Profile Type: Artist
NEFA Grant Recipient
Melissa Nussbaum Freeman

I am a theatre maker: an eclectic performance-installation artist/director/playwright/actor/teaching artist/activist. My work is significantly influenced by my adult life in Mexico, 1985-2009, where I lived and worked as a midwife/healer/educator, gave birth to my son, raised my family, and trained in Theatre Arts (BFA) at the Centro Morelense de las Arts. And by two core values: Tikum Olam (repairing the world) and Welcoming the Stranger.

As a Playback Theatre artist: NEFA's Creative City Grant, 2017, funded my project, The Table/La Mesa: The Welcome Project. This project was a new iteration of my ExpressingBoston Fellowship, The Welcome Project, and helped to establish Red Sage Stories: Playback Theatre & Art for Social Change as an artistic community resource. "On the Bus", devised work from Roxbury/Dorchester stories dramatized by RSS of being welcomed was performed for hundreds of neighborhood residents. RED SAGE STORIES, offers Playback Theatre in Spanish, Cape Verdian Creole, and ASL, teaching and performing with and for youth, adults, and seniors. We regularly perform at Haley House, Roxbury. I am convinced that Playback Theatre is an extraordinary theatrical tool for healing, artistry and building community. See Red Sage Stories profile for how we combine performance art & Playback Theatre.

I also perform with True Story Theater, Big Apple Playback of NY., Playback of the Port, Cambridge, MA, and troupes that are created by other artists for special performances. I have worked with diverse communities that include Vets, People with Disabilities, formerly incarcerated people, Seniors, LGBTQ, cancer patients and their families. Themes are as wide ranging as as stigmas, loss of abilities, Memories of Home, Being Single, Overcoming Obstacles, Fears and Hopes. My experience with Playback Theatre includes Assistant teacher, Brandeis University, Playback Theatre Class. Collaborating with Northeastern University Crossings to create a community engagement program using Playback Theatre. I have studied coaching directly with Jo Salas, co-founder of Playback Theatre.

As director: On the Loeb Mainstage, Cambridge, from Oct 26-Nov 4, 2017, I directed "JOGGING, Theatre in Progress", for the Visiting Director Project at Harvard-Radcliffe Drama Club. I adapted and wrote new material for this original one-woman show by Lebanese actor/playwright Hanane Hajj Ali for a full cast. The play examines the hard question: "What horrific conditions must exist for a mother to take her child's life?" I created a interactive pre-show exhibit that gave audience members a unique experience of Lebanon and involved the Lebanese/Middle Eastern community.     I brought to the stage Henrietta Lacks' story and the legacy of medical apartheid in HENRIETTA, an original play by Licia Sky. My directing experience also includes several episodes of the scripted indie tv show OFFSEASON (Amazon Prime).

As playwright: Commissioned works: "What You Seek Is Seeking You" (Rumi), Inter-Actions, Performance Art X Art That Performs; Outside the Box, Boston Common and Channel Center Garage, Fort Point; "Threw the Keyhole", Fort Point Theater Channel; "Harbor Island Herstory", Boston Harbor [Re] Creation. One-woman shows: LA DOÑA OF SANTA CRUZ, my apprentiship with a traditional Mexican healer; MARILYN MONROE, COMMUNIST, the disenchanted Hollywood icon's words are woven with my own story of growing up in the 50s/60s a Red Diaper Baby; SOR JUANA INES DE LA CRUZ WASHES ASHORE, the 17th C Mexican literary giant leeps the convenant wall, crosses the desert and becomes an undocumented domestic worker. Full-length plays: LILLIAN & MARSHA, an undocumented caretaker discovers an aging Lesbian's secret; LOOKING FOR PARVEEN SATIR, two Pakistani poets, past and present. Presently in progress: WALLS, selected by We Create Festival, Hibernian Hall, Roxbury, April 2019.

As actor: being a bi-lingual, Spanish/English, actor, I often perform with ESCENA LATINA TEATRO, Boston's premier Spanish language theater troupe. The company was awarded NEFA's Creative City Grant enabling free summer presentations. I have trained at Shakespeare & Co and have be seen as Don Armado in LOVE'S LABOUR LOST and Touchstone in the Merely Players' production of AS YOU LIKE IT. There's kind of a theme there. I also perform on screen, and regularly participate in web series such as OFFSEASON; The Pineapple Diaries; Hot Dog and the Ninja; Adder Mountain.

As Performance-Installations artist: In 2016 I was one of eight artists ExpressingBoston Public Art Fellows working with The Design Studio for Social Intervention (ds4si) along the Fairmount Cultural Corridor. I prototyped THE WELCOME DOOR in Upham's Corner - an interactive exploration of neighborhood ownership of public institutions. This Fellowship, funded by The Boston Foundation and also supported by Artist-in-Residency at Fairmount Innovation Lab. Since then, THE DOOR has been featured at RoxPOP, Roxbury; Unitarian Universalist First Parish Dorchester; FigmentBoston, The Greenway, 2016: the Fuller Craft Museum; the Hutchings St Block Party, Roxbury; DSNI's Multi-Cultural Festival; Roxbury; inPublic, Upham's Corner; Affordable Housing Action at City Hall, Boston. 

Other installations: A Gay T Party, staged on the Back Bay Station of the Orange Line. A Timely Limerick in Motion, post-its on buses, trains and stations.

Residencies: First Artist Cohort of BostonAIR (Artist-in-Residence), 2015; Fairmount Innovation Lab, Dorchester, 2016; MakeShift Boston, 2016. .

As Teaching Artist: "Finding our voice through theatre", an experiential workshop about Othello for ESL/ELA 10th and 11th grade students at Madison Park Technological and Vocational High School, 2018, 2017. "Introduction to Theatre", an experiential workshop for 5th -7th grade students at Conservatory Lab. "Street Theatre for Anti-Racist Actions", performance skill training for Coalition Anti-Racist Artists Of Boston, CARAB. On-going community training in Playback Theatre.


Additional Links: 
WALLS will present in this process-oriented festival in April 2019
TimeSlips & Playback Theatre for Seniors of Upham's Corner

I Have Worked With

  • January 2015

    Beginning as participants of the Boston Cultural Change Network, I found a strong affinity for the work ds4si was creating. I first assisted in the Black Citizenship Project. Selected for ExpressingBoston, led by ds4si, I learned theirfield research and productive fiction techniques and prototyped The Door which was later part of ds4si's PopRox event. Invited to participate in several Social Emergency Resource Center, SERC, as a "radical welcomer". Most recently commissioned to engage seniors withmemory loss in a unique storytelling technique as part of "Destination Upham's".

  • May 2011 to May 2014

    Funding through Local Cultural Council grants for performances of original one-woman shows, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz Washes Ashore, A magical reimagining of the 17th C. Mexican literary giant escaping the convent, crossing the desert, jumping the Mex-U.S. Border Wall to become an undocumented domestic worker on Cape Cod. La Doña of Santa Cruz, The true story of my relationship and time as apprentice to Doña Paola Hernandez, Mexican healer.


  • February 2014

    Eight month internship, assistant to the Executive Artistic Director. Created on-boarding protocol and intro to the organization for interns. Active representative of TTO at the Boston Cultural Change Network.

  • NEFA Grantee
  • Artist

Contact Information

First Name: 
Job Title/Position: 
Performance Artist, Actor, Playwright, Director, Teaching Artist
Mailing Address: 
33 Dix St. Apt 3
Dorchester, MA 02122
Physical Address: 
33 Dix St. Apt 3
Boston, MA 02122
Last Name: 
Nussbaum Freeman


Profile Type: 
Primary Discipline: 
Theater - General
Additional Disciplines: 
Theater - Playwriting
Theater - Solo / One-Person Show
Theater - Storytelling
Populations Served: 
General Public
Immigrant Populations
Incarcerated (or Formerly Incarcerated) Individuals
LGBTQ Populations
People with Disabilities
School Groups
Veteran/Active Duty Military Personnel
Languages Available: 
Institution/Business Type: 
Artist (Individual)
Activities and Services: 
Arts for Social Change / Creative Activism
Arts in Healthcare
Arts Instruction / Lessons
Creation of a Work of Art (Including Commissions)
Performance / Concert / Reading
Professional Development / Training
Public Art Projects (In Free, Public Spaces)
Workshops / Demonstrations / Master Class
Events Per Year: 
Seasons Active: 
Geographic Reach: 
Town / City

Affiliations and Accomplishments

Professional Associations: 
Playback North America
BFA, Theater Arts, Centro Morelense de las Artes, Cuernavaca, Mexico
Month-long Actors' Training Intensive, Shakespeare & Co.
We Create Festival
Destination Upham's 2018
Public Space Invitational 2018
Creative City Grantee/Alum Network 2017
ExpressingBoston Fellow, 2016
BostonAIR, 2015
Wellfleet Local Cultural Council Grantee for Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz Washes Ashore, 2014
Well fleet Local Cultural Council Grantee for La Doña of Santa Cruz, 2011
I am a NEFA Grant Recipient

I am a Touring Artist

Technical Requirements: 
Playback Theatre: Adaptable space requirements where a table for musical instruments, 4 1m cubes can be set up and 4 actors can move comfortably. Audience can sit close by. No lighting or sound requirements.
Solo performance pieces: La Dona of Santa Cruz is adaptable to any space
Fee Range Minimum: 
Fee Range Maximum: 
State of Residence: 
Minimum Number of Performers: 
Maximum Number of Performers: 

I am a Teaching Artist

Teaching Settings: 
Afterschool Program
Community Site / Center
Corporate Business
Healthcare Facility
School / University
Subject Areas: 
Arts Integration - English as a Second Language
Arts Integration - Foreign Languages
Ages Served: 
Middle School-age
High School-age
Fee Range Minimum: 
Fee Range Maximum: