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Staff


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Staff


  Josie Whittlesey  Founder, Executive Director  Josie is the founder and Executive Director of Drama Club. Previous work includes teaching for  Rehabilitation Through the Arts  at Sing Sing and Woodbourne Correctional Facilities, where she taught courses on acting, public speaking and comedy. Before founding Drama Club, Josie developed a drop-in acting class for  GEMS , serving girls and young women who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking. Over the last ten years she has taught Acting, Improvisation, and Text Analysis at Fordham University, New York University, Montclair State University, and Larry Singer Studios. She holds an MFA from NYU’s Graduate Acting program.

Josie Whittlesey
Founder, Executive Director

Josie is the founder and Executive Director of Drama Club. Previous work includes teaching for Rehabilitation Through the Arts at Sing Sing and Woodbourne Correctional Facilities, where she taught courses on acting, public speaking and comedy. Before founding Drama Club, Josie developed a drop-in acting class for GEMS, serving girls and young women who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking. Over the last ten years she has taught Acting, Improvisation, and Text Analysis at Fordham University, New York University, Montclair State University, and Larry Singer Studios. She holds an MFA from NYU’s Graduate Acting program.

  Jecoina Vinson  Youth Engagement Specialist, Teaching Artist  Jecoina served as a subject matter expert for the Department of Criminal Justice Services New York State where he trained employees in the Public Health Model approach to violence reductions. Jecoina worked as a Supervisor for the Department of Family Services of Westchester County; SNUG Program Initiative. Jecoina is a Bard College alumnus and have facilitated across multiple theatrical workshops, peer groups and programs. He has been a student of theatre for over ten years and firmly believes in its power to transform, heal and empower individually and communally. 

Jecoina Vinson
Youth Engagement Specialist, Teaching Artist

Jecoina served as a subject matter expert for the Department of Criminal Justice Services New York State where he trained employees in the Public Health Model approach to violence reductions. Jecoina worked as a Supervisor for the Department of Family Services of Westchester County; SNUG Program Initiative. Jecoina is a Bard College alumnus and have facilitated across multiple theatrical workshops, peer groups and programs. He has been a student of theatre for over ten years and firmly believes in its power to transform, heal and empower individually and communally. 

  David Tomczak  Fundraising & Communication Manager  David brings both his passion for performing arts and nonprofit work, as well as an endless curiosity, to the role of  Fundraising & Communications Manager . Previous experience includes consulting work in communications/research at  Funders for LGBTQ Issues , and also the  Elton John AIDS Foundation . David served three years as Board Secretary of  I’m From Driftwood | The LGBTQ Story Archive , where he led and expanded their largest fundraiser. David graduated from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University with a BFA in Music Theatre, and sharpened his skills at the Wingo School of Fundraising.

David Tomczak
Fundraising & Communication Manager

David brings both his passion for performing arts and nonprofit work, as well as an endless curiosity, to the role of Fundraising & Communications Manager. Previous experience includes consulting work in communications/research at Funders for LGBTQ Issues, and also the Elton John AIDS Foundation. David served three years as Board Secretary of I’m From Driftwood | The LGBTQ Story Archive, where he led and expanded their largest fundraiser. David graduated from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University with a BFA in Music Theatre, and sharpened his skills at the Wingo School of Fundraising.


  Dena Rysdam Miller  Program Coordinator - Young Women's Initiative at Rikers, Teaching Artist  Dena is a New York City transplant raised in Minnesota. She received a B.A. in performance from American University and a M.A. in Text and Performance from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. While living in Minneapolis, she worked as a role player with the Crisis Company (now CWORX), teaching verbal de-escalation techniques for those in crisis through improvisation-based scenarios. In New York, she works as a teaching artist with Drama Club and as a standardized patient, helping educate the next generation of medical professionals. As an actress, Dena has worked in Minneapolis, London and New York City. Her passion is text and research driven performance created to foster community and discussion.            

Dena Rysdam Miller
Program Coordinator - Young Women's Initiative at Rikers, Teaching Artist

Dena is a New York City transplant raised in Minnesota. She received a B.A. in performance from American University and a M.A. in Text and Performance from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. While living in Minneapolis, she worked as a role player with the Crisis Company (now CWORX), teaching verbal de-escalation techniques for those in crisis through improvisation-based scenarios. In New York, she works as a teaching artist with Drama Club and as a standardized patient, helping educate the next generation of medical professionals. As an actress, Dena has worked in Minneapolis, London and New York City. Her passion is text and research driven performance created to foster community and discussion.

 

 

 

 

  Yael Elisheva  Teaching Artist  Yael is an artist of many mediums and activist. Before her work with Drama Club, she spent a semester teaching English and Dance at the Youth Village Yemin Orde in Israel. She has been teaching with Drama Club since day one at Crossroads Detention Facility in 2013. She co-directed the first ever Drama Club production, "Blues for an Alabama Sky" with founder Josie Whittlesey at Crossroads as well as "Snakes in the Grass," a play written and performed by the students at Pride School. Yael was part of the Pivotal Rights: A Journey of Women's Suffrage team that performed at the Rose M. Singer Center on Rikers Island.  Yael is a proud graduate of CAP21 Conservatory.   

Yael Elisheva
Teaching Artist

Yael is an artist of many mediums and activist. Before her work with Drama Club, she spent a semester teaching English and Dance at the Youth Village Yemin Orde in Israel. She has been teaching with Drama Club since day one at Crossroads Detention Facility in 2013. She co-directed the first ever Drama Club production, "Blues for an Alabama Sky" with founder Josie Whittlesey at Crossroads as well as "Snakes in the Grass," a play written and performed by the students at Pride School. Yael was part of the Pivotal Rights: A Journey of Women's Suffrage team that performed at the Rose M. Singer Center on Rikers Island.

Yael is a proud graduate of CAP21 Conservatory.

 

  Tasha Grant  Chair - Racial Justice Committe, Teaching Artist  Tasha is an educator, theatre practitioner, and cultural worker from Newark, New Jersey. She is passionate about youth development, mentorship, and using theatre as a tool for creating sustainable social change, fostering positive youth development, and community building. With years of experience working with young people across NYC and Newark, Tasha has worked as a Sexual Health Educator with Community Healthcare Network’s Teens P.A.C.T. program and a Joker/Teaching Artist for Theatre of the Oppressed NYC.  Tasha received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Theatre from Utica College and recently earned a Master of Arts in Educational Theatre from New York University.            

Tasha Grant
Chair - Racial Justice Committe, Teaching Artist

Tasha is an educator, theatre practitioner, and cultural worker from Newark, New Jersey. She is passionate about youth development, mentorship, and using theatre as a tool for creating sustainable social change, fostering positive youth development, and community building. With years of experience working with young people across NYC and Newark, Tasha has worked as a Sexual Health Educator with Community Healthcare Network’s Teens P.A.C.T. program and a Joker/Teaching Artist for Theatre of the Oppressed NYC.

Tasha received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Theatre from Utica College and recently earned a Master of Arts in Educational Theatre from New York University.

 

 

 

 

  April Storm Perry  Teaching Artist  April Storm Perry is a New York city based actress, model, comedian, singer and fitness coach. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communication Studies from UNC Chapel Hill and has studied acting at the Barrow Group, Larry Singer Studios, The Bristol Old Vic Theater School, and Penny Templeton Studios. She has been featured as a model in Bobbi Brown Cosmetics Pretty Powerful Campaign,  on NBC's 30 Rock and TBS's "Are We There Yet?", and in "The Wizard of Oz" at Sing Sing Correctional Facility with  Rehabilitation Through the Arts .          

April Storm Perry
Teaching Artist

April Storm Perry is a New York city based actress, model, comedian, singer and fitness coach. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communication Studies from UNC Chapel Hill and has studied acting at the Barrow Group, Larry Singer Studios, The Bristol Old Vic Theater School, and Penny Templeton Studios. She has been featured as a model in Bobbi Brown Cosmetics Pretty Powerful Campaign,  on NBC's 30 Rock and TBS's "Are We There Yet?", and in "The Wizard of Oz" at Sing Sing Correctional Facility with Rehabilitation Through the Arts

 

 

 

  Kelly Brady  Teaching Artist  Kelly has worked with Drama Club as a facilitator and curriculum consultant since 2015, teaching young men and women aged 16-21 on Riker’s Island and helping to create Drama Club’s pilot program at Manhattan’s The Door.  Kelly was a Program Manager for the  “Pivotal Rights”  project at the Rose M. Singer Center, which was featured on NPR’s “The Takeaway.”  Kelly spent four years teaching drama to students with special needs in NYC’s public school District 75, working with Lincoln Center Theatre, Disney Jr., and Broadway Jr./Music Theatre International on student productions of  “The Lion King,” “Annie,” “Romeo and Juliet,”  and  “Hamlet,”  among others.  A Chicago native, Kelly has trained in acting The University of Evansville, and NYU’s Graduate Acting Program, and studied improvisation with The Groundlings in LA and The Upright Citizen’s Brigade in NYC.  Kelly has a MsED in Special Education from Pace University, and is currently pursuing her PhD in Urban Education at CUNY’s Graduate Center. Kelly is a full-time drama teacher at the Frank Sinatra School for the Arts, and an Arthur Miller Theatre Education Fellow. 

Kelly Brady
Teaching Artist

Kelly has worked with Drama Club as a facilitator and curriculum consultant since 2015, teaching young men and women aged 16-21 on Riker’s Island and helping to create Drama Club’s pilot program at Manhattan’s The Door.  Kelly was a Program Manager for the “Pivotal Rights” project at the Rose M. Singer Center, which was featured on NPR’s “The Takeaway.”  Kelly spent four years teaching drama to students with special needs in NYC’s public school District 75, working with Lincoln Center Theatre, Disney Jr., and Broadway Jr./Music Theatre International on student productions of “The Lion King,” “Annie,” “Romeo and Juliet,” and “Hamlet,” among others.  A Chicago native, Kelly has trained in acting The University of Evansville, and NYU’s Graduate Acting Program, and studied improvisation with The Groundlings in LA and The Upright Citizen’s Brigade in NYC.  Kelly has a MsED in Special Education from Pace University, and is currently pursuing her PhD in Urban Education at CUNY’s Graduate Center. Kelly is a full-time drama teacher at the Frank Sinatra School for the Arts, and an Arthur Miller Theatre Education Fellow. 

  Terralon Walker  Teaching Artist  Terralon was born and raised in Houston, TX. After studying at the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, she continued her training at Rutgers Mason Gross School of the Arts graduating with a BFA in Acting. She continues her work in New York City, where she has worked on an Emmy Nominated web series and been featured in a major brand commercial. 

Terralon Walker
Teaching Artist

Terralon was born and raised in Houston, TX. After studying at the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, she continued her training at Rutgers Mason Gross School of the Arts graduating with a BFA in Acting. She continues her work in New York City, where she has worked on an Emmy Nominated web series and been featured in a major brand commercial. 

 
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Board


 


 

 

 

 

Board


 


 

 

 

 

Board of Directors


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STEPHANIE ADJEI
DIRECTOR

Stephanie grew up in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, the daughter of African immigrants. She has been working with at-risk and juvenile justice-involved youth for more than 15 years. She spent much of her childhood involved in the arts, including theater and dance, and knows first hand the importance of introducing young people to theater arts. Stephanie witnesses how motivated and encouraged the youth in the juvenile justice system are when they display their hidden talents. She sees their self-esteem rise to the roof. It takes so much courage to stand in front of their peers at that age and in that environment.  


DAVID BLASHER
Chair, DIRECTOR

David is a lawyer, musician and teacher. He currently works as a Director of Legal Operations at NBCUniversal, and has a background as a corporate litigator at  Davis Wright Tremaine and pro bono attorney for various  causes, including the American Civil Liberties Union. He also volunteers with the All Stars Project, helping to advance its mission of engaging poverty and social development through the power of performance, improvisation and conversation. David holds a B.A. in Theatre Studies from Yale University and a J.D. from the University of Oregon School of Law. For fun, he plays cello with the rock-pop band Sky-Pony.

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CHRISTINE BELLA, ESQ
DIRECTOR

Christine is an attorney with The Legal Aid Society’s Juvenile Rights Practice Special Litigation and Law Reform Unit where she represents young people involved in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems in federal and state individual and class civil rights litigation. Christine has worked for The Legal Aid Society in all three of its practice areas, Civil, Juvenile and Criminal. In 2004, she was awarded The Legal Aid Society’s Charles Schinitsky Award for outstanding service on behalf of children. She is also Vice Chairperson of Preparing Leaders of Tomorrow, Inc. a mentoring program for youth involved in the juvenile justice system. Christine received her Bachelor of Arts from Purdue University and her Juris Doctor, cum laude, from St. John’s University School of Law.


Scott Rabe
Treasurer, DIRECTOR

Scott is an attorney at Seyfarth Shaw LLP, where he helps businesses negotiate the legal landscape through all types of employment matters. Before going into private practice, Scott worked at the Juvenile Rights Division of the Legal Aid Society, where he represented young people in juvenile delinquency matters. He is delighted to serve on the board of Drama Club and to support its mission of bringing a consistent theater arts and mentorship experience to young people involved in the NYC juvenile and criminal justice systems. Scott graduated with a J.D., magna cum laude, from New York University. He received his B.A. in Dramatic Art from U.C. Berkeley.
 


Maggie Siff

MAGGIE SIFF
DIRECTOR

Maggie Siff is an actress well known to audiences for her roles in Showtime‘s Billions playing ‘Wendy Rhoades’ opposite Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti and her role as ‘Tara Knowles’ on the hit FX series Sons of Anarchy for which she received two Critics Choice Award nominations for ‘Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series’. She also starred in the first season of Mad Men playing Don Draper's mistress, ‘Rachel Menken’ for which she received a Screen Actors Guild Award Nomination for ‘Outstanding Cast in a Television Series Drama’. Maggie graduated with an M.F.A. from NYU‘s Tisch School and a B.A. from Bryn Mawr College. As a native New Yorker, she is passionate about bringing awareness to the youth that are caught in the juvenile and criminal justice systems in NYC.


JECOINA VINSON
Former Chair, DIRECTOR Emeritus

Jecoina currently works for the Department of Family Services in Westchester County as a caseworker for SNUG, a partner of the international Cure Violence model. Jecoina is a Bard College alumnus who has facilitated programs and workshops such as: Alternative to Violence Program, Youth Assistance Program, Theatricalizing Personal Narratives, poetry workshops and more.  He has been a student of theatre for many years and is a firm believer in its power to transform, heal and empower the individual. As well as serving as Chair, Jecoina is also a teaching artist for Drama Club.

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NAOKO MONTOYA
Secretary, DIRECTOR

Naoko is a preschool teacher at Christ Church in Manhattan and lives in the diverse area of Elmhurst, Queens with her husband and daughter. She emigrated to NYC from London, where she was an Organizational Management Trainer in a finance company. She earned a Fine Art degree in painting and sculpture. When she came to America in 2000 she discovered her passion for early childhood development and earned another degree in Early Childhood Education.


SUSAN KELECHI WATSON
DIRECTOR

Watson currently stars as Beth on NBC’s critically acclaimed hit series “This Is Us” currently in its 2nd season. Prior to “This is Us”, Watson may be best known for her recurring roles in “Louie,” “The Blacklist,” and "NCIS." Additional TV credits include "Divorce," “Billions,” “Limitless,” “Blue Bloods,” “Happyish,” “Veep,“ “Third Watch,” and “The Following.” Her film credits include period drama “Peter and John,” “Small, Beautifully Moving Parts” and "Blackout." Susan is also a proud Epic Next mentor. She co-created and continues to lead Epic Next’s Annual New Play Festival that showcases original plays about social justice issues - written, directed and performed by Epic Next students. She received her BFA from Howard University and MFA from NYU.

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