zAmya is a Sanskrit word that means “aiming at peace.” For zAmya, aiming at peace means aiming toward a community with safe, stable, affordable housing options for all.
zAmya Theater was founded in 2004 by Minneapolis citizen Lecia Grossman. Lecia wanted to learn about homelessness working "with" people, not "for" them. With support from theater professionals and homeless advocates, she devised a process for bringing homeless and housed together to create theater, learn from one another, and share with the broader community
Through captivating performances and creative collaboration workshops, zAmya builds understanding and connection between citizens who have experienced homelessness and those who have not.
Charles Hilton came to Minneapolis for the first time in 1979 to attend trade school for the Brotherhood of Railroad and Airline Clerks BRAC where he studied mediation and arbitration for the railroad and airline business. He then spent some time in Akron, Ohio, where he lost his sight. When he returned to Minneapolis he found a 7- to 10-year waiting list for affordable housing. That's how he came in contact with zAmya. Charles has performed welcome addresses in church, plays, choirs and productions as the son of his father the preacher for the St. Paul FBH Church in Akron, Ohio. He now considers the Twin Cities home sweet home.
Marvin Howard was born and raised in Chicago and got his comedy start from Bernie Mac in 1992! Marvin has been a member of improv/comedy troupes Comedy Sportz and Oui be Negros and has performed his own stand-up routines professionally in Chicago and the Twin Cities. He’s been a member of the zAmya Theater Troupe since 2008
Lurch joined up with zAmya during creative sessions at Salvation Army Harbor Light last year. He was in the ensemble of Home Street Home at the Guthrie and in the role of Bull for zAmya’s 2017 Reality Roadshow tour.
Caroline Mannheimer has been with zAmya since 2009. She played Dorothy in zAmya’s There’s No Place Like Home in 2012-13. She studied Illustration and Fine Art for two years at The School of Visual Arts in Manhattan and has BA in Anthropology with a minor in Song Writing from The New School for Social Research. She is signed as a songwriter with BMI Publishing. Also a writer, Caroline has poems published in S.V.A.’s 1986 publication of “Words” and produced her work last year through Minneapolis’ Bedlam Theater’s 10Fest.
Esther Ouray (Production Manager) has been a performing and teaching artist for over 35 years. As actress, director, choreographer, dancer, and puppeteer Esther has worked with several companies, including At the Foot of the Mountain, Barebones, Illusion, and Interact. She is an associate artist with Heart of the Beast Theatre. Esther has been the recipient of grants from the MN State Arts Board, Jerome Foundation, Rimon Jewish Arts Council, MRAC, Puffin Foundation, and Arts on Chicago.
Wanda B. Poston encountered zAmya In Spring 2016 during their workshop at Salvation Army Harbor Light performing in Short Stories from the Book of Harbor Light. She then joined the cast of Home Street Home Minneapolis at the Guthrie and The Reality Roadshow tour earlier this year. She has sung with Minneapolis Gospel Community college for many years, Sounds of Blackness and Gospel of Columnus. She came from a family of Gospel Singers and currently sings with a group called Spiritual Knights. She’s been singing in church much of her life. She is a mother of four.
Patrick Presley is zAmya's newest member. He grew up on welfare in a single parent home in Gary, Indiana. Patrick took interest in learning at a very early age and has since taught himself to speak multiple languages fluently and to play several instruments including the guitar, drums, and bass. He has a degree in business and currently resides in Minneapolis where he volunteers to do public speaking engagements based on his experience with homelessness, addiction, and incarceration.
Corey A. Walton is an Illinois native who’s been acting on stage and in films for 36 years. He’s has written or co-written three full-length plays and three 10-minute plays that were produced by either zAmya Theater, Bedlam Theater, or the Minneapolis Fringe Festival. He has appeared in several independent films including Ghost from the Machine produced by Hogdad Films. He has been with zAmya 9 years. In his spare time, Corey writes spoken word pieces and uses open mic events in and around the Twin Cities to test and perform these works.
Maren Ward (Director) is a performer, director and community-based theater maker. Maren has been director of the zAmya Theater Project since its inception in 2004. She has a BA in Dramatic Arts and Dance from Macalester College, studied at the Moscow Arts Theater School, and is a recipient of a 2007 McKnight Theater Artist Fellowship.