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

          Adrienne Bergeron

          Director

          Adrienne Bergeron

          Director

          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

            Office Staff

            Shannon Berry

            Office Staff

            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!

              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!

                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!

                      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.

                        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 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.

                              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

                                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 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!

                                    Stella Kim

                                    Director

                                    Stella Kim

                                    Director

                                    Stella was born and raised in Orange County, California and it was there that she found her love of performing! She is a classically trained singer and Ovation Nominated actress. Some favorite stage roles include Gigi in “Miss Saigon” (Broadway World LA Best Featured Actress), Narrator in “Joseph…”, Lady Thiang in “The King and I” and Marta in “Company”. She currently sings with Southern California’s premiere a cappella group WestBeat (in association with 3-D Theatricals) on the Disneyland Resort. Stella is honored to join the YADA family and share her knowledge of musical theatre, because of the great need for Arts Education to build up our youth and give them the tools and empowerment to be the creative leaders of the next generation!

                                      Blake McIver

                                      DIRECTOR

                                      Blake McIver

                                      DIRECTOR

                                      Blake McIver’s vast experience in the entertainment industry is derived from multiple disciplines. His creative accomplishments range from film and television to live theatre and the recording studio. Blake has succeeded professionally as an actor, writer, director, producer and recording artist. Performing on network television at age six, Blake was always just as interested in what went on behind the camera as in front of it. His starring roles on hit series such as “Full House” and “Hey Arnold” led to feature films including “The Little Rascals” and gave him the opportunity to work with Steven Spielberg and Penelope Spheeris. Appearing in the World Premiere of the hit musical, “Ragtime”, Blake’s love of musical theatre was ignited. Tony Award winning director, Frank Galati instilled in him a structure for mounting a production that Blake continues to use today. While managing his own theatre company, YMTA, Blake directed a production of Elton John and Tim Rice’s “AIDA” at the Thousand Oaks Performing Arts Center and produced the critically acclaimed production of “The Light in the Piazza” at the El Portal Theatre. Blake is also a graduate of UCLA.

                                        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

                                          Ann is so excited to join the YADA team!  For the past seven years Ann has worked as a musical theatre performer in NYC, and just recently moved to Los Angeles to pursue film and television.  She performed with the National tour of South Pacific, and the International tour of Shrek The Musical.  Ann graduated from East Carolina University with a BFA in Musical Theatre and Professional Acting.  Her favorite credits include Millie (Seven Brides for Seven Brothers), Mae (The Wild Party), Mary Warren (The Crucible), and Emily (Our Town).  She loves working with children and cannot wait to be inspired everyday by your talented kids!

                                            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.

                                                Jamison Scala

                                                Improv Instructor

                                                Jamison Scala

                                                Improv Instructor

                                                Jamison Scala is an actor/comedian. Jamison is a graduate of The Second City Conservatory and performs regularly on their Hollywood stage and previously at sea with their Norwegian Cruise Line partnership. Jamison has written and performed in videos including: “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. Most recently, Jamison co-starred in his first feature-length film, "Freelancers Anonymous," which is set to premiere at Frameline Film Festival in Summer 2018. In addition to performing, Jamison teaches improv and sketch writing to youth at The Second City and Youth Academy of Dramatic Arts. Raised in NJ (exit 145), he now calls Los Angeles home. His spirit animal is Judge Judy.

                                                  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!

                                                    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

                                                      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!

                                                        Jordan Williams

                                                        DIRECTOR

                                                        Jordan Williams

                                                        DIRECTOR

                                                        Jordan's quest has taken him from Seattle to Chicago, and now to Los Angeles as an actor, improviser, and teaching artist.  He's always had a love of teaching, and has toured with Missoula Children's Theater, performing and directing in 20 states and 6 countries.  Earning his degree in Theatre from Western Washington University, he soon expanded to improv, performing in and graduating from the Second City Conservatory in Chicago, iO Chicago, and the Annoyance, and continues to perform on stage and on screen.  Jordan can always be seen in various independent films, webisodes, and commercials, and loves to share his love of performing with kids of all ages!

                                                          Kelly Asencio

                                                          After Care / Costumes

                                                          Kelly Asencio

                                                          After Care / Costumes

                                                          Kelly Asencio, born and raised in Los Angeles, has been working for YADA 3 years now. Graduated from Ramon Cortinez Visual and Preforming Arts HS as a music student. Has a Bachelors of Science in Kinesiology from VUSC. And is now a Fashion Designer who got her degree from FIDM. She designs wedding dresses and clothes as a freelancer. And she volunteers as a creative manager for Fearless LA church in downtown, where she teaches children and builds sets and designs for them. She has a ton of experience with children and loves working with them.