The Team:

Board of Directors
& Staff

Burning Coal's volunteer Board of Directors is comprised of community members who have a passion for local, professional theatre.

Pamela Blizzard

  • Pamela serves on the Board of  Burning Coal Theatre Company, leading the Development Committee, and has served on many boards locally and nationally.  Professionally, Pamela Blizzard led the founding of Research Triangle High School in  2011 and was Managing Director through 20I9. In 2004, Pamela founded and developed the Contemporary Science Center, a science education non-profit based on the sciences of Research Triangle Park. In  1999, Pamela led the founding of Raleigh Charter High School. She is also a locally produced amateur playwright (Women’s Theatre Festival, Burning Coal’s Oakwood Series) and takes art classes for pure pleasure.

Jerome Davis

  • Jerry founded Burning Coal Theatre in 1995 with his wife, Simmie Kastner.  They moved to Raleigh in 1996 and did their first production here in 1997.  Since then, Jerry and Simmie have grown the company from a $30,000 annual budget to a budget of approximately $600,000, moved the company into the historic Murphey School auditorium, which was renovated in 2008 after a fundraising campaign that raised more than $1.5 million, and managed to get through its first 25 years entirely debt free.  Burning Coal has also performed in New York City, London, England, at the Piccolo Spoletto Festival, in Cleveland, Ohio and at the Capital Fringe Festival in Washington, DC.

Grace Gregson

  • Grace Gregson is a Raleigh native and lifelong theater lover.  She is a double Tar Heel, with an undergraduate degree and Juris Doctorate from UNC Chapel Hill.  She is an Associate Attorney at Smith Anderson in the Commercial Litigation practice group.  Grace has participated in theater productions from a young age both on-stage and backstage: on-stage credits include Peter Pan (Wendy Darling, u/s Peter Pan), Grease (Marty, u/s Rizzo), Steel Magnolias (Clairee Belcher), and Twelve Angry Women (Juror #10).

Cari Grindem-Corbett

  • Cari Grindem-Corbett is a neurodivergent Norwegian-American writer, memoir cartoonist, poet, and educator. She received her MFA in Poetry Writing from North Carolina State University, where she also taught Creative Writing, and Comics and Graphic Novel Writing. Her poetry and comics appear in War, Literature and the Arts, Self, The Power of Goodness Anthology, and elsewhere. Cari is collaborating with her father on a series of graphic memoirs, Constellations, about the Vietnam War, their family, and the stars.

Simmie Kastner

  • Simmie Kastner is a finance technology leader. Her career in technology spans five decades and includes coding and leading teams on every part of the three-tiered architecture and on the cloud. She currently is responsible for a product area that is strategically critical to her organization and is entrusted with high-risk applications that impact vast numbers of individual clients. She works for a financial services organization with a large Triangle footprint. During her career, she has had direct report spans as high as 150 associates. Simmie co-created Burning Coal Theatre Company with Jerome Davis which opened in 1997. She has been a board member and managing director ever since. Simmie served on the board of the North Carolina Theatre Conference for three years and as its board president for one year. Simmie has provided significant contributions for Burning Coal’s graphics for many years and was the primary provider of graphic design for the first twenty years. In the early days of Burning Coal, she also designed and painted sets. Simmie holds a BS in computer science and a BA in Art from American University in Washington, DC.

Deborah Keefe

  • Deborah Keefe’s love of theater started at a young age. She attended many shows at the Little Theatre of Winston-Salem with her parents and participated in her church’s annual melodrama performances. These days she relishes her time in the audience. Her background and professional experience is in math and computer operating systems, having worked for a local software company and EDS for several years. She has experience working on several non-profit boards including The Raleigh Boychoir, Lead Mine Elementary, Ligon Middle and Enloe High School PTA’s, Ligon Arts, and various church boards at a 2,000 member church. She has been an Assistant Director for theatrical productions  at Durant Road Musical Theatre for children. Both of her children were active in the theatre. She traveled with them to New York and to Atlanta for juried iTheatrics performances and Junior Theater Festivals sponsored by Music Theatre International and Disney Musicals. Deborah was the “Drama Mama” for the high school theatre program supporting the theatre teachers and students. She coordinated volunteer support, fundraising activities, and ticket and refreshment sales during productions.

Paul Leone

  • Paul Leone’s love for theatre began in the eighth grade when his English teacher handed him a copy of “Dial M for Murder” to read.  He was hooked!  In 1977 he saw his first Broadway production, The King and I, starring Yul Brynner.  Since moving to Raleigh in 1984, Paul has volunteered with several local theatres working backstage and front-of-house roles.  Paul learned of Burning Coal Theatre during their first season’s production of Pentecost (1998).  He has been a volunteer for Burning Coal ever since and joined the Board of Directors in July 2020. Paul has been employed by IBM Corporation as a Software Architect since graduating college in 1982.  Initially working in Poughkeepsie, NY, he’s worked in Research Triangle Park, NC since 1984.   Paul’s other hobbies and interests include photography, yoga, travel, enjoying craft beer, being a foodie, playing with his dog, going to concerts, experiencing live theatre locally and on Broadway.

Jordan Lichtenheld

  • Jordan is a copy editor at a publishing services company and a resident dramaturg for a theater company based in Colorado. Additionally, she is an actor, dramaturg, and director who has worked on several productions at Burning Coal, including The Cherry Orchard, Mlima’s Tale, and Forever. Jordan went to school at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where she got a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature and also minored in Business and Theatre.

David Potorti

  • David Potorti moved to North Carolina in 1999 to pursue a Masters in Folklore at UNC-Chapel Hill. A Cary resident, he attended his first Burning Coal production in 2004 at the Kennedy Theatre and has long admired the company’s prudent growth into a mainstay of the Triangle arts scene. David was a journalist in New York and Los Angeles, where he also wrote and produced broadcast network and cable television marketing and promotion. After losing his brother on 9/11, he co-founded September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, a nonprofit seeking alternatives to war, which was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 and 2004. David spent 13 years at the North Carolina Arts Council. As its Arts Tourism Manager, he did on-camera interviews with artists working in a variety of disciplines across the state, and populated the agency’s website with streaming videos. As its Literature and Theater Director, he supported North Carolina theater organizations and individual writers as they pursued grant funding, facilitating fellowship awards as well as the NC Poet Laureate program. Since retiring, David has written Audio Description for plays and television shows, and co-edited (with former NC Poet Laureate Joseph Bathanti) the anthology, Crossing the Rift: North Carolina Poets on 9/11 (Press 53, Winston-Salem). Working as a disc jockey from his college radio days through time spent at WUNC-FM, he has a genre-crossing love of music and has also passed through the NC State Extension Master Gardener program. As time permits, he writes the blog, “DOOM Buffet,” where he explores a lifetime of memorabilia he “Didn’t Organize, Only Moved.” 

Elaine Quagliata

  • Elaine is originally from NY and moved to Raleigh in 2007.  Before she moved, she worked for 10 years as a Senior Video Producer and currently works in Sales Support.  She has been a Board Member with Burning Coal since April of 2019.  Elaine has been involved with Theatre since she can remember and that includes local theatre in the Triangle.  She has performed with Cary Playwrights Forum, Cary Players, NRACT, Justice Theatre Project and Raleigh Little Theatre.  She also recently had the pleasure of being part of a staged reading with Burning Coal Theatre.  

David Ranii

  • David Ranii is a retired journalist. As a business reporter at The News & Observer for 24-plus years he covered a variety of beats, including startups, technology, and biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. Prior to joining The N&O, he was a business reporter at The Pittsburgh Press and also worked at The National Law Journal, where he worked in the Washington Bureau and as the Chicago Bureau Chief. An avid jazz fan, David also has partnered on sound design for three Burning Coal productions: Heisenberg, The Normal Heart and Ashe in Johannesburg

Gustavo Schmidt

  • Gustavo is the Artistic Director of the Panamenian Folklforic group called Ritmos y Tradiciones Panameñas de NC. He has served as a Board of Director for several non-profit Organizations such as Diamante, Inc, Raleigh Little Theatre and Justices Theatre Project where he has acted and directed. Gustavo was awarded the Lizette Cruz-Watko Award by Diamante Inc. for his work and contributions to facilitate resources to improve the quality and life of the Latinex community of NC.

Gwynn Swinson

  • A prominent North Carolina leader with a career spanning 45 years, Gwynn Swinson has served in a number of high-profile public service, legal and administrative roles such as Cabinet Secretary overseeing the North Carolina Department of Administration; Special Deputy Attorney General for the North Carolina Department of Justice; Assistant Branch Director for the Commercial Litigation Branch, Civil Division, at the US Department of Justice and Associate Dean of Admissions and Student Affairs at the Duke University School of Law. Additionally, Gwynn taught Trial Advocacy as an adjunct associate law professor at UNC-Chapel Hill School of Law and Torts as an adjunct professor at NCCU Law School. She was a visiting professor at Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan, taught Legal English at the Kyoto Comparative Law Center and lectured at the Ministry of Health in Taipei, Taiwan. Gwynn holds a J.D. from Antioch School of Law, now UDC School of Law and an LLM from Duke University. North Carolina A&T State University honored Gwynn by awarding her an Honorary Doctorate in Humanities. She has served on numerous boards, commissions and committees including the Board of Trustees for the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, the Bennett College Re-engineering Committee as well as the Boards of Leadership Triangle, the NC Institute of Minority Economic Development and the NC Center for Public Policy Research.

Cecilia Zuvic

  • Cecilia is a real estate broker with Monarch Realty in Downtown Raleigh. Most recently she led sales of the Fairweather in Downtown Raleigh, the first urban condominium developed in Downtown Raleigh since before the great recession. She is also the VP of Sales and Alliances at a Cyber Security Company based in Austria.  Originally from Santa Cruz, (Southern Patagonia) Argentina, she has been involved in International Trade and IT consulting for 15+ years. Her main tasks have always been to put people together and to find people that would be the right fit to work with each other. She attended school in Argentina, and majored in International Trade at Universidad de Belgrano – Buenos Aires, after living in Australia at age 17 studying Multiculturalism. Locally, she serves on the board for Visual Art Exchange (VAE) in downtown and is part of the leadership group for the new Chavis Park master plan.

Burning Coal’s board members often start as frequent attendees at Burning Coal. They typically live in central North Carolina and have an interest in supporting local, professional arts.

We have a working board, meaning board members typically support the theatre through expertise from their field. We frequently need board members with a background in law, finance, fundraising, building maintenance, marketing, and communications. Although monetary contributions are appreciated, our board does not have a donation minimum so anyone can become a board member regardless of financial position.

If you are interested in joining the board of Burning Coal Theatre Company, contact artistic director Jerome Davis by clicking here. We will review your request and if your application matches our current needs, we will schedule an interview.

Murphey School exterior