Inaugural Artists-In-Residence

Ayodele Casel, Tina Landau, Michael McElroy, PigPen Theatre. Co.

In our first three summers, an incredible cohort of innovative Artists-in-Residence comprised of Ayodele Casel, Tina Landau, Michael McElroy and PigPen Theatre Co. worked alongside Inaugural Executive Director Trish Santini and Inaugural Producer Julia Kraus to curate and lead programming and events throughout the park. They helped bring Little Island’s park landscape to life, inspiring discovery and joy for our first visitors. They curated festivals, wrote, directed or performed in shows and pooled their networks to bring even more incredible talent to Little Island. Their work was vital in reviving the performing arts in New York post pandemic as our opening concert with Broadway Inspirational Voices was one of the first live performances in New York City.

Learn more about our inaugural roster of artists by visiting our Artists Archive. 


Ayodele Casel

Tap dancer and choreographer

‘Release. Joy. Love.’ A Dance Festival at Little Island. –  The New York Times

In Ayodele’s time with Little Island, she collaborated with fellow Artist-In-Residence Michael McElroy and creative partner Torya Beard to curate Our Second Annual Music and Dance Festival. This festival expanded on Little Island’s inaugural 2021 Dance Festival, highlighting New York based musicians, choreographers, and dancers in a multi-generational kaleidoscope of styles, including Blues, Jazz, Hip Hop, Soul, Broadway and more! Artists featured in both festivals included Brinae Ali, Laraine Goodman, Kevin Iega Jeff, Maurice Chestnut, Isaac Harlan, Barkha Patel, Earl Mosley, Barkha Patel and more.

Tina Landau

Playwright and director

‘The Big Mix’: Little Island’s 3-Week Party The New York Times

Tina Landau brought a new kind of entertainment to Little Island’s second season with The Big Mix: a performance that was part party, part performance art, part variety show, and a whole new way to look at three of our most uniquely American holidays —Juneteenth, Pride and Independence Day. All three weeks featured a guest host, a rotating roster of guest stars, and a triple-threat ensemble. The star-studded lineup included Joshua Henry, Peppermint, Faith Prince, Qween Jean, Idina Menzel, Tonya Pinkins, Ty Defoe, Judy Kuhn, Mykal Kilgore, Brandon Contreras, Jose Llana, Vy Higginsen’s Sing Harlem Choir, Beth Malone, the House of LaBeija and many more. 

During the inaugural 2021 season at Little Island, Tina Landau led the Pride celebrations in the park by hosting the Bring Your Own Beautiful variety evening in The Amph, an evening of 7 Female Songwriters, a one-night-only showcase of female songwriters who “You Might Not Know But Should.” 


Michael McElroy

Actor, singer, music director

‘I Needed It’: A Well-Timed Outdoor Theater Opens on Little Island – The New York Times

During season two, Michael McElroy co-curated Our Second Annual Music & Dance Festival with Little Island Artist-in-Residence Ayodele Casel and along with Casel’s frequent collaborator Torya Beard. Highlights of this park-wide celebration included Soul to Soul: Black Women in Music hosted by Phylicia Rashad and McElroy featuring Capathia Jenkins, and Lillias White, Aisha de Haas, Aisha Jackson, Anastasia Talley, and Annastasia Victory and A Night of Musical Masters featuring Isaac Harlan, Joel Martin, and Matthew Whitaker. 

Michael McElroy launched Little Island’s 2021 inaugural season by bringing Broadway Inspirational Voices (BIV) to The Amph stage with Broadway Our Way LIVE, and curated the weekly Music in The Glade series. 


PigPen Theatre Co.

Actor, musicians, storytellers

Little Island is New York’s latest landing strip for theater, music, art — and ambition The Washington Post

This group of innovative artists has been performing original songs and plays since their freshman year together at the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama. They’ve since shared their unique brand of theater, music, and film on stages worldwide, wowing audiences of all ages with their interactive  theatrical productions. 

“Little Island is a place, and a community, that strikes us as singular and stunning. We are so inspired by the unique vision (and landscape!) of the park. We love cultivating our own imaginations – as well as the imaginations of artists we love and admire “ 

During our 2021 and 2022 programming seasons, PigPen Theatre Co. curated the Little Island Storytelling Festival. These lively celebrations of storytelling in all its many forms, activated the park through multimedia arts installations, musical retellings, spoken word readings, interactive journeys, and more. Performance highlights included a live event with The Moth; BFRJ Sings: The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill, Shaina Taub and Friends, Live Literature Concert: Sarah Kay, Mahogany L. Browne, and Jon Sands, and Michael Thurber’s Gigantic Energy.