zAmya Theater Project

zAmya Theater Project is a unique creative process that brings together homeless and housed individuals to create and perform a theatrical production. zAmya turns “homeless” from a word back into a person. Or persons. Living, breathing, laughing, singing persons. Who act — yes, act — in entertaining, genre-defying productions that are guaranteed to change your mind, if not your life.


zAmya Theater Project
zAmya Theater Project
zAmya Theater Project


zAmya Theater Project uses creativity, collaboration and community-based theater to build understanding and connection between citizens with and without experience in homelessness toward a vision of a community with safe, stable, affordable housing options for all. zAmya is a Sanskrit word that means “aiming for peace”.

zAmya is managed by Maren Ward, a professional theater artist with over two decades of experience as a director and teaching artist in the Twin Cities. She is supported by a program assistant and troupe captain. zAmya has a company of 10 paid actors, formerly or currently homeless, who help guide the program direction. zAmya has created and toured 13 original productions at numerous locations throughout Minnesota including a two-week run of Home Street Home Minneapolis at the Guthrie Theater in September, 2016. In addition to creating and touring original theater, zAmya offers custom designed creative learning opportunities for companies, schools, shelters, and other organizations.

zAmya would love to come to you.

To book a performance, creative session, or workshop for your company, school, faith organization, or conference –
call Maren at 612-760-4804. Fees are negotiable based on organization size and capacity.


ZAmya Theater Project was founded in 2004 by Minneapolis citizen Lecia Grossman. Lecia wanted to learn about homelessness working "with" people, not "for" them. With support from theater professionals and homeless advocates, she devised a process for bringing homeless and housed together to create theater, learn from one another, and share with the broader community. After operating independently for 5 years, zAmya moved under the umbrella of St. Stephen's Human Services as an arts affiliate in 2009. zAmya is now a year-round program helping to meet agency goals around advocacy and education. To our knowledge, we are the only professional community-based theater company embedded within a social service agency.

Meet the Troupe


Richard Brinda.pngRichard Brinda has been with the zAmya troupe since 2009.  He brings two years of experience in photography and video production from Hennepin Tech College and a year of broadcasting training from Brown. He has spent five years producing community cable television. Richard also brings 11-plus years of experience with homelessness.  Richard is currently seeking housing.


Charles Hilton.pngCharles Hilton came to Minneapolis for the first time in 1979 to attend trade school for the Brotherhood of Railroad and Airline Clerks BRAC where he studied mediation and arbitration for the railroad and airline business. He fell in love with the Twin Cities. After returning to Akron, Ohio he lost his sight.  He got to thinking about the Twin Cities and returned to Minneapolis in 2015, 30 years later. When he returned to Minneapolis he found a 7- to 10-year waiting list for affordable housing. That's how he came in contact with zAmya.  Charles has performed welcome addresses in church, plays, choirs and productions as the son of his father the preacher for the St. Paul FBH Church in Akron, Ohio. He now considers the Twin Cities home sweet home.


Marvin Howard.pngMarvin Howard was born and raised in Chicago and got his comedy start from Bernie Mac in 1992!  Marvin has been a member of improv/comedy troupes Comedy Sportz and Oui be Negros and has performed his own stand-up routines professionally in Chicago and the Twin Cities.  He’s been a member of the zAmya Theater Troupe since 2008. 




Wanda Poston.pngWanda B. Poston encountered zAmya In Spring 2016 during their workshop at Salvation Army Harbor Light performing in Short Stories from the Book of Harbor Light. She then joined the cast of Home Street Home Minneapolis at the Guthrie and The Reality Roadshow tour earlier this year.  She has sung with Minneapolis Gospel Community college for many years, Sounds of Blackness and Gospel of Columnus. She came from a family of Gospel Singers and currently sings with a group called Spiritual Knights.  She’s been singing in church much of her life. She is a mother of four.


Corey Walton.pngCorey A. Walton is an Illinois native who’s been acting on stage and in films for 36 years. He’s has written or co-written three full-length plays and three 10-minute plays that were produced by either zAmya Theater, Bedlam Theater, or the Minneapolis Fringe Festival. He has appeared in several independent films including Ghost from the Machine produced by Hogdad Films. He has been with zAmya 9 years. In his spare time, Corey writes spoken word pieces and uses open mic events in and around the Twin Cities to test and perform these works. 


Lurch.pngLurch joined up with zAmya during creative sessions at Salvation Army Harbor Light last year. He was in the ensemble of Home Street Home at the Guthrie and in the role of Bull for zAmya’s 2017 Reality Roadshow tour.


Cheryl Hare.pngCheryl Hare is from the Yankton Sioux Tribe  - Marty, SD. Her first zAmya show was Recovering the Me I Know I Could Be in 2013. Since then she has performed for many audiences and toured to many places with zAmya including in the Dowling Studio at the Guthrie and in Duluth and Brainerd for the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless Conference. zAmya is the first thing Cheryl has done that made her step out of the box and she loves that she did. In the last year she has performed and toured with New Native Theater and at the Night Library in Northern Spark.


Caroline Mannheimer.pngCaroline Mannheimer has been with zAmya since 2009. She played Dorothy in zAmya’s There’s No Place Like Home in 2012-13. She studied Illustration and Fine Art for two years at The School of Visual Arts in Manhattan and has BA in Anthropology with a minor in Song Writing from The New School for Social Research. She is signed as a songwriter with BMI Publishing. Also a writer, Caroline has poems published in S.V.A.’s 1986 publication of “Words” and produced her work last year through Minneapolis’ Bedlam Theater’s 10Fest.


Esther Ouray Headshot.pngEsther Ouray (Production Manager)  has been a performing and teaching artist for over 35 years.  As actress, director, choreographer, dancer, and puppeteer Esther has worked with several companies, including At the Foot of the Mountain, Barebones, Illusion, and Interact. She is an associate artist with  Heart of the Beast Theatre. Esther has been the recipient of grants from the MN State Arts Board, Jerome Foundation, Rimon Jewish Arts Council, MRAC, Puffin Foundation, and Arts on Chicago.


Patrick Presley.pngPatrick Presley is Zamya's newest member. He grew up on welfare in a single parent home in Gary, Indiana. Patrick took interest in learning at a very early age and has since taught himself to speak multiple languages fluently and to play several instruments including the guitar, drums, and bass. He has a degree in business and currently resides in Minneapolis where he volunteers to do public speaking engagements based on his experience with homelessness, addiction, and incarceration.


Maren Ward Headshot.jpgMaren Ward (Director) is a performer, director and community-based theater maker. Maren has been director of the zAmya Theater Project since its inception in 2004 and now works at St. Stephen’s Human Services as manager of the program.  She has a BA in Dramatic Arts and Dance from Macalester College, studied at the Moscow Arts Theater School, and is a recipient of a 2007 McKnight Theater Artist Fellowship.


Homelessness Ends With You.

Learn more about homelessness in Minnesota.
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