Egan Ammerman, Class Accompanist
Egan has been a professional musician, educator, and producer for the past 20 years. He attended the Columbia College in Chicago, IL, and received his bachelor's degree in Music Composition and Performance. Egan is a versatile performer who has worked with multiple nationally touring musical groups and has been involved in a variety of recording and production projects. Currently, he lives in Akron, OH and is closely working with local talent to create a larger platform for the Akron Arts Community.
Chelby Benson, Theater Instructor
Chelby is a Visual Arts Instructor at Woodridge High School. She was recognized one of Summit County’s All Star Teaching Team members and awarded Summit County Rookie Teacher of the Year in 2014. At Woodridge Miss Benson runs the Drama Club, as well as is the Artistic Director for The Fall Play and Spring Musical, and the Junior Class Advisor. Prior to coming to Woodridge, Miss Benson has taught Visual Arts for Elementary Students in Lorain at Summit Academies, and taught High School as was a long-term sub in Medina County as well as for Brunswick City Schools. She enjoys painting, ceramics, scenic design, directing, singing, dancing, hiking, and being silly. Miss B is excited to provide students hands-on art experiences in Summer Camps here at Weathervane. She is also a board member at the Cuyahoga Valley Arts Center.
Natalie Blalock Jennings, Theater Instructor
Natalie Blalock moved to NYC directly after graduating from High School in Apopka, FL to attend the summer program at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts. During that time she was encouraged by her singing teacher to audition for The American Musical and Dramatic Academy from where she graduated 2 years later. She received her equity card right here in NE Ohio from the Carousel Dinner Theatre (thank you Joey Patton). Natalie was most recently seen playing one of her dream roles (Mama Rose) in this summers production of GYPSY at the Beck Center for Performing Arts in Lakewood, OH. Some of her favorite shows have included Paper Moon (Miss Trixie Delight) at Ford’s Theater, The Scarlet Pimpernel (Helen/Chanteuse) Broadway , Houdini (Madame Tolka/Wilma) at Goodspeed Opera House, The Little Mermaid (Ursula) at Beck Center for the Performing Arts, Annie (Miss Hannigan) at Bucks County Playhouse and Ladies and Gentlemen Natalie Blalock (Herself) at Joe’s Pub, The Public Theatre, NYC. Other wonderful experiences include the T.V. shows Strangers with Candy (Edie Harley) “The Bully” episode, THE O.C. (Gail VanDeepen) and Eve (Mrs. Garris). Natalie is a grateful member of Actor’s Equity and SAG.
Desiree Boardwine, Theater Instructor
Desiree is a teacher, director, songwriter, musician, and performer, has been a lover of the arts her entire life. As a teen, she acted in every theatrical production at her high school, performed at musical venues such as the House of Blues and Kent Stage, won a songwriting competition presented by Time Warner Cable, and performed on live, national television during the “Singing Family Face-Off” on the CBS Early Morning Show. Throughout her years at Kent State University, where she majored in education, Desiree acted as Streetsboro High School’s assistant theatre director and aided in productions including Big Bad, Lady Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Alice in Wonderland. Since graduating college, Desiree has been directing productions around the area including Springfield High School’s Peter Pan and Wendy, and Cuyahoga Falls High School’s Beauty and the Beast. She is currently an English and Drama teacher at Stow-Munroe Falls High School and instructing several performance camps for organizations such as Thrive, Lisa’s School of Dance, and Weathervane Playhouse!
John Ebner, Music Director
John has worked extensively as a keyboardist, musical director, and accompanist for the Carousel Dinner Theater, Coach House Theatre, Ohio Shakespeare Festival, Player’s Guild of Canton, Theatre 8:15, Voices of Canton, Weathervane Playhouse, and Western Reserve Playhouse. He retired from teaching music after 33 years, but continues to work with schools in Stark and Summit counties. John has had some great opportunities over the years including working with Arthur Fiedler and Paul Williams as well as performing at Cleveland’s House of Blues. He has won four Chanticleers and a YACTA for his work at the Weathervane. He has also done commercial work with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He has a Master of Music in Education from The University of Akron and is a member of the American Federation of Musicians and Ohio Music Educators Association.
Kennedy Ellis, Musical Theatre Instructor
Kennedy is elated to be making her teaching debut at Weathervane Playhouse with a group of wonderful students! She is currently a junior at Cleveland State University studying Music Education and Theater. In her “free” time, she is blessed with plenty of rewarding experiences performing in the Cleveland area. Favorite credits include Bonnie and Clyde (Bonnie), To Kill a Mockingbird (Miss Stephanie), The Art of Dining (Ellen), RENT (Maureen), and Godspell (Ensemble).
Madison Ellis, Theater Instructor
Madison is thrilled to be a part of the classes here at Weathervane. She is a recent graduate of Miami University of Ohio with a BA in theatre, concentration in acting. Madison balances her time between serving, teaching and acting in the local area. She plans to achieve her Masters degree and continue her passion for teaching. Madison would like to thank you for being a part of this experience and supporting the arts.
Kirsten Fitzgerald, Theater Instructor
Kirsten is a native Ohioan who has lived locally for over 25 years. She served on Akron Summit Community Action’s Policy Council for 3 years, with 2 years as Council President. While attending the University of Akron, she worked in the Office of Leadership and Development and helped initiate a Parents and Family Association. At a young age, Kirsten discovered a passion for the arts and has been actively involved with them for over 15 years. First as a stage mom assisting with costumes, hair, makeup, and choreography; then as a performer, Co-Director, and Assistant Director. Since 2009, Kirsten’s love of the Arts has been shared with local youth through teaching theater classes and summer camps here at the Weathervane Playhouse; and also at Hale Farm and Village in Bath where she teaches Western Reserve history and demonstrates historic crafts such as spinning, weaving, candles, and broom making. She also teaches an early morning Seminary class to high school students, is a Girl’s Camp counselor, and has served as a teacher, chorister, and Enrichment Leader, all as a volunteer for her church. Kirsten looks forward to creating and exploring the arts with your children!
Alice Gibbs, Musical Theatre & Dance Instructor
Alice K. Gibbs grew up in Akron, Ohio, studying dance at Martell School of Dance and voice with Ron Hazelett at West Side Vocal Academy. After graduating with honors and a focus in dance from Firestone High School, she set sail around the world on Holland America Cruise Ships as Second Lead Singer. Through this rewarding opportunity, Alice was fortunate to visit all seven continents and four oceans, saturating herself in nature, culture, and history. Her next direction in the entertainment industry steered her south to Orlando where she performed at Walt Disney World for five years. Her primary role was Dance Captain/Lead/Swing in the Castle’s Christmas Show, “Celebrate the Season”. During her time with Disney, she danced and sang back-up for several celebrities, including Celine Dion and Miley Cyrus. Other Disney roles included playing the leading lady of “Disney Jr. Live on Stage” and “Storytime with Belle”, as well as Dancer/Lead/Swing of “Dream Along With Mickey” and “Cinderellabration”. She performed as Bunny June at Capone’s Dinner Theatre, and in numerous productions for Universal Orlando. After leaving the performance industry, Alice embraced her love for educating in dance and fitness. She is a certified barre3, Zumba, and YogaFit instructor, as well as a local dance teacher and choreographer. Alice recently made the move from Cleveland to her hometown and is pursuing her degree in Middle Childhood Education at the University of Akron.
Ron Hazlett, Voice Instructor & Music Director
Ron Hazelett, bass, has performed with Kenley Players, Carousel Dinner Theatre, Ohio Light Opera, Cleveland Opera, National Light Opera Company, Spoleto Festival, Akron Symphony and the Cleveland Orchestra. Mr. Hazelett has taught in the area for over 20 years and his graduating students have been accepted to top-rated schools such as Oberlin College, The University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Otterbein University, Baldwin Wallace University, Kent State University, and New York University in vocal performance and musical theatre. Mr. Hazelett holds a BM in Piano and MM in Vocal Performance.
Mavis Jennings, Theatre Instructor
Mavis Jennings performed as a singer and actor on Cirque du Soleil's Big Top productions of "Quidam" and "Varekai" from 1998 to 2016. During this time, he sang and acted in over 5000 shows on every continent except Antarctica; a place he hopes to visit one day.While with Cirque, Mavis contributed his teaching skills through the company’s outreach program, "Cirque du Monde," where he taught beginning level acting and clown classes to under privileged children in several countries. It has been Mavis' greatest joy to teach and learn with students about all aspects of theatre, mask and movement techniques. Cirque du Soleil provided frequent Lecoq training workshops for its character actors, singers and acrobats during Mavis' years with the company. This training and years on a traveling stage have been a valuable resource for not only his future creativity, but also his teaching and directing at Kent State University.While Mavis currently resides with his family in Stow, Ohio he is frequently in touch with an enormous resource of friends and artistic-colleagues from around the globe with whom he continually endeavors to build a more worldly and diverse artistic vision.
Marissa Leenaarts (AEA), Theater Instructor
Marissa grew up performing in the Akron-Cleveland area. She is happy to be back in Ohio after performing as an equity singer/dancer at Walt Disney World for a number of years. At Disney, she was contracted in several shows including The Hoop Dee Doo Revue, Disney’s Voyage of the Little Mermaid, and My Disney Girls Perfectly Princess Tea Party. Marissa has choreographed Firestone High school’s productions of Disney's The Little Mermaid, Mary Poppins and Ghost the Musical. Most recently, she choreographed Akron’s All City Musical’s Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Other Choreography credits include productions at the Akron Civic Theatre/All City Musical (Shrek the Musical, Bye Bye Birdie) , Weathervane Playhouse (Willy Wonka, A Christmas Carol: The Musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Oklahoma!) as well as Ohio University (Mary Poppins). Marissa is the owner of Spotlight School of the Arts. She lives happily in Akron, Ohio with her husband, Jason. Marissa is a member of Actors Equity Association.
Hassan Rogers, Theater Instructor
In 1991, Hassan, began his work with children in the East Cleveland School District’s Early Childhood/Special Education Program.Hassan’s desire to help unlock the creative potential in children, led him to join Karamu’s Drama/Theatre for Youth Project. An Educational Theater outreach initiative that in 1992, garnered the Ann Flagg award for Excellence in Arts Education, during Hassan’s first season with Karamu’s DTY group. While with Karamu, Hassan showed his breadth and depth as an actor, gaining acclaim as powerful presence on stage. Story Time with Hassan was launched in 1993. A touring, interactive storytelling production, that has been providing unique Language Arts curriculum supplements and performances. 23 years later, 10 school districts, three states, and over 200,000 children and adults have been a part of the magic that happens in the classroom and on stage. In 1999, Hassan won a National playwrights competition for his autobiographical play; Mrs. Rogers’ Back Porch. The critically acclaimed production, featured Hassan, in multiple capacities- writer, director and principle actor. That year, began a 10 year, guest directorship at Karamu House Theater, one of the nation’s oldest theatre stages in America. While pursuing his love of theater arts, he concurrently began to make a name for himself as a voice over artist, and segment producer, in the world of Sports Journalism and broadcasting. Hassan’s voice character creations are heard worldwide on the internationally syndicated radio program- Your Story Hour. Hassan’s most recent accomplishment, is, becoming a contributing writer for The Regal Media Group. Now Hassan’s singular perspectives can be read worldwide.
Lauren Sprowls, Education Director
Lauren is a graduate from The University of Akron where she received her B.A. in Dance with a Business Cognate and will receive her MA in Arts Administration in May 2018. She has performed in a number of student choreographed projects, with The University of Akron Dance Company, and as a representative of Ballet in Cleveland, doing promotional performances and video shoots. Lauren has also participated in Akron Children's Hospital Dancing for the Kids fundraiser for the past four years. She has been teaching arts classes for almost 10 years and is currently the Education Director at Weathervane Playhouse. She has supervised educational outreach programs, created curricula, established an arts ambassador program, and has coordinated performance with experience in the studio setting, in school programs, and with community organizations.
Susan Wallin, Voice Instructor
Susan Wallin, soprano, has performed at New York City Opera, Arizona Opera, Opera Carolina, Oper der Stadt Köln in Germany, and Cleveland Opera to name a few. She made her Carnegie Hall debut singing the Messiah and has performed with the Cincinnati, Cleveland, Canton, Akron, North Carolina Symphonies among others. Her graduating seniors have been accepted to top-rated schools including Eastman, Cincinnati Conservatory, Oberlin, Michigan, Baldwin Wallace, Berklee, Boston Conservatory, AMDA, NYU in Vocal Performance and Music Theatre. Many have performed on Broadway, Off-Broadway, National Tours, Disneyland and her students regularly win competitions such as NATS, Schmidt Competition, Voci and receive substantial collegiate scholarships. Ms. Wallin holds a BM and a MM in Vocal Performance and teaches at West Side Vocal Academy in Akron, the College of Wooster and Akron School for the Arts.
Jimmie Woody, Theatre Instructor
Jimmie Woody is a professional actor, director and teaching artist who has worked with many diverse age groups and cultures throughout Cleveland and New York. As an actor he has performed at historic venues such as Karamu House, Cleveland Playhouse, La Mama ETC and The New York Shakespeare Festival. As a director he’s translated Paul Fleischman’s “Seedfolks” for the Tri-C JazzFest and the Cleveland Public Library. As a teacher Mr. Woody taught drama at The Cleveland School of the Arts, Warrensville Heights High School, Cleveland Heights High School and the High School for Global Citizenship in Brooklyn, New York. He currently teaches acting for the camera and stage at Cuyahoga Community College and enjoys working with various community outreach programs throughout Cleveland. In 2012, he received the Community Workforce Fellowship Grant. Mr. Woody studied at Columbia University in New York, where he earned an M.F.A. in acting.
Kathleen Zion, Theatre Instructor
Kathleen is a graduate of Wright State University where she received a BFA in Acting with an emphasis on Musical Theatre. After college she moved to Chicago where she graduated from the Second City Conservatory program and the iO writing program. She has worked on stage in multiple musicals, her favorites including Carlotta in Phantom of the Opera and Maria in West Side Story. She can be seen featured in a variety of commercials and short films. For more information you can go to www.kathleenzion.com.