The NCT Drama School

Education Team & Faculty Teaching Artists

Our education department has over 30 years of experience in educating theatre for youth. You'll recognize many of our professional theatre artists from their performances in shows at NCT and from stages across Middle Tennessee. 

Every Teaching Artist participates in ongoing professional development to enhance their skills in drama instruction and inclusive teaching techniques. Staff and teaching artists are trained annually in CPR and First Aid.


Staff Members

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Classes taught: Emerging Artists Program, Acting, Drama Makers

Alicia Lark Fuss joined NCT’s team in 2009 and became Director of Education in 2011. She directed Afflicted: Daughters of Salem and The Snowy Day and Other Stories by Ezra Jack Keats for the NCT main stage and directs the annual Emerging Artists Production for high school students. She holds an MFA in Theatre for Young Audiences from the University of Central Florida and a BA in Theatre Arts from Florida State University. Alicia previously worked at the Orlando Repertory Theatre and trained through the Kennedy Center Institute for Arts Management in Washington, D.C. Locally, Alicia serves as an adjunct professor at Belmont University and works with Museum Advocates and the Inclusion Network of Nashville. Nationally, Alicia is a proud member of the American Alliance for Theatre and Education and serves as Secretary of the Board of Directors for Theatre for Young Audiences/USA.

What is your favorite picture book or YA Novel?
I regularly return to The Giver and A Wrinkle in Time-- two books that fill me with hope, and remind me of the power created when love and knowledge combine to create change. 

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Classes taught: "Roll" Playing, Myths & Legends, Staging Stories, Acting

Colin Peterson has been working at NCT since 2010, and is currently NCT's full-time Education Program Manager. When he's not managing classes, talking to parents, or teaching, he's designing video for some of Nashville Children's Theatre's incredible productions. Some of his credits include The Wind in the Willows; A Wrinkle in Time; Number the Stars; James and the Giant Peach; Treasure Island; and The Snowy Day and Other Stories by Ezra Jack Keats. While he wears many hats for NCT, he's never happier than when he's creating theatre with students.

What is your favorite Theatre for Young Audiences experience?
I have the unique opportunity to have worked in the classroom and as a projection designer here at NCT.  In the classroom, I love it when a kid suddenly 'gets it' -- you see the light in their eyes, and being excited with them, celebrating their joy with them.  It's why I'll never give up teaching.  A particular memory that stands out as a designer: The Wind in the Willows used a projected walk-in curtain, and the audience sat with a still image of the book cover for the duration of the 30 minute preshow.  But when the music started, suddenly, as if by magic, illustrated wind started to slowly move the reeds, and reflections played across the water in the image.  Hearing the surprise of the kids in the audience react to that... that was theatre magic.

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Classes taught: Junior Artists Production, Musical Revues, Saturday Classes

Catherine Birdsong, a proud member of SAG/Aftra, is so excited to be back in her hometown, Nashville! Catherine is a graduate of Belmont University with a degree in Musical Theatre. She has been living in Los Angeles, CA for the past two and a half years, where she worked on the Disney Channel shows Pair of Kings and Kickin’ It!, as well as Mad MenVegas and How I Met Your Mother. She comes to NCT having been a director, choreographer and music director at The Youth Academy of Dramatic Arts in LA. Catherine has also been seen teaching at The Theater Bug here in Nashville.  Her favorite roles include: Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar, Maria Von Trapp in The Sound of Music, Sarah Brown in Guys and Dolls, Betty Blake in The Will Rogers Follies, Ulla in The Producers and Belle in Beauty and the Beast. Catherine is so excited to join the staff at NCT and cannot wait for the adventures ahead!

What is your favorite picture book or YA Novel?
Anne of Green Gables or Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets... Can I have two?

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Classes taught: Kids Company, Drama Makers, Saturday Classes

Jacqueline Leach (Jackie) is a local performer and teacher, and she currently serves as Nashville Children's Theatre's Education Coordinator. From Cleveland, Ohio, she moved to Nashville recently and has since performed with local theatres such as Street Theatre Company and Pull-Tight Players. While in Ohio, she performed in multiple shows with the Ohio Light Opera and toured with Columbus Children's Theatre. Favorite past credits include Luisa (The Fantasticks), Betty Schaefer (Sunset Boulevard), Lily (The Secret Garden), Woman 1 (Songs for a New World) and Belle (Beauty and the Beast). For her college senior thesis, Jackie traveled to Rwanda with Immaculée Ilibagiza, a survivor of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, and devised a multimedia performance based on her story of survival and forgiveness.

What is your favorite Theatre for Young Audiences experience?
I am grateful for the opportunity to be a drama teacher and to utilize the performing arts to help youth achieve their full potential and discover all the possibilities life has to offer. My favorite part of my work is entering other worlds with my students and watching their imaginations ignite.

Faculty Teaching Artists

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Classes taught: Junior Artists Company, Musical Theatre Classes, Storybook Adventures

Andrea Kincaid is a teaching artist, performer, director, producer, and choreographer originally from the California Bay Area. She recently relocated to Nashville from South Carolina with her husband and 2 fur babies. She has enjoyed working in theatre and music education with students of all ages for over a decade and is very excited to be a part of the NCT team!

What is your favorite Theatre for Young Audiences experience?
Feeling all of the fun and excitement as children experience theatre for the first time.

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Classes taught: Improvisation, Myths & Legends, Staging Stories, Acting

Becky Wahlstrom's acting foundation comes from four years at The Chicago Academy for the Arts and she is a graduate of London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA). In addition, she's studied and practiced a variety of theater mediums in both Chicago and Los Angeles: story theater with The Piven Theatre Workshop, improvisation with Improv Olympics, commedia dell'arte with Tim Robbin’s Actors Gang, and writing/performing personal material with The Neo Futurists, Write Club Los Angeles and Writer’s Bootcamp. Becky works professionally in theater, film and television bouncing between Los Angeles, Chicago, and Nashville. She is dedicated to the idea that an arts education serves every aspect of a person’s life, and enjoys teaching all levels of artists from beginner to professional.

What is your favorite picture book or YA Novel?
Shel Silverstein's The Missing Piece

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Classes taught: Acting, Treasure Trunk Theatre, Saturday Classes

ej Taylor is a long time educator and director in theatre.  She has developed, implemented and supervised multi-disciplinary arts education programming for children of all ages for over 30 years. In addition to teaching and directing, ej performed extensively with theatre companies in Northern California. ej is the former Assistant Director of the Palo Alto Children's Theatre and a graduate of American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. Since moving to Nashville in 2012, ej spends her time teaching, writing, creating wire tree sculptures and thinking big thoughts.

What is your favorite Theatre for Young Audiences experience?
I directed a production of The Elves and the Shoemaker, performed by 3rd-5th graders.  During a run, most of the cast was out with the flu so two crew members volunteered to step in and perform with scripts in hand and they all realized they could, and had solved the problem of the missing cast members themselves.

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Classes taught: Stage Combat, Staging Stories, Myths & Legends

Eric D. Pasto-Crosby is proudly a native of Nashville, but he graduated from University of Colorado at Boulder with a B.F.A. in performance.  He has performed with: Tennessee Repertory Theatre, Studio Tenn, Nashville Children's Theatre, Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Stage One, Tennessee Shakespeare Festival, and People's Branch Theatre.  A loyal member of the Society of American Fight Directors and a proud member of Actor’s Equity Association, he has taught at NCT for over six years.

What is your favorite picture book or YA Novel?
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs is my favorite picture book and Treasure Island is one of my favorite YA novels.

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Classes taught: Behind the Scenes, Treasure Trunk Theatre, Storybook Adventures

Daniel Baumgardner graduated from belmont University with a BFA in Theatre Education and has been teaching with the Nashville Children’s Theatre for the past three years. Prior to this, he has taught with Father Ryan High School, Pearl Cohn Magnet High School, the Lexington Children’s Theatre, among many others. Currently, Daniel works at Studio Tenn Theatre Company as Crew Chief and at Father Ryan High School as Technical Director.

What is your favorite YA book or novel?
I love the Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien.  That counts as a YA novel, right? I read it in middle school.

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Classes taught: Staging Stories, Myths & Legends, Improvisation

Derek Whittaker, a native of Nashville, has performed professionally for just over twenty-five years. He holds a Master of Fine Arts Degree in Acting from UT Knoxville, as well as a Bachelor's Degree in Theatre from MTSU (where he is currently an Adjunct Theatre Professor). Derek is fortunate to have performed and directed both around the country and around the world. Closer to home, his work has been seen onstage at Nashville Children's Theatre, Nashville Shakespeare Festival, Nashville Repertory Theatre, Studio Tenn, and Chaffin's Barn. As a child, Derek saw his first show at NCT and even trained here briefly under local legend Ruth Sweet. He considers himself very lucky to be a part of the NCT family - sharing the magic of live theatre and encouraging young artists to think, feel, live, laugh and grow!

What is your favorite Theatre for Young Audiences experience?
I am always reminded of the power of live theatre when performing for young audiences. They have no agenda or expectations; they live in the moment and respond honestly. The atmosphere as the house lights dim at NCT is always incredibly charged with curiosity, creativity, wonder, and passion as young theatregoers bravely venture into the unknown to learn more about themselves, each other and the world in which they live.

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Classes taught: Saturday Classes, Drama Makers

Jasmine Rose has been a teaching artist since 2014, and she has loved every minute of it! She is also a pre-K teacher. She has always had a special place for the littles, but loves working with all ages! In her spare time she loves participating in Community Theatre. Some of her favorite roles include Brooke Wyndham in Legally Blonde,  Deborah Sue in Bye, Bye, Birdie, and Lamar in Godspell. She teaches because she hopes to spread the joy and benefits of theatre to the younger generation. She loves offering this opportunity to young people. She really believes that theatre can change lives. It definitely changed hers.

What is your favorite picture book or YA novel?
Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg

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Classes taught: Drama Makers, Improvisation, Saturday Classes

Jordan Scott is a local teaching and performing artist who is proud to have been involved with various companies and schools such as Nashville Children's Theatre, the Nashville Shakespeare Festival, Street Theatre, Bethlehem Players, Pull-Tight Theatre, Currey Ingram Academy, and O'More College of Design. Jordan received her BA in Drama from the University of Arkansas with an emphasis in Acting. After graduating, she moved to Seattle, Washington and helped teach Improvisation with the Seattle Children's Theatre. Recently, Jordan served as an Advisor for the Junior Youth Actors Guild in Franklin. Jordan also specializes in teaching various baking and cooking classes to students of all ages.

What is your favorite picture book or YA novel?
I absolutely love anything by Mo Willems.

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Classes taught: Staging Stories, Myths & Legends, Acting

Jon Royal is a professional director, teaching artist, and actor with extensive experience in arts education and program development for Nashville Children’s Theatre, Nashville Shakespeare Festival and many others. Jon has also taught in partnership with the Vanderbilt University Kennedy Center’s TRIAD camp for kids on the autism spectrum. Jon holds a BA in Theatre from Middle Tennessee State University.

What is your favorite picture book or YA Novel?
Bud, Not Buddy or The High King are my favorite YA books.

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Classes taught: Actor's Studio, Drama Makers, Fairy Tale Frenzy

Kara Y. Kindall currently serves as the Theatre Chair at Nashville School of the Arts. She received a BS in English and Theatre from Austin Peay State University, an MFA in Theatre from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and an MA in Teaching from Trevecca University.  In 1999, the North Carolina Theatre Conference chose her as the state’s "Most Promising Theatre Graduate Student" and awarded her a grant to pursue Professional Theatre Management.  That experience compelled her to return home to the Nashville area to join Mockingbird Public Theatre, where she served as their Managing Director for three seasons.  In 2004, she joined with Theatre Faculty at Nashville School of the Arts.  Professionally, she collaborates with Nashville Children's Theatre, Tennessee Repertory Theatre, Nashville Shakespeare Festival, BellaLuna Theatre in NC, and Community SPIRIT Inc. in Adams TN, working as an actor, teaching artist, director, producer, and commissioned playwright.

What was the play that most impacted you as a young person?
Our Town taught me to be present and realize life as I live it.

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Classes taught: Drama Makers, Fairy Tale Frenzy, Storybook Adventures

Kelsie Craig grew up in Northwest Arkansas, where she fell in love with theatre and performance at a young age. After college, she went on to become an active member of the Arkansas theatre community. A resident of Little Rock until 2011, she was continuously involved in projects that brought education and the performing arts to young audiences. She loves helping children turn a story or a picture into a play or a scene. The journey from the beginning of class to the end — and kids' ability to learn so much so quickly — is always amazing. And since moving to Nashville in 2011 she has been able to do just that! Kelsie loves collaborating with the students and other teaching artists at NCT. 

What was the play that most impacted you as a young person?
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was magical and hilarious and I thought, "I want to be up there."

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Classes taught: Musical Theatre, Storybook Adventures, Fairy Tale Frenzy

Melissa Husebo is excited to be teaching at Nashville Children’s Theater again this summer.  She enjoyed teaching general music at Andrew Jackson Elementary from 2005-2016.  She earned her bachelor’s degree in music education from Belmont University and her level 3 certification in the Orff methodology.  Melissa has also performed in musicals and plays at the Keeton Theater, Circle Players, Boiler Room Theater, and Street Theater.  Melissa loves doing musical theater, teaching young people to make music, and anything green!

What was the play that most impacted you as a young person?
Seeing Les Miserables in high school showed me how theatre could tell a powerful story in a very powerful way, and I wanted to be a part of that.

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Classes taught: Drama Makers, Storybook Adventures, Saturday Classes

Meredith Locke Daniel holds a BFA in Theatre Education from Belmont University. She loves being a Teaching Artist at NCT, and there is no place else she'd rather be! Her absolute favorite thing about teaching is watching a group of students realize there are no limits to their creativity and what they can accomplish. Meredith is currently the Theatre Arts teacher at Brentwood Middle School.

What was the play that most impacted you as a young person?
Seeing Diary of Anne Frank directed by Scot Copeland.  I was totally transported to that world.  It had a major impact on me because I was around Anne's age at the time.  I couldn't believe someone my age could have so much courage.

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Morgan Fairbanks received her BAM from Belhaven University before moving to Nashville three years ago. Morgan has enjoyed working with students of all ages as a choreographer, drama coach, voice instructor, and teacher for the over a decade. She's enjoyed being a teaching artist with Nashville Children's Theatre for the past three years and working with Davidson county schools through their side-by-side coaching program. Teaching is the perfect way for performers to hone their craft, and Morgan is grateful for the opportunity to practice so often with such amazing students.

What is your favorite Theatre for Young Audiences experience?
A kid once tried to quote Yoda and said, "To be or not to be, there is no try."  It was Star Wars Shakespeare at it's finest.  I love the minds of my students, their creativity knows no bounds.

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Classes taught: Saturday Classes

Rachel Woods graduated from the University of Evansville with a BS in Theatre Performance. She is thrilled to be back at Nashville Children's Theatre! A Franklin native, she attended classes at NCT from ages 8 to 18 and spent a summer as an intern before returning to become a teaching artist. Additionally, she has studied at the Eugene O'Neill Center, the American Theatre Wing, and Shakespeare's Globe in London. She is immeasurably grateful for the teachers she has had and so excited to work with the next generation of students at NCT!

What is your favorite Theatre for Young Audiences experience?
Watching someone who has maybe never performed for an audience before discover in the moment that theatre is something that they love.

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Classes taught: Junior Artists Production, Musical Theatre, Acting

Rona Carter has called Nashville Children's Theatre home for most of her professional career. Teaching came as a natural extension of her stage work. She has watched students go from children to young adults on their way to becoming performers themselves. Rona loves to help these students climb and find themselves at the top of their confidence. Young people can't wait to see what's next and jump into it with everything they've got! Her training was at Boston Conservatory in a triple major of Drama, Musical Theatre and, Dance. Some of her favorite roles include Bottom in Robin Goodfellow, Mayzie in Seussical and Lucy inYou’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.  But most of all for Rona likes having fun and learning from her students who always bring so many surprises to the summer!

What was the play that most impacted you as a young person?
Seeing A Christmas Carol -- past, present, future... a story about making up for all of life's faults, and being able to change that.

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Classes taught: Emerging Artists Program, Musical Theatre, Acting

Shawn Knight has been teaching at Nashville Children's Theatre for over 15 years. At NCT, he has enjoyed playing Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web, Horton in Seussical, and the title role in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, among several other roles. For The NCT Drama School, Shawn teaches a variety of classes, has been music director of the Emerging Artist Production for the past four years, and runs the Musical Revue program.  Shawn received an MA in English from Auburn University and an MFA in Theatre from the University of Louisville. He currently teaches at Belmont University and enjoys teaching theatre to students from age three well into adulthood.

What was the play that most impacted you as a young person?
I came to Nashville Children's Theatre in 3rd grade and saw Scot Copeland's production of Sherlock Holmes.  What I remember the most about that show is the tension between Holmes and Moriarty - it made me want to perform and taught me a lot about commitment onstage.

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Classes taught: Improvisation, Staging Stories, Acting

Shawn Whitsell is a father, activist, actor, producer, director and playwright. He is the founder of the Destiny Theatre Experience and Focused Dreams Films. Shawn has appeared in Bud, Not BuddyHoles, The Watsons Go To Birmingham: 1963, and And in this Corner: Cassius Clay at Nashville Children's Theatre. When he's not onstage, Shawn can be found teaching drama at NCT or spoken word with Southern Word, Inc.

What is the play that most impacted you as a young person?
I saw a production of To Kill A Mockingbird in Alabama when I was a teenager that made me fall deeper in love with theatre.