Celebrating New Jersey's Theatre Education Leaders
The arts play a huge influence in the lives of New Jersey residents, from children to teenagers to adults. This year, New Jersey Theatre Alliance will honor the education and outreach leaders of our member theatres for their contributions to the advancement of arts education. Because their students vary in age from children to adults, our member theatres offer a wide range of educational programs. Executive Director, John McEwen believes “the talent and dedication of our theatre education leaders enrich the lives of young people and adults through innovative programs that build self-esteem and encourage self-expression.”
This year, each theatre has selected an exceptional theatre educator who will receive an Award of Excellence at our Curtain Call event in Asbury Park on October 22.
Actors Shakespeare Company
Maren Sugarman is a graduate of NYU, Tisch School of the Arts, and holds a NJ Standard Certificate in Speech Arts and Dramatics. She has worked with Tina Packer (Founding Artistic Director, Shakespeare and Company, Lenox, MA), Robert Langdon Lloyd (Peter Brook's Company member) and studied voice with Kristin Linklater. A director for many NJ theaters and schools, she has been nominated for both MSU Theatre Night and NJAct Perry Awards. Since 2014, she has directed productions for Shakespeare at Lambert Castle, for ATC Studios' Summer Shakespeare Conservatory. For Actors Shakespeare Company, in addition to having served as a teaching artist at The Ethical Community Charter School, she has directed Shakespeare in the Parking Space, in conjunction with Hudson Transit Authority's yearly Parking Day observances, since 2014. She currently teaches Performing Arts for grades K-3 at Empowerment Academy Charter School, Jersey City.
Timur Kocak trained at the Poor School in London. Actors Shakespeare Company: Hamlet (title role), Much Ado About Nothing, Merry Wives of Windsor, Two Gentlemen of Verona, As You Like It, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Tempest, Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice, Henry V, King John, Twelfth Night, Logomaniacs, and The Three Musketeers. Recent New York theatre credits include: a one-man version of A Christmas Carol (NYC and national tour), Shotspeare! (NYC, national tour and Australia), Coriolanus (title role) and Waiting for Godot. London credits include: Hot Stuff in the West End, a UK tour of Romeo and Juliet, Edinburgh Fringe Festival and European tour of Ridiculusmus' The Exhibitionists, as well as Airbase and 27 Wagons Full of Cotton both with the RSC Fringe Festival, also As You Like It and Henry V. Television and film credits include “Law and Order: SVU”, “Chuck”, and “The Last Cyclist.”
Art House Productions
Angela Kariotis is winner of the NJSCA Playwriting Fellowship, Puffin Foundation Grant, and National Performance Network Creation Fund Award. Her solo work has been presented by venues such as UCLA, UT-Austin, The Hip Hop Theater Festival and Fringe NYC. Kariotis is faculty in the Department of Communication, Journalism, and Public Relations at Seton Hall University. She teaches literacy through the arts and art-making as a liberatory practice within communities for folk ages 5 to 85. Her work is committed to racial, economic, and environmental justice.
Cape May Stage
Amy Hadam has been teaching dance and theatre for over a decade. Her love for theatre education began in high school when she participated in a program called Social Issues Theatre where she and her classmates toured an anti-bullying piece to the elementary schools in the school district. Amy attended Kean University where she earned her B.A. in Theatre Education with a K-12 Teacher Certification for the State of New Jersey. After graduating, Amy has taught for small-scale community programs such as Kinetic Kids in Verona, The Club at Woodbridge, and Pucci Performing Arts Centre as well as professional theatre companies such as George Street Playhouse and Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre. For the last three years, Amy has been working for Pequannock Township High School as the choreographer for their musicals. She is so excited to be given the opportunity to develop programs and teach for Cape May Stage!
Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre
Lulu French first took improv classes at Gotham City Improv over two decades ago and has been improvising ever since. In addition to being a graduate of GCI, she has also studied improv under Amy Poehler, Matt Walsh, and Matt Besser — original members of the Upright Citizens Brigade, Armando Diaz — founder of the Magnet Theater, various Second City alumni such as Todd Stashwick and improv masters Michael Gellman, Dave Razowsky, and Aretha Sills. She has appeared in numerous improv performances in NYC improv theaters such as Gotham City Improv, the Magnet Theater, and Upright Citizens Brigade. Lulu has been teaching improv since 2000 and has had the privilege to teach for organizations such as Gotham City Improv, The Queens Theater in the Park, Arts Horizons, The Theater Project, The South Orange Maplewood Adult School, IN Studios, Beyond the Bell, and Dreamcatcher Rep in addition to teaching corporate improv workshops for companies such as Pfizer, Novartis and AstraZeneca. She is also the owner and primary instructor of Rocket Improv. She is currently a cast member of the improv group, Gary Austin's The Classroom which performs at the PIT in NYC and the recently formed improv group, Montclair Improv which performs monthly in Montclair, NJ.
Kimberly Suskind is a professional actress and teaching artist based in Southern New Jersey. She currently hails as the Director of Youth Education for The Eagle Theatre, South Jersey's only year-round Equity Theatre, in Hammonton. Kimberly has been focused on shaping young performing artists for over ten years and was the creator of Eagle Theatre Conservatory, a year-round program devoted to the development of a well-rounded arts education for our stars of tomorrow! Along with The Eagle Theatre, Kimberly has worked with and provided master classes for numerous educational institutions including The Boston Conservatory, Rising Stars Performing Arts Company, Cedar Brook Dance Academy, Overbrook High School, and more! Kimberly is also a private tap teacher, voice teacher, and a vocal and audition prep coach. She holds a BFA in musical theatre from The Boston Conservatory. For more information, please visit www.KimberlySuskind.com
East Lynne Theater Company
In 2001, Robert LeMaire auditioned for a role at East Lynne Theater Company. Since then, Robert has been in numerous ELTC productions. In 2017, Robert started directing ELTC's Student Summer Workshop. When not acting, Robert works full time as a Technology Specialist for Ocean City Schools. When not fixing computers, he directs plays and musicals at OCHS. He is President of the Board of Trustees for Charter Tech High School for the Performing Arts. Robert thanks his wife Kate who has been his biggest fan for 27 years. He has two children (Sara and Bobby) and a new granddaughter (Saoirse). “Thank you Gayle, Lee, and ELTC for the opportunity to share my passion for performing, with young actors.”
George Street Playhouse
As Director of Education and Outreach, Jim Jack leads George Street Playhouse's Academy, School-based Residency Programs, Educational Touring Theatre, and Mainstage Audience Engagement Initiatives that serve over 40,000 students and patrons annually. Jim designed and developed GSP's innovative School-based Residency Programs, which annually provides theatre arts integration for 3,000 students in 135 classrooms across New Jersey. As recognition for his leadership in the field of arts education, Jim received the 2017 New Jersey Governor's Award for Distinguished Service in Theatre Arts Education. As a director, recent credits include Trying, My Name is Asher Lev, (*The Star Ledger's Best Production of 2016) and Terra Incognita for George Street Playhouse. Jim also produced, devised and directed Our Town Now, a play based on fifty oral interviews with people who live and work in New Brunswick. Jim produced and wrote the book for Anytown, a new touring musical about the opioid crisis that premiered in September. He will direct The Immigrant for GSP's mainstage in March 2019.
Luna Stage Company
Kaitlin Stilwell is beginning her fourth season as a dramaturg at Luna Stage where some of her favorite creations include The Context Room, PlayGym, and a High School Night featuring the short plays of NJ high school playwrights. She has worked in the literary offices of Urban Stages, The Mint Theater Company, the Hangar Theater, and McCarter Theatre, where she assisted playwrights Marina Carr, Danai Gurira, and John Guare on premieres of their new plays. As a freelance dramaturg, she has developed plays with Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Southern Writers' Project at Alabama Shakespeare Festival, McCarter Theatre's Youth Ink! Festival, McCarter's Teen Solo Performance Camp, and with many individual writers. Kaitlin has done research for the Abbey Theatre in Dublin and the Rodgers and Hammerstein Company in New York. Her postgraduate work in England culminated in a dissertation on the dramaturgy of climate change plays. Kaitlin also teaches in the theater department at Montclair State University.
McCarter Theatre Center and Passage Theatre
Josh A Campbell is a Philly based theater artist who has worked as a teaching artist, dramaturg, playwright, producer, director, and arts administrator for Azuka Theatre, Flashpoint Theatre Company, Juniper Productions, Philadelphia Young Playwrights, the Wilma, Philadelphia Theatre Company, and the McCarter Theater. His plays include On the Seventh Day, Surviving the Dream, Liberi Tutti, Distill: A Rally Cry for the America People. As an actor he has been appeared in the 2018 New Jersey One Minute Play Festival, The Colored Museum, and the Painted Bride as part of their annual Bridal Salon. He is an alumnus of the Foundry, 2016 finalist for the Many Voices Fellowship and Jerome Fellowship, and the 2015 BAU Institute Otranto Arts and Culture Fellow. He is a graduate of the University of the Arts and the Baltimore School for the Arts.
Mile Square Theatre
Sarah Weber Gallo is a dancemaker, performer, and dance educator based in Hoboken, NJ, where she is Dance Director for Mile Square Theatre and MST Dance Academy. The Academy, now in its fourth year, offers Pre-Professional dance training to students aged 3-Adult in Ballet, Pointe, Contemporary, Jazz/Theatre Dance, Tap, Hip Hop, and Flamenco. In collaboration with MST Dance Academy’s unparalleled instructors, Sarah also coordinates the after school Dance Enrichment program for the Hoboken Board of Education and All Saints Episcopal Day School. MST is proud to offer a robust scholarship program, work study, and internship opportunities to young people in Hoboken and Hudson County.
As resident choreographer, Sarah has created three evening-length works for MST, “FUNHEAD,” “The Magic Hour,” and “Much Ado About Cucumbers & Cigars,” as well as choreographing MST main stage productions “The Garden of Rikki Tikki Tavi,” “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown,” “Goodnight Moon,” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Her other choreographic works have been presented and supported by Roulette Intermedium, The Iron Factory, Center for Performance Research, Art House Productions, Indy Convergence, and Danceworks Milwaukee, where she won the 2015 New Work Award. Sarah is a senior member of the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, where she has been featured in the work of such choreographers and directors as Phillipe Gerard, André Serban, Doug Varone, Mary Zimmerman, Julie Taymor, Graciela Danielle, Benjamin Millepied, Christopher Wheeldon, and Robert Lepage. Other performance credits include American Dance Machine for the 21st Century, Donald Byrd/The Group, and the Radio City Rockettes. She also teaches for the Joffrey Jazz & Contemporary Division, and holds an M.F.A. in Dance from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee and a B.A. in Psychology from Goucher College.
Paper Mill Playhouse
Lisa E. Cooney has been with the Paper Mill Playhouse Education and Outreach department since 1998 and in 2007 became the Director of Education. Now in her 21st season at Paper Mill, she oversees the development and management of the Tony winning theater's nationally recognized education and outreach programs including the Rising Star Awards, the Adopt-a-School Project, the Paper Mill Theater School, Theater For Everyone/Autism-Friendly performances, Paper Mill Prep College Discovery & Audition Coaching, the Paper Mill Playhouse Broadway Show Choir, the Actor's Fund Actor's Home Residency and the Summer Professional Training Programs & New Voices Concert. Lisa has a long history in the New Jersey arts education community and has planned many successful programs for a variety of providers in the state. Prior to her long tenure at Paper Mill, Lisa was the Director of the NJ Summer Arts Institute at Mason Gross School of the Arts/Rutgers University and served on the Board of the Institute for Arts & Humanities Education. Additionally, Lisa has managed events and programs for Newark Symphony Hall, the State Theater and George Street Playhouse. Lisa served on the 2010 conference planning committee and 2016 grant panel for the National Alliance for Musical Theatre and has co-chaired the Rules & Regulations committee for the National High School Musical Theater Awards. She is the recipient of the 2015 New Jersey Governor's Jefferson Award for Public Service and the 2010 New Jersey Governor's Award in Arts Education for Distinguished Service in the field. Lisa also accepted the 2011 Innovators Awards from the Cultural Access Network of NJ for designing and implementing Autism-Friendly performances for children with autism and other developmental disabilities. In March of 2017 Lisa was invited to speak about Paper Mill's programs at the Public Meeting of the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington DC. She serves as consultant on Autism-Friendly programs to performing arts centers around the country, most notably the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. Lisa graduated from Rutgers University and currently resides in Sparta, NJ.
Premiere Stages at Kean University
Courtney Little is a producer, general manager, and casting director. She previously worked for Richards/Climan, Inc., where she assisted on many Broadway productions including Fiddler on the Roof, China Doll, and Dames at Sea. As the Office Administrator at Olympus Theatricals, she worked on the Broadway and National Tour productions of Love Letters. Her freelance credits include the Off-Broadway production of Dean Poynor's Together We Are Making A Poem In Honor Of Life. Courtney has also worked in various capacities for New York Stage & Film, McCarter Theatre Center, Barrington Stage Company, and Mousetrap Theatre Projects in London. She is a member of New Jersey Emerging Arts Leaders. She holds a B.A. in Theatre Arts from Clark University in Worcester, MA.
Harry Patrick Christian is a long-time Dreamcatcher Repertory Theater member and recently appeared as Louis de Rougemont in their production of Shipwrecked and most recently acted in the Theater Project's Hunchback of Seville. Also at Dreamcatcher, Harry directed Motherhood Out Loud and has acted in many plays such as Electric Baby, This, The Other Place, The Language Archive and the original musical, The Neighborhood. In other Dreamcatcher shows, Harry has been seen stranded at the airport in the hit romantic show, "Shooting Star" and over the years he has portrayed a 9-year old boy with ADHD, a mnemonist, a firefighter, a fertility doctor, a singing college track coach, an Irish cook, a bisexual green-skinned alien, a one-legged groundskeeper, a tortured lady-of-the-manor, and a schizo with a sock puppet. Harry is also a very proud member of the Pushcart Players where he has worked as an arts instructor and actor (over 3000 performances) for over 25 years. He has performed in several original off-Broadway productions in NYC, national and international touring shows, TV, radio, and at many of NJ's best professional theaters, including Luna Stage, 12 Miles West, What Exit? and Bickford Theatre. Harry is a member of SAG/AFTRA and AEA. Harry is a long-time director at Essex Youth Theater and at Arizona's Del E. Webb Center.
Skyline Theatre Company
Michele McConnell is a native of Indianapolis, this honorary "Jersey Girl" has called NJ home for over 22 years! Michele most recently appeared with national symphonies in My Fair Lady in Concert. Michele made her Broadway debut in The Phantom of the Opera, performing the starring role of Carlotta for a record-breaking 6 years and over 2200 performances!
Other career highlights: Camelot (National. Tour w/Robert Goulet), NYGASP at City Center, Beauty and the Beast (Montreal/Las Vegas), Carly Simon's Romulus Hunt (NY Theatre Workshop), and numerous recordings for Hal Leonard Publishing. Michele has traveled to over 115 countries performing on luxury cruise ships with her husband, baritone Duane McDevitt.
Michele teaches voice at NJCU, and serves on the Board of Trustees for Skyline Theatre Company. She's a graduate of Butler University, a member of Actor's Equity Association, and a Mary Kay Independent Sales Director (driving a free Mary Kay car!).
Speranza Theatre Company
Working with children can provide some of the most satisfying moments of Mikaela Kafka's career. For the past two years along with directing Speranza's Main stage; Women Rising: Stories of Hope, Unveiling Liberty, and History Alive, she has been the director of their Summer Camp. This week intensive is so thrilling as the kids create and collaborate to make their own play. It is fitting as the bulk of my career has been "new works." Along with Speranza, as director she has worked with Centenary Stage Company, Mystic Visions at Hamilton Stages, Wendy's Shadow (2016 PERRY Award - Outstanding Original Production of a New Musical), Garage Theatre, New York International Fringe Festival, and The Players Theatre in NYC. As an actress, favorite shows include, The Maids, Night Mother (Garage), Light up the Sky (CSC), and An Empty Plate...(The Arden). In addition to her work with Speranza's Youth programs, she also has worked with New Jersey School of Dramatic Arts, and Big Bright Theatre Kids.
The Growing Stage: The Children's Theatre of New Jersey
A BFA graduate of Drake University, Lori has previously studied at the Eugene O'Neill/National Theatre Institute in Waterford, Connecticut and Le Theatre de Amandiers in Paris, France. As Director of Educational Programming, she oversees the educational component of all our productions, and coordinates fall and spring class sessions as well as our Summer Arts Day Camp, as well as all workshops and residencies. As a professional teaching artist herself, Lori has established year-long workshops for both public and private schools in Mount Olive, Stanhope, the El Primer Paso Pre-School in Dover, as well as for the BRIGHT Co-op Home School Association which impacts young people throughout northwestern New Jersey. Lori has also created an ongoing collaboration with the Morris County Council of Girl Scouts by providing six "Master Class" opportunities throughout the academic calendar. In 2009, Lori was named the Arts Educator of the Year from Morris Arts.
As a director at The Growing Stage, Lori has overseen the production of a number of New Jersey premieres including, Still Life with Iris, Junglebook, The Snow Queen, and most recently the holiday musical, CINDERELLA, A Holiday Musical. Lori has directed our school presentations of Fairie Tales, Poetry & Fun, as well as the current production of Tales from the Garden which celebrates the history and lore of New Jersey and has had over 400 performances throughout our state. In this capacity Lori has not only overseen the performance of the piece, but also the creation of teacher study guides, learning packets and has conducted talk-back sessions between the students and the professional performing artists after each show.
The Theater Project
Mary Iannelli has been working with children in various capacities 40+ years, and began Theater Project Jr in 2007. She has also directed many readings and plays in support of Theater Project's Playwrights Workshop and annual Young Playwrights Competition. For the past 10 summers, she has participated in the Broadway Teachers Workshop in NYC. In 2015, she was able to bring the SFNY program to TPJ, where veterans of Broadway's Legally Blonde production coached the young TPJ cast and shared experiences and stories. Mary has always believed that the arts is a great way for children to discover the arts and realize their full potential. Nothing gives her more pleasure than seeing her "kids" grow in their ability to express themselves. She recently retired from Prudential and is working on finishing her bucket list, which includes visiting all 50 states (9 more to go!) and plans on moving to Florida in the next few years.
Two River Theater
Kate Cordaro has served as Two River Theater's Director of Education since 2004, building their education department from the ground up. Under her guidance, TRT has become an artistic home for thousands of students through programs like A Little Shakespeare, Metro Scholars, Summer Intensives, Spectrum Theater Classes, TheaterWorks, First Monday Masters, Relaxed Performances, and a vibrant student matinee series. Favorite directing projects for young people include Bridge to Terabithia, Narnia, Charlotte's Web, as well as Alice, Eat the Taste, four installments of The Heroes Project, Neverland and Middle School Mysteries for TRT. Kate studied at the Stella Adler Conservatory and Musical Theater Works through NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. In a past life, she was an actor whose favorite roles include Lady Anne in Richard III, Benvolio in Romeo and Juliet, Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors, Dorine in Tartuffe, Mill Worker/Cleaning Woman in Working and Fraulein Doktor Mathilde Von Zahnd in The Physicists at Soho Rep. Kate is crazy in love with Kevin and Marcus Camoosa.
Writers Theatre of New Jersey
Jim DeVivo is an artist, educator, and researcher specializing in new plays for and by young people. As part of his work as Director of Education at Writers Theatre of New Jersey, Jim produces annual youth playwriting programs including the NJ Young Playwrights Contest & Festival. He is also Artistic Associate for the New Plays for Young Audiences Series at NYU and an advisory board member for performing arts academies in Middlesex and Union counties. Jim has presented at international theatre conferences and recently developed a playwriting festival for New Jersey Thespians. He is a recipient of the Lowell S. and Nancy Swortzell Graduate Scholarship, a NJ Governor's Award for Arts Education, and is a member of the Liverpool Central School District Fine Arts Hall of Fame, and his dissertation proposal was a finalist for the Phi Delta Kappa Dissertation Award in 2015. Jim holds a B.F.A. in theatre and English from Niagara University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Educational Theatre from New York University. He is also a proud father of three.
Leading up to Curtain Call, we will spotlight our honorees on social media. Be sure to connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to meet our dynamic teaching artists before the big event. If you would like to thank your favorite educator by placing an ad in our program journal, complete the form below and return it with artwork to Laurice Grae-Hauck at firstname.lastname@example.org.