Playbill: Meet the HUMAN Ensemble

Asheville Creative Arts and Khunum Productions present

Human written and directed by Nehprii Amenii

a multi sensory puppet experience for ages 5+

April 28 – May 15, 2022 

at the Tina McGuire Theatre at the Wortham Center for the Performing Arts

Written and Directed by Nehprii Amenii

Original Music by Martha Redbone and Aaron Whitby

Lyrics by Nehprii Amenii, Martha Redbone and Aaron Whitby

Choreography by Amparo Chigui Santiago

Lights, Projections and Environment design by Marie Yokoyama

Sound designs by Joo Won Park

Puppet design and construction by Nehprii Amenii, Dan Jones, Jorge  Ariel Blanco Muñoz, and  April Tilles. Early prototype designs by Tarish “Jeghetto” Pipkins

Production Assistant Marina Celander

Dramaturgy by Dr. Allison Curseen and Philip Santos Schaffer

Musical Directors Gina Stewart and Brenda Gambill of Jonesalee

with outreach from ACA’s Community Development Director, Daniele Martin

Starring:  April Tillies, Joshua Chung, Kaylyn Carter, Khalilah Smith, Olympea,                Rebekah Babelay and Tippin

Stage Manager:  Jorge Ariel Blanco

Understudy: Edwin Salas Acosta

Visit for cast and production team bios 

and HUMAN fun-guide!

HUMAN Creative Team Bios:

Nehprii Amenii (Writer/Director/Puppet designer ) is a Brooklyn-based director, playwright, production designer and puppeteer. Known for creating experiences that dismantle the wall between players and audiences, Nehprii has worked with Bread & Puppet Theatre, Alvin Ailey, La Mama, The O’Neill,  NY Philharmonic, and more. She is currently  a LabWorks artist in residence with New  Victory Theatre and is the  artistic director of Khunum Productions, a platform for creative anthropology. She is very  happy to be back  directing for Asheville creative Arts once again!


Martha Redbone (original music and lyrics)  is a vocalist/songwriter/composer/educator. She is known for her music gumbo of folk, blues and gospel from her childhood in Harlan County, Kentucky infused with the eclectic grit of pre-gentrified Brooklyn. Inheriting the powerful vocal range of her gospel-singing African American father and the resilient spirit of her mother’s Cherokee/Choctaw culture, Redbone broadens the boundaries of American Roots music. With songs and storytelling that share her life experience as a Native and Black woman and mother navigating in the new millennium, Redbone gives voice to issues of social justice, bridging traditions, connecting cultures, celebrating the human spirit. Her latest album “The Garden of Love-Songs of William Blake” is “a brilliant collision of cultures” (New Yorker) featuring Redbone’s magnificent voice, Blake’s immortal words and a masterful cornucopia of roots music (blues, gospel, bluegrass, soul and traditional Southeastern Woodlands). Featured on NPR’s All Things Considered the album released on her own indie label imprint rose to the Top Ten on Amazon Folk Charts for several weeks and has become the bedrock of her live shows bringing audiences to their feet with her fiery old-time mountain gospel singing and foot-stomping energy. Redbone’s recordings, touring and cultural preservation workshops are a partnership she shares with longtime collaborator/husband Aaron Whitby. Recent works include Bone Hill: The Concert, commissioned by Joe’s Pub/Public Theater, NEFA. NPN, Lincoln Center. “Stars”- New York Theater Workshop- Jim Nicola, “Primer for a Failed Superpower”by Rachel Chavkin. New works Black Mountain Women, currently in development at The Public Theater and The Talking Circles, a song cycle as part of the Artistic Instigators series at the New York Theater Workshop. Redbone and Whitby are the 2020 Drama Desk Award recipients for Outstanding Music in a Play and the 2020 Audelco Award recipient for Outstanding Composer of Original Music and Score for Public Theater revival “for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuff” by Ntozake Shange. Redbone is an Awardee of Creative Capital, NEFA, NPN, NACF, MAPFund and NYC Women’s Fund for Music.


Amparo Chigui Santiago (choreography) has worked as a principle dancer with Contemporary and African based dance companies like Chuck Davis, Fred Benjamin, and others. Chigui has been trained in many different forms of dance techniques, from Ballet to African, participated in workshops all over the world, and worked with many performing artists. Chigui is a teaching artist who combines her love of Dance and Yoga to share with all of her students whenever possible. Her mission is to impart life lessons about self-control, discipline and respect that can enhance the overall well-being of students and help them achieve their highest potential.


Marie Yokoyama (lights and projections) is a Japanese set and lighting designer based in NYC. She has designed lights for Redhouse: Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Spelling Bee, A Man of No Importance, Gross Indecency, Oliver and 13, Gulfshore Playhouse, FL: The Hound of the Baskerville, Public: Apple Family Series European Tour, Pacific Beats: TALA, Pillow Talk Pan Asian Rep: Film Chinois, Three Trees, Monk Parrots: Bum Phillips -All American Opera-. Regional: Yale Rep: Compulsion, Faust, Opera Theater Pittsburgh: Fantasticks, Merry Widow, and Ariadne auf Naxos.


Joo Won Park (sound artist & designer)  ( makes music with electronics, toys, and other sources that he can record or synthesize.   He is the recipient of Knight Arts Challenge Detroit (2019) and the Kresge Arts Fellowship (2020).  His music and writings are available on ICMC DVD, MIT Press, PARMA, Visceral Media, MCSD, SEAMUS, 1473, and No Remixes labels. He currently teaches Music Technology at Wayne State University. 


Gina Stewart & Brenda Gambill of Jonesalee (musical directors)  formerly Doubting Thomas and Volatile Baby, Jonesalee was formed by Gina Jones and Brenda Gambill to create music, art and spoken word, and together they have scored GO DOG GO, A BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA, and TOM SAWYER for Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, CHARLOTTE’S WEB for ACA, and recently appeared in the touring production of WILDWOOD FLOWERS, the June Carter-Cash story.  Jonesalee, has shared the stage with The Indigo Girls, Hootie and the Blowfish, Rita Coolidge, Dar Williams, Carlene Carter, The Carolina Chocolate Drops and The Red Clay Ramblers to name a few.  They have also collaborated on film scores and theatrical composition all over the region.


Jorge Ariel Blanco (stage manager, puppet design and construction)


Dan Jones (puppet design and construction) is a designer, playwright, builder, performer, dramaturg, and visual artist based in Queens, NY. 2020 New Victory LabWorks artist with The Halloween Tree: his new theatrical adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s novella. He has worked in puppetry (including design contribution, fabrication, or performance) with theaters including A.R.T., Shakespeare Theatre Company, St. Ann’s Warehouse, Mabou Mines, and the Public Theater, as well as on several Broadway productions. Frequent teaching artist with Minneapolis’ Adventures in Cardboard. Upcoming work includes a new play, a project for Nick Jr., and more. Thrilled to work with Nehprii and ACA! insta: @dandemoniumjones


Tarish “Jeghetto” Pipkins (Puppet Artist)  is a self-taught artist, speed painter, muralist puppeteer and builder.  Infused with Hip Hop culture–he’s worked with Missy Elliot, Pharrell William, Alec Baldwin and he has received 2 grants from the Henson Foundation. In addition to being an artist he is also a master teacher and conducts puppet workshops for all ages. Tarish is a former teacher at Just Right Academy, a private alternative school for children with special needs. He is married and a proud father of five children, and together they run the family business of Jeghetto’s Entertainment LLC. Jeghetto’s passion is promoting Oneness through the magic of puppetry.

HUMAN Ensemble & Select Bios:

April Tillies

Edwin Salas Acosta (understudy / puppet repair) – a recent arrival to Asheville by way of Costa Rica and Mexico City, Salas is an internationally produced puppet maker and performer, director, dancer creator, solo artist and educator.  For ACA he has created puppets for BUGS!, THE WARP AND THE WEFT, and CHARLOTTE’S WEB, and is the featured solo performer for SLUG AND SNAIL. He was recently a featured artist at the Puppeteers of America conference and the National Puppetry Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center.

Joshua Chung

Kaylyn Carter is a performer, collaborator, and teaching artist with roots in Chicago, IL and now, Asheville, NC. She received her BA in Theatre from the School of Theatre at Florida State University. Kaylyn is a proud company member and teaching artist with Playmakers Laboratory Theatre (formerly known as Barrel of Monkeys), a performing collaborator with Hot Kitchen Collective, and teaching artist with Northlight Theatre. Her work has been seen in various Chicago spots such as Steppenwolf’s LookOut Series, The Hideout, RhinoFest, and High Concept Labs. Kaylyn is delighted to be making her Asheville debut with ACA!

Khalilah Smith currently based in Jersey City, graduated from The University of the Arts with a BFA in Musical Theater and is also a former student of the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre.  She has performed regionally in Philadelphia, Bermuda, NYC and now Asheville! Favorite roles include Lila in St. Louis Woman (Prince Music Theater, Phila., Pa), Sarah in Ragtime (Bermuda Festival) and Lorrelle in Dreamgirls (Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Bda).  Khalilah is overjoyed to have been involved in the process of creating HUMAN along with her beloved cast mates.  Thank you to the amazing Nehprii Amenii, Abby Felder and Asheville Creative Arts for this meaningful opportunity. 

Olympea is a Holistic Wellness Practitioner, Entrepreneur, Singer/Song Writer, Musician, Community Activist, Priestess, and Ordained Minister

Rebekah Babelay

Tippin Since diving into theatre in 2013, Tippin has worked as an actor, stage manager, technical director, assistant director, producer, props master, office manager, collaborative writer, dramaturg, and sound designer for dozens productions for stage, film, restaurant, hallway, and oversized camera obscura. Tippin has a particular interest in socially progressive, original, experimental, fringe, and immersive theatre, as well as in poetry performance.

Asheville Creative Arts Asheville’s critically acclaimed, award winning theatre devoted to creating works for children of all ages, Asheville Creative Arts was co-founded by Abby Felder in 2013 and produces, presents and creates innovative works for multigenerational, multiethnic and multidimensional audiences, performed by adult actors. Past productions include CHARLOTTE’S WEB, THE WARP & THE WEFT, BUGS!, and SLUG & SNAIL. “Ostensibly, ACA produces children’s theater, but the company’s ambitious works appeal to both youths and adults.” – Mountain Xpress

Khunum Productions is a New York based production company that produces highly visual narrative-based productions that combine the personal, the social, and the magical to create experiences that transform the human heart, and thus our society. Khunum Productions recognizes itself as a platform for “Creative Anthropology.” This means that we are interested in the study of what makes us human, and the interconnectedness of all people and things. Our work and process of working aims to deepen human connectivity–to one another and to our own selves.  We are not interested in art that drags the human along. Thus the people involved in process and their individual needs are priority. We believe in process and nefer –beauty. We strive to make the  artistic process of creating together equally as beautiful as our productions.

Special Thanks:

This production of HUMAN is supported, in part, with awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the North Carolina Arts Council,  Cheryl Henson and The Henson Foundation Family Grant, and has been developed as part of New Victory LabWorks at the New Victory Theatre, powered by New 42.

logo for the National Endowment for the Arts

Logo for North Carolina Arts Council

The Jim Henson Foundation Logo

Staff of the Wortham Center for the Arts; UNETE for PPE and COVID testing; Hood Huggers for set materials and other support, Ajax & Melvin, talk-back artists; Brooke Bresnan and Marcus Johnson for ushering, marketing and bookkeeping support; Stephan Pruitt Photography; and Jennifer Bennett for graphic design and video support.

And very special thank you to the generous  helping hands and support of

Alex Smith, Leo Lei, Šara Stanovsky,  Charon Scerra, Andrea Ang, April Tilles, Jorge Ariel Blanco,  Marina Celander, Stephanie Wilder, Justin Washington, and Jay Johnson. 

ACA Board of Directors:

Sarah Elizabeth Malinak (Chair), Bryan Robinson (chair emeritus), Abby Felder, Dosty Quarrier, Laura Stone, Rebecca O’Neill

Helpful Resources for Caretakers:

Vocabulary Words to discuss before the show:

Extinction: when an entire species of creatures dies off and ceases to exist.

Subject/Predicate of a sentence: The subject does the acting, the predicate is what the subject does.

Transformation: positive change and growth

Nautilus: a shell whose interior spirals in on itself

Council: a group that is chosen to meet and make decisions

Sensitive: feels things easily


 Ideas  to talk about after the show:

The play is set in an imaginary future time when humans have become extinct. What are some practices that you notice that are dangerous for humans and might make us extinct?

Conversely, what are some things that humans do to help humanity?

Explain what the sea creatures mean when they say, “What happens to one, happens to all”?

What are some of the problems mentioned in the play caused by humans that lead to their extinction?

Why do some people pick on sensitive people? What are they forgetting?

What changes do the sea creatures suggest humans make to be given a second chance? Can you think of others?

Would you have made the decision to give humans a second chance?