About the artists – 2020 Fall Festival

About the Plays

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ARTISTS

Ellyn Stern (Director – Countrie Matters * Countrie Matters, Ophelia)

Ellyn began working on stage when she was 12 years old. A few of her theatre credits include LES MISERABLES, SISTER AFRICA, DAUGHTER OF MY PEOPLE, EXIT THE KING, APPLE, MRS. WARREN’S PROFESSION, RUMORS, BLOOD WEDDING, CHINAMEN, HOW HE LIED TO HER HUSBAND, KILLING OF SISTER GEORGE, and DAY GAMES. She starred in TWO NOBLE KINSMEN at the Globe Theatre Playhouse (in the Smithsonian Institute) and WE’LL NEVER BE YOUNG AGAIN (CTG). A few TV credits: LIFE’S A BITCH (stars in and wrote), MILK AND HONEY, AMERICAN CARROTT, CHARLIE’S ANGELS, GENERAL HOSPITAL, DAYS OF OUR LIVES, and SANTA BARBARA. A few of her films: BLOOD ON THE CANVAS, THE OTHER WAY, JESSIE’S GIRLS, THE MAN WHO LOVED WOMEN, and DUCHESS AND THE DIRTY WATER FOX. Ellyn is also well known for her voice work in animation, interactive games, and films, which include dubbing AcademyAward winning films into English…a few titles: WIDOW OF ST PIERRE, CINEMA PARADISO, BELLE EPOQUE, LE FEMME NIKITA, TAE GU KI, BABETTE’S FEAST, MOSTLY MARTHA and EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN. Game and animation voice work with hundreds of titles including LUPIN THE 3RD, PHANTASY STAR ONLINE II, GHOST IN THE SHELL 2: INNOCENCE, NOEIN, MAR, AND GUNDAM UNICORN, ROBOTECH, BLEACH, BLUE DRAGON, TRUE CRIMES HONG KONG. Ellyn has directed voice overs for many years. Recent credits include Netflix‘s SCHOOL NURSE FILES currently running, LUPIN THE 3RD, currently on Toonami, STAR WARS, A NEW HOPE, EPISODE 4 (Ellyn dubbed into the Navajo Language). She’s a member of the Classical Theatre Lab Company and an Executive member of Women In Film.

Samantha King (Pineapple and Other Options, Helen)

Sam hails from Northern California, where she studied at The American Conservatory Theatre, The Academy of Media and Theatre Arts, and The American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She did educational children’s theatre for ten years touring schools in Northern California, Denver, Dallas, and Atlanta. She then wrote THE BEST ME which, before COVID, toured as part of Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theatre Programs. Her play CHICKEN DANCE was performed at The Edmonton Fringe Festival. She was a member of The Actor’s Ensemble of Berkeley, where she choreographed and played Velma Kelly in CHICAGO. She also appeared as Lorraine Sheldon in THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER, Kitty Duvall in THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE, and choreographed KISS ME KATE. At The Masquer’s Playhouse, she choreographed NEW GIRL IN TOWN and KISMET. She was a founding member of Central Works in Berkeley, CA, where she was in HALCYON DAYS, TWO PRECIOUS MAIDENS RIDICULED, GOLDEN ERA, and wrote ROUX. Her friendship with ATM’s Jeanmarie Simpson took her to Pullman, Washington, where she played Truvy in Jeanmarie’s STEEL MAGNOLIAS, Flo in THE ODD COUPLE, Bonnie in ANYTHING GOES, and Rosie in BYE BYE, BIRDIE. In Reno, Nevada, Sam choreographed and appeared as Ariel in Nevada Shakespeare Company’s version of THE TEMPEST interwoven to the soundtrack of HAIR. In 2019, Sam appeared at historic Spring Friends Meeting House in a series of performances of Jeanmarie’s HERETIC – THE MARY DYER STORY. Sam has been teaching theater in New Orleans Public Schools since 2000. Trained in Arts Integration at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, she developed the elementary theatre program at Lusher Charter School where she taught elementary, middle, and high school students for 14 years. Currently an Arts Coach with KID smART, she develops and implements Arts Integration professional development, and has an Arts Literacy residency at Langston Hughes Academy. She is also a member of The Greater New Orleans Writing Project and has taught Creative Writing at Tulane’s Upward Bound program.

Pamela Sterling (Playwright – Louisa May Alcott: the Power of a Woman, Director – Pineapple and Other Options * Louisa May Alcott – the Power of a Woman, Louisa)

Pamela is an Associate Professor of Theatre in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University. She teaches courses in theatre for social change, the history of children’s dramatic literature, new play development, playwriting, and acting. Prior to her arrival at ASU in 1999, she had a career as Artistic Director, freelance director, playwright, and professional actor. Her directing credits at Arizona State University include ALICIA IN WONDER TIERRA by Silvia Gonzales S., as well as OUR TOWN by Thornton Wilder, THE ASH GIRL by Timberlake Wertenbaker, and THE VINE, by cc casas. Professional directing credits include THE GRAPES OF WRATH for the Fulton Theatre in Lancaster, PA, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD for Theatre Project Company in St. Louis, GREAT EXPECTATIONS for the Coterie, plus Shakespeare’s ROMEO AND JULIET and DRAGONWINGS by Lawrence Yep, for Honolulu Theatre for Youth. Her adaptation of THE SECRET GARDEN received the Distinguished Play Award from AATE, and her adaptation of the Nate the Great books by Marjorie Weinman-Sharmat, titled THE ADVENTURES OF NATE THE GREAT received the Best New Play Award from the Kansas City Theatre Association. Both plays are published by Dramatic Publishing Company. Sterling joined Actor’s Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers, in 1982. Her professional acting credits include PATRICIA in EXTREMITIES by William Mastrosimone and Essie in YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU for Theatre Project Company, Emily in OUR TOWN for Stage One: The Louisville Children’s Theatre, Scout in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRDand Gollum in THE HOBBIT for Seattle Children’s Theatre. Current projects include her solo play, LOUISA MAY ALCOTT: THE POWER OF A WOMAN, a stage adaptation of the novel BLUE WILLOW by Doris Gates, and a play written with men incarcerated in Missouri, NO PLAN B, commissioned by the Prison Performing Arts Program.

Ina Shivack (The Jewish Question, Grace)

Ina was born in Brooklyn to a family of cultural and culinary Jews. They took pride in their Jewishness and knew little about Judaism.  They valued Yiddishkeit and Menschlikeit.  From a background of anti-authoritarianism, iconoclasm, socialism and artistic endeavor, the lone representative of the following generation, Ina’s adored niece Juliet (now Chana Feiga), the apple of the whole family’s eye, has become a frum, sheitel-wearing, multi-child-bearing Lubavitcher matron.  GO KNOW!
In much the way they were Jewish, Ina’s family were musical; they had deep and wide appreciation, lots of innate talent, and not a lot of formal training.  Ina began singing at an early age and has never stopped.  As a member and soloist with the renowned New York Choral Society, she has performed at Lincoln Center, CarnegieHall, Kennedy Center and on international tours.  She has sung back-up in concerts and on recordings with opera stars including Jessye Norman and Luciano Pavrarotti and with folk and pop legends Pete Seeger, Peter, Paul & Mary, Celine Dion and Aretha Franklin.  She currently sings classical music with two choruses in Tucson, where she also performs with several theater companies.  She has appeared in a wide range of musical, comedic and dramatic roles — from Rodgers & Hammerstein to Sondheim, from Shakespeare to Neil Simon.

Debra Lyman (Pineapple and Other Options, Elizabeth “Betsy” Pennington * The Jewish Question, Stage Directions)

Debra is a native of Phoenix, Arizona, and has had the opportunity to work as an actor in various productions in the Valley of the Sun. Some of her favorites are LAST ROMANCE (Stage Left), TIS A PITY (Space 55), SOMETHING WICKED (Davisson Entertainment), MEDEA (Now and Then), WHISPER SWEETLY (Brelby), JOHN (Stray Cat) & AriZoni Award recipient for Supporting Actress, DEATHTRAP (MET), MANIFESTO OF A MILITANT (Outloud 2016), JULIUS CAESAR (Class 6). She has an AA in Theatre Arts (MCC 2013). She extends special thanks to Jeanmarie for PINEAPPLE AND OTHER OPTIONS, and her tireless energy and compassion in pursuing ATM’s mission and concepts.

RC Contreras (Pineapple and Other Options, AJ)

RC started out doing stand-up in L.A. where she enjoyed shows at The Laugh Factory, The Comedy Store, and The Icehouse in Pasadena. Immediately after her first appearance at the Laugh Factory, Founder and CEO, Jamie Massada, said “you’re really funny kid, you just need to be way more animated.” Ever since, RC has been moving around stages everywhere. After moving back to Phoenix she began moving across stages in the Valley of the Sun. In such plays as, SIX CHARACTERS IN SEARCH OF AN AUTHOR, William Shakespeare’s THE COMEDY OF ERRORS, Space 55’s annual holiday romp A BLOODY MARY CHRISTMAS, BE MY LITTLE BABY, A WOMAN ON STAGE, and Mindy Kaling’s MATT AND BEN, Where RC played the role she was destined to play, Mr. Ben Affleck. RC plays AJ in Jeanmarie Simpson’s PINEAPPLE AND OTHER OPTIONS. She is excited to bring AJ back to life for the Fall Festival, and would like to thank Jeanmarie Simpson for the opportunity.

Jen Gantwerker (The Jewish Question, Rebecca)

Jen made her theatrical debut at age eight in a summer camp production of PREJUDICE IS AN UGLY COLOR. Her performance of “Let it Be Me” by the Indigo Girls was surely responsible for her acceptance into the theatre program at the University of Southern California years later. She landed in Arizona in 2013, and these days is an ensemble member with Brelby Theatre Company and Murder and a Meal Dinner Theatre. She is also a member of The Cosmonauts sketch comedy troupe, with which she performs in the Phoenix area and at national comedy festivals, most recently the Tucson Fringe Festival and SF Sketchfest (both in January of 2020). Jen was also proud to be selected to perform a monologue for the Arizona edition of The 24 Hour Plays: Viral Monologues in July. When she is not acting, writing, or directing, Jen works as a teaching artist for Childsplay, bringing drama into classrooms (and homes, at present) throughout the Valley of the Sun. She could not be more excited to have the opportunity to bring Jeanmarie’s lovely words to life once again.

Jeanmarie Simpson (Playwright – Pineapple and Other Options, The Jewish Question * Pineapple and Other Options, Jan)

Jeanmarie is an Arizona-based, Toronto-raised Theatre Artist. She is the Founding Artistic Director of ATM Productions and the Nevada Shakespeare Company, from which she retired in 2015. She wrote and performed Off-Broadway and worldwide A SINGLE WOMAN, about first US Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin. She subsequently starred in the film that featured Judd Nelson, Martin Sheen, Patricia Arquette, Margot Kidder, Karen Black, Elizabeth Peña, and many others. Jeanmarie’s other produced works include HERETIC – THE MARY DYER STORY, LIBERTY’S CHILDREN, IN MY OWN IMAGE, CHIMERA – WEAVING THE FRAGMENTS, and collaborations including MOONBLOOD and COMING IN HOT. She has acted in and directed hundreds of shows in regional theatre and stock, including Shakespeare’s entire canon. Jeanmarie has performed on and off camera in dozens of television commercials and Public Service Announcements. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild and is retired from Actors’ Equity Association, SAG-AFTRA, and the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers.

John Perovich (Dramaturg – Pineapple and Other Options * The Jewish Question, Ash)

John is a playwright, dramaturg, educator, theatre-maker and occasional actor living in Phoenix, AZ. He serves as the Dramatists Guild Ambassador for Arizona in the Southwest Region. He is the founding Artistic Director of Now & Then Creative Company, whose mission focuses on the “now”—new play development and productions of new works, while also celebrating the “then”—classics for the stage. He is also the Director of New Work Development at Brelby Theatre Company in Glendale, AZ. John’s plays have been performed at B3 Theater, Brelby Theatre Company, Laughing Pig Theatre, Space 55, Arizona State University, Cumberland County Community College, Safe Mode Productions, Little Fish Theatre Collaborative, and New York University. Additionally, Perovich’s work has been selected and presented at the Valdez Last Frontier Theatre Conference, Festival of New American Theatre at The Phoenix Theatre Company, Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, and Mid-America Theatre Conference. Perovich earned his B.A. in Communications: Radio/TV/Film from Rowan University, M.A. in Educational Theatre from New York University, and his M.F.A. in Dramatic Writing from Arizona State University.

Richard Epcar (Countrie Matters, Fortinbras)

Richard Epcar is stage trained and has performed in many plays including DRACULA, AN EVENING WITH LINCOLN, RUMORS, A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE, LION IN WINTER, HAMLET and HENRY V, to name a few. Gamepur’s Voice Actor of the Year, Richard has voiced more than 600 characters including Raiden in Mortal Kombat, The Joker in several Batman games, Ansem in Kingdom Hearts, Akuma in Street Fighter V, Batou in Ghost in the Shell, Joseph Joestar in Jojo’s Bizarre Adventures and Jigen in Lupin the Third. Some films he’s appeared in are ALTERED SPIRITS, MEMOIRS OF AN INVISIBLE MAN, and DEAD MAN WALKING. On TV he can be seen in many shows including WAREHOUSE 13, COLUMBO, BEVERLY HILLS 90210, MATLOCK, CHEERS, WHO’S THE BOSS, and alongside Ellyn Stern in LIFE’S A BITCH.

Beau Billingslea (Countrie Matters, Marcellus)

Beau’s career spans five decades. His theatre credits include EMPEROR JONES, BELL, BOOK AND CANDLE, STREET SCENE, DRACULA, DRIVING MISS DAISY, THE BAD SEED, A CHRISTMAS CAROL, THE FANTASTICKS, OF MICE AND MEN, the national tour of THE GREAT WHITE HOPE, MAN OF LA MANCHA, DETECTIVE STORY (with Charlton Heston), and many more. He has appeared in over 80 television series including such shows as NCIS, MAD ABOUT YOU (1997 & 2019), LAST MAN STANDING, GENERAL HOSPITAL, YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS, SANTA BARBARA, MACGYVER, MURPHY BROWN, MURDER SHE WROTE, JAG, A-TEAM, DALLAS, THE WEST WING, WITCHES OF WAVERLY PLACE, JUST JORDAN, MARRIED WITH CHILDREN, NORTH & SOUTH II, TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL, BAYWATCH, NYPD BLUE, COLD CASE, WEEDS, and CASTLE. In the world of animation and video games, Beau is known for voicing Jet Black in COWBOY BEBOP, Ogreman in DIGIMON, the Fourth Raikage in NARUTO, and Barret Wallace in FINAL FANTASY ADVENT CHILDREN. His feature film credits include NIGHT SHIFT, THE BLOB, REAL GENIUS, LEPRECHAUN IN THE HOOD, MY FAVORITE MARTIAN, IN THE ARMY NOW, HALLOWEEN H2O, AMERICAN PRESIDENT, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS, HANNAH MONTANA THE MOVIE, and more.  He has done countless commercials and has three currently running, including a Verzenio breast cancer medication spot. Beau is a proud U.S. Army veteran.

Jacqueline Epcar (Countrie Matters, Phyllida)

Jacqueline is an LA-born musician and actress. She’s done voice work for various films and video games, such as Star Ocean: Second Evolution, Shadow Hearts: Covenant, Phantasy Star Online 2, Delicacy, Farewell My Queen, and Try Harder Tomorrow. She is currently in production for the show Life’s A Bitch, which she co-stars in, directed, sang and wrote the music for. Her music can also be heard in The Last Treasure Hunt, Welcome to the Neighborhood, and Cold Turkey.

Matthew J Wells (Countrie Matters, Playwright)

Matthew spent the first half of his life in Boston, and the second half of his life in New York, and is now spending the third half as a Chiang Mai-based poet and playwright. His fifteen minutes of fame include a production at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco; published poems in the Magic Theatre’s collections A Borderless Province and Rewrite The Map; two ten-minute plays in four years as part of New York’s Red Bull Short New Play Festival; and staged readings at theatre conferences in Nebraska and North Carolina. He is the author of 5 unfinished novels, 17 unfinished plays, and a work-in-progress entitled “100 Things I’ll Never Have The Time To Write.” He posts a rhymed couplet a day on the Facebook page The Daily Couplet, and he identifies as a five-time Pulitzer Prize winner.

Morlan Higgins (Countrie Matters, Gravedigger)

Morlan has won multiple Ovation, LADCC and LAWeekly awards for his performances on LA area stages over the past thirty years. He played Andre in the World Premiere of Athol Fugard’s EXITS AND ENTRANCES and logged over 300 performances of the play in productions from Los Angeles’ Fountain theater to Off-Broadway and Edinburgh. He has played doctors, lawyers, cops and bad guys on television over the years but his true love is playing Celtic music on his Mandolin family of instruments as the singer/songwriter for the American-Celtic band, Staggering Jack.

Emerson Boatwright (Countrie Matters, Roberto)

Emerson is thrilled to be returning to Countrie Matters. He is an LA native who has found himself onstage in many regional productions of musicals such as SPAMALOT! THE PRODUCERS, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, and GUYS AND DOLLS. He has toured internationally to sold-out audiences full of screaming children in PEPPA PIG LIVE and OCTONUATS LIVE! Most recently he was seen in the award-winning UNAUTHORIZED MUSICAL PARODY OF: A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN. In his spare time, he teaches, works on music, writes, and is constantly trying to tackle large existential questions that no one has answers to.

Time Winters (Countrie Matters, Hamlet)

Time just worked with David Fincher on a new episode of LOVE, DEATH AND ROBOTS for Netflix. Shakespeare LA: HENRY IV, P. 1&2. (with Tom Hanks and Joe Morton), TWELFTH NIGHT, LOVEʼS LABORS LOST, AS YOU LIKE IT, MERCHANT OF VENICE (with Al Pacino and Geoffrey Rush), Blank Theatre: TRAGEDY OF JFK, Pasadena Playhouse: PYGMALION, GOOD DOCTOR, EQUUS. Geffen: YES, PRIME MINISTER. A Noise Within: THE TEMPEST, CYMBELINE, BEAUX STRATEGEM. South Coast Rep: HOW THE WORLD BEGAN, XMAS CAROL, ROUND AND ROUND THE GARDEN. La Mirada: ARSENIC AND OLD LACE, CAMELOT, LITTLE MERMAID, MARY POPPINS. Boston Court: GOOD BOOK OF PEDANTRY AND WONDER, HOW TO DISAPPEAR, AMADEUS (Broadway), and many other regional theaters.  Pre-lockdown work includes Netflix’s BLONDE, PLUS ONE, FRAMED, VICE, and VELVET BUZZSAW. Other features include LAVALANTULA, RUNAWAYS, LIFE & DEATH OF PETER SELLERS, A LITTLE PRINCESS, DOC HOLLYWOOD, THINNER, SNEAKERS, GREMLINS II, and many more.  Just played Father Abernathy in Episodic THE EXORCISM OF ALLIE FAY, and recurring roles on ABC’s GENERAL HOSPITAL and Showtime’s SHAMELESS. Other TV appearances: THIS IS US, LEGION, MAYANS MC, DOLLFACE, YOU’RE THE WORST,   LOVE, DEATH, & ROBOTS and WHO KILLED LITTLE GREGORY? (Netflix).  Worked with Tom Hanks in Shakespeare Centre L.A.’s HENRY IV, He has voiced many characters in games such as METAL GEAR SOLID 5: PHANTOM PAIN, FALLOUT 4, THE ELDER SCROLLS, and others.

STUART W. HOWARD (Countrie Matters, Chancellor)

LA Theatre: Classical Theatre Lab: “Othello” (Iago), “Merry Wives of Windsor” (Ford), “Much Ado About Nothing” (Benedick), “The Iliad” (various), “The Libertine” (Charles II); Hollywood Court: “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (George); PRT: “Otherwise Engaged” (Stephen; Garland Award), “Revenger’s Tragedy” (Vindice), “Marat/Sade” (Herald), “Waiting for Godot” (Vladimir); LA Rep: Shaw’s “Back to Methusaleh” (Napoleon); Antaeus: Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Patience” (Duke of Dunstable); Bare Bones Co.: “Ghosts” (Manders), “Misanthrope” (Alceste); Getty Center: “Trojan Women” (Menelaus); CSU-LA Equity Guest Artist: “Macbeth” (Macbeth), “Arcadia” (Bernard); Disney Hall: “Glories of Shakespeare” (speeches w/orchestra); Fremont Center: “Skylight” (Tom); Theatricum Botanicum: “Romeo & Juliet” (Friar/Capulet); Sierra Madre Playhouse: “The Immigrant” (Milton). New York: Beacon Project: “‘Sarse: A Farce” (Laurence), “Man with the Flower in His Mouth” (title role), “The Doorbell” (Mr. Winter), many more. Film: “2020” (General Erinmore), “Pawn to a Kng” (Sunglasses); Television: “Days of Our Lives”; Voiceover: “Hotel Destiny” (audiobook), “Return of the Phantom” (videogame), “In a Cold Hotel” & “Playboy of the Western World” (radio plays).