Jozben Barrett is a Los Angeles based actor, director, producer, and educator. His primary work and research is focused on creating space and opportunities for artists of color to cultivate their craft. He is the founder of 2 Rhythms; a multidisciplinary arts organization that develops work focusing on the untold and under-told stories of black and brown communities.
Jozben has performed in the world premiere production of What To Send Up When It Goes Down by Aleshea Harris, a play/pageant/ritual that responds to racial violence in America, the world premiere of SNAKES by Chris Webb at the A.C.T. Strand Theatre, Much Ado About Nothing with the Independent Shakespeare Company in Griffith Park, August Wilson’s Radio Golf directed by Fran Bennett, among many others.
Jozben is also adjunct faculty in the Department of Theatre and Dance at California State University, Dominguez Hills. He is a graduate of the California Institute of the Arts School of Theater MFA Acting Program and holds a B.A. in Theatre Arts from California State University, Northridge.
Brittany Belinski is an Alabama native actor, singer, and producer. From an early age, she grew up singing country music, gospel, and jazz and started acting in high school because of a dare! Brittany has performed on both regional and international stages and is now working to start her own film production company here in Los Angeles. As an educator, she has worked to provide fine art, leadership, sports, and other enrichment programs to children and youth around the world and is thrilled to join The Unusual Suspects team as a Teaching Artist. Brittany has an M. Ed from the University of Utah and an MFA in Acting from The Actors Studio Drama School.
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.
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.
Jenny Gillett is an educator and artist with a strong performance background in puppetry and movement, and she is thrilled to be a part of the Unusual Suspects team! Previously, she has held positions at: the Children's Museum of Manhattan where she led early childhood classes with a focus on music, movement and art; at the Tenement Museum where she facilitated programming about past and present U.S. immigration stories; in Los Angeles Unified School District as a Teaching Artist through East LA Classic Theatre; and at the Skirball Cultural Center where she facilitated community partnerships for the Build a Better World Program. You can currently see Jenny on weekends at the Natural History Museum puppeteering a life-sized juvenile Triceratops and a Saber Toothed Cat puppet built by the Jim Henson Creature Shop. In addition, she is a certified doula, kid’s yoga instructor, and holds a Master’s degree in Educational Theatre from New York University.
Catherine is an award-winning filmmaker and comedian, who trained as an actress at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She joins the agency with over a decade of experience working with children of all ages, including her private coaching company Kat’s Kids that she started in 2013. She's taught with organizations such as The Alliance Theatre, True Colors Theatre Company, and Dramatic Results. Catherine’s many skills range from teaching arts integration through the utilization of hands-on materials to ventriloquism, stage combat, and snort laughing.
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.
Shereen Macklin is a professional actor, singer, dancer, and teaching artist. A native New Yorker, Shereen earned a BS in Chemistry from North Carolina A&T State University and an MFA in Acting from the Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University. She moved to Los Angeles in 2017, and brings over 15 years of experience to The Unusual Suspects as an educator and passionate creator of theatre/dance programs for both students and adults in underserved communities throughout New York City. As a member of SAG-AFTRA and AEA, Shereen has performed across the United States and internationally. Her vision is to create safe spaces for all humanity to reveal their true north and be free, accomplishing this through her continued work as an actor, teaching artist, Authentic Expression Coach, and host of her podcast, “Live in the Light.”
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.
Carene Rose Mekertichyan
Carene is an actress, writer, singer, educator and proud Angelena. She received her training from Dartmouth College and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA). She has worked as a teaching artist with the Harlem School of the Arts, Star Education, and Bresee Academy. She has performed with numerous companies, including Independent Shakespeare Co., Rogue Artists Ensemble, Northern Stage, and Palos Verdes Performing Arts. She is a Hero Theatre Company Member and Associate Member of Sacred Fools, where she has written and performed with We the People Theater Action. She wrote and starred in Number 12 Looks Just Like the Sunken Place, which was produced at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She will continue to explore her activism through art while empowering young voices with the Unusual Suspects.
Mara E. Palma
Mara Elissa Palma (she/her) is a teaching artist, writer, and multi-passionate person. Originally from the Philippines, she calls Southern California home currently. Mara’s teaching experience includes the Unusual Suspects Theatre Company, re:theatre, Center Theatre Group, Seattle Theatre Group, and Seattle Public Theater. She earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Theatre Studies and Political Science at Wellesley College in Wellesley, MA. She is also founder and CEO of Wila Consulting. Connect with her: www.marapalma.com
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 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.
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.
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.
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
Eddie was born and raised in Boyle Heights, CA.. He received his MFA in acting at The Central School of Speech and Drama in London, UK. Eddie has performed in numerous plays throughout our country. He continuously works in Film, TV & commercials. Eddie is also a teaching artist working for organizations such as The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles, About Productions and The Unusual Suspects. Visit www.eddie-ruiz.com for more info. He's also a founding member of Obviam Entertainment where they write, produce and perform in film, TV & theatre. www.obviamenterainment.com
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.