Our Emerging Artists Program

The Braid’s NEXT Emerging Artist Program is a unique and groundbreaking paid fellowship that provides professional development, networking opportunities and a platform to Jewish directors, writers, actors, marketing specialists, filmmakers, and other creatives in their 20s and 30s. Each year, a group of six to eight new artists is selected through an application process to serve in a cohort that works together over a nine-month period to create a Salon Theatre production.

NEXT has supported 33 paid fellowships who have engaged 238 emerging artists in creating new work. Click Here to view our alumni.

If you are an emerging artist and would like to get involved, please email NEXT Producer Andrew Fromer:



The 2021/2022 NEXT Fellows are…

VANESSA LI BLOOM is an emerging writer, educator, and content creator from Orange County, California. Adopted from China in 1999, she grew up in a lively multi-faith family that is steeped in story. Vanessa followed her love of storytelling to college, where she majored in History at CSU Long Beach. While receiving her B.A., she joined the school’s Film Club where she wrote scripts and worked on productions. Upon graduation, Vanessa was hired as an L.A. production assistant. She also directed a documentary-short on The Bolsa Chica Land Trust. More recently, Vanessa reconnected with her Jewish familial background as a cast member of the web series LUNAR: The Jewish Asian Film Project. Additionally, she has served as a mentor for several academic programs reaching high school and middle schoolers. Finally, Vanessa is currently writing a comedy script celebrating her multi-cultural outlook and belief that stories and laughter connect the world.

ARIELLA BLUM-LEMBERG is a writer who will be graduating with her MFA in Screenwriting from Loyola Marymount University in the Spring of 2022. She previously received her BA in English from UCLA, where she participated in HOOLIGAN Theatre Company as the director of the 2019 mainstage winter musical Fame and as a writer/director in three consecutive one act play festivals. Recently, her short play “The Man and the Match” was a finalist in the Full Circle Player’s New Works Festival. Ariella’s writing is largely inspired by her passion for history and literature. To connect with her Jewish heritage, Ariella began studying Yiddish to explore to the rich history of Yiddish film and theater. 

TALYA CAMRAS, a stage manager, is thrilled to be learning how to direct. She graduated from California Lutheran University with a B.A. in Communication and a minor in Technical Theatre. She has directed a 10-minute play called The Curious Art of Critique. Stage management credits include: Family Matters, Crossing our Red Sea, and The Rest is History with the Braid, She Kills Monsters, Measure for Measure, columbinus (KCACTF), The Merry Wives of Windsor, Richard II, Romeo and Juliet, The Devised Works Project, The Abuelas, and You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown. Talya loves working with The Braid and is so excited to be a part of this team!

LEE HANNAH CONRADS (she/they) is a LA-based theater director, raised and trained in the Midwest, whose productions ask big questions, wrestle with paradox, and stage impossible things. Previous directing credits include Roots, an evening of one-acts (Theater of Note), Vinegar Tom, Three Sisters, and The Burial at Thebes (Northwestern University), If We Were Birds and The Naked I: Insides Out (20% Theatre Company Twin Cities), Trestle at Pope Lick Creek (Carleton College), No Exit, Medea and Winter House (The Amber Bastards), as well as assistant directing credits in Chicago at Steppenwolf and Northlight, in Minneapolis at Ten Thousand Things, Mixed Blood, and the Playwright’s Center, and in New York at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival. Lee holds a BA from Carleton College and an MFA from Northwestern University.

LEILAH FRANKLIN studied Theater at Bard College and at the Acting Conservatory at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. Having grown up on film sets, she went into production as a PA on large productions such as Oblivion starring Tom Cruise and Gangster Squad with Ryan Gosling. As an Associate Producer, Leilah helped manage production and coordinate marketing for the animated short The Birds and The Bees starring Anjelica Huston, Hassan Minhaj, and Sean Astin. She likes working in fast paced collaborative settings and dealing in material seeks to question.

ZOË MANN is from New York City and moved to Los Angeles to study Writing and Producing for Television at Loyola Marymount University’s graduate program. In NYC, Zoë was an actor and attended the Lee Strasberg Institute and the Professional Performing Arts high school. For college, Zoë ended up exploring a different career path at Pace University where she graduated with a BA in Art History. Thinking she was going to become the next female Indiana Jones and study towards a Master’s degree in Archeology, Zoë found herself missing the performing arts and after finding out that it can be 75 degrees in November, Zoë made it her mission to go to graduate film school in LA. After she achieves her Master’s in May 2022, Zoë hopes to work in television development. Zoë’s first love was in small black box theaters in New York and she is honored to be a part of the NEXT program.

MAKENA METZ (she/her) is an LA native who writes fantasy, sci-fi, and magical realism for the page, screen, and stage. She is getting her MFA in Creative Writing from Chapman University and is a proud member of DGA, ASCAP, and the SCL. Recently, Makena’s play Falling Apart While Learning to Cook (A Recipe for an Empty Nest) was selected for a reading in Unstaged Podcast’s Season 3. This past year, her 1 act musical revue Variations on a Theme (Park) premiered digitally in the IAMT 1 Act Showcase and her short pandemic musical Threesome was selected for the 2021 Virtual New York Equity Library Theatre Summer Festival. Makena is an alum of the Institute for American Musical Theatre (IAMT) Creators Program and New Musical Inc’s CORE Curriculum for Musical Theatre Writing. Follow her on twitter or instagram @MakenaMetz, FB @makenametzwrites, and find her work on Coverfly or NPX!

DAPHNA SHULL is a four-time NEXT Arts Council Fellow, literary manager, writer, artist and photographer born and raised in Tampa, Florida. Daphna has been featured as a writer, songwriter and visual artist in multiple Braid productions and her book, The Quiet Things, is for sale on Amazon. Along with working at The Braid, Daphna is a teaching artist at Cayton Children’s Museum and runs her own photography business, Happy Life Kids Photography.

ANDREW FROMER is a Los Angeles native and attended Windward School in Mar Vista where his career as an actor began in the school plays and musicals. After completing his BFA in theater at UC Santa Barbara and an exciting year of living in Israel, Andrew returned to LA for acting and producing. His TV credits include Never Have I Ever (Netflix) and Anger Management (FX); feature film credits include Highway to Havasu (Billy/Producer) and The Sweet Life (Mike/Assistant to Production), Theater credits include: Pledge (Sherman u/s), Bad Jews (Jonah), and The Braid’s Jews in America. Andrew also edits, directs, runs youth engagement at Congregation Or Ami in Calabasas and is excited to be coordinating this year’s iteration of NEXT, The Braid’s Emerging Artist Program.

What recent Fellows have said:

“The NEXT Fellowship is a rare opportunity — in Los Angeles, an artist gets thrown into the deep end to sink or swim. The nurturing and respect we receive at the Braid allows us to become the best versions of our artist selves.”

“It is invaluable as an emerging artist to have programs that guide in the creation of art, not just praise work that has already been completed. In this way, this fellowship allows us to grow and learn in a supportive environment guided by experts in their craft. That each fellow is invited to stretch their skills and to share our strengths with others, makes for a collaborative, enriching environment that is hard to find elsewhere.”

Pushing the Boundaries

We work with artists from all mediums to push our storytelling into the digital space! Here is a filmed piece from our 2019 salon, The Way Home…

Where Jewish Artists Collaborate

Hear from our 2018/19 cohort on the AudioNosh Podcast! What happens when you bring together the next generation of Jewish theatre artists under one roof?


Hear what audiences, writers, past and present Fellows, and contributing artists have to say about NEXT!

Here’s more of what Fellows have appreciated:

“NEXT is important for the arts because young artists need to see how art institutions are working and to understand where they came from to be able to move forward and create our own art more effectively.”
-Vicki, 2016-2018 Fellow and Digital Producer Consultant

“…I most appreciated that everyone got to have a voice in this group.”
-Devan, 2017-2018 Fellow

“NEXT has informed me what’s really important about storytelling.”
-Chelsea, 2016-2017 Fellow and Actor in 2018

“I think trying to figure out your identity within your community and being able to incorporate art within that, it helps me to figure out who I am.”
-Daphna, 2016-2018 Fellow and now Artistic Associate of The Braid

“In the arts so often our peers are our competitors, here it was so refreshing they were my collaborators”
-Sarah, 2017-2018 Fellow

Have some questions?
Contact our NEXT Program Coordinator Andrew Fromer

We don’t just make live theater! Check out some of NEXT’s videos below and be sure to SUBSCRIBE TO OUR PODCAST, co-created and conceived by NEXT fellows…

Wondering what folks are feeling guilty about?