Meet the Crew

Writer, Producer, Director

AC Headshot resizedRisa Leigh Clarke is a Writer, Producer, Director and Revolutionary who holds a firm belief in everyone’s right to be free and live happily and in peace within their (healthy) communities without fear of reprisals or discrimination. She left her Corporate Career in Marketing and Business Development to develop creative projects that inspire and bring people together through the arts.

Risa Leigh has freedom in her DNA. Her ancestors served during the American Revolutionary War and were early settlers of the Colony of Rhode Island. Dr. John Clarke, her “uncle” was a founder of Newport and Author of the RI Royal Charter of 1663 which afforded Religious and Civil Liberties for the Colony, a first in world history.

Risa Leigh has written and developed John Clarke’s story through years of research surrounding his legacy. She feels connected to John and his struggles with religious persecutions and overall Liberty. As a descendant of John’s youngest brother Joseph, Risa Leigh is passionately moved to bring his untold, inspirational and thought-provoking story to the world through her production company 1663 Media Arts, LLC.

Inspired by her daughter, an artist with special needs, Risa Leigh released her first of a series of illustrated children’s books, “MyKids Unite© Celebrate Friendships For All! Don’t Be a Bafoodle!” The series is part of the MyKids Unite© Franchise produced by her Production Company Profile


Patrick_Gabridge HS

Patrick Gabridge is an award-winning Boston-based screenwriter, playwright, and novelist, with considerable experience writing historical material.  He has been commissioned to write a number of screenplays, including the adaptation of a book about Benedict Arnold and his wife, Treacherous Beauty,  and Patrick’s historical novel about Robert Smalls, Steering to Freedom.

Patrick’s play, Fire on Earth, set in 16th century England, about William Tyndale and the men behind the first published English Bible, is very much in alignment with our film thematically. His play, Blood on the Snow, was commissioned and produced for two sold out runs at the Old State House Museum in Boston in 2016 and 2017 and will return in 2020. His play Cato & Dolly, about unheard voices from the John Hancock household will run at Boston’s Old State House for the summer of 2019, and a series of his historical plays will run at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA, in September 2019.

His plays Blinders and Reading the Mind of God were nominated for Best New Play by the Denver Drama Critics Circle. Patrick’s writing has won a number of awards, including a fellowship from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, The Brother Thomas Award from the Boston Foundation, the Colorado Arts Innovation Award, a Playwriting Fellowship from the Colorado Council on the Arts, the Festival of Emerging American Theatre, the New American Theatre Festival, the In10 UMBC Competition, and the Market House Theatre One-Act Play Award.

Historical Advisors

Professor J. Stanley Lemons, Professor Emeritus of History, specializes in the history of American culture. His scholarly interests and publications have ranged over the topics of women’s history, African-American history, popular culture, American religion, social reform, and Rhode Island history.

After receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Missouri in 1967, Dr. Lemons came to Rhode Island College and rose to the rank of Professor by 1976. His books include The Woman Citizen: Social Feminism in the 1920s (1973); Aspects of the Black Experience (1975); w/ George Kellner, Rhode Island: The Independent State (1983); The First Baptist Church in America (1986); w/ Emily Stier Adler, The Elect: Rhode Island’s Women Legislators, 1922-1990 (1990); FIRST: The First Baptist Church in America (2001); w/ George Kellner, Rhode Island: The Ocean State (2004); Baptists in Early North America: Vol. II: First Baptist, Providence (2013; w/ Linford Fisher and Lucas Mason-Brown, Decoding Roger Williams: The Lost Essay of Rhode Island’s Founding Father (2014).

In 1988, Rhode Island College honored him as its Thorp Professor in recognition of his career of sustained scholarship. In 1998, he was given Rhode Island College’s Maixner Award for outstanding teaching. Then in 2005 he received the Patrick O’Regan Service Award, making him the only person to receive all three awards. The American Association of State and Local History twice (1981, 2003) recognized him with their Award of Merit (their highest award) for his contributions to Rhode Island History.

He served as a member of the 1663 Colonial Charter Commission, charged by Governor Lincoln Chafee to highlight and celebrate the 350th anniversary of the Charter of 1663. He wrote the first of the four essays that appeared in the commemorative publication of the Commission.


Dean Harkness is a direct descendant of many of the earliest Rhode Island settlers including Joseph Clarke, Samuel Wilbore and Samuel Hubbard. He has published several Clarke family articles for 3 Ohio county history books and recently completed a chapter book “Rogues Island: John Clarke and the Planting of Religious Freedom in America”.

Dean holds a B.A. in Christian Education, Asbury College, Wilmore, KY. and M.Div. from Ashland Theological Seminary, Ashland, OH. Dean is providing us with “behind the scenes” reference materials to ensure accuracy on Dr. John Clarke and the times and educational pieces for the online Educational Resource Library.


Jim Melnick holds a master’s degree from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. He first took a keen interest in early colonial history in Massachusetts, especially Harvard’s history while a student there. He is a recognized expert on Henry Dunster, Harvard’s first President. John Clarke’s trial and testimony in Boston and witnessing Obadiah Holmes’s flogging had a profound impact on Dunster, eventually resulting in his decision to renounce infant baptism, which led to his departure as Harvard’s president (after a very successful tenure) and his banishment from Boston.

Jim Melnick is the author of America’s Oldest Corporation and First CEO: Harvard and Henry Dunster (Infinity, 2008), as well as an upcoming biography of Dunster – the first ever done since the 1870s. Jim is currently involved in a number of Christian ministries around the world. He is retired from government service as a former Russian affairs analyst at the Pentagon, from the U.S. military as a retired Colonel in the Reserves, and from the computer security industry. He is married with four children and lives in Virginia.

Illustrated Picture Book & Illustrated Chapter Book

Michael Dooling, renowned lllustrator & Author of Children’s Books has partnered with our film and production company 1663 Media Arts, LLC to create his lifelike, beautiful illustrations for both a Children’s Picture Book and Historical Chapter Book on the Life of Dr. John Clarke.

Well known for his dramatic and historically accurate illustrations, Michael Dooling is the illustrator of over sixty-five books and the author of five including Young Thomas Edison, that School Library Journal said, “Belongs in every library.” The Great Horseless Carriage Race and George Washington’s Army and Me, both written and illustrated by Michael, have been considered for major Hollywood Motion Pictures. Horn Book praised his work as “noteworthy—and handsome—examples of the illustrator as historian.”

Michael has illustrated a commemorative stamp of Benjamin Franklin for The United States Postal Service, articles for Reader’s Digest, and picture books, chapter books, and Middle Grade Novels for numerous publishers including Scholastic, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, HarperCollins, Philomel, Puffin Books, McElderry Books, Henry Holt, Holiday House, Beechtree, Atheneum, Disney, and many others.

Michael graduated with a Master’s Degree in Illustration from Syracuse University and is a member of the Society of Illustrators in New York. He lives in Audubon, New Jersey, with his wife, Jane. They have two daughters and five grandchildren, ranging in age from two to twelve. In 2013, Michael was selected to a Top Ten List of Great Author Visits by the Pennsylvania School Library Association.