Brenda was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles. She's an actor, an award winning director and playwright (Urban Unrest HFF2017), acting coach and Spanish tutor whose career spans over 20 years. She has studied with a number of theatre companies including Steppenwolf West, The Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Ruskin School of Acting in Santa Monica, CA. Currently, she is also a teaching artist with Inside Community Arts (P.S. Arts), 24th St. Theatre and Red Balloon Project. Other teaching contracts have included, Camino Nuevo Burlington in Los Angeles, CA (P.S. Arts), 24 and ENACT (an in-school Art Therapy Program at Miramar H.S. 2016). Brenda is also the co-founder of Urban Theatre Movement (UTM) and served as the company’s first Artistic Director back in 2010. She most recently worked on a Spanish Golden Age Theatre pilot with USC and 24th Street Theatre that looks to bring Spain's Golden Age playwrights into elementary classrooms all over the United States.
Darien Battle is an award-winning actor, writer, and educator. A Minneapolis-native and a graduate of the Brown University/Trinity Rep MFA Acting Program, Darien has appeared Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway with The Acting Company (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Hamlet), The Civilians (Death of Me) and the NYC Culture Project (Fallujah); and has worked at many regional theatres, including The Guthrie Theater, Trinity Repertory Company, The Huntington Theatre, Ten Thousand Things, The Children’s Theatre Company, and Park Square. He moved to LA in 2014 and has continued to act, as well as instruct as a teaching artist and adjunct faculty at West LA College and the LAPD.
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 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.
Franceli is an Afro-Latina (Dominican) actor, host, writer and producer from the Boogie Down Bronx. She is currently a correspondent for Afterbuzz TV and most recently starred in The House On Mango Street at the Greenway Court Theatre. As a former on-air personality at 91.1FM, she has always had a passion for telling stories. For 10 years as a theater performer at Castillo Theater in New York City, she honed her craft and had her play, "A Work in Progress" produced. Franceli recently appeared in the viral hit, "IF DOMINICANS WERE HOUSEWIVES" and wrote a short film heading into production soon. As a teaching artist, Franceli has worked with the AllStars Project and Greenway Arts Alliance in addition to private coaching for special needs children. She is thrilled to be joining the team at The Unusual Suspects.
Sacha is a classically trained Haitian American actress, director, poet, writer, and producer with an M.F.A. in Acting from UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television. Her poem "SELF WORTH" recently aired on Carvell Wallace’s nationally syndicated PodCast "Closer Than They Appear." She is the recipient of the Hollywood Foreign Press Fellowship Award and the Laura Pels Fellowship Award for excellence in Acting. She is also a children's’ book author and playwright with credits spanning stage, film, and television, including her Off Broadway debut in 2017 with one of two solo pieces. Sacha is also a passionate educator. She has worked at Taller Puertorriqueno in North Philly, with The Actors Gang youth program in Los Angeles, as a visiting adjunct professor at Leigh University, and she has taught Drama at UCLA. Sacha is proud to continue her work in education with The Unusual Suspects.
Erik Escobar is a professional comedian, actor, and teaching artist born and raised in Los Angeles. He began his journey with The Unusual Suspects in 2010 as part of the Los Angeles County Arts Commission’s Internship Program, and has been a regular teaching artist with the
organization since 2012, providing in-depth theatre-arts education and mentorship to middle- and high-school students, as well as incarcerated and system-engaged minors. During this time, Erik
has also taught with a variety of additional local arts organizations and schools, such as Center for the Arts Eagle Rock, University of Portland, and Spokane’s The Blue Door Theater. He is a comic who currently performs all over the United States at clubs, colleges, and festivals, both individually, with the Almost Asian Comedy Tour, and opening for acts such as Rex Navarette and Jerry Seinfeld. You can hear him tell jokes on NBC’s Last Comic Standing, Comedy Central, and Vh1. Erik has a B.A. in Film, Theatre, and Management from Whittier College and is currently working toward his M.F.A. from Goddard College.
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 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.
Jessica Huerta [COSTUME COORDINATOR] is a costume designer (Local 892 Guild Member), fashion stylist, and the owner of Madame Black, a burgeoning one-of-a-kind company specializing in avant-garde designs. From her beginnings in Tucson, AZ, Jessica was drawn to designing the dark side of fashion that pulled at the seams of her imagination. What began as illustrations and sketches soon took on shape and form. Her unique costumes can be found at Creativ Pr Showroom in Los Angeles, and can be seen in numerous music videos, live performances, films, and in print national/international publications. Jessica’s canon of work has been seen on personalities such as Alice Cooper, Usher, Empire of the Sun, Chris Martin (Coldplay), Ekaterina Pirogovskaya from Cirque du Soleil, Nikki Reed, Gillian Jacobs, Tyga, Walle, Trey Songz, Smallpools, Alexandra Breckenridge, Lil Kim, Lindsey Stirling, Madison Beer, Kerli Koiv, Fernanda Romero, Lada (Crazy Horse Paris) and can be seen in publications like VVV Magazine, Yahoo! Style, Vogue Italia, LA Weekly, and MOD, among others.
Rich Hutchman is a professional actor and proud Mr. Mom. He was born in Belfast, N. Ireland, but grew up in Detroit, Michigan. After receiving a Theater Arts degree from Kalamazoo College, he spent the 90's in Chicago doing theater. He performed with Steppenwolf, Lookingglass, and Red Orchid among others. He has been in Los Angeles for 20 years, performing in TV and films. Rich is also a company member of the award-winning Buzzwords Theater Company. He is incredibly excited to be working with The Unusual Suspects.
Michael McClain [TECHNICAL COORDINATOR] is a Los Angeles-based director, choreographer, lighting designer, and teaching artist. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Oklahoma City University, as well as a double minor in Directing and Theatre Design & Production. Before moving to Los Angeles, Michael worked as a teaching artist at Oklahoma Children’s Theatre, Seattle Theatre Group, Youth Theatre Northwest, Village KIDSTAGE, foundry10, Studio East, and Seattle Children’s Theatre. He also worked as a freelance lighting designer at Issaquah Middle School and with Youth Theatre Northwest, where he instructed kids on the creation of their own sets, lights, sounds, costumes, and props. Currently, in addition to serving as The Unusual Suspects’ technical coordinator, Michael works as the Education Associate at A Noise Within and with Center Theatre Group's Disney Musicals in the Schools Program.
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 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 is a native of Los Angeles, where she works as a professional theatre-arts educator, actor, producer, and writer, as well as a freelance medical interpreter. She began her teaching career in 2011 as a touring health educator with Kaiser Permanente's Educational Theatre Program, utilizing theatre to provide bullying awareness to middle-school students and STD/HIV-prevention programming to high-school students. Marta has worked with The Unusual Suspects since 2016, providing theatre-arts education and mentorship workshops for students, intergenerational community residents, and minors incarcerated in the juvenile justice system. She also works to reach formerly incarcerated youth as a teaching artist with Agency Arts’ Act Two program. Marta is a founding member of the City Players theater company in Los Angeles, and has acted with several other local companies, including Sacred Fools, Towne Street Theatre, the Frida Kahlo Theatre, and Rogue Artists Ensemble, where she is an Associate Artist. Marta is bilingual in Spanish/English. She graduated from the Los Angeles Theatre Academy in 2009, and possesses a B.A. in Global Studies and French from the University of California, Santa Barbara, with an emphasis on Culture and Ideology.
Monica is so excited to work with The Unusual Suspects. She has a B.A in Musical Theater and a Certification in Professional On-Camera Acting from UCLA. She also holds a Masters of Science in Nonprofit Management from Walden University. As a teaching artist, Monica has worked with inmates through The Prison Project and had the pleasure of teaching children through programs such as The Actors' Gang, Theatre 360 and Drama Maniacs. Furthermore, she has had the opportunity to aid in affirmative transformation with incarcerated youth at Camp Scott, encouraging teens who have left Juvenile Hall by working in continuation high schools, and has joined forces with The Youth Policy Institute to incorporate History and Spanish in Immersion Programs with Culver City and La Conte Middle Schools.
A UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television alumna, Tara Ricasa began her teaching artist endeavors as a UCLA ArtsBridge Scholar. As a tutor, after-school teacher, and teaching artist, she has over five years of experience working with diverse communities. Currently, she is also a teaching artist for Center Theatre Group's Disney Musicals in Schools program. In San Diego, Tara collaborates with Sledgehammer Theatre and Fern Street Circus and serves as a teaching artist for The Old Globe, La Jolla Playhouse, and Bocón Arts. As co-founder and co-artistic director of Vertigo Theater Company, she spent several years in New York producing original works. Tara has also worked with Processional Arts Workshop, Big Apple Circus, BAM, BRIC, Labyrinth Theater Company, and Red Fern Theatre Company. In her spare time, she enjoys building puppets, skating, and playing capoeira. Proud member of AEA. www.tararicasa.com
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!
Monique is a professional actor, model, and teaching artist from Sacramento, California. An internship with Homeboy Industries in 2014 inspired her to partner her passions for outreach, art expression, and theatre. She has dedicated herself to the advancement of marginalized and disadvantaged people ever since, providing theatre-arts education and mentorship to underserved students at the middle- and high-school level, as well to minors incarcerated in the juvenile justice system; and offering food and assistance to homeless communities through the Long Beach Rescue Mission and the Los Angeles Urban Project. Monique has worked regularly as a teaching artist with The Unusual Suspects since graduating from California State University, Long Beach with a B.A. in Performance Theatre in 2015. She also has extensive experience as an instructor of theatre and improvisation outside of The Unusual Suspects, and as a tutor in all subjects for elementary through high-school-aged children. In addition to her teaching and outreach, Monique has appeared in various commercials, series, and films since moving to Southern California in 2011.
Isayas is a 2016 graduate of The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art where he earned a MA in Classical Acting. Prior to his time in London he studied in Washington D.C. at the Theatre Lab’s Honor’s Acting Conservatory. At his core, Isayas is a storyteller, orator, actor, and a teaching artist. He has worked as a teaching artist with the East Los Angeles Classical Theatre Company and has served as a mentor to the elementary and high school students at his church for the last 5 years. Isayas is passionate about using the arts to make an impact in our society and is grateful that The Unusual Suspects creates a platform to make a tangible difference!
Robert is a writer, director, improviser, actor, and teaching artist. He studied at The Upright Citizens Brigade, iO West and is a graduate of The Second City Hollywood Conservatory. He has written and directed pilots, sketches and web series. He improvises regularly on various teams throughout Los Angeles and was a member of The Second City Hollywood house ensemble Hot Flan. Robert first joined The Unusual Suspects’ team as a volunteer mentor in 2017.