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OUR TEACHING ARTISTS

Marlene Beltran Cuauhtin

Marlene Beltran Cuauhtin received her B.F.A. in Acting from The California Institute of the Arts. She has been a teaching artist in the greater Los Angeles area for over 10 years, working with such organizations as: The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles, Cal Arts Community Arts Partnership, About Productions, Plaza De La Raza and The Unusual Suspects Theatre Company.

Zach Brown

Zach studied theatre at Marymount Manhattan in New York. After school, Zach spent several years in Ft. Worth, Texas performing as a company member with Ohlook Theatre, Artisan Center Theatre and the Bedford Onstage, as well as teaching theatre, dance and art at private art schools and studios in DFW. In 2010, Zach moved to Los Angeles and has performed with the Will Gear Theatricum Botanicum, is a company member with Theatre MAB town hall and has worked with Finite-films. Along with being an actor and educator, Zach is also a professional visual artist and illustrator. Zach has been working with The Unusual Suspects since 2010.

Erik Escobar

Erik Escobar began his journey with The Unusual Suspects in 2010 as part of the Los Angeles County Arts Commission Internship Program and since then, has been honored to work as a Teaching Artist with their amazing programs! He is comic who currently performs all over the US at clubs, colleges, and festivals both individually, with the Almost Asian Comedy Tour, and opening for acts such as Russell Peters and Jerry Seinfeld. You can hear him tell jokes on NBC’s Last Comic Standing, Comedy Central, and Vh1.

Christiane Georgi

Christiane is professional actress, theatre director, international opera director, and teaching artist. She has 9 years experience working with children of all backgrounds, including foster kids and children with disabilities. In addition to her work with The Unusual Suspects, she has taught for Kids on Stage, L’Avant Scene Opera (Switzerland), The Possibility Project LA, The Geffen Playhouse, No Limit for Deaf Children, Elementary Strings and String Project LA, and runs her own Theatre Program for Children with Autism. She is a also a member of Tim Robbins’ theatre company, The Actors’ Gang, as an actress, director and lead teaching artist in their education program and Prison Project. Moving between countries — Switzerland, France and the U.S. — and languages, her work as a performing artist and director is truly multi-disciplinary and inclusive. Christiane uses storytelling and live performance as a call-to-action, a manifesto for real-time engagement with the audience, and an opportunity to share awareness of and question contemporary life. Her work includes collaboration with directors Georges Bigot, Simon Abkarian, Tim Robbins, Dominique Serrand and Jon Kellam, L.A artist Alexandra Grant, writers Kate Durbin and Fabien Vehlmann and tenor Yves Senn. She can be seen in the award-wining television series Jane the Virgin and around the country performing in festivals such as Lightning in the bottle, Coachella, Electric Forest and Symbiosis. Christiane speaks fluent English and French.

David Guerra

David Guerra is an actor, director, teaching and performing artist, who guides and mentors both youth and adults in playwriting and performance. In 2008, he joined the US cadre of artists as a volunteer at Camp David Gonzales. From 2009-2011, David served as outreach and program coordinator for LA’s Gang Reduction and Youth Development program and the Prevention Initiative Demonstration Project in Pacoima, CA. He has worked and collaborated with The Music Center, Center Theatre Group, Geffen Playhouse, Skirball Cultural Center, Theatre Movement Bazaar, Boxtales Theatre Company, Watts Village Theater Company, Theatre of Will, East LA Classic Theatre, Spirit Series, Enrichment Works, Pasadena Education Foundation, Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival; and is a company member of Theatre of NOTE. He received an Associate in Arts degree from East LA College and then graduated with honors and distinction from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre.

McKenna Kerrigan

McKenna Kerrigan Off-Broadway: MIDDLETOWN (Vineyard Theatre). New York: I CAME TO LOOK FOR YOU ON TUESDAY (La Mama), THE REALLY BIG ONCE (Target Margin), THE BEREAVED (Partial Comfort), THE FAB 4 REACH THE PEARLY GATES (PS 122). Regionally, McKenna has performed with Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Actors’ Theatre of Louisville’s Humana Festival, New Paradise Laboratories, Pig Iron Theatre Company, Walker Art Center, People’s Light & Theatre Company, Headlong Dance Theatre, Andy Warhol Museum, Philadelphia Shakespeare Festival, and The Philadelphia Orchestra. Film: Lebanon, PA, Ready or Not. TV: Extant, Boardwalk Empire, Hack, My Father’s Gun. In Los Angeles, McKenna has worked as a teaching artist with the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Theatricum Botanicum, and as a research assistant for the Centers for Research on Creativity. McKenna has an M.F.A. in Performance & Interactive Media Arts from Brooklyn College.

Mark Kopitzke

Mark is a multidisciplinary artist and educator who received his BA in Theater Arts from Azusa Pacific University. Upon graduation, he revamped the non-profit theatre company, Azusa Renaissance, and founded their after school program with his colleagues. A guest lecturer for theatre for social change and devising ensemble workshops and classes, he is co-directing APU’s student devising ensemble in their Edinburgh Fringe piece, #AllofusinWonderland. Mark is also a freelance visual artist, scenic designer, and the vocal soloist for various pop, classical, and jazz ensembles including the Glenn Miller Orchestra--crooning across the nation as well as New Zealand, Australia, and Thailand.

Maurice Meredith

Maurice Meredith is currently a Teaching Artist for the Unusual Suspects. He’s been with the company for a year, and prior to this, he has volunteered with youth groups ranging from the Boys & Girls Club, after school programs, to summer camps for 5 years. He has 13 years of experience as a writer/performing artist. For the past 4 years, as a trained victim advocate, he has worked with the companies InterAct/PurePraxis, social justice troupes, that work closely with the Department of Navy as an independent contractor, where he helps provide Sexual Assault Prevention & Response (SAPR) training through the use of theatre and improv. Part of his job as a lead actor for both companies, is to train new members, and help get them up to speed with performances and techniques. Mr. Meredith received his Bachelors degree in Communication & Business from Cal State Long Beach, as well as his Associates degree in Communication & Cultural Studies from El Camino College. His job history, followed by his educational background has carried over into working as a teaching artist. As a teaching artist he is able to develop fun and instructional atmospheres for the youth by implementing his passion for singing, and writing. Being able to identify with many of the youth’s background and upbringing, Maurice has an advantage when encouraging kids to embrace vulnerability and discover its true beauty as artists.

Maria Pasquarelli

Maria Pasquarelli started working with The Unusual Suspects in 2002 as Laura Leigh Hughes' very first assistant. She has been working as a teaching artist since 2004 with various companies in the Los Angeles area. Her work with US has taken her to many of our sites and has given her endless joy, inspiration and a renewed passion for life. As an actress, she has performed in a great deal of theater in the LA area and abroad, and has had the opportunities to dabble in some television and film along the way. She recently graduated from the USC MFA Acting program, which had taken her away from teaching these past few years. Upon graduation, Maria is excited to be right back in the swing of things with US!
FUN FACT: I speak Italian.
WHY WORK FOR US: I work for US because I love the theater and I love working with youth. Arts education is highly undervalued in our society and youth who participate in the arts have higher self esteem, do better in school and miss fewer days of school.

Robert Paterno

Robert is a native Texan and holds an MFA in Acting from Southern Methodist University. He has served as an educator for 15+ years as a tutor, teacher, Higher Education administrator, mentor, and theatre artist. He has worked with numerous youth programs such as 826LA, Young Storyteller's Foundation, School On Wheels, the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Program, and Johns Hopkins Center For Talented Youth. Robert has appeared locally and regionally throughout Houston, Dallas and Los Angeles. Robert is passionate about making theatre accessible and available to everyone, and is proud to be part of the Unusual Suspects family!

Becky Poole

Becky Poole is a professional actor, voiceover artist, comedian, teaching artist and musical saw player. She has taught theatre-arts to at-risk and incarcerated youth for the past 16 years, and has acted professionally for over 16 years, including 14 as a voice-over artist. Becky was part of the Really Awesome Improv Show at Second City Hollywood and has performed recently at Second City Chicago and Chicago Children’s Theatre. She toured with the Hypocrite’s production of Pirates of Penzance, most recently at Berkeley Rep as well as Actors Theatre of Louisville and ART Boston. Becky is a co-founder/producer of the original SketchFest NYC. She has written, performed, directed and produced comedy and performance pieces at festivals and venues across the nation and Canada for the past decade. She has taught comedy workshops in LA, NYC, Vancouver, Seattle, and Chicago, including the creation of Girl Power Sketch for high school girls. She has done voice work for Nickelodeon, Nintendo, and Poptarts.

Marta Portillo

Marta Portillo is a graduate Los Angeles Theatre Academy. She has worked with several theater companies in Los Angeles including Sacred Fools, Towne Street Theatre, the Frida Kahlo Theatre, and 24th Street Theatre as their community outreach intern. She is a founding member of the City Players theater company. Prior to working with The Unusual suspects she toured with Kaiser Permanente's Educational Theatre as a performer and health educator in the HIV/STD prevention program and the bullying awareness program.

Keiana Richàrd

Keiana Richàrd, a Tennessee native, is an actor and teaching artist here in Los Angeles who has been working in both disciplines professionally for nearly 10 years. She received her MFA from The University of California, San Diego. Her performance credits include Broadway: Dividing The Estate at Lincoln Center, Off-Broadway: Ghosts with The Pearl Theatre Company, 365 Days/365 Plays at Cherry Lane/The Public Theatre, Forgotten World at The Public Theatre, and Regional: Eclipsed at The McCarter Theatre, The Wiz at La Jolla Playhouse, The Good Negro at The Hudson Theatre. Her T.V./Film credits include The Player, Delocated, 12 Steps To Recovery, and the film Cora by Kevin Maxwell & Savador Carrasco. She has taught Acting & Public Speaking for the UCSD Undergraduate Theatre Program, has been an arts camp instructor for the La Jolla Playhouse, has acted as drama camp/Fun Company site director for the Williamson County Middle Tennessee YMCA, and worked as a teaching artist with various outreach programs. She is very passionate about using art to help equip the youth for success in today's world. She feels that art can open up a diverse perspective on life, which can bring about infinite possibilities for a child. Her goals are to nurture freedom of expression, critical thinking, and limitless creativity. And she is so happy that The Unusual Suspects Theatre Company provides the space for her to do just that!

Savannah Schoenecker

In 2008 Savannah graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and after working with acting coaches from the Actors Studio, Shakespeare & Co. and LA Voice Joy she continues studying her acting craft at About the Work Studios in Los Angeles. Recently Savannah performed in the short film Closure which won the Audience Award at Sherry Theater’s 120 Hour Film Festival and won an LA Scenie Award for her performance as Fran Staples in Patterns at Theatre 40. Savannah is the proud business owner and lead teacher of Kung Fu Moves which brings anti-bully and street safety to preschools and enrichment programs in Los Angeles. Savannah’s deep passion for theatre and love of teaching kids led her to perform in a page play for the Unusual Suspects. Performing in the page play and meeting its incredible young writers inspired Savannah to teach with the Unusual Suspects. She hopes the profound positive change acting had in her life will inspire her students in this program to become empathetic artists and human beings who have the constructive tools to express themselves with creativity, love and compassion.

Monique Sypkens

Monique was raised in Sacramento CA where she fell in love with film and theatre. She then ventured off to Long Beach State to pursue a BA in Performance Theatre in 2011. Since moving to Southern California, Monique has appeared in various commercials, music videos, web series and independent films. She also has spent extensive time tutoring children and serving homeless communities in both Los Angeles and Long Beach. Monique's internship with Homeboy Industries in 2014 inspired her to partner her passion for helping other's reach their highest potential with her passion for art expression and theatre.

Interested in learning more about becoming a Teaching Artist?