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Festival Coordinators

KCACTF/LORT ASPIRE Leadership Coordinator

Maria Amon
California State University San Marcos

I was raised in National City, Ca, a low-income city 10 miles from the border. This city had a large part in shaping my identity. As a Latina, I am committed to creating opportunities for growth and success within my community. PhD, UC Irvine and UCSD; JD California Western School of Law; BA, University of San Diego

Member-at-Large with focus on Arts Leadership/ASPIRE

Roman Sanchez

I am a son, grandson, nephew, and brother born and raised as a 4th generation Mexican-American in California’s Imperial Valley, land of the Cocopah and Quechan peoples. My parents proudly work in retail and road construction and raised me with an encouragement to endlessly explore my creativity and imagination. I was privileged to find theatre at such a young age – 4 years old – and quickly realized the power art can have to spark dialogue and entertain. This led me to pursue a degree in Theatre Arts and to turn my ‘hobby’ into a career. My values as a Theatre-Maker are to uplift narratives that center systemically underrecognized stories — those by BIPOC, Students, Veterans, Seniors, People Experiencing Incarceration. My values as an Arts Administrator and Producer are to help organizations who serve and represent the aforementioned communities grow fiscal health, cultivate new generations of storytellers, and integrate decolonized policies and practices. @romansanchez001

Director with focus on Student Advocacy and Connectivity

Abel Marquez

I grew up in West Covina, Southern California, based in the San Gabriel Valley. I am a Mexican American, Latinx, LGBTQ+, Born Again Christian, California Community College graduate, theatre practitioner, educator, and curator of personal truths. I grew up in a house full of my family: my aunts, my uncle, my cousin, my grandfather. I hold my family and friends close to my heart and rely on them to fuel me as I continue my career pursuits. After the loss of my brother at sixteen I found theatre to be the outlet of my self-expression. I would not be where I am today without the inspiring love of my friends, family, and my late brother.

I find my inspiration in the good of humanity, and try to live by “assuming good intent” wherever I go. I create theatre to exert our inherent need for change and to illuminate the very human need for connection. My goal is to make art accessible, diverse, and alive. My work centers on de-constructing the classist structures that live within our institutions and our field. Outside of my work, I love Marvel/DC comics, enjoy reading with a good book, and love petting animals (I’m allergic, but I’ll take a benadryl).

Citrus College – Associates in Arts, Theatre Arts. California State University, Fullerton – Bachelors in Arts

Member-At-Large with a Focus on Playwriting

Kiki Rivera

I am the child of Andra Rivera Souza and Puipui Fuamatu, the granddaughter of Mary H. Ceno and Engracio Rivera and granddaughter of Makerita Sagatu and Puipui Fuamatu. I come from a line of island warriors, healers, artisans and storytellers who have traversed the Pacific ocean and call it home. I also come from a line of imperialists.

I was born and raised on the island of Oʻahu in the district of Waiʻanae and the smaller (yet largest ahupuaʻa) district of Lualualei. Waiʻanae is a small town with small town vibes and big time aloha for community. It’s where I first learned aloha ʻāina or love for land and love for people. It’s far west, so it’s hot and isolating. I was surrounded by mountains. My grandmother remembers seeing WWII planes flying through the lowest part of the mountain range that overlooks our home. The military still occupies the land in front of our family property and reaches into the mountains. At night we still hear explosives. Military games. Just practicing. Between the mountain and the residents stand two red and white 1,502.99 ft VLF transmitters or radio towers the U.S. navy uses to communicate to submerged submarines. As children we were told that these radio towers would most likely cause leukemia and other cancers because we lived so close to them. The overwhelming smell of pig farms masked the fears brought by military practice.

In my youth I didn’t understand the concept of being a homosexual or what that felt like, but I was attracted to girls, assumed everyone had the same natural queer tendecies and knew not to mention it. I was also raised, from birth, as a Jehovah’s Witness. Coming out was a struggle. My identities have caused me to experience many dramatic shifts and overturns in world-views and self-perceptions, but it’s always been one constant spiritual journey. That journey has brought me to the arts as a creator, but most of all as a champion for people of color, in particular (because it is my responsibility) Pacific people in the arts. Being queer isn’t at the core of my identity. Being from this ocean is.

If lessons were islands that break the water’s surface, I’d say that on this island everything we see is real AND what is also real is everything we are not seeing or chose not to see. The world is expansive and there are many forces in it, so we are never alone in our journeys. We always have help. Expansion is life, so live, love and let joy be at the center right now because islands erode and climate change is real. 

 University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa


Francesca (Cessa) Betancourt

Cessa (she/her) is a performer, intimacy director, producer, choreographer, and educator/facilitator. Cessa is originally from the Southwest but is now based on the East coast. She has worked as an artist in Ireland, India, the Philippines, New York, Washington, Wisconsin, Maryland, D.C. and Florida. She holds two BAs from Western Washington University in Theatre Arts and Sociology, and has trained in Applied Theatre at City University of New York. She identifies as mixed-race/bi-racial, Cuban/white, cisgender female, and queer. Cessa is the artistic director of a recurring storytelling event and podcast and is a founding member of an interdisciplinary theatre collective. Her work is based in social/emotional learning, trauma informed arts, social justice, compassion, access, autonomy, and physical storytelling.


Fredreka Irvine

Member-at-Large with focus on Representation, Equity and Diversity

Rodney Lloyd Scott


InterAct Interviews and Auditions Coordinator

Matthew Schleicher
Rio Hondo College

InterAct Interviews and Auditions Coordinator

Ryan Scrimger

InterAct Interviews and Auditions Coordinator

Jeffery Ingman
MiraCosta College

Irene Ryan Co-Director

Vanessa Mizzone Pellegrini
East Los Angeles College

While I live in California, and probably will for the rest of my life, I am a Jersey girl through and through. I grew up in a family of lawyers and judges, so obviously I went into theater. In college, I was a Theater and Communications double major and a Division 1 athlete and debated whether I would become a professional lacrosse player or a professional actress….both very viable professions in my young eyes. But since I hated waking up to lift at 6am in the morning and theater rehearsals were at night, it was a no brainer, a career in the arts for me! Thankfully, I was fortunate enough to have a family that supported me no matter what, and knowing how lucky and privileged that is, mentoring and education became a part of my life early on while getting my MFA in acting at UCLA. I have always loved working with a “team” and so group theater and physical theater is what I gravitate towards. My work team is East Los Angeles College’s Theater Arts Department. My home team consists of my co-captain husband, my two children and my elderly dog Miranda. I continue to work as an actor, but I never feel more in the moment than when I am teaching…and I am never done learning.

Irene Ryan Co-Director

Shaheen Vaaz
Pierce College

I am an immigrant from Bombay, India who studied and practiced theatre on the East Coast before moving to Los Angeles. I am now a full time Professor of Theatre Arts at Los Angeles Pierce College. Theatre has always given me a home and family even when I was searching for a place to land and settle, it has opened doors and been a place of refuge. Within its sacred spaces I continue to carve out work for myself and my students and collaborators that focuses on identity, equality, inclusivity and compassion.

Musical Theatre Initiative Coordinator

Sarah Ripper

CSU Fullerton

Sarah Ripper earned her MFA in Directing at California State University Fullerton, a MA in Educational Theatre from NYU, and received a BFA in Musical Theatre from Sam Houston State University. In 2008-2009 she traveled all over Asia in Broadway Asia’s production of Cinderella, starring Tony Award Winner, Lea Salonga. After appearing in the Off-Broadway show, Looking for Billy Haines, she became a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association. She has assisted directed at Pasadena Playhouse and at Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C. Directing credits include: The Laramie ProjectThe SpongeBob Musical35mm: A Musical ExhibitionLizzie: The Musical9 to 5God of CarnageMaple and VineBye Bye BirdieGodspell (A.D. and choreographer), Cry-Baby: The MusicalThe Drowsy Chaperone, The Merry Wives of WindsorDancing at Lughnasa, and Really Really. Sarah currently teaches directing, musical theatre, and acting at CSUF, and is a trained Intimacy Coordinator through TIE. She is also a Resident Artist with The Wayward Artist theatre company in Santa Ana, CA.

Invitational Scenes Coordinator

Amanda Zarr
Chapman University

I have always never fit in. In high school I played volleyball, did yearbook, and also did acting. None of these groups talked to each other at lunch, so I never knew where to sit. I have carried this feeling with me for most of my life. The first time in my life where I felt a feeling of, “these are my people” is when I walked into my first KCACTF festival. Everyone was like me!  They did a lot, in a lot of different areas.  I joined the board to work to give that feeling to other students. I volunteer and give what limited time I have because I want theater/acting/tech/writing/designing etc. to be a force to unite. I see in all my classrooms students capable of great things and feel like to come to festival each year and learn so much for students across our region. BFA, Chapman University in Orange, California, MFA, University of Washington Seattle, Washington.

Respondents Workshop

Judith Royer
Loyola Marymount University

Respondents Workshop

Adam Houghton
Brigham Young University

Adam Houghton joined the BFA Acting faculty at BYU in the fall of 2017. Before that he taught acting classes and directed plays for 13 years at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University in Minnesota. Adam graduated from BYU in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in Theatre and Film with an Acting Emphasis. He received his MFA in directing from the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama. In addition to his MFA, Adam has pursued diverse acting training that includes traditional approaches as well as Biomechanics, the Noh Training Project, and Alba Emoting. He has a keen interest in mask making and performance and sees the mask’s primary function in communication as revealing more than it conceals.

BYU has had a profound impact on Adam’s life. Adam’s father grew up in a small mining town and his BYU education changed the direction of his life, lifting him out of poverty. He instilled this value of education in Adam from a young age. And it was at BYU where Adam developed as an artist, scholar, and disciple of Christ, integrating a love of learning, art, and the gospel.​ For Adam, the greatest theatre is that which reveals truth and strengthens the bonds between God​ and his children.

After serving a mission in Germany, Adam met his wife, Lori, on a blind date while they were students at BYU and their family has three girls who will surpass Adam and Lori in every way.

BA, Brigham Young University, 1996; MFA, Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama, 2003

Respondents Workshop

Lori Siekmann
Concordia University, Irvine

My mom’s parents moved from Puerto Rico to the mainland in the 30s, and my mom was born in TX. The whole reason my grandfather moved to St. Louis was to become a pastor and start a Spanish language ministry in the Lutheran church. My dad, an immigrant from Denmark, also became a pastor. With this upbringing, my Christian faith is a big part of who I am. I also deal with the mental health issue of anxiety disorder. I see it as incredibly important to break the stigma of mentioning it, and try to remind all those with mental health issues that you are not alone. My identity as a theatre artist also defines me. I gravitate towards contemporary realism, farce, Theatre for Young Audiences, and musical theatre. More recently, I have found the joy of playwriting. The biggest thing I want to accomplish with my art is to encourage people to have empathy with & for one another, to foster compassion, to listen to one another, and to seek to understand & love all people.

MFA in Playwriting from Spalding University, MA in Theatre from the University of Illinois, Chicago

Directing Program Coordinator

David Seitz
Glendale Community College

Devised Performance Coordinator

bree valle
Cuesta College

BA Urban Planning Lakehead University, Canada; BEd  Lakehead University, Canada; MFA Performance/Directing – Arizona State University

Head and shoulders photo portrait of Maile Speetjens

Design/ Technology/ and Stage Management Program

Maile Speetjens

University of Hawai’i at Mānoa

Maile Speetjens (BFA in Musical Theatre, Emerson College; MFA in Costume Design and Technology, University of Georgia, Athens) serves as Associate Professor of Costumes, Hair, and Makeup at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Maile’s work in costumes has spanned from Boston to Hawaiʻi and in between. Recent creative research includes Aloha Attire (Kumu Kahua Theatre, Honolulu), Twelfth Night (Lyric Repertory), Conversion of Ka’ahumanu (Kumu Kahua Theatre, Honolulu), and ‘Au’a ‘Ia: Holding On (UH Mānoa, Hana Keaka).

Current research interests include empathy-centered pedagogical strategies, alternative approaches to design work and course construction, design for Hana Keaka (Hawaiian medium theatre), and new strategies in digital draping technology. Maile serves as the Design, Technology, and Management Chair of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, Region 8.

Institute for Theatre Journalism and Advocacy Coordinator

Arnab Banjeri
Loyola Marymount University

Arnab (he/him/his) is an Associate Professor of Theatre history and literature at LA’s Loyola Marymount University. He is the author of Contemporary Bengali Group Theatre from Kolkata, India (Routledge 2020). He works on modern Indian theatre, South Asian American performance, and translates plays from Bengali and Hindi to English. His publications which include book chapters, articles, and book reviews can be found in Theatre Journal, Asian Theatre Journal, and Theatre Topics among others. Arnab is also a dramaturg and works with university, community, and professional companies in that capacity. He also recently became a parent. Outside of academia, Arnab enjoys gourmet coffee, binge watching The Office and reading graphic novels. You can learn more about Arnab at

Workshop Coordinator

Amanda Crabb
Utah Valley University

I am a woman of Danish/European decent. I identify as she/her. I grew up in New York, California and Utah, and have lived in Boston, Japan and taught briefly in China. I am the oldest of five siblings and am single. I share my life with my parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, friends and my puppy. My life has lead to teaching and I feel blessed and happy when I get to share time and energy with my students. I am a deeply spiritual person and enjoy learning about all religions/beliefs. I respect people with deep faith and a strong moral compass in all its many varied forms. I love truth and kindness and try to be that way with myself and others. I am learning that life is a process not a product and that is exciting and scary.

Dramaturgy Coordinator

Melanie Anthony (she, her/s)

As a Los Angeles-based dramaturg focused on production dramaturgy, literary management, and audience engagement dramaturgy for theater, film and documentary media, I am just as interested in how we engage in theater-making and community-building practices as I am in being an artistic partner in the creative process. I’m hoping my time with KCACTF can be one of learning, mentorship and expansive, welcoming growth for all of us. 

Things that have kept me busy in these recent post-pandemic years include: Literary management and Dramaturgy for the Morgan-Wixson Theater’s 2023 New Works Festival (Santa Monica, CA) with its mission to amplify marginalized voices and increase representation on the stage. The festival included works by Khari Wyatt, Danielle Frimer, Amy Dellagiarino, Dorinne Kondo and more. A generative, beautiful part of the festival was creating Playwrights’ Gatherings – an informal developmental phase leading up to the Festival. I served as a Juror for the 2022 Risk Theatre Modern Tragedy competition (Edwin Wong Founder/Producer) and was the Workshop Production Dramaturg for the winning play THAT MUST BE THE ENTRANCE TO HEAVEN by Franky D. Gonzalez. I joined the Morgan-Wixson in 2021 as dramaturg for their inaugural New Works Festival (including plays by LaDarrion Williams and Diana Burbano) and provided production and audience-facing dramaturgy for their next two seasons of plays and musicals (Romeo & Juliet Choose Your Own Ending, Mothers & Sons, Andrew Lipa’s The Wild Party, and In the Heights). Other recent dramaturgical projects include consultation for award-winning documentary short films, dramaturgical collaboration for a Greek mythology-themed cabaret, and creator/collaborator of the 2022 LMDA international conference panel “Ambassadors, Advocates & Artists – How Early Career Dramaturgs Create Art and Help Define Community Through Community Theater.”   

I’m a beneficiary of the generous teaching and growth opportunities found through KCACTF as a 2021 Kennedy Center-LMDA Dramaturgy Intensive Fellow, KCACTF National Dramaturgy Fellow, KCACTF Regional Dramaturg awardee, and selected panelist for the 25th annual Association of Theater in Higher Education (ATHE) Dramaturgy Debut Panel. That journey began with my returning to school at Santa Monica Community College to reunite with passions for theater and film that I pursued when I was originally in college at UC Irvine (B.A. in Humanities: Dramatic Literature and Criticism emphasizing Dramaturgy, Directing and Journalism). My dramaturgical view also reflects lived experience as an award-winning documentarian, museum educator, STEAM instructor-advocate-activist, local social justice participant, mom, caregiver and concerned voter. I’m a proud member of the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA). 

You can find me on IG at: em.anthony_