About 13th & Republic

Meet the creative team behind 13th & Republic



Walterhoope is a Cincinnati performing arts company founded by Audrey Bertaux, David Mavricos, and William Vaughan in 2017. We are committed to telling stories that matter in the most interesting ways possible, and we aren’t bound by a single art form. We find a story that captivates us and determine the medium that best serves that story, whether it be theatre, a film, an audio drama, poetry, music, you name it. Our audience is at the heart of everything we produce, and we are always working to activate our audience; how can they be a part of the experience beyond just watching or listening? We produce work that is new or reimagined, and very often oriented toward social justice and other pressing issues of our time. 

Within our first three seasons, we’ve produced a series of short films inspired by the #MeToo movement (Too Like the Lightning), a sci-fi audio drama podcast (Wellspring), and several plays, including a site-specific, bilingual adaptation of The Little Prince, a blue collar reimagining of Macbeth, a sonically-inspired production about climate change (Lungs), and an original one-man show about addiction (Half-Gallon Fruit Jars). 

With 13th & Republic, Walterhoope supports the continuous work of advocates for social change through the film and this interactive platform. Learn more about Walterhoope at walterhoope.com

Darnell Pierre Benjamin

Director & Choreographer

Darnell Pierre Benjamin has been a professional performing artist, director, choreographer, educator, and activist for about 15 years, now. He attended University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and earned a BFA in Performing Arts. Following undergrad, Darnell attended University of Houston, and earned his MFA in the program’s Professional Actor Training Program in 2009.

Since 2010, Darnell has become an Associate Artist and Resident Ensemble Member with Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, where he works as an actor, choreographer, and director in the season’s offerings. Since 2011, he’s worked with local dance group, Pones, as both an educator and board member, where he leads students of all ages through using the arts as a vehicle for social change. A year ago, Darnell also joined the board of Stop the Stigma Productions, a company based in Cincinnati that spreads awareness about mental health through song and storytelling. Darnell has worked as an educator at College-Conservatory of Music and Xavier Universities; and most recently, he began teaching at Northern Kentucky University in The School of The Arts.

Darnell has led countless workshops and discussions on how the arts and activism work hand in hand. He is the co-producer of Queen City Pride Cabaret, a successful, annual cabaret that donates to local LGBTQ organizations aimed at education. For a year, he helped start up the company, HIVAINTTHEBOSSOFME, which helped provide access and resources to individuals living with HIV. Darnell has also led discussions about mental health through the organization 1n5, which is working to educate and empower youth living with mental health challenges.

 Darnell lives at the intersection of arts and activism, and couldn’t imagine a better way to showcase this than the film “13th and Republic”.

A note from the director

James Baldwin spoke the truth when he said, “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” I’m Black. I’m queer. And my heart lives at the intersection of 13th and Republic streets. It’s in a rage. It’s constantly at capacity. It seeks love and change in that dark alley. But it also seeks truth. And the truth is that Timothy Thomas and so many others are unnecessarily dead. I thank Timothy Thomas, Sandra Bland, Emmitt Till, Breonna Taylor, Sam Dubose, Alberta Spruill, Aiyana Jones, Roger Owensby Jr, and so many others for cracking the country wide open in order for us to see the truth of its lies.

I’ve been based in Cincinnati, OH since September of 2009, and my introduction to the city wreaked havoc on my consciousness. On the night I arrived, I was met with blatant racism. A white couple were getting out of their car and saw me coming around the corner. The woman grabbed her husband, pulled him in front of herself, and screamed. They were standing directly in front of the door to where I was trying to enter: Know Theatre of Cincinnati. It was opening night of Boom. Soon afterwards, I learned about the history of Over-the-Rhine and the 2001 protests and riots. It all started to make sense. I’d already heard this song many times over by then.

Over the years, I’ve watched Over-the-Rhine change. Boutique stores. Pedal wagons. Ten dollar smoothies. My apartment, which went from $550/mo to $1350/mo. Opinion articles complaining about the homeless. And, now, businesses taking over the sidewalks, despite former complaints about Black folx doing the same thing. But I’ll tell you what hasn’t changed. There’s still a clear dividing line between Black and white folx in Cincinnati. That alley near 13th & Republic has a new gate, but its history will never be blocked.

For a long time now, we’ve discussed police brutality and its effects on the Black community. I will not debate the validity of the disproportion of police brutality against Black vs white folx. The resources are out there. What I will discuss is how rarely we connect this disproportion to the mental health of the Black community and the country at large. The exploitation of dead, Black bodies on TV. The pictures. The audio. The video. The constant barrage of Black people being victims. The blood. The crying Black children. The gunshots. The smiling white officers who don’t get charged. The collective pain is constantly at the epicenter of the 24 hour news cycle. If all you see yourself as is a victim who receives no justice, how can you find any peace in that? So we keep saying, “No justice, No peace”. 13th & Republic seeks to expose the pain and the beauty of existing while Black, while trying to maintain a modicum of sanity. Black is beautiful. Black has flavor. Black is abstract. Black is music and dance. Black is in a rage. Black is sexy. Black gives no fucks and exists unapologetically. Black is hair, hips, and curves. Black is masculine and feminine, and somewhere in between. Black is HBCUs. Black is a former president and a current vice president. Black is beautiful.


Now, let’s work on getting the rest of the country to see that beauty, and for us Black folx to consistently see that beauty in ourselves.

– Darnell Pierre Benjamin

Kaleel Skeirik


Kaleel Skeirik, Ph.D. in music theory from the College-Conservatory of Music, M.M. in piano performance at the University of Cincinnati, is a multi-media composer, music theorist and Professor of Music at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio where he served as chair of the Department of Music and led the university to its first accreditation by the National Association of Schools of Music.

Previously, he composed two works, Caribbean Voyage: Suite for Orchestra and Pans and Calaballa (for orchestra and steel drums with audience participation) for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the Clark Montessori Steel Drum Band for the Orchestra’s Educational Concerts in Cincinnati’s Music Hall. He was commissioned by the Blue Ash Youth Symphony Orchestra to compose a work for their tenth anniversary season, “The Blue Ash Youth Overture, Forever Freedom,” a celebration of youth and a sonic memorial to those lost on September 11, 2001. Skeirik was also commissioned by the Lima Symphony Orchestra to co-compose with Bruce Weil a jazz-Latin-classic-contemporary work for orchestra and steel drums for their Pops Concert. In November of 2005 his Concerto for Orchestra and Alto Flute was performed in Cincinnati by the Xavier University Orchestra. Skeirik’s piece for symphonic wind ensemble, Visions, a musical statement about peace, was commissioned by the School for the Creative and Performing Arts.

His works in progress integrate microtonality and computer assisted temperaments with live instruments, voices, drama, and visual art, and include a sustainability-oriented dance drama and a work on spiritual journeys inspired by poetry based on the writings of Teresa of Avila.

A note from the composer

“13th and Republic” is the street intersection in Cincinnati, Ohio where the tragic shooting of Timothy Thomas occurred. It is a story of our times that has been repeated too many times. I conceived of this music, in its first iteration, in 2001 after Timothy Thomas was shot and Cincinnati broke into waves of civil disobedience. I collaborated with poet Tyrone Williams and visual artist Bruno Zabaglio to create the first multi-media performance in 2003. This music inspires us to respect the spirits of all those that have become the victims of police violence, and challenges us to work for justice.

Initial sounds pulse deep into the hard and cold concrete or the soil that each victim falls into. The music presses down upon us too hard, a knee in the throat. Choirs call the spirit to sleep in grace rudely interrupted with orchestral blasts of pain assaulting us and stealing our breath. French horns kneel down with a call for mercy. The music echoes from hundreds of years in the past from the early Renaissance when peasants sang songs to warn each other to “beware of the armed man.” This song, which spans the centuries, sings of armed power as equivalent to justice. Street bucket drums and a jazzy saxophone wail for the lost spirits. Singers, acting as a police officer, a mayor, an activist, a reverend, and citizens sing text taken from newspaper reports from 2001 with direct quotes from the West Side of Cincinnati, the East Side, Over The Rhine and the distant suburbs. It is painful to hear ourselves; the music pains us.

We begin to reflect on how our society can truly ensure justice, yet the singers sing in awkward rhythms, it is a half-finished puzzle. Later the same jagged music stutters as glass shatters in the street. In one huge strike, the Aeolian harp sounds the gunshot, and the strings of the piano sing the spirit of the deceased. Sound vapors rise, heaven’s harmonics.

A scene unfolds in a downtown jazz club later followed by police sirens and helicopters circling overhead as flowers are laid and the music oscillates like a mother over her dead son. Gospel choirs sing out again and again, chanting: “Show me your hands” and “A gun explodes.” The choirs sing against an orchestra and soloists, all in different beats, like a society that can’t find the rhythm of justice for all. At the end, the orchestra and soloists call clearly for justice to fall down like a mighty stream as the orchestra heaves and sighs. The gospel choir returns, singing an upbeat of hope in every person; in just us, just love; and in the unending churning of the heart for justice. Peace is something not given, but earned by all.

When I write, I hold up a mirror and look at that world through that mirror. Sometimes the world has cracked the mirror, sometimes parts of it has melted, sometimes parts are missing and sometimes it is pure and of the heart. “13th and Republic” vibrates in this moment. It sits before the listener/viewer to free them to take their own heart’s journey through all of these souls. Justice is work, hard work, and “13th and Republic” is part of that work.

– Kaleel Skeirik

Tyrone Williams

Poet & Lyricist

Tyrone Williams teaches literature and theory at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is the author of several chapbooks and six books of poetry: c.c. (Krupskaya 2002), On Spec (Omnidawn 2008), The Hero Project of the Century (The Backwaters Press 2009), Adventures of Pi (Dos Madres Press 2011), Howell (Atelos Books 2011) and As Iz (Omnidawn 2018). A limited-edition art project, Trump l’oeil, was published by Hostile Books in 2017. He and Jeanne Heuving edited an anthology of critical essays, Inciting Poetics (University of New Mexico Press, 2019). His new website is at https://www.flummoxedpoet.com/

Dan Larkin, Jr.

Gospel Composer

Dan Larkin is currently acting pastor and also has been the minister of music for 34 years at Southern Baptist Church in Avondale. He is Assistant to the Dean of Academic division of the Gospel Music Worship of America. He is the founder of DSM Music in Cincinnati and currently is a music teacher in the Cincinnati Public School System.

Simion Collins

Director of Photography

Simion Collins is a 25 year old Film Director, Cinematographer, Photographer and Founder of RiverSky Films. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in video production and filmmaking in 2017. RiverSky Films specializes in Branding, Events, Music Videos, Commercials, and Portrait Photography that takes a cinematic storytelling approach personable to the brand and Client. Facebook.com/riverskyfilms, Instagram.com/riverskyfilms, www.riverskyfilms.com

Mike Goist

Music Director

Michael Goist was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. He studied violin from an early age, and studied composition and orchestral conducting at Oberlin College. Michael has continued his conducting studies at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music under Maestro Mark Gibson, where he earned a Master of Music degree and is currently pursuing a Doctorate of Musical Arts.

David Mavricos

Editor & Sound

David is a founding member of Walterhoope, as well a classically-trained actor and multimedia producer. He has been seen on stages in New York, D.C., and regionally in contemporary and classical productions, including at the Shakespeare Theatre Company, the Folger Theatre, Round House Theater, and the Washington Stage Guild. Credits including Romeo and Juliet, As You Like It, Othello, The Tempest, among many others. With Walterhoope, David co-wrote, directed, and performed in The Macbeths, performed in The Little Prince, and directed its production of Lungs. David was also cinematographer and editor for Walterhoope’s first film, Too Like the Lightning.

Audio interview coming soon.

Montez Jenkins-Copeland


Montez Jenkins-Copeland Cannot begin to express the gratitude they have for this project and the amazing team. A Cincinnati native, they have worked locally with The Know Theatre, The Children’s Theatre Of Cincinnati, Pones Inc. and Playhouse in The Park over the years. They were recently on the high seas with Carnival Cruise Lines for 5 years as a Production Singer. Some favorite roles include Tom Collins in Rent, Will in Girlfriend the Musical, Teen Angel in Grease and Chad in High School Musical: On Stage. They send an abundance of gratitude to the Mulberry Magic Squad, Adam, and their parents (Angie and Derek) for all of the unconditional support. Enjoy!

Audio interview coming soon.

Donald Burns


Donald studied Theatre/English at Xavier University. 13th & Republic is Donald’s first film, and he couldn’t be more excited to be involved with this project. His favorite stage credits include Franklin in A Charlie Brown Christmas, Vadim in Cannibal Galaxy: A Love Story, and Henry Clay/Black Fox in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. He would like to thank his friends, family, and God for all their love and support.

Audio interview coming soon.

Brandon J Burton


Brandon is a born & raised Cincinnati native, who is also a graduate of the University of Cincinnati. He is a local actor, teacher, and voice over artist. He has been seen on stage at The KNOW Theatre of Cincinnati & Cincinnati Shakespeare Company.

Audio interview coming soon.

Ernaisja Curry


Ernaisja Curry is a Florida native who graduated from the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts with a Certificate in Acting and received her BFA in Theatre from Adelphi University. Since completing the Bruce E. Coyle Acting Internship with the Tony Award-winning Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, she has performed on stages across Cincinnati/Northern KY and signed with Heyman Talent Agency. When not on stage or screen, she is teaching, directing, and choreographing students as a Teaching Artist. Her favorite recent credits include The Ballad of the Dying Body from Missing Front Plate Productions, Skeleton Crew at Ensemble Theatre, and Lawbreakers at StageOne Theatre. She is eternally grateful to her family, friends, and mentors for their continuous love, faith, and support. www.ernaisjacurry.com

Audio interview coming soon.

Ashley O. Morton


Ashley is incredibly humbled to make her Walterhoope debut with 13th & Republic. Pre-pandemic, Ashley could be found on stage with The Carnegie and The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati as well as regularly performing with Pones and InBocca Performance, making sight-specific and devised works. During the pandemic, Ashley kept busy with Dream& as part of Cincy Digital Fringe, Godspell with The Carnegie’s Creative Disruption Committee, and Poe at the Kirkwood Inn. Black Lives do matter and all of Ashley’s creative endeavors are to make it known that you (yes, YOU) matter to her.

Audio interview coming soon.

Griff Bludworth


Griff Bludworth is a singer, actor, and director based in Cincinnati. He appeared previously onstage at Music Hall in the Street Chorus Bernstein’s MASS and at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati in Cinderella: After Ever After and ANTIGONE (born against.), the latter of which he also adapted from his own translation. He studied at Xavier University, earning a BA in Theatre and an HAB in Classics & Philosophy, and then at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati as a Professional Acting Apprentice, where he has also been Assistant Director since 2017.

Audio interview coming soon.

Anyeé Farrar


Anyeé Farrar is a soprano from Virginia Beach, Virginia who is based out of the Cincinnati/Kentucky area. She recently obtained her master’s degree in music with a concentration in Voice Performance from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) in May of 2020.   During 2014-2018, she attended and graduated with her bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA). Most recently, Ms. Farrar was performing as LA CHAUVE-SOURIS and UNE PASTOURELLE with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in their production of L’enfant et les Sortilèges in Februrary of 2020. Ms. Farrar has studied with Shelly Milam-Ratliff at GSA in Norfolk, VA, Wendy Waller in the Istia-Vox Studio di Bel Canto young artist program in Weimar, Germany, Martile Rowland in the Vocal Arts Festival in Colorado Springs, CO and Dr. Marilyn Taylor at UNCSA.  She has been directed and conducted by Scott Williamson, Alan Fischer, Steve LaCosse, Audrey Chait, Marcus Shields, James Bonas, Jamie Albritten, Aurelien Eulert, David Effron, Antony Walker, and Louis Langrée.

Audio interview coming soon.

Ellen Graham


Mezzo-soprano Ellen Graham is a versatile singer who has garnered recognition for performances that are “stirring” and “beautifully sung.” She performs regularly with organizations like Collegium Cincinnati, Cincinnati Opera and Queen City Opera. She is a member of the Cincinnati Vocal Arts Ensemble and Austin, TX-based Conspirare, both under the direction of Craig Hella Johnson. In addition, she has been a member of the Cincinnati Opera Chorus for over a decade.

Dr. Graham holds degrees from the University of Kentucky, Miami University and Carnegie Mellon University. She is an Instructor of Lyric Diction and Voice at Northern Kentucky University and Adjunct Instructor of Voice at the University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music in Jazz, Commercial Music Production and Music Education. She previously served as Director of Vocal Studies at Xavier University and has taught at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky and Wittenberg University in Springfield, OH. Her research in voice science and vocal health was published in Medical Problems of Performing Artists in 2016.

Audio interview coming soon.

Miles Wilson-Toliver


Miles Wilson-Toliver is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University where he studied voice with Daniel Teadt. Mr. Wilson-Toliver’s professional debuts range from Opera Theater of Pittsburgh to Cincinnati Opera while maintaining a presence in European festivals and concert tours. His passion for music includes Figaro in Le Nozze di Figaro, Leporello in Don Giovanni, and Giove in Cavalli’s La Calisto at Carnegie Mellon University. Wilson’s Career has afforded him to impact the communities in which he has sung. Roles including, Eugene Johnson in Blind Injustice, and City from the new opera, A Gathering of Sons. His standard work as Dancairo in Carmen and Bill Calhoun in Kiss Me Kate with Opera Theater of Pittsburgh highlight his lyricism and versatility. The Pittsburgh Post Gazette hails a “clear bodied baritone voice that greatly improves any piece in which he sings.” While his operatic career sustains, he continues on the oratorio and concert stage in Mozart’s Requiem under the direction of Manfred Honecker, and his most recent project “How I Crossed Over,” a concert that highlights his African American heritage and explores genres such as Gospel, Musical Theatre, and Opera.

Audio interview coming soon.

Nytaya Babbitt

Intern/Poster Artist

Originally from Mississippi, Nytaya is a  Cincinnati based artist currently studying illustration at The Art Academy of Cincinnati. She works as an illustrator that prefers painting above other mediums. The expressive brush strokes and the broad laying of colors of the medium helps her convey her work with a bit of dramatic flair. The majority of her work focuses on black narratives and the hanging question, “ How is this relevant?” Her work thrives on current ideologies, news headlines, and social media. The goal for making relevant art is so the audience can reference popular media and make connections.

Audio interview coming soon.


A History of the Project

We must start by saying this: the fact that this piece has been urgently relevant for its twenty year history is beyond sobering.

The 2001 death of Timothy Thomas inspired composer Kaleel Skeirik to create a work that captured the unrest which rippled through the Cincinnati community and beyond. The resulting multimedia piece, “The Armed Man,” with lyrics by poet Tyrone Williams and paintings by artist Bruno Zabaglio, was presented in 2003 as a benefit performance co-sponsored by the Amos Project of Cincinnati, a justice advocacy organization. Subsequently, Skeirik arranged “The Armed Man” for other settings, including an instrumental version for Cincinnati’s School for Creative and Performing Arts. 

In 2016 Skeirik expanded his initial 15 minute work into “The Armed Man 2016,” a 50-minute work that included gospel choir, a quartet of opera singers, an actor portraying Timothy Thomas, a jazz/street scene and new gospel songs written by the Rev. Dan Larkin, Jr. A video of this performance at Xavier University was featured in the US series “Concerts Across America Against Gun Violence” in 2017, at Cincinnati’s Christ Church Cathedral.

In 2018, Walterhoope approached Skeirik about creating an entirely new piece with new music around his established work, with an expanded script and lyrics by Tyrone Williams, and incorporating storytelling through dance. A live production was to be directed and choreographed by Darnell Pierre Benjamin. These performances scheduled for the spring of 2020 evolved further, due to COVID-19 and the protests surrounding the death of George Floyd, and Walterhoope re-envisioned the project into the feature-length film, 13th & Republic, released on December 28, 2020.

As part of the documentation of this project, the audio interviews you hear on this page were conducted and edited by Jennifer McCord. Poster artwork by Nytaya Babbitt.

13th & Republic is free

13th & Republic is completely free to experience. We believe that this piece, and work like it, is deeply important and should be accessible to all. That is why this work is free for you and for everyone.

That said, 13th & Republic has been in the making for over two years and features the talents and incredibly hard work of dozens of artists. What began as a live performance event evolved into a feature length film hosted on an interactive website. We are hugely grateful to everyone involved from the artists, volunteers, and funders, to the helping hands of strangers.

As we are dedicated to making this work free for you to experience, we are also dedicated to compensating our artists fairly for their invaluable work. This means we are dependent on contributions from those who believe in our mission and are able to give, financially. If you enjoy this piece or find it impactful, will you consider contributing financially or by sharing 13th & Republic with someone else?

13th & Republic is made possible in part by state tax dollars allocated by the Ohio Legislature to the Ohio Arts Council (OAC).

Additional generous funding for this project is provided by Xavier University Take It On 2020, Christ Church Cathedral, and generous supporters on Kickstarter.

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