Theater Academy thrives through alumni

by Mallory Elver

Every year, thousands of young students make their way to
First Stage Theater Academy, learning “life skills through stage skills,” for which First Stage is so highly praised.  Notably, several of these young ones eventually return to the Academy as teachers and teaching apprentices.  Several First Stage alumni shared their talents and knowledge with a new generation of First Stagers over the summer.  Here are a few of their stories!  Note: With the exception of the direct quotes, the following bios were written by their respective teachers and teaching apprentices.

Alexandra Bonesho (Musical Theatre Teacher, OAC and SLW) is thrilled to be teaching Musical Theatre this summer! Professional credits include Marta in Kiss of the Spiderwoman at Off The Wall Theatre, Yumi in Cartoon with Youngblood Theatre, Lydia in Microcrisis at Next Act Theatre, Alais in The Lion in Winter at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, and Art to Art at Danceworks. Favorite Marquette credits: Adriana, The Comedy of Errors; Molly, Holy Days; Audrey, Little Shop of Horrors; and Romaine Patterson/Others, The Laramie Project. Next up, she will play Little Edie in Grey Gardens. She has also performed with Sunset Playhouse, Plays for the Living, and Combat Theatre.

Mitchell Bultman (Playmakers and Shakespeare Teaching Apprentice, MYAC) is excited to come back home to First Stage as a teaching apprentice this summer. Mitchell is a First Stage alumni having been in several Family Series productions, an academy student, intern and a member of the Young Company. As a teacher, he enjoys gaining “insight into what the kids think.  It’s fascinating”. Mitchell currently attends Rutgers University where he is pursuing a BFA in acting.  He wants his students to know that “there is no right answer—no correct way to do theatre."
Academy teachers Marcella Kearns and
Grace DeWolff (right)

Grace DeWolff (Classical Company Class Teacher, OAC) has been learning life skills through stage skills since she was a First Stage Academy student at age six. Now she serves as the project manager of Project Empty Space, a community organization through The Alchemist Theatre in Bay View that brings new audiences to new theatre. Grace has acted, directed, written, designed and toured through Minneapolis, Oxford, London and Edinburgh. Grace's Shakespeare credits include University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Optimist Theatre and the British-American Dramatic Academy.

Elyse Edelman (Summer Academy Headmaster, MYAC) has wonderful memories as a First Stage teacher, actor and former student. She is delighted to step into this new role as a Summer Academy Headmaster. Elyse will join the Artistic Intern Ensemble at the Milwaukee Rep for the 2013/2014 Season. Regional Theater: Utah Shakespeare Festival, The Guthrie, Riverside Theatre in the Park, People's Centre Theatre, and the Playwright's Center. Training: University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater BFA Actor's Training Program.

Elyse Edelman, End of Day, Summer Academy 2013
Megan Gray (Playmakers Teaching Assistant, MYAC) is a junior at Indiana University-Bloomington studying Theatre Education and Directing. She is currently the Independent Projects Coordinator for the undergraduate theatre organization, University Players.  She was honored to direct IU’s first ever traveling children’s musical, Captain Louie, as well as a new musical workshop, Prodigy. Next spring Megan is looking forward to once again directing the touring children’s production, Miss Nelson is Missing! She was also the Assistant Stage Manager for the Bloomington Playwrights Project world premiere of the musical adaptation of The Truman Show. As a native of Mequon, Wisconsin, it has always been a dream of Megan’s to work at First Stage.  She is thrilled to be helping out this summer!

Hannah Jeruc (Voice and Movement Teaching Apprentice, MYAC) will be a sophomore at Lawrence University in the fall. She is majoring in history with a minor in Spanish and hopes to attend law school, focusing on international law with Spanish speaking countries. Hannah has been involved with First Stage programs since age ten and has always enjoyed participating in theater in all ways, especially Shakespeare productions and working with children.

Garrett Kim 
(Voice and Movement; Shakespeare Teaching Apprentice, OAC and SLW) is ecstatic that his First Stage career is coming full circle as a teaching apprentice. He was a former summer academy student, Young Company member and young performer. He hopes he can make this summer with First Stage as life changing for his students as it was for him! Garrett is a rising sophomore pursuing a BA in Theatre Performance at Fordham University in New York City.

Nate Press in action!
Nate Press (Scene Study; Acting Theory Teacher, OAC and SLW) is one of the original First Stage Theatre Academy alumni from way back in the 90's. After graduating from Riverside University High School on Milwaukee's east side, he attended Boston University's College of Fine Arts where he earned a BFA in Theatre Studies. Nate has been playing on various Milwaukee stages since 2003.

Eric Schabla (Acting Theory and Shakespeare Teaching Apprentice, MYAC) was born and raised in Milwaukee and now studies acting at the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater BFA Actor Training Program. Locally he has appeared with First Stage, Milwaukee Shakespeare, In Tandem Theatre, Goats and Monkeys, Bunny Gumbo, Optimist Theatre and The World’s Stage. His written work has been performed at the Noah Ginex Puppet Company in Chicago. Eric is a proud alumnus of the Academy and its Young Company.  His experience as a student has allowed him to take what he has learned and “revitalize the curriculum” for this new wave of First Stage kids.  This summer, he strives to teach students that “you need to take the work seriously, but not yourself.”  He explains that sacrifice, self-discipline and collaborative skills are essential takeaways from Academy.

Maddie Wakley (Shakespeare and Acting Theory Teaching Apprentice, MYAC) is marking her fourth summer as a teaching apprentice with First Stage, after having spent many childhood years here as a student, intern and actor. Recently earning a BA in Theatre Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, she has worked various jobs with companies like Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, In Tandem and the Riverside Theater Shakespeare Festival in Iowa City, Iowa. Maddie is excited to explore acting theory and the world of Shakespeare this summer with the amazing faculty and students of the academy.

Christopher Warren (Office/Technical Assistant, MYAC) is a 2012 graduate of Milwaukee High School of the Arts as a theater major.  He has just completed his freshman year at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, majoring in technical theater.  In the fall he will attend UW-Milwaukee and continue his studies in a BFA program.

Bridgette Well (Scene Study; Improvisation; Scene Study Teaching Apprentice, OAC and SLW) is a recent graduate of the University of Miami with degrees in both Theatre Arts and Communication Studies. She is a First Stage Theater Academy alumna, having studied in summer sessions, company classes and the Young Company, and has performed in several First Stage productions. She also assisted the Academy as an intern and looks forward to her third summer as a teaching apprentice.

Anna Wolfe
(Improvisation Teaching Apprentice, MYAC) is thrilled to be back at First Stage for her third summer as a teaching apprentice. She is a junior acting major at Columbia College, Chicago. Anna recently graduated from iO, an improv training program in Chicago. She was accepted into the Comedy Studies program at Second City, where she will spend next semester studying and performing sketch comedy, clowning, stand up, and improvisation.  Anna values the teaching experience because “you can watch the progression the students go through.” The most important lesson she wants students to learn is that listening and supporting your scene partner are the most important aspects of improvisation.

Whether in the classroom or in the office, First Stage alumni continue to help First Stage reach the hearts and minds of more and more students every year.  We were even fortunate enough to have two alumni are hard at work as interns in the administration office: Teddy Delforge worked with Development and Mallory Elver (who is writing this very article that you’re reading) joined the marketing team.   A huge thanks to all of the wonderful First Stage veterans upholding the mantra “life skills through stage skills.”  

Learn more about First Stage Theater Academy teachers, some of the finest professional theater artists in the region!

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