Meet the Team
Creating Accessible Theater For All
Katie Cummings has dedicated twenty years as a theater artist, educator and advocate for inclusion and diversity in theater. Recently, she founded Pink Umbrella Theater Co., the first one of its kind in the city of Milwaukee, focused on providing and promoting theater for people who identify with a physical, intellectual or emotional disability. A Wisconsin native, Katie graduated from Cardinal Stritch University with a BA in Theater and Business. Her resume includes First Stage, Bunny Gumbo, UW-Milwaukee, Chamber Theater and St. Joseph High School. She attended, and taught, a variety of professional development sessions throughout her career focused on equality, diversity, inclusion and accessibility. Katie believes that theater has the power to develop empathy, create meaningful connections and engage community.
Director of Accessibility and Inclusion
Mary Stone, M.S., ECSE is the founder and president of Stepping Stones Educational Services. She is an author, consultant, certified special education teacher, college instructor, and parent of a child with special needs. After working as a special education teacher for 12 years, Mary now works as an Associate Lecturer and Program Coordinator in the Department of Exceptional Education at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She is also the author of An ABC Story: A is for Autism and Friendship Footsteps: Stepping Stones to Social Emotional Learning Curriculum. In her work through Stepping Stones Educational Services, Mary designs personalized and interactive trainings and workshops for students, teachers, parents, schools, businesses and community organizations that explore topics that include social emotional learning, sensory immersive story time, inclusion, Autism , and other developmental disabilities. Mary believes that inclusive communities are created together and together anything is possible! Contact Mary at firstname.lastname@example.org
Chloe is a recent graduate of Santa Clara University (SCU) with a major in Anthropology and a minor in Environmental Studies. She is ecstatic to be working with Katie and Pink Umbrella Theater Company! Chloe aims to be a forensic anthropologist, and in addition to Pink Umbrella, currently works as the Human Resources Lead for Original Cream Puffs. During her time at SCU, she was involved in Residence Life, the Santa Clara Community Action Program (SCCAP), University Orchestra, and the Chess Club. She currently conducts research on bodily remains in popular culture with SCU Anthropology faculty. Outside of SCU, Chloe has previously been the Youth Climate Action Team National Chief of Staff, a chess coach, and viola tutor.
Shaqita Crockett (she/her/Queen) was born and raised in Milwaukee, WI. She is a proud mother of two Kings and a lover of plants. She's worked for many years in non-profit administration and builds community in every part of the city.
She is excited to be the Headmistress for our upcoming Summer Semester and looks forward to meeting you!
Madelyn Ballard (she/her) is from Milwaukee, currently studying Acting at Viterbo University. After growing up doing children’s theatre in Milwaukee, she is excited to be back at Pink Umbrella after interning this summer!
Bethany Bendtsen is a disabled writer and educator currently living in Chicago. Bethany graduated magna cum laude from Columbia College Chicago with her BFA in Creative Writing. She is also an alumna of First Stage Children’s Theater’s summer academy program. She has worked as a teacher, tutor, and arts educator with students elementary-age through the college level and is absolutely thrilled to be working with Pink Umbrella this year.Bethany spends her free time eating cheese fries, listening to 80s music, and obsessing about her outfit. Her favorite color is glitter.
Giana Blazquez is a director, choreographer, and teaching artist from Orlando, FL. She is currently pursuing her M.F.A at the University of Texas at Austin in Drama and Theatre for Youth and Communities. As an emerging TYA professional Giana strives to empower young people through theatre that challenges them artistically, fosters inclusion, and cultivates ensemble. Giana most recently served as the K-4 Program Manager/Director of Next Steps at First Stage Children’s Theater. As a teaching artist she has worked for ZACH Theater, First Stage, and the Orlando Repertory Theater. Regional Directing and Choreography credits include Nate the Great (First Stage), Nobody Knows (First Stage), Lovabye Dragon (First Stage), and Welcome to Bronzeville (First Stage). Giana has also performed professionally at First Stage. Giana hopes to work toward increased inclusion in the TYA field and hopes to one day serve as an Artistic Director. For more information about Giana please visit gianablazquez.com
Shannon "Pip" Buffington
Shannon considers herself, first and foremost, an autistic creator. She lives with her husband, Luke, and her dog, Pinky. Shannon is a Milwaukee “native” and spent her grade school years singing with Milwaukee Children’s Choir. However, she moved to Omaha for college. It was then that Shannon was reintroduced to her first love, poetry. Shannon participated in several Slam Poetry competitions in Omaha. She was also the poet at the New Voices reading in Spring of 2017. As a teacher, Shannon has co-directed two grade school productions, Annie (2019) and Snow White (2020). She helped with blocking, choreography, and music lessons for principals while teaching middle school English. As an English teacher, Shannon has taught Shakespeare and poetry to her students by using theatrical techniques. While her greatest aspiration is to be a published novelist, with a little luck, she hopes her poetry will be hitting the shelves soon.
Mitch Bultman has been working in theater education since 2009 and currently a Special Education teacher in Austin, Texas. In addition Mitch is professional actor who holds a BFA in acting from Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University and has studied and performed at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater in London.
Ryan Cappleman is a performer, choreographer, musician, and teaching artist in the Milwaukee area. He is a graduate from Milwaukee High School of the Arts where he majored in piano performance, and then pursued his love of musical theater at UW Milwaukee, receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Inter-Arts Musical Theater Performance. Since then, he has used his degree in many different capacities. As a performer, some of his favorite roles include the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, Woof in Hair, Pooh-Bah in The Hot Mikado, and the dance ensemble of Carmina Burana (Skylight Music Theatre), Britton in La La Lucille, the Piano Player in Billy Bishop Goes to War, Company Member in TomFoolery (Third Avenue Playhouse), several performances with Danceworks, First Stage, Northern Sky, Vogel Hall, Forte Theatre, Milwaukee Opera Theatre, Optimist Theatre, and Waiting...a Song Cycle Off Broadway at the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York. His choreography has earned him three Footlights Awards and numerous Jerry Awards. Ryan still gets to play the piano frequently as an accompanist, music director, and cabaret artist. Even in the pandemic, Ryan performed a weekly virtual cabaret called Quarantine! The Musical! He has been a teaching artist for Skylight, First Stage, Danceworks, UW Milwaukee, Superstars, The Wisconsin Dance Council, The Minnesota Conservatory for the Arts Summer Dance Intensive, The Virginia State Thespian Conference, and many area high schools.
Tyler is a recent graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, where he obtained his B.A. in Theatre Arts and B.S. in Psychology. Tyler has a passion for both acting and directing; his most recent project was directing A Number by Caryl Churchill at UW-Parkside. He is an advocate for inclusivity and believes theatre is a place of transformation for all. As a theatre artist, it is always his goal to provide a space where all voices and stories are heard.
When he’s not in the rehearsal room, Tyler works in a short-term crisis stabilization group home where he is able to utilize his excitement for teaching to improve interpersonal skills and emotion regulation in youth. He plans to gain his professional counseling license in the next few years and is eager to incorporate drama therapy techniques in his practice.
Debbie Das is a Junior at Purdue University, studying Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences, alongside a minor in Theater and Critical Disability Studies. She aspires to become a Speech-Language Pathologist in either a hospital or school setting with a focus in Augumenative and Alternative Communication. Outside of school, Debbie enjoys singing and is a student performer within Purdue Musical Organizations. Back home in Illinois, she works for an agency where she assists people with all abilities in recreational activities and she has also had the pleasure to serve a 900-hour term with AmeriCorps as a Respite Apprentice with Camp Easterseals. A trained meditation facilitator and nature lover, she is eager to bring a smile to so many faces. Debbie is so thrilled to be working at Pink Umbrella and continue enriching the lives of people with all abilities!
Rebekah Farr is a local actress and teaching artist. She graduated from Bradley University with a Bachelors in Theatre Performance and recently moved to Milwaukee in August of 2018. She is grateful to work with other Milwaukee companies such as First Stage, Skylight, and Optimist. She is very excited to be working with Pink Umbrella Theater Co as her own personal mission is to make theater that is accessible and welcoming for everyone. She looks forward to learning from this experience.
Teaching Artist, Playwright
Fletcher is a theatre professional that has plied his trade in Milwaukee for over thirty years. He is the Artistic Director of The Bunny Gumbo Theatre Co. which he founded in 1999. He has acted with many of the professional theatres in Milwaukee including some that are no longer around. He also directs, designs fights for the stage, teaches at all levels and writes plays. Some of his works include Give Until It Hurts, Losers, Blue Stella, The House of Silence, Sweet Dreams and The Four Hamlets. Fletcher is passionate about the fact that theatre, and art in general, has the power to transform. Let’s get to it!
Megan is a junior at Loyola University Chicago double majoring in Psychology and Spanish. As a previous performer and long-time theater-lover, Megan hopes to combine her education with her passion for the arts to work in art therapy and research in the future. She is currently involved in various research projects at Loyola, one titled Behavioral Research on Acceptance and Diversity, and the other researching gender inequality in the social sciences. After her time at Loyola, she hopes to pursue a graduate degree in social psychology. Other hobbies of Megan's include playing violin and ukulele, exploring the city of Chicago, and running along the lakeside. Megan is beyond excited to work with Pink Umbrella and continue to foster an inclusive theater experience for all!
Greta Gross is a dialect coach, actor, and linguist working in Milwaukee. As an autistic person with a special interest in language, she dove right into dialect work in school and has been avidly pursuing a career in the field since. Greta graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BFA in acting from UW-Milwaukee in the spring of 2021, and is working on plans to attend grad school for a master’s degree in linguistics. She is working toward providing dialect and language services for theaters, businesses, and individuals. She also has been working as a commission artist with her digital art, and has been exploring other professional endeavours within her skillset. In her free time, Greta plays D&D/Pathfinder, and makes clothing and clothing patterns.
The role of “naturalism” and “realism” in theatre, as well as exploration of acting styles seen in Shakespeare, Brecht, and Mamet, in relation to autistic actors is an area of interest, as well as the temporal and demographic nature of the Gen-Am dialect. Upon being invited to work with Pink Umbrella, Greta jumped at the chance to work with fellow neurodiverse artists, and hopes to be a positive contribution to the theater’s inclusive environment. She sees this theater as a place where she can flourish alongside people who understand her, and hopes to provide the same for others
Caleigh Havansek (she/her/hers) is a Chicagoland Teaching Artist and Theatre Educator who works through the arts to provide students with connection and empowerment. Engaging students with powerful lessons to find the creativity in themselves. She is excited to be teaching virtually with Pink Umbrella. She also works with Edge of Orion Theater, Mudlark Theatre, and Chicago Children’s Theatre. When she's not teaching you can find her in the kitchen cooking up something delicious, rollerblading around her neighborhood, or enjoying the sunshine on the lakefront!
OJ is a lifelong learner. She graduated from UW Parkside with her B.A. in Theater Arts and B.S. in Biological Sciences in 2018, and is completing her Masters of Arts in Teaching by the end of summer 2021. She traveled the world during her undergrad, and learned many important life lessons along the way. She has directed multiple shows in the suburbs of Milwaukee, become an adjunct teaching artist for Forté Theater Company (Franklin), and started her own company, Royally Charmed. During the day, you can find OJ at Pius XI High School teaching Forensic, Environmental, Earth, and Biological Sciences. She aims to get her Ph.D. in Leadership and Learning by 2025.
Brenna is delighted to be a contributing teaching artist with Pink Umbrella Theater Company! Brenna is an advocate for accessibility and inclusion, and has experience as a program director, teacher, yoga instructor, and care provider to people with autism and other developmental differences. She currently serves in a Primary classroom at Penfield Montessori Academy. Brenna is working toward her M.S. Ed. and AMS/MACTE accreditation through UW-River Falls in pursuit of becoming an early childhood Montessori guide. In all of her work, Brenna strives to cultivate clarity, compassion, and connection.
Molly Kiefer is a dancer and teaching artist currently working in Milwaukee, WI. She graduated from UW-Milwaukee with degrees in dance and psychology and currently teaches inter-generational movement classes with Danceworks. She has performed in pieces with faculty and MFA students at UWM, as well as performing with Wild Space Dance Company. Her movement and research interests focus on embodiment, Somatic practices, and the intersection of dance and disability studies.
Hannah is a recent graduate from The University of Wisconsin Milwaukee where she earned her BFA in Musical Theatre and minors in both Music and Dance. Some of her past show credits include Annie Oakley in Annie Get Your Gun, Working the Musical, Trish in Bonnie and Clyde, dancer in Summer 2019 Dancemakers, Helen/Sara Klock in Invader I Hardly Know Her, and ensemble and Judy understudy in 9 to 5. Hannah is so excited to continue her involvement with Pink Umbrella Theater Company. Long term, Hannah would like to return to school to study psychology so she can begin a practice of music and theatre therapy.
Beth Lewinski is a performer, director, playwright and instructor. A Milwaukee native with a degree in Film, Television and Theatre from the University of Notre Dame, she's taught improv for ComedySportz Milwaukee and First Stage Children's Theatre, among others, and worked with Radio WHT, Sketch 22, the Milwaukee Comedy Festival, Schmitz 'n' Giggles, V-Core productions, Milwaukee Metro Voices, Dinner Detective Milwaukee, All In Productions, and many more. She is a founding member of and performer with a number of local improv groups. She is thrilled to be working with the Pink Umbrella Team!
Jess (they/them) is a Chicagoland area teaching artist. They have been a proud member of MOMENTA Dance Company located in Oak Park, Illinois, for over a decade. MOMENTA is a semi-integrated company, that continues to grow their integrated dance pieces and dancers with disabilities, year after year. They have done a significant amount of training at the Academy of Movement and Music, as well as other studios in Chicago. They are trained in several techniques, including Graham, Humphrey, ballet, Laban technique, and Body-Mind Centering. They have also had the great fortune to study and train with a lot of different companies in the U. S., including Dancing Wheels, and Axis Dance Company, and in 2019, they attended a seminar called, The Michigan Arts Symposium, focusing on dance, disability, arts, and culture. They choreographed their first piece with MOMENTA in 2011. In 2017, they started their own dance company, called EXPLORATION: An Evening of Dance, Discovery, Creativity, and Fun. EXPLORATION was created to help marginalized people in the Chicagoland area in order to give them a safe place to express themselves through dance. They believe that everyone can dance, no matter what your age, race, gender, sexual orientation, or body type is. They have produced 3 full length concerts with the help of Links Hall, prior to COVID. Since then, they have been teaching classes via Zoom. For more information on Jess’s work, or to attend a class, please email them directly at email@example.com. They are also on Facebook and Instagram, under the name Explore Through Dance. For more information on MOMENTA Dance Company, please visit momentadances.org.
Molly Mattaini is a first year PhD student in Interdisciplinary Theatre Studies with a specialization in Theatre for Youth at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She studies Ability-Inclusive Sensory Theatre and is passionate about accessibility in TYA and drama education spaces. She has nearly ten years experience teaching kids from ages 3 to 25. You can learn more at her website, https://www.mollymattaini.com/
Drea McAlister is an Artist and Poet based in Milwaukee, WI. Influenced by her experiences as a young black woman, she creates pieces that tell the story of her life and those around her. After needing Art Therapy herself and years of working with people who identify with different disabilities she decided to pursue a degree in Art Therapy at Alverno College. Her hope is to help people heal with art and poetry as she did.
Beck Menk is an undergraduate student finishing up their studies at Marquette University and is majoring in Educational Studies and Theatre arts with an emphasis in Directing and Playwrighting. Originally from Manitowoc WI, they are now based out of West Allis where they live with their husband, daughter, and handful of cats. They benefitted greatly from access to quality educational theatre as a child and feel access to theatre for both educational purposes and personal joy is valuable for all who want it. Outside of Pink Umbrella they spend their free time reading, writing, gardening playing D&D and creating audio theatre pieces with another Marquette Alumnus.
Ben Montero (he/him/his) is an educator and artist originally from the Rio Grande Valley of Deep South Texas. His artistic experiences fall within the fields of acting, directing, playwriting, fight choreography, and arts education. He got his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Education at the University of Texas at Austin, along with his certification, through the Society of American Fight Directors, to teach Unarmed Stage Combat. He is currently working as a Special Education teacher in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. At his school, he started up a Theatre Club to provide students the opportunity to find their voices, make them heard, and learn how to express themselves artistically. He is looking forward to joining the Pink Umbrella and being active in their mission to bring inclusivity, equity, and accessible theatre to the stage and beyond.
Sam Mulvey is currently an undergraduate at UW-Milwaukee. He has greatly benefited from theater education throughout his life. Primarily First Stage and several of its programs including its improv group Organized Chaos and Young Company. He has acted in several plays and has had the pleasure of volunteering for First Stage and Pink Umbrella before.
Jamie Pavlofsky is an actress and teaching artist in Dayton, Ohio. She began performing at the age of ten and has worked at Dayton Playhouse, INNOVAtheatre, and Playhouse South (now Springboro Community Theatre). She is on the board of directors of INNOVAtheatre and has served as a teaching artist with many area organizations. Jamie believes that an artist must also be a student and is currently studying voice and acting with Philip Drennen at Singing Elephant Studios. Favorite onstage credits include RAGTIME (Dayton Playhouse), THE LARAMIE PROJECT (Harmony Creek Theatre), QUILT (INNOVAtheatre), and BOEING-BOEING (Fairfield Footlighters). As an artist with a disability, Jamie is passionate about the inclusion of differently-abled performers. Her goal is to create an inclusive performance space where artists of all abilities can come together to create and thrive. Jamie has worked as a teaching artist since 2017 and has held positions with the Dayton Jewish Federation, Brighter Connections Theatre, the Victoria Theatre Association (now Dayton Live), and virtually with Pink Umbrella Theater Company in Milwaukee, WI. She has experience working with students ages 7-18, including students with autism and other cognitive and developmental disabilities. Jamie strongly believes that theatre is a tool that can be used in the facilitation of social-emotional learning and strives to create emotionally safe spaces for her students to create and perform. For more about Jamie, please vist http://www.jamiepavlofsky.com.
Tiff is currently a junior pursuing a double major in music theatre and psychology along with a dance performance minor and certificate in childhood and adolescent studies at UW-Milwaukee. She has had the opportunity to perform in various productions at UWM and truly believes that theater has the ability to change lives. She plans to continue her education and obtain a masters degree in marriage and family therapy. She also enjoys playing piano, reading, petting her cats, and biking. She hopes to spend her life inspiring and improving the lives of those around her. She is so happy to be working with Pink Umbrella Theater Company!
Brandi Reed is a proud Milwaukee native. With the help of many community arts organizations such as the African American Children’s theater and the Milwaukee Inner-city Arts Council Brandi was introduced to musical theater. Brandi was a part of Black Arts MKE’s 2018 & 2019 production of Black Nativity at the Marcus Performing Arts Center. In addition, she was also in the show, Three Sister’s Named Flo at Skylight’s Cabaret Theater. Brandi is currently a Teaching Artist at Black Arts MKE, First Stage Children’s Theatre and the Milwaukee Repertory Theater.
Nick Rulon is an actor, teaching artist, and, most notably, a clown from Columbus, Georgia. While living in Atlanta, he’s currently working on an MA in Nonprofit Management at the University of Georgia, and he earned his BFA in Theatre Performance from Columbus State University. As a theatre artist, his resume includes the Springer Opera House (Columbus, GA), First Stage and Next Steps (Milwaukee, WI), C venues (Edinburgh, Scotland / London, England), and Georgia Ensemble Theatre (Atlanta, GA). His work has taken him from Columbus to Edinburgh, but his favorite place to call home is Milwaukee. As a former teacher at First Stage and a classroom aid at Next Steps, Nick is so excited to see all of his old friends and make all sorts of new ones as he joins the Pink Umbrella team. If you want to know more about Nick, ask him about his clown friend, Grimey The Custodian, a trashcan clown devoted to saving the planet.
Amanda Satchell is a Wisconsin native who has performed in New York City and regional theaters around the United States. Amanda holds a BFA in Musical Theatre from the University of Michigan. She has been a music teacher, music director, and private voice coach for over 15 years for schools and theaters such as the Ft. Lauderdale Children's Theater, Cardinal Gibbons High School, First Stage, and Pink Umbrella Theater Company.
Paula Foley Tillen
Paula Foley Tillen has been a professional musician in the Milwaukee area for more years than she cares to think about. She has served as music director for hundreds of productions from junior high to professional levels, and has been active at Milwaukee ComedySportz since 1985. Favorite recent productions include West Side Story (Milwaukee Repertory Theatre), Hedwig and the Angry Inch (All In Productions), and The Marvelous Wonderettes (Sunset Playhouse).
She has served as a lead teacher at First Stage Theatre Academy, Brookfield Center for the Arts, and has been active as teacher and coach with Pink Umbrella since its inception. She serves as director of music at Southminster Presbyterian Church in Waukesha and remains much in demand as a musical director, pianist, vocal coach, and accompanist. Paula’s arrangements and compositions are found in the catalogues of several national publishing houses, as well as online at sheetmusicplus.com. Her music has been performed by community, high school, university, and all-state choirs around the USA and Canada, as well as locally, by the East Side Chamber Players, UWM choirs, Master Singers of Milwaukee, and Skylight Music Theatre’s KidsWrites. Paula is certified as a yoga and meditation instructor, and as a Reiki master practitioner. She teaches yoga and meditation at the Wisconsin Athletic Club and Invivo Wellness (Milwaukee).
Kayla Tillisch is honored to be working with Pink Umbrella Theater Company. She has a deep passion for this line of work and has been inspired primarily from her sisters Morgan and Kasey. Her theater experience includes both acting and directing with a particular love of Shakespeare. She is a proud First Stage Alumni, yogi, artist and coffee connoisseur.
Phoebe Troeller Is a junior studying Public Health at UW-Milwaukee and hopes to pursue a MPH in epidemiology. Phoebe is a member of the board of the Public Health Graduate Student Association at the Zilber School of Public Health and volunteers at the City on a Hill free clinic. Phoebe began acting, dancing, and playing violin in elementary school. She is an alumnus of First Stage Theater Academy and has experience in multiple styles of dance including competitive Irish dance. Outside of class you can find Phoebe playing with her dogs, cooking, and watching Disney movies. Phoebe is so excited to be spending a second summer working with Pink Umbrella as a Teaching Assistant!
Abigail (Abby) Wesley (she/her/hers) is a graduate of The Theatre School at DePaul University. She holds a B.F.A. in Theatre Management and minors in Education and Social Justice, Business Administration, and Business Management. Abby is an arts and accessibility advocate who uses her degree to fight for arts education and accessibility programs within schools and communities. Abby has taught with First Stage, the Creative Root program at DePaul University, and Pink Umbrella Theater Company. Her practice is centered around the transformative power of art, art-making, and PLAY! You can find Abby outside the classroom making a mess in the kitchen or having full-on philosophical debates with her cat.