Teaching Staff

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Jillian Rose Abbinanti is a Chicago native who grew up watching Emerald City Theatre’s productions at the Apollo Theatre, which helped shape her passion for children’s theater. She completed her BA in Early Childhood Education (with an ESL Endorsement) and Theatre/Performance Studies at North Park University. She has taught with Emerald City for the past 5 years, as well as being a classroom preschool teacher and working with Barrel of Monkeys Productions and Mudlark Theater. She is the Education Manager at Chicago Fringe Festival and loves performing with her theater family at InGen Productions. Jillian’s philosophy is that a child’s imagination is the gateway for their education. She is so thankful that she gets to demonstrate this as part of the amazing Emerald City Theatre teaching staff!


Alex Benjamin is a director, writer, and musician with a BA in Theatre from Northwestern University. Alex has worked in the education department at Adventure Stage Chicago, the performance programs department at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and was the music coordinator for Sideshow Theatre Company’s recent Stupid F**ing Bird. He frequently teaches music and theater at the Actors Training Center at the Wilmette Theatre and the Music Institute of Chicago. In November 2015, Alex directed the New York premiere of Gaby FeBland’s new play The Lilliput Troupe, about a family of dwarf vaudeville performers who survived the Holocaust. He is excited about an impending production of his immersive adaptation of Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus.

Gemma Clarke

Gemma Clarke is thrilled to be a part of the Emerald City Theatre Teaching Staff! Gemma holds a BFA in Acting from the DePaul Theatre School in Chicago, IL. She has studied dance at both Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle and Lou Conte in Chicago. She has also studied improv with Second City in Chicago. She is originally from Seattle where she’s taught children’s theater for 9 years. She was last seen in The Jeff Award Winning production of All Our Tragic with The Hypocrites Theatre Company in Chicago, IL. Gemma loves writing music and studying improv in her space time!


headshot_crawford_carlyCarly Crawford is pleased as punch to be the Associate Education Director at Emerald City Theatre. She has been a teaching artist for over a decade and loves getting the opportunity to use her imagination every day! Carly is a native Memphian, and has worked as an actor, teaching artist, and administrator for companies like Playhouse on the Square (Memphis, TN), Lexington Children’s Theatre (Lexington, KY), The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati (Cincinnati, OH), and Asheville Performing Arts Academy (Asheville, NC). Carly spent three seasons flying back and forth to Neverland as Peter Pan and brings that Lost Boy spunk wherever she goes. Other favorite roles include Pinkalicious (Pinkalicious), Junie B. Jones (Junie B. Jones, The Musical and Junie B. in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells), Frieda (Carrie), Pickles (The Great American Trailer Park Musical), and Bec (4000 Miles). In her spare time, Carly loves to cross stitch, crochet, play board games, and be in the sunshine as much as possible.

Krista D'Agostinolo headshot

Krista D’Agostino is an actor, director, and educator originally from Boston. As an educator, Krista works with Emerald City Theatre as a teacher and also with Mudlark Theater in Evanston teaching creative improv and adapting and directing plays for young actors (most recently Aesop’s Fables and Little Women). She has also worked as a facilitator and research assistant for the Memory Ensemble. Krista is a company member with LiveWire Chicago Theatre (where she is also the Literary Manager) and WildClaw Theatre. She has most recently been seen on stage in Leslye Headland’s Assistance (LiveWire) and Scott T. Barsotti’s The Revenants (WildClaw). Prior to moving to the Midwest, Krista was the founding Artistic Director of Holland Productions in Boston.

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Shannon Evans, hailing from beautiful Minnesota, has been a resident teaching artist with Emerald City Theatre since 2005. Shannon works throughout Chicago as a theater director, producer, designer, actor, painter, and educator. She received her BA in Theater Arts and Philosophy from Loyola University Chicago. With Emerald City Theatre, she has taught ages 3-18 years through classes, camps, after school residencies, puppet workshops, birthday parties, and special events. She also enjoys face painting with lots and lots of glitter.

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Amanda Giles is a recent graduate from the BFA Musical Theatre program at The Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. Since moving to Chicago four years ago, she has been an active participant within the theater community, and is looking forward to exciting projects to come. Amanda has worked as a Director and Head Counselor for four years, inspiring and mentoring kids in the arts along the way. She is very excited to continue her work with kids with Emerald City. Amanda firmly believes that theater is the perfect way to help kids connect to who they truly are, and she cannot wait to be a part of that.

Alaina Andzelewski Greene headshot

Alaina Greene, a native Michigander turned Chicagoan, has been teaching with Emerald City Theatre since 2012. She is an alumnus of youth theater herself and a graduate of Columbia College Chicago with a BA in Acting. She has worked with various companies around Chicago, including NWaC, Redmoon, and in collaboration with Chicago Shakespeare Theater. She has used her background in Stage Combat as a Fight Choreographer on short films, and her love of puppetry to construct and develop new puppetry pieces. In her free time, you’ll find her knitting or crafting up a storm! Some of her pieces can be found on her Etsy shop, MadFuzz.

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Allison Grischow is a Chicago-based actor, improviser, musician, and teaching artist. She received her BA in Theatre and Music from Valparaiso University, and she continued her training with the Moscow Art Theatre School studying acting, movement, and Russian history. In addition to teaching musical improvisation, Allison has taught and led students to create fully devised musicals at Valparaiso University. She is also a teaching artist with Chicago Children’s Theatre and House Call Music, where she teaches piano and voice lessons privately. When teaching, Allison loves to emphasize the importance of collaboratively imagining and using each student’s unique talents.

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Becky Keeshin is currently a senior at The Theatre School at DePaul. Originally from Highland Park, IL, Becky chose to attend DePaul to get her BFA in Acting and will be graduating in June 2017! She absolutely adores being a part of the Emerald City team. Chicago credits include work with First Folio Theatre, Writers’ Theatre, and Light Opera Works.


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Heather Keith, an Ohio native, holds an MM degree in Vocal Performance from Ohio University and a BFA in Musical Theatre from Marietta College. Currently, Ms. Keith is working as an assistant teaching artist with Chicago Opera Theater’s Opera For All Program, where 4th and 5th grade CPS students write and perform their own operas. Last stage credits include Le Nozze di Figaro (Susanna), Alice in Wonderland (Cheshire Cat/Red Queen), Hansel and Gretel (Gretel), and a production of Die Zauberflote (Papagena/2nd Knabe) with the Lyric Opera Studio Weimar, in Weimar, Germany. She is thrilled to be able to share her love of music and acting with the students at Emerald City Theatre!

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Helen Lattyak has been teaching with Emerald City Theatre for many, many years. She enjoys helping young performers discover their acting skills and abilities. In addition to teaching theater, Helen has also worked as a preschool teacher’s assistant and a building sub in a special education school. She is a company member at TUTA Theater Chicago and has worked all over town as a professional stage manager.


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Anderson Lawfer has been in Chicago for almost 10 years and has performed with over two dozen theater companies. He is an ensemble member at Strawdog Theatre, where he has been seen in Red Noses, State of the Union, and Marathon ’33, among others. He is a regular contributor to Paper Machete: A Live Weekly Magazine. He also hosts a few different game shows, including The Game Show Show…and Stuff! and Theater Wars! He has written numerous radio plays and essays, and his blog, Reviews You Can Iews, has become a Chicago theater staple.


headshot_leslie_kateKate Leslie graduated from the University of the South and taught middle school drama in Oxford, MS. She directed a number of shows for grades 6-12, including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Metamorphoses, Once On This Island, Jr., Romeo and Juliet, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Jr., Almost, Maine, and Seussical, Jr. Kate has been with Emerald City Theatre since October of 2013, and her favorite classes include Matilda, Mamma Mia, Footloose!, and Willy Wonka. Kate has also served as a teaching artist with American Theater Company, Brain Surgeon Theatre, and Mudlark Theater. When she’s not teaching, Kate can be found directing with many storefront companies in Chicago, including Rhinofest, Stage773, American Theater Company, 20% Theatre Company, The Side Project, Stage Left, Whiskey Rebellion, and The Ruckus.


Kiki Marich is an actor, singer, writer, music director, and teacher from Cleveland, Ohio. She has her BA in Theatre and Spanish from Case Western Reserve University. Her love of music has led her to MDing in improv and sketch shows all around Chicago, but she can also be found performing/singing as an ensemble member of the Cupid Players at Stage773. She has taught acting, sketch, and improv at the Actors Training Center in Wilmette, Elmhurst Children’s Theatre, and more – and can’t wait to work with all the talented kids and teachers at Emerald City Theatre!


Lindsay Masin is so excited to be teaching with Emerald City Theatre! A native of Lincoln, Nebraska, Lindsay moved to Chicago a year ago after graduating with a BS in Theatre Performance from Northwest Missouri State University in 2013. She served as the Education Director at Lincoln Community Playhouse in Nebraska. Lindsay recently graduated from the improv program at iO Chicago and currently works as a substitute teacher for Chicago Public Schools.


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Jay Mast has been on stage with companies such as Lifeline Theatre, Emerald City Theatre, and Benevolent Theatre. Jay was in the original cast of Hansel and Gretel at the Broadway Playhouse in Chicago and is thrilled to be on the original cast recording (check it out on iTunes) of this ‘wickedly delicious’ new musical written by Justin Roberts and Ernie Nolan. He has continued to work with Emerald City Theatre, teaching theater workshops and at after-school programs. Soon, Jay will be moving to Houston, Texas where he will pursue an MFA in Acting, all while soaking up the warm weather and sun. When not on stage, Jay can be found in the kitchen cooking delicious food, rocking out to Franz Liszt on the piano, or getting lost while running. His wonderfully full life would not be possible without the love of his family and friends.

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Laura Matthews is thrilled to be working with Emerald City Theatre. Laura is a graduate of Elmhurst College, where she studied Musical Theatre and Communications Studies. Though she is originally from Massachusetts, she is happy to call Chicago her home now. Since moving to Chicago, Laura has worked at American Theater Company as the Education Fellow where she specifically worked with their Youth Ensemble. She has also performed with Red Tape Theatre, Robert Bills Productions, and The Island Theatre Co. Laura is currently pursuing her Alexander Technique Teacher Training Certification.

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Whitney Minarik is from Michigan, and has called Chicago her home since 2006 when she graduated from Wayne State University in Detroit with a BFA in Theatre. Her theatrical studies took her abroad to Greece, and to the Moscow Art Theatre School in Russia, as well as Meisner training with The Artistic Home here in Chicago. Whitney is an actress, improviser, and teaching artist. She loves TYA and has taught and directed ages 3-15 with Emerald City Theatre in schools, at the Chicago Children’s Museum, and Governors State University. Currently, she is the drama teacher at the Chicago City Day School for Kindergarten through 8th grade. Chicago credits include shows with Red Tape Theatre, Midtangent Productions, Moving Dock, and acting with The Murder Mystery Company. Whitney looks forward to sharing the amazing world of theatre with her daughter, Mariana.


Samantha Mitchell is thrilled to be working with Emerald City Theatre as a teaching artist! After graduating with a BFA in Music Theatre from The Hartt School in Hartford, CT, Samantha spent a year on the National Tour of Fiddler on the Roof. In Chicago, Samantha has been seen on stage in Emerald City Theatre’s Fancy Nancy, and with Porchlight Music Theatre and Pride Films and Plays.

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Courtney Dane Mize is a proud Mississippi native. She graduated in 2014 from Ole Miss (Hotty Toddy!!) where she received a BA in Theatre Arts with an emphasis in Musical Theatre and a minor in Psychology. She loves teaching theater to kids and enjoys seeing the creativity and joy they bring to class. When she’s not teaching, she’s singing and dancing somewhere in the city of Chicago. She’s worked in the past with Kokandy Productions: Flight, Benevolent Theatre: Kiss of the Spiderwoman, Oxford Shakespeare Festival: Hello Dolly! and Macbeth, and Oklahoma Shakespearean Festival: Legally Blonde, Boeing-Boeing, and As You Like It.

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Flavia Pallozzi is thrilled to be in her sixth year with Emerald City. She recently graduated from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University with a BFA in Acting. Since then, she has had the privilege of working with Teatro Vista, Victory Gardens, Spartan Theatre Group, the Chicago Shakespeare Project, and Lifeline Theatre. From Miami, FL, she began working with young theatre artists on how to create, produce, and direct their own shows with the Play Project, an ensemble created with co-founder Dylan Guerra. When not teaching or performing, you’ll find her reading or watching Golden Girls reruns.

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Caleb Probst is from Michigan, and has called Chicago home since 2005. He holds a BFA with Honors in Drama and Education Studies, and loves finding ways to combine the two. Caleb began teaching for Emerald City Theatre in 2007 and served as the Faculty Manager from 2011-2012. He has directed productions of Peter Pan, Wicked, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland, and As We Like It, or Shakespeare: Faster and Furiouser for the Youth Ensemble, has taught numerous camps and classes, and has appeared on stage in Emerald City’s Peter Pan. In addition to his work with Emerald City, Caleb acts, directs, writes, and teaches for a number of theaters in Chicago and around the country. He is a company member of Barrel of Monkeys, where he works as a teaching artist and performer, and has also worked with Remy Bumppo, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Strawdog, Vitalist, and The State.

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Alexis Randolph is thrilled to be joining the Emerald City Theatre team! Alexis caught the theatre bug at a very young age while doing children’s theater in her hometown of Stockton, California. This passion for theater took her to Ithaca College where she graduated with a BA in Drama. After spending a semester in Russia studying at the Moscow Art Theatre School, she fell in love with the Chicago theater community and has been acting, directing, teaching, and learning here ever since. She has worked with companies throughout the city, including Redmoon, Walkabout Theater Company, Strawdog Theatre, The State, New Leaf, Chicago Fringe Festival, and Element. She is also very lucky to be teaching 4th-8th grade Drama at St. Clement School as well as being the acting coach for the North Park University Opera Program.

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Jared Rein is so excited to be teaching your kids all about the magic of theater with Emerald City Theatre! He has taught with Emerald City Theatre for over a year, and has been a children’s theater instructor for about 4 years, previously with The Village Theatre in Issaquah, WA. When not teaching, he is usually on the stage performing. One of his recent performances was in The Mercury Theatre’s production of The Addams Family. He is a graduate of the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, with a BFA in Musical Theatre.



Brian Riemer is an actor, singer, dancer, musician, composer, and all-around goofball from Washington, D.C., currently completing his Bachelor of Music in Music Composition at Columbia College Chicago. Ecstatic to start working at Emerald City Theatre, Brian has 12 years of professional theater under his belt, performing at D.C. theaters such as Arena Stage, Folger’s Theater, Ford’s Theater, and The Kennedy Center. HE also has some movie credits and has done some modeling work that he will happily #humblebrag about. Recently, he has shifted towards writing music for musical theater and various other forms of media! Children’s arts will always be a priority in Brian’s life, as he has taught through his years at various institutions, including Interlochen Arts Camp. Other than music and theater, he enjoys video games, movies, and playing keys/guitar/ukulele/drums/bass/banjo.

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Andrew Ritter is a freelance teacher, actor, director, producer, writer, and facilitator. In addition to teaching with Emerald City Theatre, he teaches improvisation and musical improvisation at The Second City Training Center and teaches theater and improvisation with Dream Big Performing Arts Workshop. The past 4 summers, he loved getting to teach kids improvisation as a guest artist at the Summer in the City Camp for at-risk youth. He currently directs and performs in the improvised children’s show The Greatest Story Never Told and also performs regularly with the music improv comedy ensemble Mansical (www.mansical.org). Andrew graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont with a degree in Theatre and Psychology, and after Middlebury he spent a year teaching ESL at Loei University in Thailand.

Maggie Robinson is thrilled to be a part of the Emerald City Theatre teaching artist family! Hailing from Tennessee, she holds a BFA in Musical Theatre from the University of Memphis. She has taught dance classes in theaters, studios, and high schools in the tri-state area and middle TN. Recent credits include Peter and the Starcatcher, Pinkalicious, American Idiot, and Peter Pan (Playhouse on the Square). Recent choreography credits include West Side Story, Oklahoma!, and Hello Dolly! (College Light Opera Company). She began student teaching dance classes at an early age and hasn’t stopped since! She looks forward to all the adventures yet to be had with ECT!

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Denise Savas is a North Carolina native who has journeyed to Chicago to chase her dreams of teaching theater to young people. She was an Emerald City Education intern in Summer 2013, and is ecstatic to be a teaching artist with Emerald City Theatre. With a BFA in Theatre Education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG), she has generated experience and exposure to the theater world as an actress, musician, teaching artist, stage manager, and director. She has toured with The North Carolina Theatre for Young People as an actress and musician and has taught various theater lessons at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.


Britta Schlicht is thrilled to be joining Emerald City Theatre for her first year! Originally from Madison, Wisconsin, Britta is a passionate theater educator, choreographer, director, and performer new to the Chicago area. A 2013 graduate and Founders Scholar of Indiana University – Bloomington, Britta earned her degrees in Secondary Theatre and English Education with a particular enthusiasm towards leadership in dance and musical theater. Britta has been sharing her love for arts education through her 7 years of teaching at various schools and companies in the Midwest. Other theater education credentials include Education Director/Youth Director and Choreographer – Improv Playhouse Theatre (Libertyville, IL), Director of Theatre – Carmel High School (Carmel, IN), Youth Theatre Director – Children’s Theatre of Madison (Madison, WI), and Drama Teaching Artist – Bloomington High School North (Bloomington, IN). Britta has also choreographed professionally for the Jedlicka Performing Arts Center, Middleton Players Theatre, Children’s Theatre of Madison, and several public middle schools and high schools. Additionally a performer, Britta has most recently been seen on stage with the Chicago Kids Company, Prop Theatre, MadKap Productions, and Middleton Players Theatre.

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Lisa Siciliano is an actress, director, writer, producer, and educator who hails from Cleveland, OH. She loves teaching theater and has been an instructor for numerous programs for students in Pre-K through college! Since moving to the Windy City in the fall of 2008, Lisa has taught with Lifeline Theatre, American Theater Company, ARCC Ballet, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Swedish American Museum, and, of course, Emerald City Theatre, where she also served as the Education Coordinator and Education Manager before leaving the office in the fall of 2012 to finish her graduate degree. Lisa graduated cum laude and with distinction in the Theatre Studies major from Yale University in 2005. Lisa graduated in August 2013 from the Master of Science in Education program in Elementary Teaching at Northwestern. This past year, she served as the inaugural drama teacher at Newton Bateman Elementary in CPS for 5th-8th grade. She also served as the school’s Battle of the Books coach, ballet teacher, and one of its talent show supervisors. She serves on the Data and Impact Panel of Ingenuity, a non-profit arts advocacy organization in Chicago.

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Rachel Sherman is proud to be the Education Director at Emerald City Theatre. Rachel is a graduate of The University of Iowa where she earned her BA in Theatre Arts and Communication Studies. Rachel has been fortunate enough to teach theatre classes at Emerald City Theatre and American Theater Company. In addition, Rachel has worked with the American Theater Company co-directing their Chicago Chronicle docudrama program and has been a guest lecturer of Theatre at Kennedy King College. Outside of the office, Rachel is singing with The Chicago Artists Chorale, at yoga, or asking her friends to go on walks with her around this stunning city.


Rebeccah Singer is beyond excited to work with Emerald City Theatre! Originally from St. Louis, she holds a BFA in Acting from Syracuse University. She has toured with Merry Go Round Playhouse in upstate New York, where she did workshops with students all over the state, as well as three fully-staged children’s shows. She has performed in Chicago with Metropolis Performing Arts and at Harper College and is a grad of iO Chicago and a performer on two house teams at the Playground Theater. When she’s not performing, she can be found writing and eating cereal.

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Zackery Stephens is a writer and performer from the Pacific Northwest, where he graduated from Portland State University and taught with PHAME and The Brody Theater. In Chicago, he has studied at The Second City, iO Chicago and Blackbox. Zackery is also an instructor with Sit/Stay/Read and Teen Living Programs. Zackery is thrilled to be working with Emerald City Theatre and sharing his passion for the arts.


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Michele Stine is so excited to be teaching with Emerald City Theatre! She is a graduate of Illinois State University with a BS in Political Science and Acting, and she has performed throughout Chicago with various companies, including Collaboraction, First Floor Theatre, and Trip, among others. Michele apprenticed at American Theater Company with their Mosaic program, teaching ninth and twelfth graders. Michele is also a writer and director in Chicago; she has worked with The New Colony, Collaboraction, Women’s Theatre Alliance, and many others. She is thrilled to be working with your children as we play, learn, and grow.

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Danny Taylor joined Emerald City Theatre for The Wizard of Oz and most recently performed in Snow White as Performed by Professor TJ Barker’s Troupe of Theatricals. He has taught/accompanied the following classes with Emerald City Theatre: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Glee, Cats, Thriller, Mamma Mia! And Guys and Dolls. Holding a double BA from Hope College in Dance and Theatre, Danny’s Chicago credits include: Company, Griffin Theatre; The Good Soul of Szechuan and Old Town, Strawdog Theatre; Rise of the Numberless and Tupperware, An American Musical Fable, The New Colony; 1776, Signal Ensemble; Schoolhouse Rock, Live!, Parker in the Park and The Main Street Kid’s Club with TheatreBam Chicago. Danny is a proud New Colony company member, where creating story and character through a collaborative team effort is a daily effort. He hopes to bring this creativity into the classroom.

headshot_tyler_nikkiaNikkia Tyler is proud to be a part of the Emerald City team as their Education Manager. Nikkia is a recent graduate of Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts where she received her BFA in Acting and a minor in African-American Studies. Nikkia has worked administratively in the arts and children’s programming throughout Chicago with Windy City Playhouse, Lakeshore Sport and Fitness, ChiArts, and the Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University. She has served as an intern, mentor, camp counselor, administrative assistant, and interim camp director since coming to Chicago. As an artist and administrator, Nikkia is excited to continue working with children of the city, helping them discover and learn through all that ECT has to offer.

headshot_wilson_katKat Wilson is a new resident of Chicago, and ecstatic to be a part of the Emerald City Teaching Staff. She graduated from Baylor University with a BFA in Theatre Performance. During her artistic career, she has developed a passion for many aspects of the theatrical process, including theater’s ability to circulate stories based on truth in order to generate empathy in the world. As a theater practitioner, her experiences include those as an actor, director, designer, improviser, stage manager, and playwright. Through these experiences, she declares theater as a process for the encouragement of personal discovery and development. She has worked with youth most of her undergraduate career and upon her graduation worked full-time as a teaching artist in the Dallas area. She claims theater as a medium to embolden students to take ownership of their own creativity and an outlet that allows them to develop confidence within themselves and their abilities. She is ready to create with the students of Emerald City and delighted to work with the youth of Chicago.

headshot_young_christopherChristopher Young is an actor, choreographer, and teaching artist originally from southern Mississippi. He has a BFA in Musical Theatre Performance and Acting from the University of Mississippi. He is an ensemble member with Pride Films and Plays and currently serves as resident choreographer for Windy City Music Theatre’s education programs. Choreography credits include Bite (PFP), Seussical the Musical (WCMT), and Silence! The Musical (Corn Productions). Chicago performance credits include: Funny Girl (MadKap), Bite (PFP), Sleeping Beauty (Chicago Kids Company), Miracle! (Handbag), Musical of the Living Dead (Cowardly Scarecrow), Once Upon a Mattress (WCMT), Zombie Prom (Mayne Stage), Exit the Queen (The Ruckus), and Unraveling Veterans (Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble). Other favorite roles include Leaf Coneybear in 25th Annual…Spelling Bee, Mordred in Camelot, Rolf in The Sound of Music, Feste in Twelfth Night, and Linus Van Pelt in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Up next he can be seen as Sketch in Hairspray with Windy City Music Theatre.