2016 artistic & technical team

Hope Bennett
Costume Designer for The Illusion
Costume Shop Manager

Ms. Bennett’s recent design work includes Weird Tales (2016) and Small Craft Warnings (2015) with the Tennessee Williams Theater Company of New Orleans, Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera for Austin Opera (2014), Murder Ballad Murder Mystery (2013 and 2014 tours) with Paper Chairs, and La bohème at the Butler School of Music (2014). Hope exhibited her design for Three Decembers at the OPERA America Tobin Director-Designer Showcase in Washington, DC and at the National Opera Center in New York (2015-2016). She received her MFA from The University of Texas at Austin and BFA from MICA in Baltimore. She relocated to New Orleans last August and manages the costume shop for the Theatre and Dance Department at Tulane University.

Katie Lynn Cotaya
Props Artisan

Ms. Cotaya has designed props locally at Rivertown Theaters for such productions as Spamalot, Aladdin, Young Frankenstein, Shrek, A Christmas Carol, When Ya Smilin’, and more. She recently created props for several shows at Le Petit Theatre including The Bluest Eye and The Glass Menagerie. This is her first season with the Festival. Katie also works as a performer and has graced several local stages. A Northshore native, she has studied at both LSU and UNO.

Ardice Cotter
Business Manager

Ms. Cotter is an arts administrator that recently moved from the Big Apple to the Big Easy. She received an MA in Performing Arts Administration from New York University and her BFA in Theatre Performance from the University of Southern Mississippi. During her time in NYC, Ardice had the opportunity to work with multiple companies including: MoMA, Carnegie Hall, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and Webb Management Services: North America’s leading provider of development, planning and consulting services for arts and creative entities.

Starr Edwell
Assistant Stage Manager for The Two Gentlemen of Verona and The Illusion

Ms. Edwell is an emerging theatre technician and designer from Albuquerque, New Mexico. She has held many design and management positions including production manager, stage manager, properties master, costume designer, and teaching artist. She currently works at Popejoy Hall as the production intern. She also works with Tricklock Theatre Company, UNM department of Theatre and Dance, The New Mexico Shakespeare Company and various community art projects.  Ms. Edwell is expecting her BA in Design for Performance from the University of New Mexico this coming winter.

Destany Gorham
Stage Manager for The Illusion
Assistant Stage Manager for The Two Gentlemen of Verona

Ms. Gorham is currently pursuing her MFA in Stage Management and Costume Design at Tulane University. She has worked around the country as a theatre artist and educator; including productions with The New Orleans Shakespeare Festival at Tulane, Le Petit Theatre, PLAY Conservatory in Albuquerque; New Mexico, and the National Dance Institute. She is a graduate of The College of Santa Fe.

Jenn Jacobs
Costume Designer for The Two Gentlemen of Verona

Ms. Jacobs is currently the Costume Design Professor at Tulane University. She joins the Shakespeare Festival and Tulane University for her first year after twenty years living and working as a costume designer in New York City. Her credits include numerous productions in theatre and opera at Julliard, The Santa Fe Opera, Soho Repertory Theatre, and The McCarter Theatre, among others; as well as over 70 films, commercials, TV shows, and corporate events. She holds an MFA in Design from New York University and is a member of United Scenic Artist Local USA 829.

Tony Kushner
Author of The Illusion

Mr. Kushner, born in New York City and raised in Lake Charles, LA, is best known for his two-part epic Angels In America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes. His other plays include A Bright Room Called Day, Slavs!, Hydrotaphia, Homebody/Kabul, and Caroline, or Change: The musical for which he wrote book and lyrics with music by composer Jeanine Tesori. He wrote the screenplays for Mike Nichols’ film version of Angels In America, and Steven Spielberg’s Munich and Lincoln. The latter was nominated for an Academy Award and won the New York Film Critics Circle Award, Boston Society of Film Critics Award, Chicago Film Critics Award, and several others. His books include But the Giraffe: A Curtain Raising and Brundibar: the Libretto, The Art of Maurice Sendak: 1980 to the Present; and Wrestling with Zion: Progressive Jewish-American Responses to the Palestinian/Israeli Conflict, co-edited with Alisa Solomon. His recent work includes a collection of one-act plays entitled Tiny Kushner, and The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures. Kushner is the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, an Emmy Award, two Tony Awards, three Obie Awards, an Arts Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the 2015 Lifetime Achievement in the American Theater Award – among many others.

Ned Moore
Dramaturge and Assistant Director for The Illusion

Mr. Moore is a director, dramaturge, and translator based in New York City where he is currently pursuing his MFA in Dramaturgy at Columbia University (’18). His translation of Euripides’ Bakkhai premiered at Bard College in Spring 2013, directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz (Red Speedo, Revolt! She Said. Revolt Again), and was remounted in New Orleans at the Marigny Opera House in June 2015 (Dir. Ned Moore). Recent collaborations include: Mammoth (New York Theatre Workshop), The Conflabbergation (Columbia Stages), The Seagull (Columbia Stages), Antigone (Lux et Umbra), Macbeth (Skin Horse Theater).

Kevin O’Donnell
Sound Designer for The Two Gentlemen of Verona and The Illusion

Mr. O’Donnell is a musician, sound designer, and composer, splitting his time between New Orleans and Chicago, where his theatre work has earned him 20 Jefferson nominations and 10 awards. New Orleans credits include last year’s New Orleans Shakespeare Festival (Cymbeline, Incarnate), The Southern Rep (Stage Kiss, Colossal), and Le Petit Theatre (The Bluest Eye, The Glass Menagerie).  Regional credits: Steppenwolf Theatre, Lookingglass, Chicago Shakespeare, The Court (Chicago); A.R.T. (Cambridge, MA); The Arscht Center (Miami); Actors Theatre of Louisville; A.C.T. (San Francisco); The Berkely Rep; The Seattle Rep; St. Anne’s Warehouse, The Signature Theatre, 59E59, and The Cherry Lane (New York). As a composer for dance he has collaborated numerous times with the choreographer Molly Shanahan; as a drummer he has worked extensively with multi-instrumentalist Andrew Bird, amongst many others.

Mihai Razvan Plaiasu
Technical Director
Set Designer for The Two Gentlemen of Verona

Mr. Plaiasu was born in Romania after the fall of Communism, which fostered his powerful curiosity and desire for everything ‘new’ and his interest in theatre with its constant change of time, place, materials and people.  With a strong desire to draw and create new spaces, Mihai studied fine arts and theatre design at the main art high school in Bucharest.  He continued to study set design at the National University of Theatre & Film with Viorica Petrovici, the designer for the National Opera. Mihai worked in many theatres as an assistant to Puiu Antemir, one of the greatest set designers in Romania, in the independent small theatre movement. He is a recent graduate of Tulane University with a Master of Fine Arts in Theatre and Dance Design focusing on Set Design and Technical Direction. This is his second season with New Orleans Shakespeare Festival at Tulane. Other companies he has worked for in the U.S. are, the Oklahoma Shakespeare Festival and Southern Rep Theatre.

Jessica Podewell
Director of The Two Gentlemen of Verona

Ms. Podewell, originally from New Orleans, received her BFA from Webster University, and her MFA in Acting and New Works at the Ohio State University. She is the Literary Manager at Southern Rep and runs the Lagniappe New Work programs 3×3 and 6×6. As an actor she was last seen in Lisa D’Amour’s Detroit, which won a 2015 Big Easy. As a director she directed The Importance of Being Earnest with the New Orleans Tulane Shakespeare Festival and just collaborated with the NOLA Project to direct their production of Don Quixote at the NOMA’s Besthoff Sculpture Gardens. She is a proud founding member and current Artistic Director of the New Orleans summer children’s theatre The Patchwork Players, and serves as a Professor of Practice in Tulane University’s Department of Theatre and Dance.

Martin Sachs
Artistic Director
Lighting Designer for The Two Gentlemen of Verona and The Illusion

Mr. Sachs has designed lighting at such theatres as the Fredericksburg Theatre Company, the Dallas Theater Company, the New Orleans Opera Association, the American Southwest Theatre Company, Tulane Summer Lyric, Le Petit Théatre de Vieux Carré, and the Contemporary Arts Center. He is the recipient of five Gambit Magazine’s Big Easy Entertainment Awards for Best Lighting Design and is a member of United Scenic Artists (lighting design). He currently serves as Chairman for Tulane’s Department of Theatre & Dance and received a BA in Theatre from Grinnell College and an MFA is Design/Technical Production from Florida State University.

Alex Smith
Fight Director

Mr. Smith is a theatrical jack-of-all-trades who can be found joyfully wedging himself into all aspects of theatre – be it on, in front of, behind, above or below the stage. He holds a degree in Performance Theatre and a degree in Technical Theatre from Whitworth University. He has choreographed combat for numerous productions in the New Orleans area, including NOspace’s Woyzech, Southern Rep’s Stage Kiss, Small Craft Warnings for the Tennessee Williams Theatre Company, and most recently Orpheus Descending at UNO for Southern Rep. He continues to study Stage Combat with the Society of American Fight Directors and Dueling Arts International.

Chaney Tullos
Director of Operations
Director of The Illusion
Production Stage Manager for The Two Gentlemen of Verona

Mr. Tullos is in his sixth season with the Festival, where he recently directed and co-created a series of interdisciplinary shows entitled Incarnate and The Luna Series. Additionally, Chaney has served as Production Stage Manager for most of the Festival’s shows during his tenure. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Tulane University where he teaches courses in Acting, Stage Management, and Shakespeare. The Service Learning course he created and directs, Shakespeare on the Road, takes Tulane students into local schools where they perform Shakespeare’s work for enthusiastic audiences – at no cost to the schools. As an actor and director Chaney has worked with companies including Ford’s Theatre, The American Shakespeare Center, Virginia Stage Company, The Colorado Shakespeare Festival, SITI Company, and Swine Palace. He holds an MFA in Acting from LSU and is a member of Actors’ Equity Association and SAG-AFTRA. Chaney is also a guest instructor at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts.

Nicole Watts
Set Designer for The Illusion

Ms. Watts is originally from Wyoming. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre and Dance Design and Production focusing on Costume Design from the University of Wyoming.  She is a recent graduate from Tulane University with a Master of Fine Arts concentrating in Costume and Scenic Design. This is her first season at the New Orleans Shakespeare Festival at Tulane and she is excited to be part of the team. Other companies she has worked for include The Black Hills Playhouse, Glimmerglass Festival, and NETworks Touring.