Teaching Staff

Jump to last name:


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!

Lexi Alioto has been an active actress/comedienne in Chicago for the past three years, performing with companies such as The Second City, First Folio, Redtwist, Lifeline, The Annoyance, and Adventure Stage. She received her BFA in Actor Training from the Hartt School in Hartford, CT where she was lucky enough to study abroad in England for a Shakespeare Intensive Program. Since moving to Chicago, she has trained with The Second City and is an alumna of their Severn Darden Graduate Program as well as their Musical House Ensemble, Infinite Sundaes. She is an active teaching artist for Mudlark Theatre Company, Performing Arts Studio, Dream Big Workshop, and has been thrilled to add Emerald City Theatre to the list this year, working with children of all ages on improv, musical theater, and acting. 

Héctor Álvarez is an actor, director, and teaching artist from Spain. He loves travel and all things theatrical, and in his work as a performer and teaching artist he seeks to generate inspiring conversations around works of art, ideas, and artistic practices. In 2009, he received a Watson Fellowship to study community theater companies in Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil that served populations who had suffered from trauma. He has studied at Augusto Boal’s Center for the Theater of the Oppressed in Rio de Janiero and has an MA in English Literature from University College London. He recently presented his one-man American epic about gun violence “The Ghoul Exhibition” in Chicago, New York, and Austin. He’s thrilled to be part of Emerald City Theatre. 


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 spare 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.

Andrea DeVriendt is extremely excited to be working with Emerald City Theatre! She is a graduate of the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt Univesity, where she earned her BFA in Musical Theatre. Her professional theater credits include Ring of Fire, Dutch Apple Theatre and Broadway Palms Theatre; Urinetown, Red Barn Summer Theatre; First Kisses, RBST; La Cage Aux Folles and The Red Cape (TYA), Lake Dillon Theatre; Factory After Dark, Factory Theater and Cabaret performances at Davenport’s Piano Bar Cabaret, Chicago. Andrea was a camp counselor at Interlochen Arts Camp and Steve and Kate’s Camp where she taught both drama and music classes, among others. She is delighted to be working with kids and doing theater at the same time! 

Shannon Evans headshot

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.

Amanda Giles headshot

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 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. Alaina also hosts two podcasts and sells handmade items on her Etsy shop. In her free time, you’ll find her hanging out with her dog. 

Allison Grischow is a Chicago-based actor, musician, aerialist, and teaching artist with Bachelor of Arts degrees in Music and Theatre from Valparaiso University and continued training with the Moscow Art Theatre School. In addition to helping kids gain confidence through music and theater with Emerald City Theatre, Allison also teaches with House Call Music, Lifeline Theatre, and Chicago Children’s Theatre. As a music improviser, Allison loves making up songs on the spot, and plays clarinet, piano, guitar, and ukelele. She is a recent graduate of Second City’s Music Improv Conservatory

Thomson Jaffe is very excited to be working with Emerald City Theatre. Originally from Cohasset, MA, she earned her BA in Theatre and teaching certification in Secondary English and Communications from DeSales University (Center Valley, PA) in 2014. While in college, Thomson worked as an administrative assistant with the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival. Thomson previously spent 17 months with the Missoula Children’s Theatre, traveling the US and Canada as a tour actor/director. Since moving to Chicago in August 2016, Thomson has had the pleasure of working with Poetry Pals, Adventure Stage Chicago, Windy City Performs, American Theater Company, and Lookingglass Theatre. 

Becky Keeshin Headshot

Becky Keeshin is originally from Highland Park, Illinois and is a recent graduate from The Theatre School at DePaul with her BFA in Acting. Acting credits include work with Writers Theatre, The Music Theatre Company, First Folio, Lifeline, Citadel, GreatWorks, Nashville Children’s Theatre, American Theater Company, Red Orchid, and right here at Emerald City Theatre in Mother Goose’s Garden. She is represented by Grossman and Jack Talent and is thrilled and honored to have the opportunity to work with so many wonderful children and fellow artists at ECT! 

Heather Keith Headshot

Heather Keith received her MM in Vocal Performance from Ohio University and her BFA in Musical Theatre from Marietta College. She has had a blast teaching with Emerald City Theatre for the past three summers and looks forward to another great year! During the school year, Heather works as a teaching artist with Lyric Opera of Chicago and is on the ChiME vocal and early childhood faculty. She has also taught with Chicago Opera Theater. When she is not teaching, Heather continues to perform and direct in the Chicago area. Most recently working on the new operas Lost DaughtersThe Harbingers, and The Great God Pan composed by Ross Crean. Past performances include Susanna in Marriage of Figaro, Despina in Così Fan Tutte, Gretel in Hansel and Gretel, and La Ciesca in Gianni Schicci. Equally at home in musical theater and operetta repertoire, Heather has been heard most notably as the title role in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience, Fleta in Iolanthe, Amelia, in She Loves Me, Rose in The Secret Garden, and Ida in the children’s musical Honk!

Helen Lattyak headshot

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.


Anderson Lawfer headshot

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.


Emily Dugan Leonard has been a teaching artist since her own youth starting as an assistant director to middle-school shows while she was still in high school. 20-something years later, she still can’t get enough of the joy and imagination that youth actors bring to the stage. In her career as a Chicago-based performing arts educator she has directed and choreographed over 50 full-length musicals with youth and professional casts, developed the Teen Comedy Fest for Chicago Improv Productions, and taught with dozens of Chicago-area arts organizations, including The Beverly Arts Center, Mudlark Theater, Elmhurst Children’s Theater, Hubbard Street Dance, and Mad Science of Chicago. Her work has taken her into Chicago Public Schools in every corner of the city with students from a broad range of social, cultural, and economic backgrounds. When she’s not teaching, Emily also works professionally as a hostess and emcee, producer, designer, and face painter and balloon artist. 

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.


Jay Mast headshot

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.

Laura Matthews headshot

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.

Rachel Melius Meinhart is so thrilled to be part of the Emerald City Theatre family! A proud Nashville native, Rachel began her career in recording studios providing voice-overs and BGVs for Veggie Tales/Big Idea Productions and Lifeway. She then moved to Chicago in 2010 and earned her BFA in Musical Theatre Performance from Columbia College Chicago. Since then she has been on various stages such as The Goodman, Royal George, Broadway Playhouse, Theater Wit, Fox Valley Rep, Norwegian Cruise Lines, and even Emerald City Theatre (Elephant & Piggie and A Charlie Brown Christmas)! When she isn’t teaching, you can find Rachel making custom calligraphy pieces for WITH LOVE (check us out on Facebook and Instagram!) or on stage at various beachfront JW Marriott locations with “Broadway on the Beach” singing songs and soaking up the sun! Rachel is a firm believer in the power of the arts in a young mind and is honored to be a part of a child’s journey to find their voice and spotlight so that they may carry that strength, confidence, and joy into every aspect of their life!

Whitney Minarik headshot

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.

Courtney Mize headshot

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.

Flavia Pazzolli headshot

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.

Caleb Probst headshot

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.

Alexis Randolph headshot

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.

Jared Rein headshot

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.

Andrew Ritter headshot

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 Teaching Artist with Emerald City Theatre for a second year. Hailing from Tennessee, she holds a BFA in Musical Theatre from the University of Memphis. She is a company member of Chicago DanzTheatre Ensemble where her work can be seen throughout the 2018 season. Recent credits include In the Soundless Awe (Saltbox Theatre Collective), Peter and the StarcatcherPinkaliciousAmerican Idiot (Playhouse on the Square). Recent choreography credits include Carrie 2: The Rage (Underscore Theatre), West Side StoryOklahoma! (College Light Opera Company). 

Denise Savas headshot

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.

Lisa Siciliano headshot

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.

Rachel Sherman headshot

Rachel Sherman is the Education Director at Emerald City Theatre, where she has the privilege of overseeing classes, camps, residencies, and outreach programming within the Education Department. Rachel is a graduate of the University of Iowa and has been fortunate enough to teach theater classes at Emerald City Theatre and American Theater Company. While at ATC, Rachel was recruited to direct the theater’s flagship docudrama program: Chicago Chronicle, and to serve as a guest lecturer of theater at Kennedy King College. Outside of ECT, Rachel is a choral singer with The Chicago Artists Chorale. 


Rebeccah Singer is beyond excited to work with Emerald City Theatre as Education Manager! Originally from St. Louis, she holds a BFA in Acting from Syracuse University. In Chicago, you can catch her at iO Theater with the team Gideon or at Second City where she’s in a house company. When she’s not performing, she can be found writing and eating cereal. 

Jessica Smoot HeadshotJessica Smoot is an actor and teaching artist from Dallas, TX. She graduated from Oklahoma State University with her BA in Theatre in 2016. She currently works as a teaching artist with America Baila’s ACES program and Windy City Performs alongside Emerald City Theatre. When not teaching, she enjoys solo and devised performance work, and has been seen in various showcases and venues across the city, including Potluck and The Museum of Contemporary Art. 

Zackery Stephens headshot

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.


Michele Stine headshot

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.

Danny Taylor headshot

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.

Kitty Thompson HeadshotKitty Thompson is an actor, voice actor, & illustrator. She earned her BA in Comedy Writing & Performance from Columbia College Chicago in 2016 and currently works with the House Theatre of Chicago as their Audience Services Manager. Kitty has performed at the Second City in Hostile Corporate Makeover (November 2017) and Spank Train of Thought (December 2015). She has lent her voice to many animated shorts, including Childlike (2017) and Ayyappan (2017). Her original play Space Camp was produced by the Whiskey Radio Hour in April of 2017. In addition to acting and voiceover, Kitty is a trained classical mezzo-soprano. She was selected to perform with the Maryland Opera Society in 2011 before pursuing her education in Chicago. 

headshot_tyler_nikkiaNikkia Tyler has enjoyed working with Emerald City Theatre administratively and as a teaching artist for the past two years. Nikkia is a graduate of Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts where she received her BFA in Acting and a minor in African-American Studies. As a local actor and director, Nikkia has worked administratively in the arts and children’s programming throughout Chicago with Windy City Playhouse, Lakeshore Sports 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 the performing arts have to offer. 

Carley Walker HeadshotCarley Walker is a native Texan who has found a home here in Chicago. Carley graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2014 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drama and is a working actor, designer, and teacher. As a theater teacher, she loves getting to help children learn something new. Encouraging a student to learn more and fall deeper in love with something they’re passionate about is her favorite part of the job. This is Carley’s second season teaching with Emerald City Theatre! 


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.

Kayla Zaniboni HeadshotOriginally from Boston, Kayla Zaniboni is thrilled to be teaching at Emerald City Theatre! Kayla attended Adelphi University in New York where she received a BFA in Theater Performance. Upon graduating from Adelphi, Kayla toured the country with Missoula Children’s Theater, a company that directs and performs a complete show in a week’s time. Kayla then went on to the University of Central Florida for her MFA in Theater Performance. At UCF, Kayla was involved in many productions as well as teaching her own undergraduate classes. After graduating she came to Chicago and hasn’t left since. Here in Chicago, Kayla completed the Second City Conservatory program and continues to write and perform for Second City. Kayla has performed throughout the city, some of her favorite roles include joy in Cinderella, Fran in Musical of the Living Dead, and Mrs. Mayor/Bird Girl in Seussical. Along with performing, Kayla has a passion for teaching theater to children. Back home in Boston, Kayla taught theater for children ages 3 – 6 at the Orpheum Theater. Here in Chicago, Kayla is a teacher at My Gym and a teaching artist for the Performing Arts Studio!

Bessie Zolno HeadshotBessie Zolno is a performer and teacher from the Bay Area. She is currently receiving her BFA in Musical Theatre Performance and Stage Combat certification from Columbia College Chicago. She has taught and assisted at Kids N Dance in Oakland and at Windy City Performs in Chicago. Before moving, she performed in over 30 shows including La Cage aux Folles (Anne), This is Our Youth (Jessica), and Fiddler on the Roof (Chava). In Chicago, she has been seen in Gypsy (JPAC), Shoom-Ka (Chicago Theatre Marathon), and Shift (Bechedel Fest 2017). She is thrilled to work with Emerald City Theatre and hopes you enjoy the show!