Meet Our Conservatory Faculty
Daniel Alley | Kimberly Dooley | Michelle Drexler | Henry Halkyard
Jacob Henrie Naffaa | Michael Kennedy | Maddie Larson | Laura Marlin
Melissa Martinez | Marie Morley | Adam Niemann | Erika Oba
Kaylamay Paz Suarez | Alicia Piemme Nelson | Rachel Robinson | Weston Scott
Sharon Shao | Sarah Thompson | Chanel Tilghman
Elena Avila | Uma Channer | Fiona Deane-Grundman | Alexander Espinosa Pieb
Natalie Farrell | Franky Fernandez | Simone Gillette | Hazel Horton
Justin Howard | Mia Isip | Daryanna Lancet | Rachel Leyser
Jordana Meltzer | Maddie Wack | Diego Whitehill
Daniel Alley has been obsessed with musical theater since playing in his high school pit orchestras and is excited to join this amazing team in helping a new generation of young artists refine their craft. He first joined Berkeley Playhouse in 2018 as music director of the Riffs Show Choir and has since worked on productions of TeenStage Chicago, Pippin, and Freaky Friday, as well as several camps and classes including the 2019 summer a capella camp. He is looking forward to music directing the 2020 mainstage production of Memphis! Recent credits are music director for The Fantasticks at the Piedmont Center for the Arts, Threepenny Opera and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Oakland School for the Arts, and rehearsal pianist and choir master for La Bohème and Aroldo at West Edge Opera. He is the choir director and organist at Christ Lutheran Church in El Cerrito.
Kimberly Dooley has worked as a director, choreographer, and teaching artist in the Bay Area for over 14 years. She received her BFA from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts in the Experimental Theatre Wing. She will be directing the Professional Season's production of The Addams Family in March 2016. Favorite directing credits at Berkeley Playhouse include the award-winning The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and Seussical The Musical; Once On This Island, and The Wiz. Teen Stage and Imagination Players productions include: Damn Yankees, Disney’s Mulan Jr., Carnival, Grease, and Pippin.
Michelle Drexler has been a professional actor and teaching artist in the Bay Area for the past 8 years, appearing on stages across the Bay from Theatreworks to SF Playhouse to Shotgun Players. She appeared on the Berkeley Playhouse MainStage as Rona Lisa Peretti in the 2012 production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee directed by Kimmy Dooley. She has worked as a teaching artist with many organizations including San Francisco Shakespeare Festival and SF Arts Education Project and has been a teaching artist at Berkeley Playhouse since 2012. It has been one of her greatest pleasures to teach Harry Potter camps for the past 5 summers with Berkeley Playhouse, making her into a trued wizarding world fan! She is currently the resident child wrangler for the San Francisco company of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (which will be returning to the stage as soon as it is safe).
Henry Halkyard is an educator and actor raised in Las Vegas, and is thrilled to be returning to Berkeley Playhouse for his third season. His credits at Berkeley Playhouse include directing Cinderella and the Music Man, as well as assistant directing the Wizard of Oz and leading a wide variety of summer camps. At Sarah Lawrence College in New York, he worked heavily in the school’s Theatre Outreach program and studied child psychology at its Early Childhood Center. He also worked as a guest teaching artist for Palisade Prep High School and Greenburgh-Graham UFSD in Yonkers, and performed in a variety of children’s shows at the Hudson River Museum. After graduating with a concentration in Arts Education and Film Acting, he established his Bay Area footprint working at the Children’s Creativity Museum, but has now worked with young actors and students at a variety of theaters and programs across the Bay, including Town Hall Theatre Co, Each One Reach One, and StageWrite. He is ecstatic to jump aboard as one of Berkeley Playhouse’s Resident Teaching Artists, and looks forward to creating exciting artistic experiences for young actors for years to come.
Jacob Henrie Naffaa has been performing around the Bay Area since he was 7 years old in Berkeley Playhouse's production of Peter Pan. He teaches with Berkeley Playhouse, SFArts Education and the Oakland Zoo, and was last seen in Berkeley Playhouse's A Christmas Story (Fantasy Villain), PCRT's West Side Story (Snowboy) and Utopia Theatre Productions' Three Sisters (Ferapont).
Michael C. Kennedy is an actor and educator with a BFA in Musical Theatre from Shenandoah Conservatory. He started teaching summer camps at the Berkeley Playhouse in 2018 and finds so much joy in making theatre magic with campers each week. Although most at home on the stage, Michael has worked professionally in TV/Film and the Los Angeles improv comedy scene. His favorite color is crimson and his favorite ice cream flavor is huckleberry! www.michcraken.com.
Maddie Larson is a professional musical theatre performer and teaching artist who currently resides in New York City. She has worked at many theaters around the Bay Area, including BPH, Bay Area Children’s Theatre, and Cal Shakes. She graduated from CSU Long Beach in 2016 with a degree in Theatre Performance and has spent the last 4+ years passionately working in arts education. Her hobbies include listening to podcasts, eating pizza, and petting dogs. Maddie feels lucky and grateful for another year teaching at the playhouse!
Laura Marlin is a teaching artist, dancer, teacher, storyteller, and writer. Laura has a Masters in Education from the Bank Street College in New York and over the past 13 years has taught subjects from middle school English to kindergarten movement. She has trained in Movement Education with Luna Kids Dance, and for five years has worked with Imagination Players as a writer, choreographer, stager, teacher, and collaborator, not to mention game player, bubble juice maker, Frisbee catcher, lunch monitor, snack bringer, and minivan driver. Laura will almost always say yes if you are a kid and you ask her to tell a story. As a dancer, Laura has performed with Bay Area notables Nina Haft & Co, Carol Keuffer, Dana Lawton, Rebecca Johnson, and, currently, Paufve Dance.
Melissa Martinez is a graduate from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. She has been teaching and performing with Berkeley Playhouse for the last 7 years. Melissa also co-runs the theater department at Contra Costa School of Performing Arts. Melissa also raises foster kittens in her spare time.
Marie Morley (she/her/they/them) studied Theater and Linguistics at UC Berkeley and is very excited to be entering her second year with Berkeley Playhouse. When not at the Playhouse, they can be found baking pies, making art, or daydreaming about Mac n cheese.
Adam Niemann has been a teaching artist at Berkeley Playhouse since 2015 and has performed on the Main Stage in four musicals, most recently Big. A graduate of UC Berkeley, he teaches around the Bay and has also performed with Aurora Theatre Company, Shotgun Players, and understudied at Berkeley Rep. www.AdamNiemann.com.
Erika Oba is a composer, pianist/flutist, and educator based in the SF Bay Area. As a composer, she has written works for big band, small jazz ensembles, chamber groups, dance, and theater. As a performer, she is a member of the Montclair Women’s Big Band, Ends Meat’ Catastrophe Jazz Ensemble, electro-jazz duo Rice Kings, and The Sl(e)ight Ensemble. She is currently on faculty with the Jazzschool Community Music School’s youth program, as well as their annual Women’s Jazz and Blues camp and Girls’ Jazz and Blues camp. She has worked as a dance accompanist for Mills College and Berkeley Ballet Theater, and as a music director for Berkeley Playhouse’s YouthStage. As an artist, she is interested in exploring ritual, diasporic identities, and community through performance. She received her BM in Jazz Piano Performance from Oberlin Conservatory and her MA in Music Composition from Mills College.
Kaylamay Paz Suarez is a 1st generation Pilipinx American performer born and raised in the Bay Area. Kaylamay is an actor and youth educator passionate about igniting and empowering the imaginations and voices of audiences through storytelling, song, dance, and laughter. Kaylamay is an alumna of the Pacific Conservatory Theater Acting program c/o 2015 and currently working for Epiphany Dance Theater as the company coordinator.
Alicia Piemme Nelson has a BFA in Acting from Boston University and is currently getting her ECE Certificate from UC Santa Cruz. She has performed at theatre companies all around the Bay Area. Her favorite snack is popcorn, and her favorite My Little Pony is Applejack.
Rachel Robinson is a versatile theatre artist, equally at home directing, music directing, and teaching. She has been working in the Berkeley Playhouse Conservatory since 2013 and is delighted to call it her artistic home. Her YouthStage credits include Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Legally Blonde, Anything Goes, Spamalot, and this past summer’s TeenStage Intensive of Grease. Rachel also frequently works on the Berkeley Playhouse mainstage shows. This season she will direct West Side Story and will music direct Big, The Musical. In addition to her directorial work, Rachel runs a thriving music studio where she teaches voice and piano to students of all ages. Rachel began performing as a child on the stages of Washington, D.C., she received her degree in Musical Theatre and Vocal Performance from New York University, and she continues to learn every day from her students here in the Bay Area. www.rachelrobinsonmusic.com.
Weston Scott studied English and Political Economy at UC Berkeley and began teaching at the Berkeley Playhouse in 2016. He completed a Directing Internship at PCPA on the Central Coast, and has written several musicals that perform around the Bay Area. Weston last directed the Fall TeenStage production of Legally Blonde the Musical and also teaches various Conservatory classes and camps.
Sharon Shao is a Bay Area actor and teaching artist, and has taught with Berkeley Playhouse for a year now. She studied Theater Arts and Psychology at UC Santa Cruz. She is a Shakespeare nerd, and her hobbies include nature walks, trying all the local ramen shops, and spending way too much time at the Berkeley Bowl. Like the students at BP, Sharon started singing and dancing since she was 5, and feels delighted by her job of passing on her passion for theater to our young artists today.
Sarah Thompson holds a Ph.D. in Performance Studies with Designated Emphases in Classics and Classical Receptions and Feminist Theory and Research from the University of California, Davis. Her academic research focuses on the contemporary adaptation and translation of Greek tragedy. She has taught at UC Davis and Los Medanos College. She has been a Teaching Artist at the Berkeley Playhouse since 2013, where she feels lucky to work with so many creative, hilarious, and dedicated kids. She loves being involved in theatre education at all levels, from kindergarten to college!
Chanel Tilghman is excited to begin teaching with Berkeley Playhouse. An actor and educator currently performing in theatre productions all over the greater Bay Area (including four Berkeley Playhouse productions!), Chanel originally hails from the East Bay and attended Albany High School before earning a B.A. in Communication and a double minor in Theatre and Music Industry from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Recent credits include Kitty Bennet in the world premiere of Paul Gordon's Pride and Prejudice at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, Sophie Sheridan in Berkeley Playhouse's Mamma Mia!, and the Acrobat in CCMT's Matilda. chaneltilghman.com.