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Melissa Denton

Executive Director

| 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

| 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

| 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.

Hedi Jalon

Director of Development & Communications

| Director of Development & Communications

Driven by a deep desire to help disadvantaged youth find their voice and a path to healing, Hedi is passionate about the mission of The Unusual Suspects and brings to her position a well-established background in the non-profit community with nearly a decade of leadership experience in fundraising, communications/marketing, program and event management, and volunteer organizing. Prior to joining The Unusual Suspects, Hedi served as the Executive Director of the statewide non-profit organization the California Fire Foundation for approximately six years, overseeing the Foundation’s core functions, steering the organization’s remarkable growth and shepherding it to national prominence. Previously, as the Community Outreach Manager for the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, she managed volunteers, nationwide, in fundraising and recruitment efforts, and assisted with the Foundation’s communications/marketing, helping exceed organizational goals.  Hedi’s early career in entertainment and marketing within the private sector includes a role in account management at advertising agency start-up Spot Runner and executive support positions at major talent agency William Morris Endeavor, as well as New Regency Productions.

Hedi holds both a Master of Public Administration and Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of  Southern California. Born in Maryland, she has lived in Los Angeles most of her adult life, with a brief residency in Sacramento, CA.  A chess enthusiast and board/card-game aficionado, she is a passionate dog-lover, and dog-mom to Stewy, a rescue who has her wrapped around his little paw.  

Nick Williams

Grants Manager

| 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.

Michael Halpin

Operations Manager

| Operations Manager

Michael has been a longtime supporter of The Unusual Suspects and has a fierce belief that the arts are an important piece in a child’s development of confidence, collaboration, and success – no matter where their future takes them.  For many years he has been involved in the Los Angeles arts community as an actor, singer, and long ago, a dancer.  Michael has also been active, as a volunteer, with the non-profit organizations; Hearts In Motion and Meals on Wheels.

His business background comes with more than 20 years’ experience in Operations and Facility Management, and he is a certified LEED AP (Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design).  He began his career as general manager of a wholesale bread manufacturing company where he was eventually promoted to VP of Operations, then moved to a software telecommunications company, and recently worked at a global, commercial real estate organization.  Joining The Unusual Suspects is the perfect place to share his passion for the arts and experience in business management.

Allison Samsel

Program & Communications Associate

| 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.

Rachel Reed

Part Time Grant Writer

| Part Time Grant Writer

Rachel Reed brings nearly a decade of devoted nonprofit professional experience (Five Acres, Pasadena Village, San Gabriel Valley Choral Company) and an academic background in the social sciences. She has also been involved in starting a food co-op in an effort to bring sustainable, healthy, and responsibly-sourced groceries to Pasadena! A new parent to a busy toddler, she may be found in her spare time belting out her favorite choral number. Her skills as a writer, fundraiser, and social scientist are truly an asset to the US team!

Christine Benjamin

Administrative Assistant

| Administrative Assistant

Christine Benjamin is an activist, storyteller, and fundraiser who also has nearly a decade of development and fundraising experience from Girls at the Run, Sundance Institute, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). She’s a ray of sunshine and bussling energy within the office.  Coupling that with a passion and B.A. for theatre arts (she has experience teaching/playwriting!), she is a great fit on the US team!