Upstream Arts Leadership Team
Julie Guidry (she/her/hers), Co-Founder, Executive Director, Teaching Artist
Julie has worked in the disability and nonprofit communities since 1997. She is the Co-founder and Executive Director of Upstream Arts, an innovative nonprofit organization which uses the arts to develop the social and communication skills of individuals with disabilities. Founded in 2006, Upstream Arts has rapidly become an emerging, cross-sector leader at the intersection of disability, arts and learning. Julie and her husband Matt Guidry conceived of Upstream Arts after seeing the positive impact of the arts on their son’s self expression and communication with those around him. Upstream Arts now annually works with 100+ partners and serves 5000+ people of all ages and abilities. Since Upstream Arts’ inception, Julie has worked closely with disability service providers, community organizations, as well as Minneapolis Public Schools’ Special Education Directors and Arts Department to develop a model for integrating Upstream Arts’ unique arts-based curriculum into social skills learning, vocational and career development training, and other disability services. She facilitates trainings for social service organizations, schools, districts, and arts organizations on arts based instructional strategies, universal design for learning, access and inclusion. Previously, she held management positions with several disability and youth organizations, including Wilderness Inquiry and Youth Frontiers. Julie is a previous member of both the District Parent Advisory Council and Access Advisory Council for Minneapolis Public Schools; and she is a current member of the Special Education Advisory Council. She also has been on the Arts on Chicago Leadership team for the last eight years; and she is a founding board member and former Board Chair of Wonderlust Productions.
Matt Guidry, Co-Founder, Artistic Director, Teaching Artist | Actor, Director, Choreographer, Producer
Matt co-founded Upstream Arts in 2006 and serves as the organization’s Artistic Director. Matt leads the design of Upstream Arts’ multidisciplinary curriculum, manages 100+ program residencies a year, and oversees the training of the organization’s Teaching Artists, and develops programs and professional development in line with need and emerging trends in arts, education and the disability sector. Matt has been working as an actor, director, choreographer, producer, and educator in the Twin Cities since 1992. Matt is a founding member and Co-Artistic Director of The Burning House Group Theater Company where he has acted, directed and helped create original works for the stage since 1994 (Twelfth Night, 3 Parts Dead, Waiting for Godot, What the Butler Saw, Say What You Mean, Oops! You’re President, Knock Knock, among others). As a former member of the Acting Core of Ten Thousand Things Theatre Company, Matt was seen in Man of La Mancha, A Winter’s Tale, Good Person of Szechwan, Merchant of Venice, The Three Lives of Lucie Cabrol and Carousel. In the Twin Cities, Matt has also performed with The Guthrie Theatre (Dollhouse), Pillsbury House Theatre (Far Away), Park Square (Or), Frank Theatre (Tottering House), History Theatre (Farm Boys), The Theatre Exchange (Colquhoun and MacBride), Actor’s Theatre of MN (Woman in Black) and spent two years as a company member of the Margolis Brown Company (Vanishing Point, Bed Experiment). He holds an MFA from the University of Minnesota, where he has been an affiliated faculty member of the University of Minnesota’s Theater Arts and Dance Department. Matt’s film credits include roles in the films World and Time Enough, Ramming Speed, Sugar & Spice and in David Lynch’s The Straight Story.
Bree Sieplinga, Associate Director | Writer
Bree has worked in the non-profit sector since 1997. Since its founding in 2006, Bree has served as the Associate Director of Upstream Arts, a cross sector arts organization that has the mission to use the power of the creative arts to activate and amplify the voice and choice of individuals with disabilities. She has been integral in the development and growth of Upstream Arts spearheading its fundraising, grant writing, finances and program evaluation. As part of the three-person leadership team, she develops programs and professional development in line with need and emerging trends in arts, education and the disability sector. Prior to this work, Bree worked in the Program and Advocacy Department at the New York office of Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) where she coordinated advocacy activities with the United Nations and US government offices on conflict situations and global public health issues, was the liaison to MSF’s European offices on private grant-making, and oversaw 95 million dollars in private grants to international field projects. Previously, Bree held development positions at the Center for Assistive Technology and San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association, both in the Bay Area. Bree holds a B.A. in Literature from Northwestern University and a Masters Degree in Social Sciences from the University of Amsterdam.
Teaching Artists and Administrative Staff
Nikki Abramson, Teaching Artist | Director, Theatre Educator, Actor, Writer Nikki held a M Ed. (Masters in K12 Education) from Bethel University where she specialized in incorporating theatre arts into the classroom. Her passion lay at the intersection of theatre, education, and inspiring students to develop themselves. As a person with relatively hidden physical disabilities, Nikki loved the inclusion Upstream Arts brings and wishes UA could be in more places at more times. She worked as a teaching artist around town, worked with youth theatre and taught mostly in community education programs including Artistry. She also worked as a director for Hillcrest Community School in Bloomington and Eden Prairie Players. Nikki performed with an improv troupe, Comedy Combats, at Mugshots in Bloomington. She is the author of the books I Choose Hope in which she addresses issues of disability and adoption, and Hope for Today, as well as a contributor for 5 anthologies. She co-wrote, performed, and toured her play, “Beyond Limits,” about her life-long battles and which premiered at Fringe 2016 and 2017. Nikki worked with Upstream Arts since 2014 and has LOVED the opportunity to play every day at work.
We honor and miss our friend and colleague Nikki, who passed away in March 2020. Her memory and legacy will continue to live in our work.
Christian Bardin (she/her, they/them), Teaching Artist Apprentice | Actor/Director, Musician
Christian (she/her and they/them) originally hails from Houston, Texas. They’ve called the Twin Cities home since graduating from Ken Washington’s BFA program at the U in 2011 and have acted professionally in the Twin Cities since 2009. She believes the best work in any discipline comes at the intersection of great risk, great craft, and great love. Favorite “art jobs” are ones where she gets to use her powers for good, including relationships with CornerHouse’s Forensic Interview trainings, Pillsbury House + Theatre’s Breaking Ice workshops, and traditional performance work with the Jungle Theater, Minnesota Opera, Guthrie Theater, The Moving Company, Park Square Theatre, and Sandbox Theatre. Christian is proud to have co-directed the devised work The Nature Crown and to have assisted on the regional premiere of Redwood at the Jungle. Their first full-length album of original music is entitled Shorts – here’s a preview. Christian has been working with Upstream Arts since 2020.
Alex Barreto Hathaway, Teaching Artist Apprentice | Performer, Director, Mask-maker, Illustrator
Alex Barreto Hathaway is a process-based artist and educator who leans into playfulness, clown, mask and physical theatre, clown again, stories that celebrate the Latinx experience, and projects that partner with non-theatre communities. He earned his BA in Theatre Arts at the University of Minnesota with a thesis project exhibiting Mask, Puppetry, and Street Theatre practices studied in Pernambuco, Brazil. Since 2010, he has worked with theatre groups such as Open Eye, Exposed Brick, Red Bird, Theatre Forever, SteppingStone, as well as on tours in greater Minnesota. From 2016-2020, he designed and led arts-based learning for international English-learners at Roosevelt Highschool and then Highland Park Highschool. Beyond theatre, Barreto Hathaway makes illustrations and sustains an ongoing project that serves artists, farmers and grass-roots organizers in Puerto Rico, where he is originally from. He has been working with Upstream Arts since 2020.
Brian Bose, Teaching Artist | Actor-Singer-Dancer, Choreographer/Director, Creative Consultant
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Brian revels as a multidimensional storyteller. He received a Double B.A. in Theatre & Dance from UC San Diego in 2015. After studying Dance Pedagogy, Brian has also developed into an International Teaching Artist. He has taught Movement for Actors & Musical Theater at the La Jolla Playhouse’s Young Performer’s Workshop, instructed as a Resident Guest Teacher/Choreographer at the Francis Parker School, and taught Modern & Jazz in Germany for the Patricia Rincon Dance Collective Europe Teaching Tour. The San Diego Union Tribune considers Brian one of the “Faces to watch” in Arts. You may have seen him create roles in The Lorax (CTC), In The Heights (Ordway), DJ Latinidad’s Latino Dance Party, and Safe at Home (Mixed Blood). He also teaches various BFA and adult classes at the Guthrie, including his opus: the Slay Workshop. Brian wants to be of service, helping others break free from the hypnosis of fear so they can realize both their visions and the fact that they have a gift to give to the world. Most importantly, just as the eloquent Bobby McFerrin once said, Brian wants everyone to know that “It’s alright to have butterflies in your stomach, just make sure that they are flying in formation!” He is incredibly honored to be an Upstream Arts Teaching Artist since January, 2017. For more: http://theboseshow.com
Sarah Brown (she/her/hers), Teaching Artist/Interpreter | Actor, Improviser, Dancer, ASL Interpreter
Sarah’s passion lies in the intersection of theater and community where she can inspire people‘s creativity and confidence using the powerful tool of the arts. She is currently a professional ASL Interpreter working in a variety of settings including Upstream Arts. She can also be seen interpreting across the Twin City stages including Guthrie Theater and Penumbra Theater. She received her Master of Arts in Theatre Education from Emerson College in Boston, MA in 2004. There she worked for Wheelock Family Theatre, Theater Espresso, and Improv Asylum. She then took the leap to Los Angeles where she studied and performed at IO West in Hollywood. Realizing TV and film were not for her, she returned to her home state of Minnesota. Locally she has performed at HUGE Theater, the Guthrie Theater, Gremlin Theatre, The National Theater for Children, Brave New Workshop, Savage Umbrella, and Tiger Lion Arts. Sarah has had the honor of working with Upstream Arts as both a TA and ASL Interpreter since 2010.
Sue Carneol, Client Liaison/Milwaukee | Speech-Language Pathologist
Sue is a state licensed and nationally certified speech-language pathologist with over 35 years of experience working with children and adolescents with a wide variety of communication disorders. She has worked in medical, school, in-home, and clinic settings. She currently maintains a private practice in the metro Milwaukee area at the North Shore Center, LLC, a multidisciplinary clinic. Sue has always enjoyed working with kids and teens with social communication challenges. While visiting Minneapolis in 2012, she observed first-hand the “magic” that Upstream Arts provided for individuals with special needs. This sparked to her desire to help the organization’s vision to expand services outside of the Twin Cities region. Today Sue serves as the Upstream Arts’ Client Liaison in Milwaukee, working hard to make connections and collaborate with other programs around southeastern Wisconsin. In her “spare time,” Sue enjoys traveling, reading, biking, and learning how to play piano. Sue has been working with Upstream Arts since 2012.
Cristina Castro (she/her/hers), Teaching Artist | Playwright, Performer
Evelyn Digirolamo (she/her/hers), Teaching Artist | Collaborative Theatre Maker, Aerial Artist
Evie is a collaborative artist always looking to engage with something physically impossible, thought-provoking, healing, and bizarre. Combining her passion for aerial arts and theatre, she is the founder of The Swingset —an endeavor dedicated to telling stories up in the air. She choreographs and directs pieces performed on her portable aerial rig which she purchased after receiving the Next Step Fund for individual artists from the Minnesota Regional Arts Council. Her home base for creating new work is Sandbox Theatre, a company dedicated to producing visually rich, all new, ensemble-created work. Sandbox was named Best Theatre Troupe 2017 by the City Pages. She was also a co-founder and actor/creator/director for AEthem Theatre Company with whom she created for three years. Utilizing her passion for using theatre to create empathy, develop courage, and process life, she has taught for many prestigious organizations including: SteppingStone Theatre, Youth Performance Company, Stages Theatre, ALIVE Schools, and East Side Neighborhood Services. She also teaches aerial silks weekly at Escalate Dance and Theatre Studio. Companies she has performed with include: Off-Leash Area, Mad Munchkin Productions, Teatro del Pueblo, Pangea World Theater, The Gonzo Group Theatre, Shakespeare and Company, Historical Perspectives for Children, the Murder Mystery Company, and the Barbara Schneider Foundation, with whom she does de-escalation trainings for first responders. She was featured in the film Ghost Light, which received the award Best Ensemble in a Feature Dramedy at the Best Actor’s Film Festival in San Francisco. She has been working with Upstream Arts since 2013.
Dupree Edwards, Teaching Artist Apprentice, Program Support Assistant | Actor, DJ, MC
After asking Upstream Arts if they would consider hiring a regular participant, Dupree jumped at the chance to join the organization. Dupree is a creative and aspiring Actor. He has acted in three local productions sponsored by Partnership Resources, Inc. Dupree had a radio show with KFAI, Dupe Ed that raised awareness of disability issues. While attending the Transition Plus program for Minneapolis Public Schools, he started a Talent Show for people with disabilities. Dupree likes to sing and freestyle rap his own songs.
“My experience with Upstream Arts as a participant has given me courage to be a Teaching Artist Apprentice. Tena May Gallivan and Gregory Parks have motived me to explore the power of creativity. I am excited to give back to my community as part of the team at Upstream Arts.”
Jay Eisenberg (he/him/his), Teaching Artist Apprentice, | Actor, Director, Facilitator
Jessica Finney, Principal Teaching Artist | Director, Stage Manager, Mental Health Practitioner
Jess was a founder and Producing Director for Emigrant Theater (City Pages Best Independent Theater 2007), where she staged a number of plays. A strong supporter of new plays, she regularly directs workshops at the Playwrights’ Center. She has also staged Will Eno’s The Flu Season for the Professional Actor Training Program at the University of North Carolina and worked on Tegonni: an African Antigone, a collaboration with Collective Artistes (UK), the Performance Studio Workshop of Nigeria, and the University of Richmond. Jess is a practitioner of Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed and has led workshops in the Twin Cities and on the East Coast. A frequent mentor for Pillsbury House Theatre’s Chicago Avenue Project, she has also worked on Pericles and A Christmas Carol (Guthrie). She is a member of the Lincoln Center Theatre Directors Lab and has trained with Augusto Boal. She has stage managed for the Jungle, Mixed Blood, Guthrie, and Park Square, among others. Jess recently earned her Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy and continues to use the arts as a tool for transformation while working with children, couples, and families. She has been working with Upstream Arts since 2010. Member: AEA.
Aaron Fiskradatz (he/him/his), Program Manager | Theatre Artist and Educator
Dylan Fresco (he/him/his), Teaching Artist | Actor, Writer, Musician
Dylan is an actor, writer, musician, and educator. His solo shows have been audience favorites at the Minnesota Fringe Festival, with his latest, Domino’s Pizza Saved My Life, selling out its run and earning rave reviews at the Capital Fringe Festival in Washington D.C. Dylan helped create The Kid’s Clubhouse, an interactive TV program for patients at Children’s Hospital, and writes and performs educational concerts for the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. As an actor, Dylan has worked with the Children’s Theater, Penumbra, Ten Thousand Things, the Guthrie, Pillsbury House Theatre, Theater Latte Da, and the Minnesota Orchestra, among others. He tells tales, sings romantic Russian ballads, and plays guitar and ukulele at public and private events. His stories have also been heard on Minnesota Public Radio. Dylan has been a teaching artist with the Guthrie, Steppingstone Theater, and Minneapolis Public Schools. He is a graduate of Carleton College and of the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre. Dylan has been working with Upstream Arts since 2007. More: http://dylanfresco.com
Tena May Gallivan (she/her/hers), Teaching Artist | Actor, Dancer, Voice Over Artist
After asking if Upstream Arts was hiring for two years, and realizing that no one ever left, Tena May Gallivan felt so strongly that she belonged there, she asked if she could volunteer, just to be a part of this amazing organization. Fortunately, this eventually did lead to a Teaching Artist position, and she counts it as one of the best decisions she has ever made (after deciding that tube tops weren’t for her). Tena May comes from a theatrical family, made her stage debut at age 4, and hasn’t looked back since. She has been fortunate enough to work at many local theaters throughout the years, most notably The Guthrie Theatre, Chanhassen Dinner Theater, Park Square Theater, Theatre In The Round, Na Fianna Irish Theater (with whom she won “Best Actress” at the Acting Irish International Theatre Festival) and The History Theater. Tena May was a member of The Comedy Troupe for many years and toured the Twin Cities as well as the state, spreading cheer to all. She is also a national Voice Over Artist who has been heard around the country, with clients such as Subaru, Tresemme, Target, Nordstrom, Macy’s, General Mills and Petsmart. She has even been seen on TV and the big screen! Tena May is a member of the Screen Actor’s Guild-American Federation of Radio and Television Artists and serves on the local board. In non-acting related news, Tena May teaches strength training, fitness and dance (mostly because if she is teaching, she has to be there and can’t roll over, hit the snooze alarm and tell herself she’ll do it later. Which, of course, she won’t). Tena May has been working with Upstream Arts since 2012.
Chris Garza (he/him/his), Operations Manager | Director, Critic, Performer
Chris Garza joined the Upstream Arts team in July 2015. He originally comes from San Antonio, TX and and found his way to the Great North via Macalester College. He is a freelance director mostly, a performer rarely, an arts administrator often, a critic sometimes, and a stage manager sporadically. He’s worked with The Guthrie (assistant director), Frank Theatre (assistant to the artistic director), Workhaus Collective (production manager), Bedlam Theatre (artist/maker), The Unit Collective (director), Red Eye Theater (performer), Mixed Blood (stage manager), Walking Shadow (assistant director), Freshwater Theatre (director), The Jungle (carpenter), Howlround (critic), and Little Life Boats (director).
Phyllis Genest-Stein (she/her/hers), Teaching Artist/Interpreter | ASL Interpreter
Phyllis is a nationally certified American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter. She worked with Deaf/Hard of Hearing students in Minneapolis Public Schools for many years and is passionate about going beyond accessibility to communication equality. In 2010 she had the extreme good fortune of being introduced to Upstream Arts co-founders, Julie and Matt Guidry. Their commitment to providing creative, fun, high quality opportunities for individual growth and expression hooked Phyllis and she has been working with them ever since. She finds the amazing artists at Upstream Arts to be energizing and a constant source of inspiration. In addition to her work interpreting for Upstream Arts, Phyllis is a community interpreter, working in business, medical, and educational settings. She serves as a mentor for new educational interpreters and is the chair of the Minnesota Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf Freelance Committee.
Ryan Hoag, Principal Teaching Artist | Actor, Model, Athlete
Ryan is a 2003 graduate of Gustavus, where he obtained a degree in Elementary Education. Instead of moving directly into teaching as a profession, the NFL draft steered his future to Oakland where he was a 7th round pick by the Oakland Raiders in 2003. Ryan has been with five different NFL teams, most recently with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Outside of football, he has filled a number of different roles within the Minneapolis school district, including Dean of Students, parent liaison and teacher. He is also the head coach of the Minneapolis Washburn men’s tennis team. During the summer Ryan is the head tennis professional at Lafayette Country Club. Acting and modeling are also passions for Ryan, for which he has international representation. Ryan has been working with Upstream Arts since 2009.
Skailer Huffman Teaching Artist Apprentice | Actor, Singer, Dancer
Skailer is an Eden Prairie High School graduate of 2017. She also went through 2 years of Transition Program, where she was a participant in the Upstream Arts program. She grew up loving music such as Donny Osmond, Abba, and many more who influence her artistry today. She has experience in acting since 7th grade, joined crew in high school, and has been part of a musical theater camp in Chanhassen. She has been working with Upstream Arts since 2019.
Rachel Jendrzejewski, Grantwriter | Playwright, Performance Maker
Rachel Jendrzejewski has served in a variety of administrative roles for nonprofit arts organizations since 2006, including with Cornerstone Theater Company (Los Angeles), Padua Playwrights (Los Angeles), and The Grotowski Institute (Poland). In addition to her work in communications and development for Upstream Arts, she regularly writes freelance grant proposals, online content, and other materials for a wide range of arts organizations, small businesses, and independent artists. Rachel is also a playwright and performer who frequently collaborates with visual artists, musicians, and dancers. She moved to the Twin Cities in 2011 as a Jerome Fellow at the Playwrights’ Center and has since created work with SuperGroup, Red Eye Theater, In the Heart of the Beast, Public Functionary, and the Walker Art Center, among others. Her work has been developed and produced at numerous other venues across the U.S. and internationally, including Padua Playwrights, Playwrights’ Horizons, Wild Project, The Conflux Festival, Trinity Repertory Company, Rhode Island School of Design, and the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, among others. She holds an MFA in Playwriting from Brown University and is a Playwrights’ Center Core Writer. Rachel has worked with Upstream Arts since 2012. More: http://rachelka.com
Anton Jones, Teaching Artist | Playwright, Director, Composer
Anton holds his MFA from the University of Iowa Playwright’s Workshop. He has directed for Pillsbury House Theatre, The Illusion Theatre, Great American History Theatre and is a two time recipient of the Playwrights’ Center/Jerome Many Voices Fellowship. As a composer, his music has been heard at Pillsbury House Theatre, Illusion, and as the full score for a runway Show in Hamburg, Germany. As a teaching artist he has worked with North High School to develop a hip-hop adaptation of “Lord of the Flies,” with Penumbra Theatre and St. Paul Academy of Performing Arts to develop original works based off of the styles of August Wilson, as well as teaching various classes with a focus on ensemble created work through theatres such as Children’s Theatre Company, Pangea World Theatre, and The Guthrie Theatre. He is currently working with various Minneapolis Public Schools through Arts for Academic Achievement where he uses his multidisciplinary background to aid teachers and students in integrating arts into their language arts curriculum and learning environments. Anton has been working with Upstream Arts since 2010.
Masanari Kawahara (he/him/his), Teaching Artist | Performer, Butoh Practitioner, Visual Artist
Theo Langason, Teaching Artist | Actor, Director, Musician
Born and raised in Northeast Minneapolis, Theo Langason is a graduate of Rutgers University where he studied Theatre Arts. Since moving back to Minneapolis, Theo has worked with Theatre Pro Rata, The Mysterium, Red Eye Theater, and The Winding Sheet Outfit. Theo is also an ensemble member of Sandbox Theater, where he has appeared in Beatnik Giselle, Suitcase, and This Is A World To Live in as well as directed The Little Pilot and Queens. Theo has been working with Upstream Arts since June 2016.
Abigail Magalee (she/her/hers), Teaching Artist | Choreographer, Dancer
Abby is a Baltimore native who moved to Minneapolis in 2014. She has been dancing for 26 years, and holds a BFA in Dance and a BS in Deaf Studies from Towson University. Upon graduation, she trained extensively with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and Steps on Broadway. Abby is so grateful to have been a part of several productions at The Ordway Theater, including White Christmas, West Side Story, In The Heights, and Mamma Mia! She has also danced as a company member of Deviated Theater, Threads Dance Project, and Shapeshift Theatrical. Abby is a certified yoga teacher, and proud member of Actors Equity.
Tracey Maloney, Teaching Artist | Actor, Voice Over Artist
Tracey Maloney is thrilled to be teaching with Upstream Arts. A Minneapolis-based theater artist, Tracey has acted at many local theaters, including the Guthrie, Ten Thousand Things, the Jungle, Park Square, the Illusion, Torch, Pillsbury Theater, Dark and Stormy, The Playwrights’ Center, Workhaus Theater and more. A proud member of actor’s equity and SAG-AFTRA, Tracey has been involved in many commercials and has been the voice of companies such as Purina, Macy’s, Nexxus, TCF bank, K-mart and others. Her film work includes David Lynch’s The Straight Story and Cedar Rapids. She is the co-founder of Thirst Theater, which pairs great playwrights with equity actors. Tracey has taught for the Guthrie Theater and the MPS school system. She loves her family (including husband and 2 dogs), volunteering, boxing, and reading. Tracey has been working with Upstream Arts since 2015.
Nora Montañez, Teaching Artist Apprentice | Singer, Playwright, Educator, Community Advocate
Nora Montañez is a Peruvian-born artist, singer, educator, playwright and community advocate. Nora was raised in Paterson, NJ and holds a BFA from Florida Atlantic University. In Minneapolis, Nora has worked with The Guthrie Theater, Children’s Theatre Company, The Playwright Center, Theatre Latte Da, Jungle Theater, Theatre Mu, Mixed Blood, and many others. In Chicago, Nora has worked with Congo Square, Chicago Dramatist, Teatro Vista and Court Theatre. Nora is a Breaking Ice Company Member with Pillsbury House Theatre, a part of Penumbra Theatre’s Race Workshop, has taught with Interact, OnStage and the MPS school system including being a 2018 Next Step Grant recipient. Nora is also the Founder of the Alliance of Latinx Minnesota Artists (ALMA), which facilitates alliances among the spectrum of Minnesotan Latinx artists. Nora has been working with Upstream Arts since 2020.
Atim Opoka (she/her/hers), Teaching Artist | Artist, Composer, Actor
Atim is unique, bold and versatile performer who studied Vocal Performance at McNally Smith College of Music. As an actress & improvisor, Atim has worked with metro Theatre companies Smartmouth Comedy Co., Sandbox Theatre, Lyric Arts, Chameleon Theatre Circle. As a Musician, Atim writes and performs original material and regularly performs as a backup vocalist for local bands. Atim Teaches Music, Acting, and Comedy with Children’s Theatre Company, Stages, Lyric Arts, Climb Theatre, and Ashland Productions.
Akiko Ostlund, Teaching Artist | Dancer, Poet, Puppeteer, Performing Artist, Collage Artist, Curator, Activist
Akiko Ostlund is a dancer, poet, puppeteer, performing artist, collage artist, curator, and activist. She began dancing as a tribal fusion belly dancer and cross-studies many dance forms such as salsa, bachata, hula, and tutting. She is also a student of Ragamala school and has trained in the classical Indian dance form of Bharatanatyam since 2014. She often collaborates with puppeteers in various projects includes Barebones Halloween Extravaganza, Mayday Parade, and Puppet Cabaret as well as projects with individual puppeteers. All of her works focus on community and reflect her voice as an immigrant woman of color. She is heavily invested in connecting with poc youth in her community. As a curator she regularly visits local high school showcases to familiarize herself with the new generation, and presents young artists in the shows she curates.
Pedro Pablo (they/them), Teaching Artist | Dancer, Choreographer
Pedro Pablo (they/them) is a Venezuelan-raised, Minneapolis-based queer performance maker. Founder/director of Viva la Pepa (www.vivalapepa.org), a collective of multi-generational queer performers in the Twin Cities. Their works are fueled by the overlapping values of Latinx and Queer cultures: melodrama, passion, decadence, and sensuality. An inaugural Jerome Hill Artist Fellow, Pedro has embarked on collaborations and performances in Puerto Rico and Argentina. They are researching bodies and movements in revolution across the Americas. Pedro co-directs a children and family theater program Drag Story Hour, and entertains the adults at night as their draglesque persona Doña Pepa. Currently a teaching artist with Upstream Arts and with the Pillsbury House Theater.
Gregory Parks (he/him/his), Teaching Artist | Clown, Theater Artist
Gregory Parks is a clown, actor, improviser, social justice multiclass writer, and a Teaching Artist who works with Upstream Arts and the Science Museum of Minnesota’s Science Live. He’s older than he looks and has spent countless hours since childhood practicing being a human cartoon. He is currently coordinating the Twin Cities Clown Cabaret and teaches workshops on physicality and character. He can be seen performing as part of Impossible Salt and performs solo improv titled Where I Am Now. Gregory has worked with Upstream Arts since 2016.
Rachel Robison, Graphic Designer, Administrative Assistant | Visual Artist, Writer
Rachel first joined the Upstream Arts team in January 2018 as a Special Events Intern. but has since grown into the roles of Graphic Designer and Administrative Assistant with the organization. They graduated from St. Olaf College with a degree in English along with concentrations in Art, Media Studies, and Women’s & Gender Studies. They strongly believe in activism through creativity and have also worked with local artist Mark D. Roberts since 2016 doing kirlian photography that explores electricity and plant life through large format photography. They are a maker at heart, whether writing, designing, making gifs, painting, or collaging.
Lindsey Samples (she/her/hers), Principal Teaching Artist | Director, Actor
Lindsey is a director, actor, and educator having worked with many theater companies, schools, and organizations including Pillsbury House Theatre, Children’s Theatre Company, Mixed Blood, Ten Thousand Things, Kansas City Repertory Theatre, 59E59 Off-Broadway, 20% Theatre Company, SteppingStone Theatre, Stages Theatre Company, Global Empowerment Theatre, Unit Collective, Center for Hmong Arts and Talent, Bedlam Theatre, Upright Egg, Savage Umbrella, and Off-Leash Area. Lindsey holds a B.A. in Theater from Loyola University Chicago and an M.Ed. in Youth Development Leadership from the University of Minnesota. She has been working with Upstream Arts since 2010.
Matt Sciple (he/him/his), Teaching Artist | Actor, Director
Since moving to Minneapolis from Louisiana in 1990 with a B.F.A. in Acting from Southern Methodist University, Matt has directed, performed in, or written over 100 plays for theaters across Minnesota, including The Minnesota Opera, Park Square Theater, Gremlin Theater, Macalester College (where he has taught Acting as an adjunct professor,) Hamline University, STAGES Theater (where he has taught Shakespeare, acting and devised theater), and Bald Alice Theatre (which he co-founded). Sciple’s favorite audiences, though, were found in prisons, homeless shelters, and chemical dependency centers, touring with Ten Thousand Things, for whom he directed Waiting for Godot and played 30 roles in 12 plays, including Tateh in Ragtime and Edgar in King Lear. In 2007, Matt was named a City Pages’ Artist of the Year. He has been working with Upstream Arts since its inception in 2006.
Chavonn Williams Shen (she/her, they/them), Teaching Artist Apprentice | Writer
Chavonn Williams Shen was a winner of the Still I Rise grant, a first runner-up for the Los Angeles Review Flash Fiction Contest and a Best of the Net Award finalist. She was also a Pushcart Prize nominee, a winner of the Loft Literary Center’s Mentor Series and a fellow with the Givens Foundation for African American Literature. A Tin House and VONA workshop alum, her poetry and prose have appeared or are forthcoming in: Yemassee, the Los Angeles Review, Cosmonauts Avenue, among others. When she’s not teaching with the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop, she can be found in her office obsessing over her plants.
Ladan Siraji (she/her/hers), Teaching Artist Apprentice | Actor, Writer, Educator
Ladan Siraji is a current college student working on a degree in Child Psychology. Ladan has been an active member of the theatre world both behind the scenes and on the stage since childhood. Her passion in teaching through the arts started in college working with a social justice theatre troupe. She has gotten the opportunity to write stories for the Children’s Theatre focusing on the Somali experience along with opportunities to teach for Children’s Theatre Company and the History Theatre. Ladan’s passions for social justice and theatre are tied to her experiences as a Somali- American and voicing the experiences of her community. She has been working with Upstream Arts since 2020.
Elle Thoni (they/them and she/her), Development and Communications Assistant | Rewilding Playwright, Performance Maker, Public Art Producer
Elle is thrilled to be a part of Upstream Arts as the Development and Communications Assistant. They are a playwright, performance-maker, public artist, producer, and arts organizer of Anglo-Norse Settler descent working in/with the Upper Mississippi watershed on Dakota land. Elle draws on theatre’s mythic roots to tell stories about how our sense of belonging, identity, and loss are changing with our climate. Elle readily collaborates with movement-based performers, musicians, and makers of all sorts under the banner of WILD CONSPIRACY to construct lush, multi-layered performances that audiences want to live in. Their work has been supported by The Jerome Foundation, Minnesota State Arts Board, and the National Endowment for the Arts, among others. You can learn more and say hello at ellethoni.com.
Pramila Vasudevan, Teaching Artist | Choreographer, Performer
Pramila Vasudevan is an experimental artist who creates immersive performance environments using an interdisciplinary voice of dance and electronic media. She is the Artistic Director of Aniccha Arts (2004-present), a company of designers and dance collaborators who construct immersive performance environments that question individual agency inside of the systems we live in (www.aniccha.org). Pramila has a background in classical and contemporary Indian dance (over 30 years), visual media design, and political science, all which are reflected in her interdisciplinary voice as she pursues a socially conscious performance practice. Through years of researching audience methods, how technology supports the integration of artistic disciplines, and in thoughtfully acknowledging the hybridity of knowledge in our bodies as performers, Pramila is committed to the creation of site specific performances. Major influences and teachers include Dr. Bala Nandakumar, Roshan Vajifdar Ghosh, Ranee Ramaswamy, Nirmala Rajasekar, Dr. Ananya Chatterjea, Piotr Szyhalski, Steve Dietz, and Dr. Ali Momeni. Pramila has been working with Upstream Arts since 2014.
Chitra Vairavan (she/her/hers), Teaching Artist Apprentice | Dancer, Choreographer, Performance Artist, Director
Chitra Vairavan (she/her/hers) born in Milwaukee, WI and community-grown as an artist in Minneapolis, MN on occupied Dakota land. Vairavan is a contemporary dancer/choreographer and performance artist of Tamil/South Indian-American descent. She dances to heal and creates dance and performance art to help heal others. Her dance and creative work have been featured throughout the Twin Cities since 2004. Vairavan’s artistic focus is on her BIPOC-centered creative liberation practice, currently in the form of a collective called The Vibrants aka Womxn of Color Reimagining Ecosystems and through workshops. She embarks on her journey with Upstream Arts in 2020. For more please visit: www.chitravairavan.com
Canae Weiss, Teaching Artist | Choreographer, Dancer
As a deaf person, Canae Weiss feels that expressing herself creatively through movement and dance is natural. She explores dance and theatrical physical expressions/gestures as a way to concretely portray the dreams, imagination, and visions at the root of our hearts that connect us as humans across many different cultures, behaviors, perspectives, and diverse experiences. Weiss’ belief is that movement and dramatic expression can be tools for individuals to gain awareness about what is happening in their bodies and minds, and to process events in their lives. Canae has been dancing since she was five years old. She received her dance, choreography, improvisation, and theatre training at Ballet Arts Minnesota in Minneapolis, SUNY Purchase Dance Conservatory, the University of Minnesota, and Cassandra’s School of Oriental Dance. She also studied at summer intensives with the American Ballet Theatre where she was their first deaf dancer, the Washington Ballet, and with Yola Rozynek and Alexandria Wailes at Gallaudet University. Canae performed and toured with Orim Israeli Folk Troupe for several years and locally with the Ethnic Dance Theatre. She has been a featured soloist with Voices of Sepharad and in Leili Prischet’s Hidden Yearnings. She also has been an invited guest artist and dance teacher at Model Secondary School for the Deaf and in Minneapolis Public Schools. Canae has worked as an assistant teacher with Young Dance Company and as a tutor for American Sign Language students at the University of Minnesota. Canae co-founded Creating Language Through the Arts along with two other artists. Under a Minnesota State Arts Board grant, they taught children in St. Paul Public Schools how to express emotions and make cross cultural connections through creative movement, painting, and puppeteering. Canae is thrilled to have been working with Upstream Arts since 2015.
Emily Zimmer (she/her and they/them), Teaching Artist | Theater Artist