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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 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 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.

Jessica Huerta

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.

Kathleen Gonzales

Kathleen is a professional actor, voice actor, playwright, and teaching artist who can be seen in industrials, independent films, and commercials. Though a recent transplant to Los Angeles, she has been a teaching artist for over 20 years prior to coming to The Unusual Suspects. She has taught for various theatre companies and arts organizations throughout her career, some of which include All Children's Theatre, The Young Scholars Program, Fillmore Arts Center, Educational Theatre Company, Roundhouse Theatre Education, Woolly Mammoth Theatre, Imagination Stage, Young Playwright’s Theatre and Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., as well asthe Department of Theatre at Montgomery College in Rockville, MD. In theatre, Kathleen specializes in new works and has been seen in various venues including ATLAS Performing Arts Center, The Kennedy Center, Woolly Mammoth Theatre, Catalyst Theatre Company and Roundhouse Theatre. As a voice actor, she has completed voice-overs for both documentaries and commercials and specializes in foreign languages and accents including French, Haitian Creole, and Spanish. Her one woman/16-character play, THE BRIDGE OF BODIES, is performed in English, French, and Haitian Creole. Kathleen holds an MFA in Acting with an emphasis on The Creation of New Works and Movement Theatre from Ohio State University. She is a member of the Lincoln Center Theater’s Directors Lab, Round House Theatre’s The Kitchen, Galvanize in Washington DC, and a founding member of Caribbean Association for Females in Entertainment (CAFÉ). Kathleen was recently awarded the position of Ambassador for SHE BUILDS Global Initiative - a community platform that exists to empower and connect Haitian women around the world.

Rich Hutchman

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.

Jessica Kowalski

Jessica is an experienced theatre teacher and director. She earned her Bachelor of Education (English/Theater) from the University of Alberta, Canada, and has spent over 15 years teaching theatre in high-school and middle-school settings in Vancouver, Canada. In addition to her time in the classroom, Jessica has developed and led various theatre company programs for large groups of at-risk youth, acting as both producer and director for major student productions. Her companies, which often accommodated upwards of 60 students, offered a safe space for youth who would otherwise have nowhere to go after school. From 2005 – 2012, Jessica was a core member of the Surrey School District Drama Teachers Association, organizing and implementing policy for drama teachers across the school district. She was also involved in planning and running the Surrey School District Fringe Festival, a three-day retreat in which students attended workshops led by professional actors from the Vancouver area. Now living in the LA area, Jessica looks forward to working with The Unusual Suspects, combining her love for theatre with a heart for at-risk youth. Her passion is creating safe spaces for students to explore and express themselves honestly and freely.

Michael McClain

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 McMillan

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.

Rosalida Medina

Rosalida Medina is beyond grateful and exited to be part of The Unusual Suspects team [Costume Designer/COSTUME COORDINATOR], as combining artistry and teaching feels like the most important way to help children learn life skills. She was born in France and followed the path of costume construction and design from Paris to North Carolina, and finally to Los Angeles. Her credits include: Paris Opera accessory department, costuming for TV and Movies like The Patriot, The Notebook, Big Fish, The O.C., costume designing the 1000 Ways to Die episodic, Fred 2, The Activist, Bitch Slap, and more. She also has roots in the theatre, working with The Actors Gang on “Red Noses” and “Tartuffe” and with LA-based dance companies like Vive Brasil, Invertigo, Contra Tiempo, and Donna Sternberg & Dancers. In addition she has worked as a Teacher’s Assistant in the fashion department at the Otis College of Art and Design.

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!

Carissa Pinckney

Carissa Pinckney is an actor, writer, and director armed with a B.F.A from NYU Tisch School of the Arts. She began acting professionally in 2010 and has been cast in such productions as Alesha Harris' "What to Send Up When It Goes Down" at Boston Court and at A.C.T in San Fransisco, and the opera "Iceland" at Ford Amphitheater. She has also written, directed,and starred in her own one-woman/one-act show entitled "The Belt Titans" which highlighted her personal experiences growing up in North Carolina. Carissa began her teaching artist career in 2016 and has worked with several organizations in Los Angeles dedicated to the advancement of young minds, including The Geffen Playhouse, The Road Theatre,and A Noise Within, where she assistant directed youth theatre Shakespeare productions. She feels a calling to share her theatrical knowledge with underserved youth so they develop their own voices and gain confidence in expressing themselves, on and off stage. Her acting career has allowed her to perform on a variety of platforms in both Los Angeles and New York, as well as in television and film.

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 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 Quinn

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.

Brandon Rachal

Brandon Rachal is a South Central LA native who initially joined The Unusual Suspects team as a volunteer mentor in 2013. He holds a BA in Theatre from the USC School of Dramatic Arts and his stage acting has been showcased in a variety of local and national touring productions. His performance credits include work with Antaeus Theatre, Texas Shakespeare Festival, and Downtown Rep. Since he started to work with youth as a teaching artist in 2014, he has made it his mission to use devised Shakespearean theatre for creative empowerment with teens and has been an instructor with organizations such as the Harold Robinson Foundation (Camp Ubuntu Watts), East LA Classic Theatre and CITYstage LA. Brandon also serves as the Artistic Associate of Inner City Shakespeare Ensemble. Brandon is grateful to be a part of the Unusual Suspects family as a Teaching Artist and looks forward to sharing his gifts to inspire the next generation of young creative leaders.

Tara Ricasa

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

Monique Sypkens

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 Theodros

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!

Interested in learning more about becoming a Teaching Artist?