Meet the cast and creative team who are
getting it on in a downtown dive bar—in Jonelle Walker and Mitchell Hébert’s freewheeling queering of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.
ILLYRIA, or What You Will reimagines Shakespeare’s comedy of mixed-signal love in a downtown Manhattan dive bar in the early 1980s, where identity, sex, and gender are what you will. But who will fall in love with whom? And what music of love will the divas and DJ play? This fresh slant on a classic shakes up Shakespeare with the driving beats and dingy glamor of the post-disco era.
Frank Britton (DJ Feste), a nine-year Acting Company member, marks his 16th Avant Bard production with Illyria or What You Will following The Tempest last spring. He recently appeared in Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train (2018 Helen Hayes Award winner of the Robert Prosky Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Play – Helen, and the 2017 Broadway World Regional Award winner for Best Actor in a Play – Small Professional Theatre) and The Farnsworth Invention (both at 1st Stage) and Judy Moody & Stink: The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Treasure Hunt (Adventure Theatre, directed by Mitchell Hébert). A native Washingtonian, he has appeared with many area theatres over the past sixteen years. His credits include Wig Out! (Studio Theatre), King Lear (Avant Bard), Back to Methuselah: As Far As Thought Can Reach (Washington Stage Guild), The Freshest Snow Whyte (Imagination Stage), and Black Nativity (Theater Alliance). Other area credits include Two Trains Running and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Round House Theatre), Passion Play: a cycle, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot (Forum Theatre), Kafka’s Metamorphosis (Synetic Theater), The Balcony and Mother Courage and Her Children (SCENA Theatre), and Orpheus Descending (Arena Stage). Upcoming: Two Trains Running (Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park/Milwaukee Repertory Theater). Many, many thanks to Mitchell, Jonelle, Tom, and the Cast and Crew.
Katie Gallagher (Toby) is incredibly excited to be joining Avant Bard for this production. She holds a BA in Theatre and Arabic Studies from the University of Maryland, College Park, where she performed in The Amish Project, Antigone, and Clove, and assistant-directed Love and Information. She is looking forward to exploring DC theatre!
Emma Loughran Hébert (Maria) is stoked to be a part of her first production at Avant Bard! Previously, she choreographed Beauty and the Beast at The Woods Academy and was the Assistant Choreographer for Eurydice at The University of Maryland. Recent performance credits include Hooded: Or, Being Black for Dummies at Mosaic Theater Company, The Last Burlesque with Pinky Swear Productions, 100 Days with KG Dance, The Pillowman at Forum Theatre, Dante’s Inferno with Synetic Theatre, She Kills Monsters at Rorschach Theatre, and A Happenstance Circus with Happenstance Theatre. She holds a BA in Theatre from the University of Maryland.
Christopher Henley (Malvolio) is a founding Ensemble Member of (as we were then known) Washington Shakespeare Company and was Artistic Director from 1996 until 2013. He has been working in DC theatre since 1979, when cast as Michael Williams in Henry V at Source Theatre Company. In our inaugural production of Hamlet, he played Horatio; he directed our second Hamlet. In our first Tempest, he played Antonio; he directed our second and played Prospero in our third, last season. He directed our first Lear and played The Fool and The King of France in our second. In our first Macbeth, he played Donalbain; in our second, Duncan, MacDuff, and son of MacDuff. He directed our production of The Merchant of Venice and co-directed (with Jay Hardee) our second Richard III. Favorite non-Shakes directing includes our Caligula and Camille: a tearjerker. Other Shakespearean parts for us: Richard II, Falstaff, Henry IV, Lysander, Jacques, Caska, Don John, Don Pedro, and Cardinal Pandulph. He also played Don John at the Folger and Antonio in The Two Gentlemen of Verona for Bard on Wheels. Many non-Shakespearean roles for us include, most recently, Truman Capote in Holiday Memories. Since retiring into the role of Artistic Director Emeritus at Avant Bard, he has been committing journalism as a Contributing Writer for DCTheatreScene.com (https://dctheatrescene.com/author/christopher-henley/) and parenting as the father of Aksel and Ivona.
Miss Kitty LeLynx (Fabian) was last seen with Avant Bard in its 2017 Scripts in Play Festival. Other shows include A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Puck), Kabarett & Cabaret (Petronella), Rent (Angel), Vanilla Latte (Valerie), and Jilly Manilly (LaQuanda Rae). Catholic University of America, BM, Musical Theatre. Otherwise known as Jase Parker. “Live in FIERCE…not in fear.”
Adam Lemos (Antonio) is thrilled to be making his debut with Avant Bard. He recently graduated from George Mason University with a BFA in Performance. Credits include Constellation Theatre Company, Melancholy Play (Frank u/s). GMU: An Experiment With an Air Pump; Dido, Queen of Carthage; and Six Characters in Search of an Author.
Montana Monardes (Sebastian) is thrilled to be making his Avant Bard and DC debut in this production. He is a 2018 graduate of the University of Maryland’s School of Theatre Dance and Performance Studies, where he received a BA in Theatrical Performance. While at Maryland he performed in productions such as Eurydice, Love and Information, and The Importance of Being Earnest. Montana is extremely grateful for this opportunity to be welcomed into the DC theatre community and hopes to be back for future Avant Bard productions. www.montanamonardes.com
Jenna Rossman (Andrew) is STOKED to be working with this incredible team of artists on this production. Jenna is an actor and teaching artist who is passionate about new play development, Shakespeare, and immersive performance. Most recently, she was seen as Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Prince George’s Shakespeare in the Parks). Other select regional credits include As You Like It (Baltimore Center Stage), Girls in Cars Underwater (Eugene O’Neill Theater Center NPC), The Whale (Rep Stage), Pullman, WA (Edge of the Universe Players 2), Disgraced (NextStop Theatre), and A Fool’s Paradise: 30 Shakespeare Scenes in 60 Min. (Edinburgh Festival Fringe). She is a proud graduate of Towson University’s Acting program and studied improvisation at The Second City and iO Improv Theater (Chicago).
Matthew Sparacino (Orsino) is very excited to be making his Avant Bard debut with Illyria! A native of the DC area, Matt has performed with many local theatres over the past decade. He most recently appeared in Don Cristóbal with Pointless Theatre (with whom he is an artistic associate). Other select credits include Hugo Ball, Doctor Caligari, and A Very Pointless Holiday Spectacular (also with Pointless); The Farnsworth Invention and Lobby Hero (1st Stage); Six Degrees of Separation (Keegan Theatre); The Winter’s Tale and Antony and Cleopatra (Folger Theatre); Richard II, Dracula and The Merchant of Venice (Chesapeake Shakespeare); and Fever/Dream (Woolly Mammoth). Matt holds a BA in Theatre from the University of Maryland. He’d like to thank Mitch and Tom for this opportunity, and for all they’ve taught him over the years. www.matthewsparacino.com
Dani Stoller (Olivia) is so excited to be making her Avant Bard debut in Illyria! Dani is an actress and playwright originally from Brooklyn, New York. Previous DC credits include Olney Theatre Center: The Crucible (Abigail Williams), Annie (Lily St. Regis), The Diary of Anne Frank (Margot Frank); Folger Theatre: Midsummer (Flute), District Merchants (Jessica), As You Like It (Phoebe); Studio Theater: Carrie the Musical; 1st Stage: The Good Counselor, Blithe Spirit, The Italian American Reconciliation, Bat Boy (Helen Hayes Nomination: Best Supporting Actress in a Musical). BFA, Ithaca College. www.danistoller.com
Ezra Tozian (Viola/Cesario) is a genderqueer, multidisciplinary artist rocking it out in Washington, DC. This is their first time performing with Avant Bard and they couldn’t be more excited for the challenge! Some of their previous credits include Use All Available Doors (Pinky Swear Productions), The Trojan Women Project (Brave Spirits Theatre), Crave (Avalanche Theatre Company), and the first iteration of The Tarot Reading.
CREATIVE TEAM AND PRODUCTION CREW
Jonelle Walker (Co-Adapter, Dramaturg) is a Helen Hayes Award–nominated playwright, theatre-maker, and scholar who lives and works in Washington, DC, but will always call Texas home. Her work as a playwright includes TAME. (2016 Helen Hayes Award nomination, Best Adaptation of a Play or Musical), Prophets of Doom (2016), The Theatre of Self-Loathing (2015), and numerous short plays. She is a Company Member and Associate Producer with Rorschach Theatre. Jonelle holds an MA and is pursuing a PhD in Theatre and Performance Studies from the University of Maryland.
Mitchell Hébert (Director, Co-Adapter) has worked as a director at Round House Theatre (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Glengarry Glen Ross), Forum Theatre (The Illusion), Olney Theatre Center (Rabbit Hole), and Adventure Theatre (Judy Moody and Stink). As an actor his recent roles include Richard Burbage and Ben Jonson in The Book of Will (Round House Theatre), Roy Cohn in Angels in America parts 1 and 2 (a co-production of Round House Theatre and Olney Theatre Center), and Arnold in Hir (Woolly Mammoth Theatre). At the University of Maryland, where he is on the faculty, he has directed Eurydice, The Amish Project, and The Distance from Here and co-directed A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which was performed at UMD and The National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts in Beijing, China. Mitch has received Helen Hayes Awards for both acting (After the Fall at Theatre J) and directing (Glengarry Glen Ross at Round House Theatre), in addition to several nominations as an actor and director.
Jos. B. Musumeci, Jr. (Set Designer), who has designed the scenery for Othello, Nero/Pseudo, and King John for Avant Bard and the lighting for last season’s The Tempest, is excited to return as Set Designer for Illyria. Other recent work includes scenery for Flying V’s Fights 3: The Secret History of the Unknown World and You, or Whatever I Can Get, and the lighting for Twelfth Night, Spring Awakening, and Beyond the Sunset at St. Mary’s College, where he has just completed his first year as Technical Director and Lighting Designer, after a decade and a half as the Director of Theatre and Events at the Bender JCC of Greater Washington.
Kristen P Ahern (Costume Designer) is excited for her first show with Avant Bard and third with Mitch! Recent designs include Seven Deadly Sins (Wolf Trap Opera), Judy Moody and Stink… (Adventure Theatre MTC), The Princess and the Pauper (Imagination Stage), and Love and Information (University of Maryland). Kristen is from Chicago, where where she worked with Silk Road Rising, Collaboraction, Boho Theatre Ensemble, and others. She spent summers at Hope Summer Repertory Theatre, where her designs included The Fantasticks, Hairspray and Les Miserables. www.kristenp.com/
John D. Alexander (Lighting Designer) is excited to return to Avant Bard. His recent designs include the national tour of The Migration: Reflections of Jacob Lawrence presented by Step Afrika!, the national tour of Anne and Emmett by Janet Langhart Cohen, Marie and Rosetta by George Brant (Mosaic Theater Company), and Skeleton Crew by Dominique Morisseau (TheatreSquared). Upcoming design includes A Civil War Christmas by Paula Vogel (1st Stage).
Aaron Bliden (Composer/Sound Designer) is a performance artist based in Washington, DC. He has composed, arranged, and directed music for Pointless Theatre’s productions of Imagination Meltdown Adventure, Minnie the Moocher, A Very Pointless Holiday Spectacular, Hugo Ball, d0t, and Solar System Show. At the University of Maryland in College Park, he worked on Eurydice, The Amish Project, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He worked on Rorschach Theatre’s Glassheart and for numerous short films for Chicago Sketch outfit Claymore Productions. He co-wrote the musicals Go to Hell, Eugene!! and Please Listen: A Musical Chaos for the Capital Fringe Festival. Aaron is grateful to Avant Bard for the opportunity to work on Illyria.
Emma Loughran Hébert (Choreographer). See bio above under Cast.
Claudia Rosales Waters (Intimacy Director/Assistant Choreographer) is a local DC playwright, performer, and intimacy director. She graduated with a Master of Fine Arts in Performance from the University of Maryland. As an intimacy director, she has worked with Mosaic Theater Company on Hooded, Or Being Black for Dummies. Recent productions include Women of Troy: Voices from Afghanistan (Alliance for New-Music Theatre) and Trojan Women (Brave Spirits). Claudia is the Program Associate with Young Playwrights’ Theater.
Bryan Boyd (Stage Manager) is an up-and-coming Stage Manager in the DMV. Previous credits include Adventure Theater MTC: SM/Les Miserables; Creative Cauldron: ASM/Witch, SM/The Mistress Cycle; Constellation Theatre Company: ASM/The Skin of Our Teeth; ArtsCentric: SM/Sincerely Holidays, ASM/Sister Act; Mosaic Theater Company: ASM/Hooded or Being Black for Dummies, ASM/Charm; Montgomery College Summer Dinner Theater: SM/West Side Story, SM/Into the Woods. He holds a BA in Communication from Arizona State University and an AA in Theater Performance from Montgomery College.
Jenna Rossman (Special Effects). See bio above under Cast.
Ralph Derbyshire (Technical Director) is an Arlington native. He has worked throughout the DC region for the last 15 years, most notably with The Smithsonian Folklife Festival (2002–08 2010–15), George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium (2007–12), as well as freelancing with many local crewing companies setting up special events and concerts. He has held the titles of master carpenter, master flyman, assistant stage manager, and shop foreman. He also works and volunteers with the National Folk Festival as well as several other festivals locally and around the country. This is his third show with Avant Bard, after building the sets for The Gospel at Colonus and The Tempest last season.
Jonelle Walker (Dramaturg). See bio above.