May 8 at 6:00 pm ET
The Water Club, 500 E 30th St.

Join us for Working Theater’s 2023 Bridge Awards and Benefit honoring Mark Henry, International Vice President, Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), and Yanira Merino, President, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA). We so look forward to celebrating our honorees who exemplify our mission to champion working people’s voices and bridge the gap between the arts, labor, and community.

This event will benefit Working Theater’s 38th Season of creating theater for, about, and with working people, and will include musical performances and excerpts from Working Theater’s Missing Them production, a silent auction, and much more.

Ticket and ad sales are now closed for the event. If you have any questions or would like to see if we can make a last minute accommodation, please email [email protected]

To make a donation toward the event or purchase a ticket to cover the costs of a Working Theater artist’s attendance, please click here.

Meet the Honorees 

Mark Henry, International Vice President of the Amalgamated Transit Union

The Amalgamated Transit Union is the largest labor union representing transit and allied workers in the U.S. and Canada is comprised of over 200,000 members. The ATU can be found in 44 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and nine Canadian provinces.

On September 24, 2022, Mark Henry, was elected by over 800 delegates at the Amalgamated Transit Unions’ International tri-annual convention to serve as one of its 18 International Vice Presidents. Mark has been using his experience to help other Locals and organizing efforts across the country. Prior to his elevation to International Vice President, Mark was unanimously re-elected President and Business Agent of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1056 in June 2021. ATU Local 1056 represents over 2000 active maintenance, transportation members and over 800 retired members of MTA New York City Transit’s in Queens. This was Mark’s fourth consecutive term as the locals President/Business Agent. During his presidency, Mark had oversight of the local’s overall Operations, Contracts, Policy, Finances, Arbitrations and serving as a Health Benefits Trustee.

Since joining the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1056 more than 35 years ago, Mark has been a committed and dedicated union member. He was a Bus Operator with the New York City Transit Authority; he increased his labor activism rising through the ranks of the local. Mark held various elected positions within the local.
Mark chaired the New York State ATU Legislative Conference Board from 2014-2022 representing the ATU Locals around the State of New York. Mark is an Executive Board Member of the New York City Central Labor Council since 2014 and on the Board of directors on the New York State Public Employees Conference Board.

Mark, an unsung labor-activist, has received many certificates and commendations for his achievements
in organized labor, workers’ rights, and community affairs. In 2022, Mark was voted in City and State Magazine as one of Labors Power 100 leaders in New York City. He studied Psychology at City College of NY and Labor Studies at the Tommy Douglass Conference Center (Formerly the George Meany Center) in Silver Springs, Maryland. Mark enjoys traveling, sports and recreational activities with his family and friends.

Yanira Merino, LCLAA National President

Yanira Merino is the National President of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, which represents the interests of approximately 2 million Latino(a) trade unionists throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. Ms. Merino is a veteran labor and immigration rights leader and advocate. On August 2018 during LCLAA’s 22nd. National Membership Convention, held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, she was elected as president of this organization that aims at providing a voice for Latino working families nationally by coordinating labor policy on immigration, as well as other issues that are critical to Latin Americans across the United States.

Merino was born in El Salvador and migrated to the U.S. in the 1990’s, at the time of an ongoing war in her home country. When she arrived to the U.S., she joined the labor movement in order to protest poverty wages, wage theft, discrimination and unsafe working conditions at a shrimp factory where she worked in Los Angeles. Ms. Merino and co-workers organized and led efforts to change these unfair practices. She has since worked in numerous organizing campaigns, immigration efforts as well as solidarity work with Central America.

In 2000 she began serving as the National Immigration Coordinator for the Laborer’s International Union of North America (LiUNA). Yanira Merino’s election to the national presidency of LCLAA represented a turning point for the organization, as she became the first woman, and first formerly undocumented immigrant to lead LCLAA. Her advocacy and passion regarding immigration issues have played a key role during crucial times for our Latino community. Merino has been committed to the protection of immigrant rights, promoting a comprehensive and humane immigration reform, as well as advocating for the rights of working people of Latin American descent.

Merino’s determination and tenacity for advancing living and working conditions for Latino and immigrant workers has been indispensable for the work LCLAA does and for its pledge to guarantee social and economic justice for all working people.

Meet the Hosts and Entertainment 

Kevin R Free is an award-winning audiobook narrator and an all-around artist person whose work as a director, producer, actor and playwright have been developed in many places. Most recently, he directed Berta, Berta at Mile Square Theatre, where he is now the Artistic Director. At the moment, he’s playing Guy in Nicole A. Watson’s production of Blues for An Alabama Sky at the McCarter. So much more at kevinrfree.com and on Instagram: @kevinrfree.

Reynaldo Piniella has been seen on Broadway in Trouble in Mind and Thoughts of a Colored Man. Off-Broadway: The Death of the Last Black Man…, Venus (Signature), The Skin of Our Teeth (TFANA), Lockdown (Rattlestick), The Space Between the Letters (The Public/UTR), Black and Blue (Ars Nova’s ANT Fest) and The Best of Theatreworks (Working Theater). TV credits include Reservation Dogs, Sneaky Pete, Law & Order: SVU, The Carrie Diaries, Flesh & Bone, Blue Bloods, Greenleaf, Louie, NYC 22, Us & Them and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Film: “Madeline’s Madeline” (Sundance Film Fest, Showtime), “Shadows” (HBO Max) and “Broken City” (20th Century FOX.) As a playwright, his work includes Black Doves (Thomas Barbour award for Playwriting), Real Life RPG (commissioned by Baltimore Center Stage, produced by San Diego Rep, Shakesqueer Theater Company and Pioneer Theater Guild), No Shade (produced by the Lee Strasberg Institute at NYU Tisch), I’m Old School (produced by Single Carrot Theater) and Black and Blue (Ars Nova’s ANT Fest.) He received the Fox Foundation Resident Actor Fellowship from Theatre Communications Group to develop a bilingual English-Spanish Hamlet with the Classical Theatre of Harlem. He is a current member of New Victory Theater’s LabWorks, All for One Theater’s Solo Collective and is an alum of the Civilians’ R&D Group. He is the inaugural recipient of the All Stars Project’s Fellowship for Young Artists of Color, a FREEdom Fellow at the Weeksville Heritage Center and has received residencies from the Public Theater’s Shakespeare Initiative and HB Studio. www.reynaldopiniella.com@ReynaldoRey

Reza Salazar is an actor and writer who began his career as a child in South America, working with his mother as clowns. He originated the role of Rafael in the Tony nominated play Clyde’s by the two-time Pulitzer prize winner playwright Lynn Nottage. Broadway: Clyde’s (Helen Hayes) Sweat (Studio 54). Off-Broadway: Richard II, Mobile Unit’s The Tempest, Oedipus El Rey (Public Theater) My Mañana Comes (Playwright’s Realm). Regional Theater: Mark Taper Forum, Goodman Theater, Guthrie Theater, and Arena Stage. His TV credits include: “Inside Amy Schumer” (Paramount +) “The Accidental Wolf,” (Topic) “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” “Daredevil,” (Netflix) “The Blacklist,” “Believe,” “Law & Order” and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” (NBC), “Louie,” (FX) “The Knick,” (Cinemax) Film: The Prisoner, The Imperialists Are Still Alive, See Girl Run, The Inquisition of Camilo Sanz. Reza made his directorial debut with Missing Them which he adapted and developed with Anjali Tsui and was produced by The Working Theater.

Randy Mason & Jamell Ogbonna aka J instrumental are a NYC based live instrumentation Hip Hop duo with an uplifting, interactive and often improvisational style of music. Their signature sound features an Afro Peruvian Cajon drum and piano or electric keyboard. Randy is the emcee percussionist, rapping and drumming simultaneously while Jamell holds down the melody singing and playing keys. The two met in Randy’s hometown of NY when Jamell was still in High School living in Georgia. Jamell was inspired by videos he saw of Randy rapping on the NYC subway train and hoped to one day play the trains too. Randy often rapped on NYC subway trains, sometimes busking and other times ministering. When Jamell came to NY for school he and Randy reconnected and started playing together at a local church where they served together on Sundays in the Bronx. Soon after that they hit the trains, eventually they played their first concert together and the rest is history! 

Petrina Ampeire is an African artist, performer, lawyer, and activist born in Uganda. She began her career as a performer at the Identity School of Acting and the Central School of Speech and Drama in London before going on to attend a two-year conservatory at the New York American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Her recent works include playing Masika in Revolution: Two Stories with the Same Ending at the Tank Theatre, Rebel Joyce in Nick Makoha’s The Dark, and Kakye in Appointment with gOD, as part of the Columbia School of Arts’ International Play Reading Festival. Her other work includes Perspectives of War: Ancient Greek Texts in Dialogue with the Modern World with Eclipses Group Theatre, Zara in Mirrors as part of the New York Summer Festival, and Kamara in The Diamond by the People’s Theatre Project. In addition to being part of the People’s Theatre Company, she serves as a teaching artist with the People’s Theatre Project.

Francis Mateo: Lunch Bunch (PlayCo.); CallBacks2022 (Teatro Círculo) Othello (Shakespeare Forum); Love to Love You Baby (Teatro Círculo); Hamlet (Shakespeare@); Merchant of Venice (Shakespeare Forum); Love’s Labour’s Lost (Shakespeare Forum); King Lear (Classical Theater of Harlem); Mother Courage (Public Theater); Red Beads(Mabou Mines); In the Name of Salome (Repertorio Español); La Canción (Repertorio Español); Bad Blood(Puerto Rican Traveling Theater). Film/TV: Cuatro Piezas (Verandi Films; Colonia (Verandi Films); The Holdouts (Savin Rock Entertainment); Fran Gil (Rayoelú Films). Education: M.F.A. Brooklyn College (New York)

Learn More about the history of the Bridge Awards and Benefit. 

Deepest thanks to our 38th Season Supporters

Working Theater is supported in part by generous community members like you, and major gifts from: The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation New York Theater Program in partnership with the Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York | Howard Gilman Foundation | The One World Fund | The Shubert Foundation | The New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature  | Public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council

GOLD SPONSORS: Cigna, EmblemHealth, Empire BlueCross BlueShield 
SILVER SPONSORSArcher, Byington, Glennon, & Levine, LLP, CWA Local 1180, NYC Central Labor Council, Segal, United Federation of Teachers, Vision Screening Inc/DDS Inc