Co-Founders, Jen Ryle and Samantha Chandler
Samantha Chandler can remember her first time on stage at age eight. She sang “I Whistle a Happy Tune”, from the King and I at the elementary school talent night. Ever since then, theater has played an important part in her life. As an adolescent it gave her the opportunity to work with adults as an equal. It is how she survived high school. It has helped her explore stories and characters both known and unknown to her.
She taught middle school for eight years, and during that time her desire to expose more young people to theater grew into the dream of opening a “children’s” theater in Olympia. She is thrilled to have found Jen Ryle as a partner in making this dream a reality. She is proud to be making Olympia Family Theater the place that kids will one day remember as the first place they saw live theater.
Samantha has studied performance at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, Freehold Theatre Studio in Seattle, and with the amazing members of UMO. She holds a Master’s Degree in Human Development, and uses her teaching experience in directing young actors on stage, as well as leading camps for various age groups. She has directed eight Olympia Family Theater shows, including Animal Farm, Little Women, and Korczak’s Children. She has performed in a number of independent theater productions in Olympia, as well as with OFT. Her favorites include Jungalbook, The Transfused, Julius Caesar, and the Boomtown trilogy.
Jen arrived in Olympia 10 years ago, after a lifetime of performing and loving music, children’s literature and theater. She studied music and drama in high school and her early college years in Seattle. Over the years, she has gained experience directing, acting, singing and supporting local performing arts groups.
During her first 6 years in Olympia, you would have found her busily volunteering at Lincoln Elementary as the choir director and creating performance opportunities for many different classes of children. Jen is indebted to Lincoln and grateful for the opportunities she had there to perform, direct, adapt children’s stories into short plays, to make music and work with children. Lincoln provided a place for her to grow as a parent, an artist and a person.
Jen completed her BA at The Evergreen State College in June of 2006. She focused her studies on expressive arts, business and education with the goal in mind of creating a children’s theater here in Olympia. She worked for three summers with her friends at Creative Theatre Experience (CTE) and for 5 years, she was a community specialist at the Olympia Regional Learning Academy (ORLA) teaching classes on everything from creative dramatics and puppetry, to reader’s theater and crafts. In 2012-13, Jen completed a certificate program- “Directing for the Stage and Screen” at the University of Washington.
Jen is OFT’s co-founder and Artistic Director. She also works behind the scenes as the production manager for every show in addition to assisting with props, scenic painting and costumes when needed. For OFT Jen has directed; Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Giver, Rapunzel, The BFG, Winnie the Pooh, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, and Go, Dog. Go!, and three of OFT’s all youth productions including; The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Phantom Tollbooth.
Jen is living her dream, watching OFT as it grows and flourishes. She looks forward to expanding OFT’s educational offerings in our school break camps and creative classes for all ages. She feels so lucky to work with amazing people; actors, designers, technicians, volunteers, sponsors, OFTeens and interns who are passionate about sharing the magic of theater with families and our community.
Technical Director/Web Designer/Scenic Design
Jill Carter is an accomplished theatrical designer with many years experience doing scenic, lighting and projection designs, primarily in Olympia for Harlequin Productions, Ballet Northwest, the Evergreen State College and many local theaters. She is a graduate of Evergreen where she studied technical theater. She interned as a scenic designer at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and returned to Olympia to become Evergreen’s Technical Director and then Harlequin’s Production Manger for many years. She is also an interior designer, locally she designed Swing Wine Bar and Cascadia Grill. She is now a freelance graphic, projection, interior and theatrical designer enjoying doing animated projections, children’s book illustrations, and artists websites.
Board of Directors: Executive Committe- Deane Shellman (president), Cassie Jones (secretary), Cathy Wasserman (treasurer). Members at Large- Jamie Jenson, Kathy Dorgan, Ted Ryle, Amanda Stevens, Christine Pearch-Goode, Jen Ryle and Samantha Chandler.
Volunteer Coordinator: Jane Nowitz; contact her at email@example.com
Production Committee: Sarah Jolley, Andy Gordon, Jenny Greenlee, Jon Tallman, David Nowitz, Jen Ryle
Artists in Residence
Directs OFT’s Daytime Play Space Performances/After School Workshops/and our touring group: OFT On the Move
Kate Ayers has toured extensively throughout the Midwest performing in educational theatre programs in schools and museums. She has written curriculum for theatre based programming and has 20+ years teaching experience ranging from preschoolers to university students. As Artistic Director of the Indianapolis Children’s Theatre, Inc., (90-97), Kate was active in all areas of educational theatre from playwriting, teaching, and directing. Ms. Ayers ran the Theatre program at the Indiana Women’s Prison for 10 years, studied at the Goodman Theatre School, and graduated at Columbia and the Playback School at Vassar. She has her Masters in Applied Sociology and uses theatre for business management training, and team building. Kate directs OFT’s daytime programs including our touring group, On the Move. She has appeared locally with Capital Playhouse, Theater Arttist’s Olympia, and for OFT in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Goodnight Moon and directed “Cinder Edna”.
Amy Shephard is a local actor, dancer, singer, and all around performer! She received her Bachelors in Liberal Arts with a focus in performance from The Evergreen State College in Olympia in 2009. During 2011-2012 Amy attended graduate school in England at the University of Exeter and graduated with honors receiving a Masters degree in Applied Drama. She is trained in several techniques including, Viewpoints, Shakespearean, and Physical Theatre. Favorite roles include The Mouse in Olympia Family Theater’s production of If you Give a Mouse a Cookie, Maria in Evergreen Shakespeare’s production of Twelfth Night or What you Will, and Nell Gwynne in Harlequin Productions production of Or,. Amy loves working in theatre that encourages community development and educational enrichment. She spends her free time hiking and researching whales.
Scenic Design for “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”: Bruce Haasl
Set design intern: Steve Bylsma
Lead Carpenter: David Nowitz
Webmaster: Jill Carter Design
Graphic Designer: Vonda Witley, Vision Seed Publishing
Promotional Photos: Dinea de Photo
Logo and Original Poster Images: Nikki McClure