her work. They are:

Arlene Avakian
Arlene is emeritus professor and founder of the Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is the author of Lion Woman's Legacy: An Armenian American Memoir (1992); editor of Through the Kitchen Window: Women Explore the Intimate Meanings of Food and Cooking (1997, 2005), and co-editor of From Betty Crocker to Feminist Food Studies: Critical Perspectives on Women and Food (2005) as well as many articles. She is Leah Ryan's mother.

Martha Ayres
Martha is a mostly retired Psychotherapist and Jungian Psychoanalyst who has been in private practice for 40 years. She is also a Yoga teacher and writer. She is married to Arlene Avakian and helped raise Leah since she was nine years old.

Edward Cheetham
Ed is the Producing Director of the Powerhouse Theater Program at Vassar College where he has directed members of the Apprentice Company in Leah Ryan's adaptations of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard and The Seagull. Ed was a directing apprentice in the Powerhouse program in 1991 when he met Leah Ryan (a playwriting apprentice) and where they first worked together on her plays The Jesus Thing and Crazy. Ed is most proud of his work directing many of Leah’s plays: The Jesus Thing, Debt, Bleach and Chopper, to name a few. He also collaborated as the original director of Susan Mele and Leah Ryan's Just Say Blow Me at theaters and festivals around the country. Other directing credits include Adam Langer's The Blank Page for Theater of Serviceable Villains at Urbus Orbis in Chicago and Circle Rep in NYC. Ed earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Theater Arts from Niagara University. Ed serves as the literary manager of the Leah Ryan estate.

Cusi Cram
Cusi’s plays include: Radiance, Dusty and the Big Bad World, Lucy and the Conquest, Fuente, The End of it All, Landlocked, and A Lifetime Burning. Her work has been produced by: The Denver Center, The Williamstown Theater Festival, LAByrinth Theater Company, Barrington Stage, Primary Stages, Princeton University, Actors Theater of Louisville, New Georges and Rising Phoenix Rep, amongst others. She is a member of LAByrinth Theater Company, New Georges’ Kitchen Cabinet, and The Fulcrum Theater. She has received three Emmy nominations for her extensive work in children's television and most recently wrote for Showtime's The Big C, starring Laura Linney. She is a long-time playwriting instructor at the Einhorn School of Performing Arts (ESPA) at Primary Stages.

Dan Gunderman
Dan is the creative director at Big Duck, a communications firm that works exclusively with nonprofits. Dan is also a writer and has been awarded residencies for his screenwriting at Artcroft and Hall Farm (where he met Leah). With his screenplay Jayhawkers, he won a fellowship from the Jacob Krueger Studio. Originally from Kansas, Dan graduated from Sarah Lawrence College with a concentration in theater and literature. While in college, more than 15 years before meeting Leah, Dan portrayed Jay in a London production of her play The Jesus Thing.

Peter Hirsch
Peter is a writer of children’s television and is the head writer of the series, “Arthur.” He was won six Emmy’s and a Peabody Award. He is also an occasional actor, starring in films and the plays of his wife, Cusi Cram.

Jennifer Krasinski
Jennifer has written on the subject of art, film and video for numerous publications such as Frieze, Modern Painters, Art In America, Spike, Bidoun, East of Borneo and N+1 Film Review. Her experimental fiction has appeared in journals such as Punk Planet, Joyland, Frozen Tears, and MYTHM, edited by Trinie Dalton. She is the author of Prop Tragedies (Wrath of Dynasty Press, 2010), and is an adjunct faculty member at the Art Center College of Design in both the Graduate Fine Art and Media Design Programs. She has also taught at New York University and the University of Southern California. She is a graduate of Vassar College, The Courtauld Institute of Art and Art Center College of Design. Jennifer was an acting apprentice in Vassar & New York Stage and Film’s Powerhouse Theater Program in 1991, where she met Leah.

Lorna Peterson
Lorna M. Peterson is Executive Director, Emerita, of Five Colleges, Incorporated. In addition to serving as chair of the Advisory Committee for Leah Ryan’s FEWW, she has also served on a number of community boards including the University of Massachusetts Friends of the Fine Arts Center. She is currently a member of the Board of the National Priorities Project, the Abortion Rights Fund of Western Massachusetts, and the Board of the Greenfield Community College Foundation. She holds a doctorate in Slavic Languages andLiteratures from Yale University and has taught in several women’s studies programs at the Five Colleges.

LB Thompson
LB Thompson studied poetry at Sarah Lawrence College and received her MFA in Creative Writing from NYU. She was a recipient of a 2010 award for emerging writers from the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation, and an award for emerging women writers from the Rona Jaffe Foundation in 2002. Her chapbook, Tendered Notes: Poems of Love and Money won the Center For Book Arts prize. Her poems and essays have been published in The New Yorker, Prairie Schooner, and Stonecutter as well as other literary magazines and websites. She teaches writing at The New School and lives on the North Fork of Long Island.