Mission Statement

Van Cougar celebrates oral storytelling through the exploration of theatrical forms. We use stories collected from the general public to create work that defies linear dramatic narrative, creating plays that are more challenging, interesting, illuminating, shocking, strange and modern.

Rocky Philly scene map from 2009 program

Van Cougar was founded by Mark Sitko, Erin Shea, Ned Buskirk and Danny Krueger in April 2007. Our intention was to explore contemporary oral storytelling through theatrical performance. Over the past seven years and after hundreds of hours of recordings, workshops in both California and Brooklyn, and three productions in New York City, Van Cougar has mastered a form of theater that we are excited to share with audiences across the country. This multi-layered form invites the viewer to explore the enormous difference between the structure, content, and intention of the stories we share with one another personally and the stories being told in modern entertainments. 

Mark Sitko - Artistic Director

Mark Sitko is the founder of Van Cougar, as well as a playwright, director and producer. Mark received his MFA in playwrighting from Brooklyn College, where he studied under Mac Wellman and Erin Courtney. He served as the associate artistic director for the OBIE-award winning Bushwick Starr theater during its initial three years of operation and he continues to co-curate the Starr reading series. Mark conceived and built all of Van Cougar's productions in partnership with Erica Rippy and Liz Nielsen. His written plays Slabtown, Tipoldmoder, and Ketamine have been developed and presented in readings by the Bushwick Starr and the Brave New World Repertory Theater. For the past three years, Mark has been an adjunct professor of English at Brooklyn College. 

Liz Nielsen - Managing Director

Liz Nielsen is a Brooklyn-based theater manager and designer. She has recently worked with Julia Jarcho, John Jesurun, Object Collection and Half Straddle. In past years she has collaborated with groups and playwrights including Van Cougar, Jess Barbagallo, Casey Llewellyn, PL115, The Wild Project, and Clubbed Thumb. Upon arrival in New York in 2007 Liz served as associate producer with Mir Productions.