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Festival Coordinators

ASPIRE (KCACTF/LORT) Leadership Coordinator

Next Step Interviews and Auditions Co-Coordinator

Isabella O’Keeffe
University of Hawai’i at Mānoa

Isabella O’Keeffe (Ella/She/Her) is the Region 8 ASPIRE/LORT Arts Leadership Coordinator and Region 8 Director of Student Advocacy and Connection. Isabella is currently pursuing her MFA and MEd at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. She received her BA from California State University, Fresno and her AA-T from College of the Sequoias. Isabella is the recipient of the Arts Impact Award from the College of the Fellows of American Theatre and was a National ASPIRE/LORT Arts Leadership Fellow in 2019. Isabella hosted the National KCACTF Awards ceremony in 2021 and currently serves on the National Student Leadership Committee. She has a passion for equity, diversity, and inclusion, education, and encouraging others to follow their dreams. Isabella uses her skills in both the arts and leadership to promote a positive change by utilizing art as a form of advocacy.

Next Step Interviews and Auditions Co-Coordinator

Head and shoulders photo portrait of Maile Speetjens

Design/ Technology/ and Stage Management Program Coordinator

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.

Devised Performance Coordinator

Nathan Singh


Devised Performance Co-Coordinator & 

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

Rodney Lloyd Scott 



Directing Program Coordinator

David Seitz

Glendale Community College

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_ 

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

Invitational Scenes Coordinator

Matthew Braaten

Glendale Community College

Matt received his Master of Fine Arts from California State University, Los Angeles and his Bachelor of Arts from St. Olaf College, where he studied English and Theatre Arts. He is a member of Actors’ Equity Association (AEA) and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA). He has performed in theatrical productions, commercials, films, web series, sitcoms, and hour-long series. He also studied at The Groundlings and is a graduate of The Second City Training Center (Los Angeles). 

Matt has directed sketch comedies, short plays, readings, showcases, one-acts and full-length plays including two student-written plays at GCC as well as music directing the 2016 GCC production Elephant’s GraveyardIn addition, he has written full-length and one-act plays, scripts for film, television and new media, and articles for publications including the New York Times. His virtual play COVID Buddies premiered in 2020 as part of Greenhouse Theatre Project’s fall season. As a composer, musician and vocalist, Matt has written and performed for stage and screen. He has recorded albums as a member of several groups and in 2013 he released his solo album “Walk in the Sun.” Matt teaches Theatre Arts at GCC, Voice/Performance at Pasadena City College, and he continues to write and perform.

Irene Ryan Co-Director

Jason Francescon
Citrus College

Irene Ryan Co-Director

Gahren Markarian

Citrus College


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.

Production Coordinator – Region 8 Festival

Melody Gunter-Festival Production Coordinator
Glendale Community College

Melody Gunter received a Ph.D. in Theatre Studies from the University of Essex in England. Her doctoral thesis focused on movement in playwriting. In addition, she received a M.A. in Contemporary Theatre and Practice from the University of Essex. Her undergraduate work was completed at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she received a B.A. in Theatre Arts, with an emphasis in Lighting Design.

During the eight years Melody spent in England, she wrote a number of plays: What the Sun and Moon Saw (2010), was a children’s play included in her doctoral work; Dance Me, Paint Me and Only One Way, were movement plays performed at the University of Essex in 2005; and Entertainment Purposes Only, was performed at the University of Essex in 2006.

Melody has been teaching Theatre Arts in the California Community College System for almost ten years. During that time she has acted as a mentor to students wishing to fulfill a role in a theatrical production, and most especially as a mentor to aspiring Lighting Designers. Her work with students led her to be named Adjunct Faculty of the Year at Crafton Hills College in 2019.

Melody is a lifetime Honorary Member of the Royal Air Force Theatrical Association in England. She served as Lighting Designer on their production of Oklahoma! in 2003. Locally, she has also worked with the Redlands Theatre Festival, where they presented her with an award for Outstanding Theatre Technician in 2014, for her multiple Lighting Designs that season.

Melody is originally from Southern California, and grew up in Orange County. She began her time on the stage as a dancer, and was a member of a ballet company and jazz performing group. From the time she attended college until now, she has been involved in over sixty theatrical productions, both here and in England. She has been the Lighting Designer on countless productions, as well as Director, Choreographer, Playwright, Actor, Dancer, Movement Coordinator, Sound Designer, and Stage Manager. She most recently was Faculty Director of American Idiot (2019) at Crafton Hills College. All of her work in theatre, from design and technical theatre to directing, writing, and performing, has covered a vast array of production types such as: Shakespeare, musicals, devised theatre, performance art, classical plays, and new works.

Stage Management Coordinator

Shay Garber

CSU Fullerton | Fullerton College | Saddleback College

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

Workshop Coordinator

Tanya Kane-Parry 









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.

Member-at-Large & 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 of 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

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


Matthew Schleicher
Rio Hondo College