Board of Directors

Cindy Harper – Executive Director

Cindy HarperCindy Harper currently serves as the Executive Director of ACT.  Cindy has worked as a consultant with non-profit organizations bringing more than 25 years of experience with boards, staffs, and volunteers of arts organizations and community groups.  She has expertise in strategic planning, annual and capital fund campaigns, grants and grants administration, prospect research, and program development and evaluation. With a B.S. in Mathematics from Wake Forest University and an M.A. in Arts Administration from the University of New Orleans, Cindy has held various positions with arts organizations including the National Endowment for the Arts, the Mississippi Arts Commission and the Alabama Ballet. Active in the community, she served as president of the Birmingham Figure Skating Club for five years and chaired the 2016 US Figure Skating National Theatre On Ice Competition in Pelham, AL.  She has served on numerous other boards including Association of Fundraising Professionals – Alabama Chapter, Magic City Actors Theatre, Space One Eleven and the Music Opportunity Program.

Email: [email protected]

Brian Cocke – Secondary Festival Director

Brain Cocke is the new Secondary Festival Director, taking over the role in 2020.  He has taught Elementary Music & Drama for 17 years at Chalkville Elementary School (Jefferson County Schools) and Paine Elementary (Trussville City Schools) and is currently teaching elementary Drama at Gwin Elementary and Trace Crossings Elementary (Hoover City Schools). He received his Bachelors, Masters, and Educational Specialist Degrees in Choral/Vocal Music Education from the University of Alabama and his Doctorate in Organizational Development and Leadership from Grand Canyon University in Phoenix.

Email: [email protected]

Revel Gholston – President

Revel Parsons Gholston has been a part of Alabama’s Secondary Theatre Education crew for the past seventeen and half years. All of these years have been spent managing the Opelika Center for the Performing Arts, and managing the High School theatre program at Opelika High School. Graduating from the University of Iowa with focuses on English, Theatre, and Creative Writing, Revel, is always eager to help out anyone and everyone that could use a hand. Having handled over 100 professional touring prouductions for the East Alabama Arts Association, all while directing near 50 high school productions, and teaching in the classroom part time…Revel tries to find time to rest as well as spend as much time with his wife and two children before they forget who he is. Bringing as much culture to the state of Alabama has always been Revel’s mission, and Alabama Conference of Theatre is more than a great platform for everyone to do just that. Revel looks forward to the bright artistic future that the state is producing.

Email: [email protected]

Jeff Glass – Vice President

Jeff Glass is a past Secondary Division Chair and winner of the 2018 Dorothy Schwartz Outstanding Educator Award.   A 1998 WHS graduate, and he currently teaches Theater I, II, Musical Theatre and Technical Theatre at Wetumpka High School. After graduating from WHS, Jeff attended Auburn University Montgomery as an English Major and Theatre Minor. While at AUM, Jeff was president of the English Club. During his time there, he won 3rd Place for Short Fiction at the Southern Literary Festival, 1st Place for One Act Play at the Southern Literary Festival, and Best Alabama Student Playwright at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. Jeff also won 1st Place for Undergraduate Analytical Essay in AUM’s Collections. Jeff worked an internship at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival during his senior year as an editor and writer. Mr. Glass graduated from AUM in 2003, Cum Laude, and is a member of the Phi Kappa Phi National Honor Society. He is also the recipient of WAKA News Golden Apple teaching award.

Email: [email protected]

Randy Blades – Secretary

Randy Blades is an Associate Professor and the current head of Drama for Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, AL.  He joined the faculty at JSU in 2006 and was hired as Department Head in 2012.  He is primarily a  costume technician and designer and holds an MFA in Costume Design from Penn State University and a BA in Drama from Jacksonville State.  Prior to joining the JSU faculty he was an Assistant in Theatre and costume shop manager for the University of Central Florida.

As a costume designer his credits include Shenandoah (Kennesaw State University), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Stage Door Players), What the Butler Saw, The Trickeries of Scapin (University of Central Florida) Hamlet, A Soldier’s Play, and Macbeth (Penn State University) The Daughters of Abraham (Auburn University at Montgomery/ALA-etc) Steel Magnolias (Maples Repertory Theatre), and The Normal Giant (The Tesseract Theatre Company).  While at JSU, costume designs include An Enemy of the People, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Antigone and She Kills Monsters (costumes and puppets).

As a technician Randal has also worked for the Illinois, Georgia ,Orlando and Utah Shakespeare festivals, the Alliance Theatre, and the Atlanta Opera where he was costume shop manager and cutter draper for two seasons.

An active member of ACT, Randy has served in the past as the President, the Vice President, and the College Division Chair.

Email: [email protected]

Adam Miller – Treasurer/Past Community Theatre Chair

Adam M. Miller holds an M.F.A. in Theatre Management/Arts Administration from The University of Alabama, having interned at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival.  He served as the Director of Marketing & Public Relations for the LSU Department of Theatre and their affiliated Equity theatre, Swine Palace Productions, for more than three years.  Adam has served as the Managing Director of Theatre Tuscaloosa at Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, since 2010.

Email: [email protected]

Lonny Harrison – SETC Representative


Lonny Harrison is the Director of Theatre at Saint James School in Montgomery, AL. This is his 19th year at Saint James. He attended the University of South Alabama for undergraduate school where he received a BFA in theatre. Mr. Harrison went on to the University of Florida and the University of Alabama where he earned his MFA in theatre with a concentration in scenic design. He has served on the ACT board in many capacities including serving as treasurer and most recently chair of the secondary division. He is the current Director of the Theatre for the Alabama Institute for Education in the Arts (AIEA) and has been on many boards and committees for theatre organizations across the state. Mr. Harrison enjoys what he does and gets a big kick out of watching his students grow and flourish as young men and women while receiving acclaim and artistic fulfillment in their post secondary careers.

Email: [email protected]

Kristy Meanor – Past Chair

Kristy Meanor serves as Executive Director for the Wetumpka Depot Players, the River Region’s oldest community theatre. Kristy has directed, acted and designed for the Depot Players for the last 35 years and has been ED for ten years. Kristy leads marketing, educational outreach programs and the artistic activities at the Depot Theatre. Kristy has served in leadership roles with ACT and SETC. Her recent work onstage in Night Mother was recognized at ACTFest and SETC with an Outstanding Achievement in Acting award.  Kristy was also named Best Director at Southeastern Theatre Conference for her work with the talented ensemble of The Fantasticks and was a part of the ensemble cast of the nationally recognized production, Second Samuel. Other roles include Rosemary in Picnic, Willie Mae in The Sugar Bean Sisters, Dotty in Noises Off, Sister Amnesia in Nunsense, Felecia Dantine in I Hate Hamlet and Melissa in Love Letters. Directing credits include, Tuesdays With Morrie, Big River, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Kristy is a former recipient of ACT’s  Marian Gallaway Award. Kristy is mom to an ensemble of amazing children- Laurel, Drew and Colgan and a fur baby named Rudy.

Email: [email protected]

Chelsea Nicholson – College/University Chair

Chelsea Reynolds Nicholson is a SAG-AFTRA actor and theatre educator who hails from Gulf Breeze, FL. Her areas of focus in the Samford University Department of Theatre and Dance are Musical Theatre and acting. She holds an M.F.A. In Acting from the University of Alabama, and a B.A. in Musical Theatre from Samford University. While maintaining a professional acting career, she has taught a variety of musical theatre and theatre courses for the University of Montevallo and Samford University, and the University of Alabama. She has worked with esteemed AEA houses around the country such as Flat Rock Playhouse, Hangar Theatre, and Greenbrier Valley Theatre. A few of her favorite acting credits include May in “Fool for Love” with the Hollywood Fringe Festival, Lily in the Alabama premiere of “Alabama Story” with Red Mountain Theatre Company, Missy in “The Marvelous Wonderettes” with Actors Point Theatre Company of Nashville, and a silent horror film directed by Jim Hanks.

Email: [email protected]

Stewart Hawley – College/University Vice Chair

Professional actor, director and stuntman Stewart Hawley has joined the University of Mobile faculty as chair of the theatre department in the Alabama School of the Arts (ASOTA). The assistant professor of theatre has performed and directed with professional companies from the Rome Shakespeare Company to the Batman Stunt Show, and appeared in films and commercials. Hawley is a certified teacher of stage combat with the Society of American Fight Directors. He has published articles in scholarly journals on the role of Christianity in theatre, as well as other topics. Hawley is a PhD candidate at Bowling Green State University and holds a Master of Fine Arts in theatre-directing and Bachelor of Science in psychology, both from the University of Houston. Previously, he served as assistant professor at Reinhardt University. As a professional actor and director, Hawley has worked with the AD Players, New Stage, Harvest Theatre, Center Theatre Ensemble, Rome Shakespeare Company, Living Room Shakespeare, Batman Stunt Show, the Police Academy Stunt show, and The Alliance Theatre, along with many others. He can also be seen in the films WHO,Reconciliationand the web series Memoirs of a Godfather.He has performed in several commercials for People’s Bank, Cartoon Network and Kroger.  His scholarly articles appeared in the publications Christianity and Theatre Journal, where he served as editor, and Quidditas, Asian Theatre Journal, Texas Theater Journaland The Fight Master. He is a member of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education, Association of Asian Theatre Performance, Christians in Theatre Arts, Certified Teacher Society of American Fight Directors, the Southeastern Theatre Conference and Texas Educators Theatre Association.

Email: [email protected]

Megan Browning Phelps – Secondary Division Chair

Meghan Browning Phelps is from Huntsville, Alabama. She graduated from Jacksonville State University in 2014 with BA in Theatre Performance. Meghan is the full time theatre teacher/director at her alma mater, Huntsville High School. This will be her fifth year of teaching and will be representing her district as the Vice President of District One alongside her job as Secondary Division Vice Chair.  In her short four year stint of teaching HHS has placed best in show at district and state multiple years. They have also represented Alabama at SETC in 2019. Although Meghan has only been teaching for four years, she has been attending Trumbauer since high school. “I met some of my best friends at Trumbauer, whom I still keep in touch with today. My goal is to bring as much joy and unity I can to this crazy art form we all love.”

Carl Dean – Secondary Division Vice Chair

Birmingham actor, director, teacher and choreographer, Carl Dean is currently the Director of the Jefferson Academy of Theatre and Dance. An army brat, he has a Bachelors and Masters from the Unversity of Montevallo. Dean, who has been dancing and performing since he was in the sixth grade, believes in the power of theatre and enjoys sharing some of its lessons with his students. “The performing arts are constantly awakening your senses,” Dean said. “In the world we live in now, it’s great to use your imagination and bring some joy into the world. For generations artists were celebrated for what they bring to the culture. Now people are famous for being famous. That’s not what real acting is. It’s a true expression from the heart. That’s why I enjoy working with young people so much as I get older because I can share that experience with them and see that little spark.”

Casey Kaufman – Community Theatre Division Chair

Casey Kauffman is originally from Birmingham,AL. She has a BA in Acting and Directing from Jacksonville State University. She has performed in community and professional theatres in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, New York and New Jersey as well as in a national tour. She choreographed, directed and performed in NYC for 6 years where she met her husband. They moved to Winfield, AL to live close to family as they started their own. Casey and her husband established a community theatre in 2010 in Winfield and became a non-profit in 2015. Self Express Productions, Inc. provides performing arts education. They produce 4 shows a year as well as multiple workshops and they run a dance studio called Song and Dance which offers classes for ages 2 to adult. Casey teaches ballet, jazz, tap and musical theatre in addition to directing and acting throughout the year. She has also recently performed at Theatre Tuscaloosa. She is very passionate about providing opportunities for performing arts and arts education in small communities.

Email: [email protected]

Mary Schiermann- Community Theatre Vice Chair

Mary Schiermann,  president of the Cetnral Alabama performing Arts Guild.

Email: [email protected]

Stacy Chancellor – Theatre For Youth Chair

In addition to her role as a science teacher at Holtville Middle School, Stacy Chancellor also oversees the Holtville Theatre Society which provides students with the opportunities to showcase their acting, singing, and dancing talents through a variety of Broadway musicals.

Email: [email protected]

Melissa Strickland – Theatre for Youth Division Vice Chair  

Melissa Strickland has a BS in Secondary Language Arts and has been a teacher in Prattville and Montgomery for 23 years, teaching English, theatre, art, and several other electives. She has been diligently growing the theatre class and Creative Outlet theatre club at Prattville Junior High for the last six years, and her students have participated in the ACT Youth competition. She is also the vice-president of Prattville’s Way-Off Broadway Theatre board. Melissa was very active in theatre throughout high school and college, and after a hiatus returned to community theatre recently in Brighton Beach Memoirs and The Secret Garden. She has tried to instill her love of theatre into her daughters, Syndal and Skylar, and hopes to do the same with her two grandchildren as well.  Thankfully, her husband James is always supportive of any theatre endeavors Melissa takes on. She is excited to be a part of the growing ACT Youth Division!

Email: [email protected]

Gary Weatherly – Professional Division Chair

Gary Weatherly is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro where he earned a BA degree in Drama with emphasis in Design and Technology and was awarded the Raymond Taylor Scholarship Award.  Mr. Weatherly has finished his course work for a Master’s of Science in Theatre Education from Southern Oregon University and is in the process of finishing his thesis for the degree. Mr. Weatherly is serving MBHS as a Teacher, Designer, Technical Director, and Manager of Mountain Brook High School’s Fine Arts Center. He is the Head of the Fine Arts Department and sponsor of the Stage Crew Club and co-sponsor of the Thespian Society. He serves as the Fine Arts technology representative. Before discovering the challenges of teaching in secondary school, Mr. Weatherly designed professionally over 400 productions in almost every state in the southeast for over 25 years. He has worked as the resident designer for Birmingham Children’s Theatre, The State of Alabama Ballet and the Miss Alabama Pageant and worked for most of the Birmingham community and university theatres as a guest designer.

Email: [email protected]

Allison Upshaw, PhD – Professional Division Vice Chair

Dr. Allison Upshaw is a native of Forest Home, Alabama. She holds degrees in vocal performance from Oberlin Conservatory and Louisiana State University, as well as a PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Alabama. As a member of Actor’s Equity, she’s performed in Menopause, The Musical; Jelly’s Last Jam; Jerry Springer, The Opera; and GRITS, The Musical. She’s the author of The Mama and Me Chronicles, and continues to work as a classical recitalist. In addition to founding OPERAtunities and Planning Diversity, Inc., Dr. Upshaw works as the Director of Faculty Development and Assistant Professor of Music at Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, AL.

Email: [email protected]

Sara Butler Argiro – Past Secondary Division Chair

Sara Butler Argiro is a Scottsboro, Alabama native and a graduate of The American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City. She holds a BA in Theatre from The University of South Alabama and a MA in English and Education from The University of Alabama Huntsville. Sara is the full time Theatre Arts teacher for DeKalb County Schools and is the Director of DeKalb County Fine Arts Academy – a program she was asked to develop through the DeKalb County Technical Center with the purpose of adding the Arts into STEM education. Sara is passionate about moving from STEM to STEAM and spreading the Arts throughout Alabama. In her career Sara has been involved in numerous productions as a director, actor, or crew member. She has worked in professional and community theatres as well as several secondary programs. She has taught Theatre and English in Alabama, Mississippi, and Washington State. When not working, Sara is with her favorite people – her husband T.J. and her son Xander – usually playing board games or watching superhero movies.

Sara is grateful for the support of her family and is proud to serve ACT.

Email: [email protected]

Patricia Putman – Executive Director Emeritus

Patricia Putman is presently the Executive Director Emeritus for the Alabama Conference of Theatre (ACT) . Patricia served as a Governor Appointee for the Alabama State Course of Study for Theatre Arts 2017. After teaching music in the Jefferson County School System for 34 years she retired Dec. 1, 2011. Patricia served as the Music Director for Corner Theatre Academy at Corner High School from 1987-2013. She has a BS (1978) & MS (1987) in Music Education from Jacksonville State University. Patricia was the 2011 ACT Secondary Teacher of the Year. She is a huge supporter of the blending of all the arts and Arts Education on all age levels.