Northlight Teaching Artists
Kaiser Ahmed is a director, producer, teacher, and actor. Kaiser is Artistic Director of Jackalope Theatre Company where he served as the Founding Artistic Director from 2008 to 2011. Born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and raised in mid-Michigan, Kaiser holds a BA in Theatre Directing from Columbia College. Recently named on NewCity’s “Players 2019: Fifty People Who Really Perform For Chicago”, Kaiser is a 2016-17 Victory Gardens Directors Inclusion Initiative recipient, a 2015-16 Eugene O’Neill National Directors Fellowship Finalist, a member of Not In Our House Chicago, SDC, and SAG-AFTRA. As a teaching artist, Kaiser also works with Raven Theatre and Mudlark Theatre. He is proudly represented by Gray Talent.
Jessica Alldredge moved to Chicago from Birmingham, AL where she graduated with a B.A. in Theatre Performance from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In Chicago, Jessica has worked as an actor, director, producer, and teacher. As a teaching artist and arts administrator, she has previously worked with American Theater Company and Mudlark Theater, and was a member of the Teaching Artist Development Studio 2015 cohort through CCAP at Columbia. She currently works for Northlight, Bubbles Academy, and The Viola Project teaching students from 18 months old through early high school. Jessica passionately believes in the importance of creativity and art at every age and equal access to arts opportunities. She’s also mom to a four year old little girl and a baby boy.
Kelcey Anyá is a multi-disciplinary performing artist originally from the bayous of South Louisiana. She began her performance career at the age of two as a dancer, fell in love with all things performance and her motto became “as long as I can touch the stage, I’m happy.” Kelcey Anyá received her Master’s of Arts in Theatre, Performance and Practice with certificates in both Teaching and Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio. In 2019 she merged her love for education and the arts when she began her career as a teaching artist in New York City. Since then, she has juggled serving as the director of Colt Coeur Theatre Company’s annual education initiative (New York City), and as a teaching artist with Pegasus Theatre. Now in Chicago, she is the Community Engagement Associate for The Joffrey Ballet, is also Founder and Director of the Kelcey Anyá Performing Arts Academy, LLC (KAPAA), an organization geared toward amplifying the voices of young Black and Brown storytellers through the arts. As of summer 2022, Kelcey is thrilled to add Program Manager with Pegasus Theatre and Teaching Artist with Northlight Theatre to her dossier!
Dinah Berkeley(they/them) is a Chicago born, Evanston raised actor and teaching artist who has collaborated to develop and performed in new works at The American Conservatory Theater, St. Ann’s Warehouse, The Humana Festival,Ars Nova, HERE Arts Center, The PIT (People’s Improv Theatre) amongst others. They have done extensive work with Dutch Kills and Broken Box Mime Theater companies. Dinah has taught theatre making to folks ages 2 to 72 in an array of disciplines including improv, writing, monologues, scene work, movement, voice but they specialize in devising, mime, clown and other physical storytelling techniques. Dinah is a proud alum of A.C.T.’s M.F.A. Class of 2020, they received a B.F.A. from Ohio University, and attended the Professional Training Program at The Actors Theatre of Louisville. Dinah has a deep belief that the tools for making theatre should be accessible to everyone. It has been a joy spreading their love for the creative process by working with both like and differing minded artists. Dinah learns just as much from their students as they hope their students learn from them.
Sheldon Brown is a graduate of Emerson College ’14. He performed in Time Is On Our Side and This Bitter Earth at About Face Theatre and soon after became an Artistic Associate. His other credits include A Wonder In My Soul at Victory Gardens Theatre. Oedipus Rex and Man In The Ring by Pulitzer Prize playwright Michael Cristofer at Court Theatre and more. He also has numerous credits in Boston including The Grand Inquisitor, directed by Peter Brook through ArtsEmerson. His film credits include Cicada ( SFFILM Rainin Grant, OutFest, BFI Flare Festival, Frameline Film Festival), The Canyonlands, and My Name is Alex. He is a recipient of the President’s Award for Creative Courage from Emerson College for his work educating and inspiring others to create social change. He is a teaching artist with Northlight and Steppenwolf Theatre, as well as the League of Chicago Theatres in conjunction with the August Wilson Monologue Competition.
Tyra Bullock (she/her) is an actor, teaching artist, and arts education administrator. She currently serves as the Education Manager at Writers Theatre, where she manages all in-school residencies and off-site educational programming. Tyra is also a Lead Teaching Artist at companies such as Steppenwolf Theatre, Lifeline Theatre, Northlight Theatre, and previously held the title of Community and Education Programs Associate at Victory Gardens Theater. As an actor, she’s had the pleasure of working for several institutions, most notably Lifeline Theatre, Oklahoma Shakespeare, Oklahoma Children’s Theater, Pollard Theater, and GreatWorks Theater. Through her work, she strives to create dialogue that promotes empathy and empowers those who feel unseen by society.
Nate Cohen is a director, teacher and activist. He is currently an adjunct professor at Northwestern University in Chicago, where he recently graduated with an MFA in Directing, and an associate member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society. Chicago credits include productions with Steppenwolf Theatre (AD – Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, Script Assistant – Linda Vista), Northlight Theatre (AD –The Book of Will and Beauty Queen of Leenane) , Collaboraction (Director – Manspread Madness) and the Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts (Director – Peter and the Starcatcher, Winnie-the-Pooh,The Angry Brigade, Midsummer A Play with Songs, The Pizza and Oh How We Loved Our Tuna). Prior to moving to the Midwest, he was a Company Member at Theatre Vertigo, sat on the board of the Portland Area Theatre Alliance, and worked extensively in various capacities with companies such as Artists Repertory Theatre (American Hero and Grand Concourse) where he was also the casting associate, the Portland Experimental Theatre Ensemble (Procedures For Saying No, Or the Whale, All Well, Drowned Horse Tavern, The Three Sisters, Enter the Night, AfterThought), Third Rail Repertory Theatre (Static, The Night Alive, Bull, ID[ea], Reverse/Loop/Repeat, Off the Rails Festival), Action/Adventure (All’s Faire, Pilot Season) and Theatre Vertigo (Love & Information, A Maze). He was the lead producer of the international touring production of EM Lewis’ The Gun Show and has also directed the world premieres of the KCACTF award-winning plays Middle Names and Alone in a Taxicab in a Snowy Foreign Country at Three in the Morning.
Nate is also the author of the viral flow-chart “Should I Direct this Play? A Guide for Well-intentioned Straight White Men.”
As a teacher, Nate has worked as a lecturer at Northwestern University and as a teaching artist at the Institute of Contemporary Performance, Lewis & Clark College, the National High School Institute, Oregon Children’s Theatre, and more than a dozen public schools in and around Portland. He served for four years as the Program Director of Isinglass and Artists Repertory Theatre’s esteemed Egg Summer Theatre Leadership Academy. Nate is also a street medic and community organizer and has taught Non-violent Direct Action, protest safety, and bias intervention workshops throughout the United States.
Fay Florence-Steddum (she/her/ they/them) is an actor-creator and educator from Texas, currently based in the Windy City. She is an ensemble member of Theater Unspeakable and was last seen as Walter Cronkite in TU’s Fall 2019 tour for Moonshot. Fay has taught creative writing, devising and performance with groups such as The Raven Project’s Queer Coffee House and Li’l Buds Theatre. Currently, she teaches yoga for gender equity with Mission Propelle, Shakespeare with The Viola Project and Commedia Dell’Arte for adults at Links Hall. Fay holds an MFA degree in Ensemble Based Physical Theatre from Dell’Arte International.
Kenny Hamilton was born and raised in Kentucky, moving to Chicago in 2019. As an educator he has taught Shakespeare, devising, playwriting, physical theatre and acting. He has worked in a variety of educational environments ranging from residencies at schools to fully staged productions at professional theatres. As an actor he has worked regionally at American Players theatre, American Shakespeare Center, Court Theatre, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and many others. On screen he was featured in a national commercial and did a pilot for HBO Max. He has a passion for making sure all students feel safe, heard and included in his education.
Tia Jemison is a non binary black woman who Graduated from USF with degrees in Psychology and Theatre performance she received her masters from DePaul acting credits include Wig Out, Night Runner, Bernada Alba and Trouble in Mind. Professional credits include A Lesson Before Dying, Colored Museum, A Raisin in the Sun, Straz Center’s S’Wonderful, Hair, The Amen Corner, Race, Einstein’s Dreams, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, Taming of the Shrew, Steel Magnolias, The Wiz, Seven Guitars, Aint Misbehavin and August: Osage County. She has also appeared in commercials, music videos and the movie Oh Baby! They also have a one woman show entitled A Black Body in Space in Time. Tia studied directing in undergrad and became an outreach teaching artist after graduation, they believe in community work and bridging gaps. They continued teaching after grad school for Black Ensemble theatre because one of her life’s missions has been to eradicate racism and foster safe places for black, brown, and LGBTQIA youth. They now also teach for Congo Square and other organizations in Chicago. They were an advisor while they were teaching at Roosevelt University where she taught acting and a social justice class to the incoming freshman. Tia was a part of the Guthrie Experience for actors in training in 2017. She is an Activist, Writer, Counselor, Jazz vocalist, saxophonist, and percussionist who toured under Ted Shumate. Awards include Creative Loafing and Broadway World’s best actress in a play 2014; both for her role as Ruth in Raisin in the Sun. Best short original play at the 2014 Tampa Bay Theatre Festival. Tia is a proud member of Actor’s Equity and is represented by Stewart Talent.
Ari Meixner (they/he) is a nonbinary actor, educator, and child of the Midwest. After completing their BFA in Musical Theatre in Ohio, Ari moved to Chicago to pursue professional performance opportunities. Pre-pandemic, he appeared on several stages throughout the city, including The House Theatre (Verböten), Firebrand (Queen of the Mist), Porchlight (1776), and Blank Theatre Company (Spring Awakening), among others. As an educator, Ari honed their skills at the Adler Planetarium, acting as a STEAM facilitator to hundreds of guests per day. Ari has also worked closely with students in theatrical spaces, both as a teaching artist with Chicago Center for Music Education and as a field trip coordinator with Emerald City Theatre. When not teaching or performing, Ari enjoys skating, cooking, and spending time with his wife, Ren.
Stephanie Muñoz (she/her) is a Chicago based theatre artist, digital creator and educator. She graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a BA in Theatre Performance and a minor in Communication studies. Stephanie has worked as an educator with Mudlark Theatre, Idea Box Integrated Arts, Forest Park Theatre Company and now as a lead teaching artist with Northlight theatre. Stephanie has had the pleasure to perform with most recently, The Forest Park Theatre Company and loves the short working on short films. When Stephanie is not performing on stage, she is hosting her true crime and comedy podcast, Spooky Tea. Through art and education, Stephanie strives to bring forth the stories of those who do not see themselves represented in traditional media and theatre.
Edmund O’Brien began improvising and writing sketch comedy in 1989 with Off-Off Campus at the University of Chicago. Since 2009 he has taught youth and adults at The Second City in Acting, Comedy Writing, Improv, Music, Storytelling, TV and Film Writing, and Wellness. He and his wife Dana perform as Sheila’s Sister, and co-founded KidProv Chicago where they run improv classes for children ages 5-13 at Chase Park. He has also been a Teaching Artist with Changing Worlds, Lookingglass Theatre, Mudlark Theater, Special Gifts Theatre, Victory Gardens Theater, and Storycatchers Theatre where he was the recipient of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice 2016 Volunteer of the Year Award for helping incarcerated youth write and perform musicals inspired by personal stories. Edmund’s writing credits range from You Don’t Know Jack to MTV’s Undressed. Somewhere in repeats you can still hear him as the announcer for Street Smarts.
Abaigeal (Abbie) O’Donnell (she/her) is a Chicago native teaching artist, director, and playwright. Currently, she is a teaching artist with Northlight Theatre, Writer’s Theatre, Chicago Children’s Theatre, Pegasus Theatre Chicago, Mudlark Theater Company, Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, Beverly Arts Center, Creative Root, Skyline Studios, and Theatre Aspen. She received her MA in Applied Theatre (Drama in the Community and Drama Education) from Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London, and her BFA in Theatre Arts (Theatre for Young Audiences) from The Theatre School at DePaul University.
Camila Restrepo is a bilingual educator originally from Fayetteville, Arkansas. Camila has worked and volunteered with with other theater institutions in Chicago including Adventure Stage, Mudlark Theater, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, The Viola Project, Global Voices Initiative, and A.B.L.E. Ensemble. Camila holds a Masters in English from DePaul University, and will be graduating with a Masters in Teaching from The University of Chicago in Summer 2023, planning to teach at a Chicago public school.
Gus Thomas has been working as a bilingual actor, teaching artist, and writer ever since he left his home in rural Oregon. He’s worked with theaters and schools in Seville, Spain as well as Chicago. He specializes in using theater as a medium to teach a second language. He’s worked with Northlight and Global Voices Initiative as an educator since 2018. As an actor he’s worked with Teatro Vista, Filament Theater, and Corn Productions where he is a company member. He is a graduate of Whitman College and has trained at the American Conservatory Theater, Dos Lunas Teatro, and the iO Theater.
Abby Thompson (she/her) is an Emmy Award Winning voiceover artist, actor, teaching artist, and arts advocate originally from Milwaukee, WI. Abby has performed professionally with First Stage Children’s Theater, Filament Theatre, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, African American Children’s Theatre, and Compass Creative Dramatics. Abby has taught with Chicago Children’s Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, Northlight Theatre,Storycatchers Theatre, Collaboraction, and Columbia College Chicago afterschool programming. Abby records voiceover for commercial work (represented by NV Talent), narrations (Seattle’s KCTS9, Sprout Social, etc.), animation, audiobooks, and articles for an app called Spokn. She holds a BA in Acting with a minor in Voiceover from Columbia College Chicago. She has spoken on several arts advocacy panels, including the Education Pre-Conference for the Theatre Communications Conference 2019. Some of her favorite mediums include theater for social justice, animation, mixed race theater, improv comedy, devised theater, immersive theater, and children’s theater. In her spare time, she is found traveling the world! For more of her work, visit: abbythompson.org.
Alexis A Tornez Martinez is a Chicago – based actor and educator who uses storytelling elements to confront issues within the Latinx communities. He is a graduate from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a BA in Theater and Performance. During his time in UIC, he has worked as an electrician and participated in projects with his peers to create wonderful stories. He is also a part of the cohort at Steppenwolf Theater. Alexis is a DACA recipient, who uses his experiences to create art that connects and responds to Latinx issues. Currently, he is writing a play titled Checkpoint, which confronts the issues, struggles, and experience of immigration. When he isn’t on stage or in a classroom, he participates in other projects where he assists as an electrician, photographer, and/or cinematographer for his peers.
Raquel Torre (she/her/ella) is a creator and performer from Puerto Rico with a background in physical theatre and devised performance. Since moving to Chicago in 2016, she’s collaborated with UrbanTheater Company, Filament Theatre, Shattered Globe Theatre, The Gift Theatre, Opera-Matic, Playmakers Lab, among others, as a director, movement coach, teaching artist, and actor. In 2013, she co-founded La Vuelta Ensemble (formerly Circo La Vuelta) with Jean Claudio, now a minority-led ensemble with a focus on high physicality and delightful absurdity. Raquel holds a BA in theatre from the Universidad de Sagrado Corazón (Puerto Rico), a certificate in Devised and Movement Theatre from Cabuia Teatro (Argentina), and an MFA in Devised Performance Practice from LISPA/Columbia College Chicago (Berlin/Chicago).
Northlight Assistant Teaching Artists
Bryn Carlson is a Chicago-born artist and educator. They have studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York and Columbia College Chicago, and have taught with Chicago Children’s Theatre. At Columbia College Chicago, they were a member of the Production Design BFA program. Bryn has also worked with the Red Kite program at Chicago Children’s Theatre to teach theatre arts to students on the autism spectrum. As a teaching artist, they have a passion for accessible arts education and exploring character and story with theatrical design and puppetry. They strive to supply students of all ages with the tools to find joy and growth in making art of all disciplines.
Jose Dominguez Magdaleno (they, he, el) is a multi-disciplinary Chicago based drag artist, educator, and arts administrator from New Jersey. Jose’s passion lies within the intersection of art, education, and activism to explore themes and topics of race, ethnicity, queerness, and (dis)abilities. Their work resonates his own intersectional identity as a queer, visually impaired, Mexican-American/Latinx person (the order varies depending on the day). Jose is currently an Emerging Teaching Artist at Creative Root and the LGBTQ+ Project Support Intern at Chicago Public School district. Jose holds a BFA in Theatre Arts and BA Latin American and Latino Studies from DePaul University. Josedominguezmagdaleno.com
Jeff (or J.T.) Donnan is a playwright, performer, and teaching artist based in Chicago. He is a recent graduate from the University of Illinois at Chicago where he graduated with honors from the BA Theatre Performance Program. Jeff has completed two plays (IRIS and Fishing at the End) and has a great passion for teaching (working with Steppenwolf, Mudlark, Lifeline, and Raven Theatre’s education programs). As a teaching artist, Jeff loves to use his skills as a playwright and performer to bring the ideas of students to life through the wonder of theatre.
Victor Mallari is a graduate from UIC where he received his BA in Theatre Performance. He has a passion for acting and filmmaking and jumps at the chance to tell a unique story. Most recently Victor has been involved in productions such as “Innogen” & “As You Like It” with Forest Park Theatre Company and has starred in short films such as “Chismosas” directed by Caroline Rodriguez and “Murder on the A train” directed by Audrey Lorber.
Emma Sheffey (she/they) is a Chicago-based theatre educator, teaching artist, and arts practitioner who aims to empower and educate youth through empathy and expression within the many mediums of theatre. They recently graduated with a B.A. in Theatre Performance from the University of Illinois at Chicago, providing a foundation of formal training to combine with over a decade of primarily volunteer based hands-on experience working with local youth community theatre through the Skokie Park District. Emma enjoys dabbling in a wide variety of theatrical disciplines, from theatrical makeup to playwriting to improv to stage combat and many more, acquiring a vast array of knowledge to pass on to their students. Visit emiliasheff.wixsite.com/my-site for more information.
Erika Wilson has been a teaching artist for 4 years, and has a passion for arts education. She is a graduate of Stephens College. She’s taught all over the country from Chicago, to Arizona, to Missouri. She’s taught many elements of theatre such as acting, dance, resiliency through art, etc. to people age 3-90.