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OUR STAFF

Melissa Denton

Executive Director

MELISSA DENTON
| Executive Director

Melissa has dedicated the past 11 years to The Unusual Suspects Theatre Company, creating pathways for social and emotional development through theater arts, to LA’s hardest-to-reach youth and families.  As Executive Director, Melissa leads her team to ensure organizational excellence, program growth and expansion, and increased visibility. She has represented US as a thought leader in various capacities, including the First International Teaching Artist Conference in Oslo, Norway, and has designed and facilitated performance based training workshops for corporate and nonprofit clients, such as the Dramatist Guild of America, Shepard Symposium on Social Justice, and the Satyagraha Institute’s Nonviolent Training Program.  Prior to her role at US, Melissa served as Project Coordinator with New York City’s Roundabout Theatre Company, managing 25 teaching artists at Bronx Theatre High School.  She has worked as a teaching artist for various arts organizations in NYC, including the Guggenheim Museum.

Melissa holds a Master of Arts in Nonprofit Management from Antioch University, Los Angeles and a Bachelor’s in Theatre-Mass Communications from South Dakota State University. She also is a Certified Nonprofit Professional from the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance.

Melissa directs and performs for stage in Los Angeles.  Some of her TV acting credits include, Two and a Half Men, The Middle, Anger Management, and Seinfeld.

Yolanda Androzzo

Program Director

YOLANDA ANDROZZO
| Program Director

Yolanda Androzzo is a professional actress, playwright, poet, and arts educator. She has 18 years experience working with children and adults of diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, including immigrant and migrant working families.  In addition to her current position as Program Director with The Unusual Suspects Theatre Company, she has taught and supervised programs for YUSA, YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles, Urban Gateways Center for Arts Education and Old Town School of Folk. Moving between Chicago and Los Angeles, her work as an arts educator and playwright is rooted in civic engagement, social justice, and community empowerment. Yolanda has performed as an actress in film, television and on stage for companies such as The Goodman Theatre, the Shakespeare Theatre Company of DC, and the McCarter Theatre Center.  Yolanda is also the playwright of the The MLK Project: The Fight For Civil Rights, a touring hip-hop-theatre and social justice production which has reached over 70,000 young people across Chicagoland.

Adrienne Shelnutt

Program Manager

ADRIENNE SHELNUTT
| Program Manager

Adrienne brings many years of experience to The Unusual Suspects as both a designer and facilitator of multi-lingual arts education and community-building programs, in addition to working with nonprofit theatre and community based organizations in multiple countries. She believes that art is essential to humanity and has experienced first-hand its ability to be a powerful force in social justice movements. As an actor, theatre teaching artist, curriculum writer, stage manager, director and program manager Adrienne is dedicated to using creativity to build an inclusive, dynamic society.

Adrienne received a B.A. in Theatre Arts, Political Science, and Social Justice from the University of Portland and a M.A. in Theatre and Global Development from the University of Leeds. Having volunteered with The Unusual Suspects as a S.T.A.R Mentor, Adrienne is thrilled to join the staff as Program Manager and bring her experience and enthusiasm to all of our students.

Nick Williams

Grants Manager

NICK WILLIAMS
| Grants Manager

Nick Williams is an actor, producer, husband, and proud father. He was store director at Hollywood Video’s flagship store in Los Angeles and is the former art board President at Theatre of NOTE in Hollywood, where he still acts on a regular basis. Some of his recent performances at NOTE include Rio Hondo, Entropy (Scenie Award), I Wanna Hold Your Hand (two Scenies Awards), What May Fall (Broadway World Awards nomination), The Pity of Things (two Broadway World Awards nominations), Skeleton Stories, Nibbler and Kill Me, Deadly (Ticket Holder Awards’ Best Supporting Actor nomination). Among several non-NOTE performances in Los Angeles, his portrayal of Chris Keller in All My Sons at the Raven Playhouse was recognized for “Best Performance by a Lead Actor / Drama” (Stage Scene LA). He holds a BA in Acting from Willamette University. Nick has worked in Development for The Unusual Suspects since 2012 and is honored to play a small role in bringing the transformative power of theatre to our most underserved communities.

Anastascia Mehmood

Operations Manager

ANASTASCIA MEHMOOD
| Operations Manager

Anastascia (Ana) is the product of comprehensive arts and education-based nonprofits in her hometown of San Diego, CA. She recognized the value of artistic expression as a healthy emotional outlet at a very young age, particularly after earning the lead role as Dorothy in her elementary school production of The Wiz and obtaining the prestigious Padres Scholarship for first-generation college students in middle schoolPrior to her role at The Unusual Suspects, Anastascia worked in the education sector for over a decade, performing secondary and college level instructional assistance, administration, and private teaching, in addition to serving 2 years as an English instructor in France. Anastascia recently received her master’s degree in Nonprofit Management from Antioch University and holds a Bachelor’s in RTVF Communications from Cal State Fullerton with minors in French and psychology. In her downtime, Ana enjoys writing adventure fiction and reading the first drafts to her husband and her cat. She is ecstatic to contribute to The Unusual Suspects Theatre Company’s mission and is thrilled to oversee the smooth functioning of the daily admin, HR, and financial processes that position the organization for success as it continues to serve the communities she deeply cares about.

Allison Samsel

Program & Communications Associate

ALLISON SAMSEL
| Program & Communications Associate

Allison is a recent alumna of American University’s School of International Service, where she earned a BA in International Studies with focuses on Environmental Sustainability and Global Health and Latin America. During her time as an undergrad, Allison actively involved herself on campus as a community organizer for environmental justice and economic access to higher education. She additionally sought out professional and extracurricular opportunities that involved crossing cultural barriers to impact lives, completing an internship that required providing case-management services to newly arrived refugees for a resettlement agency.

While on campus, she garnered administrative experience at American University’s career center and performance insight as an actress for Rude Mechanicals, American University’s student-led classical theatre troupe that historically highlights LGBTQ+ stories and characters of color. She spent her final semester abroad as an exchange student at Universidad Diego Portales in Santiago, Chile. There, she interned with the US-Chile Fulbright Commission’s program team and studied social movement building in recent Chilean history while improving her bilingual fluency in the Spanish language.

Allison is thrilled to be with The Unusual Suspects and hopes that her work will contribute toward touching the lives of others and building a more socially-just and joyful world.

Danielle Larson

Part Time Grant Writer

DANIELLE REYNOLDS
| Part Time Grant Writer

Danielle was drawn to the arts as a vehicle for social change from a young age. Her passion for the arts led her to pursue a B.A. in Music, Drama, and Entrepreneurship at the University of Portland, where she graduated magna cum laude and with Honors. Her studies there included opportunities to travel to New York City, Eastern Europe, and China, where she learned about professional arts development processes worldwide. In Portland, she was active in founding/developing multiple nonprofits, and gained her first hands-on experiences with grant writing and development. Danielle came to Los Angeles to earn her Master of Fine Arts in Acting from USC, which she completed in May 2015. Since earning her Master’s, she has been writing avidly and collaborates regularly with a diverse group of actors, musicians, and dancers to create original material for both stage and screen. Danielle believes deeply in the power of storytelling to unite communities, promote social action, and generate healing in society, and is therefore overjoyed to support The Unusual Suspects in the important work that they do in underserved Los Angeles communities.