DEMASKUS theater collective was founded in 2005 with the hope of marrying historic and vivid storytelling with soulful and unapologetically Black and faith-filled work. I deeply wanted to provide an artistic home for artists where they felt just as comfortable failing, as they did accomplishing their highest artistic achievements. I wanted us to be able to do that apart from the gaze of others that would be judging and measuring us (and our art) by a standard established without us in mind from inception.

You Might Ask Who is us?

Us is anyone who wasn’t thought of, who was excluded, or who had to put on a mask of another culture, value system or prevailing system of beliefs in order to participate in the industry. Us are those who have shared a love-hate with the entertainment world for our entire lives and who have read manifestos like these far more often than they have seen their stories manifested in the world.

  • Lorenzo Boone
  • Dominique Briggs
  • Litho Freeman
  • Dwayne Fulton
  • Patrice Wade Johnson
  • Rev. Dr. Leah C.K. Lewis (Cleveland, Ohio)
  • Lisha Logan
  • Sharon Lovell (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Shaunda McDill
  • Okema T. Moore (Brooklyn, New York)
  • Karla C. Payne
  • Adrianne Redwood
  • Charles E. Timbers, Jr.
  • Arif Vega (Baltimore, Maryland)
  • Mercedes Williams
  • Dawn Wilson (Easton, PA)
  • Denotes Pittsburgh-based
  • Artists/Administrators

About the Name

Most Christians will immediately associate DeMaskus with Damascus–the Syrian capital that is home to the road where Saul of Tarsus had his transformative encounter with God. God struck Saul blind and confronted him about his past. High-born and scholarly, Saul was prone to violence toward early adopters of Christianity. He was a murderer. Prior to God’s visitation on Damascus Road, Saul had been complicit in the death of Stephen, oft characterized as an innocent disciple of early Christianity (See Acts 8 and 9). God caused Saul to examine himself. The collective’s name embodies the idea of revealing the truths that lie beneath the mask(s) of our own blind behavior and beliefs. Art, at its best, helps us to rethink and reimagine that which we think we know. Consciously removing a metaphorical mask certainly requires self-examination.

(Based on an exchange with DTC member the Rev. Dr. Leah Lewis, J.D., alluding to Acts 9:1-8)

What mask(s) are you wearing? Does it allow you to “hide [your] cheeks” and “shade [your] eyes” as the “world dreams otherwise”? (Paul Laurence Dunbar). “Is yours one suited for survival, for masquerading behind jealousy, envy, and hate? Is it used defensively or do you don it early in the morning to prepare for the warfare you anticipate?​

Whatever the masks we wear, I invite you to lay them down and join us on a journey filled with crossroads, but free from the expectations and oppressive standards of others. Our art is about us, made by us at times and is always for us. There is freedom here. Welcome home.

Shaunda Miles McDill

Founder & Producer

That’s one of the beauties of theatre, it gives us that opportunity for catharsis. It opens up the dialogue and allows us to discuss our demons. I’m very passionate about this, and the more I talk with people, the more I’m convinced that we need to be having these conversations.

– PA Theatre Guide

with playwright Marilyn Barner Anselmi on
You Wouldn’t Expect