AMANDA WEST LEWIS
FOUNDER, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR & INSTRUCTOR
Amanda Lewis has directed and taught acting to children, youth and adults in theatres and schools throughout Ontario for over thirty years. Originally trained as an actor, she has a specialized background in movement, voice and language arts, and a particular interest in developing work that is by, for and about youth.
From 2003 – 2011, Amanda was the Executive Director of the Ottawa School of Speech & Drama (OSSD) where she created such projects as the “Our Stories Project” (acting for youth at risk); “The Red Kite Project” (performances for children on the autism spectrum); and “The Children’s Republic” (a co-production between OSSD & GCTC).
Working with a team of respected theatre professionals, Amanda founded The Ottawa Children’s Theatre in 2013. In 2015, she co-produced the hit show “Up to Low” (with Easy Street Productions), and worked as a dramaturg on the show when it was re-mounted at the National Arts Centre in May 2018.
A published author of seven books for children, Amanda’s most recent novel, “The Pact” was listed on the 2017 USBBY List of Internationally Outstanding Books for Young People. She recently completed a Masters of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Youth from Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Amanda fundamentally believes in the power of arts education to change and enrich lives.
ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR & INSTRUCTOR
Currently on maternity leave
Jennifer is an actor, singer, teacher and transplant from Chicago, IL. After receiving her BFA in Acting from Michigan State University, she worked professionally in both the United States and Canada with companies such as The Michigan Shakespeare Festival, The Wharton Center, Williamston Theatre, A Company of Fools, and The Great Canadian Theatre Company. Recent Canadian credits include: Ordinary Days (Great Canadian Theatre Company), Pericles, Prince of Tyre (A Company of Fools), Guys & Dolls (CMTP), Company (CMTP), and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Indie Women). Some favorite past credits include: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Cabaret, As You Like It, The Tempest, and The Rocky Horror Show.
Throughout her career, Jenn has taught acting to youth of all ages, and she is thrilled to continue her work with The Ottawa Children's Theatre. Jenn loves nothing more than encouraging young creators and performers to find and share their unique voices with the world.
ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR & INSTRUCTOR
Nick Miller is an Ottawa-based performing arts instructor and performer. His passions include theatre, circus, musical theatre, and improvisation.
He has taught and performed from coast to coast in Canada and has traveled abroad for many productions. Some highlights have been creating and touring An Amazon Odyssey (Neptune Theatre, Halifax, NS), Hansel and Gretel (Festival Antigonish, NS), The Ant and the Grasshopper Musical (Kaleidoscope Theatre, Victoria, BC), Red Kite Blue Sky (Ottawa School of Speech and Drama, Ottawa ON) and Yeomen of the Guard (Ottawa Savoy Society) for which he earned a best actor award from the Capital Critics Circle.
He has a theatre degree from Brock University and has taken education courses from Roehampton University (UK). He paid for his education by performing as a professional busker and improviser. Over the years, he has performed his improv and busker shows for Montreal’s Just for Laughs, the Nanjing (China) Clown Festival, fringe festivals (Edinburgh, Edmonton), busker festivals (Halifax, Dundas, Ottawa, Kingston, Edmonton, Covet Gardens), and children’s festivals (London, Ottawa, Singapore).
Over the years, Nick has truly enjoyed teaching and staging productions for young people, including courses and workshops for Ottawa Circus School, Dovercourt, City of Ottawa, Salamander Theatre, Ottawa School of Speech and Drama, the National Arts Centre, and the Circus Tent for the Ottawa Busker Festival. Other teaching credits include Neptune Theatre School, Kaleidoscope Theatre School, and London’s Circus Space. Nick is thrilled to be a part of the Ottawa Children’s Theatre team.
ADMINISTRATOR & INSTRUCTOR
Emily is a dramatic arts enthusiast who has a great love for teaching. She is passionate about using the arts to teach children important life skills such as building confidence, teamwork and creativity.
She has experience in writing, choreographing, conducting, leading yoga and doing music outreach in the community. With Lotus Centre in Kanata, Emily has worked with children who have special needs, and she facilitates adapted music activities. Emily believes that music should be incorporated into every classroom and plays a growing number of instruments which includes violin, voice and guitar. She is currently working on her Bachelor of Music with a Minor in Mathematics at Carleton University.
Her training in acting began at the age of seven and she quickly learned that musical theatre is her niche. With the director David Hersh she played John in Peter Pan and d’Artagnan in The Three Musketeers. At Earl of March Secondary School under the direction of Matthew Minter, Emily played Hodel in Fiddler on the Roof, Elle Woods in Legally Blonde and Edwin Drood in The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Most recently, she played Cinderella in The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon with Sock ‘n’ Buskin Theatre Company.
She has worked with OCT as a teacher’s assistant for Nick Miller, Kristina Watt and Catherine Ballachey. These instructors have inspired her deeply, and she is very excited to join the instructing team at OCT.
HEATHER MARIE CONNORS
BOOKKEEPER & ADVISOR
Heather Marie Connors (aka HM) is a certified bookkeeper and registered tax professional. She has over 15 years experience working in administration, HR and financial management for non-profit arts organizations. In 2018 she started her own bookkeeping business, specializing in charities and small business, as well as HST and tax preparation for self-employed artists. Current clients include the Ottawa Fringe Festival, The Gladstone Theatre and The Ottawa Children’s Theatre
Kodi is an actor, singer dancer, director and teacher. He has a BA from The University of Ottawa specializing in Theatre, to which he graduated summa cum laude and received the faculty award for highest achievement. Kodi has performed with many professional and community theatres, such as Eddie May Murder Mysteries, Theatre Kraken, The Gladstone Theatre, Under The Pines Festival, Confidential Musical Theatre Project, Indie Women, Toto Too Theatre, Orpheus Musical Theatre Society and Zucchini Grotto. Past favourite roles include: Leo (The Producers, CCC Award), Seymour (Little Shop of Horrors), Robert (The Drowsy Chaperone), Brian (Avenue Q), Dr Madden (Next To Normal), Enoch (Carousel), Dalton (The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek), Bobby (Urinetown) and was part of the Dance Ensemble in Spamalot.
He directed The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee for Indie Women Productions, and recently worked on The Last Five Years for Orpheus Theatre.
Kodi studied Musical Theatre and Classical voice with Yoriko Tannno and is a Kiwanis provincial champion. He has gone on to coach students in preparation for Kiwanis and auditions. Among his experiences with youth education, he developed a theatre camp program for Heritage College and has worked in coordinating and running youth events for the past several years.
Nikki Carriere discovered her passion for the arts at the age of seven. Ballet was her first introduction to dance adding modern, jazz, tap and pointe. At the age of ten, Nikki began dancing competitively. Her dance and performance career included festivals, television productions, galas, and fashion shows. Nikki has had the pleasure of studying at the National Ballet of Canada, Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, and the Dance Commons School of San Francisco and Peggy Baker Dance Company/ Dance Educators Intensive 2018. Nikki has also studied Early Childhood Education at Algonquin College and Art History and Photography at University of Ottawa.
Nikki has instructed Pre-School Dance and Drama and Youth Drama at OSSD, the City of Ottawa, Teacher’s Assistant on the Drama Sensations and Program and Preschool and Youth Drama at OYPTS. She has been fortunate to have been a part of some great productions; such as, Red Kite/Blue Sky (Chicago Children’s Theatre on the Spectrum), Front of House Coordinator for The Walk (MoonDog Theatre), historical roles in the Beechwood Annual Historical Tours (2012-2017), Stage Manager OYPTS All Ages Plays ( Ritchcraft Theatre & Harold Shenkeman Theatre 2013-2016), Director/Designer Youth Drama Production 2012-2016 (Ritchcraft Theatre) , Stage Manger/Wrangler OIVA Awards 2015, and was the Assistant Coordinator for Nuit Blanche 2014-15( Arts Court),Kontunuum 2017(City of Ottawa) television /movie roles in Lifetime Channel MOW and Hit By Lighting starring Jon Cryer and Will Sasso. In addition, Nikki is a active member with the Ottawa Arts Council, Galerie SAW Gallery and the Ottawa Art Gallery. Nikki is very excited to be the part of the artistic team at Ottawa Children’s Theatre!
INSTRUCTOR (Currently on sabbatical)
Megan is an actor, physical theatre artist, puppeteer, and drama educator. She fell in love with live performance while attending the Canterbury Arts Drama Program, and then went on to train at Studio 58 in Vancouver as well as One Yellow Rabbit in Calgary. With a deep connection to her roots, Megan chose to bring everything she learned back to her hometown and develop her professional career here in Ottawa. She is Artistic Director of multi-award winning theatre company Cart Before the Horse, whose mandate is to use theatre as a powerful outlet to explore topics we are otherwise afraid to talk about. Founded by Megan and Paul Griffin (Head of the Canterbury Drama Program) has produced multiple shows including The Shape of a Girl, Perfect Pie, girls!girls!girls!, and Lungs.
Megan has also performed at the National Arts Centre English Theatre and Magnetic North Theatre Festival (Up to Low), Magnus Theatre (The Book of Everything), Thousand Islands Playhouse (Violet’s the Pilot), Theatre Wakefield (Bridge to the Past, A Summer…A Fair), Bear and Co. (Cymbeline), Cellar Door Project (In the Room, Stubborn Stone), and Cue Penny Productions (Burn). Megan also spent three years touring across Canada with Rock the Arts Puppet Company voicing and manipulating over 30 different characters. The only thing Megan loves as much as performing is teaching.
INSTRUCTOR (currently on maternity leave)
Leah Cogan is a trained actor and musician who has worked in performance, facilitation and arts education for over 13 years. She holds a BA in Theatre Arts from Brown University, received Musical Theatre training at Sheridan College, and is winner of CBC’s Canada’s Triple Sensation (2009). A nationally recognized talent, Leah has worked in New York City, Toronto, Halifax, Calgary, Ottawa, and Providence.
Leah now works as a performance coach in the Ottawa area, offering classes, workshops and one-on-one performance coaching in educational, community and corporate settings. She teaches Acting Skills, Musical Theatre Performance, and Presentation Skills to anyone with a passion for storytelling and a penchant for play. Her work combines a focus in physical storytelling, emotional authenticity, trust building, and arts literacy, with the goal of inspiring vocal, physical and imaginative freedom in her students.
She is pleased to be back in Ottawa (her hometown) to raise her family, and to take part in the creative growth happening in our capital city.
Laura has loved singing, music and drama for her entire life. Her passion for music and drama grew while singing in choirs throughout her years in school, and reading aloud plays and stories in classes and to her siblings. She holds a Master’s degree from the University of Toronto, Graduate Centre for the Study of Drama (now the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies). While in school, she performed in several musicals and plays; favourites were Sondheim’s “Into the Woods”, Feydeau’s “Wooed and Viewed” and Brecht’s “Informer”.
Laura has taught music and drama in a variety of capacities, including: Ruby Chorus, Canadian Children’s Opera Chorus (conductor); KidSingers, Orkidstra – The Leading Note Foundation (conductor); City of Ottawa (music and drama instructor); The Ottawa School of Speech and Drama (drama and music instructor); Mothercraft Ottawa (music programming for Toddlers, Preschoolers and Kindergarteners).
Laura currently sings with the Canadian Centennial Choir, and studies singing and piano privately. As well as teaching with the Ottawa Children’s Theatre and being a busy mum of three, Laura is a Tour Guide and Mentor with See Our City / Haunted Walks and is an Arts Educator with Arts Express, Ottawa. Laura is very happy to be part of the Ottawa Children’s Theatre team!
Chelsey is an accomplished freelance creator working as a director, playwright, and choreographer and has taught physical theatre across Canada and Australia. Chelsey’s writing and academic work comes from her research on the feminine narrative. Chelsey is an award-winning animation director winning Best Director – Alberta for Telus Storyhive in 2015, and was nominated for Director of the Year from the Calgary Critter awards for 2014.
Chelsey is a graduate from the University of Windsor’s Drama department. She continues to travel through Canada and internationally teaching physical theatre and acting techniques for dancers and actors. She is a member of the Playwrights Guild of Canada, Theatre Ontario, and the Women in Management with the Tefler School of Business.
In arts administration, Chelsey has served as a spear head for fundraising with both Kaeja d’Dance, Alberta Dance Theatre, and Big Brothers Big Sisters, later to become a grants consultant (Ryan ULC) assisting multiple not-for-profits with their funding ambitions. Through mentorship her goal is to continue educating and empowering women into upper management roles in the arts.
Chelsey is currently pursuing her MFA in directing at the University of Ottawa, and is so excited to be creative with the students of the Ottawa Children’s Theatre!
David took his first drama class 45 years ago and hasn’t stopped since.
Originally from Toronto, David is a graduate from Concordia University’s Drama in Education program and has been teaching for more than 30 years. He moved to Ottawa 25 years ago and after a year became the Artistic Director of the Orleans Young Players (Ottawa School of Theatre). He was a core member at Salamander Theatre for Young Audiences where he taught and performed in multiple school touring shows including: World of Stories, Excalibur!, Solstice Celebrations and MacBeth.
David began working with the amazing Amanda Lewis at the Ottawa School of Speech and Drama fifteen years ago. It was at OSSD where he began his creative collaboration with his now wife, Emmanuelle Zeesman. Some of his favorite musical collaborations were: Beauty and the Beast, My Fair Lady, Seussical the Musical, and Pirates of Penzance.
David is primarily a writer, director and teacher although there isn’t a theatrical role he hasn’t performed professionally. He has written and directed more than 50 plays for young performers. David and Emmanuelle moved to New York City six years ago to continue their careers. David’s musical, Going Up: The Elevator Musical, won best new show at the New York New Works Festival a few years ago. Recently, he was the Child Wrangler and coach on the Broadway tour of Finding Neverland.
David is very excited about working with Amanda again and a whole new generation of young Ottawa artists. Follow me @dreamhersh and check out our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/DavidandEmmanuelle.
Jessica Ruano is an Ottawa-based theatre director, producer, and writer. She graduated from the University of Ottawa in 2010 with a Master of Arts in Theatre Theory and Dramaturgy. Her directorial debut was Québécité, a multicultural, bilingual, spoken word romance with a libretto by Governor General Award winner George Elliott Clarke. When she lived in England, she directed the London premiere of Jane Montgomery Griffiths' Sappho...in 9 fragments, a queer love story spanning millennia, that toured Canada and played at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2013. She also directed a post-apocalyptic adaptation of William Shakespeare's As You Like It at The Rose Playhouse.
Most recently, Jessica created and produced The Ghomeshi Effect, a documentary dance-theatre performance on sexual violence and the legal system in Canada. Following its 2017 opening in Ottawa, the production toured universities and communities across Ontario and Alberta, and its artists participated in a number of thematically-related workshops, presentations, conferences, fundraisers, and livestreams. While writing the script for The Ghomeshi Effect, Jessica was a member of the Great Canadian Theatre Company's Playwrights Network, and she later received an Ottawa International Women's Day Feminist Award for her work on the production.
Cassandra is a theatre maker, credentialed nerd, and teacher and who has crossed the country collecting experience.
Cassandra's journey as a theatre-maker started in dance, with nearly two decades of ballet training (notably at the University of Ottawa, the National Ballet School, and Canterbury). After an injury and coming to terms with her too-tallness for classical dance, she pivoted to working in theatre where she is primarily a director and dramaturg. She has particular interests in physical theatre, opera, and in post modern experimental work, but feels just as at-home with canonical dramatic literature. Her most recent projects have been directing youth productions of Our Town (Wilder), An Ideal Husband (Wilde), and Les Fourberies de Scapin (Molière) with The Abelard School in Toronto.
On the nerdy front, she completed her undergraduate degree in theatre at the University of Ottawa before continuing to a master's degree at the University of Alberta and doctorate at the University of Toronto. Her studies have broadened her perspectives on performance, and given her the opportunity to learn from nationally and internationally regarded artists and scholars. She thinks and writes about things like multilingual drama, digital interactivity on stage, what audiences actually do, and how video games are like live performance.
Through her studies, Cassandra has honed her skills as a teacher too. She has been an adjunct professor at the Universities of Alberta, Waterloo, and Toronto, teaching subjects as diverse as play analysis and theatre history to playwriting and intro to acting. She also spent six years as a middle and high school teacher, where she learned just how incredible younger students can be!
Kristina Watt is an award-winning theatre performer & creator, Artistic Director of 100 Watt Productions, instructor, dancer and emerging writer. Born in Scotland, she grew up in Canada & Colombia (SA), trained and worked in North Carolina & London, and then lived in New York City for over a decade.
She has taught many aspects of theatre performance & theory at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, and currently at the University of Ottawa. She served as Arts Outreach Coordinator & instructor for children at PS22 in NYC, coached performance for figure skaters and has worked as a private coach internationally for all ages (including coaching politicians & lawyers on communication skills). Now relocated to Ottawa, she continues her love of teaching all ages. She works with the BFA program at the University of Ottawa, offers masterclasses & workshops with the National Arts Centre and Great Canadian Theatre Company, and acts as a mentor to individual youth & with Youth Infringement Festival. With the Ottawa International Children’s Festival, she offers the annual “100 Watt Earth Stage”, a mini festival-within-the-festival that showcases the artistry of youth ages 3 to 23.
As a performer and theatre creator in Canada, she has performed with the National Arts Centre, Great Canadian Theatre Company, St Lawrence Theatre Festival, New Theatre of Ottawa, Tactics, MiCasa Theatre, Third Wall Theatre Co., among others. Her own creations include Holding Mercury and Particle. She has served on the Board of Directors at the GCTC, and currently works with Horseshoes & Hand Grenades Theatre.
She received her MFA (Acting) in North Carolina then continued to train at institutions such as the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Central School of Speech & Drama, The Acting Center (NYC), and Lincoln Center (Leadership Training), and at Volcano Theatre in Toronto. She is part of the National Alliance of Teaching Artists in the United States.
Much of her passion to create & teach is fueled by a desire to give a voice to the needs, thoughts, and infinite potential of youth. Hand in hand is her awe, love and concern for our planet. Much of the work of 100 Watt Productions aims to ensure that both are heard by all ages. It is a gift to have been working with Amanda and the Ottawa Children’s Theatre for many rich years of collaboration. May it continue.
Sue Yendall is a qualified teacher of English and Drama who has taught for both the Toronto and Ottawa/Carleton Boards of Education and she has had the opportunity to practice her craft in several International Schools around the world. At each location she taught Drama in Middle and High School curriculums and was an active innovative member of ISTA, the International Theatre Schools Association based in London, England.
From 2007-2010 Sue was hired to teach Middle School Drama in Cairo, Egypt at the Cairo American College where she produced numerous productions including “Charlotte’s Web”, “A Shakespeare Night to Remember” “Flashback” The Cards of Fate” selections from “Under Milk Wood” and “Grims Tales”. A wonderful experience.
Sue taught at The Ottawa School of Speech & Drama beginning in 1994, where she worked on exciting theatre productions, page to stage classes and to continued her love of poetry and language with the Trinity Examination Program.
Emmanuelle is a singer, dancer and actor who is also passionate about teaching and sharing the joys of musical theatre! Ottawa is Emmanuelle’s home but 6 years ago she and her husband David Hersh decided to make the leap and move to New York City!
Since then, Emmanuelle has been seen in the Broadway National Tours of Finding Neverland as ‘Mrs. DuMaurier’ and in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Wizard of Oz as ‘Aunt Em/us Wicked Witch’. Some of Emmanuelle’s favourite Off -Broadway credits include ‘Fosca’ in Passion, ‘Mrs. Fezziwig’ in A Christmas Carol, ‘Corinne’ in Going Up: The Elevator Musical (Winner of the New York New Works Festival) and ‘Rita’ in the hilarious Dexter: the Musical Parody based on the hit TV show!
Back in Ottawa Emmanuelle had the pleasure of working with some wonderful companies such as The National Arts Centre, The Gladstone and was a core member of A Company of Fools where she worked as a performer and also as the resident Choreographer, Musical Director and Composer. Favourite Ottawa credits include ‘Adelaide’ in Guys and Dolls, ‘Titania' in A Midwinter’s Dream Tale and ‘Mrs. Johnson’ in Blood Brothers (Winner of the Capitol Critics Award for Best Professional Actor).
As a musical theatre teacher, Emmanuelle had the pleasure of working with OCT’s artistic director Amanda Lewis at the Ottawa School of Speech and Drama. She and her ‘now’ husband David Hersh have been directing musicals with children and teens for 15 years. Join us and be ready to work hard, learn a lot and have fun!!