TODD ESPELAND is the Executive/Artistic Director of the Fort Wayne Youtheatre. He is the former Artistic Director of Commedia Zuppa Mask Company, The Kalamazoo Civic Theatre and a graduate of the world renowned Dell' Arte International. While at Dell' Arte, Todd did extensive post-graduate work in Mask, Clown, Circus Techniques, Commedia Dell' Arte and Physical Theatre. He holds MFA in Directing from the University of Nevada Las Vegas.
With Commedia Zuppa Todd served as a mask and movement specialist and artist in residence Off-Broadway for the Rosebud Theatre Company, and at many regional theatres, colleges, universities and toured original works of theatre nationally and internationally including his award winning Theatre for Young Audiences mask show BOXHEAD. During this time he was also a lead coach and director with Starfish Circus, a nonprofit that focuses on helping kids develop skills for healthy, active and enthusiastic lives through circus & performing arts.
In Kalamazoo Michigan, as well as being the Artistic Director of the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre, Todd served as a Guest Artist/visiting Assistant Professor at Kalamazoo College where he taught classes in acting, mask performance and directed productions of Endgame, Servant to Two Masters, Peer Gynt and Romeo and Juliet. At the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre each year he oversaw the artistic vision and administrative realization of a 16 show season as well as directing productions of Seussical Jr., Richard III, Of Mice and Men, Mary Poppins, A Christmas Story the Musical, To Kill a Mockingbird and Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery.
Christopher J. Murphy
Assistant Director/Director of Outreach
CHRISTOPHER J. MURPHY is proud to share Youtheatre’s mission with the young artists of our community. Murphy began his long association with Youtheatre as an actor, then as a teacher and guest director before joining the organization full-time in 2016. As the Assistant Director and Director of Outreach, he directs, teaches and oversees Youtheatre’s diverse community outreach programs such as the Storybook Theatre Troupe.
Before coming to Youtheatre, Murphy spent twenty-two years as the Theatre Director at his alma mater, Blackhawk Middle School, from 1993- 2015. In addition to producing two
plays/musicals per academic year, he organized a highly successful summer theatre program for students grades 6- 12 throughout northeast Indiana. In addition, Murphy has been a Master Teacher with F.A.M.E. (Foundation for Art and Music in Education) for fifteen years, taught FWCS adult acting classes and regularly teaches acting and musical theatre at author/PBS host Mark Kistler’s fine arts camps throughout the United States.
As an award-winning actor and director, Murphy’s work is regularly seen on stages throughout northeast Indiana, including the Fort Wayne Civic Theatre, First Presbyterian Theatre and Arena Dinner Theatre. In addition, he has worked extensively in the orchestral world, producing, writing, directing and often hosting shows for the Fort Wayne Philharmonic’s Masterworks, Family and Pops series. In 2015, he collaborated with composer Adrian Mann on “The Journey of Johnny Tincap,” a symphonic telling of the story of Johnny (Appleseed) Chapman, for which he wrote the narration. His adaptations and original narrative scripts for classic orchestral works have been produced from Norfolk, Virginia to San Diego, California.
Murphy is a proud resident of Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he lives with the finest terrier knownto man, Herbie.
MEGAN EBBESKOTTE is Fort Wayne Youtheatre’s Marketing Director and Administrator. She recently graduated from West Virginia University with a B.S. in Strategic Communications and two minors in Theatre and Music Performance graduating Summa Cum Laude. While studying at West Virginia University Megan also had the opportunity to participate in the Disney College Program in Orlando, FL.
Megan has been involved in the performing arts since she was a little girl. She's participated in numerous community organizations throughout the country and has studied Voice Performance for numerous years. She was Assistant Director at the Appalachian Children's Choir while in High School and spent her youth living in the theatre. Her favorite show she's ever been cast in is in fact her all time favorite story, E.B. White's Charlotte's Web, where she had the honor of portraying Charlotte herself. Megan credits everything she has done in the arts to her theatre & music teachers and wouldn't be where she is today without them.
You can find Megan in the Youtheatre Office where she works on all things Marketing, Graphic Design, Website Maintenance, Student Enrollments and many other office management tasks. She firmly believes the arts are a crucial part of this community and loves to see such talented youth thrive in a fun and creative environment.
Artist in Residence
HARVEY COCKS may not literally have been, as the old theatre adage goes, “born in a trunk”…but close. Born in Glen Cove, Long Island, Harvey’s father was a vaudeville theatre manager who took his son to rehearsals and shows at the various theatres he managed throughout the country. Known as “the Boy on the Box” because “They put a box in the wings for me and I would sit and watch all the performers.” With such an upbringing, a life in the theatre seemed predestined.
Harvey first moved to Fort Wayne when his father became the first manager of the Emboyd Theatre (now known as the Embassy). He left when, at the age of 18, he booked a Broadway role on his first audition and was off to appear in the long-running comedy Life with Father. Harvey continued to work extensively in New York and regional theatre, appearing in such standards as Finian’s Rainbow and Pal Joey. His first directorial gig was attended by theatre legends Helen Hayes, Katherine Cornell and the Lunts. Harvey also spent 2 ½ years serving with the U.S. Army in Europe.
In 1971, he and his wife Jean returned to Fort Wayne to help his father run Quimby Village. In 1978, he became Executive/Artistic Director of the Fort Wayne Youtheatre and the rest is history. Now Youtheatre’s distinguished and beloved Artist-in-Residence, Harvey has directed over 110 Youtheatre productions, taught over 640 Saturdays of classes and inspired tens of thousands of young artists. His credits and awards are too numerous to list. In 2019, Harvey was awarded Youtheatre’s first ever “Lifetime Achievement Award” and the organizations volunteer awards were named the “Harvey Cocks Volunteer of the Year Award” in his honor.
REUBEN ALBAUGH has taught Beginning Drama and Junior Drama since 2004. Reuben has his bachelor’s degree in Theatre from IPFW. Reuben has acted, directed, and designed at the Civic Theatre, IPFW Dept. of Theatre, First Presbyterian Theatre, Arena Dinner Theatre, and Youtheatre. Some of his favorite roles include Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast, The Stepmother in Cinderella, Boris Kolenkhov in You Can’t Take it With You, and Andre in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. When not busy onstage he is the Box Office Supervisor and Volunteer Coordinator at IPFW.
SLOAN AMBURGEY-THOMAS is a product of the Fort Wayne Youtheatre, having started as a student and performer before graduating to intern, classroom assistant, stage-manager, assistant director and instructor. Sloan is extremely active in the Fort Wayne theatre community, both behind the scenes and on-stage, with credits at Youtheatre, Fort Wayne Civic Theatre, First Presbyterian Theatre, Arena Dinner Theatre, ShakespeareMachine and more. This flurry of activity earned her a "Volunteer-of-the-Year" nomination at the 2020 Arts United Awards. She is also an inaugural recipient of Youtheatre's "Harvey Cocks Volunteer-of-the-Year Award".
HEATHER CLOSSON has been a part of the Fort Wayne Youtheatre since her captivating performance as “Baby Angel #4” in the 1999 production of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever!” Now, she loves to share her knowledge and experience with the next generation of theater enthusiasts. She holds a B.S. in Dance Performance, a Master's in Organizational Leadership, and years of professional experience in technical theater. Active in the community, Heather is proud to have performed, worked, or volunteered with several Fort Wayne nonprofit organizations centered around the arts and youth education, including: Arts United, Fort Wayne Civic Theatre, Philharmonic, Dance Collective, Project READS, dAnce.Kontemporary, FAME, Middle Waves, and Science Central.
AUDREY KINDY became a member of the Fort Wayne Youtheatre family at just 12 years old joining the wonderful cast of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. She participated with Youtheatre all the way through her sophomore year of high school. Once Audrey graduated high school, she began her scholastic journey at Purdue University Fort Wayne, where she is currently pursuing a Bachelors Degree in Theatre with an emphasis in acting and directing. She has now happily returned to the Youtheatre family as an intern. You can find Audrey helping with classes and camps and many of our outreach initiatives including our traveling Storybook Theatre Troupe.
SFP Advisor/Teaching Artist
SHELBY LEWIS utilizes her background in disability inclusion and accessibility to help create sensory friendly performances as well as further opportunities for individuals of all abilities at Youtheatre. She holds a B.F.A. in Acting from Carnegie Mellon School of Drama and a M.A. in Theatre Education from the University of Northern Colorado. Among her directing credits are A Midsummer Night’s Dream—which gave rise to the first sensory friendly performance in northern Michigan—and a deaf-friendly production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, complete with sign language interpreters performing right alongside the actors onstage. Shelby served as a Guest Teacher at Interlochen Arts Academy and Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, trained in Los Angeles, New York, and Paris in various forms of choreographic theatre and voice work, and is a resident member of two professional theatre companies as well as a union member of SAG-AFTRA. Shelby serves as a Registered Behavior Technician at an ABA clinic for children with Autism and also coaches private acting lessons in her home studio. www.shelbylewisofficial.com
JADE LIGHT is currently working on her Bachelors Degree in Communications at the University of Saint Francis. She has been working with Youtheatre for 4 years where her success as an intern lead to her current position as a Teacher. Jade also has a passion for the stage. She loved being part of a few Saint Francis productions, especially helping the children out in the Wizard of Oz and her role as Lee from Marvin’s Room. Through Youtheatre, Jade found her passion for helping Children find their inner confidence and voice on stage.
ALYSSA PLISCO is excited to join the teaching staff of Fort Wayne Youtheatre. Alyssa earned a Bachelors of Music in Vocal Performance with a Theater Arts minor from Huntington University. During her college years, she performed principal operatic roles in Hansel and Gretel (Hansel) and the Marriage of Figaro (Cherubino). Her favorite college musical theater roles included Martha in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and Cinderella in Into the Woods. Alyssa is a vocal artist with Heartland Sings and has taught theater and dance at the Creative Arts Council of Wells County and F.A.M.E. She also teaches private voice and piano lessons through Plisco Music Studio. She is very pleased to be teaching Voice for the Stage for Youtheatre!
GREGORY STIEBER has been with Youtheatre for more than 25 years as an actor, teacher, playwright and director. He is the creator of our Young Heroes of Conscience Series, writing & directing Mary’s Story, The Kid from Kokomo: The Ryan White Story, Ruby Bridges, and Remembering Anne. He has directed for Civic, Arena & FW Ballet. His other creations include Star Crossed for the Fort Wayne Dance Collective, An Evening Hamlet for the Fort Wayne Philharmonic and I Will Wait: The Veterans Spouse Project with George John Productions. He was named Artist of the Year by Arts United in 2011 and 2015. He was recently awarded “One of the Righteous” from the Jewish Federation.
LESLIE HORMANN (emeritus) served Youtheatre for 8 years as the Executive & Artistic Director. She created our StoryBook Theatre, Backstage Insight, Preschool programming, and is the co-creator of our Young Heroes of Conscience Series. A graduate of IU-Bloomington, Leslie has more than 34 years of teaching under her belt with experience at FWCS, SWAC, EACS, and Abacus Learning Center. Leslie grew up in Youtheatre stage and has acted on the Civic, First Presbyterian and Arena stages. Leslie currently assists with our fundraising and leads Arts In Education workshops.
Youtheatre Guest Artists & Teachers
Albert Crowder Jr.
Youtheatre Board of Directors
Susana Woth - President
Kathleen Anderson - Vice President
Chris Mallers - Secretary
Connie Heflin - Treasurer