Group photo of our masked Staff and Teaching Artists in a dance studio, with online participants projected on the wall behind.

Upstream Arts Leadership Team

Julie Guidry, Executive Director

Julie Guidry

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, Artistic Director

Matt Guidry

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

Bree Sieplinga, Associate Executive 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

white gray haired female with glasses

 Maria Asp

Maria Asp (she/her), Teaching Artist | Actor | Singer | Musician

Maria Asp is an actor, teaching artist and founding member of the Speaking Out Collective. Maria has been co-teaching Critical Literacy, Storytelling and Creative Drama courses at the Graduate level at the University of Minnesota since 2003. She has led trainings and Professional Development for teachers and community members local and nationally. She was with The Children’s Theatre Company’s Neighborhood Bridges program since its beginning and served as the Program Director until June 2020. As an actor she has appeared in twenty-three productions with FRANK THEATRE including The Cradle Will Rock, and The Love song of J. Robert Oppenheimer. She is also a teaching artist with Frank Theatre and On Stage. Maria is a singer and musician and has been a guest musician with Sod House Theater. As a writer/performer she has been part of the Mother Project and the Walker’s Shut Up and Listen. She is a Lead Organizer with the Million Artist Movement. She is also part of the administrative team working and organizing with MNTAC (Minnesota Theater Accountability Coalition).

Christian Bardin headshot

Christian Bardin

Christian Bardin (she/her, they/them), Teaching Artist | 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.

Brian Bose Headshot

Brian Bose

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:

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Sarah Brown

Sarah Brown (she/her/hers), Principal 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.

Headshot of Also Bruno, a Black man with short black hair and goatee, gazing over his rectangle framed spectacles

 Alsa Bruno

Alsa Bruno (he/him/his), Teaching Artist | Actor, Improvisor, Youthworker, Stunna 
Alsa began his life as an artist drawing shy pictures in torn envelopes under the pews at church. He began his comedy career with stand up, spoken word, and workshop facilitation, blending a portrait of his experience with a guided focus toward intercultural dialogue – Alsa really prides himself on using comedy to create space for honesty. An avid comedian with a sensitive outlook, Alsa is a founding member of Blackout Improv, the Creative Counsel, and co-founder of the Black and Funny Improv Festival. He is a behavioral coach with international drama-based consultancy Bi-Jingo, one half of the improv troupe The Unpronounceables as well as the Serendipity Comedy Duo, comedic consultant with Funworks, an enthusiastic member of the Black Improv Alliance, & somebody’s favorite uncle. Alsa loves storytelling and creating programs, so you can often find him at HUGE Improv Theater.

A Black non-binary woman with super curly short hair, and a smirky smile

Alexis Camille

Alexis Camille, (she/they), Teaching Artist | Actor, Improvisor, Comedian, Director, Veteran
 Alexis is an actor, storyteller, and educator living in Minneapolis, MN. They currently work with HUGE Improv Theater, The Theater of Public Policy, and Pillsbury House Theatre. She’s also a cast member of the internationally renowned Blackout Improv, celebrated for their skillful use of comedy that expands capacity for difficult conversations around race, social justice, inequity, and everything in between. Alexis is motivated to create a culture of self-expression, inclusivity, open dialogue, laughter, and healing via the arts.  Photo Credit: Dena Denny

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Sue Carneol

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 headshot

Cristina Castro

Cristina Castro (she/her/hers), Principal Teaching Artist | Playwright, Performer
Cristina Florencia Castro is a playwright/performer who hails from San Antonio, Texas and has been based in Minneapolis since 2007. Her recent short play May Yamoe… was produced as part of Pillsbury House Theater’s She Persists: The Great Divide III. Cristina was a 2017-2018 Nashville Repertory Theatre Ingram New Works Playwright and 2015-2016 Jerome Many Voices Fellow at the Playwrights’ Center. Cristina’s play, How The Colds Were Razed (As Told By Gorilla Girl), was a finalist for the 2018 Latinx Theatre Commons Carnaval, and her play The Very Last Wishes of Grandpa Joe or Mia & Hector Go Sightseeing, is available to audio stream via Season Four of The Parsnip Ship. Cristina has taught playwriting for Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Arts and for the Jungle Theater’s Jungle Writes program. As a performer, she has acted in the Twin Cities with theaters such as Ten Thousand Things (The Winter’s Tale), TransAtlantic Love Affair (The Devout), Penumbra Theatre (For Colored Girls…), Artistry (Wit), the Jungle Theater (Anna in the Tropics), Daleko Arts (The Shape of Things), Market Garden Theater (Three Days of Rain), Mixed Blood (The House of Spirits), Park Square (August: Osage County), and others. Cristina was a 2008 National YoungArts Foundation Silver Award Winner in Playwriting and is a 2011 alumna of the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater B.F.A. Actor Training Program. Cristina is currently in pursuit of her MFA in Creative Writing at Augsburg University.

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Evelyn Digirolamo

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.

Portrait of Dupree Edwards

Dupree Edwards

Dupree Edwards, Teaching Artist, 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 headshot

 Jay Eisenberg

Jay Eisenberg (he/him/his), Teaching Artist | Actor, Director, Facilitator

Jay Owen Eisenberg is a Minneapolis-based actor, educator, director, and facilitator. Jay’s backgrounds in sex education and theatre have supported him in designing dynamic, inclusive curriculum in Health, Wellness, and Consent for young performers in training. He currently teaches with a wide variety of organizations across the arts and education sectors, including Penumbra Theatre’s RACE Workshop and Summer Institute programs, Upstream Arts, the University of Minnesota, and Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists, among others. Here in the Twin Cities, he has performed at regionally and nationally acclaimed theaters including the Guthrie Theater, Penumbra Theatre, Theater Latte Da, Jungle Theater, Pillsbury House + Theatre, Mixed Blood Theater, Open Eye Figure Theater, and Red Eye Theater, and he is a regular collaborator with the Playwrights’ Center. He was the recipient of a 2017 Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative grant. Jay holds a BFA in Acting from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and he is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association.

Jess Finney is seated in a chair, wearing a white and grey striped shirt, and a warm smile

Jessica Finney

Jessica Finney, (she/her/hers) | Teaching Artist | Director, Stage Manager, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist
In her therapy practice, Jess uses creativity and the arts as tools for transformation while working with individuals, couples, and families. Jess was also 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 has directed many workshops at the Playwrights’ Center and greatly enjoys the art of collaboration. 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. As an AEA member, she stage managed for the Jungle, Mixed Blood, Guthrie, and Park Square, among others. She has been working with Upstream Arts since 2010. More:

Aaron Fiskradatz headshot

Aaron Fiskradatz

Aaron Fiskradatz (he/him/his), Program Manager | Theatre Artist and Educator

Aaron is a theatre artist and educator who regularly works with multiple organizations around the Twin Cities metro area. As an artist, he frequently works as a puppeteer, and a director and playwright of theatre for young actors. He has also become a consultant and technician for artists looking to take their work to Zoom and other online platforms. After graduating from the University of Minnesota with a B.A. in Theatre Arts in 2005, Aaron was inspired by his experience growing up with a sister on the autism spectrum, and worked for several years in St. Paul Public Schools as a paraprofessional for students with disabilities. His career has combined education and art for all ever since. He has been working with Upstream Arts since 2015.
Image of Dylan Fresco

Dylan Fresco

Dylan Fresco (he/him/his), Principal 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:

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Tena May Gallivan

Tena May Gallivan (she/her/hers), Principal 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, Program/Administrative Assistant

Chris Garza

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 headshot

Phyllis Genest-Stein

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.

Tessa, a medium height white cis female with long brown wavy hair smiling, wearing a red shirt.

Tessa Flynn Henderson

Tessa Flynn Henderson (she/hers), Teaching Artist | Theatre Artist, Singer
Tessa is an actor, singer, teaching artist, and founding member of the Speaking Out Collective. Since 2005, Tessa has used theatre and storytelling as vehicles for learners (ages pre-K to adult) to practice essential questioning of our world alongside various arts organizations including Frank Theatre, Steppingstone, and Children’s Theatre Company. She has implemented, designed, and facilitated arts learning and critical literacy residencies as well as professional educator trainings both locally and nationally. As a performer, Tessa has spent most of her time on stage with Frank Theatre, including Cabaret, Kafka’s Metamorphosis, Maple & Vine, Threepenny Opera, among others. She received a B.A. in Theatre Arts from Augsburg University, a Master’s in Literacy Education from the University of Minnesota, and is a Develop-approved master trainer.


Ryan Hoag Headshot

Ryan Hoag

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.


picture of Avery Hunter, Tall white transgender male, with short grey hair.

 Avery Hunter

Avery Hunter, Teaching Artist | Visual Artist, Actor
Avery was born and raised in England. At the age of 18, he moved to the United States in 2004 with his parents to begin a new adventure, not knowing what his future would hold. Before leaving England, he earned an equivalent of an Associate degree in Drama, English Literature, and General Studies. He has since pursued painting, drawing and photography as a profession, participating in several Art Fairs and shows within Minnesota and Wisconsin. He received his Associate of Fine Arts from Minneapolis Community and Technical College in 2010, and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Studio Arts from Metropolitan State University in 2021. He is a husband, a dad of two wonderful special needs kiddos and is also on the Autism Spectrum. He was lucky enough to be introduced to Upstream Arts through Metro State and was given the opportunity to join the Teaching Artist team, ultimately being blessed with his dream job.


short, black + darkskin femme w/ short plantium blonde hair

 Ashe Jaafaru

Ashe Jaafaru (ashe/she/her/hers), Administrative Coordinator | Actor/Performer, Writer, Creative Idea-Maker
Ashembaga (Ashe) Jaafaru is an actor/performer, writer, artistic administrator, and creative
idea-maker. She has been involved in theatre, film, and voiceover work in the Twin Cities + beyond since 2009. She creates art for liberation and continues to write + produce imaginative stories. Recent theatre + film credits include: Zuri’s Tree (Ava) a film w/ Adja Gildersleve, Buttafly Precinct (Lady) a Zoom play & Keon (Patience) a film w/ Catalyst Arts, The Convert (Jekesai) w/ Frank Theatre, for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf (Lady in Brown) w/ KC Repetory Theatre & Penumbra Theatre, A Midsummer Summer Night’s Dream (Hermia) w/ Black Ensemble Players, School Girls; or the African Mean Girls Play (Paulina) w/ Jungle Theater.

Abby Magalee Headshot

Abby Magalee

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.

Skailer Huffman

 Skailer Huffman

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.  

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Rachel Jendrzejewski

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:

Masanari Kawahara Headshot

Masanari Kawahara

Masanari Kawahara (he/him/his), Teaching Artist | Performer, Butoh Practitioner, Visual Artist

Masanari Kawahara is a performer, educator, and Butoh practitioner who incorporates puppetry, mask, and movement into his work. His most recent puppetry work, for which he was a co-creator and performer, is The Story of Crow Boy (2016/2017/2018) for In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre (HOBT) where he is a core associate artist. Other notable collaborative works with HOBT include Make Believe Neighborhood (2018), Queen (2016), A Path Home: A story of Thich Nhat Hanh (2009/2010) and Gotama: A Journey to the Buddha (2006). Other recent stage works include Speechless (2017/2018) by The Moving Company as an actor; The Oldest Boy (2016) by Jungle Theater, in which he was a puppeteer as well as the designer and creator of the title character, which was a puppet. He was also the performer, writer, and designer of the solo performance piece Little Boy (2014) which was commissioned and developed by Pangea World Theater’s Alternate Vision series.  Masanari is currently a resident teaching artist at Pillsbury House + Theatre and Teaching Artist for Upstream Arts working with preschoolers to elders. He is a member of the Butoh group Nenkin Butoh Dan, which received a 2015 Sage Award for outstanding dance ensemble for Fu.Ku.Shi.Ma.  Masanari Kawahara is also a Playwrights’ Center McKnight Theater Artist Fellow (2010-2011, and 2018-2019). He has been teaching with UA since September 2012. More at:

Morgan LeClaire

Morgan LeClaire (she/her/hers), Teaching Artist | Actor, Play Aficionado, Mental Health Advocate

Morgan grew up in the northern woods of Minnesota, using her imagination and access to nature to fuel her love of play. She has been trained as an actor and drama therapist and currently uses her skills to facilitate the processing of traumatic moments, develop intimacy, and transform relationships through play. Morgan particularly enjoys finding moments of playfulness with strangers or almost strangers. She is a founding member of the Creative Council with her husband, Alsa, and lives together with him and their two really great cats.
Tracey Maloney headshot

Tracey Maloney

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.

Asian American male with black hair

 Clay Man Soo

Clay Man Soo (he/him), Teaching Artist | Actor
Clay Man Soo is an Asian-American actor and teaching artist in Minneapolis, MN. He has acted or taught at The Guthrie Theater, Theater Mu, Great River Shakespeare Festival, Park Square Theatre, Jungle Theater, The Children’s Theatre Company, Pangea World Theater, The Lab Theater, Penumbra Theatre, Playwright’s Center, Artistry, New Arab-American Theater, Full Circle Theater Company, Theatre Coup D’Etat, Lyric Arts, BARd Shakespeare Company, and South Dakota Shakespeare Festival.

Headshot of Nora Montañez-Patterson

Nora Montañez-Patterson

Nora Montañez, Teaching Artist | 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

Atim Opoka

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

Akiko Ostlund

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

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 (, 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 headshot

Gregory Parks

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.

picture of Kimberly Richardson, a white ciswoman with long reddish-brown hair

 Kimberly Richardson

Kimberly Richardson, Teaching Artist | Actor/ Dancer/ Choreographer/ Theatre-Maker
Kimberly is a physical theatre artist with 21 years on the Twin Cities performance scene.  A member of Ten Thousand Things Artist Core, Kimberly has appeared frequently with the company since 2008 in productions including OthelloMusic Man, As You Like ItDirt Sticks and Scapin.   Also a regular at Open Eye Figure Theatre, Kimberly performed/ co-created My Life as a Fairytale and The Clumsy Man with Michael Sommers and played Ed Norton in Sommers’  To the Moon, and co-created and performed Joel Sass’s The Red Shoes.   Other credits include: CTC, Jungle Theater, TigerLion Arts, Interact Center and actor-driven collaborations with Sodhouse Theater, Live Action Set, Jon Ferguson and Sara Richardson. Kimberly was awarded a 2006 Sage Award for dance performance and a 2016-2017 McKnight Theatre Artist Fellowship.

Lindsey Samples, Teaching Artist

Lindsey Samples

Lindsey Samples (she/her/hers), Program Manager and 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 Headshot

Matt Sciple

Matt Sciple (he/him/his), Principal 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 headshot

Chavonn Williams Shen

Chavonn Williams Shen (she/her, they/them), Teaching Artist | 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.

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 Ladan Siraji

Ladan Siraji (she/her/hers), Teaching Artist | 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.


brown skinned femme, long black hair with hoop earrings and a blue bandana around her neck, leaning against a tree

 Chitra Vairavan

Chitra Vairavan (she/her/hers), Teaching Artist| Dancer, Choreographer, Performance Artist, Director
Chitra Vairavan (she/her/hers) born in Milwaukee, WI (occupied Potawatomi, Ho-Chunk and Menominee land) and community-grown as an artist in the Twin Cities, 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, yoga/movement classes, and workshops. She embarks on her journey with Upstream Arts in 2020. For more please visit: 

Emily Zimmer

Emily Zimmer

Emily Zimmer (she/her and they/them), Teaching Artist | Theater Artist

Emily is an actor, puppeteer, drag artist and storyteller. She has been a Teaching Artist since 2003. She brought critical literacy into elementary school classrooms with the Neighborhood Bridges Program and adapted curriculum to meet the needs of early learners with the Early Bridges Program. Additionally, she has taught with the Guthrie Theatre, History Theatre, InterAct, SteppingStone, Heart of the Beast and Speaking Out. Emily facilitated mentorships and classes for young playwrights and actors as the Artistic Director of the Chicago Avenue Project for five years. She currently co-creates Drag Story Hour with Doña Pepa, Old Man Zimmer and Sid Sity. She has been seen on stage with Open Eye Figure Theatre, Intermedia Arts, La Jolla Playhouse, Exposed Brick Theatre and many others. Emily holds a BA in Dramatic Arts from Macalester College and studied clowning with Pierre Byland in Locarno Switzerland. She is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Speech Language Pathology from the University of Minnesota. She has proudly worked with Upstream arts since 2019