Company Members

Get to Know Us

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Shav'on Smith

Founder/Artistic Director

My favorite quote is from the legendary Amiri Baraka aka Leroi Jones; "The artist's role is to raise the consciousness of the people. To make them understand life, the world and themselves more completely. That's how I see it. Otherwise, I don't know why you do it." This quote sits in my spirit as my duty and my ministry. It is up to the artists/teachers to teach the people about our history, struggle, and triumphs in this world. There is no reason to put on a production if no lesson was learned.

Shav’on is a North Philadelphia native and a graduate of the Philadelphia school district. She has been a part of theatre since she was in the sixth grade at the former John Wanamaker Middle School under the direction of Virginia Lam. She participated in theatre and concert band at Abraham Lincoln High School and Community College of Philadelphia, finally settling in the theatre department at the prestigious HBCU, Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD. There, under the direction of Dr. Shirley Basfield-Dunlap, Shav’on held down several titles; costume director, stage manager, actress, and lighting designer. Upon her graduation in 2009 she continued her love of theatre spending eight years running a very successful children’s theatre program at Methodist Services. In 2017, after two and a half year as an Emotional Support teacher Shav’on became a worker for Philadelphia Parks and Recreation finding her path and destiny at Venice Island Performing Arts Center as the Assistant Recreation Leader (ARL) and program facilitator. Now she is a Rec Leader Trainee at Simons Recreation Center. In 2018, Shav’on began the development of her own theatre company settling on its name and purpose. Grounded Theatre Company’s goal is contained in its tagline, “from the root of our history to the stage” Our company’s goal is to tell the stories of the African diaspora and to honor our traditions and legacy.


Jackie Jonas

Board of Directors/Actress/Storyteller

A recent transplant to Philadelphia, Jackie Jonas is a professional storyteller, voice over artist and actress . This is Jacqueline’s second time performing for the Slave Narratives.


Tenea Wilborn


Tenea is a short story and children's book writer, poet, storyteller, and now actress. As a member of Patchwork Storytelling Guild, she's publicly performed at their annual Tellebration event. She's receiving theatrical training at Venice Island and is thrilled about performing in The Slave Narratives again.

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Maris Figueroa


Maris is a veteran of the stage, she wrote, directed and acted in plays for her Sunday school at Providence Baptist Church in Germantown, and became a member of the Triumph Baptist church drama ministry.  In 2005, Maris joined the spiritual drama ministry, HIS Ministry, LLC, under the leadership of Kristal Kinard, in the featured role of “Savannah” in in the production of  “Sistah”, and many other productions. This is the second time Maris has performed for The Slave Narratives.

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Takeyla Brothers


~ Minister Takeyla Brothers has been singing since she was 5 years of age. Her singing ministry started at Living Word Deliverance Center, church of her grandmother, the late Pastor Johnnie Langston. She is a 4th generation minister, continuing to pursue: serving the Lord with her gifts. This is Takeyla’s second time performing for The Slave Narratives.

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Karleh Wilson


Karleh Wilson was born in southern Louisiana and raised with traditional Cajun values and cuisine. She moved to California at age 15 where she experienced culture shock and thrived as a musical theater artist and athlete at her high school. She attended Yale as a student athlete, but also participated in anti-racism movements on campus. She now works at the Fair Housing Rights Center of Southeastern PA as an investigator of housing discrimination in the Philadelphia area. In 2019, Karleh moved back to Louisiana created an LP, and written a book about her experience with Domestic Violence. Check her out!


Kristian Sky


Kristian Sky is a Singer/Songwriter/Actor. Born and raised in Glassboro, NJ he has been involved in theatre and music his entire life. Serving on his church’s gospel choir from the age of 8, until he was 25 years old. In high school he has been in theater plays such as “West Side Story” and “Kiss Me Kate”. Now as an adult, he is on his way to turning his passion into a successful career. This is Kristian’s first time performing for the Slave Narratives.


Joli McTerrell


Founder/Director of Her Roots . Born in Newark, New Jersey, raised in communities filled with roses from concrete. Received my Journalism/Communications degree in the heart of Philadelphia, and then to pursue an advanced degree in Higher Education. With over 20 years of dance arts, spoken word, and music performance experience, I have had the pleasure of creating art that takes you on a hip journey filled with highs and lows. Starting as early as  age 5, I decided to tell a story... dancing in my family’s living room to their favorite tunes, to picking up my violin while grooving to my favorite classical/hip hop hits; to throwing my hands up to rejoice while swaying my head from side to side, as I immerse myself in the sounds of the West African djembe drum; to finding myself center stage while I one, two-steppin' to my own choreography, to writing my story in black and white...the arts have truly shaped the woman I am today.


Regina Bell


Born in Philadelphia, Regina has always loved theater. When her mother took her to See the Dreamgirls at the Forrest Theater when she was 12, she barely remembers blinking. She knew at that moment what she wanted to do. Discouraged to pursue this dream, she majored in Education and took theater as a Minor in college. She also attended Mike Lemon Casting in Philadelphia after college many years after college. Now that her son is all grown up, she is happy to be able to have time to do what she loves so much.

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