Education & Community Engagement Department

Sandy Davisson

Sandy Davisson

Director of Education & Community Engagement

Sandy received an M.A. in Theatre History and Criticism from State University of New York and an MFA in Directing at FAU. She finds great joy in watching the students – both children and adults – grow in confidence and communication as they move through the classes at VT.

Kelly Duyn

Kelly Duyn

Asst. Director of Education & Community Engagement

Kelly is proud to be a product of the Education & Community Engagement program she now assists in directing. Her teaching career started right here at Venice Theatre back in 2001 as an intern for the summer programs. From there she went on to take on a teaching role at the theatre prior to leaving for college to pursue a degree in the theatre arts. She holds a BA in Theatre from the University of Central Florida, teaching certifications in multiple disciplines and a 20-year teaching resume that encompasses working with students in exceptional education, coaching a nationally ranked speech and debate team, and developing as well as running theatre programs for elementary through high school in both in the US and in China.

She is responsible for the Troupe in A Trunk Community Engagement Program, the summer student programs and Venice Theatre’s Youth Production Company as well as various other departmental responsibilities. In addition to directing shows throughout the year (her most recent being the Generations show She Kills Monsters: Young Adventurers Edition) and being onstage herself (recent shows include Disenchanted and Blood Brothers), she enjoys giving back to her community by facilitating theatre workshops with local schools/clubs/organizations and by reading to classrooms (sometimes via zoom) through Embracing Our Differences or collaborating with other arts education programmers in our area to bring new arts education opportunities to the community whenever possible.

Additionally she enjoys working with the local Chamber of Commerce, where she was the 2019-2020 chair of the Venice Area Young Professionals. Her professional memberships include Leadership Sarasota (Class of 2018-2019), The Educational Theatre Association and AACT.

Brad Wages

Brad Wages

Lead Instructor

An award-winning actor, director and choreographer, Brad’s work has been seen across the United States and Canada. He holds a B.F.A. from the University of Oklahoma and served as assistant director to Broadway directors Fran Soeder and Joe Layton. He has been seen in a number of national theatre tours and national commercials. He is thrilled to call Venice Theatre “home” and to have the privilege of guiding the next generation of young actors to the stage.

Tarah Hart

Tarah Hart

Arts Integration Specialist

Tarah first stepped onto the VT stage at 8 years old and has been involved in many productions over the years. After receiving a degree in Elementary Education, Tarah returned to the Sarasota area and has spent the last 12 years in the classroom teaching students from Kindergarten through 8th grade. She is very excited to bring her love for the arts and education together!

Benny Sato Ambush

Benny Sato Ambush

Artistic Director

Benny Sato Ambush is a veteran professional director, institutional theatre leader, educator, published commentator, and consultant. He has been Artistic Director of TheatreVirginia (Richmond, VA), Oakland Ensemble Theatre (Oakland, CA), and Rites and Reason Theatre Company (Providence, RI). Previously, he was Associate Artistic Director of San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater; Co-Artistic Director of San Francisco Bay Area Playwrights Festival; PEW Charitable Trust/TCG Director-In-Residence for Manalapan, Florida’s Florida Stage; and Associate Artistic Director of Anna Deavere Smith’s Institute on the Arts & Civic Dialogue at Harvard University.

He has directed at numerous professional regional theatres and has taught and directed at many university training programs (partial list): Old Globe Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival-Portland, South Coast Rep, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, American Conservatory Theater, Merrimack Repertory Theatre, Arizona Theatre Company, Magic Theatre, Geva Theatre, Playwrights Horizon, Ford’s Theatre, Triad Stage, American Repertory Theater Institute, Philadelphia Festival Theatre for New Plays, Lincoln Center Theater Institute, Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, Actors Guild of Lexington, KY, Alaska Theatre of Youth, International Theatre Festival of Chicago, Sacramento Theatre Company, National Black Theatre Festival, Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theatre, Lyric Stage Company of Boston, Gloucester Stage Company, New Repertory Theatre, TheatreSquared, The Lost Colony, Underground Railway Theater, Tennessee Williams Theatre Festival, Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training, Circle in the Square Theatre School, University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Brooklyn College.

Ambush has a BA in Theatre Arts and Dramatic Literature from Brown University and an MFA in Directing from the University of California, San Diego. In 2020, he was inducted into the College of Fellows of the American Theatre.

VT Staff Instructors

Kristofer Geddie

Kristofer Geddie

Executive Director

Geddie holds a BFA in Musical Theatre, an MA in Arts Administration, and has performed on stages around the world. He has directed productions such as Once On This Island, Lady Day At Emerson’s Bar and Grill, Fences, Ain’t Misbehavin’, and Dreamgirls. Prior to his arrival in Venice, FL, he cruised the world as a Company Manager and Principal Singer for Jean Ann Ryan Productions on Norwegian Cruise Line. His theatre performance credits include Ragtime, Twelfth Night, Race, Intimate Apparel, Falsettos, the premiere of the one-man show Bert Williams, Broadway Star; Angels in America, Dreamgirls and the role of “Judas” in Jesus Christ Superstar.

In addition to Geddie’s duties at Venice Theatre, he serves on the Ambassador Circle for Embracing our Differences; the Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, Access+ committee for Southeastern Theatre Conference, is the treasurer of the Florida Theatre Conference, the Florida State community theatre representative, and is a Board Member of the Friends of the Venice Public Library, Suncoast Black Arts Collaborative, Squeaky Wheel Theatre Group, and Vice President of the American Association of Community Theatre.

Murray Chase

Murray Chase

Restoration Supervisor

Murray Chase served as Venice Theatre’s Executive Director since 1995. As of June 2023, he is now focused on overseeing the restoration of the theatre after it sustained severe damage from Hurricane Ian.

He has been an active participant — and former board member — of Florida Theatre Conference and Southeastern Theatre Conference. He has served as President of the American Association of Community Theatre, and currently works with the organization as a member of the national Festival Commission. He has been a frequent grant review panelist for both the Florida Arts Council and the Mississippi Arts Commission. Recently he represented the United States as a delegation member to the World Congress of the International Amateur Theatre Association. Under his leadership, Venice Theatre has hosted the international theatre festival, actWORLDFEST, four consecutive times. Chase is also a former chair of the CEC for Sarasota County Arts Council and a former president of Venice MainStreet.

Actor/Director Credits: Besides the daily aspects of his job here, directing credits include A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I Never Saw Another Butterfly, Mary Poppins, Our Town and the award-winning productions of The Pillowman, The School For Wives, The Good Woman of Setzuan, Tartuffe and Fool For Love. He has also played a few roles on the VT stage, including Johnny in Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, Stuart in the Award-winning Boom Town, and George in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? all with wife Lori

Michelle Kasanofsky

Michelle Kasanofsky

Resident Music Director

Michelle Kasanofsky has been playing piano for almost 56 years and is a professional musician as well as a music educator. Michelle received a scholarship to Berklee College of Music in Boston and studied jazz piano there as well as classical at Boston University. She has a B.A. cum laude from Dowling College, a Master of Science in Music Education from C. W. Post Long Island University and an Education Leadership Specialist degree from Nova Southeastern University.

Michelle is originally from New York and spent most of her life on Long Island. While in New York she music directed many off-Broadway productions which included Always, Patsy Cline and has performed all over the world in Europe, Japan and Korea. Since moving down to Florida in 1998, Michelle has taught chorus, drama and dual enrollment music classes. In 2014, she was selected as Charlotte County’s Teacher of the Year. Since 2000 Michelle has performed and music directed at Venice Theatre. Her productions have included Hair, Mamma Mia, Cabaret, Toxic Avenger and Dreamgirls to name a few. She has also Music Directed at Sarasota Players, Manatee Players, Charlotte Players and the Dingbat Theatre Project.

Michelle has played for national touring companies at venues such as Barbara B Mann and Ruth Eckerd Hall for shows including A Chorus Line, Legally Blonde and West Side Story as well as accompanying artists such as Bernadette Peters and The Irish Tenors. In 2021 Michelle became the resident music director at Venice Theatre.

Nate Blaweiss

Nate Blaweiss

Resident Sound Designer

Nate is the Resident Sound Designer at Venice Theatre, designing, mixing, and composing for our shows since 2019. Some of Nate’s favorites include: To Kill a Mockingbird; Almost, Maine; Young Frankenstein; Ain’t Misbehavin’; and God’s Country. Nate also runs sound for some of our Concert Series, favorites include: Norm Lewis, The Rocket Man Show, and Back Home Again. See and hear Nate’s work at nateblaweiss.com.

Brian Freeman

Brian Freeman

Assistant Technical Director

Brian is Venice Theatre’s Assistant Technical Director. He has designed many sets over the years, including last season’s Willy Wonka Jr., The Bikinis, and Gulf View Drive. He has been interested in building ever since he picked up his first Lego block and has a degree from Savannah College of Art and Design.

Instructors

Becky Holahan

Becky Holahan

Instructor. Director. Choreographer.

Becky was the director of Venice Theatre’s annual Loveland show, and is an actor and choreographer. She has taught Creative Dramatics for many years at VT and has been teaching dance for decades. She is also a NIA fitness instructor.

Peter Madpak

Peter Madpak

Music Director

A New Jersey native, Peter has been a Music Director and Vocal Coach since 1991. He is the Organist/Choirmaster at St. Marks Episcopal Church in Venice, and created the St. John’s UMC Community Playhouse , Hazlet, NJ in 2005. He has served on the faculty of the Count Basie theatre, Redbank, NJ. He recently he became the Artistic Director for The Venice Chorale in Venice.

Preston Boyd

Preston Boyd *

Instructor

Preston is a professional actor, director, musician and teacher. He has performed on stage in Washington State, Minnesota, Baltimore, Los Angeles, New York, and most of the theatres in the Sarasota/Manatee County region. He has over 30 years of experience teaching all aspects of theatre arts to students ranging from elementary school to senior citizens. Since his retirement as a music and drama teacher, he has directed plays
for Venice Theatre, Manatee Players, Players of Sarasota, Anna Maria Island Players, and Theatre Odyssey (where he also serves as Director Emeritus.)

Preston received his B.A. degree from Western Washington University and his M.Ed. from the University of South Florida. He is a member of Actors’ Equity Association and is an inactive member of SAG/AFTRA.

Liz Pascoe-Broome

Liz Pascoe-Broome

Instructor

Liz, a Salt Lake City native, has been teaching performing arts for the last ten years across the country. She toured with Missoula Children’s Theatre, then landed locally where she teaches theatre and a variety of other subjects at The Mangrove School and Saltmeadow School. She also teaches a variety of acting classes at Florida Studio Theatre, Venice Theatre and holds a certificate in Expressive Arts. Liz most enjoys facilitating other’s creative discoveries and explorations.

Spencer Cross

Spencer Cross

Teen Improv Troupe Director

Spencer grew up in the Tampa Bay Area, and first got his start in Improv his freshman year of high school. Since then he has performed in well over a hundred shows in the Tampa Bay area, and had the opportunity to teach hundreds of students. He currently owns his own Improv business, Spencer Cross Improv, where he teaches both Drop-In classes and various leveled courses out of St. Petersburg. Improv is his passion, and he strongly advocates not just how it translates on stage, but also for how it improves every other aspect of life!

Scott Keys

Scott Keys

Instructor/Guest Director

Scott Keys is a professional actor, director, choreographer and a published playwright and lyricist. He spent the last 21 years as head of the renowned Booker High School Visual and Performing Arts Theatre program, directing over 50 plays, musicals and original works.

Scott has a BFA in Musical Theatre performance from Syracuse University, an MFA from NYU, a teaching degree from Eckerd College and is
certified in Meisner Acting Technique. Keys has current and graduated students from some of the top theatre programs in the country including FSU, UF, Carnegie Mellon Univ., Montclair Univ., Pace University, Manhattan School of Music and many others. He is on the board of the Florida Theatre Conference and has over 150 productions to his credit, including Venice Theatre, FST, Manatee Players and Sarasota Players, as well as Weathervane Playhouse where he served as Artistic Director for seven years.

Vanessa Russo

Vanessa Russo *

Instructor/Choreographer

VANESSA RUSSO has been having an exciting professional Musical Theatre career as a Choreographer, Dancer and Performer. Born and raised in Sarasota, FL, some professional credits include: BILLY ELLIOT (First National Tour), BILLY ELLIOT (Amsterdam), WEST SIDE STORY (Asian/European Tour), OKLAHOMA! (First National Tour), Radio City Christmas Spectacular and Feature Film: (Across The Universe), among others. She has choreographed for the following: St. Pete Opera, MPAC, Sarasota Players, CANDance, and Sarasota Academy of the Arts.

Emily Uritz

Emily Uritz

Instructor

Emily Uritz is an alumni of Penn State. Having earned her BFA in Acting she traveled 20+ hours  south to settle in Venice, FL where she currently resides. During high school Emily served on the  Pennsylvania State Thespian Board where her passion for educational theatre was ignited.  Throughout college she ran a theatre company, developed a student-run play festival, and was an  active member of the School of Theatre’s Diversity Committee. Following her graduation she  had an eye opening experience as an artistic intern at People’s Light Theatre where she  understudied their children’s theatre and helped run summer camp. Her time at People’s Light  illuminated a path of teaching artistry that she so gratefully has been able to pursue here at Venice Theatre.

William Coleman

William Coleman

Music Director

William is an award-winning Music Director who  has provided local music direction for Little Shop of Horrors, Mame, Jekyll and Hyde, Assassins, Nine, Baby, Annie Jr., Seussical Jr., My Way, The Andrews Brothers, and the World Premiere productions of Boynton Beach Club and Practically Perfect.

He earned a BS in Environmental Sciences from Purdue University, and did undergraduate work in piano performance from the University of Tennessee. He also holds a Master of Arts degree in piano performance from Middle Tennessee State University and did post graduate study in Pedagogy and Performance at the University of Oklahoma.

Ric Goodwin

Ric Goodwin

Instructor/Guest Director

Ric Goodwin lists over 150 acting/directing credits throughout the U.S. He graduated from Ashland University with a BS in Education, an MA in Theatre from Akron University, and holds an MFA in Acting from Wayne State University where he was a member of the prestigious Hilberry Repertory Company in Detroit Michigan. Early in his career Ric was a stunt man in L.A. He is Professor of Theatre Emeritus from Ashland University following a 30-year teaching career. Since retiring to Florida, Ric has directed numerous productions for Lemon Bay Playhouse and Charlotte Players and also directed 27 Wagons Full Of Cotton for Venice Theatre at the Florida Community Theatre Conference five years ago which won “Best of Festival.” In addition to his freelance acting and directing, Ric also teaches theatre workshops and classes for Venice Theatre. Acting credits at VT include Al in The Sunshine Boys and Grandpa in You Can’t Take It With You. Most recently Ric was seen as Ray in Blackbird and directed last season’s Stage 2 Drama, God’s Country. 

Pamela Henley

Pamela Henley

Instructor

Pamela’s career has been diverse, beginning with receiving a Bachelor of Arts from Hendrix College followed by achieving a Master of Music degree at the College -Conservatory of Music /University of Cincinnati. Her roles as a musician include piano teacher, organist, accompanist and vocal/general music teacher in public and private schools in Ohio and Florida. She served on the state board of the Ohio Music Education Association and the Ohio Arts Education Advisory Committee.

Natalia Mock

Natalia Mock

Instructor

Natalia Mock is thrilled to be back at Venice Theatre for this season as Choreographer for A Christmas Carol and Director for Calendar Girls. She is an honored recipient of the STRAZ Broadway Stars of the future “Best Director Of A Musical” Award as well as a local theatrical teaching artist and choreographer. Past Venice Theatre credits include The Revolutionists, The Vagina Monologues, The Rocky Horror Show, Urinetown, Don’t Dress for Dinner, and more.

* indicates member of Actors’ Equity Association (AEA)
‡ indicates member of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC)