MEET OUR CREATIVE TEAM
Prior to ACT-1, Chera performed professionally as an actress, dancer and singer in Theatre and in Television for over twenty years. National Broadway Tour credits include STARLIGHT EXPRESS (as Joule and Buffy) and Val in A CHORUS LINE, as well as many regional theatre, television and music video credits. Television producing credits include The Home and Family Show and Family Challenge. Chera was nominated in 2019 for a Valley Theatre Award for "Best Children's Theatre Director," and was nominated in 2020 by the National Youth Arts Awards for “Best Direction” of the musical Les Miserables.
Chera was married in 1996 and had two beautiful children. She created the Performing Arts Program and the Talent Show Program at Lanai Road Elementary School in Encino, and did that for four years. It was in 2009 that Academy for Children’s Theatre was born. She has always enjoyed working with children and is very excited to have the opportunity to share her passion for musical theatre to all the wonderful, creative and very spirited children throughout the San Fernando Valley!
Assistant Director, Producer, Acting Coach
As an actress, producer, director, model and stunt performer, Sierra has worked most of her life in film, television, commercials, print, and her first love: theatre! Sierra received her Theatre B.A. with Honors from UC San Diego, the 3rd most prestigious Theatre University in the country. She continued her training at the University of Kent in Canterbury, England. Upon moving to Los Angeles, she became the Managing Director of The Gangbusters Theatre Company, and produced and acted in numerous Ovation, NAACP and LA Weekly Award winning productions. (IMDB)
Sierra has always cherished her work with children - whether nannying, tutoring, or moonlighting as a Mad Scientist at children's birthday parties. In a natural turn of events, Sierra began working in L.A. as a Drama Director in eight different public schools. She has directed children all over the San Fernando Valley in musical productions, improv shows, Shakespeare, and classic straight plays. In 2008, Sierra met Chera at Lanai Elementary School and was the musical director for ACT-1's first production, SEUSSICAL: THE MUSICAL. Shortly thereafter, she and Chera decided to join forces to produce Academy for Children's Theatre, the highest-quality children's theatre company in the Valley.
Outside of ACT-1, Sierra loves to privately coach children and would like to publish some of her own plays. She also very much enjoys working as a Mentor at The Unusual Suspects, teaching at-risk teenagers how to write and perform their own material.
Graham Jackson has been a theatre/musical theatre educator for numerous schools and organizations, including Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, Marlborough School, Theatre 360, ACT-1, MyArt, MET2, Turning Point School and Covina High School. He also teaches each summer in Beijing and Shenzhen, China. Because of his nearly two decades of teaching, Graham brings a wealth of knowledge to every student he encounters.
As an actor and musical director, Graham has performed with many theatre companies throughout the Los Angeles area, including Theatre West, Zoo District, Sacred Fools, Evidence Room, and the Getty Villa. These award-winning productions include “Nosferatu”, “The Master and Margarita”, “Pathe X” and “Gorey Stories”. He also performed with Zoo District at the first annual Bulgakov Festival in Kiev, Ukraine, presenting the world premiere of “Heart of a Dog.". As a founding member of FSHA, he brought “Go True West” to Tadashi Suzuki’s Spring Festival in Toyama, Japan. With actress Zooey Deschanel he started the successful cabaret revue “If All the Stars Were Pretty Babies”.
Graham has directed numerous shows, including “Cabaret,” “Woyzeck,” “Machinal,” “Urinetown,” “Into the Woods,” “On the Town,” “Company,” “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” “Sweet Charity,” “Merrily We Roll Along,” “Thieves’ Carnival,” “42nd St.,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Sweeney Todd,” “Hello, Dolly!” and many more. Graham has musically directed over 50 shows, and has played piano since the age of 5. When he’s not leading a class or directing a cast, he’s at the piano.
Jonny Perl Assistant
Jonny Perl is thrilled to join the ACT-1 Team! As Managing Director of Shinbone Theatre Company, Jonny has produced and directed new musicals (Shel, Lorelei: I'm Coming Out), cabarets (Macabaret, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), and immersive content (What Went Wrong, Welcome Back Woodchucks). As an arts educator, Jonny works regularly with the Young Storytellers Foundation, Five Star Theatricals, and LAUSD.
As an actor, Jonny was most recently seen in Los Angeles productions of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (Cheswick), Tick, Tick...BOOM! (Jon), and Thoroughly Modern Millie (Jimmy). As a production coordinator for Cinemation/Little Bean Productions, he assists with the development of new Broadway musicals and animated films. He is a graduate of UCLA.
Kate Brennan is a performer, choreographer and teaches our PlayPals program at ACT-1. She is a Bay Area Native who recently graduated from The American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) and received her BFA in Musical Theatre. Kate has been performing since the age of 7 and her love of performing has grown into a love of teaching! She has been teaching since her freshman year of high school with multiple children's theaters in Northern California and Los Angeles, as well as performing for audiences of all ages.
Some of her favorite roles and directing/choreographing credits include: Avenue Q (as Bad Idea Bear), You Can't Take It With You (as Essie), Alice in Wonderland (Choreographer), James and The Giant Peach (Choreographer), The Lion King (Director) and many more. Welcome to Play Pals!
Jessica Reiner Harris is a proud member of Actors Equity. She has taught and performed musical theatre all over the world. Favorite performance credits include The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Skiptown Playhouse,) Forbidden Broadway (California Musical Theater,) and Voldemort and the Teenage Musical Parody (Edinburgh Fringe.) With a penchant for imitations, musical comedy and improv, Jessica has been developing curriculum and teaching kids theatre for over 15 years.
Jessica also performs as a wandkeeper at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood.
Aaron Williams is a virtuosic tap dancing multi-instrumentalist, trained in classical music, jazz, and rudimental percussion technique. He achieved internet fame with his viral video, Mario on Marimba, which has received millions of views on Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites. He appeared in Coca Cola’s “America the Beautiful” campaign which aired during the Superbowl, the Olympics, and the Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony. He is the composer of “Jazzy Note Blocks,” the music behind Note Blocks - AVM Shorts Episode 5, with over 77 million views on youtube.
In addition to his online and commercial successes, Aaron is a world-class music educator. He holds Level 3 Certification in Orff Schulwerk pedagogy, and he has presented teacher training workshops for AOSA, KIPP Schools, CMEA (California Music Education Association), and several colleges and universities. He is a recipient of the ACEMM Winter Spotlight Award, which is granted for outstanding work in learning communities utilizing music and movement. Aaron has done extensive work as a Band Director, Private Lessons Instructor, and Music Specialist for students ranging in age from 2 to 92.
Vikram Bhoyrul is an actor and is the director of Theatre 68's weekly meetups known as “Gym” where 20-30 actors perform scenes, learn a variety of acting related techniques from incredible people in the industry and produce many exciting plays. He has had a passion for improv ever since he was a teenager obsessed with sketch comedy. Vikram fell in love with the craft of Improv at Upright Citizens Brigade in Los Angeles and continued to study improv at Groundlings to familiarize himself with their philosophy too.
He performed on several indie teams for a few years including most notably “My Brother’s Number”. Vikram uses improv when he is doing theater, directing on camera work and even when he is writing. He has seen and understands just how valuable trusting your own instincts, listening to your scene partner and being really silly can be and wants to share this with as many up and coming actors as possible.
Bryanna Navarro (she/they) grew up in San Diego and moved to New York City to pursue her dreams as a professional performer. They studied at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy and graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Fine Arts. Bryanna has been teaching since she was in high school, where she was the Founder and President of the Aspire Tap Club. They are excited to continue developing their teaching styles, and provide students with skills to be successful in this industry.
Nedra Gallegos is a long time Teaching Artist specializing in Theatre. Currently she is an Instructor at the New York Film Academy of Los Angeles, there she teaches Women in Film, and Television, Theatre History and Acting History and she just returned from the Edinburgh Theatre Fringe Festival where a one-woman show that she co-wrote and directed,Jewbana, debuted and was positively received.
Nedra has extensive experience teaching acting and directing for: private and public schools, homeless shelters, and universities from NY to LA. She worked as a teaching artist with Pasadena Playhouse for their New Generations Theatre Access Program, where she taught middle and high school students about the main stage productions through theatre games and discussion. She also worked for BRIDGE Theatre, an organization that works with students to develop their own scripts and perform them for their community.
While teaching in New York City, Nedra worked with the Women’s Project as a teaching artist and developed and directed original plays with high school students. She worked with Manhattan Country School and directed their end of the year musical, and also served as the director for an after-school arts program in Coney Island, where the focus was on developing original plays and films.
As a teaching artist, many of her workshops focus on the theme of community. Through theatre games, improv, creative movement and script development, her students have a space to find their creative voice, share ideas, and forge friendships. For years she has used theatre improvisation games and storytelling techniques to allow people to lower their barriers and discover something about themselves and each other.
Nedra has a MFA in Performance from Pennsylvania State University, is an actress and has been a proud member of Actor’s Equity since 1996.
Tyler McKenzie (performer, director, choreographer, and educator) was last seen in the Broadway production of Hamilton. He is a Long Island native with a BFA in Musical Theatre from Western Carolina University, where he studied with three-time Tony Award nominee Terrence Mann, former WCU Phillips Distinguished Professor of Musical Theatre, and Charlotte d’Amboise, Mann’s wife and a two-time Tony nominee.
He has since performed regionally and in the Broadway & National Tour productions of Mamma Mia, Matilda, and Hamilton.
In 2019, Tyler received the Western Carolina University Young Alumni Award celebrating his level of distinction in his field of work, his commitment to the service of others, and his potential for future leadership/distinction. He also recently received honorary acknowledgement and membership from the National Society of Leadership and Success. Tyler has a major passion for education and has worked with young artists all over the country and online. He is on the current teaching faculty for Bold Dance Project and The Broadway Collective.
Tamara Koltes holds her BFA in Theater from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. She is a recent graduate with an MFA in Acting from East 15 Acting School of Loughton, England, where she has performed at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and Off-West End. Tamara has taught and performed in Seattle, New York, Minnesota, the United Kingdom, and Los Angeles.
With years of experience teaching many different age groups in dance and the theatre arts, she has worked with Boden’s Performing Arts, Children’s Theatre Company, SteppingStone Children’s Theatre, Youth Performance Company, Broadway Bound, Green Stage, Seattle Children’s, Young Actor’s Studio, Shakespeare Kids, and now ACT-1! Her directing credits include youth productions of Seussical Jr. and the original jukebox musical The Buddy Bench with Lakeshore Player’s Theatre, as well as We Are Monsters and Musicville with Ashland Productions.'
Nicole deRoux is a professional dancer, currently touring with the HAMILTON Philip Company. This is her national tour debut, and she debuts with the company in the ensemble as the bullet.She focuses on commercial musical theatre, street styles, stilettos and contemporary. She is an alumni of Broadway Dance Center’s professional semester, concentrating in street styles and theatre.
Nicole graduated from Drexel University in 2018 with a Bachelors of Science in marketing and a minor in retail merchandising. Over the four years she was a dance scholarship student training in ballet and modern. Nicole was also a featured dancer/model in a national ad campaign for Drexel University, “Ambition Can’t Wait”.
Iydan Thompson Brown
Iydan Thompson Brown is a professional singer, dancer and actress. Originally from Portland, Maine, Iydan moved to Los Angeles in 2017 to pursue her dreams of performing. In 2020, she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from AMDA College of the Performing Arts. Iydan is thrilled to be sharing her passion for dance and teaching with the students.