Alumni Notes | School of Theatre and Dance | Kent State University

Alumni Notes

The School of Theatre and Dance is dedicated to celebrating the successes of its alumni locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. 

2010s
  • Matti-Lynn Chrisman (B.F.A. Musical Theatre, 2018) was crowned Miss Ohio in June 2018 and competed at Miss America in September 2018.
  • Peter Anthony Fields (B.A. Theatre Studies, 2018) is an author and playwright. His first novel for middle school readers, A Faraway Place, was published in July 2018. A collection of four of his short plays entitled The Unbelievable Now was also recently published. Additionally, his short play The Visit was recently performed in Houston, Texas and was chosen for the Fade to Black Play Festival in June 2018. He is currently writing his first full-length play and working on another collection of short plays for publication.
  • Aveena Sawyer (B.F.A. Musical Theatre, 2018) has been cast in the national tour of Something Rotten!
  • Morgan Walker (B.F.A. Dance Performance, 2018) is currently performing with Cardell Dance Theater's Supper, People on the Move tour. Silvana Cardell was a Kent Dance Ensemble guest artist in 2018 and set Supper, People on the Move on the Kent Dance Ensemble.
  • Cyndi Hoffman (M.F.A. Lighting Design, 2016) is an assistant pyrotechnician with Texas Musical Drama and works for Holland America Cruise Lines as a Lighting Technician in the Main Stage Theater. She recently designed the lights for a show in cooperation with BBC Earth and Holland America Lines called Alaska in Concert.
  • Abbey Kane (B.F.A. Musical Theatre, 2016) served as the assistant director for the Off-Off-Broadway premiere of Abnormal.
  • Kirk Lydell (B.F.A. Musical Theatre, 2016) has been cast in the national tour of A Bronx Tale
  • Emily Perrot (B.A. Dance Studies, 2016) received her Doctor of Physical Therapy from the University of Pittsburgh and is a traveling physical therapist for Triage.
  • Tom West (M.F.A. Lighting Design, 2016) is Administrative Faculty and Technical Theatre Director for the #2 ranked private school in Ohio.
  • Claire Dieringer (B.F.A. Dance Performance, 2015) is a company dancer with Seven Dance Company and MamLuft&Co. Dance. Claire serves as the Director of Education and Outreach for MamLuft&Co.
  • Ashley Lain (B.A. Dance Studies, 2015) lives in Indianapolis and is studying for a Master's degree in Elementary Education. She works as a Lead Teacher at Reach Out and Dance and Dance Magic Performing Arts Center and is an instructional assistant at Noblesville East Middle School.
  • Colleen Longshaw (M.F.A. Acting for the Returning Professional, 2015) is a Northeast Ohio based actor and educator. She is a C.A.R.E. teaching artist at the Tony Award winning Cleveland Play House and continues to work professionally as an actress both on stage and film. Recent credits include performances at Porthouse Theatre, Dobama Theatre, Karamu House, Mercury Theatre Comany, and Tantrum Theatre.
  • Scott Miesse's (B.F.A. Musical Theatre, 2015) original play, Abnormal, premiered Off-Off-Broadway in September 2018.
  • Nina Price (B.F.A. Dance Performance, 2015) dances professionally with Garth Fagan Dance, the dance company of Tony Award-winning choreographer Garth Fagan.
  • Dana Wasielewski (B.F.A. Dance Performance, 2015) is a performer with Morrison Dance and works for Dancing Classrooms Northeast Ohio.
  • Emily Dottavio Crawford (B.F.A. Dance Performance, 2014) graduated with an M.F.A. in Dance and Choreography from UNC Greensboro in 2018. She is an adjunct professor at High Point University in North Carolina.
  • Marcia Custer (B.A. Dance Studies, 2014) is a Cleveland-based contemporary performance artist known as MC Uster.
  • Greg M. Violand (M.F.A. Acting for the Returning Professional, 2014) is an Ohio-based actor and educator who has appeared extensively in film and on stage. Recent screen credits include Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, CarolJenny's Wedding, and Love Finds You in Sugarcreek. On stage, Greg recently appeared in the world premiere of the revised Jane Eyre at Cleveland Musical Theatre and the New York premiere of Kris Kringle.
  • Carly Shiner (B.F.A. Design and Technology, 2013) served as the lighting designer for the Off-Off-Broadway premiere of Abnormal. Carly is the Master Electrician of the Meredith and Rosemary Willson Theatre at the Juilliard School.
  • Tee Boyich (B.F.A. Musical Theatre, 2013) is a member of the Tony Award nominated original Broadway cast of Mean Girls on Broadway. She is the standby for Cady, Gretchen, Janis, and Adult Women.
  • Amanda (Black) Sroka (B.F.A. Dance, 2013) is an instructor at Ohio Northern University.
  • Tricia Bestic (M.F.A. Acting, 2012) is a professional actor/singer that teaches the Art of Theatre and Acting at Kent State University, as well as offering private coaching. She is a proud member of both Actors’ Equity Association and SAG-AFTRA Un She holds a BA (Communications and Political Science) and Post Baccalaureate work (Education) from John Carroll University; MFA in Acting, Kent State University, and is a certified teacher of the Michael Chekhov acting technique. Theatre credits include: Steel Magnolias, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, Trying, Respect…A Musical Journey, Unbeatable, and Forbidden Broadway: Special Victims Unit at Playhouse Square. Locally she has been on stage at The Cleveland Playhouse, Porthouse Theatre, Cesear’s Forum, The Beck Center, Dobama, and Blank Canvas (Sally Bowles, Cabaret). Commercial/Film work includes: the PBS mini-series The War That Made America, Tammy the Tum's waitress, Foot Locker, and national voiceovers for Kleenex, Walmart, Dannon, Huggies, Nestle, and McDonald’s. She will be in the upcoming regional premiere of the Tony nominated play, Hand to God at Dobama Theatre, and the film Legacy, directed by David Armstrong. www.triciabestic.com
  • Jessica (Kraft) Cruz (B.F.A. Dance Performance, 2012) lives in Massachusetts where she is a Dance/Movement Therapist at Riverside Community Care.
  • Connie Hecker (M.F.A. Theatre Technology, 2012) is assistant professor of theatre arts at Liberty University. She has designed shows for musical theatre, drama, and opera around the Greater Cleveland/Akron area, including for the Akron Civic Hall All City Musical Ragtime, Cuyahoga Community College East Botanic GardenHarry’s Christmas, and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare; Dobama Theatre A Bright New Boise, Kent State University RagtimeCloud NineGrapes of Wrath, Solon Art Center Werther, and Heights Youth Theatre The Little Princess, Alice in Wonderland, and Through the Looking Glass.
  • Jon Gluckner (B.F.A. Musical Theatre, 2013) recently performed in the Off-Broadway revival of Naked Boys Singing.
  • Tracee Patterson (M.F.A. Acting for the  Returning Professional, 2013) is an actor and educator that has appeared at the Cleveland Play House, Great Lakes Theater, Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Porthouse Theatre, Dobama Theatre, and Ohio Shakespeare Festival.
  • Imani (Thomas) Jackson (B.F.A. Dance Performance, 2012) is the Dance Director at the Cleveland School of Performing Arts and performed in Cain Park's production of Memphis in the summer of 2018.
  • Kathleen Kovarik (M.F.A. Costume Design, 2012) is the Resident Costume Designer at Playhouse on the Square (POTS) in Memphis, TN. Previously, Kovarik worked as a general technician and costume shop manager at POTS and as assistant costumer at the Cumberland County Playhouse.
  • Diane Skerbec (B.F.A. Dance Performance, 2012) dances professionally for Chris Ferris & Dancers in New York City. She completed her M.A. in Dance Education from Hunter College in 2018 and teaches in NYC public schools.
  • Sabatino A. Verlezza (B.F.A. Dance Performance, 2012) dances professionally with RIOULT Dance NY.
  • (Richard) Brandon Hall (B.F.A. Dance Education, 2011) lives in Bronx, NY and currently serves as Associate Director of Operations and Human Resources for Eye to Eye International, an education organization devoted to the success of students with learning disabilities in public schools.
  • DH Taylor (B.A. Theatre Studies, 2011) is a Wales, UK based stage and event manager and theatre technician. He received his masters degree from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Stage and Events Management. Credits include Production Manager for the UK National Tour of Count Arthur Strong, Production Manager for Camille O'Sullivan, "CAVE," at the Festival of Voice, Technical Manager for Komedia Bath in Bath, England, and Master Carpenter for the Society of British Theatre Designers Nottingham Exhibition. 
2000s
  • Laura Nelson (M.A., 2009) graduated from the University of Missouri in 2014 with a PhD in Theatre and Performance Studies. Her dissertation was titled: “Coriolanus Versus the Warrior Women: A Dramaturgical Analysis of an Adaptation of Shakespeare’s Play.” After winning the Carla Waal Johns Award for feminist theatre scholarship, she taught at Columbia College. Recently, she explored dramaturgy in youth theatre with the Playhouse Theatre's production of "Beauty and the Beast."
  • Melissa Owens (M.F.A. Acting for the Returning Professional, 2009) is Assistant Professor of Theatre and the Chair of the Department of Theatre & Dance at Converse College, a private Liberal Arts Women’s College in Spartanburg, SC. Melissa directs annually for Theatre Converse and other local theaters, and is the Resident Costume Designer for the Converse School of the Arts. Previously, Melissa worked for over twenty five years as an actor, costumer and teacher, and has been a proud member of AEA since 1993.
  • Stephanie Yatsu Patterson (B.F.A. Dance Performance, 2009) is a Registered Nurse in the Emergency Department at Western Reserve Hospital.
  • Bill Patti (M.F.A. Acting, 2009) is an educator and currently serves as Director of Theatre Arts at Episcopal High School, one of the nation’s most elite Prep Boarding Schools, in Alexandria, VA. He also serves as the Artistic Director of the Highlands Playhouse, a 79 year old professional summer stock company. 
  • Nicole Perrone (M.F.A. Acting, 2009) serves as Associate Professor of Acting & Movement in the School of Theatre at Marshall University and is a Director of the Marshall University Center for Wellness in the Arts which she co-founded in 2014.  Nicole is a certified teacher of the Alexander Technique (ATI), and a certified teacher of the Michael Chekhov Technique through the Great Lakes Michael Chekhov Consortium where she is also an Associate Teacher.  A member of Actors’ Equity Association and the Screen Actors Guild, Nicole has worked professionally for twenty years as an actor, teacher and director.  With theatre-maker Matthew Earnest, she founded the Lunar Stratagem, an Equity non-profit theatre based in Huntington, WV.  
  • Elizabeth Townsend (M.F.A. Acting, 2009) is a St. Louis based actress and educator that has appeared on television in Law & OrderThe Sopranos, All My Children, and in multiple national commercials and on stage at St. Louis Fringe Festival, Stages Repertory, Cleveland Play House, La MaMa E.T.C., Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Great Lakes Theater, Porthouse Theatre, and Purple Rose Theatre. Elizabeth is certified to teach the Alba Emoting Technique and the Michael Chekhov Technique. 
  • Leah Brady (B.F.A. Dance Performance, 2007) is the Director/Owner/Manager of Brockport School of Dance and Performing Arts in Brockport, NY. Brady is also a dance instructor with the school.
  • Maria Gigliotti (B.F.A. Dance Performance, 2007) recently celebrated her 11th anniversary as a full-time dancer with Disney.
  • Bernie Richards (B.F.A. Dance Performance, 2007) recently celebrated 10 years as a dancer with Carnival Cruise Lines.
  • Kelly Sammon (B.F.A. Dance Performance, 2007) is the Owner/Artistic Director of K-Force Dance Academy in Manassas, Virginia.
  • C. Richard Costes (B.A. Theatre Studies, 2006) is a Chicago-based artist. He recently appeared in A Midsummer Night's Dream at Chicago Shakespeare Theater and founded Chicago D(ART) theatre company. 
  • Paul Denayer (M.F.A. Lighting and Scenic Design, 2006) is the head of the Performing Arts unit at Flagler College in Florida.
  • Ernie Gonzalez, Jr. (M.F.A. Acting, 2006) is an AEA and SAG-AFTRA actor and educator that has performed in regional theaters such as The Second City Chicago (BrownCo.), The Milwaukee Repertory Theater, The Ohio Shakespeare Festival, The Chicago Fringe Festival, The Victory Gardens Theatre, and The Odyssey Theatre. He has appeared on “American Crime” (ABC), “No Tomorrow” (The CW), “Training Day” (CBS), “Jimmy Kimmel Live” (ABC), and on national commercials for Sonic, Rite Aid, Lowes, and Nopalina. He also is the founder of an improv group that performs for sick kids and their families at The Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. As an educator, Gonzalez teaches improv workshops at The Second City Hollywood and acting courses at UCLA Extension. 
  • Kimberly Powers (M.F.A. Scenic Design, 2006) has designed scenery for Orlando Repertory Theatre (FL), Theatre by the Sea (RI), Northern Stage (VT), and Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma (OK), among others. She has been the Resident Set Designer for Ocean State Theatre Company’s inaugural season and for Ohio Light Opera, as well as a Design Assistant at The Denver Center Theatre Company. Kimberly has also been a freelance scenic artist since 2000, working for the Cleveland Play House, the Hanger Theatre and the Signature Theatre.  She has worked professionally as a props master, event designer and coordinator, graphic designer, and exhibit designer. She has also taught in the Theatre Departments at Coastal Carolina University, Colby College and The University of Tulsa.  She is a proud member of United Scenic Artists, Local 829.
  • Wendi R. Zea (M.F.A. Costume Design, 2006) an associate professor in the Department of Theater at Southern Illinois University. She teaches courses in costume design, costume history/period styles, and various areas of costume construction and crafts. Wendi continues to design, both at SIU and at other theaters and recently at SIU she designed a production of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.In 2015 she won the SALT Award for her costume design for 1776 at Cortland Repertory Theatre.
  • Kaitlyn Black (B.A. Theatre Studies, 2005) is a Los Angles-based actress who is known for her series regular role as Annabeth Nass on the CW series Hart of Dixie and in films such as Born and Missing and Killer Single Dad. She has guest starred on NCIS: New OrleansNCISEnlightenedRaising Hope, and Cold Case.
  • Stephanie (Iervoline) West (B.F.A. Dance Performance, 2005) is a lead Power Pilates instructor at Power Pilates NY and teaches internationally. She is a Certified Movement Analyst, has an M.S. in Kinesiology, and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Counseling Psychology.
  • Sarah Lyons (M.F.A. Acting, 2004) is a veteran teacher at University School in Shaker Heights, Ohio. She is the Director of Theatre, Chair for the Department of the Performing Arts, and Director of the Arts K-8. She teaches grades 5–8 and has directed and co-choreographed 26 plays and musicals. She has been the director of Theatre Camps at University School and The Music Settlement and has taught theatre at The Cleveland Playhouse with a focus in voice. She is a Faculty Fellowship award (Teacher of the Year) recipient and has performed at Porthouse Theatre, Ohio Shakespeare Festival, Coach House Theatre, and The Temple Tifereth High Holy Day Choir. 
  • Jamila Kekulah Kinney (B.F.A. Dance Performance, 2003) is the owner/operator of Jamila Kinney/Moving Soul Wellness in Chicago where she is a certified practitioner of Shiatsu, Gyrotonic, Gyrokinesis, and Pilates.
  • Tanya Mucci (B.F.A. Dance Performance, 2000) graduated with an M.S. in Kinesiology in 2018 and owns a bodywork studio – OrthoSolutions, LLC – in Solon, OH. She continues to be a featured soloist with Travesty Dance Group and is an adjunct faculty member with the Kent State School of Theatre and Dance.
  • Madi Jackson (B.F.A. Dance Performance, 2000) recently completed her M.A. in Professional Counseling from Liberty University. She owns a dance and wellness studio in Cleveland, OH.
1990s
  • Steve Byrne (B.A. Theatre Studies, 1996) is renown actor, comedian, director, and producer known for his stand-up comedy and his TBS semi-autobiographical series Sullivan & Son. He is the writer and director of the feature film The Opening Act. He has performed stand up on ConanThe Tonight ShowThe Late Late Show, and Jimmy Kimmel Live.
1980s
1970s
  • John de Lancie (1971) is an accomplished actor, producer and voice artist best known for his portrayal of the character Q in several Star Trek franchises, most notably Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • David Stevens (M.A., 1970) is an actor, director and educator. He received his Ph.D. from Bowling Green State University in 1973. Recently, David has directed several productions for Charleston Community Theatre in Charleston, Illinois.
1960s
  • Ray Wise (1969) is a familiar face in film and television. He is best known for his role as Leland Palmer on the series Twin Peaks and Leon Nash in the film RoboCop. Recently, Wise has appeared on ABC's Fresh Off the Boat, FX's Fargo, Netflix's Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, CBS's The Young and the Restless, ABC's Agent Carter, and AMC's Mad Men.