Pioneers Go East Collective centers the voices of LGBTQ members of our community in New York City and beyond. Since 2010, the collective of social practitioners and artmakers has been in-residence at arts and cultural centers throughout New York City. Presenting original works by a collective of multigenerational artists, our creative and social platforms of inclusion bring to the forefront the vulnerabilities still faced by our community.



Pioneers Go East Collective creates interdisciplinary performance that merges storytelling and video documentary of real events. Since 2010 the collective has been a proud company-in-residence at La MaMa, the historical arts complex in the East Village founded by Ellen Stewart. Recently we have been awarded a 2018-19 residency at Judson Church, one of the first avant-garde dance theater in New York City since the 1950's.

The collective explores LGBTQ and feminist stories that are not usually investigated and which reflect social-political vulnerabilities and otherness as a way towards provoking thought, casting impressionistic shadows. Inspired by Walt Whitman’s powerfully evocative poem “Pioneers! O Pioneers!” that pays homage to fearless courage, we are a collective of ‘pioneers’ set out to find a brighter future and record memories of collective and individual vulnerability and resilience. As ‘pioneers’ on a long journey, the collective finds and records memories of collective and individual courage to challenge audiences in emotionally charged yet accessible performances.

Gian Marco Lo Forte, Daniel Diaz, Beth Graczyk, Julia Dobner-Pereira, and Philip Treviño lead the collective in collaboration with a community of like-minded writers, performers, musicians, and visual artists. The collective has been widely presented in NYC at La MaMa, Juson Church, JACK, Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance, The LGBT Center, A.R.T./New York venues, St Ann’s Warehouse, Governors Island as part of Process Space Residency, The Silent Barn, Astor Alive Festival, Estrogenius Festival, Incubator Arts Project/ Ontological Hysteric, Triskelion Arts/ The Exponential Festival, Dixon Place, Performance Mix/New Dance Alliance in partnership withHERE, Chashama Gallery in Harlem, Goethe Institut Gallery/ Wyoming Building.

Programs & History: 

Since 2010 Pioneers Go East Collective develops works inspired by historical and social events, scientists, artists and spiritual leaders who have influenced the World. The collective works include CowboysCowgirls at JACK; a documentary about drag performance artist and advocate Agosto Machado; GEMINI stars - inspired by LGBTQvloggers coming out on youtube juxtaposed to gay bashing on the internet; AMERICAN MILL No. 2 –based on interviews from the textile belt of the South (A.R.T/New York ‘16); MJ WAS INNOCENT, the story of Queer artist Burke that challenges the expected values of the LGBTQ+ community (HOT Festival; Performance Mix/ HERE ‘15); HILDEGARD (vision) about spiritual leader Hildegard Von Bingen, and her transcendence of gender confines through her creative process (St Ann’s Warehouse & Governors Island, 2013-14); MARIA CELESTE (GALILEO) based on the epistolary correspondence between Maria Celeste and her father Galileo (Incubator Arts Project ‘14); 7AM based on St Francis visions (IAP ‘13); S16 based on Pirandello’s story of boys working in sulfur mines (La MaMa ‘12); The Birds and The Wolf live video installation (Chashama/Harlem Gallery, and Goethe Institut  ’11-‘12). Upcoming: GEMINI STARS based on LGBTQ+ vloggers coming out on youtube (The Silent Barn ‘16/ The Exponential Festival 2017). Awards: NYSCA (multiyear 2017-19); NYSCA individual (2019); The Puffin Foundation 2013 & 2016; Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (2011-2018); DuBose & Dorothy Heyward Memorial Fund (2018-19); Nancy Quinn Fund (2015, 2017 & 2018); Angels Fund. 

Staff: Gian Marco Lo Forte (artistic director/ writer & director); Daniel Diaz (resident writer, choreographer & lead performer); Beth Graczyk (resident artist and choreographer); Julia Dobner-Pereira (development advisor/ resident artist); Philip Treviño (resident designer); Agosto Machado (resident artist); Maura Nguyen Donohue (resident choreographer); Parijat Desai (resident choreographer); Hao Bai (resident designer); Jon Burklund (resident designer). Joyce Isabelle (development consultant); Carolina Restrepo (graphic designer)

Board of Directors: Daniel Barry - president; Margaret Browne - secretary; Rhoda Cosme - treasurer; Jean Carbain - board member; Gian Marco Lo Forte - board member. Honorary Board of Directors: Beverly Petty, Annina Nosei, and Nicky Paraiso.

Funding: New York State Council of the Arts; Lower Manhattan Cultural Council; The Puffin Foundation; Nancy Quinn Fund - A.R.T/ New York; The Kinley Fund; Off Broadway Angels Fund; Creative Space - A.R.T/ New York; DuBose & Dorothy Heyward Memorial Fund.

Pioneers Go East Collective is a a resident company at La MaMa since 2010, and a company member at A.R.T./ New York since 2012.

Residencies: Judson Church (2018 on going); La MaMa (on going); A.R.T./New York - Theatre Pilot program (2017); New Victory LabWorks - Professional Development Artists (2015/16); Process Space/ Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (2014); St Ann’s Warehouse – Puppet Lab (2013/14); Incubator Arts Project (2013/14); Chashama (2011); Goethe Institute (2011).

Collaborators: Mark Tambella – visual artist; Adam Cuthbért - composer; Rocco D’Santi - designer; Chad Raines - composer; Jiyoun Chang; Kamala Sankaram - composer; Michael Burke; Seth Gilman; Ashley Winland; Daniel Allen Nelson; Nehprii Amenii; Brian Walters; Allison Hiroto; John Gasper; Marina Celander.


Office: Pioneers Go East Collective is located at 140 2nd Ave, Suite 502, New York, NY 10003

Office hours: Monday through Thursday 10-5 pm and by appointment

Mailing address: Pioneers Go East Collective - 7 East 3rd Street, # 10 - New York, NY 10003



Daniel Diaz (writer, choreographer & lead performer) joined the collective as a resident artist in 2013. With a focus on modern street and interpretive dance, he has designed choreography for several influential New York musicians including Shadow Lover, Omega Jarden and more. Daniel performs at major local venues including PS1 MOMA, The Brooklyn Museum, The Coney Island Sideshow, Joe’s Pub, Dixon Place, Triskelion Arts and most recently at La Mama Experimental Theatre Club. He has also performed at various nightlife spots up and down the east coast. Daniel’s passion draws him to aspects beyond dance including performance art and set design, branding him a “Creature of the Stage”.

Gian Marco Lo Forte (director, writer, video-maker): Gian Marco is a New York based artist and artist-in-residence at La MaMa. Gian Marco founded Pioneers Go East Collective (the collective) in 2010, which has developed interdisciplinary media projects with music and poetry for social change. In addition to his work with the collective, Gian Marco is Curator of SOUND DEPARTURES at La MaMa and Assistant Curator of La MaMa Moves Festival. Gian Marco's directing and design work was presented at La MaMa, Irondale theatre, Dixon Place, Galapagos; HERE; Art on Air/ Clock Tower Gallery; and he designed for The Foundry, Pan Asian Rep; Magis Co; Watson Arts; Operating Theatre; Slant; May Adrales; Ernest Abuba; Alvin Eng; Kevin Augustine; Kim Ima; Ellen Stewart. Gian Marco is in residence with Great Jones Rep and has designed at Biennale di Venezia and toured in Europe. Awards: New York State Council of the Arts (2017-19); Lower Manhatan Cultural Council (’11 -‘15; and 17-18); Incubator Arts Project Residency ('13 & '14); The Puffin Foundation (’12 & '14, '16); Chashama Residency (’12); Opera America - Director & Design Award (’10). MFA NYU (’09).

Julia Dobner-Pereira (writer and performer) is a queer theatre artist and current graduate student at NYU, studying drama therapy. She is passionate about incorporating spontaneous play and humor into the therapeutic space. For her master’s thesis, she is researching the relationship between isolation and aggression in incarcerated men by conducting a meta-synthesis of existing literature and through a close examination of the therapeutic dynamics in her individual research with a client on Bellevue’s Forensic Psychiatric Unit. With PGEC, she uses her drama therapy training to examine queer relational dynamics and how bullying and aggression has an impact on the psyche of queer individuals. Julia supported Gian Marco in writing GEMINI STARS, and will collaborate as a lead artist on SCORPIO STARS and SAGITTARIUS STARS. As a performer, Julia trained at Smith College with Ellen Kaplan (acting) and Judith Gray (vocal performance) and in NYC with Ken Schatz and Mitchell Raftery. As a director and deviser, Julia has trained with MOTUS, Belarus Free Theatre, Jessica Litwak, and Nisha Sajnani (Arts Based Research). Recent NYC Performance Credits: Gemini Stars (PGEC, Triskelion Arts Space, The Silent Barn), American Mill #2 (PGEC, La MaMa), The Oblate Cycle: Maria Celeste (PGEC, La MaMa), Light & Shadow (Yara Arts, La MaMa), Fire. Water. Night. (Yara Arts, La MaMa).

Philip Treviño (resident designer) is a 2010 recipient of a New York Dance and Performance Award (BESSIE) for his lighting and scenic design for Pam Tanowitz’s Be In The Gray With Me. He is also the scenic designer for Camille A. Brown and Company’s Mr. Tol E. Rance, which won a 2014 BESSIE for Outstanding Production. Recently, he designed lights for Catherine Cabeen/Hyphen Give Me More at Theater for the New City and Pioneers Go East Collective's Gemini Stars/Scorpio Stars at La MaMa directed by Gian Marco Lo Forte. Some of his other credits in lighting and scenic design can be seen in works by Brian Brooks Moving Company, Camille A. Brown and Dancers, Henning Rübsam’s Sensedance, Kymera Dance, Pam Tanowitz Dance and Chris Tanner/Brandon Olson’s Ravaged by Romance at LaMaMa. His work has toured nationally, internationally and at such notable venues as BAM, The Joyce, Joyce Soho, DTW, Lincoln Center Out of Doors, The Kitchen, La MaMa ETC., New York City Center and Jacob’s Pillow. He has Stage Managed for Trisha Brown Dance Company and José Limón Dance Company as well as Production Stage Managed for Wally Cardona Quartet’s Everywhere and SITE, Kate Weare Company, Christopher Williams’ The Golden Legend and many more. He is a proud alumnus of San Francisco State University where he received a BA in Drama and a Minor in Music. Philip is the current Technical Director for the Dance Department at Marymount Manhattan College where he teaches Stagecraft for Dance.

Agosto Machado (Performer, Artist, Activist) Performer, Artist, Activist and Witness, is best known for his work with Ellen Stewart's La Mama, his association with Jack Smith, Mario Montez, Jackie Curtis, John Vaccaro , Holly Woodlawn, Candy Darling, Marsha P Johnson, Ronald and Harvey Tavel, Ethyl Eichelberger and Peter Hujar. Agosto appeared in over 30 Off-Off Broadway plays by Ken Bernard, Jackie Curtis, Al Carmines, Harvey Fierstein, H.M. Koutoukas, Megan Terry, Jeff Weiss. A member of John Vaccaros' 'Playhouse of the Ridiculous'.

Mike Cotayo (performer & writer) At the age of eighteen months old, a near fatal car crash turned life around for Mike. He was severely injured due to a drunk driving accident. He had a Traumatic Brain Injury receiving a diagnosis of acquired cerebral palsy. Now an adult living with a physical disability Mike realizes that the best medicine is laughter, and his goal is to medicate the whole world (or at least three of his family members). When Mike was asked to perform on The Cringe Humor Show at The Laugh Factory in Times Square, it created a ripple effect that is still going. As a result of this show his work has been sold on iTunes, and he was aked to co-write a screenplay based on a stand up comedian with a disability. He also garnered many other opportunities such as performing on Shock Jock Radio Shows "Opie & Anthony" and "Howard Stern TV" He was also featured on Comcast Television's "Your Morning Philadelphia." His Jokes have been featured in Love's Funny That Way; Squeaky Clean Comedy; and Filthy, Funny and Totally Offensive. He was also featured in an article in "Advance Magazine," alongside Josh Blue. In addition to performing regularly at New York City Clubs, Mike continues to headline colleges across the country. Selected campuses include Kansas State University, Binghamton University, and Columbia University. & 

Hao Bai (resident sound designer) works as a designer & technician in lights, sound, & video, and occasionally photographer. As a Gemini, she has been working with the Pioneers Go East Collective for couple years and is glad to work on Gemini Stars with so many great artists. Selected recent credits: sound design: Paisieu (Target Margin), Puppet-Shows (Loco7), The Violin (59E59); video & sound design: American Mill #2 (A.R.T/New York Theatres); lighting & sound design: TELE-VISION, Gemini Stars (Triskelion Arts); Sound Departures (La Mama); lighting design: La Mama Moves!; Kate Bornstein; ADITL (La Mama); The Plain of Jars (NYU), Being (NYU), Shasta Geaux Pop (CAC, Cincinnati), "Medusa" and "Oddity" (TNC); lighting & set design: House or Home (Park Avenue Armory); The Workroom (One Art Space); video editing and assistant set designer for The Golden Toad and Burnished by Grief (by The Talking Band); production assistant & photographer for Prophetika: An Oratorio and Can I Get a Witness (dir. Charlotte Brathwaite at La Mama & Harlem Stage).

Maura Nguyen Donohue (choreographer) has been making dance-based performance works in NYC since 1995. Her solo and inmixedcompany group works have been produced and presented in NYC at Dance Theater Workshop (now NY Live Arts), PS 122, Danspace Project, La Mama, and Mulberry St. Theater and have toured across the US and to Canada, Europe and Asia. She is an assistant professor in dance at Hunter College, writes for Culturebot, and serves on the NY Dance and Performance Awards (Bessies) committee and Movement Research’s artist advisory council. She has collaborated with Adam on projects for La Mama Moves, The Asia Society, and Pioneers Go East Collective.

Parijat Desai (choreographer) India-born, U.S.-raised choreographer/dancer Parijat Desai creates hybrids of contemporary and Indian classical dance, martial art, theater, and other forms. The New York Times has said Parijat “moves with lush attack” and called her work “a seamless blending of new and old.” Parijat (BA, Stanford University, anthropology with honors; MFA, UCLA, choreography) began her company in Los Angeles in 2000, then continued in New York City 2004–2013. Since then, she been developing independent projects with diverse collaborators.Parijat is ever seeking ways to build bridges across movement languages—“a rejoinder, both physical and verbal, to the sentiment” (NYT) of xenophobia. In recent projects like her solo O.O.F. (studies in the opposite of fear) and her ensemble work JustLikeThat/Maya, Parijat explores language and movement. She also has created site-based choreography at Islamic heritage sites in New Delhi, India (The Palace Is Dreaming, forthcoming short film), at Ahmedabad's modernist ATMA Building designed by Le Corbusier (Passage). She has developed participatory protest choreography (Freedom. Safety. NOW.) and socially engaged works like her meditation After Oak Creek following the attacks on the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, WI. Core to Parijat's work is a love of music. Parijat has frequently collaborated with musicians experimenting within and outside of Carnatic and Hindustani music traditions, including several members of Brooklyn Raga Massive. In these interactions, she brings a commitment to understanding music through self-study and direct dialogue with music artists. Parijat was awarded a Summer 2018 rehearsal residency through CUNY Dance Initiative. She has also been an artist-in-residence through Movement Research (2016–17), Tribeca Performing Arts Center (2009–12), and Stanford University’s Institute for Diversity in the Arts (2009). She has been awarded artistic residencies through Colorado College (2017), the Fulbright/Nehru India Program (2013–14), Dance Center/Columbia College (2013), Skirball Cultural Center/LA (2007), and Queens Museum/Dance in Queens (2005). Parijat has received commissions from Grand Performances (LA), Danspace Project, and Harlem Stage. She won the Lester Horton Dance Award for Individual Performance, and NYFA BUILD, LMCC Creative Communities Grant, Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant, and Arts International Grant. She was nominated for a 2019 United State Artists Fellowship. Parijat’s work has been presented at venues including La Mama, Danspace Project, Asia Society, Queens Museum, PS122, and PioneerWorks (NYC); Skirball Cultural Center, California Plaza, and J. Paul Getty Center (LA); ODC Theater and Asian Art Museum (San Francisco); Denver Art Museum; Northwestern University (Chicago); The Dance Centre (Vancouver); and National Centre for the Performing Arts (Mumbai). Parijat teaches contemporary dance and contemporary bharata natyam, and leads Dance In The Round, workshops for all ages based on Garba and Raas, circle dances from Gujarat, India. She has taught at various colleges and school and at studios including Mark Morris Dance Center and Peridance. She has also taught actors through Theater Mitu New York Artist Intensive and Cornerstone Theater (LA). in September 2018, Parijat will teach an intensive through Stanford University in New York.

Beth Graczyk (choreographer & performer) is a Brooklyn-based choreographer, performer and a scientist. Graczyk has performed throughout the United States and internationally in Japan, Ecuador, France and India for the past 17 years. Concurrently, she has contributed to 11 science publications in the field of cancer research. She co-directed the performance company, Salt Horse with collaborators Corrie Befort & Angelina Baldoz (2008-2016). In 2016, Graczyk launched a solo performance project calledDesire Motor. The inaugural soloBeast, was produced by Gibney’s Work Up 3.0 program, and presented through Movement Research, CPR's Spring Movement Festival, Greenspace and toured to the Harrisburg Dance Festival (PA) and Corridor Festival (WA). Her most recent work,One of You Is Fake was presented by La MaMa Moves Festival in 2017, Marble House Project (VT), NAP program (PA), Oye Group’s Avant-Garde night and their One Catches Light Festival at Jack, andMovement Research at the Judson Church. Graczyk has most recently danced for Raja Kelly, Sara Shelton Mann, Mark Haim, K.J. Holmes, and works part-time as a Research Specialist at Rockefeller University.

Jess Barbagallo (writer and performer) is a writer and performer and has performed with Big Dance Theater (The Other Here), Theatre of a Two-Headed Calf (Panic, Drum of the Waves of Horikawa, It Cannot Be Called Our Mother But Our Graves) and The Builders Association (Jet Lag). Barbagallo is a founding member of Half Straddle (The Knock-Out Blow, Sliding Whores, Nurses in New England, In the Pony Palace/Football), the Red Terror Squad (Family Bed) and the Dyke Division of 2HC (Room for Cream).  Other credits include Fiabe Italiane (John Turturro), An Oresteia (CSC), MilkMilkLemonade (Josh Conkel/The Management), Little Edgar, Lamb of God (Sibyl Kempson/Eric Dyer), and The Quiet Way (Casey Llewellyn).  Barbagallo has written the plays Grey-Eyed Dogs (Dixon Place Mondo Cane Commission), I’ll Meet You in Tijuana (Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab), Saturn Nights (Incubator Arts Project), and Men’s Creative Writing Group (Playwriting Resident of the Invisible Dog Art).

Marisa Tornello (performance artist, songwriter) is an interdisciplinary performance artist born and raised in NYC. Studying music in college, Marisa's passion in the performing arts is widespread, dabbling in a variety of genres, including early music, musical theater, minimalism, songwriting, bodypainting, durational performance art, and improvisational movement. Musically, Marisa is a member of the New York Choral Society, and has performed on the stages of Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Madison Square Garden, the Prudential Center, and Palau de la Musica. She has had the opportunity to perform with many artists, including Peter Yarrow, Andrea Bocelli, Renee Fleming, Anna Netrebko, and the Met Orchestra. Marisa is an alumna of the Trinity/La MaMa Program and made her New York debut performing the ensemble piece Searching for Home at La MaMa in 2012. In 2015, Marisa composed, wrote, choreographed, and directed an original musical called Keeping Perfect Time, a piece that shines a spotlight on the relationship between music therapy, dementia, and caregiving. Marisa has been an active model in the NYC bodypainting community since 2015 and had the opportunity to model in an episode of Project Runway in 2014. Her piece blank premiered at the Baumann in June of 2018.

Niko Tsocanos (performer & choreographer) Niko Tsocanos is a performer and choreographer in dance and theater, and co-director of BOOM BAT GESTURE Performance Group, a theater collective based in Brooklyn,NY, whose recent works include ZOOM Thousand Time, LMFAOROFCOL, Screen Eyed Baby Ice, and Blankland! Since 2012 he has worked as a collaborating performer with Third Rail Projects in their award winning and critically acclaimed immersive performances—Then She Fell, The Grand Paradise, and Ghost Light at Lincoln Center Theater. He has also had the pleasure to work with Catherine Galasso, Susan Sgorbati and Elliot Caplan, alex|xan: the Median Movement, Annette Herwander, Bradley Teal Ellis, Lindsey Dietz Marchant, and Becky Radway Dance Projects. He graduated from Bennington College in 2011.