Teaching Staff

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Jillian Rose Abbinanti (She/Her/Hers) 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 Theatre for many years, as well as being a classroom preschool teacher and working with Barrel of Monkeys Productions and Mudlark Theater. 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!

Freddy-May AbiSamra HeadshotFreddy-May AbiSamra (They/Them/Theirs) is a theater-maker, storyteller, and teaching artist originally from New Orleans. They received their BA in Comedy Writing & Performance from Columbia College Chicago in 2017. They are passionate about working with young people and helping them to develop and share their stories, collaborate with each other, and grow. They are a company member with Bittersweet Arts Collective and have also worked with For Youth Inquiry, (re)discover theatre, and The Playground Theater. You can see them around town telling stories at places like The Moth StorySLAM and Potluck.

Lexi Alioto (She/Her/Hers) has performed with 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. 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 (He/Him/His) 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. 

Julia Beck HeadshotJulia Beck (She/Her/Hers) is thrilled to teaching with Emerald City Theatre! A St. Louis native, she moved to Chicago eight years ago and has been working as a performer, choreographer, and teacher ever since. She holds a BFA in Musical Theater from Missouri State University. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, biking, reading, and watching as much baseball as possible!


Josh Bernaski HeadshotJosh Bernaski (He/Him/His) is ecstatic to be working with Emerald City Theatre! Originally from the Philadelphia area, Josh is a graduate of Temple University where he earned a BA in Theater.  As an actor and educator, Josh has worked across the country at theaters including Nashville Children’s Theatre and Playhouse on the Square. For four years, Josh toured South America, Asia, and the Middle East with Artspot Educational Theatre, performing musicals for students learning English.  Since moving to Chicago, Josh has had the pleasure of working with Lifeline Theatre, First Folio, Drury Lane and Theater at the Center.

Chazie Bly HeadshotChazie Bly (He/Him/His) is an actor and teaching artist. After graduating with a dual degree in theater and women’s studies from Penn State, he moved to Chicago. Alongside being an ensemble member with Hell in a Handbag Productions, Chazie is also a certified special education teacher with his LBS1 endorsement and professional educator license through NLU and Teach for America. He spent four years teaching special education and theater in the Englewood, Rogers Park, and Gage Park communities. He also teaches through the Auditorium Theatre’s ArtsXChange & Hearts to Art program. He is thrilled to teach theater through Emerald City Theatre.

Katherine Bourne HeadshotKatherine Bourne (She/Her/Hers) moved to Chicago from Dallas, TX, after falling in love with the city during her time here studying with The School at Steppenwolf. She holds a BFA in Acting from Southern Methodist University. Around town she has worked with Raven Theatre and The House Theatre of Chicago, and favorite spots in Dallas include The Dallas Theater Center, Undermain Theatre, and Stage West. Among others, she has taught with Dallas Children’s Theatre and worked as a drama teacher to children with autism for the past two years. 


Audrey Catalano HeadshotAudrey Catalano (She/Her/Hers) is a teaching artist, actor, and writer, and is thrilled to join the Emerald City Teaching Staff! Originally from Massachusetts, Audrey is a recent graduate of Tulane University, where she studied Theatre, Linguistics, and French before relocating to Chicago. This past summer, Audrey worked with Compass Creative Dramatics, where she traveled the U.S. as a Tour Actor and Educator. She has also worked as an actor and teacher with the New Orleans Shakespeare Festival and Trinity Repertory Company. Audrey is most interested in making accessible, multilingual theater to build and strengthen community. In her spare time, she enjoys baking bread and writing comedy.  

Cara Chumbley HeadshotCara Chumbley (She/Her/Hers) has been a Teaching Artist in Chicago for four years now. She graduated with her BFA in Acting from Millikin University. Her directing and teaching credits include Citadel Theater, Beverly Arts Center, NightBlue Performing Arts, Davenport Jr. Theater, and Chicago Kids Company.  Cara believes in teaching teamwork, hard work, and using tons of imagination! 


Delaney Clark HeadshotDelaney Clark (She/Her/Hers) recently moved to Chicago to pursue acting and teaching artistry after getting a BA in Theatre at Bucknell University. Since moving to Chicago, she spent the summer at Northwestern working as a Faculty Associate at Cherubs, and she couldn’t be more excited to teach with Emerald City Theatre! During her undergraduate career, she also studied abroad at London Dramatic Academy and spent her summers in Boston and Atlanta, completing an apprentice program with Commonwealth Shakespeare Company and an education internship with Atlanta Shakespeare Company. In addition to acting and teaching, Delaney also works as a hair and makeup artist and designer!

Gemma Clarke

Gemma Clarke (She/Her/Hers) 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!


Carly Crawford (She/Her/Hers) 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). In her spare time, Carly loves to cross stitch, crochet, play board games, and be in the sunshine as much as possible. 


Elliot Cruz HeadshotElliot Cruz (He/Him/His) had a lot of fun getting to play Jack in Emerald City Theatre’s production of Mother Goose’s Garden, so he’s overjoyed to be working as a teacher! Elliot hails from Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Theatre Performance before moving to Chicago to be an actor. In Chicago, he has worked with companies such as the Griffin Theatre, Muse of Fire Theatre, Steep Theatre, and Northlight. He feels very lucky to be doing that at a company as dedicated and passionate as Emerald City Theatre. 

Andrea DeVriendt (She/Her/Hers) 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 Urinetown (Red Barn Summer Theatre), First Kisses (RBST), La Cage Aux Folles and The Red Cape (TYA), 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! 

Sara Ann Dickey HeadshotSara Ann Dickey (She/Her/Hers) proudly hails from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She just finished her B.A. in Theatre from Columbia College Chicago, and she’s thrilled to be working with Emerald City Theatre. Sara is a mentor teaching artist with Adventure Stage Chicago’s Trailblazers ensemble and has stage managed several of their productions. Her true passion in theater lies in bringing the art and the resulting skills into communities that can benefit from it, be it through her work as a teaching artist, or through outreach in her devising work. 

Shelby Edwards HeadshotShelby Edwards (She/Her/Hers) was a member of the 2018 Chicago Slam Poetry Team, Lethal Poetry and is a graduate of Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s Professional Leadership Program. Shelby has presented two original solo shows including Holly’s Ivy (Lifeline Theatre, Chicago) and Lost Home, Win Home at the New York, New Works Theatre Festival (Acorn Theatre, NYC). Shelby received her B.A. in Theatre with a minor in General Business from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA and in Spring 2019, Shelby will graduate from the University of Chicago with a Master of Arts in Humanities featuring a concentration in Theatre and Performance Studies. 

Bex Ehrmann HeadshotBex Ehrmann (She/Her/Hers) is happy to be working with Emerald City Theatre! Bex is a multi-disciplinary theater artist and teacher with a B.A. in Theatre from Northwestern. She has worked, interned, and apprenticed at a wide range of companies, including Imagination Stage, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, and About Face Theatre. Bex’s favorite theatrical credits include directing A Wrinkle in Time by John Glore (adapted from the novel by Madeline L’Engle) and directing and co-creating (with Alexandra Shields) Charred, a play that premiered at the Frontier Theater in September 2015. In her spare time, Bex loves doing improv and telling stories!

Haley GadzikHaley Gadzik (She/Her/Hers) is a Seattle native who is very excited to be working with Emerald City Theatre. She earned her BA in Psychology with a minor in Theatre at Whitman College and furthered her theater education at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center’s National Theatre Institute. Haley has accidentally pursued work as a theater professional in as many barn-like settings as possible – from interning at the Celebration Barn Theater for clowning, physical, and devised performance in western Maine, to heading the youth theater program at Camp Gwynn Valley in North Carolina.

Alice GehrkeAlice Gehrke (She/Her/Hers) is a theater artist and educator from Madison, Wisconsin where she taught at Children’s Theatre Madison.  She has a BA in Theatre Performance and Psychology from Beloit College.  She specifically enjoys physical theater and devising and has had the pleasure of studying at Accademia dell’Arte in Tuscany and Dah Teatar in Belgrade, Serbia.  Alice is passionate about the intersections between theater and mental health and is currently working towards her Master of Social Work at UIC.

Sara Geist HeadshotSara Geist (She/Her/Hers) is very excited to be part of the teaching staff here at Emerald City Theatre! Sara is a Naperville, IL native and a Western Michigan University Musical Theatre grad. She was most recently seen in ECT’s production of Magic Treehouse: Showtime with Shakespeare and will soon be joining the cast of Mamma Mia! at Mason Street Warehouse. She has also worked in TV, film, and voiceover, and has a passion for writing and directing. Sara got her start in camps like the ones here at ECT and is thrilled to help bring that experience to the kids of Chicago.


Amanda Giles headshot

Amanda Giles (She/Her/Hers) is a graduate from the BFA Musical Theatre program at the Chicago College of Performing Arts of Roosevelt University. Amanda has worked as a Director and Head Counselor for many years, inspiring and mentoring kids in the arts along hte way. She is very excited to continue her work with kids this summer with Emerald City Theatre. Amanda firmly believes that theater is the perfect way to help kids connect with who they truly are, and she cannot wait to be a part of that. 


Sarah Gise HeadshotSarah Gise (She/Her/Hers) grew up in San Antonio and then moved to Los Angeles, where she graduated with a BFA in Acting from the University of Southern California (USC). She is a company member with Interrobang Theatre Project and New American Folk Theatre and has been seen in several shows with them throughout the years. Her performance in Interrobang’s production of The Amish Project was nominated for Best Solo Performance at the 2017 Joseph Jefferson Awards. She is so excited to be a part of Emerald City Theatre and looks forward to all the learning and playing to come!

Kelsey Godfrey HeadshotKelsey Godfrey (She/Her/Hers) is an actor and theater educator originally from San Antonio, Texas. She holds a BFA in acting from The University of Oklahoma. Kelsey is fresh off a yearlong tour with National Players, where she taught workshops to students across the country and performed in Othello, The Great Gatsby, and Alice in Wonderland in repertory. She has also had the recent pleasure of touring the Chicago area in The Resource Force with The National Theatre for Children. Kelsey has been seen in Sherlock Holmes and The Mystery of Portage Park at Filament Theater in Chicago.

Alaina Greene Headshot

Alaina Greene (She/Her/Hers) 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. 

Jalyn GreeneJalyn Greene (They/Them/Theirs) is a Chicago-area teaching artist and actor. Hailing from Detroit, Michigan, they received their BFA from Michigan State University. With a passion for literacy through the arts and story adaption, Jalyn has taught for several Chicago theaters including Lifeline Theatre and Pegasus Theatre, as well as freelance work with Chicago Public Schools. Jalyn had the amazing opportunity to be the Arts Coordinator for the Youthville Detroit Freedom School, a summer program focused on raising literacy in an urban setting, before making their transition to Chicago. 

Allison Grischow (She/Her/Hers) 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.

Jordan Harris HeadshotJordan Harris (They/Them/Theirs) is thrilled to be a part of the Emerald City Theatre team! A native of Evanston, Jordan holds a degree in Voice Performance from the University of Michigan. They’ve worked on many projects throughout Chicago, portraying Tom Collins in RENT and playing in the band for We’re Gonna Die at Steppenwolf. They’ve taught voice lessons at their alma mater, Evanston Township High School, as well as theater and writing residencies with Barrel of Monkeys, Imagination Theater, and Chicago Children’s Theatre. 


Caleigh Havansek HeadshotCaleigh Havansek (She/Her/Hers) is a born and raised Chicagoan who is excited to be teaching in the city she loves. She recently graduated from Viterbo University with her B.S. in Theatre Education, where she led the Viterbo Improv Team and worked on a variety of productions as a stage manager and designer. In addition to working with Emerald City Theatre, Caleigh also works with Chicago Children’s Theatre and Improv Playhouse. She is grateful to be able to combine her love of education and theater, working to give children a platform to find and use their voices.


Risha Hill HeadshotRisha Hill (She/Her/Hers) graduated from the Alabama School of Fine Arts, attended Miami University B.A. theater program and graduated from California Institute of the Arts M.F.A. theater program where she focused on performance. Theater credits include: Blues for an Alabama Sky (Angel), King Lear (Cornwall), 24 Hours the Musical (Shawnna), In the Blood (Welfare/Bully), Three Sisters (Irena), The Music Man (Alma), King Henry V (Kate), The Colored Museum (Woman #3).


Max Hinders HeadshotMax Hinders (He/Him/His) is a Chicago actor, improviser, and comedian originally from Williamsburg, Virginia. He has a B.S. in Sports Management and a B.A. in Theater from Valparaiso University. He is thrilled to be joining Emerald City Theatre to share his passion for theater. Chicago credits: Mint Music Improv Night (MCL/Annoyance), Baby Wants Candy (Ensemble) Infinite Sundaes (SCTC House Co.) Wavelength (Tour Ensemble) Gotcha Covered (MCL), Tapped (Theater Wit), The Garbageman’s Ball (iO Chicago) Clara and the Nutcracker, Venetian Twins, and The Love of Three Oranges (Piccolo Theatre).


Brittany Hines HeadshotBrittany Hines (She/Her/Hers) is ecstatic to teach for Emerald City Theatre! Brittany graduated from The Hartt School in 2016 with a BFA in Musical Theatre and has been working professionally ever since. She has performed in various productions at The Ivoryton Playhouse (Ivoryton, CT), The Palace Theatre (Manchester, NH), and has been out on tour with Bright Star Children’s Theatre. Brittany is also a teaching artist for Dream Big Performing Arts Workshop and a teaching artist apprentice for Northlight Theatre’s Speak Up! program bringing theater for social justice into schools. 


Perry Hunt HeadshotPerry Hunt (She/Her/Hers) is a performer and educator. Perry graduated from Butler University in 2015. After graduating, she led interactive family learning programs with The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis combining her love of performance and education. She moved to Chicago to pursue more teaching opportunities and since then had taught classes and camps all over the city. Perry is very excited to join Emerald City Theatre!

Thomson Jaffe (She/Her/Hers) 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). 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 (She/Her/Hers) 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 (She/Her/Hers) received her MM in vocal performance from Ohio University and her BFA in Musical Theatre from Marietta College. 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. Past performances include Susanna in Marriage of Figaro, Despina in Così Fan Tutte, Gretel in Hansel and Gretel, and the role of La Ciesca in Gianna Schicci.

Kathleen Kinlin HeadshotKathleen Kinlin (She/Her/Hers) is a performer, writer, improviser, and teaching artist originally from New Braunfels, Texas. She is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago with a BA in Comedy Writing and Performance. Kathleen’s background highlights include teaching Kindermusik, teaching Tot Hop (hip-hop for toddlers) and singing for hospice patients. In addition to teaching, Kathleen produces Resilient: a monthly variety show benefiting survivors of sexual violence. She is also a member of house improv teams Gideon and Dreamboat at iO Theater.


Mary Kirwan HeadshotMary Kirwan (She/Her/Hers)  is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio and is a graduate from The Theatre School at DePaul University with her BFA in Theatre Arts concentrating in Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA). She is currently a special education classroom assistant at Ogden International Jenner campus. She is thrilled and honored to collaborate with the many talented children and artists associated with Emerald City Theatre! 

Anderson Lawfer headshot

Anderson Lawfer (He/Him/His) 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 (She/Her/Hers) 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. 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. 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. 


headshot_leslie_kateKate Leslie (She/Her/Hers) graduated from the University of the South and taught middle school drama in Oxford, MS. Kate has been with Emerald City Theatre since October of 2013. 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, Stage 773, American Theater Company, 20% Theatre Company, The Side Project, Stage Left, Whiskey Rebellion, and The Ruckus. 

Becca Levy HeadshotBecca Levy (She/Her/Hers) is delighted to be teaching with Emerald City Theatre! She is a Chicago-based Teaching Artist, Production Manager, and Stage Manager who has worked with various fantastic theater companies all over town. She began working with ECT as a Summer Camp Coordinator and joined the teaching team. Before that, she taught theater and served as Program Director for the interdisciplinary arts program at Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute for four summers. She is a proud ensemble member at Strawdog Theatre Company and holds a BFA in Stage Management from Western Michigan University.


Breanna Lind HeadshotBreanna Lind (She/Her/Hers) is very excited to be a part of the Emerald City Theatre team as Education Coordinator! An actor and improviser, she holds her B.A. in Theatre and Dance from The University of Texas at Austin. Breanna started as a teaching artist five years ago in Austin, Texas at ZACH Theatre and The Paramount Theatre and has also served as the Artistic/Education Intern at Writers Theatre. You can catch Breanna performing around town at iO Chicago with her Harold team, Crocodile Nasties, or with her sketch comedy group, Rosemary’s Other Baby.


Derry MacDermott HeadshotDerry MacDermott (He/Him/His) is a Chicago teacher, director, and comedian with a passion for giving children spaces to feel creative. An east coast native, he graduated from West Chester University of Pennsylvania in 2016 with a degree in Elementary Education and Theatre. He currently works with Bennett Day School helping to bring the arts into their progressive education outlook on learning. Along with teaching, he performs sketch and improv around Chicago in a variety of theaters. Special recognition to the Crowd Theater where he performs on one of their house teams and runs a monthly LGBTQA+ variety show. Derry is proud to be a part of the Emerald City Theatre team and bring the arts into the lives of children all over the city.

Jamie Macpherson HeadshotJamie Macpherson (She/Her/Hers) is a teaching artist and fight director, hailing from the Twin Cities, MN. Recently she served as fight/intimacy director for Hellcab with the Agency Theatre Collective. She also just crossed off an item on her bucket-list in directing the fights for The Princess Bride (First Act Children’s Theatre, WI). When not working, she enjoys dancing, playing soccer, and hanging off the silks at The Actor’s Gym. Jamie is recognized by the SAFD and holds an MFA in Theatre for Young Audiences from Arizona State University.


Laura Matthews headshot

Laura Matthews (She/Her/Hers) is thrilled to be working with Emerald City Theatre. Laura is a graduate of Elmhurst College, where she studied Musical Theatre and Communications Studies. Since moving to Chicago, Laura has worked at American Theater Company as the Education Fellow where she worked with their Youth Ensemble. She has also performed with Red Tape Theatre, Robert Bills Productions, and The Island Theatre Co. Laura is a certified Alexander Technique Teacher. 


Mark Maxwell HeadshotMark Maxwell (He/Him/His) is an actor and writer. He has appeared in productions by The Jades, Kinematics, and Cold Basement Dramatics in Chicago, and on tour in Moon Shot (Theater Unspeakable) and Taming of the Shrew (Stone Soup Shakespeare). Mark has contributed as a deviser to new works by Rough House, Mercy Street Theatre, and The Electric Brain, which he co-founded. He holds a BA in Theatre Arts from the University of Northern Colorado.

Madeline McCord HeadshotMadeline McCord (She/Her/Hers) first fell in love with musical theater when she was seven-years-old and has been passionate about performing ever since. She holds a degree in Vocal Performance at Berklee College of Music. She currently teaches private voice and piano lessons with the Academy of Music and Art and Bloomingdale School of Music. She strives to provide students with the challenges, opportunities, and tools to pursue what they love and have a blast while doing it. She’s thrilled to share a love for the stage with wonderful students as a part of the Emerald City Theatre education team!

Rachel Melius Meinhart (She/Her/Hers) 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)! 

Paul Minarik HeadshotPaul Minarik (He/Him/His) 
first taught with Emerald City Theatre in 2012 and has gleefully returned every summer thereafter. During the school year, he teaches Early Childhood Spanish at the Frances Xavier Warde School. Born in Virginia, Paul performed on the stage throughout his high school and college years, before beginning his teaching career here in Chicago. His wife, Whitney, is a fellow Teaching Artist at Emerald City Theatre and their two daughters, Mariana and Magdalena, are both seasoned veterans of ECT’s fantastic camps and classes. 


Whitney Minarik Headshot

Whitney Minarik (She/Her/Hers)  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. 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 theater with her daughters, Mariana and Magdalena. 



Samantha Mitchell (She/Her/Hers) 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 (She/Her/Hers) 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).

AJ Oetman HeadshotAJ Oetman (He/Him/His) produced educational curriculum and directed youth plays at summer camps across the country for over seven years. He directed the feature film, The Wolf’s Robe, regionally distributed in and around Nebraska. He directed the pilot sitcom, Community Watch, and many other narrative shorts, music videos, and short docs. AJ produced two large-scale interactive theatrical productions at his alma mater, Union College, and graduated with a degree in English Education. In theater, he directed the fan favorite YouMurder: Kill the Queen. He’s been published in Insight Magazine, written two feature film scripts, many short stories, and poems.

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Flavia Pallozzi (She/Her/Hers) is thrilled to be with Emerald City Theatre! She 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 Teatre Vista, Victory Gardens, Spartan Theatre Group, the Chicago Shakespeare Project, and Lifeline Theatre. From Miami, FL, she began working with young theater 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. 

Sarah Patin HeadshotSarah Patin (She/Her/Hers) 
is an artist, performer, director, and teacher. She has worked with multiple Chicago theaters, including The Runaways Lab, Collaboraction, Strawdog Theatre, Redtwist Theatre, Pegasus Theatre, The Comrades, and Emerald City Theatre. She has also taught with the City of Evanston.


Daniella Periera HeadshotOriginally from Miami, Florida, Daniella Pereira (She/Her/Hers) left everything she knew to pursue her dreams in the frigid Windy City. She received a bachelor’s in fine arts at the Chicago College of Performing Arts (Roosevelt University). She is a proud first-generation Colombian American. Since graduating, Daniella has had the privilege of working with Griffin Theater, Oak Park Festival Theater, Strawdog, and Theater Wit. When not doing theater, Daniella enjoys babysitting, working out at her gym and reading. She is thrilled to be joining the Emerald City Theatre team!

Alexis Randolph headshot

Alexis Randolph (She/Her/Hers) is thrilled to be joining the Emerald City Theatre team! She has a passion for theater that took her to Ithaca College where she graduated with a BA in Drama. 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. 


Kristen Rau HeadshotKristen Rau (She/Her/Hers) is thrilled to be a part of Emerald City Theatre! Kristen is The Education Assistant and a teaching artist with Dream Big Performing Arts. Kristen volunteer teaches drama and creative writing in Chicago Public Schools with Barrel of Monkeys and in the community/outreach program Funny Bones Improv, for young inpatient audiences in Chicago area hospitals.  Kristen is dedicated to using theater to foster self-esteem and independence in young children. She currently makes her home in Edgewater, the heart of Chicago’s Laundromat and Payday Loan District.

Emily Mercedes Rich HeadshotEmily Mercedes Rich (She/Her/Hers) is a playwright and teaching artist. Originally from Orlando, Florida, Emily’s work is primarily about memory and place. Her work has been produced in Chicago at The Prop Theatre and with Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble. She’s taught at Camp Merrie-Woode in Sapphire, North Carolina and is thrilled to be teaching with Emerald City Theatre! She’s currently finishing her MFA at School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  


Maggie Robinson (She/Her/Hers) is thrilled to be a Teaching Artist with Emerald City Theatre. Hailing from Tennesse, she holds a BFA in Musical Theatre from the University of Memphis. She is a company member of Chicago DanzTheatre Ensemble. 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). 

Jamie Sandomire HeadshotJamie Sandomire (She/Her/Hers) is thrilled to be joining the Emerald City Theatre team as a teaching artist this summer. She recently followed her heart to Chicago from sunny Arizona, where she spent nine years as a teaching artist and actor for Childsplay. After graduating from Arizona State University with a degree in Theatre, she toured the U.S. as an actor/director. Since moving to Chicago, she has taught drama, musical theater, and early childhood music and movement classes for Dream Big Performing Arts Workshop, Windy City Performs, and Musical Magic. Her greatest joy is empowering young people through their unique voices and limitless imaginations. 


Catharine Savage HeadshotCatharine Savage (She/Her/Hers) is originally from Boxford, Massachusetts, and she is a graduate of Brown University with a degree in History and Gender Studies. She has trained at iO Chicago, The Second City, and Black Box Theater. She regularly performs in the Armando Diaz Experience and with her team Artemis at iO Chicago. She is a member of Second City’s Severn Darden Graduate Program, and she is an ensemble member at Laugh Out Loud Theater. In addition to teaching at Emerald City Theater, she teaches at The Second City and with The Revival for their third-grade initiative program. 


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Denise Savas (She/Her/Hers) is a North Carolina native who traveled to Chicago for the opportunity to continue her journey in children’s theater with Emerald City Theatre as an intern. She holds a BFA in Theatre Education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Denise performed in Jim Wren’s adaptation of Alice and toured with North Carolina Theatre for Young People’s rendition of Hansel and Gretel. She has taught various theater lessons ranging from Advanced Drama to Technical Theatre at the elementary, middle and high school levels. 



Britta Schlicht (She/Her/Hers) is originally from Madison, Wisconsin. Britta earned her degrees in Secondary Theatre and English Education with an enthusiasm toward leadership in dance and musical theater. Britta has been sharing her love for arts education through her seven 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). 

Shaina Schrooten HeadshotShaina Schrooten (She/Her/Hers)  has been a part of the Chicago theater community for four years now and a teaching artist in one way or another for two of those years. She is a company member with (re)discover theatre and The Shakespeare All-Stars. She came to Chicago via St. Louis where she received her BFA with The Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University. She loves the Chicago theater community and all the incredible, versatile, generous artists it encompasses. Teaching with Emerald City Theatre has been a true joy! 


Rose Shapiro HeadshotRose Shapiro (She/Her/Hers) is an educator and director with a BA from Washington University in St. Louis. She is an Ensemble Member at Imagination Theater and has worked in theater education at Emerald City Theatre, The Stage School, and Compass Creative Dramatics. In addition, Rose has worked in the Artistic Department of Collaboraction Theatre, as a Program Specialist with Boosterthon, and in the Development Department at MCC Theater in New York. She moved from New Jersey and has been loving her time in Chicago ever since. 

Adam Sherman HeadshotAdam Sherman (He/Him/His) is an actor and comedian who grew up in Deerfield, IL. After graduating from Chapman University with a BFA in Theatre Performance, he spent several years in LA, but there’s something about Chicago that just feels right! He has performed in film, television, and theaters throughout the Chicagoland area, and is a part of the Conservatory at Second City. In addition to acting, he has been a camp counselor at an all-boys overnight camp, where he helped run the improv program. Adam has always enjoyed working with kids and being able to combine that with his love for theater is just icing on the cake.

Rachel Sherman headshot

Rachel Sherman (She/Her/Hers) 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. Outside of ECT, Rachel guest lectures for Harold Washington College’s theater department and is the Director of Engagement for The Chicago Artists Chorale where she sings with the Chorale and Chicago Artists Ensemble. 

Lisa Siciliano headshotLisa Siciliano (She/Her/Hers) is an actress, director, writer, producer, and educator who hails from Cleveland, OH. Lisa has taught with Lifeline Theatre, American Theatre 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. Lisa graduated cum laude and with distinction in the theatre studies major from Yale University in 2005. She has a Master of Science in Elementary Education from Northwestern. 


Tom Simmermaker HeadshotTom Simmermaker (He/Him/His) is a writer and performer from Little Rock, Arkansas. He graduated from Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee with a B.A. in English. In 2016 he was awarded the Anne Howard Bailey Prize for Creative Writing. He currently performs comedy around the city with his Harold team at iO Chicago and his independent improv team at The Second City. Tom has a passion for photography, poetry, and education. He volunteers weekly with the tutoring organization Chicago LIGHTS, and he is thrilled to be working with Emerald City Theatre as a teaching artist!



Rebeccah Singer (She/Her/Hers) 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. 


Colie Smigliani HeadshotColie Smigliani (She/Her/Hers) has always loved teaching and working with young people. She has worked as an advisor through Roosevelt University’s Peer Mentor and now is here teaching at Emerald City Theatre! Colie is a Musical Theatre graduate from the Chicago College of Performing Arts where she played Lil Becky Two Shoes in Urinetown the Musical and Featured Soloist in Godspell. Colie can also be seen in her most recent movie No Where to Run, coming to Netflix in 2019. She is so incredibly excited to begin working with Emerald City Theatre and the bright and passionate students they always bring in.

Rachel Smith HeadshotRachel Smith (She/Her/Hers) is a writer and performer originally from Houston, Texas. After graduating from Baylor University, she moved to Chicago and can be seen at iO Theater with the teams Devil’s Daughter and Dreamboat, CiC with the team The Dark Web or at The Second City where she’s part of a house company. She has loved her time with Emerald City Theatre and is thankful to be a part of such a wonderful group of people!


Jessica Smoot HeadshotJessica Smoot (She/Her/Hers) 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 (He/Him/His) 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 (She/Her/Hers) 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.


Annie Sullivan HeadshotAnnie Sullivan (She/Her/Hers) is a performer and writer in the Chicagoland area who originally hails from Kansas City. She is a recent graduate of Columbia College Chicago with a BA in Comedy Writing and Performance. Annie believes theater should seek to inspire and empower audiences of all ages.


Allison Taylor (She/Her/Hers) is excited to be working for Emerald City Theatre, as she loves teaching Musical Theatre to kids! She is an Actress, Singer, Voice Over Artist and Teaching Artist. She is an alum of Michigan State University with her Bachelors in Theatre and has been performing in Chicago since 2012. She also is a graduate of Second City’s Music Conservatory Program. When she is not performing or teaching, Allison can be found biking throughout the city while singing her favorite jams! 

Danny Taylor headshot

Danny Taylor (He/Him/His) joined Emerald City Theatre for The Wizard of Oz. Holding a double BA from Hope College in Dance and Theatre, Danny’s Chicago credits include Company (Griffin Theatre) and The Good Soul of Szechuan and Old Town (Strawdog Theatre). 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 (She/Her/Hers) 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. She has lent her voice to many animated shorts, including Childlike and Ayyappan. Her original play Space Camp was produced by the Whiskey Radio Hour. 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. 


Sara VazquezSara Vazquez (She/Her/Hers) is delighted to teach at Emerald City Theatre! She holds a BA in Theatre from Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, MI and has been working in Theatre for Young Audiences for years. Sara has worked as a director, actor, stage manager, and/or teaching artist for companies like Lexington Children’s Theatre (Lexington, KY), American Shakespeare Center (Staunton, VA) and New American Folk Theatre (Chicago, IL). She has toured through nearly 20 states with various productions and loves meeting new people and seeing new places. In her limited free time, Sara enjoys karaoke, board games, and binge-watching The Office.

Carley Walker HeadshotCarley Walker (She/Her/Hers) 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! 


Lucy Walker HeadshotLucy Walker (She/Her/Hers) is an actress and comedian who hails from Portland, Oregon, where she taught and performed with Oregon Children’s Theatre. She attended Seattle University where she earned a degree in political science and theater and worked with various schools and educational programs in the greater Seattle area. Since moving to Chicago, she has worked with The Second City, iO Theatre, CIC theatre, and the Neo-Futurists. When not teaching, you can find her performing at many different theaters around the city, drinking lots of coffee, and reading good books.


Anthony Whitaker HeadshotAnthony Whitaker (He/Him/His) is the Co-Artistic Director of the New American Folk Theatre, where he wrote, directed, or performed in Two from the Trailer Court: Dirty Girl and Salome Goes All the Way!, The Marvelous Land of Oz, Dark of the Moon, Johnny Drago’s Trash, and the Midwest premiere of Deep In The Heart of Tuna, Hot Pink Or Ready To Blow. He directed the Jeff Award-nominated The Summer of Daisy Fay and wrote their most recent show, Scraps. With Emerald City Theatre, Anthony has appeared in Hercules Saves the World and ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas, as well as costuming Hercules and Rapunzel.

Carly Wicks HeadshotCarly Wicks (She/Her/Hers) is a comedienne and performing artist who focuses mainly on creating new work through improvisation and physical theater. She trained at the Burlesk Center Clown School in Switzerland, has a B.A. in Theater from the University of Minnesota, and is a graduate of the Second City Conservatory Improv program.! She has been a teaching artist for over ten years and enjoys collaboratively creating new plays with kids using improvisation and writing exercises. She’s so excited to be teaching with Emerald City Theatre!

headshot_wilson_katKat Wilson (She/Her/Hers) is a new resident of Chicago, and ecstatic to be a part of the Emerald City Theatre Teaching Staff. She graduated from Baylor University with a BFA in Theatre Performance. She has worked with youth most of her undergraduate career and 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. She is ready to create with the students of Emerald City Theatre and delighted to work with the youth of Chicago. 

Kayla Zaniboni HeadshotOriginally from Boston, Kayla Zaniboni (She/Her/Hers) 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. 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


Bessie Zolno HeadshotBessie Zolno (She/Her/Hers) 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).