Who We Are

Collective Members

Headshot selfie of David John Chávez framed against the golden gate bridge and wearing a baseball cap

David John Chávez, (co-founder; he/him/his) is a South Bay Area-based theatre critic/reporter. He contributes regularly to American Theatre Magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, KQED and is the South Bay theatre critic for the Mercury News/East Bay Times. David is chair of the American Theatre Critics Association, served as a juror for the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and was a 2020 National Critics Institute fellow at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. He posts regularly at his website bayareaplays.com.

Nicole Gluckstern, a woman with long brown hair and green highlights wearing an orange plaid button-down shirt while standing on a wooden deck against a background of apartment buildings and blue sky.

A veteran of the underground arts, Nicole Gluckstern (co-founder; she/her) has worked variously as a performer, lighting designer/technician, stage manager, producer, publicist, tour support, dramaturg, and critic. An award-winning arts journalist, her byline has appeared in many publications including Other, the Quarterly Conversation, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, East Bay Express, the San Francisco Chronicle, Reasons to be Cheerful, Roadtrippers, American Theatre Magazine, and KQED. She’s the co-creator of Bikes to Books, a hyper-local literary history bicycle tour and mapping project, and IncivilitySF, a Trump-era showcase of radical and politically-engaged performance. estrellasuerteproductions.com

Black and white headshot of Jason Mendez, a young Black man wearing a dark beanie and a jean jacket, smiling in three-quarter profile

J. Elliott Mendez (he/him) is a content creator and storyteller. He knows the power of voice, striving to challenge and complicate social narratives by making space for unrepresented experiences. His works include staged plays, graphic novels and nonfiction journalism. He has written for EXIT Theatre, Awesome Theatre, El Tecolote and BCN in San Francisco, and currently writes for United Way Bay Area. He believes it is a moral imperative that communities of color, women, and other traditionally marginalized groups write themselves back in to the narrative so that future generations will have a clearer account of our historical context in our own words; that the taking of this space must be taught to those generations as early as humanly possible. He holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in Playwriting and a Master of Arts degree in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University.

Headshot of Julius Rea, a Black man with long dark hair and a mustache wearing a green jacket

Julius Rea (co-founder; he/him) is a writer, performer, and arts producer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. With a background as a journalist, he obtained a degree in Philosophy at San Francisco State University. He co-founded The Forum Collective, a multidisciplinary arts organization that focuses on new journalism, theater, and community-focused events. Recently, Rea developed his new play Kaleidoscope while participating in Crowded Fire Theater’s 2020-21 Resilience and Development Lab. In 2020, he was selected as a finalist for the Bay Area Playwrights Festival. Also an actor, Rea has performed across the San Francisco Bay Area with Ragged Wing Ensemble, Left Edge Theatre, and Benicia Old Town Theatre Group; he received a 2019 Arty award for his portrayal of Chris in Lynn Nottage’s Sweat. Currently, he is a Theatre Bay Area (TBA) Arts Leadership Recipient with Lorraine Hansberry Theatre. Learn more and connect with him at juliusernestorea.com.

Hiya Swanhuyser headshot (woman with long dark hair) framed against a full bookcase

Hiya Swanhuyser (co-founder; she/her) was born on the ninth floor of UCSF, earned her MFA from USF, and has lived in the city for 20 years, this time. In San Francisco, her writing has appeared in San Francisco, 7×7, SF Weekly, KQED, Mission Local, City College’s Etc. and Forum Magazines, the Believer, and Curbed SF, and outside the city in Fandor’s Keyframe, Otis Nebula, Petals and Bones, the North Bay Bohemian, the East Bay Express, and others. She has read at Lit Crawl, Muni Diaries, and Porchlight. She is writing a book about the Montgomery Block

Headshot of Benjamin Wachs, a white man with glasses wearing a button-down blue shirt

A bar columnist for Mission Local and former nightlife reporter for Playboy.com who has lived in a Buddhist monastery in India, Benjamin Wachs (co-founder; he/him) is frequently mistaken for a fictional character.  The Philosopher Laureate of Burning Man and the former chair of the San Francisco Institute of Possibility, he has covered the arts in San Francisco for the SF Weekly and the San Francisco Chronicle, among other publications. He is the author of multiple books, most recently Turn Your Life Into Art: Lessons in Psychomagic from San Francisco’s Underground (2021) and The Scene That Became Cities (2019) which is considered the definitive exploration of the philosophy underpinning Burning Man’s culture.  Exclusive looks at his work are available at Patreon.com/BenjaminWachs 

Substrate Arts Champions

Substrate Arts was greatly assisted in its incorporation and launch efforts by the following folks:

Sacha Arnold

Justin Ebrahemi

Sam Lefebvre

Elise Liu

Alejandro Ramos