Los Angeles – The Unusual Suspects, a non-profit organization serving at-risk youth and their families in Los Angeles County, has announced that its longtime program director Melissa Denton will assume the role of executive director.
Deborah Lintz, board chair of The Unusual Suspects, commented, “We are thrilled that Melissa has agreed to lead the organization as we enter an exciting growth phase. Her unique understanding of the organization and her passion for the mission make her an excellent choice to guide us in the coming years.”
The Unusual Suspects provides its intensive arts programming in multiple school, probation and community settings to over 1,000 youth each year and reaches over 10,000 community members through its unique brand of theatre ensemble.
Denton first joined The Unusual Suspects as a teaching artist in 2006, becoming Program Manager in 2007,and then Program Director in 2010. As program director, she oversaw all aspects of artistic and strategic program development, implementation, evaluation, and training of US’s nationally recognized theatre arts and mentoring program. Previously, Denton designed and facilitated performance-based training workshops for corporate and nonprofit clients, such as the Dramatist Guild of America, Shepard Symposium on Social Justice, and the Satyagraha Institute’s Nonviolent Training Program. Prior to her role at The Unusual Suspects, Denton served as Project Coordinator with New York City’s Roundabout Theatre Company, managing 25 teaching artists at Bronx Theatre High School. She has worked as a teaching artist for various arts organizations in NYC, including the Guggenheim Museum. She holds a Master’s Degree in non-profit management.
“I’m profoundly honored as Unusual Suspects’ next Executive Director to work alongside our talented staff and artists to increase our visibility and expand our nationally recognized arts intervention programs throughout Los Angeles County and beyond,” remarked Denton.
Denton replaces David Kietzman, founder of Youth Speak Collective, a partner organization to The Unusual Suspects, who has been serving as interim executive director since longtime executive director Sally Fairman left in October, 2015.
“The Unusual Suspects is a key partner in Arts for All’s collaborative efforts to embed the arts in juvenile justice reform, and I am thrilled that our partnership will now be guided by Melissa. For over 15 years, I have had the privilege of witnessing Melissa use theatre to help students develop skills in self-expression, self-sufficiency and collaboration, as a master
teaching artist and a leader of school partnerships. I look forward to the insight and experience she will bring to our work together,” remarked Megan Kirkpatrick, Arts for All Senior Manager at the LA County Arts Commission.
Founded by Laura Leigh Hughes in 1993, The Unusual Suspects has received numerous awards, including The National Juvenile Justice Award (2000), The National Youth Arts and Humanities Award (2007), and the Otto Rene Castillo Award for Political Theatre (2013).
The Unusual Suspects Theatre Company believes every young person deserves to be seen, heard and known. We work deeply to empower the hardest to reach communities to tell their stories together, leading to a sense of belonging and the building of stronger families and communities.