Advisory Board

Arts UC Merced Presents Advisory Board


Arts UC Merced Presents strives to provide a range of art programming chosen to enhance the cultural life of the campus and the community of Merced. The board’s function is to provide advice, guidance and recommendations on programming for future performance series. Their talent, knowledge and expertise are highly valuable to Arts UC Merced Presents.

Program Leadership

Gail Benedict

Gail Benedict has twenty years experience as an administrator in the University of California system, first at UC San Diego, and now UC Merced. She is the co-founder of Arts UC Merced Presents with Professor Dunya Ramicova and serves as the producing manager. Benedict is a member of the Merced County Arts Council and a recipient of their annual “Arts Angel Award” in 2009. She represents UC Merced in the Merced County Performing Arts Presenters Coalition dedicated to promoting the arts in Merced County. She is a member of the Contemporary Humanitarian Artists Association, group of artists who meet regularly to discuss art, critique each other’s work, inspire each other, and put together group shows. Benedict is a fine arts painter who moved from San Diego to Merced in 2001. Her painting style has moved in the direction of surrealism and symbolism, sometimes incorporating collage. She says, “The ‘voice’ of an artist can evolve over time with a gradual change in style, subject matter, and media. I’m always looking for ways to describe the emotions that reside in me.”

Dunya Ramicova

Dunya Ramicova is a Professor of Art at the University of California, Merced and the co-founder for Arts UC Merced presents serving as the artistic director.  She has designed costumes for over one hundred and fifty productions of theater, opera, ballet, dance, film and television in the United States and Europe. Her work has appeared at such prestigious venues as The Metropolitan Opera, the Royal Opera House, Glyndebourne Festival Opera, the Salzburger Festspiele, Chicago Lyric Opera, the Guthrie Theater, Lincoln Center, Mark Taper Forum and many others.  Ramicova is a long-time collaborator of director Peter Sellars. They have collaborated on thirty productions to date. Their work together includes El Nino, an opera by Pulitzer Prize winning composer John Adams and The Peony Pavilion, a world premiere of an opera by composer Tan Dun. Their work together also includes the world premieres of Nixon in China, The Death of Klinghoffer also by John Adams and Saint Francois, as well as  the Mozart/Da Ponte Cycle: Don Giovanni, Cosi Fan Tutti and Le Nozze di Figaro which were recorded for videotape and released by London, the Decca Record Company Ltd.  Their most recent project includes Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex and the Symphony of Psalms at the Los Angeles Philharmonic which was staged as a farewell tribute to Esa-Pekka Salonen in spring 2009 and performed at the Sydney Festival in Australia in January 2010. Ramicova is a recipient of the Emmy Award for the production of Nixon in China which was broadcast on PBS Great Performances. Her designs were exhibited at the Lincoln Center Library for Performing Arts as part of Curtain Call, Celebrating a Century of Women Designing for Live Performance.  Ramicova has taught costume design and related subjects for the past thirty two years at The Yale School of Drama, Harvard University and University of California in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles.

Advisory Board

Katherine Steele Brokaw

Katherine Steele Brokaw is a literature professor in the school of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts at UC Merced. Her research interest include medieval and Renaissance drama; Shakespeare; music and theater; performance theory; religion and ritual. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. She is active in the local community, serving as director of Opera in the Schools, and as an actor and dramaturg for Merced Shakespearefest. She's also a board member for Playhouse Merced.

Robert Castro

Robert directs classics and new works across the United States and internationally. He recently directed Before The Revolution by Eleanor Antin at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, as part of the Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980 Performance Festival.  His many awards include a Fox Foundation Fellowship, a Van Lier Directing Fellowship, the NEA/TCG Fellowship for Directors, the TCG/Doris Duke New Generations Grant, and the 2009-2010 Hellman Fellows Program. Theaters where he has directed include The Public Theater/NYSF, New York Theatre Workshop, La Jolla Playhouse, Santa Fe Opera and the Wiener Festwochen in Vienna, Austria. He’s been an Artistic Associate at Mark Taper Forum/Center Theatre Group, served as Associate Artist with the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue at ART/Harvard University, and as a Resident Artist with El Teatro Campesino. He has also been Associate Director for Peter Sellars on various theatre and opera productions including The Children of Herakles, The Love Cloud, A Flowering Tree, Othello and Ainadamar. Upcoming projects include the world premiere of El Publico, an opera based on the the play by Federico Garcia Lorca , composed by Mauricio Sotelo, at Teatro Real in Madrid, Spain. MFA, Yale School of Drama. Faculty, Department of Theatre & Dance, University of California, San Diego.

Sean Hodgdon

Sean Hodgdon is an undergraduate political science major at UC Merced. He comes from Monrovia, a small town near Pasadena and has been involved with the arts for as long as he can remember, particularly with music. Hodgdon has played the piano for over ten years. He plays the guitar and sings. He has done a great deal of work over the years with graphic design and video production.

Kim McMillon

Kim McMillon has more than 20 years of experience producing theatre in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1987, McMillon wrote, produced, and directed "Voyages, A Multi-Media Excursion Into Reincarnation" at UC Berkeley’s Zellerbach Playhouse. In 2000, McMillon wrote, and produced "Confessions Of A Thespian: When Spirit & Theatre Collide at the Julia Morgan Theatre" in Berkeley. From 2001 to 2005, McMillon produced the Oakland Literature Expo with PEN Oakland as part of the City of Oakland’s Art & Soul Festival.

McMillon is currently working on a stage adaptation of Brazilian Director Carlos Diegues’ 1984 film "Quilombo dos Palmares" on 17th century slavery in Brazil. McMillon’s radio show Arts in the Valley can be heard on 1480 KYOS AM in Merced on Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. She is currently enrolled in a doctoral program at UC Merced's School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Art and is working on her latest play, "Black Heaven: We Shall All Love," to be performed at UC Merced in Spring 2014.

Glugio “Gronk” Nicandro

Glugio "Gronk" Nicandro, a nationally renowned painter and performing artists, was a founding members of ASCO, an avant-garde multi-media arts collective in Los Angeles. Gronk later turned his attention to drawing, painting and performance art in collaboration with musicians and performers and to stage designs for institutions such as the Los Angeles Opera. He is best known for his murals and his very physical approach to painting. Much of his recent work has been done as temporary, mural-scale, site-specific paintings, the latest for the Fowler Museum at UCLA in April 2010. Gronk’s work is represented in numerous private and museum collections across the country including the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque. He has been the subject of several one person exhibitions at venues which include the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Mexican Museum in San Francisco.

Laura Phillips

Laura Phillips is the executive director the Merced County Arts Council and runs the Merced Multicultural Arts Center. In addition to operating the 28,000 square foot multipurpose arts center, the Arts Council manages an artist-in-education program; an arts facility for adults with developmental disabilities; performances and visual/performing arts classes for children and adults; professional support for artists through fiscal sponsorship; exhibits of about 20 professional artists each year; and newfound coalitions for visual and performing artists.

After Phillips graduated in 1991 from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with a degree in English, she moved with her husband to Texas. She lived in Texas for almost a decade doing promotions for a humanitarian organization and raising her children. In 2000, she and her family moved to Mariposa. Phillips held several positions there, including running a small art-house movie theater, working for a year as the Mariposa Arts Council program director, and writing arts and culture articles for the Mariposa Gazette. From 2003-2007, she was the executive director for the annual Yosemite Renaissance program, a national juried art show in the park. As part of a traveling exhibition, Phillips said she brought the Yosemite Renaissance to Merced and was introduced to the Multicultural Arts Center.

Janice Gudde Plastino

Plastino is an emeritus professor from University of California, Irvine, where she was a founding faculty member. She also served as chair of the Department of Dance at UC Irvine. Plastino is a pioneer in the field of Dance Science. She has a Ph.D. in biomechanics and physical education from University of Southern California and Master of Arts from Southern Illinois University. During her long career as a dancer, choreographer, professor and scholar she has earned acclaim and accolades particularly for her development of the study of kinesiology, dance conditioning and injury prevention. She has helped countless dancers avoid the frequently crippling affects of the physical exertion necessary to succeed in the world of dance.

As a young dancer she worked with the top American choreographers (Gloria Newman and Bella Lewitzky) and eventually co-founded her own dance company with James Penrod (Penrod Plastino Movement Theater). With James Pendrod she also co-authored the classic text “Dancer Prepares: Modern Dance for Beginners.” Plastino has received many awards in recognition of her long service to the world of dance, among them the Scholar of the Year from the National Dance Association and the Distinguished Faculty Lectureship Award, one of the most prestigious honors University of California members can receive. Plastino served on the University of California, Merced, Founding Committee and has continued to show interest in the new campus since its inception.

Peter Sellars

Renowned theater, opera, and festival director Peter Sellars is one of the most innovative and powerful forces in the performing arts in America and abroad.   A visionary artist, Mr. Sellars is known for ground-breaking interpretations of classic works.   Whether it is Mozart, Handel, Shakespeare, Sophocles, or the 16th-century Chinese playwright Tang Xianzu, Mr.Sellars strikes a universal chord with audiences, engaging contemporary social and political issues.   Mr. Sellars has staged operas at the Chicago Lyric Opera, the Glyndebourne Festival, the Netherlands Opera, the Opéra National de Paris, the Salzburg Festival, and the San Francisco Opera, among others.   Following his iconic stagings of Le Nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Cosi fan tutte in the 1980s, Mr. Sellars established a reputation for bringing 20th-century and contemporary operas to the stage, including works by Olivier Messiaen, Paul Hindemith, and György Ligeti. Inspired by the compositions of Kaija Saariaho, Osvaldo Golijov, and Tan Dun, he has guided the creation of productions of their work that have expanded the repertoire of modern opera.   He has been a driving force in the creation of many new works with longtime collaborator John Adams, including Nixon in China, The Death of Klinghoffer, El Niño, Doctor Atomic, and, most recently, A Flowering Tree, which premiered in Vienna in 2006.   Other Sellars projects have included a Chicano version of Stravinsky’s The Story of a Soldier; an Antonin Artaud radio play coupled with the poetry of the late June Jordan, For an End to the Judgment of God/Kissing God Goodbye, staged as a press conference on the war in Afghanistan; and a production of the Euripides play The Children of Herakles, focusing on contemporary immigration and refugee issues and experience.   Mr. Sellars has led several major arts festivals, including the 1990 and 1993 Los Angeles Festivals, the 2002 Adelaide Festival in Australia; and the 2003 Venice Biennale International Festival of Theater in Italy. He was artistic director of New Crowned Hope, a month-long festival for which he invited international artists from diverse cultural backgrounds to create new work in the fields of music, theater, dance, film, the visual arts,and architecture for the city of Vienna’s 2006 Mozart Year, celebrating the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth. Mr.Sellars is a professor in the department of World Arts and Cultures at UCLA and a resident curator of the Telluride Film Festival. He is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, the Erasmus Prize, the Sundance Institute Risk-Takers Award, the Gish Prize, and was recently elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.