YADA Founders, Directors, Designers, Artists & Team Members

Guided by their vision to create a musical theatre experience for YADA families that is second to none in production value, Lani and Kim consistently attract and employ top Los Angeles talent in all creative disciplines. The quality in each YADA production is apparent from the coaching and professional instruction provided by YADA directors to the top L.A. design talent that contribute to the look of each production.

The YADA Directors are all working professional L.A area actors, performers and musicians active in roles in theatre, television and other performance expression. The contributing YADA design team are also professional makeup artists, set designers, lighting designers and music supervisors. It is this "spare no expense, attention to each detail" that sets YADA apart in the crowded world of children's theatre companies. But it is this same passion that also attracts and creates a loyal base of directors and design talent that love YADA and are inspired by the YADA vision to impact the lives of the YADA kids they teach. See below how awesome YADA's Team is!

 

Lani Shipman Walrod

Co-Owner

Lani Shipman Walrod

Co-Owner

Lani was raised in Hawaii and is the fourth generation in a family of writers, dancers, singers, actors, producers and directors. A graduate of Beverly Hills High School, she received her BFA degree in Acting from the University of Southern California. Having received a wonderful children’s theatre experience, she feels that working with children now is her way of giving back all she was given. With a career that spans from her early teens to present, Lani has recorded, performed, improvsied and sung her way from Off-Broadway to Los Angeles.  She truly believes each and every student at YADA is amazing and encourages them to follow their dreams let their voices be heard!

    Kim Harrigan

    Co-Owner

    Kim Harrigan

    Co-Owner

    Kim has co-owned YADA for 24 years and has directed children for over 16 years in the Los Angeles area. She comes from a small town in Iowa where theatre was her life as a child. She started YADA in order to create a healthy, supportive environment for kids to play and have fun. Kim graduated from ASU with a BFA in acting and has performed in numerous productions. She worked as a dancer at Walt Disney World for five years and when she is not working at YADA, she enjoys adventure in the wild outdoors with her family.

      Carrie-ann Pishnak

      Executive Director & Artistic Director of YADA Improv Program

      Carrie-ann Pishnak

      Executive Director & Artistic Director of YADA Improv Program

      Carrie-ann Pishnak is a proud member of SAG-AFTRA and AEA. She holds a BA in Theatre from UNLV, is a graduate of Nerdist improv program, The Second City Conservatory, Short Form and Long Form programs, and was classically trained at the British American Drama Academy in Oxford. Carrie-ann is a corporate narrator, a freelance producer and marketing brand specialist, as well as being an adjunct professor at CalArts where she teaches Improv. She is proud and grateful to have been an educator at various schools (including YADA) for over 30 years. You can catch Carrie-ann performing around town with her improv team, Aeroplane, and hanging out at home with her cat, Monster.

        Dan Graul

        Chief Operating Officer, Technical Director and Director

        Dan Graul

        Chief Operating Officer, Technical Director and Director

        Dan Graul has been a teaching artist with YADA since Summer 2007. He also serves as Technical Director for the company and has designed and built many sets on the YADA stage across the years. Professionally, Dan has directed and co-created various theatrical productions and short films, including Wicca Please!, Magickal Monsters and most recently - Nerd Anarchy: The Spectacular D&D Musical! Dan grew up in St. Louis, MO and graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a BA in Theatre and a Minor in Dance. Before moving to LA, he spent some time living in New York City and travelling the country, working as an actor with various regional theatres. Dan can be found around the LA music scene playing guitar and singing with various rock n’ roll outfits – most notably psychedelic folk rock band Northern Strangers, a group Dan co-founded with his awesome wife Rebecca and her brother Will. In 2015 Northern Strangers released their second original album Where The River Goes, recorded and produced by Antoine Arvizu (Sublime, Ryan Bingham, Free Moral Agents). www.northernstrangers.com

         

          Nicholas Acciani

          Production Manager, Scenic and Projection Designer

          Nicholas Acciani

          Production Manager, Scenic and Projection Designer

          Born and Raised in New Jersey, Nicholas moved to LA in 2009 and has since made his mark as an Artist and Educator in Film, TV and Theatre. In addition to designing for YADA, Nicholas has designed Sets and Projections all around LA at Theatres including 2Cents Theatre, Theatre Unleashed, Celebration Theatre, among others. In 2018 he won the Ovation Award for Scenic Design (Intimate Theatre) with his design of 33 Variations at the Actors Co-op, one of many shows he has designed for and worked on with the company. As an educator he has taught and designed at California School of the Arts - San Gabriel Valley and Village Christian School; his set for The Music Man at Village Christian took home the Jerry Herman Award in 2019. A Writer, Director and Actor as well, Nicholas hosts a series of Educational Backstage Videos which can be found, along with up to date works, at www.nickach.com.

            Rebecca Graul

            Musical Supervisor & Director

            Rebecca Graul

            Musical Supervisor & Director

            Rebecca started playing piano for musical theater at 17 and has never stopped!  Aside from being YADA's music supervisor, she works regularly as a musical director, vocal coach, and pianist for theatre all over Los Angeles and is a Center Theater Group Teaching Artist. Rebecca campaigns for the accessibility of the arts, writing musicals for Kaiser Permanente's Educational Theatre tours and training teachers in Title 1 schools to develop sustainable theatre programs as a Teaching Artist in the Disney Musicals in Schools program.  She holds a BFA from Cal State Fullerton and has composed/produced music for films, commercials, webseries, musicals and tv shows, including 3 Best Film award-winners, a "Best Original Score" award in LA's New Wave Film Festival, a “Best Original Song Written For Film” nomination in Hollywood's Feel Good Film Festival, 3 nominations in Hollywood Fringe and a "Best in Fringe" award in Maui Fringe (2018), and ASCAP membership earned along the way.  She also has produced several albums (solo and collaborative) and performs regularly with the psychedelic folk rock group Northern Strangers.

              Amanda Perez

              Amanda Perez

              Operations Supervisor

              Amanda Perez

              Operations Supervisor

              Amanda was a Director for six years In New York at ApplauseNY. While managing the after-school division she taught dance, singing, improv, acting for camera, and directed the musical theater workshops on the weekends to kids ranging from 5yrs-15yrs. After graduating from the prestigious High School of Performing Arts, Amanda went on to earn her B.F.A in Dramatic Performance at the College Conservatory of Music (CCM). She has been featured in national commercials and has appeared in several TV shows including Modern Family, Ground Floor, and Gossip Girl. Amanda has also appeared in various readings and plays in New York–her favorite being the New York premiere of Knives and Other Sharp Objects produced by The Public Theater. Amanda is thrilled to be living in Los Angeles continuing to share her love for theater with the incredible YADA students.

              UPDATE: Amanda has recently been promoted to YADA's Operations Supervisor! You'll still see her in all of your 3rd St classrooms as she helps oversee smooth operations of the students and staff!

                Tiffany Berube

                Office Manager

                Tiffany Berube

                Office Manager

                Tiffany is an actor, Indie TV and sketch writer and producer and is so excited to return to her musical theatre roots at YADA! She holds her BA in Communication and Theatre from The University of Hartford, as well as a Dance Education Certification from the Dance Teacher's Club of Boston and a Child Performer Services Permit. She has trained with Howard Fine, Actors Comedy Studio and The Groundlings School in LA and continues to take dance classes around town. Tiffany is an on-camera audition coach for kids and teens and helped run the youth division at Actors Comedy Studio. She is an Associate Teaching Faculty member at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (AADA) where she teaches Sitcom Acting and Audition Technique, and was a teaching artist at Edge Performing Arts Center. Tiffany received an Indie Series Awards nomination for Best Lead Actress in a Comedy for her self-produced series, "The Tiffany and Erin Show." You can watch her being pulled out of Flo's apron in a very silly Progressive Commercial or occasionally on stage at Westside Comedy Theatre. She loves working in performing arts education and helping young artists express themselves and find their path in the industry. Tiffany is originally from Boston but will disappoint you with her lack of sports knowledge. When not at YADA, you can find her hiking or at the dog park with her Chi-Poo, Falkor!

                  Amanda Hinkley

                  Assistant Office Manager

                  Amanda Hinkley

                  Assistant Office Manager

                  Amanda Hinkley is a writer with a comedic edge garnered over the last nine years. She graduated from Kansas State University with a Bachelor's in Broadcast Journalism & Digital Media. She then made her way to Chicago, where she honed her comedic voice through The Second City Chicago's advanced writing track and The Harold Ramis Film School (now The Second City Film School). She then moved to L.A. and graduated from The Second City Hollywood's Conservatory. Her short film, "Uncertainship," has won awards at festivals like Los Angeles CineFest, International New York Film Festival, and Golden State Film Festival. Her self-proclaimed "sun / moon / rising" of films are: She's the Man / About Time / Palm Springs. You can now catch her performing in the Rockin' Awesome Improv Show!

                    Sarah Holder

                    Inclusive Culture Consultant

                    Sarah Holder

                    Inclusive Culture Consultant

                    SARAH HOLDER (they/she) is an equity and inclusion consultant, educator, and trainer with nearly two decades of experience leading inclusive culture change through organizational development, leadership skill building, and team-wide learning. They have experience with organizations of all types and specialize in nonprofit and education environments. In their role with YADA they work with all levels of the organization to improve policies, practices, and relationship skills so that staff and students from all backgrounds thrive together. www.practicaldei.com.

                      Rachel Ticas

                      Registrar

                      Rachel Ticas

                      Registrar

                      Part-time New Yorker and “California Girl,” Rachel made the move from Northern California to Los Angeles to complete an internship to finish her degree in Music Therapy and pursue a continued career in music. Before joining YADA, Rachel completed a Music Therapy internship at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles where she provided family-centered care for patients and families through music therapy services. She has her Bachelors of Music in Music Therapy from the Conservatory of Music at the University of the Pacific (UOP) in Stockton, CA. Performing and playing French Horn is one of Rachel’s passions and she has had the opportunities to play at Carnegie Hall with Pacific’s Symphonic Wind Ensemble and manage and perform with the Pacific Heavy Ensemble, UOP’s very first and only student-led metal orchestral ensemble. Rachel is excited to be a part of the team and is ready to help YADA in any way she can!

                        Craig Hissong

                        Assistant Technical Director

                        Craig Hissong

                        Assistant Technical Director

                        Craig is a multi faceted entertainment industry technician. Involved in theater consistently since he portrayed Frank Burns in his high school production of M*A*S*H in 2004, he has taken on many roles including Stage Manager, Technical Director, Light Board Operator, Lighting Designer, Teacher and occasional Actor. Raised in Yorkville, IL, he has made Los Angeles his second home since moving out here in 2010. Since then he has been involved in countless theatrical productions all around Los Angeles, worked on several films and TV shows, including a long stint at NBC’s The Voice, and secured an NAACP Theatre Award nomination in 2016. (Best Lighting Local) He holds an AA in Mass Comm from Waubonsee Community College and a BA in Film and Cinema from Columbia College Chicago. He is also currently on staff as a Technical Director at the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre. A long time creative itch has led to co-writing seven screenplays, multiple treatments, one TV pilot script and a stage musical about the life of Nikola Tesla for which he was the lead lyricist and co producer.

                          Jose Acain

                          Improv Instructor

                          Jose Acain

                          Improv Instructor

                          Jose left the world of robots and spaceships and found a home at Second City Hollywood completing their Conservatory and Director's program. He's currently performing with house teams "Shortcake" and "Alfred." Outside of Second City he’s one half of the duo improv/writing group “Lime and Coconut,” tries not to get brown bagged at Comedysportz LA, and tours with Westside Comedy Theater. He also performs in musicals and Shakespeare plays around L.A. and writes music for animations, sketch shows, and Indonesian chicken commercials. Regional theater credits include: A Midsummer Night's Dream (ISC), In Trump We Trust (Second City Hollywood), Once Upon A Mattress (T.A.P.), A Funny Thing...Forum (Theatre Palisades), and West Side Story (WVLO). Lots of love to Erin and Kaia Fae for always believing.

                            Charli Arkle

                            Director

                            Charli Arkle

                            Director

                            Charli Arkle, an actress and teaching artist from Western Sydney, Australia, grew up training in RAD ballet, competition dance, and ADA tap and jazz at the McDonald College. She made the leap to Los Angeles in 2020 and earned her BFA in Musical Theatre from AMDA. Some of her favourite roles include ‘Pickles’ in The Great American Trailer Park Musical, ‘Olive’ in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and ‘Sister Mary Patrick’ in Sister Act. Alongside her own career pursuits, Charli delights in teaching children’s theatre and offering private vocal lessons. She is thrilled to embark on the next phase of her journey with YADA!

                              Bethany Baderdeen

                              Director

                              Bethany Baderdeen

                              Director

                              Bethany is a southern California native. As a huge advocate for education in Theater, Bethany holds a certificate from The American Musical and Dramatic Academy in LA and a Bachelor's Degree in Theater Performance from UC San Diego. After marking her Los Angeles stage debut as a finalist in LA's Next Great Stage Star, her most recent credits include Mamma Mia at Sierra Repertory Theater, and Grease at The Alaska Center for the Performing Arts in Anchorage, Alaska. Repped by ATB Talent Agency across the board, she continues to perform and is so passionately delighted to step on over to the creative side, joining the YADA directing team!

                               

                                Pepper Berry

                                Improv Instructor

                                Pepper Berry

                                Improv Instructor

                                Originally from Texas, Pepper studied film at Baylor University before moving to Los Angeles to study screenwriting at UCLA. He then fell into music playing in bands around the Los Angeles punk scene, touring the United States and recording albums for 15 years. He is a graduate of The Second City, iO West, Upright Citizens Brigade, The Nerdist, Comedy Sportz LA, The Second City Directing program as well as studying at The Groundlings. He is currently a teacher and director at The Second City and his musical "What Rhymes with Orange?" was the first premium children show to open for The Second City.

                                  Rachel Beth Jackson

                                  Director

                                  Rachel Beth Jackson

                                  Director

                                  Rachel Beth Jackson just moved to LA from her hometown of Nashville, TN where she has been working as an actor, director, and coach for several years. Her favorite thing to work on with students is audition skills! She has her BFA in Acting from Millikin University, which is where she also fell in love with directing and teaching acting skills. When not auditioning or directing, Rachel loves a good book and hanging out with her dog.

                                    Emily Bolt

                                    Director & Private Lesson Instructor

                                    Emily Bolt

                                    Director & Private Lesson Instructor

                                    Emily was born and raised in St. Louis, MO where she grew up surrounded by the arts, taking voice, piano, dance and acting classes.  She received her BFA in Acting from Missouri State University, and after graduation went on to tour with Missoula Children's Theatre for a year.  Since moving to Los Angeles, she's studied at many studios including UCB, Groundlings and Stan Kirsch where she is currently.  During the pandemic, she and her husband started a podcast called What's Your Movie which is starting its second season soon.  Emily is so happy to be part of the YADA family.

                                     

                                      Sarah Bialkin

                                      Director

                                      Sarah Bialkin

                                      Director

                                      Sarah Bialkin, from Marin County, California, began her dance training at Marin Ballet at age four, studying under répétiteur Sandra Jennings. She performed in notable ballets like Balanchine's "Serenade" and "Jewels: Diamonds," and starred in "The Nutcracker" as Clara and the Snow Queen. Her talent led her to the Regional Dance of America festivals in Washington and Arizona.

                                      After high school, Sarah attended Marymount Manhattan College in New York City, earning a B.A. in Theatre Arts with a minor in Musical Theatre. She performed in productions like "A Chorus Line" and "Dracula the Musical," and choreographed "Working: A Musical." Sarah continued to develop her skills at STEPS NYC and trained in improv at Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB).

                                      Sarah's diverse dance training includes ballet, pointe, jazz, tap, contemporary, modern, and hip-hop, alongside acting studies at Lesly Kahn and Co., Beverly Hills Playhouse, and American Conservatory Theatre.

                                      A passionate teacher, Sarah has taught at institutions like Marymount Manhattan College, American Youth Dance Theatre, and 92nd Street Y’s Harkness Dance Center. She served as Dance Director at Mainstages at Camp Twelve Trails, known for its inclusive program. Her teaching philosophy emphasizes inclusivity, ensuring all students can participate and thrive.

                                      Sarah's journey reflects her dedication to dance and teaching, making her a dynamic and inspiring figure in the arts.

                                        Alec Brown

                                        Director and Improv Teacher

                                        Alec Brown

                                        Director and Improv Teacher

                                        Alec is a content creator, writer, improviser, stand-up, and musical comedy entertainer. His viral online project is the TikTok series “Challah At Ya Goy!” which takes viewers on double entendre-laden two-minute riotous recipe revues that climax in tasty test fests. He has performed at iconic venues like The Broadway Comedy Club and was a member of The Upright Citizens Brigade’s prestigious Academy. In 2019 Alec appeared monthly at the Peoples Improv Theater with Night Brunch and at The Duplex, where he co-starred in his original musical comedy show “Peter, Paul, and Carly.” He has since become an Associate Producer for The Story Pirates, specializing in children’s improvisation and writing. Alec’s voiceover work is featured on several episodes of their iHeart Radio Award-winning podcast; his sung vocals can be heard on their hit song “Cheese Quest.” Alec’s writing has been featured on numerous online platforms, most notably on theatre satire site The Broadway Beat. He’s currently training at The Groundlings and holds a BFA in Musical Theater from Missouri State.

                                         

                                          Aneisha Brackens

                                          Administrative Assisstant

                                          Aneisha Brackens

                                          Administrative Assisstant

                                          Aneisha Brackens is an actor and screenwriter. She obtained her BFA from The University of Alabama and is originally from Alabama, but relocated to California in 2022. She has been active in the arts for years and absolutely adores being a part of the process for it all! If there's a chance to help and make dreams come true, she wants to be there!

                                            Chris Bunyi

                                            Improv Instructor

                                            Chris Bunyi

                                            Improv Instructor

                                            CHRIS BUNYI

                                            Chris is an Actor, Editor, and List Enthusiast based in L.A. Originally from Jacksonville, Fl, Chris has absolutely tried alligator tail. If you ask him, it has the taste of chicken with the texture of shrimp. I don’t know how that makes sense but it does. He’s very excited to be back performing with RAIS and can’t wait to share some funny with you all!

                                              Ciara Cain

                                              Administrative Assisstant

                                              Ciara Cain

                                              Administrative Assisstant

                                              Ciara is an actress and screenwriter, who recently moved to Los Angeles from South Carolina, two years after graduating from North Carolina A&T State University. There she obtained her BFA in Professional Theatre. She has been in love with all forms of storytelling since she fell in love with reading in elementary school. The many movie nights with her grandparents fostered her love of movies. Her fun fact is that her mother would not let her watch Disney Channel or Nickelodeon during the school week. Instead, she’d come home from school, catching reruns of 90s sitcoms. That's where her love of television comes from. All these factors made her the creative that she is. During college she started her indie production company. Out of pure passion and the desire to see the visions God placed in her outside of her mind, she wrote and produced a 5-episode web-series entitled "Together", one pilot episode of her original TV show "New Life'', and a few short films. Ciara is so excited to start her journey in LA with the YADA family!

                                                Cody Collier

                                                Director

                                                Cody Collier

                                                Director

                                                Cody is a performer and director who originated the title role of Scooby in Warner Bros. “Scooby-Doo LIVE” North American, Middle Eastern, and Australian national tours. He’s also an original cast member of the multiple variations of Nickelodeon & Hasbro’s record-breaking “Peppa Pig LIVE” North American tour, which he recently helmed as Associate Director.

                                                As a teacher, Cody served as a pre-professional performance instructor for various acting, singing, dancing, writing, and business of entertainment classes at the Judith Enyeart Reynolds School of the Performing Arts—Southwest Missouri’s premiere performing arts academy.

                                                He’s thrilled to work as a director at YADA and pass his knowledge and love for the arts on to the next generation of performers!

                                                  Heather Cooperman

                                                  Director

                                                  Heather Cooperman

                                                  Director

                                                  Heather Cooperman (she/her) was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio and received her BFA in Acting from Wright State University. The acting bug bit her when she was persuaded to perform in her 2nd grade musical, and she hasn't been able to stop performing since! She has performed in many plays and musicals throughout her life, and thoroughly enjoys bringing her love of theatre to the youth of today! Some of her favorite roles have been in The Memory of Water, Outside Mullingar, Angels in America: Millennium Approaches, and A Little Night Music. Outside of performing, Heather is an avid fan of boba, dogs, arts & crafts, and watching YouTube videos. She made the move to sunny LA to escape the Ohio winters and has loved being here! Heather is thrilled to join the YADA team and be a part of this amazing crew!

                                                    Kevin Corte

                                                    Director

                                                    Kevin Corte

                                                    Director

                                                    Kevin Corte is a triple threat actor born and raised in Mexico City, Mexico. Kevin is a multidisciplinary artist who is constantly crossing over from theatre, to commercials, to film. His theatre credits include: Angel in The Cupcake Theatre’s RENT and Albert in 5-Star Theatricals’ Newsies. Kevin has worked as an actor with brands like Garnier and Bumble and artists like Karla Breu, TACEY and Mother Victory as their backup dancer. Kevin has also worked with YouTube’s Pixel Playhouse for their music video “I Want To Be A Nightmare” and has recently worked in the pilot for the upcoming TV show, “Dream Big”. Kevin is a proud graduate from The American Musical and Dramatic Academy with a BFA in Musical Theatre and is so excited to share his love for the arts with the YADA community.

                                                      Rachel Crane

                                                      Improv Instructor

                                                      Rachel Crane

                                                      Improv Instructor

                                                      Rachel was raised on a farm in central Kansas where she spent her summers cleaning out wheat bins, laying out irrigation pipe, and driving tractors. She still goes back every June to drive the combine for wheat harvest. Rachel came to Los Angeles by way of Chicago, where she spent six years studying and performing at The Second City, iO, and ActOne Studios among others. SheI linked up with The Second City Hollywood when she arrived in LA in 2009, where she was honored to be cast in the very first The Best of The Second City archive revue on the Hollywood stage. Rachel helped found and performed in The Really Awesome Improv Show at The Second City for over 10 years and regularly performs improv around LA with her team, Aeroplane. Additionally, Rachel studied acting in Steve Braun's weekly Acting the Truth class at Bramon Garcia Braun Studios for over five years and is a proud member of SAG/AFTRA. Rachel has booked nearly 20 commercials for brands such as Dole, Stanley Steemer, and Verizon, cast in a variety of roles... from a quirky mom to a sleek business woman to a chef. In non-acting news... Rachel collects vintage art pottery, makes delicious apple pies, loves her talented, painter husband, Ted, and being mama and doing crafts with her hilarious and kind little girl, Harlow.

                                                        Emily Cunningham

                                                        Emily Cunningham

                                                        Director

                                                        Emily Cunningham

                                                        Director

                                                        Emily is a born and raised Texan who moved out to Los Angeles 5 years ago. She started performing across the city of Houston at age 9 and her favorite professional credits include Hurly Burly, The Man Who Came to Dinner, and Hairspray. Emily has an original web series she's focused on the last few years, "The Struggle is Real", and is a working independent film actor & writer. She's beyond jazzed to be a part of the YADA team and work with a truly awesome staff and kids!

                                                         

                                                          John David (JD) DeFour

                                                          Improv Instructor

                                                          John David (JD) DeFour

                                                          Improv Instructor

                                                          JD grew up just outside of Detroit, Michigan. He received a B.A. in Theatre from Michigan State University and a M.A. in Secondary Education from Loyola Marymount University. JD taught high school English and Drama for seven years in Boyle Heights while he began studying improvisation and sketch comedy with The Groundlings and The Second City in Hollywood. He briefly left land to perform improvisation and sketch comedy with Second City Theatricals aboard the Norwegian Breakaway. JD is a teaching artist, performer and director for The Story Pirates, has performed in musicals, sketch shows and improv around Los Angeles for years, and hopes to continue for years to come.

                                                            Courtney Doyle

                                                            Improv Teacher

                                                            Courtney Doyle

                                                            Improv Teacher

                                                            Courtney Doyle is an actor, writer, and comedian who has trained and performed all over Chicago and Los Angeles. She’s so excited to get back on stage after two years away–hopefully she hasn’t gotten too rusty. You can follow her antics on her instagram @c_doyzee, and you can read her writing on Betches.com.

                                                              Francesco DiFlora

                                                              Director

                                                              Francesco DiFlora

                                                              Director

                                                              Francesco DiFlora is a bold and passionate actor, singer, performer, and filmmaker living in Los Angeles. Originally from, New York, he is a recent graduate from Long Island University and received a BFA in Musical Theatre and a BA in Psychology. His work has been described as “inspiring”, “mesmerizing”, “striking”, ”charming” and “truly extraordinary” by reviews in New York. In addition to his incredible professionalism and work ethic, Francesco likes to bring a sense of humor, compassion, and connection to everyone he works with. Francesco was nominated for “Best Performer in a Musical” at the BroadwayWorld Regional Theatre Awards for his role as Frank Abagnale Jr. in CATCH ME IF YOU CAN. He also was nominated for “Best Actor in a Musical” at the Roger Rees Awards, alongside Andrew B. Feldman, for his role as J. Pierrepont Finch in HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING. Francesco has had the great opportunity to work both on the stage and on camera, appearing in student and short films and receiving a Film Festival award for “Best Performance” for his role in the short film “DEAREST ANONYMOUS”, by Frank Hufnagel.

                                                                Audrey Flegel

                                                                Improv Teacher

                                                                Audrey Flegel

                                                                Improv Teacher

                                                                A proud member of SAG/AFTRA, Audrey Flegel has been a working actor for the past 18 years appearing on stage, TV, film, voice over, and commercials. She holds a BFA in theatre (New School University) and has studied at The Second City, UCB, The Annoyance, The American Musical and Dramatic Academy and the School at Steppenwolf among others. She has taught acting and improv with The Second City for over 10 years, as well as improv and drama programs in numerous elementary schools in Los Angeles and Chicago. For more info visit www.audreyflegel.com

                                                                  Kalen Garnett

                                                                  Director

                                                                  Kalen Garnett

                                                                  Director

                                                                  Kalen recently moved to Los Angeles from New York City after graduating from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, New Studio on Broadway with a BFA in Drama. While in New York Kalen was last seen in: Grab Bag at the Midtown International Theatre Festival, Le Blanc at The Pit Loft, Tornadoland at Studio 54, and has worked on new musical readings at GMTW and Dixon Place; Kalen also recently shot a short film, Older Brothers. Kalen grew up in a community theatre where she gained her love for the arts, and eventually was afforded the opportunity to choreograph for the theatre's education program. She is excited to be joining the YADA team, and is excited to work with some brilliant kids and staff.

                                                                   

                                                                    Brooke Olivia Gatto

                                                                    Director & Administrative Assistant

                                                                    Brooke Olivia Gatto

                                                                    Director & Administrative Assistant

                                                                    Brooke is thrilled to be a part of the YADA team! She is originally from Portland, Oregon and graduated with a BFA in Musical Theatre from California State University, Fullerton. Brooke got her start in regional theatre in Portland and has never looked back. Additionally, her experiences with the Young People’s Theatre Project allowed Brooke to share her love of theatre with others. Brooke is currently pursuing opportunities in the world of film, television, and theatre. Recently, she earned her first credit on a short film. She also performs at Disneyland, which has led to several exciting opportunities, such as Dancing with the Stars - Disney Night. Brooke believes there is a place for everyone in the theatre community, and is excited to help every student grow in both their confidence and craft!

                                                                     

                                                                      Ashley Geron

                                                                      Director

                                                                      Ashley Geron

                                                                      Director

                                                                      Ashley has moved to LA from the land known as Chicago! During her time in Chicago, she performed at The Second City, iO, Annoyance, and black box theaters. While she wasn't performing she was either walking dogs, a host for game nights, or teaching musicals to kiddos at schools similar to YADA! Being in LA for just over a year Ashley has been having so much fun soaking up the Cali sun and performing with the Rockin' Awesome Improv Show! You also might see Ashley perform with, The American Immersion Theater! Ashley is a big fan of eating tacos, dancing, wearing sparkles, and cuddling with her dog Nala!

                                                                        Piper Gillin

                                                                        Director/Improv Teacher

                                                                        Piper Gillin

                                                                        Director/Improv Teacher

                                                                        Piper grew up in the Pacific Northwest where she performed in community theatre and with the "Short Shakespeareans" acting troupe. She transplanted to LA and earned a BA in theatre from the University of Southern California. She was a competitive dancer growing up, which led to her job at Disneyland dancing down Main Street, USA as a Parade performer. Piper has studied improv and sketch comedy at The Second City, UCB, and The Groundlings, and has many years of experience teaching youth improv programs at the Second City. Piper is a working stage, screen and voice actor, and is excited to share her love for the arts with the talented kiddos at YADA.

                                                                          Elaine Hammel

                                                                          Improv Instructor

                                                                          Elaine Hammel

                                                                          Improv Instructor

                                                                          Elaine is a graduate of Butler University in Indianapolis, IN where she learned and developed her love of improvisation.  She has performed at The Second City and iO in Chicago and Los Angeles, and has traveled the country performing at various improv festivals with additional groups. She has also performed in numerous musical theater productions in Chicago and Los Angeles. Elaine met her husband Simon during an improv class, and they now have two awesome boys who make her laugh every single day.  Here’s to always being able to play and have fun in whatever form your stage takes!  Instagram @elainehammel

                                                                            Juliane Godfrey

                                                                            Director

                                                                            Juliane Godfrey

                                                                            Director

                                                                            Juliane Godfrey is a multi-faceted Broadway performer, arts educator, and self-proclaimed “Heartist” committed to making Art with Heart – art that seeks to promote joy, empathy, and social justice. She made her Broadway debut as the Dance Captain/Swing of SpongeBob Squarepants (OBC; Dir. Tina Landau) in which she performed and taught the majority of 21 roles. She has traveled the U.S. extensively performing in the first national tours of Beetlejuice (Dir. Alex Timbers), Lincoln Center’s My Fair Lady (Dir. Bartlett Sher), and Something Rotten! (Dir. Casey Nicholaw). Regionally, her credits include: Goodspeed Opera House (where she earned her Equity card as a tap-dancing mouse under the direction of Dame Julie Andrews), Center Theatre Group (Ahmanson), Paper Mill Playhouse, Arena Stage, Sacramento Music Circus, the Muny, Stages St. Louis, the John W. Engeman, New York Musical Theater Festival, the Depot Theatre, and the Woodstock Playhouse. As a dance teacher/choreographer, she has taught for 20+ performing arts organizations and schools including Starstruck Theatre, the Performing Arts Project, Fifth Row Center, Bella Dance Academy, Transcendence Theatre Co, Irvington Conservatory Theater, and more. She recently completed Sony’s Teaching Artist program through the Entertainment Community Fund, and is currently developing her own “Rap & Tap” curriculum, combining poetry + percussion to stress the importance of storytelling out loud and in motion. In 2023, Juliane’s solo show I Won’t Dance (Don’t Make Me Sing) premiered at Icons in Colorado Springs, and has since been produced at the Bourbon Room in Los Angeles and in conjunction with Starstruck Theatre in the Bay Area. As a singer-songwriter, her EP Love Note to Self is streaming on all platforms in addition to her single “Love Gone Viral” and a children’s song “Show Me Your Soul” (co-written/performed by Richard Riaz Yoder) on the Vasthy & Friends album Sing, Dance, Play. Additionally, she was the original music director of UCLA’s Signature A Cappella, and was a featured arranger, soloist, and vocal percussionist on their debut albums: Take Flight and A Little Louder. Originally from the Bay Area, Juliane is a proud UCLA alum (B.A. Theater) and recently completed her Journalism certificate from UCLA Extension. She currently resides in Los Angeles where she enjoys long beach bike-rides and hunting for the perfect chocolate chip cookie.

                                                                              Alex Hogy

                                                                              Improv Teacher

                                                                              Alex Hogy

                                                                              Improv Teacher

                                                                              Alex Hogy (he/him) is an actor, writer, and composer from Sacramento, CA. He studied Chekhov at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting in New York and received his BFA in Acting from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Los Angeles. He has trained with Alexandra Billings, Michael D. Cohen, and Gregory Berger-Sobeck. Alex also teaches acting and creative writing to adults with disabilities at Performing Arts Studio West.

                                                                              Alex has had a successful commercial career and has done spots for brands such as Little Caesars, Adobe, and TurboTax. He has also been featured in numerous shorts and feature films, as well as TV and voice over. He is currently a company member of Celebration Theatre, OpenFist Theater, and Theatre of Note. Previous: Starmites (OpenFist, extended run), Kill Shelter (Theatre of Note, extended run) Hear THEM Loud (Celebration, extended run) Tales of the Transcestors (Celebration), CHARM (Celebration), Body + Blood (The Road Theatre Company) Alex has composed a rock opera adaptation of Antigone, as well as written a one-act play.

                                                                              Alex lives in Los Angeles with his beautiful wife.

                                                                                Hayley Holmes

                                                                                Director & Private Lesson Instructor

                                                                                Hayley Holmes

                                                                                Director & Private Lesson Instructor

                                                                                Hayley Holmes is originally from Covington, Indiana. She was often seen tap dancing on the tennis courts, and was advised to join a local dance studio. Shortly after it was suggested she audition for a Competitive Dance Team in Champaign, IL where she soon found herself competing around the nation in all areas of dance (tap, jazz, acro, Musical Theatre, and lyrical). Winning such titles as Miss Showbiz, Broadway Bound, and First Place at several National Events. Eager to stretch her creativity muscles even further Hayley auditioned for every theatre production within a 60 mile radius, and loved every chance she had to step out on the stage (Annie, Music Man, Wizard of Oz).  When the opportunity presented itself to move to Los Angeles, Hayley quickly jumped on it and has been fortunate enough to work steadily in the Film & Television World ever since. She is so appreciative of everyone who supports her, and loves sharing her knowledge of the arts with the students at YADA!

                                                                                 

                                                                                  Ryan Hotes

                                                                                  Director

                                                                                  Ryan Hotes

                                                                                  Director

                                                                                  From their home in the Pacific Northwest, to NYC, and now in sunny L.A, Ryan (they/he) has had the pleasure of working as a storyteller, teacher, writer, and community organizer for over ten years. Ryan graduated from Pace University in NYC where they received their BFA in musical theatre. Whether on stage, on screen, or online, they come to life capturing, expressing, and sharing the human experience, in all its colors!

                                                                                   

                                                                                    Derek Hoyden

                                                                                    Director

                                                                                    Derek Hoyden

                                                                                    Director

                                                                                    Derek Hoyden (any pronouns) is an actor and writer originally from Seattle, WA. Since moving to LA, Derek has worked in Film, Television, & Theatre. Derek is a graduate of The Boston Conservatory at Berklee College of Music and hopes to inspire children of all ages with their love of music & live theatre. www.derekhoyden.com

                                                                                      Alexandra Ireijo

                                                                                      Director

                                                                                      Alexandra Ireijo

                                                                                      Director

                                                                                      Alexandria Ireijo (Alex) is an actor, singer, dancer, and artistic professional originally from Oahu, Hawaii. She has a BFA in Musical Theatre from Nazareth College in Rochester, New York and has worked with some of the best Musical Theatre professionals: Bob Cline, Bob Moss, Brett Smock, and Jeff Whiting. Her favorite theaters to perform at include The Rev. (formally FMTF) and Manoa Valley Theatre. Apart from theatre, Ireijo has worked in theatre education with youth ages 3 years old to 18 years old. She has experience teaching acting, dance, and vocal coaching in both private and class settings as well as directing and choreographing full length musicals to youth ages 6-18. Ireijo believes that theatre provides a safe outlet for expression, exploration, and best of all, fun! She strives to nurture her students and coach them to their fullest potentials.

                                                                                        Celeste Jones

                                                                                        Director & Administrative Assistant

                                                                                        Celeste Jones

                                                                                        Director & Administrative Assistant

                                                                                        A recent transplant to LA from the east coast Celeste is thrilled to be joining the YADA team. Celeste is a proud member of AEA with years of professional theatre experience under her belt and she's always excited to bring her experience from the stage to her students. Some of her favorite roles have been Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill, Nessa in District Merchants, Sophie in Ruined, and TiMoune in Once on this Island. Aside from theatre Celeste has had the opportunity to star in a few short films and web series and even produced one of her own.  Alongside her own career, she's spent years teaching theatre, dance, and voice to students of all ages, cultivating a love for performance and creativity. She received her BFA from Howard University in DC and had the opportunity to study classical acting at the British American Drama Academy. She cannot wait to teach and learn from all of her YADA students. 

                                                                                         

                                                                                          Lauren Johansen Sheppard

                                                                                          Director

                                                                                          Lauren Johansen Sheppard

                                                                                          Director

                                                                                          Lauren Johansen Sheppard is a dynamic theater educator and director with a passion for nurturing young talent and fostering creativity in the arts. With a rich background in teaching, directing, and working with young artists, Lauren brings over two decades of experience to her role at YADA (Youth Academy of Dramatic Arts). Armed with an MFA in Performance Pedagogy, Lauren is well-equipped to create vibrant and inclusive learning environments where students can explore and express their artistic voices. Her teaching philosophy is deeply student-centered, emphasizing joy, play, and collaboration while instilling dedication and persistence. Having served as a teaching artist and administrator with STAR Education and Performing Arts Workshops, Lauren has an impressive track record of producing and directing over 50 youth musical productions. She believes in leading through collaboration, allowing for authentic artistic expression and fostering a sense of community among her students. Additionally, Lauren's expertise extends to costume and set design, adding depth and creativity to each production.Lauren is drawn to YADA's commitment to empowering young artists through the transformative power of theater. She is eager to contribute her extensive experience and passion for theater education to inspire the next generation of performers and leaders in the arts, all while having a blast along the way. With her dedication and infectious enthusiasm, Lauren is sure to make a significant impact on the vibrant artistic community at YADA.

                                                                                            Wiley Jones

                                                                                            Director

                                                                                            Wiley Jones

                                                                                            Director

                                                                                            Wiley Jones (he/him/they/them) is an award winning actor, director, and movement coach. While growing up in Seattle, Wiley discovered their passion for theatrics at 7 years old when stepping on stage for the first time to play John Darling in Peter Pan. Since then he has gone on to perform Off-Broadway, across the country, and internationally. He has worked on Showtime, HBO, Travel Channel, Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu productions. His improvised hijinks have been featured on stage at The Groundlings. Their production company produces films, live shows, and commercials. As a Suzuki and Viewpoints practitioner, under the tutelage of SITI Theatre Company, he often approaches new works using his background in movement and modern dance. He utilizes his experience puppeteering and devising experimental theatre in collaboration with fellow company members in The Czech-American Theatre Company. Wiley earned his B.F.A. from New York University's Tisch School of Drama; he has trained with The Atlantic Theatre Company, The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, and New Studio on Broadway. He is a member of SAG-AFTRA and AGVA, certified by the British Academy of Stage and Screen Combat. His teaching journey began at Broadway Bound Children’s Theatre and Stonestreet Studios in New York. Since 2014 Wiley has been an arts educator with Village Theatre, focused on uplifting youth voices in the development of ensemble-based theatrical works and new musicals. He is currently on the managing team of the Hollywood Fringe Festival.

                                                                                             

                                                                                              Elizabeth Katz

                                                                                              Director

                                                                                              Elizabeth Katz

                                                                                              Director

                                                                                              Elizabeth is a theater artist, writer, and filmmaker, originally from Paducah, Kentucky. She received her BFA in Drama from NYU Tisch's musical theater program, New Studio on Broadway. She is embarking on the final year of her MFA in Film Directing at Chapman University and has made several independent films now playing in national festivals. A lifelong performer, she is passionate about collaboration and fostering a sense of community through the arts. She's thrilled to be joining the YADA family!

                                                                                                Jeremey Klein

                                                                                                Improv Teacher

                                                                                                Jeremey Klein

                                                                                                Improv Teacher

                                                                                                Jeremy Klein is a proud graduate of The Second City and UCB’s improv programs. Jeremy also trained with Gary Austin, The Groundlings founder, before his passing. Jeremy performs hip hop comedy w/his brother Kyle as “ThoseKleinBoyz.” They were featured in John Krasinski’s “Some Good News: Hamilton Episode.” They also perform at venues such as The Comedy Central Stage, The Irvine Improv, Caveat Theatre (NYC), and Flappers Comedy Club.

                                                                                                  Morgan Lalanne

                                                                                                  Director

                                                                                                  Morgan Lalanne

                                                                                                  Director

                                                                                                  Morgan Lalanne, an actor, dancer, and teaching artist from Central California, grew up dancing in Sierra Performing Arts ballet, and performing shows with TCOE Theatre Company. She moved to New York to get her BFA in Musical Theatre from Long Island University last spring, and moved to LA shortly after! Some of her favorite past shows include ‘Nikki Harris’ in “Curtains!”, Dance Captain for “Little Shop of Horrors”, and Newsie in “Newsies!”. Alongside her own career pursuits, Morgan spends her days teaching children’s theatre and offering private vocal/dance lessons. She is currently felled by AMW, and continues to direct, choreograph and perform bicoastal, she is thrilled to call YADA her creative home base!

                                                                                                    Anna Kupershmidt

                                                                                                    Administrative Assistant

                                                                                                    Anna Kupershmidt

                                                                                                    Administrative Assistant

                                                                                                    Anna Kupershmidt, is an LA based Stage Manager and Stage Technician. She has had the opportunity to work at many of its local theaters, such as: The Broadwater Theatre, Rogue Machine Theatre, The Hudson Theatre, The Fountain Theatre, Universal Studios Hollywood, The LACC Theatre Academy, YADA and The Getty Villa. Anna enjoys being a part of both the Technical & Office Team with YADA to help make incredible memories for all the families that step foot into its doors.

                                                                                                      Faith Knapp

                                                                                                      Director

                                                                                                      Faith Knapp

                                                                                                      Director

                                                                                                      Faith is originally from Florida but grew up in Kansas city, she graduated with her BFA in Acting from the University of Central Florida in 2020. Faith has previously directed and choreographed at Apex Theatre Studios in Saint Augustine Florida and has been a private acting and audition coach for the past few years. Faith has performed across the country at many theatres, some of her favorite credits include  Street of Crocodiles (Maria/ Movement Captain), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Hermia), Vanities (Kathy), A Chorus Line (Val), Twelfth Night (Feste), I and You (Caroline). She is currently pursuing her film career here in Los Angeles and is represented by The Wayne Agency and Managed by Scot Reynolds. Faith is so excited to be part of the YADA team and help the next generation find the same love for this art that she has.

                                                                                                       

                                                                                                        Maddie Lane

                                                                                                        Director

                                                                                                        Maddie Lane

                                                                                                        Director

                                                                                                        Maddie Lane has been a proud Director and Teaching Artist for nearly a decade.

                                                                                                        Originally from Memphis, Tennessee, Maddie has studied voice and acting for twenty years - in Memphis, New York, Los Angeles, and Orlando. Over the span of her teaching career, she has consistently guided young actors in mastering numerous skills in the performing arts, including ear-training, vocal placement, creating a character within a song, building audition books, and producing honest and authentic script work.

                                                                                                        Maddie worked at Walt Disney World as an Equity Performer for almost ten years, appearing in shows such as Voyage of the Little Mermaid (Ariel) and Disney Junior Live on Stage (Casey). She also appeared in various shows at Universal Orlando Resort. A proud member of Actor's Equity and SAG-AFTRA unions, Maddie has a variety of regional theatre credits as well as TV/film credits.

                                                                                                        As a Show Director in Orlando, Maddie directed regional productions such as the Orlando professional premieres of Matilda the Musical and School of Rock. She also served as the Development Manager, Youth Director, and Senior Teaching Artist at Theatre South Playhouse from 2017 - 2022. Favorite directing credits include The Addams FamilyXanadu, Little WomenThe Lightning Thief13, the MusicalLegally Blonde, the MusicalHeathers, the Musical, and The Wolves.

                                                                                                        Maddie’s passion lies in helping students unlock the potential they already have by discovering and showcasing themselves within their uniquely individualized art.

                                                                                                        She is thrilled to be a part of Team YADA!

                                                                                                          Katharine Lerner

                                                                                                          Director

                                                                                                          Katharine Lerner

                                                                                                          Director

                                                                                                          Katharine is an Actor and Teacher in Los Angeles. Katharine has taught with A Noise Within, Treasure Trunk Theatre, Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, Camp Arena Stage and Camp Acting Manitou. Katharine trained at the Upright Citizens Brigade, Maggie Flanigan Studio, received her BFA from Marymount Manhattan College, and studied at the British American Drama Academy. Katharine loves teaching children and opening their imagination to all the possibilities of creation and joy!

                                                                                                            Grace Lord

                                                                                                            Director

                                                                                                            Grace Lord

                                                                                                            Director

                                                                                                            Grace Lord is a performer, writer, and instructor who has been in the entertainment industry since she was born. After living in New York for four years and studying under industry professionals, such as Tony Award Winner Judith Ivey and Emmy Award Winner Andre Braugher, Grace decided to move out to Los Angeles to continue finding her place in this world. She learned the ins and outs of the industry by working as an assistant at ICM Partners and Creative Artists Agency (CAA), and now works on the creative and planning side with her sister and their production company.

                                                                                                              Julienne Marié

                                                                                                              Administrative Assistant

                                                                                                              Julienne Marié

                                                                                                              Administrative Assistant

                                                                                                              Julienne was born and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland. Growing up on the East Coast provided Julienne with access to incredible art, theater, and dance. Julienne began dancing at the age of four and added theatre shortly after. With that, she’s had the opportunity to work with such companies as The Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington D.C as well as the Baltimore Theater Project, along with others, all before attending university. Julienne attended The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where she received a BFA in Acting. While in Philadelphia, she got to take on more advanced directorial and administrative work in addition to performance within the theater scene. Collaborating with companies such as FringeArts, Her Story Theater, Rev Theater company as well as the Nerve Tank in New York where Julienne is now an associate artist. In October of 2021, Julienne made the move out to Los Angeles and has fallen in love with the incredible opportunities and creatives she’s been able to work with. Currently repped by Tangerine Talent, Julienne works consistently in the commercial and theatrical space. She thoroughly appreciates the opportunity to work with a company like YADA that nurtures kids’ love for art.

                                                                                                                Lindsay Merrill

                                                                                                                Substitute Director

                                                                                                                Lindsay Merrill

                                                                                                                Substitute Director

                                                                                                                Lindsay grew up in Omaha, NE where she trained extensively and competed in all styles of dance before going onto study Dance Performance at Oklahoma City University and then receive her BA in Visual and Performing Arts from the University of Southern California. Before moving out to LA, she taught and choreographed for studios across the Midwest and performed with multiple dance companies in Oklahoma, Chicago, and finally LA. In addition to loving her work at YADA, creating shows with the magical little humans we call children, Lindsay is also pursuing her Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and looks forward to integrating her love of dance, theatre, and performing arts education with her passion for exploring the human experience in unique and innovative ways. She believes in lifelong learning and continues to grow every single day through her relationships with each one of YADA’s little stars!

                                                                                                                  Danny Lutman

                                                                                                                  Improv Instructor

                                                                                                                  Danny Lutman

                                                                                                                  Improv Instructor

                                                                                                                  Danny Lutman is a versatile actor, writer, and producer. He is an active member of SAG-AFTRA, the Television Academy, and the Producers Guild of America. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in theatre from Texas State University and is also a graduate of the prestigious comedy institutions The Groundlings, The Second City, and The Upright Citizens Brigade. Along with teaching and performing at YADA, he can also be seen around town with his indie improv teams, Roundhouse and Aeroplane.

                                                                                                                  Beyond his work on set and stage, Danny also conducts improv workshops in corporate environments to promote team-building and strengthen communication.

                                                                                                                    Tiffani Ann Mills (She/Her)

                                                                                                                    Improv Director

                                                                                                                    Tiffani Ann Mills (She/Her)

                                                                                                                    Improv Director

                                                                                                                    Tiffani grew up a little in CA and a little in UT. She earned a Bachelor's degree in Acting & Directing from Southern Utah University. She has been performing and studying improv for over 20 years! In Los Angeles, Tiffani studied improv at iO West, The Second City Hollywood & The Groundlings! Although Tiffani has worn many hats in the entertainment industry, both in front of and behind the camera, she always comes back to her passion, improv. With over 15 years of experience teaching improv to kids of all ages, from private schools to summer camps to acting schools, Tiffani has loved introducing the art of improv to all ages and levels. Her philosophy is that improv is not only a TON of fun, but it also promotes many skills that you can carry with you for the rest of your life!

                                                                                                                      Tariq Mieres

                                                                                                                      Administrative Assisstant

                                                                                                                      Tariq Mieres

                                                                                                                      Administrative Assisstant

                                                                                                                      Tariq Mieres was born and raised in Houston,Texas, graduated from Texas State University with a BFA in Theatre, and moved to Los Angeles in 2021. Some of his favorite credits include The Importance of Being Earnest: A Wilde New Musical (Algernon Moncreiff), Bye Bye Birdie (Hugo F. Peabody), Much Ado About Nothing (Don Pedro), and Something Rotten (Sad Little Egg). Some of his favorite things are thrift shopping, hanging with friends, and hot wings.

                                                                                                                        Stella Mulroney

                                                                                                                        Administrative Assisstant

                                                                                                                        Stella Mulroney

                                                                                                                        Administrative Assisstant

                                                                                                                        Stella is a Los Angeles native and a former YADA kid herself! She has a BA from Oberlin College in both English and Fine Arts. She’s a writer and photographer and runs an independent theatre company here in LA with her best friend (whom she met at YADA at eight years old!) called Mouthbone Productions. In her free time, she loves hanging out with her dog Scully, binge-watching Survivor, and painting.

                                                                                                                          David Ortiz

                                                                                                                          Director

                                                                                                                          David Ortiz

                                                                                                                          Director

                                                                                                                          David Ortiz has always held a passion for the performing arts and looks forward to sharing it with the fellow artists of YADA. Born in Virginia, David started performing at age 6 and has never looked back. Now in Los Angeles, he received his BFA from The American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) and is currently represented by Manager Tim Garrett and AEFH Talent Agency. Some of his favorite past theatre credits include Les Miserablés (Enjolras), Big River (Huck Finn), and Spring Awakening (Otto). He has also been seen on various television shows including The Politician, Fuller House, and Grownish. David can't wait to inspire students like the teachers before who inspired him.

                                                                                                                            Jamison Scala

                                                                                                                            Improv Instructor

                                                                                                                            Jamison Scala

                                                                                                                            Improv Instructor

                                                                                                                            Jamison is a graduate of The Second City Conservatory and previously performed regularly on their Hollywood stage and at sea with their Norwegian Cruise Line partnership. Jamison has written and performed in videos including: “Gay Ginger Breeders,” “Part of Your Office World, a Disney Parody,” and “Coachella: What You Totes Need to Know.” 7 of Jamison’s original monologues appear in “LGBTQ Comedic Monologues that are Actually Funny,” the first and only book of its kind. Raised in NJ (exit 145), he now calls Los Angeles home. You can follow his adventures at JamisonScala.com and @HeyJamisonScala. 

                                                                                                                              Molly Smith

                                                                                                                              Director

                                                                                                                              Molly Smith

                                                                                                                              Director

                                                                                                                              Molly is an actor, producer, and teaching artist born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. She attended Columbia College Chicago, graduating with a degree in Theater. Since moving to Los Angeles, she continues to study at The Imagined Life. She has acted in and produced several independent films, including Boihood, which was an official selection at Outfest Film Festival. Molly is thrilled to be a part of the YADA team!

                                                                                                                               

                                                                                                                                Tarniesha Stimage

                                                                                                                                Director

                                                                                                                                Tarniesha Stimage

                                                                                                                                Director

                                                                                                                                Tarniesha Stimage is a multifaceted talent, recognized for her work as an actress, model, and producer in various film and television projects. Her notable roles include appearances in "Hansel and Gretel Strike Back" (2012), "Pounce" (2009), and "The Shuttle" (2013), showcasing her versatility and range on screen. Tarniesha's repertoire also extends to her portrayal of the Palisades Honorary Mayor, Sasha Fierce, in Cinterra Pictures' "Palisades Justice". Originally hailing from Riverside, CA, Tarniesha spent her formative years in St. Louis, MO, where she attended math and science magnate schools. However, her trajectory took a dramatic turn after discovering her passion for acting during a mime class at Ohio State University. Despite initially pursuing a degree in Economics, Tarniesha couldn't resist the allure of the stage, eventually graduating with a Bachelor's in Economics and a Minor in Theatre. Recognizing the importance of being in the heart of the entertainment industry, Tarniesha returned to California, settling in Los Angeles, the epicenter of the entertainment world. Since her return, she has immersed herself in a myriad of film and television projects, showcasing her talent and dedication to her craft. Additionally, Tarniesha has expanded her skill set to include belly dancing, adding another dimension to her artistic repertoire. Beyond her accomplishments in the entertainment industry, Tarniesha boasts a wealth of experience in education, with over 15 years of teaching and guiding children in various subjects such as math, English, science, and the arts. Her exceptional communication, interpersonal, problem-solving, and analytical skills have enabled her to connect with students in innovative and engaging ways. Tarniesha's reputation as a responsible, dependable, and compassionate educator makes her a valuable asset as a Freelance Tutor, AfterSchool Instructor, and SPED Teacher. Tarniesha Stimage embodies the essence of a true Renaissance woman, balancing her artistic pursuits with her passion for education and mentorship. With her friendly demeanor, patience, and commitment to diversity, Tarniesha continues to inspire and empower students while making her mark in the entertainment industry.

                                                                                                                                  Leeann St. John

                                                                                                                                  Improv Instructor

                                                                                                                                  Leeann St. John

                                                                                                                                  Improv Instructor

                                                                                                                                  Leeann St. John has a deep love for all things hilarious. She performs improv and sketch regularly at the Pack Theater.

                                                                                                                                    Teylor Tobin

                                                                                                                                    Director

                                                                                                                                    Teylor Tobin

                                                                                                                                    Director

                                                                                                                                    Teylor Tobin (She/Hers) is a recent 2023 graduate from the California State University Long Beach as a Theatre for Performance major. She grew up in Northern California as a dancer from the age of five. She soon took an interest in choreography and has had pieces compete in the Spotlight Dance Awards taking gold placement. Teylor has been directing new works with CSULB's Theatre Threshold student program since 2021 with works like, "Protest Parade" (2021), "Smitten" (2022), and "Dreamweaver" (2023). In addition to her time as a director Teylor was the Choreography Captain for California Repertory Company's "Rocky Horror Show", as well as the Choreographer for the California Repertory Company's 2023 Musical Theatre Showcase. Teylor also has acted in new works productions like "Generation Why" as Heather, "Forevermore" as Marjorie, and California Repertory Company's "Rocky Horror" as Usherette. Teylor is so thrilled for the opportunity to further her knowledge of the arts by joining YADA's Directing team!

                                                                                                                                      Devyn Ward

                                                                                                                                      Director

                                                                                                                                      Devyn Ward

                                                                                                                                      Director

                                                                                                                                      Devyn has been a Director at YADA since Summer 2019 and is ecstatic to be here! She is a teaching artist, actor, and comedian based in Los Angeles, originally from Denver, Colorado. Devyn has been dancing since the age of 3, became a competitive dancer at age 10, then started her career as a dance teacher in college. Her love for theatre began in elementary school when she got involved with the after school musicals and a program called KidStage. After her first performance as "Lola the Lead Ladybug", she was hooked! Since then, she's performed in some amazing shows like Pride and Prejudice (Lady Catherine), Spring Awakening (Frau), and Shakepeare's Love's Labour's Lost (Holofernia). Devyn is also a comedic improviser and has been in a variety of improv and sketch shows including the Del Close Marathon in New York City. She's currently a student of UCB and Groundlings. She moved to LA shortly after graduating from the University of Northern Colorado with a BA in both Acting Performance and K-12 Theatre Education. Children's theatre has always been something held close to Devyn's heart, and throughout her education training she discovered an immense love for Theatre for Young Audiences. In 2017 she completed an educational internship with Lexington Children's Theatre and in 2018 she directed a mainstage touring TYA show at UNCo. Her favorite part of teaching theatre is being able to assist young people gain life skills such as discipline, confidence, and empathy while also giving them room for imaginative play and creativity. Devyn is thrilled to be pursuing an acting career in LA while also sharing her love of acting and dance with the wonderful YADA students.

                                                                                                                                       

                                                                                                                                        Taylor Wallis

                                                                                                                                        Director

                                                                                                                                        Taylor Wallis

                                                                                                                                        Director

                                                                                                                                        Taylor Wallis is a teaching artist and actor from Dallas, Texas. She graduated with a degree in musical theatre from Millikin University and taught in public schools for 10 years before moving to Los Angeles. Since 2010, Taylor has been teaching and performing professionally, bringing her passion for the arts to life. Excited to work with YADA, she looks forward to inspiring the next generation of artists.

                                                                                                                                          Anthony David Ward

                                                                                                                                          Director

                                                                                                                                          Anthony David Ward

                                                                                                                                          Director

                                                                                                                                          Anthony is a Performing and Teaching Artist from Niagara Falls, NY. He realized his passion for theatre at a young age, and hasn’t stopped performing since! He has traveled the country with Missoula Children’s Theatre, where he was able to bring the magical world of Musical Theatre to a new group of kids each week. In college he studied Acting, Dance, Vocal Performance, and Psychology. He takes pride in being able to use all of his education in his craft, and his ability to teach others how to do the same. Some of his favorite performance credits include, Dan Goodman in Next to Normal, Charlie Brown in You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown, Mitch Mahoney in the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, as well as various roles in Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, and Henry VI. He is extremely excited to begin his journey at YADA and cannot wait to begin teaching and inspiring!

                                                                                                                                           

                                                                                                                                            Carrie Weisberg

                                                                                                                                            Improv Teacher

                                                                                                                                            Carrie Weisberg

                                                                                                                                            Improv Teacher

                                                                                                                                            Carrie Weisberg is an Actor, Writer and Producer working on a gaggle of shows in Hollywood. She has taught, trained and performed with the Second City Hollywood for over a decade, but please tell her she doesn’t look old enough for that to be true. Carrie loves donuts, glitter and dogs, and is happy to be back performing again with RAIS!

                                                                                                                                              Donovan Woods

                                                                                                                                              Director

                                                                                                                                              Donovan Woods

                                                                                                                                              Director

                                                                                                                                              Donovan Woods is an actor, singer, and writer who hails from Ft. Worth, Texas. After receiving their Bachelor in Music for Vocal Performance at Kansas State University Donovan moved to Kanas City to start their acting career. Later they moved to New York where they premiered their Cabaret: Young, Gifted, and Broke. Finally, Donovan settled in Los Angeles extending his creative talents to create acting workshops that empower children of color through performing arts. Most recently they premiered an adaptation of Dracula at Cincinnati Playhouse playing the role of Arthur. His theatre credits include Geffen Playhouse, Starlight Theatre, and Kansas City Rep. His work can also be seen on Amazon Prime in Primo as Tony.

                                                                                                                                                Alexa Zachary

                                                                                                                                                Director

                                                                                                                                                Alexa Zachary

                                                                                                                                                Director

                                                                                                                                                Alexa Zachary is an American/British actor, singer, and tap dance-enthusiast. Alexa grew up in Orange County and received her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Since graduating, she has delved into LA’s film/TV scene, with her recent credits including a recurring villain in season 2 of the Disney+ show, “The Mysterious Benedict Society” and the French aristocrat, Charlotte Corday, in the historical feature film, “Guillotine”. Most recently, Alexa spent eight-months in London where she studied Shakespeare at the Royal Academy of Dramatic art and trained in stage combat, Elizabethan dance, and script analysis. Alexa is incredibly grateful

                                                                                                                                                  We want to express our gratitude for the scholarship for our daughter.  She so enjoyed coming to YADA and fell in love with her role. She showed so much enthusiasm at our place.  Last night’s performance was incredible and so much fun.  It wouldn’t have been possible with your support.  She is extremely eager to continue with MATILDA and she enjoyed making new friends. Thank you for making this all possible.
                                                                                                                                                  XO

                                                                                                                                                  Rainer is thriving at YADA and we are so happy to have found such a nurturing, amazing place for
                                                                                                                                                  him to learn.

                                                                                                                                                  You guys are epic… So amazed by the work and love that goes into each and every production. You help your students grow and shine. You deserve all the applause. We are blessed to be part of the YADA family.

                                                                                                                                                  Becoming part of the YADA family has been an amazing experience for David!

                                                                                                                                                  Mutual love fest here!!!!

                                                                                                                                                  Thank you so much. I have already enrolled Janey for the next season. She tells me that she wants to go to YADA forever!

                                                                                                                                                  Skylar absolutely loves YADA and would not think of missing it. I enrolled her the very first day of registration so we should be all set!

                                                                                                                                                  Our daughter is thriving and extremely happy in your program!

                                                                                                                                                  Thank you again to you, all the teachers and Yada for this opportunity for Lourdes, her heart is so set on this.