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.

      jonathan arana

      Jonathan Arana

      Director

      Jonathan Arana

      Director

      Jonathan comes from the Inland Empire and is happy to make his move here to Los Angeles. He has taught theater and music to various age groups within the last 6 years. Alongside teaching, Jonathan is a performer and has been involved in numerous musicals and staged readings throughout the Los Angeles region. He is thrilled to be a part of the YADA family!

        Silvia Beltran

        Silvia Beltran

        Office Staff

        Silvia Beltran

        Office Staff

        Silvia Beltran comes to us with a long history of working to advance youth development efforts in the City of Los Angeles, both as City Council Aide and as the Founder and Executive Director of Homies Unidos, a non-profit organization that works with at risk youth in the inner city. As a daughter of refugees, she understands the need to provide every child with the opportunity to self-express and thrive. She is thrilled to join the YADA family.

          Adrienne Bergeron

          Adrienne Bergeron

          Adrienne Bergeron recently moved to Los Angeles from New York City and she is beyond thrilled to now be a part of the YADA family! A graduate of Lees-McRae College and a proud member of AEA, Adrienne has been choreographing and teaching for children and adults all over the United States. Favorites include:  Yakety Yak and Church Basement Ladies at Cornwell Dinner theatre; Annie, Mulan Jr., Dear Edwina Jr. and Honk for Palace Youth Theatre; 25th Annual Putnam County... and They're Playing Our Song for Southern Colorado Repertory Theatre.  Still a dancer and singer herself, some of her favorite credits have been Chicago (Go to 'Heck' Kitty), Seven Brides… (Sarah), Fiddler…(Chava), Hello, Dolly! (Ermengarde), and A Chorus Line (Bebe).  She looks forward to getting to know the LA scene and is ever so grateful for this opportunity to teach at YADA!  www.adriennebergeron.com

            Shannon Berry

            Shannon Berry

            Shannon was raised in Atlanta, GA where she studied at Savannah College of Art in Design, receiving a Bachelors in Fine Arts Illustration in 2010. In 2011, Shannon decided to take on and relocate to Los Angeles, CA to focus on her career while studying for her Masters in Psychology. Once she graduated in 2012, she then started teaching Fundamentals of Drawing, Sculpting, Photography and Painting. She also took on management at Art Institute of Santa Monica, becoming Vice President of the Scholarship Committee in 2012. In addition, she has managed art shows for children of all ages and became a guest speaker for Girl Scouts Career Day. She has a passion for children and admires the creative mind and limitless energy they bring. She is thrilled and blessed to now be apart of the YADA family!

              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!

                ellen doyle

                Ellen Doyle

                Director

                Ellen Doyle

                Director

                Ellen is thrilled to be on staff at YADA! She is from Chicago and has been seen performing regionally in Indiana, at Indiana University, the Illinois Theatre Festival and in the Chicago area. Favorite roles: Cinderella (Into the Woods), Audrey (Little Shop of Horrors), Diwata (Speech & Debate). She has recently appeared on The Goldbergs and has starred in national commercials, some in which are currently airing. Ellen has trained in improv at the Second City--Chicago and currently studies in the advanced level at the Groundlings Theatre & School. She has a BA from Indiana University, Theatre & Drama and Communications.

                  Chloe Dworkin

                  Chloe Dworkin

                  Director

                  Chloe Dworkin

                  Director

                  Chloe is so happy to be a new member of the YADA family! She graduated from Tisch School of the Arts at NYU with a BFA in Drama in 2011. After graduating she toured with a production of Pride and Prejudice before landing in LA and starting her professional life. She is so happy to get to flex her musical theatre muscles with your cute and talented kiddos!

                    tal fox

                    Tal Fox

                    Director

                    Tal Fox

                    Director

                    Tal is a graduate of Pace University in New York City where she completed a BFA in Musical Theater and a BA in Communications. After college, she toured the U.S. performing in a musical version of Nickelodeon's "Max & Ruby". When she returned to NYC, the cold got to be a little much and she took a hiatus from the East Coast. After coming back to Southern California, where she mostly grew up, she took to working at a private school, directed theater productions for local groups, and coached kids and teens in musical theater technique, acting, and voice. Eventually, Los Angeles beckoned her and she accepted a talent agent position, running Kazarian/Measures/Ruskin & Associates' Theater Department. After 2.5 years behind a desk, her heart has guided her back to living a more creatively-fulfilled life and she is thrilled to be back in Theater Education and performing.

                      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.

                        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 at her private practice in Beverly Hills where she is a licensed Cognitive Behavioral Therapist.

                          Leigh Golden

                          Leigh Golden

                          Director

                          Leigh Golden

                          Director

                          Leigh is THRILLED to be joining the YADA team! Leigh has studied and performed theatre in LA, Germany and at the Moscow Art Theatre in Russia. Some of her favorite roles include Piper Chapman in the World Premiere of Orange is the New Musical, Helena in Midsummer Nights Dream at the Memphis Shakespeare Festival and originating the role of Carrie White in Scary Musical, The Musical. She looks forward to name dropping all the future stars who will come out of YADA and trying to convince her grandchildren she knew them "back in the day."

                            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 Norris Graul

                              Rebecca Graul

                              Musical Supervisor & Director

                              Rebecca Graul

                              Musical Supervisor & Director

                              Rebecca started musical directing for theater at the age of 18 and has been sold ever since! In addition to various theater projects all over town (including several nominations for works in the Hollywood Fringe Festival), she has composed/produced music for dozens of films and tv shows, including 3 award-winners, a “Best Original Song Written For a Film” nomination, a "Best Original Score" Award in the Los Angeles New Wave Film Festival, and ASCAP membership earned along the way. She has also produced, written and co-written 7 singer/songwriter and concept albums and performs her original music in town regularly, as well as performing and touring with various bands and acts all over the country, including her local psychedelic folk rock band Northern Strangers.

                                Annie Hickey

                                Annie Hickey

                                Director

                                Annie Hickey

                                Director

                                Annie Hickey was born and raised in Michigan. She attended Michigan State University and received a BA in Theatre with a Specialization in Dance in 2005. Upon graduation she worked for Interlochen Center for the Arts as an Acting Instructor and Choreographer. In 2006 she moved to Las Vegas and worked for the Nevada Ballet Theatre as a Dance Instructor and Children's Ballet Mistress. She also Co-Founded and Directed Star Arts Productions, a creative arts company for youth. She currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and children and is thrilled to be apart of the talented staff at YADA!

                                  Rachel Hirshee

                                  Rachel Hirshee

                                  Director

                                  Rachel Hirshee

                                  Director

                                  Rachel Hirshee, a Los Angeles native, loves being a part of the YADA family! Outside of YADA, Rachel works in the entertainment industry as an actor, singer and dancer. Rachel was lucky enough to appear in the original cast of Donald Margulies’ Coney Island Christmas at the Geffen Playhouse and in the Actor’s Co-op Ovation winning production of 110 in the Shade as Snookie Updegraff (Best Musical 2014). She has toured the US in Swazzle’s Dream Carver, a bilingual puppet musical, starred in a Sour Patch Kids commercial and worked on two original musicals with 7 time Emmy award winning screenwriter and playwright, Mark Saltzman. Fun fact: Rachel has performed in two shows in YADA's very own theater including You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown as Sally Brown. Additional theater credits include:Avenue Q (Kate Monster/Lucy), Fiddler on the Roof(Tzeitel), Putting It Together (Woman 2), and A Funny Thing Happened … Forum (Philia). Rachel is a proud graduate of UCLA’s Ray Bolger Musical Theater Program. Rachel is honored to share her knowledge of musical theater with YADA's students as theater has the ability to shape one’s life, bring life long friends and instill confidence and bravery within.

                                    Hayley Holmes

                                    Hayley Holmes

                                    Director

                                    Hayley Holmes

                                    Director

                                    Hayley is originally from Covington, Indiana. Dancing, theater, singing, and sports were all activities that consumed her days. She was always drawn to the entertainment field. She enrolled in community theater and a competitive dance team. She loved every moment! Now residing in Los Angeles, CA Hayley is able to make her dream a reality and put all of her hard work to use as an actress/dancer. Each day is a new adventure and she is really enjoying the ride!

                                      Nicole Mangi

                                      Nicole Mangi

                                      Director

                                      Nicole Mangi

                                      Director

                                      Nicole is thrilled to be joining the YADA family! Born and raised in Kenosha, WI Nicole’s first production was the musical CATS. She was 4 years old and played a pink kitten. From that moment on she was hooked! Nicole went on to receive her BFA in Musical Theatre from Webster Conservatory in St. Louis and made her way to NYC. Performing regionally and touring nationally, she finally landed the role of her life in the Broadway Company of GYPSY starring Patti LuPone and directed by Arthur Laurents. Growing up the daughter of teachers, she has always connected with kids and wanted to share the same experience she was lucky enough to have growing up. She became a teaching artist with the non-profit outreach program Broadway in South Africa. With BSA she has been able to travel all through South Africa working with kids in townships to bring music, singing, dancing and hope to those who might not otherwise get the opportunity. She has also been the co-director and teacher at Transcendence Theatre Company’s Broadway Kids camp for the past three summers. She is excited to be making the transition to LA and currently works in TV, Film, and Commercials. Her various other performing credits include: NEW YORK: City Center Encores! REGIONAL: Signature Theatre: Gypsy; Goodspeed Musicals: Meet John Doe; Repertory Theatre of St. Louis: Bicycle Girl; North Shore Music Theatre: Fame; Westchester Broadway Theatre: The Full Monty; Walnut Street Theatre: Beauty and the Beast; Gateway Playhouse: 42nd Street, Cats, On the Town; TV: Law and Order: SVU. RECORDING: Gypsy Cast Recording (Grammy Award).

                                        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!

                                          Leah Miller

                                          Leah Miller

                                          Production Assistant

                                          Leah Miller

                                          Production Assistant

                                          Leah is thrilled to be working at YADA when she's not off in New York, studying people and words at NYU Gallatin. A YADA alum, she's been working here for the past several years. During that time she has also worked on productions throughout the intimate LA theatre scene, including Spring Awakening (Over the Moon), bare and American Idiot (Glory Struck), and Burnt Part Boys and Full Monty (Third Street Theatre).

                                            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. For the last 3 years Scott was the Administrative Assistant to the Principal of the Academy of Nevada Ballet Theatre in Las Vegas. Scott is looking forward to seeing all of the great YADA kids on stage and working with them and their families to create long lasting memories and a passion for the arts.

                                              Rani O'Brien

                                              Rani O’Brien

                                              Director

                                              Rani O’Brien

                                              Director

                                              Rani O’Brien grew up in Washington state where a program very much like YADA’s was a huge part of her life. She earned her BFA in acting at The Theatre Conservatory at Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. She studied directing at La MaMa Umbria’s International Symposium for Directors and The Second City. She started improvising at age 12, and even studied clowning at Dell’Arte International. Rani has directed improv into sketch shows that have been seen at The Second City, IO West, UCB, Funny Women Festival, Aquarium of the Pacific, and Climatepalooza. She has improvised with several Los Angeles teams including The Really Awesome Improv Show. Recently, she directing Candidate Confessions - A 2016 Cabaret for The Second City. Her work has also be seen at The Hollywood Fringe Festival, Sacred Fools, and the LA Comedy Festival.

                                                Stacey Oristano

                                                Stacey Oristano

                                                Director

                                                Stacey Oristano

                                                Director

                                                Stacey is probably most recognized from her Series Regular roles on Friday Night Lights (NBC) and Bunheads (ABC Family). But her true passion has always been the theatre, and she can't wait to share that passion with the students at YADA! She has been seen on Broadway and Touring with Cabaret (Sally), Into The Woods (Cinderella), Disaster! (Jackie), Urinetown (Hope), and many others! She studied classical Theatre in London earning a BFA from The University Of Manchester.

                                                  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.

                                                    Christina Schwinn

                                                    Lighting Designer and Technical Director

                                                    Christina Schwinn

                                                    Lighting Designer and Technical Director

                                                    Christina Schwinn graduated with her B.S. in Theatrical design from University of Indianapolis and earned her MFA (2014) in Theatrical Design with a concentration in Lighting from SUNY (State University of New York) Purchase, NY. Some of Christina’s professional lighting design credits include: Who-ville for Grinchmas at Universal Studios, Hollywood; Toy Fair/Events for Mattel, Inc. (project manager/lead designer); The World Premiere of The Ben Hecht Show (lighting/scenic designer) at The Zephyr Theatre; Off the Kings Road at the Odyssey Theatre; Deaf West Presents: Spring Awakening (master electrician/programmer) at the Wallis Annenburg Performing Arts Center (recently closed its run on Broadway); Recorded in Hollywood (World Premiere) at the The Lillian and Hudson Theatres; Trevor (asst.) (Westcoast Premiere) at the Circle X Theatre Company; Jesus Christ: Superstar at the DOMA Theatre; Watson and the Dark Art of Harry Houdini with Sacred Fools at the Theatre company, all in LA/Hollywood; The Prodigal Daughter, Manhattan Repertory Theatre; The Today Show, NBC (assistant to the designer); Food Network Finale, The Food Network; Iron Chef America (assistant to the designer). Christina currently lives in Los Angeles, CA with her husband.

                                                      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

                                                        Morgan Smith

                                                        Director & Office Staff

                                                        Morgan Smith

                                                        Director & Office Staff

                                                        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!

                                                          J.R. Whittington

                                                          Director

                                                          J.R. Whittington

                                                          Director

                                                          J.R. is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a proud AEA, SAG-AFTRA Member. J.R. studied musical theater at the prestigious Boston Conservatory of Music. His Broadway and National Tour credits include; “Starlight Express”, “Annie Get Your Gun” Revival, “Mamma Mia”, “Bombay Dreams” (Original Broadway Cast), and “A Chorus Line” Revival. Some of his favorite regional theater credits; Theater Under The Stars, Walnut Street Theater, North Carolina Theater, Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, Helen Hayes PAC, and Westchester Broadway Theater. He was recently seen on the soap opera “General Hospital”. Some of his other T.V./Film credits include; “Gossip Girl”, “All My Children”, “The Temptations” Miniseries and “Every Little Step” documentary. J.R. loves to give back and has taught master classes to inspiring students all over the United States. He currently teaches at the TVI Actors Studio, and feels blessed to join the YADA family!