A graduate of Hall High School, Michael performed in several WHSAF plays in the 1990s. He went on to Harvard University, and then began as a writer for Saturday Night Live in 1997. Since leaving SNL, Mike has been a writer, producer, and creator for several hit television shows like The Office (where he appeared as Dwight's cousin, Mose), Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and The Good Place. Mike still has fond memories of his childhood in West Hartford, with Fernridge Park as his backyard. He and his wife, J.J. Philbin, have two children.
Broadway actress Emily Bautista just finished up a run as Kim in the US Tour of Miss Saigon. She made her Broadway debut in the revival of Miss Saigon as the Kim understudy and a member of the ensemble, and then went on to play Eponine in the US Tour of Les Miserables. Emily spent the summers of 2014 and 2015 with WHSAF, performing as a member of the ensemble in On the Town and as Anita in West Side Story.
Participating in SAF was a memorable foundation for me as a performer. I was inspired by the complexity and nuance of musical theater at an important age for my development as a musician.
Percussionist Richie Barshay, noted for his work with the Herbie Hancock Quartet, has established himself as a prominent musical voice of his generation and is regarded as "a player to watch" by JazzTimes magazine. On tour and recordings his diverse résumé includes Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Esperanza Spalding, The Klezmatics, Fred Hersch, Kenny Werner, Lee Konitz, Natalie Merchant, David Krakauer, Fred Wesley, Claudia Acuña, Bobby McFerrin and Pete Seeger among others. Since 2004, he has led outreach projects as an American Musical Envoy with the U.S. State Department in Asia, Africa, South America, and Europe. Now based in New York City, Richie began playing Jazz and Afro-Caribbean music during his youth and has expanded his focus to Indian rhythmic concepts and tabla, inspiring his 2007 recording debut Homework on Ayva Records. “Homework introduces a major rhythm voice on the rise” says Downbeat magazine, and The Guardian (UK) praises “the arrival of a major innovator who also knows how to have fun.”
Joseph Fierberg is a proud West Hartford native and appeared in 10 SAF productions. During his time at Hall High School, he was a member of the Jazz Dancers and Choraliers and performed in several productions of Pops n Jazz. Joseph received a BFA in musical theatre from Syracuse University, and has since traveled the country and world performing in national and international tours, as well as at various regional theaters. Joseph recently appeared in A Chorus Line at New York City Center. Favorite regional credits as a performer include Jerome Robbins Broadway at Theatre Under The Stars in Houston and The Little Mermaid at the acclaimed St Louis MUNY. Joseph has also performed throughout Connecticut in Chasing Rainbows at Goodspeed Opera House as well as Chicago and You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown at Playhouse On Park. Joseph has been a visiting artist with SAF in the past for productions of Beauty and the Beast and Pippin. He would like to thank Sara and Kate for the opportunity to return to SAF once again!
Before SAF, I'd been in lots of youth and young adult musical theater shows, but nothing compares to SAF. The level of professionalism, passion, and FUN was so vastly greater than any other program I have participated in, then or since, that SAF remains a true shining standard of what we as actors aspire to. Now that I'm an actress in Los Angeles, I try to hold on to that sense of self-value that I learned in SAF.
Megan Rosati is an actor and writer living in Los Angeles. Megan and her web series, 52 Ways to Break Up, have been featured in NY Magazine, LA Weekly, Los Angeles Magazine, and was Tubefilter's Indie Spotlight. Megan's first short film, The Roommate, was featured in the 2013 No Budget Film Festival. When she is not making stuff for the internetz, Megan can be seen on television and independent film and that one HBO show that never aired and she probably can't legally name.
"I will always hold SAF near and dear to my heart. Not only did it introduce me to some of my lifelong friends, but it also prepared me for the professional theatre world. The strong professionalism and quality of production ingrained habits and expectations I know hold for my own students and company members. I am truly grateful to have been part of such a wonderful and supportive family."
Stephanie Simpson is a contemporary and musical theatre choreographer and performing artist based in NYC. She received her Bachelors of Arts from Emerson College in Boston, MA and her Masters of Fine Arts in Dance Performance and Choreography at Smith College in Northampton, MA where she was also a teaching fellow at the college and guest artist at Mount Holyoke College. Previously, Stephanie lived in Los Angeles where she was a member of two modern dance companies, Intersection Dance Project and Louise Reichlin & Dancer, and toured throughout southern California. In addition, Stephanie performed with a variety of theatres working with Broadway veterans, Jon Engstrom on a re-staging of “42nd Street” and Mark Knowles on several projects. As a choreographer, she received an NAACP Award for Best Choreography for “Ragtime: The Musical” and was nominated for an NAACP Award for Best Choreography for her work on “Dreams in Variation,” a new, original musical, which premiered in Los Angeles. Stephanie was a scholarship student at Jacob’s Pillow’s Jazz/Musical Theatre Dance program directed by Chet Walker, co-creator of Fosseand choreographer of the Pippin revival. In addition, she has had the privilege of working with some great choreographers such as Brad Musgrove, Patricia Wilcox, Bill Hastings, Angie Hauser, Sonia Plum, BillBob Brown, Crystal Nilsson, and Katie Martin. Stephanie has been on faculty at Central CT State University, Elms College, and The Hartt School. She is currently building the dance program at Riverdale Country School in the Bronx and is a co-founder/artistic director of Reject Dance Theatre(www.rejectdancetheatre.com), a contemporary dance company based in NYC and Boston. In addition, she is a RYT-200 Yoga teacher and is the Dance Coach for My College Audition, where she uses her background in dance, yoga, and sport psychology to coach students on their college performing arts auditions.
Erica von Kleist
Erica von Kleist is a renowned flautist, saxophonist, composer and educator who had made her mark on the music scene worldwide. A native of Connecticut, Erica moved to New York to hone her skills at the Juilliard School, and in 2004 earned the first Bachelor’s degree in jazz in the school’s history. After graduation she began touring with the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, and recorded two Grammy-nominated recordings with the band. As a sideman, Erica has also toured, recorded and/or performed with Chris Potter, Wynton Marsalis and the JLCO, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Bebo Valdez, Cachao, Celia Cruz, Kristin Chenoweth and Seth MacFarlane, among many others. She is the recipient of several honors, including the ASCAP Young Jazz Composer’s Award, and the Martin E. Segal Award from Lincoln Center, and has been voted several years in a row a “Rising Star” and “Critic’s Pick” in Downbeat Magazine.
As an educator, Erica has taught privately for over 15 years. She has been a guest clinician at several schools and institutions including the Juilliard School, Stanford University, Jazz at Lincoln Center, University of Montana, and has done outreach work at the conservatories in Havana, Cuba. In 2011 she released her first theory book entitled “A Cool Approach to Jazz Theory”, aimed at teaching the basics of jazz harmony to beginning improvisers. Since its release it has become the main curriculum at several schools throughout the US, Canada, and Cuba.
Erica has released two albums as a bandleader – “Project E” in 2005 and “Erica von Kleist & No Exceptions” in 2009. Both albums featured some of her award-winning compositions and earned critical acclaim. She has been a featured soloist and guest artist with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, and the Glacier Symphony, and has been commissioned to write for Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, the Juilliard School, and has been an orchestrator and arranger for many other projects. She can also be heard on several Grammy and Oscar Nominated recordings, and is featured on the original Broadway soundtrack of “The Addams Family.”
It was there that she first felt the electrifying energy that comes with performing on stage, igniting in her a passion for theatre for life.
Hillary Ekwall is a West Hartford native, and Hall High graduate. Hillary performed in her first SAF show, My Favorite Year, in 2001 and as a theatre novice would sit backstage while the leads were rehearsing trying to learn everything she possibly could. It was there that she first felt the electrifying energy that comes with performing on stage, igniting in her a passion for theatre for life. She performed in 10 SAF shows most notably as Chava (Fiddler on the Roof), Anytime Annie (42nd Street), and Kathy Seldon (Singin' in the Rain). She then attended Skidmore College and graduated with honors in Elementary Education and Music. Since graduation she has been performing professionally around the country both on stage and as a cellist. She is currently on injury leave from Roundabout Theatre Company's Tony Award winning production of Cabaret where she plays kit kat girl Rosie, cello, and violin. Other credits include: National Tours: Cabaret (Roundabout Theatre Company), How the Grinch Stole Christmas ('14,'15), Ramona Quimby, Curious George Live! Select regional credits include: Grease (North Shore), Les Mis (Palace Theatre, Arizona Broadway Theatre), 25th Annual...Spelling Bee, Company, You're a Good...Charlie Brown (Playhouse on Park). "Nothing Great was ever achieved without ENTHUSIASM!" - Emerson. www.hillaryekwall.com