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.

Lani Shipman

Co-Owner

Lani Shipman

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 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. Lani is thrilled to be back in the Los Angeles area continuing to manage and administrate YADA while maintaining a career in acting improv and music. She believes each and every student at YADA is amazing and encourages them to follow their dreams.

    Kim Harrigan

    Co-Owner

    Kim Harrigan

    Co-Owner

    Kim has co-owned YADA for 19 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 is an actress in film, theatre and television.

      Lisa Gilbar

      Managing Director

      Lisa Gilbar

      Managing Director

      Lisa Gilbar was the Assistant Director for the 2001 Broadway revival of “Noises Off” and the 2005 Broadway premiere of “Monty Python’s Spamalot”. She directed the Patti Austin show “BeboperElla” at Lincoln Center, and has worked on multiple films, television shows, and New York and Los Angeles theatrical productions. A native of Los Angeles, Lisa began acting in musicals at the age of six and fell in love with the magic of the stage. Theatre was such an important part of Lisa's childhood and she is thrilled to be able to share a bit of that magic with more kids today. When Lisa is not at YADA or with her wonderful husband and little son, she can be found smiling behind the camera as a headshot photographer for Lisa Levy Photography.

        Scott Noonan

        Office Manager

        Scott Noonan

        Office Manager

        Scott is pleased and excited to join the family at YADA! Scott has been performing in theater and musicals since he was in grade school. During his college career he enjoyed singing in jazz, madrigal and concert choirs as well as singing in various opera roles. After receiving his Masters Degree in Vocal Performance he embarked on his professional singing career. For six years Scott was a performing member of the Artiste dell'Arte costumed opera program at the Venetian Grand Canal Shoppes. During that time he was also the vocal director for all of the entertainment programs at the Venetian. For the two years following his work at the Venetian Scott was fortunate to be able to travel the world on Celebrity Cruises as part of an all guy a cappella quartet singing doo-wop and barbershop music for the guests. Prior to moving to Los Angeles,  Scott was the Administrative Assistant to the Principal of the Academy of Nevada Ballet Theatre in Las Vegas. Scott is currently the tenor section lead and featured soloist for Westwood Presbyterian Church and Music at Westwood.

          Jennifer Apple

          Technique Instructor

          Jennifer Apple

          Technique Instructor

          Jennifer Apple is a multi-hyphenated artist who hails from NYC! She "currently" plays the role of Anna in Tony Award Winning The Band’s Visit first national tour and has performed at regional theaters like ACT, Chautauqua Theater Company, Goodspeed Musicals, and Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival. She has developed and workshopped a ton of new plays & musicals, and lent her voice to multiple cast albums. Jennifer has appeared on TV in “New Amsterdam” and holds an MFA in Acting from The American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, CA. As an Acting Coach, she specializes in: finding new material specifically for you; acting the song/monologue; Shakespeare; BFA/MFA auditions; and breaking down the text. She believes in honest & truthful storytelling, the power of simply being, and bringing out what makes you, YOU! www.JenniferApple.net ; IG: @JenniferApple_

            Jennifer Bennett

            Technique Instructor

            Jennifer Bennett

            Technique Instructor

            Jennifer Bennett is an accomplished singer, actress and educator. She has traveled the world with the international tour of Cats and performed in many regional theatres throughout the country. Some of her notable credits include: The Marvelous Wonderettes, Light in the Piazza, Guys and Dolls, Sunday in the Park with George, and The Full Monty. She has been a soloist at Symphony Hall with the Boston Pops, Great Waters Music Festival, New Hampshire Dance Institute, Laurie Beechman Theatre and Rockwell Table & Stage. She is on faculty at AMDA College of the Performing Arts. Jennifer is a proud member of Musical Theatre Guild and Actors' Equity. She enjoys helping students find their unique voice within all styles of music.

            DEGREES
            M.M., Musical Theatre, Boston Conservatory at Berklee
            B.M., Vocal Performance, University of Southern California

              Kate Brennan

              DIRECTOR

              Kate Brennan

              DIRECTOR

              Kate is a Bay Area Native who recently graduated from The American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) and received her BFA in Musical Theater. Kate has been performing since the age of 7 and her love of performing has grown into a love of teaching! She has been teaching since her freshman year of high school with multiple children's theaters in Northern California as well as performing for audiences of all ages. Kate recently moved back to Los Angeles to pursue her career as a performer, choreographer and teacher. Some of her favorite roles include: Bad Idea Bear (Avenue Q), Essie (You Can't Take It With You), and many more. Kate is thrilled to join the YADA team and is thankful for the opportunity!

                Katie Clarke

                Director/Improv Teacher

                Katie Clarke

                Director/Improv Teacher

                Katie arrived in Los Angeles in 2011 as a student of the USC Thornton School of Music where she studied Vocal Arts and was classically trained as an opera singer. Katie earned her Bachelor of Music in 2015, but developed a passion for teaching through her Vocal Pedagogy class, and went on to work primarily as a teacher. Alongside YADA, Katie works as the teaching assistant at Oakwood Elementary School. She also has developed her own business leading small groups of children and adults in Dungeons and Dragons games. Beyond her training at USC, Kate has had the privilege to train with Charlie Adler for voice over work, and the Upright Citizen’s Brigade for improv. Some of Katie’s favorite stage performance credits include: Anything Goes (Reno Sweeney), Into the Woods (The Witch), Beauty and the Beast (Belle), Pirates of Penzance (Mabel), Hippolyte et Aricie (Cupid), The Tempest (Angel), Iphigenie en Tauride (Priestess), The Miracle Worker (Annie Sullivan), Chocolate Cake (Annemarie), and The Foreigner (Betty). Katie also loves working in choral and voice over productions, recently she had the honor of being a part of the American premiere of the Kingdom Hearts Symphony at the Dolby Theater. Katie is so excited to kick off the fall with laughter and improv, and she is looking forward to helping each student shine and find their voice.

                  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!

                    Ellie Dubin

                    Director

                    Ellie Dubin

                    Director

                    Ellie, a Los Angeles native and YADA alum, is thrilled to be back here directing! She grew up with musical theater and some of favorite productions include (Beauty and the Beast, Seussical, and Les Mis). Ellie graduated last year with a BFA in Acting from The University of Texas at Austin, where she was in various department productions such as Anne in “The Diary of Anne Frank” and Rosalind in “As You Like It”. Ellie was a B. Iden Payne nominee for Outstanding Lead Actress (Anne), and the lead in a short film “The Goodnight Show”, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2018. Aside from acting, Ellie is a singer and songwriter. She just released her 2nd single and is working on her next releases for this coming year.

                      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.

                        carole gibbs

                        Carole Gibbs

                        Administrative Assistant

                        Carole Gibbs

                        Administrative Assistant

                        Carole has spent 35 years as a teacher in Drama, Speech, Journalism and English. As a Drama Director and Forensics Coach she was selected six times for “Drama Coach of the Year” and four times as “Speech Coach of the Year.” Her activities in the arts include, acting, technical direction and script writing. She received her Bachelor of Science in Education from University of Missouri and received her Masters from University of Iowa. Carole has been the costume and prop designer for YADA for ten years and loves every minute.

                          Dan Graul

                          Dan Graul

                          Director And Technical Director

                          Dan Graul

                          Director And Technical 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

                            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.

                              Marie Gutierrez

                              Director

                              Marie Gutierrez

                              Director

                              Born and raised in Los Angeles, Marie nurtured her love for song and dance from a young age. Marie graduated from California State University, Northridge where she received a B.A. in Cinema Television Arts with an emphasis in Media Management. Marie has found a passion in passing down knowledge to the next generation of the arts and has had students of all ages over the past decade. When not teaching or performing, Marie loves to adventure for great coffee and doughnuts! Favorite moments on stage include: Lincoln Center Theater’s The King and I (1st Nat’l Tour), In The Heights, H2$, Miss Saigon, Sweet Charity, Hello, Dolly! Proud member of Actor’s Equity Association.

                                Hayley Holmes

                                Director

                                Hayley Holmes

                                Director

                                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!

                                  Jeff LaGreca

                                  Director/Improv Teacher

                                  Jeff LaGreca

                                  Director/Improv Teacher

                                  Jeff LaGreca is a writer, creative director, teacher, actor, singer, puppeteer and improviser who resides in Los Angeles, CA. He has studied and worked with Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Jeff Richmond, (30 Rock, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Second City) Adam McKay, (Anchorman, The Big Short) Todd Stashwick, (12 Monkeys) Mick Napier, (The Annoyance Theater, Chicago) Matt Besser (Improv4Humans), Matt Walsh (VEEP), Ian Roberts, (Upright Citizens Brigade) Gary Austin, (The Groundlings) and Hilary Stern, (The Groundlings). Jeff taught regularly with companies like Broadway Classroom, an educational program that lets middle school and high school students work on their craft alongside working Broadway professionals. Jeff has worked with the 52nd Street Project in New York City, where he taught, performed and made foam-core sets. He did four years with the Centre Stage program with Queens Theater in the Park, a playmaking program that teaches young people to write and perform their own work, from inception to production. The past three years, he has worked for Swallow Hill Music Association, developing their summer theater/music camps and collaborating with the students on creating original musical works. Jeff has directed and written tons of shows including Minimum Wage, a musical which made it’s Off Broadway debut in NYC and Bijou and the Bots, The Gargoyle Garden (a creepy new children's musical and Fringe NYC Excellence Award Winner!) And a contemporary re-telling of Prokofiev’s (The Trial of) Peter and the (Were) Wolf for the Astoria Symphony. He has just completed work on his first full length YA novel, and is writing a series of children’s books, Roger and Eugene Both Gave Me Thumbs Down, Milton’s Grabbers, The Pesky French Fry, The Gargoyle Garden and the recently published Hideously Heinous. Jeff also is a founder of the Denver Independent Comic Expo (DinkDenver.com) and plays in the nerd bands, H2Awesome! & Daenerys & the Targaryens with his awesome wife, Suze.

                                    Emmy Mattingly

                                    Director

                                    Emmy Mattingly

                                    Director

                                    Emmy is thrilled to be joining the YADA team! She grew up acting, singing, and dancing in Louisville, KY and has performed in professional theatres all across the country. Favorite Roles: Pinkalicious (Pinkalicious), Logainne (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee), Ermengarde (HELLO DOLLY!) Emmy is a proud Florida State University alumni earning a BFA in Musical Theatre. She has also performed as an Equity Principle Performer at Walt Disney World Florida in "Voyage of the Little Mermaid" and "Disney Jr. Live on Stage!". Shortly after moving to LA, Emmy was cast as a recurring guest star in the Disney Channel TV series “Liv and Maddie” (Liv 2/ Linda). She worked weekly on the set for all four of its seasons and performed in front of live studio audiences. She has also booked roles on networks Nickelodeon (“Knight Squad”), MTV (“Mary+Jane”, “Faking It)”, and YouTube Red Series (“WERID CITY”). Emmy loves working with children and is so happy to share her passion of the arts with your kiddos!

                                      Lindsay Merrill

                                      Lindsay Merrill

                                      Director

                                      Lindsay Merrill

                                      Director

                                      Lindsay is so excited to be a part of the YADA team! Born and raised in Omaha, NE, Lindsay has been trained in nearly all styles of dance her whole life and went on to study Dance Performance at Oklahoma City University, where she performed on the American Spirit Dance Company. She fell in love with teaching and choreographing as she taught dance at studios throughout the Midwest. She is currently pursuing a degree in Visual and Performing Arts at the University of California and dances and choreographs for USC’s Xpressions Dance Company. She feels so grateful for the opportunity to bring her knowledge of theater and dance to your children and feels inspired every day by their ability to live in the moment, be fearless, and express themselves freely. She believes in lifelong learning and can’t wait to learn more and more each day while forming a special relationship with each of YADA’s little stars!

                                        Ann Northern

                                        Director

                                        Ann Northern

                                        Director

                                        Originally from Virginia, Ann Northern grew up performing professionally at theaters and venues up and down the east coast. Since a young age, Ann has been an avid student of vocal performance, ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop and all things dramatic.  She grew up learning from some of the best teachers in the country, and she won many awards in singing, dance, and cheerleading conventions throughout the east coast.  She then graduated with a BFA in Professional Acting and Musical Theatre from East Carolina University.  Ann performed and lived in New York City for 8 years, where she completed two Broadway National/International Tours:  Lincoln Center’s South Pacific and Shrek the Musical.  Her favorite credits include Millie (Seven Brides for Seven Brothers), Mae (The Wild Party), Mary Warren (The Crucible), and Emily (Our Town).  After moving to Los Angeles with her Husband and miniature schnauzer, Ann found YADA and immediately felt at home!  Ann is currently an advanced student at Groundlings and UCB and is an alumni of The Meisner Technique.  Her classes have high energy and she loves working with children of all ages and capabilities!

                                          Amanda Perez

                                          Amanda Perez

                                          Director

                                          Amanda Perez

                                          Director

                                          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.

                                            Liliana Rose

                                            Technique Instructor

                                            Liliana Rose

                                            Technique Instructor

                                            A Los Angeles native, Liliana was first introduced to theatre at age 6 through YADA! She evidently fell in love, and is still performing almost 20 years later. After her YADA days, she went on to earn her BFA in Musical Theatre at Texas State University. Subsequently, she performed at various theaters around the country as well as on the seas with Norwegian Cruise Line. When she is not on stage, she finds fulfillment in passing along her passion for theatre to the next generation of performers! Check out www.lilianarose.net for performance updates!

                                              Jordan Segal

                                              Director

                                              Jordan Segal

                                              Director

                                              Jordan is ecstatic to be rejoining the YADA family as he was a student here from ages 9-14! Since his days performing at YADA he graduated from Pace University with a BFA in Musical Theater and stayed in NYC for 6 years pursuing theater. He got his feet wet teaching at Cheviot Hills Drama Camp and fell in love with teaching kids the magic of theater. He got to take part in HAIR produced by original producer, Michael Butler in 2007. Other favorite roles have been Leaf Coneybear(25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee), Seymour (Little Shop of Horrors), and Smee (Peter and the Starcatcher.) Jordan is thrilled to get to plant the theater seed in the place he grew his roots!

                                                Suzanne Slade

                                                Director

                                                Suzanne Slade

                                                Director

                                                Suzanne Slade is a transplant from NYC, where she has performed on and off-Broadway as well as in touring companies. Being a performer as a child, she realized early on that she had a love for helping other children learn the skills needed to be a successful performer. She has worked with kids in the theatre for 20 years through professional companies preparing students for college and/or a musical theatre profession. Suzanne is also a member of SAG-Aftra, as well as a dancer and photographer, specializing in actor’s headshots, and can be seen performing around LA with Bucket List Theatre Company, as well as playing with her band, The Damed. She is thrilled to join the YADA team!

                                                 

                                                  Molly Smith

                                                  Molly Smith

                                                  Director

                                                  Molly Smith

                                                  Director

                                                  Molly grew up in Chicago, IL and as soon as she could began performing in local community theater. Between the ages of 8 to 18, she performed in over 20 plays and musicals. Molly recently graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a BA in Theatre. While in Chicago, she also studied improv at The Second City and performed in several short films. Two years ago, Molly moved to Los Angeles where she has since starred in various independent films and web-series’. Molly continues to study at The Imagined Life in Hollywood.

                                                    Morgan Smith

                                                    Wardrobe Supervisor

                                                    Morgan Smith

                                                    Wardrobe Supervisor

                                                    Morgan has been a director at YADA since Fall 2011. She grew up taking tap, ballet, jazz and voice lessons, and has been performing since she was six years old. Morgan has a degree in Sociology from UCLA and over 15 years of experience teaching and working with children of all ages. In 2010 she returned to “the biz” after working in television production and the non-profit sector. She has since been seen on stage at the Edgemar Center for the Arts and Santa Monica Playhouse, and in assorted commercials and web series. She grew up everywhere (no, really) and is happy to call Los Angeles home. Morgan is available for improv, public speaking, choreography and acting private lessons. She particularly loves working with students on their character work, as well as building their confidence both on and off stage!

                                                      Brittany Thornton

                                                      Director

                                                      Brittany Thornton

                                                      Director

                                                      Brittany is a musical theatre performer and voice actor living in Los Angeles, CA. Originally from Houston, TX, she got her start when, at the age of six, she performed as "Ngana" in Theatre Under the Stars' production of South Pacific with Cathy Rigby. She has been performing ever since. She holds a BA in Music Industry Studies with an emphasis in Voice from California State University, Northridge. Favorite credits include Hairspray (Tracy), Into the Woods (Little Red Riding Hood), In the Heights (Daniela and Carla), 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Logainne), and You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown (Sally Brown). Brittany is beyond thrilled to be joining the YADA team and can’t wait to share her love for the theatre with the YADA kids!

                                                        Devyn Ward

                                                        Director

                                                        Devyn Ward

                                                        Director

                                                        Devyn is so excited to be in Los Angeles and a part of the YADA staff! She was born and raised in Denver, Colorado and recently graduated from the University of Northern Colorado with a BA in Acting Performance and K-12 Theatre Education. Devyn has been dancing since the age of 3 and has spent the last 4 years teaching ballet, tap, jazz, and hip-hop competitively and recreationally at a local studio. She's been acting since the age of 7 and has performed in some amazing shows like Spring Awakening, Pride and Prejudice, and Shakepeare's Love's Labour's Lost. She's also been doing improv for 7 years (her favorite!) and has performed in tons of shows including the Del Close Marathon in New York City. She's looking forward to training and performing in the improv scene in LA! She's taught theatre for 3 years and counting, and throughout her education training she discovered an immense love for Theatre for Young Audiences, and directed a mainstage touring TYA show at UNCo. Her favorite part of teaching theatre and acting is the life skills it teaches young people while also giving them room for imaginative play and creativity.