Emerald City Theatre School Teacher Bios
Jillian Rose Abbinanti just finished an amazing summer interning with Emerald City Theatre School! Now, she’s back teaching and couldn’t be more excited. Jillian is a Chicago native who grew up watching Emerald City’s productions at the Apollo Theatre, which helped shape her passion for children’s theatre. She loves both performing on stage and helping the production come to life backstage. This year, she will be completing her BA in both Early Childhood Education (with an ESL Endorsement) and Theatre Studies at North Park University. During the school year, she also volunteer teaches with Barrel of Monkeys 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!
Alaina Andzelewski is a native Michigander turned Chicagoan. An alumnus of youth theater herself, she was lucky to find and grow her passion at a young age. She's a graduate of Columbia College Chicago with a BA in Acting, summa cum laude. She has had the pleasure of learning Shadow Puppetry with Redmoon on The Astronaut's Birthday and their collaboration with Chicago Shakespeare Theater for The Tempest: an Intimate Feast. She is certified in several forms of Stage Combat and has worked as a stunt coordinator on short films and recently as a Fight Choreographer for ImprovPlayhouse. Currently she is working on a project called G3 News where artists lead a classroom of 3rd graders in creating their own News Program. After interning for Emerald City in the fall, Alaina is thrilled to be back as a teacher and hopes she can inspire and encourage her students as much as they do her.
Aaron Aubrey was born and raised in Albuquerque N.M. where he began singing and acting in church and school. He recently moved to Chicago after several years of traveling and working around the country in various historical dramas and regional theatres, ranging from Vermont all the way to the southern tip of Florida. Aaron has always had a particular love of children’s theatre because children remind him of the power of theatre and that it is possible to let go and truly believe in the world of the story as it’s told. As always he is excited to be a part of a creative team and thankful for his many opportunities.
Melanie Camras has been working/playing with Emerald City since September '09, and enjoys it immensely. Not only does she get to teach, she also gets to accompany songs on the piano sometimes! She earned a B.A. in drama from Washington University in St. Louis, and has worked for several touring children's theatres, including Bridgework, Missoula, Omaha Theatre Co, Bright Star, and National Theatre for Children. Melanie also teaches 0-5 year olds at The Music Playhouse and private in-home piano lessons. On top of all that, she's a certified yoga instructor who is available to teach private yoga, singing, and piano lessons to beginners of all ages. Love and gratitude to all who have touched her life!
Devon Mary Doherty hails from Toronto and is a proud graduate of the BFA Theatre Arts program at The Theatre School at DePaul University with a concentration in Directing. Devon has been involved in the theatre for as long as she can remember, as a dancer, actor, playwright, choreographer, costume designer, dramaturg and director! For Emerald City, Devon has Assistant Directed If You Give a Cat a Cupcake and Cinderella, and is currently working on Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat as a Young Performer Supervisor! Devon also served as Emerald City's inaugural Marketing and Events intern this past fall!
David Ello is an actor, writer, musician, and chai connoisseur. He studied acting and directing at the University of Houston where he received his B.A. in Theatre and later relocated to Chicago in pursuit of snow and original play development. He is the founder of Good Chai Productions and has produced two original musicals in the past two years: Master of Dreams and King David: LIVE! (See goodchai.weebly.com for more info.) As an educator, David has collaborated with multiple educational institutions, including Black Bear Academy, Houston Independent School District, and Houston's InterActive Theatre. David is thrilled to begin his fourth year with Emerald City, inspiring the next generation of theatre artists.
Vashti Emigh is excited to be returning to Emerald City as a teacher after a successful internship this fall! Born in Chicago and raised in Los Angeles, she is happy to be back in the Windy City after graduating from Williams College with a B.A. with Honors in Theatre. After pursuing mainly acting in high school, she expanded her horizons at Williams and was heavily involved in both department and student productions as an actor, designer, director, dramaturg, playwright, and stage manager. As a drama counselor at Catskills West Theatre Arts Camp back in LA, she also developed a passion for teaching theatre. She is looking forward to sharing her love of theatre with the students of Emerald City!
Shannon Evans, hailing from beautiful Minnesota, has been a resident teaching artist with Emerald City since 2005. Shannon works throughout Chicago as a theatre director, producer, designer, actor, painter, and educator. She received her B.A. in theatre arts and philosophy from Loyola University Chicago. With Emerald City, she has taught ages 3-18 years through Theatre School classes, camps, after school residencies, puppet workshops, birthday parties, and special events. She also enjoys face painting with lots and lots of glitter.
Audrey Flegel is an active actress in the Chicago theatre community. She is a graduate of the School at Steppenwolf, both the sketch and musical improv conservatories at Second City, and holds a B.F.A in musical theatre from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (NYC.) Audrey performs regularly with her sketch group, Vampeero, and also with the popular free theatre group, The Back Room Shakespeare Project. Audrey teaches acting in the youth and teen program at the Second City Training Center, after school residencies with Dream Big Performing Arts Workshop, and she is thrilled to be working with Emerald City Theatre.
Kel Hamik (Education Intern) got involved in theatre camps and classes at a young age because of her love of Shakespeare. After pursuing a BA in Acting from Columbia College Chicago, she uncovered more passions such as Stage Combat, improv and interactive theatre. After graduating, she worked with companies such as Theatre Hikes and Classically Inclined, and was a member of the Bristol Renaissance Faire’s Fight Cast. She performed one woman shows with Historical Perspectives for Children and enjoyed spreading knowledge and inspiration to children across Chicagoland. Her pursuit of an M.F.A. in Staging Shakespeare took her to the United Kingdom, where she had opportunities to study at the New Globe in London, research at the Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon, and train with top experts in early-modern theatre. She is now working toward a career in teaching, and is excited to share what she learned and help others discover the joys of theatre.
Ian Jerome is thrilled to be teaching with Emerald City, where he gets to teach smart and amazing children side-by-side with awesome people. Ian is a graduate of Boise State University where he studied acting and writing. He has also taught with the Idaho Shakespeare Festival and loves teaching and performing Shakespeare. His past acting credits include Crossing Six Corners (Filament Theatre Ensemble), A Streetcar Named Desire (Mitch), As You Like It (Orlando), Metamorphoses (Pheaton), and the world premiere of H.G. Wells: The Science of Fiction (H.G.), which toured in elementary school across Idaho. He is currently working with Seanachai Theatre on their production of Hughie. Other Chicago productions include The Den Theatre's Faith Healer, and The Collective Theatre's Hoodoo Love.
Anderson Lawfer has been in Chicago for almost 10 years and has performed with over two dozen theatre companies. He is an ensemble member at Strawdog Theatre where he has been seen in Red Noses, State of the Union, 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 Theatre staple.
Michael Leon is thrilled to be teaching at Emerald City! He graduated with his BFA in Theater from Florida International University. Originally from Miami, Florida, Michael's youthful imagination and wonderful rapport with both children and teenagers has lead him to teaching theater for the past seven years. He honed many of his teaching skills at Miami Children's Theater, where he taught numerous theater courses and also served as lead director of their summer camps for three consecutive years. Recently he has worked at Northlight Theater, as both a teaching artist and a camp counselor.
Andrew Marikis is an actor, storyteller, educator and paleo-enthusiast of many years of experience. As an actor he's worked with BoHo, Seanachai, Stage Left, The Artistic Home and Lifeline Theatres among others in Chicago. As a storyteller he spins yarns at Story Club North Side regularly, told at Lifeline's 2013 Fillet of Solo show and hosts Story Club South Side in Bridgeport. As an educator, he's stoked to work with Emerald City and has worked as an Actor/Teacher with Great Lakes Theater Festival (handing students Shakespeare and swords and showing them how to use both). As a paleo-enthusiast he'll bore you with tales of Deinonychus feathers and hominid skulls. He also likes to run, even when not being chased.
Aileen McGroddy is a teaching artist, director, and clown based in Chicago. In addition to teaching at the theatre school, Aileen is the Marketing and Events Manager of Emerald City. She is a founder of the Whiskey Rebellion theatre, as well as Chicago's only all-female clown troupe, The Harlotry & Necromancy Appreciation Society. Aileen has worked as a teaching artist with Redmoon Theater, The Little Black Pearl Arts Center, NIRMAN in Varanasi, India, and the University of Chicago, of which she is an alumnus.
Whitney Minarik is so happy to have discovered the amazing world of children's theatre through Emerald City! While attending Wayne State University in Detroit, MI she had a small preview while performing in the play Oz and touring to schools with No Fear Shakespeare. Her theatrical studies also took her abroad to Greece and to the Moscow Art Theatre School in Russia. In Chicago, she has performed with several companies including Red Tape Theatre, Midtangent Productions, Moving Dock, and is an actress for The Murder Mystery Company. Whitney is proud to be Education Manager for Emerald City and is especially looking forward to sharing shows and classes with her own daughter.
Tom Murphy (Education Intern) is thrilled to join Emerald City in 2013! He's a recent graduate of the University of Chicago, where he trained as a director, actor, and adaptor. Since graduation, he's worked in Chicago administratively on projects with the House Theatre and The Building Stage. He discovered theater through the joy of performing in supportive and tight-knit ensembles as a boy growing up on the East Coast, and is delighted to get the chance to be return to the classroom as an assistant teacher.
Ernie Nolan is a director, choreographer, and playwright dedicated to reimagining stories for young audiences. As Producing Artistic Director of Emerald City Theatre in Chicago, he has directed over 15 productions including the Broadway in Chicago transfer of Pinkalicious: The Musical. A resident artist of The Coterie Theatre in Kansas City, MO, he made his Off-Broadway debut as a choreographer with Lucky Duck at the New Victory Theatre last year. Ernie is also an Assistant Professor of Theatre Studies at The Theatre School at DePaul University where he has directed A Wrinkle in Time, The Witches, The Giver, and The BFG for Chicago Playworks. He currently serves as the Vice-President of Theatre for Young Audiences USA and sits on the board of the Illinois Theatre Association. A graduate of both the University of Michigan Musical Theatre Program (BFA Musical Theatre) and The Theatre School at DePaul University (MFA Directing), Ernie has been awarded an Anne Shaw Fellowship and was selected as one of DePaul University’s “14 Alumni Under 40” in 2011.
Flavia Pallozzi is a B.F.A Acting student in her third year at the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. She is from Miami, FL where she had the wonderful experiences of working with Area Stage and Actor's Playhouse. Excited to be working with Emerald City after interning this summer, she cannot wait to see the next generation of children learn and have fun with this craft!
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 in 2007 and served as the Faculty Manager from 2011-2012. He has directed productions of Peter Pan, Wicked, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Alice in Wonderland 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, Vitalist, The State, and Oil Lamp.
Alexis Randolph is thrilled to be joining the Emerald City Team! Alexis caught the theatre bug at a very young age while doing children’s theatre in her hometown of Stockton California. This passion for theatre 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 theatre 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 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.
Alyssa Vera Ramos is a teaching artist, director, deviser, and performer here in Chicago. In addition to the wonderful folks at Emerald City, Alyssa works as a teaching artist at Auditorium Theatre, Albany Park Theatre Project, and For Youth Inquiry (FYI), and as a youth mentor at Adventure Stage Chicago. Alyssa serves as an Artistic Associate at Teatro Luna, Chicago's all-Latina theatre company, where she is on the core writing team for the company's next ensemble-devised piece, Supermujeres: Women Who Serve and Protect, and is helping to craft the company's new educational & youth programming. She is also an artistic collective member and administrator at For Youth Inquiry, a performing health collective that tours schools and community centers, starting healthy conversations around sexual health and violence through participatory theatre. Alyssa has recently served as an Education Apprentice at American Theater Company and has previously worked with Lookingglass, The Neo-Futurists, Remy Bumppo, and Cardboard Citizens (UK). Alyssa is a recent program graduate of the Teaching Artist Development Studio at Columbia College Chicago. She attended Northwestern University and holds a Bachelor's Degree in Theatre.
Janell Rinne is thrilled to be teaching with Emerald City after completing her internship in the spring of 2012. Originally from Kansas City, Janell holds a BFA in Musical Theatre from Missouri State University. Since moving to Chicago, she has performed with Theatre at the Center in Guys and Dolls (Ensemble) and It's Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas (Swing). Janell has also worked with Village Players of Oak Park, Wishbone Theater Ensemble, and Akvavit Theatre. Most recently Janell has accepted a contract with Tent Theatre at Missouri State to perform in 9 to 5: the Musical (ensemble) and 42nd Street (Annie). When not performing, a few of Janell’s favorite pastimes are nannying, watching baseball, and riding her bike.
Andrew Ritter is thrilled to be teaching with Emerald City Theatre School. He started working with kids when he was in High School where as a freshman he began the first of seven summers as a camp counselor. After graduating from Middlebury College in Vermont with a degree in Theatre & Psychology he immediately went off to Thailand, where he taught ESL at Loei University for a year. He moved back to Chicago and worked in the North Suburban Special Education District for a few years and also became a private tutor for children with autism. As an actor he has performed with several children's theatre companies including Emerald City, American Eagle Productions and Novel Ideas. Andrew currently teaches improvisation and musical improvisation to adults and children at The Second City and he directs the improvised kids show Storytown every Saturday morning at iO Theatre.
Beth Schmeski graduated from The Theatre School at DePaul University with a BFA in Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism, with a concentration in Theatre for Young Audiences. Her dramaturgy credits with Chicago Playworks include Bud, Not Buddy, and The Giver, directed by Ernie Nolan. She worked as a teaching artist at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, the Pacific Science Center, and Seattle Children's Theatre, where she graduated from the Teaching Artist Apprenticeship Program. In her classes, Beth loves creative drama, focusing on imaginative exploration, problem solving, and collaboration. When she is not teaching, Beth is in the Emerald City office where she is an Audience Services Coordinator. And when she is not at Emerald City at all, she is either reading, writing, or cooking.
Lisa Siciliano is an actress, director, writer, producer, and educator who hails from Cleveland, OH. She loves teaching theatre and has been an instructor for numerous programs from pre-k through college! Since moving to the Windy City in the fall of 2008, Lisa has taught with Lifeline Theatre, American Theatre Company, ARCC Ballet, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Swedish American Museum, and, of course, Emerald City 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. This fall, Lisa will be teaching with Lifeline Theatre, Emerald City, and at Northwestern’s Center for Talent Development. She graduated cum laude and with distinction in the theatre studies major from Yale University in 2005. She is currently a student in the Master of Science in Education program in elementary teaching at Northwestern and will graduate in August 2013. She’ll spend her student observation and teaching time this fall and winter at Baker Demonstration School in Wilmette and at Coonley Elementary in North Center.
Rachel Sherman is a graduate of The University of Iowa where she earned her BA in Theatre Arts and Communication Studies and performed in numerous original works. She has worked with American Theater Company as co-director of their Chicago Chronicle program and as a teaching apprentice for their American Mosaic residency programming. Rachel is the recipient of The Jerome and Marie Feniger Award (2010), The Paul Horwitz Compassion Scholarship (2007), and was named IHSA Division 1 Superior Vocalist in 2006. She is proud to be the Education Coordinator of Emerald City Theatre where she is a faculty member, as well!
Becca Skrha is from Cleveland, OH, and moved to the beautiful city of Chicago three years ago to pursue her B.F.A in Musical Theatre at the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University where she is now a senior. Rebecca was an intern with Emerald City for fall 2013. She has worked as an Education Intern at The Cleveland Playhouse as well as a Camp Counselor at Lakeshore Sport and Fitness here in Chicago! She enjoys singing, acting, dancing, and going on adventures. Becca was profoundly changed by theatre as a child and cannot wait to help other children learn more about the wonderful, challenging, exciting world of theatre.
Jacqueline Stone hails from Rocky Point, NY and has a BA in Theatre from the University of Maryland. Her other training credits include The Second City, Improv Olympic, The Annoyance, and Victory Gardens. For the past fifteen years, she has been acting, directing, teaching, and writing across the United States. She is proud to be a founding company member and Artistic Director of TUTA Theatre Chicago and has appeared in numerous productions. She is also a founding company member of the acclaimed all-women's improv group Sirens. Jacqueline is a faculty member at The Second City, Columbia College, TUTA Theatre, and Education Director for Emerald City Theatre Company. She has taught numerous acting and improv workshops across the country including the Chicago Improv Festival, Miami Improv Festival, Duke University, and many more.
Danny Taylor joined Emerald City 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: 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 with 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 while teaching Annie camp this summer.
Leah Isabel Tirado Leah Isabel Tirado has been able to build her creative repertoire through the University of Wisconsin with Madison as a backdrop to her education. She fondly recalls performing everything from lost rumba beats to classic madrigals, jazz standards to rock originals, beloved musicals like, Guys and Dolls to social topic dramas like Dog Sees God. Most of her time was spent with the Wisconsin Singers as their vocal captain, The Children's Theatre of Madison, and as the lead singer of The Big Payback. These ensembles not only nurtured her love of performing, but also allowed her to give back to her community by teaching young musicians and actors across the Midwest. Having relocated to Chicago, Leah is continuing her pursuit of happiness through performance and education, she is very eager to continue her adventure with Emerald City as a teacher after interning with the department this fall!
Katie Utterback started with Emerald City as an intern in the fall of 2011 and served as the education coordinator for summer camp 2012. Before moving to Chicago, she taught children in Indianapolis and was a camp counselor in New Hampshire. In 2011, she graduated from Butler University with a B.A. in Theatre, which prepared her for her career as a Theatre artist. Additionally, she taught the Read, Write, & Act residency program at Alcott Elementary with Emerald City Theatre School. When not at Emerald City, she’s running around Chicago acting in Shakespeare plays and babysitting. She loves to cook and workout.
Alice Wedoff has been teaching theater to children for almost half her life, starting with summer camps in her native Oak Park when she was in high school. She has been teaching various classes and camps through Emerald City for the past several years and loves having the opportunity to work with kids of all ages in exploring performance. As a professional actress, Alice has worked with many theaters around Chicago, The Hypocrites, Chicago Dramatists, Victory Gardens, Stage Left, Festival Theater, Theater Wit, and Pegasus Players, with whom she received a Jeff nomination for her solo performance in The Shape of a Girl. She wrote the music and lyrics for The Teeny Lounge which she performed for Redmoon Theater's Winter Pageant. She is also a longtime company member of TUTA Theater. Alice holds a B.F.A. in acting from Syracuse University and spent a year studying physical theater at Ecole Lecoq in Paris, France. But teaching is where her heart is. She is currently pursuing her master’s in Elementary Education at UIC.
Jordan Williams is new to the Chicago area and is tapping his heels with joy to be working with Emerald City! Jordan also teaches with Dream Big Performing Arts Workshop and just finished a 16 month tour around the world with Missoula Children's Theatre. Having hailed from Western Washington University near Seattle Washington, Jordan now acts and improvises in the Chicago area. He is currently improvising with CIF on Sunday evenings at ComedySportz and throughout the month of January, you may see him performing stage plays during the weekend in the Young Playwrights Festival at Pegasus Players!
Jay Worthington (Education Intern) is thrilled and honored to be joining Emerald City's teaching artists as an education intern. Having called Chicago home for nearly six years, Jay has worked with and taught at a number of theatre companies around the city. He is an ensemble member at The Gift Theatre Company where he has appeared in: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Suicide, Incorporated (World Premiere), Night and Her Stars, Cloud Nine, and Absolute Hell (US Premiere). He will next appear in The Gift's forthcoming production of Vigils. Jay also functions as the scene study instructor for GiftED, The Gift's 2-year ensemble based theatre training program for high school students on Chicago's Northwest Side. Most recently, Jay co-taught at The School at Steppenwolf alongside fellow Gift ensemble member and theatrical hero Sheldon Patinkin. Jay holds a bachelor's in theatre from Illinois State University and is a graduate of The School at Steppenwolf.