Meet Our Teaching Artists

Children's Theatre of Charlotte is proud to work with some of the finest theatre arts educators in the country. Their personal creative drive and professionalism in our classrooms inspire young people to excel on stage, and in life. Our team includes theatre and education professionals who create challenging and fun lessons for students. If you have any questions about our Teaching Artists, please contact EG Engle, Director of Education.

Karen Steele - Resident Teaching Artist

Pronouns: She/Her
Karen graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill. She has taught theatre education, dance, and music to children and adults for many years. While in Charlotte, she has worked for Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, the Afro-American Cultural Center, Arts Teach, Blumenthal Performing Arts, and Community School of the Arts. She is also a professional singer, dancer, and actor. Karen believes that the class experience at Children’s Theatre of Charlotte helps children of all ages sharpen their theatre skills!
Teaching Areas: Side-by-Side, My Spotlight, Acting Adventures, Young Explorers, Create-a-Play
Years Teaching at CTC: 13
Favorite Play or Musical: Far too many to narrow it down to one, but the very first play I saw at the age of two was Oklahoma!
Favorite Food: Chicago-style deep dish pizza
Fun Fact/Hidden Talent: I performed at and taught a workshop for the National Black Theatre Festival.

Breana C. Venablé - Resident Teaching Artist

Breana C. VenabléPronouns: She/Her
Breana is a May 2018 graduate of Hollins University where she received her Master of Fine Arts degree in Playwriting with a concentration in Dramaturgy. She was a 2022 Creative Renewal Fellowship finalist which allowed her to go on an experimental journey of exploring multiple artistic mediums of storytelling to usher creative expression and ancestral healing through theatre. She is currently workshopping her newest work, an Afro-futuristic memoir play titled Unpacking Pt 1.
Teaching Areas: Foundations of Theatre, Scenes from a Play, New Works
Years Teaching at CTC: 1
Favorite Play or Musical: Eclipsed by Danai Gurira
Favorite Food: Indian Food
Fun Fact/Hidden Talent: I currently own over 500 dvds in my collection and I'm very behind.
What do you love about teaching? I enjoy walking along students as they discover new aspects of themselves and their art.

David Barnaba

David BarnabaPronouns: He/Him
David Barnaba has been working with Children's Theatre since 2010. In that time, he has been the Music Director for countless shows and productions in the summer. He also works in SOTT classes during the school year.  David's "day job" is working in Cabarrus County as a General Music Teacher, and he has taught for 25 years.  He loves writing music, playing piano, and spending time with his family and his two girls, Clara and Scarlett.
Teaching Areas: Musical Theatre Auditions, Audition Monologues, Broadway Song & Dance
Years Teaching at CTC: 13
Favorite Play or Musical: Hamilton
Favorite Food: Pizza
Fun Fact/Hidden Talent: I can figure out how to play songs on piano very quickly.
What do you love about teaching? I love seeing those "light bulb" moments when they figure something out!

Haven Bradam

Haven BradamPronouns: She/Her
Haven Bradam is from Dayton, Ohio and moved to Charlotte, North Carolina in 2019. Haven has a Masters in Elementary Education, Masters in Public Administration, Bachelors of communication with a major in theater and a double specialization in children’s theater/puppetry and acting/directing and an Associates in Theater Performance. Haven acting career started when she was 9 years old and took her first theatre class. From that moment on she was hooked into performing.
Teaching Areas: My Spotlight, Acting Adventures
Years Teaching at CTC: 1
Favorite Play or Musical: Our Town
Fun Fact/Hidden Talent: My favorite color is pink.
What do you love about teaching? I love getting to work with students on performance!

Danielle Burke

Danielle BurkePronouns: She/Her
Danielle has a BFA in Musical Theatre from the University of Arizona. She has been teaching voice and theatre for over 15 years. This will be her third year of teaching classes in SOTT. Danielle loves helping students grow in a musical performance.
Teaching Areas: Musical Theatre Auditions, Broadway Song & Dance, Musical Theatre Company
Years Teaching at CTC: 3
Favorite Play or Musical: Come From Away
Favorite Food: Warm crusty bread with butter
Fun Fact/Hidden Talent: Loves doing puzzles of all kinds
What do you love about teaching? I love that moment when a student gets it!

Leslie Cossor

Leslie CossorPronouns: She/Her
Leslie began her training at Children's Theatre of Charlotte, continuing in private training, master classes, and at UNCSA and UNCC. Leslie is currently a graduate candidate at Guildford School of Acting (GSA), located in Guildford, UK. Leslie has worked locally, regionally, off Broadway and with Cirque Du Soleil. Leslie specializes in voice in movement based in Fitz-Maurice and Linklater voice work, Laban, Bartenieff and Alexander movement techniques, and Yat and Meisner acting techniques.
Teaching Areas: My Spotlight, Acting Adventures, Acting Company
Years Teaching at CTC: 3
Favorite Play or Musical: Amadeus or Peter and the Starcatcher
Favorite Food: Cheese
Fun Fact/Hidden Talent: I love doing hand embroidery and cross stitch
What do you love about teaching? Seeing young artists grow and create fills my soul.

Tommy Foster

Tommy FosterPronouns: He/Him
Tommy is a professional actor, director, and teacher who took his first acting class right here at Children's Theatre 30 years ago. He has his MFA in Classical Acting from the Shakespeare Theatre Company, his BFA in Musical Theatre from the University of Michigan, and graduated high school from the NC School of the Arts. He has two sons, nine dogs, and one husband.
Teaching Areas: Broadway Song & Dance
Years Teaching at CTC: 10
Favorite Play or Musical: Carousel
Favorite Food: French Bistro
Fun Fact/Hidden Talent: Can re-enact entire scenes from The Golden Girls, playing all the characters.
What do you love about teaching? I love giving students an armor of self-esteem, and inspiring them toward a solid work ethic.

Tammy Fox

Tammy FoxPronouns: She/Her
Tammy Fox received her dance training in NY. She graduated from UNCG. Tammy danced professionally in NY as a performer and choreographer at CW Post University. For 20 years she has been teaching Jazz, Modern, Tap, Ballet and Contemporary dance. She was the Executive and Artistic Director at Gaston Dance Theatre, taught for Charlotte Ballet, Matthews Playhouse, and Matthews Ballet. Tammy has had choreography showcased at UNCSA Dance Festival and choreographed numerous shows throughout Charlotte.
Teaching Areas: Beginning/Intermediate Broadway Dance, Musical Theatre Company
Years Teaching at CTC: 3
Favorite Play or Musical: West Side Story
Favorite Food: Italian
Fun Fact/Hidden Talent: I am fluent in sign language.
What do you love about teaching? I love to see my students work hard, grow in their abilities and their confidence!

Gabrieal Gonzales

Gabrieal GonzalesPronouns: He/Him
Gabrieal Gonzales is a professional opera singer and has been teaching general music for 20 years (K-12). He graduated from Texas Tech University with a vocal performance degree and Masters in Music. He holds teaching licenses in both Texas and North Carolina. He's directed musicals for CTC, including CATS Jr, for Onstage 2023 and Tomás and the Library Lady. He currently is starting a new music program for CMS at Piney Grove Elementary.
Teaching Areas: Musical Theatre Auditions
Years Teaching at CTC: 1
Favorite Play or Musical: Les Misérables
Favorite Food: Chicken Fried Steak
Fun Fact/Hidden Talent: I grew up riding dirt bikes.
What do you love about teaching? I love seeing my students grow as performers.

CJ Higginbotham

CJ HigginbothamPronouns: She/Her
CJ Higginbotham is a swing teaching artist. She is currently studying at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Some favorite past productions include The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical (CTC), Shrek the Musical (CTC), and James and the Giant Peach (Charlotte Christian School). CJ is currently in her second year serving at Charlotte Christian School as the Assistant Director/Stage Manager of their middle and lower school productions.
Teaching Areas: On-call substitute for Foundations of Theatre, Side-by-Side, My Spotlight, Feel the Beat, Acting Adventures, Young Explorers, Create-a-Play
Years Teaching at CTC: 2
Favorite Play or Musical: The Last Five Years
Favorite Food: Pineapple
Fun Fact/Hidden Talent: I love photography!
What do you love about teaching? I love watching a student learn to tap into and use their potential!

Kie Jennings

Kie JenningsPronouns: She/Her
Kiesha Jennings is a professional dancer/instructor/choreographer. She teaches with Charlotte Ballet and around the surrounding cities for programs in afterschool dance programs, studios, and community centers bridging the gap of the arts and outreach. She aspires to open her own dance therapy studio focusing on the development of movement and mental health awareness.
Teaching Areas:  Feel the Beat, Modern Dance
Years Teaching at CTC: 2
Favorite Play or Musical: The Lion King
Favorite Food: Wings
Fun Fact/Hidden Talent: Likes to sketch and write poetry
What do you love about teaching? I love learning about my students, and helping them grow their confidence inside and outside of class.

Madia Medico

Madia MedicoPronouns: She/Her
Madia Medico is a director, actor, and certified theatre teacher. She graduated from Winthrop University with a BA in Theatre and a minor in Dance in 2017 and then graduated from Winthrop again in 2018 with her Master of Arts in Teaching after completing an accelerated Masters program. She now works at Children's Theatre as the Touring Coordinator for their new Front and Center Series.
Teaching Areas: Creating Characters, Scenes from a Play
Years Teaching at CTC: 5
Favorite Play or Musical: Hadestown
Favorite Food: Sushi
Fun Fact/Hidden Talent: I am a Disney Travel Agent!
What do you love about teaching? I love building relationships with my students and helping them grow and develop as artists.

Michelle Medina Villalon

Michelle Medina VillalonPronouns: She/Her
Michelle is an educator, director, playwright, and performer. She is a recent graduate of Catawba College with a BFA in Musical Theatre. Her most recent project was teaching in Asheville with the Wortham Center as one of their lead teaching artists for the summer. She is currently developing a new play she produced in her last semester of undergrad, a devised dramatic poem entitled Mythos. Michelle is so excited for another year at CTC!
Teaching Areas:  Foundations of Theatre
Years Teaching at CTC: 2
Favorite Play or Musical: Spring Awakening
Favorite Food: Any dessert
Fun Fact/Hidden Talent: Though Michelle is very proud to be fluent in Spanish, she also knows a little bit of German.
What do you love about teaching? I love making my classroom a welcoming space for risk-taking, exploration, and discovery!

Adam Montague

Adam MontaguePronouns: He/Him
Adam Montague earned his B.S.Ed in Theatre Education from Columbus State University. Since then, he has taught for the Springer Opera House, Kaiser Permanente, the Harris County School System, and Lexington Children’s Theatre. His favorite role was playing Renfield in Dracula. His favorite show to direct was Still Life with Iris. Adam also works in the Spangler Library at ImaginOn.
Teaching Areas: Company Intensive
Years Teaching at CTC: 8
Favorite Play or Musical: Betrayal
Favorite Food: Pizza
Fun Fact/Hidden Talent: Most recent trip was to Ireland, where I kissed the Blarney Stone.
What do you love about teaching? I love being part of a process where both students and teachers make discoveries!

Stuart Ranson

Stuart RansonPronouns: He/Him
Stuart has been performing and teaching improvisation for 25 years, first in Chicago and New York, and for the last two years with Charlotte Comedy Theater. He has worked at institutions such as The Second City, Improv Olympic, Annoyance Theater, The Magnet, and People's Improv Theater. He graduated from The College of William and Mary with a degree in Theater and English, and also teaches Sketch Comedy and Music Improv.
Teaching Areas: Intro to Improv, Improv - Scenes & Montages
Years Teaching at CTC: 1
Favorite Play or Musical: Into the Woods
Favorite Food: Pizza
Fun Fact/Hidden Talent: Worked on a cruise ship for six years/ Yogi
What do you love about teaching? I love when students support and nurture each other, the essence of improvisation.

Chester Shepherd

Chester ShepherdPronouns: He/Him
Chester Shepherd is an actor and director, and the co-founder of Shepherd Shakespeare Company. He has an MFA in Acting from Western Illinois University. Acting credits include The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime (ATC), Jackie and Me (CTC), and Much Ado About Nothing (Paperhouse Theatre). Directing credits include As You Like It (SSCo) and A Midsummer Night's Dream (ATC).
Teaching Areas: The Director's Chair, Pre-Professional Company
Years Teaching at CTC: 9
Favorite Play or Musical: Endgame
Favorite Food: Pizza
Fun Fact/Hidden Talent: We have three dogs and two cats.
What do you love about teaching? I love seeing students surprise themselves.

Morgan Wakefield

Morgan WakefieldPronouns: She/Her
Morgan is a professional choreographer and actor! Morgan has performed with CTC in Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, Dragons Love Tacos, Shrek the Musical, Annie, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, and Allie Kazan and the Magic Mansion. Other credits include: Julius Caesar (Mark Antony), A Chorus Line (Judy), and Fiddler on the Roof (Hodel). This season at CTC, she can be spotted in Narnia the Musical and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: the Musical.
Teaching Areas: On-call substitute for New Works, Acting Company, Musical Theatre Company, Pre-Professional Company
Years Teaching at CTC: 2
Favorite Play or Musical: The Phantom of the Opera
Favorite Food: Cheeseburgers
Fun Fact/Hidden Talent: Part of her iris in her right eye is green.
What do you love about teaching? I love seeing kids become more confident in themselves and what they can achieve!

Julie Weir

Julie WeirPronouns: She/Her
Julie holds a BA in Musical Theatre from James Madison University and an MFA in Classical Acting from Shakespeare Theatre Company. As an actor, she has performed across the country with Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre, The Barter Theatre, Folger Theatre, and numerous other regional theatres and tours. She is grateful for the opportunity to wear many hats at Children's Theatre of Charlotte including Teaching Artist, actor, and OnStage director.
Teaching Areas: Acting Company
Years Teaching at CTC: 2
Favorite Play or Musical: Into The Woods
Favorite Food: Desserts!
Fun Fact/Hidden Talent: Gift wrapping aficionado
What do you love about teaching? I love the "ah ha" moment when a student makes a breakthrough.

Reneé Welsh-Noel

Reneé Welsh-NoelPronouns: She/Her
Renee is a performer, choreographer and teaching artist from Charlotte, NC. She graduated from UNC Charlotte with a BA in Dance Performance and Choreography. In 2023 alone, she choreographed Beauty and the Beast at East Mecklenburg High school, Into the Woods at Ardrey Kell high school, and CATSwith SOTT. She is constantly inspired by working with youth artists and is excited to continue to have that privilege this season!
Teaching Areas: Musical Theatre Dance, Broadway Song & Dance, Beginner/Intermediate Broadway Dance
Years Teaching at CTC: 4
Favorite Play or Musical: Shrek the Musical
Favorite Food: Ramen
Fun Fact/Hidden Talent: I started teaching by accident.
What do you love about teaching? I love the exchange of energy between me and the students.