Who We Are


Jen Ryle
Artistic Director, Co-Founder

2010, Jen in the lobbyJen 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!, Lyle the Crocodile, Busytown, 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.


Alexis Sarah
Operations and Marketing Manager

Alexis_Sarah_picAlexis 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 at work!Jill Carter
Resident Designer

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.


Kate Ayers

Directs OFT’s Daytime Play Space Performances/After School Workshops/and our touring group: OFT On the Move

KateKate 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”.



Board of Directors: Executive Committe- Deane Shellman (president), Cassie Jones (secretary), Cathy Wasserman (treasurer).  Members at Large- Mark Gerth, Rick Homchick, Jennifer Huntley, Ted Ryle, Meghan Goodman, and Priscilla Zal.

Volunteer Coordinator: Jane Nowitz; contact her at volunteer@olyft.org

Production Committee:  Sarah Jolley, Jill Carter, Jon Tallman, David Nowitz, and Jen Ryle.

Bookkeeper: Diana Purvine

Database Guru: Diane Rudeen


Artists in Residence

Set design: Steve Bylsma

Lead Carpenter: David Nowitz

Webmaster/Graphic and Scenic Design: Jill Carter Design

Promotional Photos: Dinea de Photo

Logo and Original Poster Images: Nikki McClure

Teacher Bios