AACTFest 2017: Workshops

AACTFest Workshops

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Surrounding the performances, the national festival offers a variety of workshops & presentations. Led by the popular Adjudication Training (details here), these can give you a deeper understanding of many different aspects of community theatre, allowing you to enrich your own theatre community.
Headliner Workshops:  North American Arts Leader Barry Hughson;  composer, lyricist, and librettist Michael John LaChiusa; and David Stewart, Director of Production for the Guthrie Theater.
Workshop Videos Available Online:  Public Members Only

Multi-Category Cross-Category

Careers in Community Theatre

Put your theatre skills to work in a fulfilling environment

Friday 3:45-5 pm
This panel discussion will assist attendees to explore and discover stable employment in community theatres.

Presenter: Harv Thomson, University of Wisconsin Madison (retired)
Valued for his dedication, tireless spirit and quality programming, Professor Harv Thompson played a leading role in bringing theatre and the arts to all Wisconsin citizens and beyond. As a professor and long time department chair, he led educational travel programs introducing participants to nationally acclaimed art events, developed unique hands-on opportunities, and provided valuable networking and resource sharing opportunities for theatre professionals. Among Harv’s numerous awards are AACT’s Art Cole Lifetime of Leadership Award, Life Service Award from Wisconsin Theatre Association, and Wisconsin’s Governor’s Award in Support of the Arts.
Panel Members include:  David Kilpatrick, Executive Director, Des Moines Playhouse; Sara Phoenix, Executive Artistic Director, Theatre Tulsa; and Chris Serface, Managing Artistic Director, Tacoma Little Theatre


Head with gears insideAdministration

3 R's of Volunteers: Recruitment, Retention, & Recognition

Discuss and network ways to recruit, retain, and recognize volunteers on a day-to-day basis.

Thursday 9-10:15 am
Discussion topics will include:

  • What works for large theatres vs. small theatres
  • How to use social media to recruit and manage volunteers
  • How to recognize volunteers with limited-to-no resources
  • Problem-solving for difficult volunteers (can you actually “fire” a volunteer?)

Make sure to bring your best and worst volunteer stories to share for the discussion!

Presenter: Mary Jo DeNolf, Director of Operations and Volunteers, Grand Rapids [MI] Civic Theatre

DeNolf, Mary JoMary Jo has been working at Grand Rapids Civic Theatre for almost 20 years. She began her career there as a volunteer in the early ‘90s, and was brought on in 1998 as Volunteer Coordinator—a position that did not exist in community theatre at the time, making her one of the first in the nation to hold that title. Within the Grand Rapids theatre community, Mary Jo has worked on production teams as a stage manager and properties designer, and has worked just about every backstage job there is. When not immersed in the theatre world, Mary Jo is active, volunteering for the Boy Scouts with her husband, Steve, and her son, Mitchell.

Disrupting Performing Arts Business Models

New approaches to business models, monetizing theatre, engaging audiences, and if/when change is appropriate for your theatre.

Friday 2:15-3:30 pm
A theatre manager and a tech entrepreneur host an interactive discussion about how theatre can change drastically and immediately, and whether it should. The discussion will address various business models, the pros and cons of those models, as well as emerging technology and how to use it to engage audiences and revitalize finances. The discussion will focus on measurable experiences from both the presenters and attendees. Questions will be encouraged, and peer brainstorming will take place throughout the presentation.

Presenter: Chris Boucher, Theatre Manager, Tech Entrepreneur|
Chris BoucherChris is an entrepreneur with a professional theatre background. He transitioned from a military and IT career to the arts - bringing fresh perspectives and an "adapt and overcome" attitude. His recent nationwide tour of Basetrack Live finished, he now turns his attention to reinventing the theatrical business model, to the betterment of artists and venues everywhere.


Damon RunnalsPresenter: Damon Runnals, Manager, The Southern Theater, Minneapolis, MN
Damon brings together creative forces from his directing background, logistics and non-profit management from running two theatre companies, and process experience from his time in a corporate setting. He is a firm believer in progressive business models, and believes they will bring opportunity to theaters and performers everywhere.

Email Power Tips: Turn Your Email List Into $$$

The greatest power tips to turn your email mailing list into a profit powerhouse.

Wednesday 10:30-11:45 am
Wednesday 3:45-5 pm
Saturday 9-10:15 am
Can email still deliver for you in a landscape dominated by social media? You bet! Email is a powerful tool in your media mix, and can generate revenue at a very low cost. Learn how to become a moneymaking email master with the one secret ingredient to selling with email. Drive up your reads, open and click-through rates with a few simple tricks. Plus, how to keep your email list growing stronger and more lucrative.

Learn about the power of permission-based marketing, including how to:

  • Avoid spam filters
  • Grow your list with each show
  • Keep your list lean and effective
  • (and most important) Create a responsive audience that you can convert into dollars for your theatre when you make an offer

Presenter: Jarrod Kopp, Theatre Executive, Communications Consultant, Sand Springs, OK
Jarrod KoppJarrod has an extensive background in public relations, marketing, advertising, and business communications, covering more than 20 years. His previous corporate work includes positions at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma, Wiltel Communications, Enovation Controls, Schnake Turnbo Frank PR, and Williams Energy. He is currently the Managing Director of Theatre Tulsa, where he was part of the original core team that overhauled the leadership and completely revitalized the long-running theatre in 2012.

Facilitating/Moderating a Community Theatre Conference

Advice on keeping the pace, encouraging participation, staying on track, covering a full agenda, dealing with conflict, and more.

Wednesday 10:30-11:45 am
Thursday 2:15-3:30 pm
Thinking of hosting a community theatre conference but don't have the resources to 'hire' a facilitator? Use the tips from this workshop to provide you with tools to facilitate or moderate a conference. This workshop is great for State Contacts, Region Reps, leaders of state organizations, or any community theatre, individual, or group interested in hosting a meeting or conference that cover many topics, with a variety of participants. Or, for anyone running a board/staff retreat or even a board meeting. Sharing ideas and keeping connected in the theatre world is exciting and vital. There's nothing like in-person networking and discussion to uncover solutions to common issues, and come away inspired and renewed. Hosting a community theatre conference or meeting can be a rewarding experience for all participants, especially with the dynamic and focused moderation at the heart of this workshop.

Presenter: Betsy Willis, Development Director, Old Town Playhouse, Traverse City, MI

If  You Build It, Will They Come?

Engage, excite, extend, and retain your donors as long-term partners

Wednesday 9-10:15 am
Harness your fund-raising process to engage, excite, extend, and retain your donors as long-term partners. Learn how to think beyond the construction phase, and harness those focus groups, charrettes and one-on-one donor conversations to solicit programming ideas, as well as money. Engage interest along with the cash, and win support for long-term programming that helps fill seats and develops new audiences.

Presenter: Mary Doveton, Executive Director, Theatre Lawrence, KS
Mary DovetonMary is Executive Director of Theatre Lawrence, currently celebrating its 40th Anniversary.  A founder of the Theatre, Mary has helped guide it through two major capital campaigns, including a $7.2 million drive that resulted in a new 35,000 square foot theatre facility.  She holds degrees in theatre from Clarke University and the University of Kansas. An AACT Fellow, Mary adjudicated the 2007 National Festival for AACT in Charlotte, as well as state and regional festivals. She has served on the AACT Board as Treasurer and as Vice-President for Education, as President of the Association of Kansas Theatre, a Regional Mentor for the Kansas Arts Network, and on grant review panels for several states.  Mary has produced and directed over 250 shows in professional, educational and community theatres. She is her city’s first recipient of a performing arts award, a proud grandmother, and a Paul Harris Fellow with Rotary.

Licensing and MTI Resources

Everything you ever wanted or needed to know about making the licensing of a show painless, fun, and affordable!

Thursday 10:30-11:45 am
Thursday 3:45-5 pm
At this all-inclusive workshop you’ll discover MTI’s latest and greatest production resources, learn how to lower your royalties, and make your interaction with your licensing house as pain-free and fun as possible! Be sure to stick around for the RehearScore Challenge, where valuable prizes, including a FREE standard rental on your next show, could be yours!

Presenter: John Prignano, Senior Operations Officer, Music Theatre International
John PrignanoThroughout his life, John has been a loyal advocate of educational theatre. Since obtaining a BA in Dance/Theatre from Montclair State College in 1986, he has been involved in the arts in many facets—including touring in productions of A Chorus Line, West Side Story, Damn Yankees, and Guys and Dolls. For 20 years, John has been employed by Music Theatre International, and in his current role as Senior Operations Officer, he has led workshops around the world, and is instrumental in creating tools that encourages meaningful dialogue and interaction between the licensing house and theatre educators.

Marketing 101

Disney Presents Strategies for Marketing Your Musical

Friday 10:30-11:45 am
Join Disney’s licensing team to explore creative ideas on how to get the word out about your shows and your theatre program.  From working within your school community to harnessing the power of social media, you’ll learn how to make the most out of producing a Disney title.

Presenter: Matt Hagmeier Curtis, Materials Coordinator for Theatrical Licensing, Disney Theatrical Group
Matt Hagmeier-CurtisMatt oversees the finalization and production of all materials published for licensed productions. As a teaching artist, educator, editor, and writer, he has worked on the development of over two dozen musicals. Matt received his Master’s Degree in Theatre Education from the University of Northern Colorado, and has worked at The Drama League and iTheatrics, where he was honored to work with the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities’ Turnaround Arts program, bringing theater arts to underserved communities. Matt is also a member of the Educational Theatre Association’s Alumni Council.

Money, Money, Money, Money!

Ideas for innovative events and activities that help raise additional $$ for your group!

Wednesday 10:30-11:45 am

Presenter: Tom Booth, Executive Director, Tupelo [MS] Community Theatre
Tom BoothTom began his involvement in theatre almost 30 years ago at Amory Community Theatre. He is a graduate of Mississippi State University and the University of Southern Mississippi. He has served as Executive Director for Tupelo Community Theatre for almost 15 years, and is active in state, regional, and national theatre. Tom has directed more than two dozen productions in his career, eight productions that have won the Mississippi Theatre Association (MTA) Community Theatre Festival, and two winners at the Southeastern Theatre Association Festival. He has twice won MTA’s Best Director award. The 2015 winner, Lone Star, went on to the national AACTFest where it won People’s Choice Best Production and Outstanding Scenic Design. Tom is the current president of the Rotary Club of Tupelo, and has served as president of MTA and the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association. During Tom’s 15 years as TCT’s first executive director the budget has more than doubled.  Over $500,000 of those funds have come from corporate sponsorships and special events.

Powerful Media Relations and the Community Theatre

Develop powerful media relations and strategies

Wednesday 2:15-3:30 pm
Learn to develop powerful strategies and build strong media relations to boost the brand of your community theatre and specific productions.

Presenter: Mike Broemmel, Media Relations Consultant, Denver, CO
Mike BroemmelMike has been a media relations consultant for 30 years. He began his career at the White House in the Office of Media Relations, during the Administration of Ronald Reagan. Since that time he has provided strategic media relations services for elected officials of both major political parties, and businesses large and small, as well as nonprofits of all types. He lectures regularly on topics related to media relations. He also is a playwright, with about a dozen plays in production.

Social Media and Ticket Sales

Examine research on the relationship between social media usage and ticket sales at small nonprofit community theatres.

Thursday 9-10:15 am
New entertainment options are made available to arts audiences practically every year, and small community theatres are often hard-pressed to compete. To meet this challenge, theatres must incorporate new technologies into their strategic plans. This presentation will describe research into ticket sales and social media usage by arts audiences. At the conclusion of this workshop, participants will have a better understanding of why arts audiences use social media, the relationship between social media and season ticket sales, and how social media may be utilized by theatres to increase attendance and memberships.

Presenter: Dr. Laura L. Vendenhaupt, Sr. Research Associate, Missouri Dept. of Higher Ed., Jefferson City, MO
Dr. Laura L. VendenhauptLaura is Senior Research Associate for the Missouri Department of Higher Education. She received her doctorate in Business Administration, specializing in strategy and innovation, from Capella University. She has also been a member of the mid-Missouri theatre community, as an actress, writer, director, and board member since 2009.

Theatre Branding in the Digital Age

Get the most from graphic designers, photographers, and videographers, and use your organization’s website as a marketing tool.

Friday 3:45-5 pm
Are you attracting the right audience for your production? What is your theatre’s graphic identity communicating to your prospective audience? The workshop will examine what works, what doesn’t, and suggest how to maximize your budget to make your marketing look as good as your productions.

Presenter: James Gallagher, Co-Creative Director at Herrmann Advertising, Owner of Drama Queen Graphics, Annapolis, MD
Jim GallagherJim is a Co-Creative Director at Herrmann Advertising I Branding I Technology, in Annapolis, Maryland, and the owner of Drama Queen Graphics, LLC, a graphic design firm that specializes in creating marketing materials for theatres and arts organizations. He has over 28 years of experience in the advertising design industry, where he’s created award-winning designs for a wide range of clients including National Geographic, Top 100 law firms, Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, La Guardia Airport, numerous Maryland Historic Associations and Health Departments. Jim is also an actor and director. Combining decades of theatre and graphic arts experience, he founded Drama Queen Graphics, whose clients include Steele Spring Stage Rights, Young Artists of America, The Center for Arts in Natick, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, and WSC Avant Bard.

Graphic of a puzzle pieceArtistic

Discover the Perfect Show

Learn how to save time and exhaustive research using search tools and other production resources from Samuel French to find and produce the perfect show for your upcoming season.

Wednesday 9-10:15 am
Planning your next season can be an exhausting process - deciding upon whether it's a play or musical, its length, theme, cast size and gender parity is just the beginning. What if an artistic director can skip this step and cut straight to reading the shortlist? Samuel French is delighted to offer these tools and will walk attendees through the process of using this - and other production resources - to help them find and produce the perfect show. What's more, our search tools are not licensor-exclusive, we aim to direct you to the right licensor for your perfect show.

Presenter: Lawrence Haynes and Andrew Rincon, Samuel French, Inc.

Lawrence Haynes is the Marketing Associate for Musicals with Samuel French, working with playwrights and composers to advertise and promote their titles across the American professional and non-professional theatre industry. Originally from London, England, Lawrence began his theatrical career as a pit musician, music director and conductor, and came to NYC in 2014 to complete a graduate degree in Arts Administration at Columbia University. Lawrence has produced musical theatre at community theatres and on the regional circuit across England, Off-Off Broadway, and has worked in Off Broadway General Management. 
Andrew Rincón is a licensing representative with Samuel French, working with non-professional theatres and groups. A proud Colombian-American from South Florida, he works with companies ranging from new start-up organizations to historic community theatres around the United States, helping to plan their perfect seasons. As a playwright he has worked with New York City based companies such as Amios, the Amoralists, INTAR, and Rising Circle Theatre Collective. Select plays include, That Rhythm in the Blood and You got that Same Kind of Lonely. He is a proud member of Unit 52 with INTAR Theatre and is a part of the LatinX Theatre Commons.

Don’t Forget the M & M's: Using Music, Movement & the Creative Arts to Heal

Bereaved young and young at heart experience a new way to handle their loss.

Thursday 9-10:15 am
This is an active, fun-filled session that offers creative ideas for healing after any loss, including death (pet, friend, family member), as well as divorce, moving, bullying, self-esteem, etc. Using audience participation and hands-on activities, attendees will learn ways to incorporate various aspects of music, movement, art, and music play into their daily lives. They will participate in activities that include music, movement, dance, acting/role play, puppets, drawing, instrument play, and other creative avenues. Participants will be offered a variety of materials and resources for making instruments, crafts, music; and ideas for writing songs, and will be encouraged to use this avenue to produce something creative that relates to their particular situation. You will walk away with not only a finished creative product, but also the means to continue to use your favorite method of creativity to help yourself. With this “in their pockets,” bereaved young and young at heart will be able to enjoy a new way to handle their loss, whatever it may be.

Presenter: Ann Walsh, Compassionate Friends, Gettysburg, PA
Ann WalshAnn has been active in theatre and music for over 35 years. During her elementary school teaching career, she directed numerous children’s productions and worked with staff to present concerts and children’s festivals. She has written and directed children’s theatre productions, traveling one-acts, and musical reviews. After the death of her 14-year-old daughter, Ann became involved with The Compassionate Friends (TCF), a support group for families who have experienced the death of a child at any age. Through her love for theatre and music, Ann found ways to incorporate the arts into her healing process. She serves TCF as the Eastern PA Regional Coordinator, and presents at National TCF conferences to both children and adults. Ann sings and plays guitar with a duo group, and is active with the Adams County Arts Council and Gettysburg Area Dollars for Scholars. She has been involved with numerous Gettysburg Community Theatre (GCT) productions, and serves GCT as a teacher, volunteer, and director. Ann is also co-director an annual show for children with special needs.

On Their Imaginary Forces Work

Explore ways to engage audiences as collaborative partners

Saturday 9-10:15 am
Workshop participants will collaboratively explore the creation/performance process in which both cast and audience are collaborative partners, improvisationally taking active roles in shaping stories. We will explore an improvisational approach to developing a fully collaborative ensemble show, musically and dramatically—and an improvisational approach to make an audience a genuinely collaborative partner. We will specifically rely on real-time Facebook interactions during the workshop, as exemplary of ways that a cast can encounter an audience in its native habitat—its phones!

Presenter: Daved Driscoll, SkyVault Theatre Artistic Director, and  Skyvault Troupe Member, Rochester, MN
Daved DriscollDaved is founding Artistic Director of Minnesota’s SkyVault Theatre Company, which tours statewide with high-energy, audience-interactive original productions featuring original music, and also of Words Players Theatre, an active educational and youth theatre. Beyond his BA and MFA degrees, he has undertaken additional graduate studies in theatre, education, literature and history at the University of Wisconsin, the University of Kansas, Middlebury College's Bread Loaf School of English, SUNY Geneseo, and Oxford University. Daved has been Rochester’s Arts Educator of the Year, and been awarded several National Endowment for the Humanities study grants for educators. He has taught and directed high school, college, and community theatre music and literature for more than 30 years, specializing in audience-interactive improvisation for the last 15. Daved currently serves as Vice President of the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council, as a Grant Review Panelist with the Minnesota State Arts Board, and on the Board of Directors of the Minnesota Association of Community Theatres.

Recipe for a Musical

Go Inside the creative process to dissect what makes a musical work

Friday 2:15-3:30 pm
Join five-time Tony Award-nominated composer, lyricist and librettist Michael John LaChiusa for an intimate discussion on the recipe for a musical.  Michael John will take you inside his creative process to dissect what makes a musical work.

Presenter: Michael John LaChiusa, composer, lyricist, and librettist
Michael John LaChiusa Michael John LaChiusa is a five-time Tony Award nominee for his Broadway productions of The Wild Party, Marie Christine and Chronicle of a Death Foretold. His acclaimed off-Broadway musicals, for The Public Theater and Lincoln Center, include Giant, Queen of the Mist, See What I Wanna See, First Lady Suite, Bernarda Alba, Hello Again, Little Fish, and Four Short Operas: Break, Agnes, Eulogy For Mr. Hamm, Lucky Nurse, and First Daughter Suite. LaChiusa also received commissions from Chicago Lyric Opera, Houston Grand Opera, and Oregon Shakespeare Festival, among others.  Writes Stephen Holden of the New York Times, Broadway musicals “need composers as talented as Mr. LaChiusa, who have the courage to sacrifice commerciality and go their own way.” Winner of two Emmys for the children’s animated series The Wonder Pets, he teaches at both NYU and Columbia University. 

Special-Needs Theatre! Don't Be Afraid!

Start a special needs theatre program in YOUR community.

Wednesday 9-10:15 am
Theatre is for everyone! This workshop will introduce you to a special-needs program that is replicating all over the country--The Penguin Project. This theatre program for youth with special needs/disabilities also serves their peer mentors, without special needs, who assist them. Why Penguins? Because penguins are special needs birds—they can’t fly, but they thrive equally as well as any other bird in their own environment. Likewise, “Our penguins may not be able to fly, but we can all help their spirits soar on stage through the love of theatre arts!”

Presenter: Chad-Alan Carr, Executive/Artistic Director, Gettysburg Community Theatre, PA
Chad-Alan CarrChad-Alan is the Founding Executive/Artistic Director for Gettysburg Community Theatre, located in the heart of historic downtown Lincoln Square, in Gettysburg, PA. Chad received his formal training in the B.F.A. Musical Theatre Program at Sam Houston State University where he was also later awarded a Distinguished Theatre Alumni Award for Achievement in Professional Theatre. He was honored to co-facilitate the first two Youth Summits for AACT and is excited to chair the first-ever Youth Festival at AACTFest 2017 in Rochester. He directed the Eastern States Regional Premiere of The Penguin Project, chartered the International Thespian Troupe #7640 for Gettysburg Area High School, and has served as a board member for Pennsylvania Association of Community Theatres, Eastern States Theatre Association, and AACT.

Using Original Music to Enhance and Support Your Production

Incorporate original music to your productions.

Wednesday 2:15-3:30 pm
Thursday 2:15-3:30 pm
Learn how to incorporate original music into your production, in a collaborative effort where director, actors, scenic, props, light, and sound work together to create something magical for an audience and draw them into the story. Join an experienced designer and director to learn how to easily incorporate this production element. Specific examples from plays will be presented, with a discussion of what works and what doesn’t , and an opportunity for questions from the audience.

Presenter: Mark Toebben, Music Composer, Sound Designer, Johnston, IA
Mark ToebbenMark started writing music for the theatre after being in productions and feeling the impact music had in telling a story. His acting experience gives him a unique perspective on creating music that supports and integrates with the actors and their work. Mark has composed music for over 20 productions, and was recently honored with the 2016 Greater Des Moines Cloris Leachman Award for Excellence in Theatre, for Outstanding Sound Design. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Des Moines Playhouse. More information and music samples at www.marktoebben.com

Presenter: Kathy Pingel, Administrator and Teacher, FL
Kathy PingelKathy was the Director of Education and Youth Programming at the Des Moines Community Playhouse for 10 years, and also served as Artistic Director of the Kate Goldman Children’s Theatre. She holds a BA in Theatre from Eastern Michigan University, where she studied with Virginia Koste, and an MA in Performance Studies from Northwestern University, where she worked with Frank Galati. She also holds a MAT in Teaching from Northwestern.

What Every Body Is Saying

80% of communication is non-verbal. Are you aware of what you are saying without actually saying anything? 

Friday 2:15-3:30 pm
Come and learn how to become more aware of micro expressions, clusters, and rapid cognition.

Presenter: David Stewart, Director of Production, Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis, Minnesota, AEA stage manager
David StewartPrior to his work at the Guthrie, David worked for the University of Texas at Austin, and held positions at the University of Wisconsin – Madison as Production Manager and Head of Stage Management, Stage Manager for His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, Director of Production for the Office of Multi-Cultural Arts Institute, Production Stage Manager for Varsity Band, and Event Producer for the Chancellors Office. He has served as an AEA stage manager for Madison Repertory Theatre, Studio Arena Theatre, St. Louis MUNY, Kansas City Starlight Outdoor Musicals, The Little Theatre on the Square and Vienna Austria’s English Theatre. In addition, Stewart was recently awarded the Distinguished Alumni Achievement award from his Alma Mater, Webster University, and is the chair for the People of Color Network at USITT, sits on their board of directors, as well as co-founder of the highly successful Gateway Program. He has two nationally published articles on diversity in theater production, is the technical editor for two theater management books, and holds a 4th degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

Words and Music - How Musicals are Made

Marrying the words and the music

Saturday 10:30-11:45 am
Ever wondered how a musical is written? Through actual examples, Carl Johnson (composer) and Chana Wise (bookwriter/lyricist) will show participants how a musical is put together. “We’ll talk about how we ‘spot’ a song, how we attempt to move the plot forward (and when it’s okay not to), and demonstrate how the team collaborates to create a score. Depending on the time available, we hope to develop a lyric with the help of workshop participants, and let them hear it actually set to music during a presentation at another time during the conference, or emailed to them as an mp3.”

Presenter: Chana Wise, Multi-Emmy Award winner, Huntington Beach CA
Chana WiseChana is a playwright and lyricist living in Southern California. She has written both book and lyrics for Mary Marie (NAMT Festival, 2014, Richard Rodgers Award finalist), Bagels! the musical (JETfest, 2016, Neil Simon Festival finalist), Tinseltown Christmas, and The Coffee Quintet (a short musical film), all with music by Carl Johnson. Chana also wrote lyrics for The Max Factor Factor, produced by NMI at the NoHo Arts Center in August, 2014, Earthbound, and The Island—both produced by SkyPilot Theatre, and premiering at T.U. Studios in Hollywood. She is currently writing lyrics for Cardinal Sins, a new musical that opens at Center Stage Theatre in Washington, May, 2017.

Presenter: Carl Johnson, Multi-Emmy Award winner, Huntington Beach CA
Carl JohnsonCarl is an Emmy Award-winning film and television composer who has written and orchestrated music for feature films, television, and stage. He has recorded his music with symphonies around the world,. As a freelance Hollywood composer, he has written music for Disney's Piglet's Big Movie, Hunchback of Notre Dame II, Aladdin and the King of Thieves, and Winnie the Pooh's Grand Adventure. Carl has also composed music for numerous television projects, including Animaniacs and Batman: the Animated Series for Warner Brothers, Gargoyles and The Mighty Ducks for Disney, and Invasion America and Toonsylvania for DreamWorks SKG. Among his accolades are Emmy Awards for his musical scores for Invasion America and Aladdin: the Series, as well as three other Emmy Award nominations. As a composer of musical theatre, his works include Mary Marie, Tinseltown Christmas, Bagels, and The Coffee Quintet.


Graphic of an actor reading a script Performance

Are We Delicious? A Writer/Actor Workshop

Get a taste of the popular ensemble group Are We Delicious? – write, act, get feedback!

Saturday 10:30-11:45 am
Write a monologue in 30 minutes. Perform another writer's monologue in 5 minutes. Get feedback. Have fun!

Presenter: Sara Beth Hahner, Maestro, Stage Manager, Madison, WI
Sara Beth HahnerSara Beth is thrilled to serve up "Are We Delicious?" at AACTFest. Past Delicious roles include Stage Manager in ‘14 Delicious Festival, Maestro in Are We Delicious Xmas ’15, and writer/actor in Sounds Delicious Audi Theatre podcast premiere. Other original projects include The Beta Blockers Series by Left of Left Center and Ball Drop Blitz by Know Better/OUTcast. Sara Beth is a two-time Bartell Theatre Foundation Award Nominee, and produced a 2015 WACTfest winner, Sun Prairie Civic Theatre’s The Coal Diamond. She is Program Director of The Penguin Project of SPCT, a musical theatre program for young artists with special needs, and is the 2016 recipient of SPCT’s Outstanding Service Award.

Presenter: Tony Trout, Founder of Are We Delicious?, Madison, WI
Tony TroutTony is the founder and impresario of Are We Delicious?, the ensemble of Madison performer/writers who conceive, write, rehearse and perform an original one-hour show in a single week. The Delicious formula has been refined in 20 full productions in four years, student productions at Edgewood College and Madison Area Technical College, a partnership with Madison’s StageQ, and broke new ground in 2016 with Am I Delicious? ensemble theatre class. Tony is also a producer, director and actor. Recent projects include directing A Little Night Music and My Fair Lady for Four Seasons Theatre, and performing as George in Alley Stage's production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

Hire a Fight Director

How, why it’s necessary to employ a qualified person to design physical violence.

Thursday 10:30-11:45 am
Learn to protect the investment you have in your theatre when producing works involving physical violence onstage.

Presenter: Steven Schwall, Society of American Fight Directors, Wyoming, MI
Steven SchwallSteven has been a professional Technical Director for 15 years. He holds a BA in Interdisciplinary Fine Arts from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and a Master of Arts from Eastern Michigan University. He is a Certified Teacher with the Society of American Fight Directors, and holds a Level 1 Professors Certification in the Margolis Method of actor training. He has designed stage violence for over 30 productions throughout the Midwest, specializing in schools and community theatres. He has taught at SAFD-sanctioned workshops throughout the Midwest for over five years, and presented workshops and papers at SETC, the Grand Valley Shakespeare Conference, and the Community Theatre Association of Michigan.

I Won't Dance, Don't Ask Me!

Musical theatre choreography made easy for the "non-dancer."

Wednesday 3:45-5 pm
Thursday 3:45-5 pm
Learn some helpful hints and simple combos that you can use in almost any musical, and help create simple but visually appealing choreography with non-dancers and no choreographer budget. This workshop is intended for the beginning choreographer, the director who has to do it all, or the dancer and non-dancer who just wants to have fun. No experience or dance attire required.

Presenter: Chad-Alan Carr, Executive/Artistic Director, Gettysburg Community Theatre, PA
Chad-Alan CarrChad-Alan is the Founding Executive/Artistic Director for Gettysburg Community Theatre, located in the heart of historic downtown Lincoln Square, in Gettysburg, PA. Chad received his formal training in the B.F.A. Musical Theatre Program at Sam Houston State University where he was also later awarded a Distinguished Theatre Alumni Award for Achievement in Professional Theatre. He was honored to co-facilitate the first two Youth Summits for AACT and is excited to chair the first-ever Youth Festival at AACTFest 2017 in Rochester. He directed the Eastern States Regional Premiere of The Penguin Project, chartered the International Thespian Troupe #7640 for Gettysburg Area High School, and has served as a board member for Pennsylvania Association of Community Theatres, Eastern States Theatre Association, and AACT.

Improvisation for Your Own Murder Mysteries

Improvisational skills perfect for fund-raisers!

Thursday 9-10:15 am
Learn how to use improvisation to create character and story lines for a great fundraiser—and find new performers for your theatre!

Presenter: Paul Warshauer, Creator of Improv, King of Murder Mysteries, Ulm, MN
 Paul WarshauerPaul has written and directed over 300 original murder mysteries mainly utilizing improvisation and short rehearsal schedules. Executive Director of several theatre companies, he studied at Northwestern University, and has teaching certificates in California, Oregon, and Illinois. He created his first murder mystery in 1991 at an Italian restaurant in Oregon. Since then, he has presented 400 original murder mysteries in all 50 states, Paris, London, and at sea. He attended Northwestern University and created the long running The Mee-Ow Show. His clients include events for community theatres, universities, elementary schools, sports teams, hotels, as well as fund-raisers for many not-for-profit entities, and work with corporate clients such as Toyota, Charles Schwab, Target, BP, and Tap Pharmaceuticals. His staff is currently working on a TV show entitled, It’s Murder Our There.

Mission: Improvi-Song

Tips and tricks needed to perform an improvised song.

Friday 10:30-11:45 am
Friday 3:45-5 pm
Award-winning collegiate comedy troupe, Improv Mafia, guides participants through creating and performing “Whose Line”- type skits and songs for fun and funds. Learn the basics of improvisation, as well as improvising a song. All skill levels welcome. Participants will sing songs from audience suggestions, and observers may well be compelled to have a turn, too. Consider this model for engaging those in your company first, then developing it as a money-making performance series, along with offering audience members the chance—and challenge—to join the group in the series of confidence-building steps and games.

Presenter: Improv Mafia, Illinois State University, Normal, IL.
Improv Mafia is a student-run ensemble at Illinois State University—the most decorated collegiate improvisational group in the nation. The ensemble has a long record of top finishes at regional and national improvisational competitions. Members are selected by audition, and the troupe performs free weekly shows on campus during the school year, all while studying and performing new types and styles of improv.

Playing the Action

Explore two essential elements that bring a character to life.

Wednesday 9-10:15 am
Friday 9-10:15 am
This workshop focuses on analyzing the action a character takes to achieve their goal within a scene, and how the character adjusts strategies, when faced with opposition, to achieve that goal. Once these strategies are clear, the actor has a roadmap with which to play the scene, freeing them up to focus on living through the character by playing the action of the scene. Volunteer participants will use improvisational scenes and scripted material to help illustrate the points of the workshop.

Presenter: Stephen Carver, Executive Director, Kalamazoo {MI} Civic Theatre
Stephen CarverStephen is the Executive Director of the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre. An award-winning actor/director, with over 35 years’ experience, he has appeared in numerous regional and stock theatres before landing in Los Angeles. He spent 17 years in Hollywood and has guest starred & reoccurred on such shows as Golden Girls, Star Trek: Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, General Hospital, Melrose Place, Diagnosis Murder, Ellen, Dream On, Moloney, Dark Skies, and Hunter. His film work includes Liar Liar, Die Trying, Housesitter Hanoi Hilton, and He’s My Girl. After Hollywood, Stephen was a resident director and president of the Longmont Theatre Company, where he directed numerous productions. He also has taught many classes and workshops for community theatres, universities and schools around the country.

Senior Actors and Improv

Looking for a way to expand your senior group outside of readers theatre format?  Try improv! Mature actors come with built in life experience to draw as material.   Discover exercises and games to experiment, explore and laugh

Thursday 3:45 – 5:00 pm

Presenter: Rick Kerby, Producing Artistic Director, Manatee Performing Arts Center, Bradenton, Florida
Rick KerbyPrior to his work in Florida, Rick was Entertainment Director for the USO of Metropolitan New York. Other directorial credits include productions at professional theatres in New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Maine, Virginia, New Hampshire, New Orleans, and for many prominent cruise lines. He has served on the faculties of Wagner College on Staten Island and the Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (AMDA) in New York City.  In Florida he has been named Best Director at the Florida Theatre Conference, three-time winner as Best Director at the Southeastern Theatre Conference (SETC), and two-time winner as Best Director at AACTFest. Rick served six years as President of the Florida Theatre Conference. He is past President of the Florida Association of Community Theatres and has served as Community Theatre Festival Chair for the Southeastern Theatre Conference. For AACT, Rick has served as the Florida State Representative, Committee Chair for Membership, and Festival Commissioner, and is currently serving second term as Board Member at Large.

Speaking Shakespeare

Shakespeare was meant to be spoken, not just studied as literature. Begin with a classical foundation, then learn to make the text your own.

Wednesday 10:30-11:45 am
Friday 9-10:15 am
Explore and understand Shakespeare's words by using a group-based exaggerated physical approach. Speak iambic pentameter verse while connecting each phrase with movement. Refine this until delivery becomes natural and easy. Then connect each line to a natural physical impulse, and feel the emotional content drop in. After 75 minutes, the text will be with you for life!

Presenter: Ron Cameron-Lewis, Professor Emeritus, Sheridan College, Oakville, Canada
Ron Cameron-LewisRon served as Member-at-Large for AACT since 2012 and, over 40 years, in many roles with Theatre Ontario, including Vice President Education and Festival Chair. He is an education-based theatre adjudicator, having judged over 2,000 productions in hundreds of festivals throughout Ontario, and for AACT state, regional, national, and international festivals. Recently, he has adjudicated the New Mexico AACTFest, and helped restructure the Tulsa Awards for Theater Excellence in Oklahoma. Professor Emeritus at Sheridan College, Oakville, Ron taught and coordinated the Music Theatre Department since its inception 43 years ago. An experienced dramaturge, author, playwright, and workshop leader, his textbook Acting Skills for Life is in its third printing. He has worked for regional theatres in Ontario, the Canadian Maritimes and major TV networks. In recent years he has trained 50 new adjudicators in the USA and Canada, and has taught presentation skills to palliative care physicians world-wide. Ron has a degree from Western University, and trained in theatre at the Banff Centre, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and the University of London. Ron has received awards from Sheridan, Theatre Ontario, the Province of Ontario, and NISOD in Texas.

Stage Combat - Safety for Actor, Stage Managers, and Directors

Safe practices in the execution of theatrical violence.

Thursday 2:15-3:30 pm
This workshop offers an explanation and demonstration of basic movement and attack-defense principles, to ensure safety of dramatic violence. Covered are safe practices to empower actors to protect themselves, enable stage managers to spot potential hazards, and encourage directors to use fight directors. Also included is safe protocol for firearms onstage. The workshop will be hands-on for those who wish, but observation and questions are also encouraged.

Presenter: Steven Schwall, Society of American Fight Directors, Wyoming, MI
Steven SchwallSteven has been a professional Technical Director for 15 years. He holds a BA in Interdisciplinary Fine Arts from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and a Master of Arts from Eastern Michigan University. He is a Certified Teacher with the Society of American Fight Directors, and holds a Level 1 Professors Certification in the Margolis Method of actor training. He has designed stage violence for over 30 productions throughout the Midwest, specializing in schools and community theatres. He has taught at SAFD-sanctioned workshops throughout the Midwest for over five years, and presented workshops and papers at SETC, the Grand Valley Shakespeare Conference, and the Community Theatre Association of Michigan.

Stage Combat - Fundamentals of Swordplay

Basic fundamentals of targeting and footwork.

Friday 3:45-5 pm
Saturday 9-10:15 am
An examination through demonstration and drill, of the basic fundamentals of measure targeting and footwork as practiced by the Society of American Fight Directors. While every sword style has its own unique characteristics, there are certain fundamental principles that run throughout all bladed weapons. From Romans and Greeks to Jedi Knights, these basic fundamentals will keep actors safe while creating dynamic fights.

Presenter: Steven Schwall, Society of American Fight Directors, Wyoming, MI
Steven SchwallSteven has been a professional Technical Director for 15 years. He holds a BA in Interdisciplinary Fine Arts from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and a Master of Arts from Eastern Michigan University. He is a Certified Teacher with the Society of American Fight Directors, and holds a Level 1 Professors Certification in the Margolis Method of actor training. He has designed stage violence for over 30 productions throughout the Midwest, specializing in schools and community theatres. He has taught at SAFD-sanctioned workshops throughout the Midwest for over five years, and presented workshops and papers at SETC, the Grand Valley Shakespeare Conference, and the Community Theatre Association of Michigan.

Swashbuckling 101

Building and annotating moves for a staged swordfight.

Planning a production of Cyrano, Hamlet, Three Musketeers, The Venetian Twins, or “The Scottish Play”… but have those pesky sword fights to deal with?

Wednesday 9-11:45 am
​​​​​​​Thursday 9-11:45 am
This workshop presents a step-by-step process for building a staged swordfight, by giving specific attack, defense and movement strategies, along with a few non-weapon techniques for additional stage combat. For directors, this offers an approach to building a staged swordfight and an easy recording system for stage managers to follow in group rehearsals. For actors, this offers a notation system to follow while rehearsing in mimed solo prep at home, along with a refresher on some basic techniques in staged violence. For everyone, there’s an emphasis on preparation, safety, control (isometrics and balance), and aesthetics, with an opportunity for a bit of hands-on combat development, as well.

Presenter: David Metcalf, Director, Cokato, MN
David MetcalfDavid taught and directed high school English, speech, and theatre for 34 years. He has acted at several community theatres, including Theater in the Round in Minneapolis, Minnesota and a world premiere of Arthur Miller’s final play at the Guthrie Theater. He has directed over 150 shows for various high schools and community theatres, including the FungusAmongus Players’ production of The Romancers, which appeared at the 2015 AACT National Festival in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He studied fight choreography under B.H. Barry, (who was the first fight choreographer ever to be awarded a Tony.)


Laptop computer with music coming out of itTechnical

The Art of Stage Management

Become a great and effective stage manager. Beginners to the experienced.

Thursday 2:15-3:30 pm

Presenter: Keith Hight, Theatre and Dance, College of Southern Maryland
The coordinator of CSM Theatre and Dance, H. Keith Hight is also a professional jack-of-all-trades.  Keith brings, with his love of theatre arts, a dedication to quality performances. Former jobs include technical director, stage manager for various theatres. He is a member of the Southeastern Theatre Association and the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society. He divides his time between teaching, performing, and designing shows across the country.  He is the author of the book Professional Theatre in the Academic Theatre: Mentoring Theatre. Currently, he is the Chair for Alpha Psi Omega region 3. Recently Keith served as the Design, Technology and Management Chair for the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Region 2 Festival.

Fire, Life, and Fall Protection Safety; Oh My!

Examine performing facility safety targeted at production, patron and staff safety. Egress, fire, fall protection, and safety protocol development, plus more.

Friday 9-10:15 am

Presenter: Barry Nelson, Norcostco
Barry has been in the Minnesota Theater Community for close to 12 years. His work has been presented at Paul Bunyan Playhouse, Public Theater of MN, and CVFT, to name a few. He now calls Norcostco his current theater home, where he is a Technical Project Manager.

Sound Design for the Musical or Non-musical

Enhance your show with great sound design and execution.

Wednesday 2:15-3:30 pm
Learn about the artistry of sound design—how to enhance your show (musical or non-musical) with great sound design and execution. Review the important artistic and technical considerations for both non-musical and musical productions. In this informal and hands-on session, participants from all theatre disciplines will be welcome to share their thoughts and challenges with the process of using sound design to enhance their productions.

Presenter: Bob Pascucci, Sound Designer, Wellesley, MA
Bob PascucciBob works with a number of community theatres in the greater Boston area, both as an actor and as a sound designer. He has provided sound designs for over 50 shows, with his most recent work including sound for Clybourne Park, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and The Mystery of Edwin Drood. As an AACT member he has been an active participant in local, regional, and national AACT festivals for many years, including as a cast member and sound designer for Radium Girls, awarded Best Production at AACTFest 2013.

Sound Design Case Study: Creating a Soundscape

Recording music, alteration and synthesis, cutting into cues, and programming for production.

Friday 10:30-11:45 am
​​​​​​​Saturday 10:30-11:45 am
​​​​​​​This is a demonstration, plus Q&A, of the step-by-step process used to create an original sound design for a production, presented from the point of view of both the sound designer and the director. The presentation focuses on the creation of a sound design using both original music and music covers that were recorded for the AACT NewPlayFest World Premiere production of The Emperor of North America, by Thomas Hischak, produced by Silver Spring Stage, with direction and sound design by Scott Bloom. This workshop will be part demo and part discussion of the creative process, with just a bit of hands-on opportunity to record and shape your own music and effects. Second session may cover a few different tools and techniques.

Scott Bloom, Sound Designer, Musician, Silver Spring, MD
Scott BloomScott is an award-winning actor, director, playwright, and sound designer with more than 40 years of theatre experience. By day a computer systems consultant, he also enjoys tinkering with electronics and playing guitar and keyboards, and has been incorporating original music and sound into his work with the dozen or so theatre companies he works with. Having directed and designed sound for the AACT NewPlayFest world premiere of The Emperor of North America at Silver Spring Stage, he decided to document the entire process of composing and recording the “sound-scape” for the critically acclaimed production.

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