Artistic Director, Co-Founder
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.
Operations and Marketing Manager
Alexis brings a blend of public, private and nonprofit experience to Olympia Family Theater. She has over 10 years of arts and education nonprofit experience, ranging from devoted volunteer to founding board member. Through her work experience at Mariah Art School, she understands the immense benefit that arts education has on the lives of young people. She is a strong believer that access to the arts should be an educational right and not a privilege. Alexis is a founding board member of Encore Arts, a memorial foundation whose mission is to connect local South Sound young people with art opportunities.
Alexis came to Olympia in 1996 to finish college and quickly realized that this is an awesomely creative town to raise her children. As a child, she was influenced by her family full of visual artists and business owners. She has always found comfort in wildly creative people and the places that inspire them.
In 1999, Alexis earned a Bachelor of Science degree from The Evergreen State College with a focus on marine studies. She loved the field work and internships the kept her working on the Washington beaches with the low tides—even in the middle of the night in winter! She returned to Evergreen in 2010 to complete her Master of Public Administration with a public/nonprofit concentration. Her graduate degree helped blend all of the work experience & educational passions into one place—data, art, science, and systems.
Alexis is looking forward to being a part of OFT’s journey into the future!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Production Committee: Sarah Jolley, Andy Gordon, Jill Carter,Jon Tallman, David Nowitz, and Jen Ryle.
Artists in Residence
Set design: Steve Bylsma
Lead Carpenter: David Nowitz
Webmaster/Graphic Design: Jill Carter Design
Promotional Photos: Dinea de Photo
Logo and Original Poster Images: Nikki McClure
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”.
Summer 2014 Teachers Bios:
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 Artist’s Olympia, and for OFT in Lyle the Crocodile, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Go, Dog. Go!, Goodnight Moon and directed Cinder Edna.
Christine Goode is thrilled to be joining the OFT family teaching theatre! She spends her day teaching kindergarten and loves the energy and creativity of the younger set. Christine has a Master’s degree in Stage management and an additional degree in Education. She has worked for the Mesa Youth Theatre as a stage manager, director and actress. She has worked locally with Olympia little theatre, Theater Artists Olympia and Olympia Family Theater. Christine also co-owned and directed a youth improv group called Creative Zone. Christine spends her days teaching kindergarten and
all other time working on theatre projects and being a mom to a teenager. She is a board member for the Olympia Family theater and enjoys all the in front and behind the scenes action!
JenRyle is OFT’s co-founder and Artistic Director. She also works behind the scenes as the production manager for every show. She has a bachelors degree from The Evergreen State College where she focused her studies on Business and Expressive Arts. In 2012-13, Jen completed a certificate program- “Directing for the Stage and Screen” at the University of Washington. For OFT Jen has directed many camps, and three all youth productions including; The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Phantom Tollbooth. Also for OFT, Jen has directed; Lyle the Crocodile, Go, Dog. Go!, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, Winnie the Pooh, The Giver, Rapunzel, The BFG, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Mandy Ryle is an original member of the “OFT family”. You may have seen her on stage for OFT in some of her favorite roles such as Sophie in The BFG, or Jo in Little Women. You also may have caught her working backstage or in the booth, or as an intern for lots of OFT camps where she may or may not have made up a song about you on the ukulele! She attended CTE for several summers and she graduated from OHS in 2011. She has directed several camps for OFT including; The Bunyip of Berkeley’s Creek, and Over the Rainbow. Currently she is a student at South Puget Sound Community College.
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.
Carolyn Willems Van Dijk, a Wisconsin native, started her dance training at the Central Wisconsin School of Ballet, after seeing a life-changing production of the Nutcracker at the age of three. She went on to earn her BFA in Musical Theatre Performance from the University of Oklahoma, and has been performing, choreographing, and teaching in Olympia and Seattle ever since. You may remember her from OFT’s last season when she had the honor of playing Cinder Edna, or from numerous productions at Capital Playhouse or the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle. Beyond Olympia, Carolyn has performed with numerous theaters across the country, including: Wausau Dance Theatre, the Black Hills Playhouse, Casa Mañana, and the Oklahoma City Philharmonic Orchestra. Most recently, she led a Dakota Players Children’s Theatre tour (with her husband, Harrison) targeted at rural communities in South Dakota. She absolutely loved her Midwest adventure, but is thrilled to be back home in the Northwest, continuing to spread the love of the Arts to young people. Carolyn loves snail mail, laughing, the Green Bay Packers, arts & crafts, being outside, imagination, and making people smile!