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APAP welcomes featured guests to APAP|NYC 2024

The APAP|NYC conference will feature an array of special guests and speakers during the plenary sessions including Sasha Velour, Mandy Gonzalez, Bryan Stevenson, Anthony McGill, and Amber Ruffin! 

Learn more about the guests and speakers below.
Gender fluid drag queen framing face with hands
Sasha Velour
Opening Plenary

Critically acclaimed gender-fluid drag queen, visual artist, speaker, illustrator, and newly minted author Sasha Velour has been a force in the international drag scene long before her scene-stealing, rose-petal-filled win on season nine of the Emmy Award-winning RuPaul’s Drag Race.

In April 2023, she published her first book, "The Big Reveal: An Illustrated Manifesto of Drag" (Harper) which was heralded as ”a rousing tribute to a revolutionary art form and its practitioners” (Publisher’s Weekly). A first-of-its-kind book, Velour’s work thoughtfully weaves memoir, history, and theory into a living portrait of an artist and an art form, illuminating drag as a unique form of expression with a rich history. Sasha Velour’s "The Big Reveal Live Show!," a new stage work created in connection to the book, toured to sold-out houses in the US and Canada.

Velour will be one of the new hosts for the fourth season the Peabody and Emmy-Award winning television show "We’re Here," on HBO. Velour was also recently commissioned by the Tony Award-winning Tectonic Theatre Project to star in and co-create (alongside legendary director Moises Kaufman) a new theatrical work which will premiere at La Jolla Playhouse in 2024.

Velour’s first one-queen drag show "Smoke & Mirrors" was called a “spell-binding tour de force” (Forbes) and bewitched audiences and critics alike, touring from 2019-2022 to over 80 cities around the world including sold-out performances at the London Palladium, Paris’ Folies Bergère, and theaters in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Vancouver, Auckland, Warsaw, and more. Her acclaimed NYC drag show "NightGowns," founded in 2015, has hosted some of the world’s greatest drag performers and was adapted into a docu-series directed by Sophie Muller and The Documentary Group in 2020. "NightGowns" recently completed a sold-out residency at Manhattan’s Le Poisson Rouge and will resume performances in January 2024.

Female wearing bedazzled dress and red lipstick
Mandy Gonzalez
Opening Plenary

Mandy Gonzalez is an accomplished film, TV, and stage actor and author. She possesses one of the most powerful and versatile contemporary voices of our time. Mandy has starred on Broadway in the megahit "Hamilton" as Angelica Schuyler. She also originated Nina Rosario in the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, "In The Heights," for which Mandy received a Drama Desk Award. Mandy also starred as Elphaba in the Broadway production of "Wicked," blowing the roof off of New York’s Gershwin Theatre each night as she belted out the signature song, “Defying Gravity.”

Mandy also received an OBIE Award and overwhelming critical praise for her performance in the Off-Broadway production of "Eli’s Comin’." Television viewers have had the pleasure of seeing Mandy in her recurring roles in the hit series “Madam Secretary” and “Bull”, and alongside Steve Martin and Martin Short in “Only Murders in the Building.” Equally at home on the big and small screen, she has appeared in “Across the Universe,” directed by Julie Taymor, “After,” starring opposite Pablo Schreiber, and “Man on a Ledge” with Sam Worthington. Mandy can also be heard as the voice of Mei in Disney’s “Mulan 2.”

A frequent concert soloist, Mandy has performed with symphony orchestras around the world, including at Carnegie Hall with the New York Pops. Mandy is a Warner Music East / West artist and released her debut album, FEARLESS, which debuted at #13 on the iTunes pop charts.

Mandy is also an author—she recently published her Young Adult novel series, "FEARLESS," published by Simon and Schuster.

In her quest to create positive change, Mandy is the proud founder of #FearlessSquad—a social media movement for inclusiveness and positivity. #FearlessSquad connects people around the world, encourages them to be their best selves, and helps them empower each other

Black man wearing a dark blue suit leans one elbow on a case full tall jars
Bryan Stevenson
Saturday Plenary Session

Bryan Stevenson is the founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a human rights organization in Montgomery, Alabama. Under his leadership, EJI has won major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death row prisoners, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill, and aiding children prosecuted as adults.

Mr. Stevenson has argued and won multiple cases at the United States Supreme Court, including a 2019 ruling protecting condemned prisoners who suffer from dementia and a landmark 2012 ruling that banned mandatory life-imprisonment-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger. Mr. Stevenson and his staff have won reversals, relief, or release from prison for over 140 wrongly condemned prisoners on death row and won relief for hundreds of others wrongly convicted or unfairly sentenced.

Mr. Stevenson has initiated major new anti-poverty and anti-discrimination efforts that challenge inequality in America. He led the creation of two highly acclaimed cultural sites which opened in 2018: the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. These new national landmark institutions chronicle the legacy of slavery, lynching, and racial segregation, and the connection to mass incarceration and contemporary issues of racial bias.

Mr. Stevenson’s work has won him numerous awards including the prestigious MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Prize; the ABA Medal, the American Bar Association’s highest honor; the National Medal of Liberty from the American Civil Liberties Union after he was nominated by United States Supreme Court Justice John Stevens; the Public Interest Lawyer of the Year by the National Association of Public Interest Lawyers; and the Olaf Palme Prize in Stockholm, Sweden for international human rights. In 2002, he received the Alabama State Bar Commissioners Award. In 2003, the SALT Human Rights Award was presented to Mr. Stevenson by the Society of American Law Teachers. In 2004, he received the Award for Courageous Advocacy from the American College of Trial Lawyers and also the Lawyer for the People Award from the National Lawyers Guild. In 2006 New York University presented Mr. Stevenson with its Distinguished Teaching Award. Mr. Stevenson won the Gruber Foundation International Justice Prize and was awarded the NAACP William Robert Ming Advocacy Award, the National Legal Aid & Defender Association Lifetime Achievement Award, the Ford Foundation Visionaries Award and the Roosevelt Institute Franklin D. Roosevelt Freedom from Fear Award. In 2012, Mr. Stevenson received the American Psychiatric Association Human Rights Award, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute Fred L. Shuttlesworth Award, and the Smithsonian Magazine American Ingenuity Award in Social Progress. Mr. Stevenson was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Science in 2014 and won the Lannan Cultural Freedom Prize. In 2015, he was named to the Time 100 recognizing the world’s most influential people. In 2016, he received the American Bar Association’s Thurgood Marshall Award. He was named in Fortune’s 2016 and 2017 World’s Greatest Leaders list. He received the Martin Luther King Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize, from the King Center in Atlanta in 2018. In 2020, he received the Right Livelihood Award from The Right Livelihood Foundation in Sweden. In 2023, he was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Biden.

Mr. Stevenson has received over 50 honorary doctoral degrees, including degrees from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, and Oxford University. He is the author of the critically acclaimed New York Times bestseller, "Just Mercy," which was named by Time Magazine as one of the 10 Best Books of Nonfiction for 2014 and has been awarded several honors, including the American Library Association’s Carnegie Medal for best nonfiction book of 2015 and a 2015 NAACP Image Award. "Just Mercy" was adapted as a major motion picture and the film won the American Bar Association’s 2020 Silver Gavel Award as well as four NAACP Image Awards. Mr. Stevenson is also the subject of the Emmy Award-winning HBO documentary "True Justice." He is a graduate of the Harvard Law School and the Harvard School of Government.
Black man wears dark blue suit and holds a clarinet
Anthony McGill
Saturday Plenary Session

Hailed for his “trademark brilliance, penetrating sound and rich character” (New York Times), clarinetist Anthony McGill enjoys a dynamic international solo and chamber music career and is principal clarinet of the New York Philharmonic—the first African-American principal player in the organization's history. He is the recipient of the 2020 Avery Fisher Prize, one of classical music’s most significant awards.

McGill appears as a soloist with top orchestras, including the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics, the Metropolitan Opera, and the Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, and Detroit Symphony Orchestras. He performed alongside Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, and Gabriela Montero at the inauguration of President Barack Obama, premiering a piece by John Williams. As a chamber musician, McGill is a collaborator of the Brentano, Daedalus, Guarneri, JACK, Miró, Pacifica, Shanghai, Takács, and Tokyo Quartets, and performs with leading artists including Emanuel Ax, Inon Barnatan, Gloria Chien, Yefim Bronfman, Gil Shaham, Midori, Mitsuko Uchida, and Lang Lang.

He serves on the faculty of The Juilliard School and is the Artistic Director for Juilliard’s Music Advancement Program. He holds the William R. and Hyunah Yu Brody Distinguished Chair at the Curtis Institute of Music.

In 2020, McGill’s #TakeTwoKnees campaign protesting the death of George Floyd and historic racial injustice went viral. In 2023, he partnered with Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative to organize a classical music industry convening at EJI’s Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama, in which leaders and artists in classical music examined America’s history of racial inequality and how this legacy continues to impact their work.
White male with grayish blonde hair smudges blue glitter on left eyelid
John Cameron Mitchell
Closing Plenary Session

John Cameron Mitchell wrote (with Stephen Trask), directed and starred in the off-Broadway rock opera Hedwig and the Angry Inch,  which won both Obie and Outer Critics Circle awards for Best Off-Broadway Musical. Mitchell again wrote, directed, and starred in the film adaptation of the play, for which he won Best Director at the Sundance Festival and was nominated for a Golden Globe as Best Actor. A 2014 Broadway production of Hedwig starred Neil Patrick Harris, and won Mitchell a special Tony Awards for his reprise performance in the role. He appeared on Broadway in Big River and The Secret Garden, and Six Degrees of Separation on another Obie award for starring in Larry Kramer’s The Destiny of Me. He directed Tennessee Williams’ Kingdom of Earth Off-Broadway with Cynthia Nixon and Peter Sarsgaard. He directed the films Shortbus (2006), Rabbit Hole (2010), and How to Talk to Girls at Parties (2018) both starring Nicole Kidman who was nominated for Best Actress Oscar for the former. Recent TV roles include Peacock’s Joe Vs.Carole, Hulu’s Shrill, HBO’s Girls and Vinyl, CBS’s The Good Fight, Amazon’s Mozart in the Jungle, and Sandman. He stars in, wrote (with Bryan Weller) and directed the musical podcast series Anthem: Homunculus and in development on a new podcast Cancellation Island.
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