Instructor Bios

Students at OCT work with experienced, caring instructors who work within curriculum standards that support stage skills and build self-confidence.



Julie Akers

Julie has been teaching acting, directing and theater history at the university level for over twenty years. She received an MFA from University of British Columbia and has worked as a Professor at New Mexico State University, Willamette University, Portland Community College, and Lone Star College. She is currently teaching theater at Portland State University. She has been nominated for an Emmy for the collaborative work she did with Teens and Company, in Portland, Oregon. She has run summer long theater camps for high school kids in Las Cruces, New Mexico. She recently worked with kids at risk in Austin, Texas, through the Creative Action Project. Her commitment to educational theater, at all levels, is absolute.


Robi Arce

Robi has been teaching for over a decade. He holds an MFA in Ensemble-Based Physical Theatre from Dell'Arte International. Robi has performed, toured, and lead workshops in Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. His work is diverse, from theaters to churches, plazas and schools, bringing theatrical and educational shows to all. Fueled by social justice and change, his passion is to create a physical, dynamic and poetic theatre that connects with people as sports connects with the fans. 


Dani Baldwin

Dani is the Artistic Director of the Young Professionals Company. She frequently acts, directs, and designs for OCT. Outside of OCT, she has performed with Sojourn Theatre, Chianti Club Presents, Tapestry Theater, and Miracle; plus she's a regular actor with Kaiser Permanente.


Jordan Beck

Jordan Beck is a Portland native who has worked as an actor, director, stage manager, teaching artist, and classroom drama teacher. He holds Master of Arts in Teaching Theatre from University of South Carolina where he assisted on research projects related to creativity and literacy. He is currently, an improviser around the Portland area, generating theatre with a small ensemble, teaching at OCT, and on the Theatre Faculty at Saint Mary’s Academy in downtown Portland


David Berkson

David teaches drama at Portland's Northwest Academy, and has also taught for Portland Actors Conservatory, Profile Theatre Project and Northwest Children's Theatre. David has directed multiple Shakespeare productions, as well as works by Harold Pinter and Edward Albee. Previously, he was Education Director for Marin Shakespeare Company and Camp Director for The San Francisco Shakespeare Festival. 


Jeffrey Childs

Jeffrey is a music director, accompanist, and musical theater teacher. He was the owner of Theatre ETC in Chico, CA and the staff accompanist at Chico State. Since moving to Portland in 2010, Jeffrey has worked with Portland Center Stage, Broadway Rose, Valley Catholic High School, Robert Gray Middle School, Staged, and Oregon Children’s Theatre.


Nick Condon

Nick has been a touring Actor/Educator for over eighteen years. A Minneapolis native, he studied and performed at several companies in the Twin Cities including; Stages Theatre Company, Comedy Sportz, The Brave New Workshop, and Outward Spiral, and The National Theatre for Children. Most recently he hails from Talkeetna, Alaska where he served as Creative Director of Denali Drama and Iditaprov. In addition to teaching at OCT he can be seen performing, teaching and coaching at Curious Comedy Theatre.


Tyharra Cozier  

Tyharra Cozier is so incredibly excited to be apart of Oregon Children's Theatre! Originally, from Coral Springs, FL, Tyharra received her Bachelor of Arts, Theatre, from Florida State University. Passionate for the craft, she moved to Portland, OR and completed a two-year conservatory program at Portland Actors Conservatory. In 2017, Tyharra co-founded Syde-Ide Collaborations, a company whose mission is to “illuminate the marginalized lens.” They produced their first show, The Clark Doll, in 2018. Tyharra has had the opportunity to work with a number of projects in the Portland area, most notably The New Black Fest’s Hands Up!: 7 Playwrights, 7 Testimonies (August Wilson Red Door Project). In 2017, Tyharra began working with students in the Portland community through the August Wilson Monologue Competition as a Student Liaison and Teaching Artist.   


Lydia Ellis-Curry

Lydia has been performing since age 5. She graduated with her Bachelors in Theatre from Columbia College Chicago, where she also founded an after-school drama club for under served middle school students at a west side charter school. Her love for kids of all ages shines through by using theatre and music as the medium to build confidence and emotional intelligence. When not working with kids or coaching private lessons, Lydia can be seen performing at various theatres around town and volunteering for Latino Rights Organizations.

Elizabeth Fagan

Elizabeth is the Acting Academy Manager at OCT. She had her start with the company at age 8 as Ramona Quimby in the 1997 production and was one of the very first Young Professionals. After going on to train at London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts and at Ecole Jacques Lecoq in Paris, she returned to Portland to work as an actor, musician, and performing arts educator.


Jay Flewelling

Jay is a true comedian as he is truly tall.  Being a Portland native, Jay showcases his broad comedic prowess in several different rodeos around town. As well as being a Curious Comedy Player, Jay has performed stand-up and storytelling at the Portland Center Stage, Helium comedy club, Mortified, Campfire Stories, and has opened for Kevin McDonald from Kids in the Hall. Jay is also a founding member of the Portland favorite improv group, “J Names”


Courtney Freed

Courtney Freed is a Portland native who spent several years performing in Chicago and Los Angeles. No stranger to the local theatre scene, her most favorite recent roles were Florence in Chess at Lakewood Theater Company and Trina (Drammy nom!) in Live on Stage's Falsettos. She has also tread the boards of Portland Center Stage, Pixiedust Productions, Broadway Rose, Lakewood, Profile, Triangle Productions and many more! Courtney is the creator of the wildly popular local concert series, Portland Sings!, bringing together some of the city's finest vocalists for a magical evening in a variety of musical themes. She has a BA in Theatre Arts from Loyola Marymount University


Tony Fuemmeler

Tony has worked as a mask maker, puppeteer, director, teacher, and movement consultant in Portland, across the US, and, recently, in Mumbai, India. He has taught in NYC and Portland public schools, after school programs, and in multiple colleges and universities. At OCT, Tony has taught for the Acting Academy, directed a YP play, and created masks and puppets for mainstage shows. Tony trained in performance and theater design at the University of Kansas and in physical theater at Dell'Arte International.


Francisco Garcia

Francisco is an Equity actor who has taught classes for The Mark Taper Forum, California Institute of the Arts, Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles, Cornerstone Theatre Company and Oregon Children’s Theatre. As a writer, Francisco served as the 2012-2013 guest playwright for CalArts' Community Arts Partnership Program. His adaptation of Fuente Ovejuna was performed in the Spring of 2013 at REDCAT Theatre located at Walt Disney Concert Hall. 


Molly Gilbert

Molly is a Teaching Artist, Actor, Singer, Director, and loves playing the Ukulele. She received her BA in Theatre Arts from the University of San Diego and then moved to the San Francisco Bay Area where she both taught and performed, and was a Core Artist with the Ragged Wing Ensemble focused on ensemble-devised theatre. Molly has a Masters degree in Theatre Education from Emerson College of Boston, and has trained extensively in Theatre for Young Audiences, teaching Shakespeare, and Linklater Voice work. 


Kristin Hailstone

Kristin is thrilled to be teaching with OCT! She holds a BA in Theater from Arizona State University. For 14 seasons, Kristin was a Teaching Artist and member of the acting ensemble for the internationally acclaimed theatre company Childsplay in Tempe, AZ. She appeared in the Education Theatre Program’s touring production of The Amazing Food Detective as Mrs. C. Kristin lives and laughs with her wonderful husband and son.


Whitney Handrich

Whitney has been practicing yoga for over a decade, and she was inspired to become a teacher after a year in Asia studying yoga, meditation, acroyoga, and Thai bodywork. She completed her teaching certification in Hatha and Ashtanga Yoga in India, and later became certified in Kids & Family Yoga, Yin Yoga, and Prenatal Yoga with the desire to help make yoga accessible to all. Drawing from her experience as an international adoptee, she is passionate about building community connections in family yoga classes and hopes to organize classes for foster and adoptive kids and families in the future.


Chris Harder

Chris received his degree from the University of Wisconsin - Parkside and was a core member of Sowelu Theatre Ensemble for seven seasons. As an Equity actor he has worked locally in numerous theatre, film, TV and commercial projects and is a certified stage hypnotist, comedy magician and clown performer. Chris has taught regularly with Oregon Children’s Theatre, Portland Public Schools, Playwrite Inc., Actors To Go, and The Young Players. 


Sydney Jackson

Sydney is a movement artist and a new teacher at Oregon Children’s Theatre. Her first encounter with Theatre for Young Audiences was joining the staff at Childsplay Theatre in Tempe, Arizona and she is currently a guest artist for Northwest Children’s Theatre. She earned a BFA in Dance Performance from Arizona State University and has been working professionally since. Sydney is a performer, choreographer, and teaching artist, often collaborating with fellow OCT and NWCT teacher, Kaleena Newman on performance works and classes! Sydney is also an aspiring farmer and community health worker!

Aubrey Jessen & Greta West

Aubrey Jessen and Greta West have been friends for ten years.  They both have bachelors in theatre (WWU and NYU, respectively). Aubrey was a founding member (Greta joined in 2011) of Action Adventure Theatre, where they co-wrote and directed the drammy-nominated noir detective play Hawthorne. They graduated from PSU with their masters degrees in 2013, and work as Speech-Language Pathologists at the high school level.


Savira Kambhu

Savira Kambhu is a full-time teaching artist at Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theatre Program in collaboration with Oregon Children’s Theatre. He has been doing improv for the last nine+ years, and has been teaching in various settings in and around Portland since 2013. Once a year he travels to Pendleton, Oregon to teach a week-long camp where he also writes and directs a story theatre production. 


Val Landrum

Val has been teaching at OCT since 2002 and co-directed Antigone Now for the YP program. An Equity and award winning actor originating from Chicago, Val has worked and trained with regional theaters, including Steppenwolf and The Goodman. She has been in productions for OCT, Portland Center Stage, Third Rail Repertory Theatre, Artist Repertory Theatre, Profile Theatre, CoHo, Portland Playhouse, and more. She has also taught for Northwest Children’s Theatre, Portland Center Stage, The Young Players, and ART.


Amy LaRosa

Amy has been teaching theater for the past thirteen years. She graduated from the University of Southern Maine with a major in theater and a minor in music. She was a company member of The Theater Project in Brunswick, Maine where she both taught and performed and taught theater and music for Bar Harbor Maine's Summer Festival of the Arts. Her love of rainy nights brought her to Seattle where she taught for Youth Theatre Northwest and performed with Live Girls! Theater. She now teaches in Portland for Young Players and Portland Public Schools, as well as Oregon Children's Theatre.


Sandy Libonati

Sandy has been a singer and actress for over thirty years, and a musical theatre director and a teaching artist for the past thirteen years. Sandy’s passion for helping students discover their artistic voice brings inspiration to every class she teaches and every show she directs. In addition to directing numerous musicals for local Middle Schools, High Schools and Community Theatre, she has also been a guest artist for the Young Musicians & Artists Summer Camp, and director for Buckman Arts School Summer Musical Theatre Camp. Sandy is thrilled to be joining the talented and inspiring team at Oregon Children’s Theatre. 


Sullivan Mackintosh

Sullivan worked as an intern in OCT's Communications and Marketing department in 2014-15, and is delighted to return as a Teaching Artist for the Acting Academy. She holds a theatre degree from Lewis & Clark College, and has studied at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the National Theatre Institute. Sullivan is a current student at the Institute for Contemporary Performance, and splits her time between Portland and Hood River, where she works as a teaching artist/director for Columbia Center for the Arts, and as the Artistic Director of Phoenix Theatre.


Karen Maseng

Karen began her career as an actress. Her love of the acting process led her to running camera and directing actors in the casting sessions. Karen formed her own company, Pogo Casting, as a boutique casting company, catering to discerning clients who demand a casting director that is deeply involved in every aspect of the casting process. Her goal is to guide young actors as they develop and maintain a healthy perspective that is crucial for anyone embarking on a career in show business.


Kaleena Newman

Kaleena has worked as a professional actor and teaching artist in Theatre for Young Audiences for the past 10 years. In addition to teaching for multiple companies in Portland, she was the first Artist in Residence at Bay Area Children’s Theatre in 2017, and is an ensemble member at Childsplay in Arizona where she has taught and been seen in many productions. Kaleena holds a B.A. in Theatre from Arizona State University and was most recently a resident artist with Arizona based art collective [nuebox]


Jeff Oliver

Jeff Oliver is a filmmaker, writer and comedian. Humor is an indispensable part of his creative process. He has appeared at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival, on NPR’s Tell Me More and once as a question on Wait, Wait...Don’t Tell Me. Since 2012 he has been a teaching artist using PBL (Project Based Learning) to create short films with youth. In the Portland area Jeff has worked with: Open Signal, The Hollywood Theatre, Portland Center Stage, OMSI, Open School North, The Emerson School, Art4Life and at the MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility.

Cecily Overman

Cecily has been active in Portland theatre for over ten years, both teaching and performing. Some of her favorite roles at Oregon Children’s Theatre include:  "White Witch" in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, "Mother" in The Giver, and "Aunt Spiker" in James and the Giant Peach. Cecily has taught for Artist Repertory Theatre, Portland Center Stage, Young Players, and Northwest Children's Theater. She received Bachelor's degrees in both Psychology and Theatre from Whitman College.


Kristen Paige

Kristen has been performing, directing, and choreographing for over 20 years. Raised in the Midwest, she obtained her Bachelors in Theatre from Truman State University in Missouri before heading off to New York City. More she recently lived in Los Angeles where she acted professionally as well as taught drama, music, and dance at numerous schools and studios.  Also a certified teacher, Kristen currently teaches musical theatre and dance throughout Portland and Vancouver and is a choreographer for OCT’s 2018-2019 season. She’s honored to be part of the OCT family!


Samantha Reiter

Sam has been acting, teaching, improvising, and directing for eight years. She began at the Denver Center Theatre Academy, where she assistant directed several teen productions. While earning her BA in Theatre from Lewis & Clark College, she spent a semester studying acting at the Moscow Art Theatre, and has harbored a passion for Chekhov ever since. She is thrilled to be a part of the OCT team!


Jeanne Rogers

A professional actress for 30 years, Jeanne performed in leading roles opposite many well-known actors such as Nick Nolte, Don Johnson, Ron Howard, Henry Winkler, Marion Ross, and others. She trained at the world-renowned Neighborhood Playhouse in New York, where she studied under legendary acting teacher, Sanford Meisner. Jeanne has extensive experience teaching children's drama classes at Honolulu Waldorf High School, Honolulu Theatre for Youth, Free Arts Clinic in Los Angeles, and most recently in Portland at NWCT and OCT.


Zoë Rudman

Zoë is a local actor, improviser, and movement director who has been in the OCT family since she took her first class here at age 8. She was then a Young Professional and a teacher before becoming the former Acting Academy Manager. She is now pursuing a Masters degree in Mental Health Counseling, and loves to continue teaching with OCT!

David Saffert

David was hired by OCT to coach five students who performed with Sarah Jessica Parker at the White House in front of Michelle Obama. He frequently works as an accompanist for Portland Opera and has been a Teaching Artist with Portland Opera to Go and OCT. Other credits include Oregon Ballet Theatre, All Classical Portland Radio, Tony Starlight's, and the Guthrie (Minnesota). David's current gig is performing as Liberace alongside Liberace's own Music Director, Bo Ayars.


Diana Schultz 

Diana is a native Oregonian that studied theatre arts, performance and dance at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in NYC and LA. She's proud to have received movement instruction from Amanda Ellis, Jamie Benson, and Vic DiMonda (The Ailey School.) Diana is passionate about creative collaborations, devising new work, and finds tremendous joy in discovering each student's inner dancer!


Kemba Shannon

Kemba Shannon received her BFA from Towson State University and trained at the Alvin Ailey American Theater, Martha Graham School, The Edge, Lula Washington, Peridance, and Morgan State University. She has taught dance classes at, UCLA, LOYOLA MARYMOUNT, El Camino College, Portland State University and others. Kemba's stage credits include: The Lion King (LA cast), The Color Purple (Broadway cast), CIRQUE duSoLIEL (Zumanity), Aida, and FAME. Kemba's ambition and drive have won her world recognition with icons MADONNA ("Drowned World Tour"), PINK ("Try This World Tour"), Celine Dion ("Taking Chances World Tour"), RIHANNA (Nike "RockStar World Tour), Kanye West, R. Kelly and FANTASIA just to name a few. Her television credits include: American Dreams (NBC), Oscars ("Chicago" Performance), MTV Music Awards (Pink performance), the Emmys (Kristin Bell performance), World Music Awards (Kanye West, & R. Kelly) NAACP Awards, and the Grammy’s..


Amir Shirazi

Amir (they/them/theirs) is an active composer, arranger, sound designer, music director, and songwriter. Their theatrical credits include productions with Portland Actors Ensemble, Post5 Theatre Co., Milagro Theatre Group, Jewish Theatre Collaborative, Corrib Theatre, Portland Center Stage, and more. Amir serves as Artistic Director to Transpose PDX, which is a non-profit choral arts organization serving the transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming community. They graduated from Boston College with a B.A. in Music, concentrating in composition and theory.


Mark Steering

Mark has a degree in Performing Arts from Ithaca College in NY. He is a vocal instructor and has taught theatre, music and directed musicals with kids and adults for over 20 years. Mark was the Theatre Arts Director at MJCC. He is also a composer who has written and produced several musicals, a 30 minute opera for the Saturday Market/Sunday Opera project and has written choral arrangements for Angels, the Next Generation.


Emma Stewart

Emma has been teaching at Oregon Children’s Theatre since 2016 as well as teaching for New Moon Productions and volunteering at Kelly Creek Elementary in third and fourth grade classrooms. She is currently a student at Portland State University in Pre-Elementary Education. Emma began taking classes at OCT at a young age, trained through the Young Professionals program, and was an ensemble member of Impulse! as well as appearing on OCT's mainstage as Anna in Goosebumps. She is thrilled to be on the teaching side of OCT’s Acting Academy!


Ginnie Sutfin

Ginnie grew up in San Jose, California, where she performed as a teenager with San Jose Children’s Musical Theatre.  She graduated with a BA in Theatre Arts from Gonzaga University, and received her MFA in performance from the University of Idaho.  In Portland, she was one of the founding company members of 2Boards Productions, and has been the Drama Director at Valley Catholic High School since 2004, where she also teaches English and Journalism.  


Chelsie Thomas

Chelsie holds a Master of Arts in Teaching from secondary drama and language arts, and a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre from SOU.   Chelsie has taught at Northwest Children's Theatre, as well as at the reggio emilia inspired preschool Growing Seeds in NE Portland.  Chelsie has acted with several companies throughout the Portland area, including: Sojourn Theatre, Lunacy Stageworks, Well Arts,  and Curious Comedy Theatre.  Chelsie is excited to work with Oregon Children's Theatre!


Blake Wales

Blake is an alumni of the Young Professionals Program at Oregon Children's Theatre and has been a part of the OCT family from a very young age. Currently, Blake is the Acting Academy Associate at OCT and recently moved back to Portland after graduating with a BFA from Adelphi University in New York. He also studied abroad at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts and has traveled across the globe implementing arts programs for at risk youth.   


Holly Wigmore

Holly is a performer, producer, and teaching artist living in Portland. She is a professional actor who has performed with many local companies. Holly regularly performs sketch comedy and is a graduate of the Pacific Conservatory of Performing Arts in Santa Maria, CA. She also toured nationally with Tears of Joy Theatre, where she performed as a puppeteer and taught classes to elementary aged students. 


Emily Windler

Emily Windler is an actor, deviser, and teacher who has been touring and performing original theatrical works around North America since 2011. Emily has an MFA equivalent in Ensemble Based Physical Theatre from Dell'Arte International School of Physical Theatre, where she trained in the devising of original physical theatre. She has been teaching theatre to young people for 9 years in youth theatre camps, after-school programs, as well as individual workshops and classes throughout the greater Portland area and beyond.

Matt Zrebski

Matt moved to Portland, OR in 1997. He graduated from the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University with a BFA in Acting, Directing, and Playwriting.  His own plays, The Planet ME, Neck, A Place Called Timothy, Parts, Darkstep and Dawning, After the Zipper, and The Vespiary have been produced in the Dallas, Texas and/or Portland, Oregon areas. Matt is a multi-award-winning director and writer, and has also written a wide range of plays for the JAW Festival at Portland Center Stage.