2019 OPERA March 22 & 24


STAGE DIRECTOR, WILLENE GUNN served as a member of the faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music for 30 years, as Director of the Conservatory Opera Program. Upon her retirement in the spring of 2005 the Conservatory conferred upon her the honorary degree of Doctor of Music. Ms. Gunn taught voice at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and staged operas in workshops at the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Nevada.  She directed over 90 major works by Mozart, Verdi, Puccini, Bernstein and other major composers for Nevada, Sacramento, Arizona Operas, Rogue Opera and the San Francisco Opera Center and other companies in the San Francisco Bay Area.  A graduate of the San Francisco Opera Merola Program, Ms. Gunn performed extensively on the West Coast as a dramatic mezzo-soprano with the San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Oakland and Nevada Opera companies in Aida, Falstaff, Peter Grimes, The Medium, The Consul and numerous others. Her symphonic repertory included Verdi’s Requiem and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. She performed in operetta, musical comedy and legitimate theater, in roles ranging from most of the mezzo-soprano roles in Gilbert and Sullivan, the alto leads in The Sound of MusicCarousel, and South Pacific, and as Hecuba in The Trojan Women.  She produced and directed over 35 productions at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and in 2000 the Conservatory awarded her the Sarlo Award for Excellence in Teaching. While at the Conservatory, she directed over 100 scenes a year in the opera workshops. 


In southern Oregon, Ms. Gunn served as Artistic Director of Rogue Opera from 2006-2009 directing the highly-acclaimed Merry Wives of WindsorThe Magic Flute and La Bohème. She co-created Rogue Opera’s Opera in the Schools program OperAntics! and created, directed and produced three Opera Workshop with Voices from the Valley Opera Scenes Concerts during her tenure. Ms. Gunn’s textbook, Teaching Opera, The Role of the Opera Workshop …With Scene Catalogue, written in partnership with Kathryn Cathcart, was published by Leyerle Press in February, 2008.


Martin Majkut, Music Director of the Queens Symphony Orchestra in Queens, New York and the Rogue Valley Symphony in Ashland, Oregon, was named a 2016 Emerging Artist by the League of American Orchestras. Born in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia), Martin graduated from the State Conservatory and served as Assistant Conductor of the Slovak Philharmonic while earning his Ph.D. in conducting at the Academy of Performing Arts. He worked with the Slovak Philharmonic, Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Slovak State Philharmonic and Slovak Sinfonietta, among others.


Martin came to the U.S. as a Fulbright scholar in 2003 and earned a D.M.A., his second doctorate, in 2008, at the University of Arizona. He served as Resident Conductor of the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra and the Arizona Opera Studio Artist in Conducting. He also studied with Gianluigi Gelmetti at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena, Italy and Salvador Mas Conde at the Wiener Meisterkurse in Vienna, Austria.


Martin has served as Music Director of the Rogue Valley Symphony (RVS) in Ashland, Oregon since 2010. The RVS has experienced a remarkable growth under his leadership and is enjoying an unprecedented level of support and enthusiasm in the community. The orchestra's budget has more than doubled during his tenure while remaining balanced every year.


Starting with the 2017/18 season, Martin assumes the music directorship of the Queens Symphony Orchestra in New York. He is excited to be performing music for the most ethnically diverse community in the world. 


Martin’s ability to inspire the orchestra and deliver exciting, polished and powerful performances results in enthused audiences and many sold out concerts. He has been called “amazing, supremely gifted” and “an incomparable, unique and perhaps irreplaceable asset” by the press. http://martinmajkut.com/

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WITCH - NICHOLAS NESTORAK, TENOR is an emerging artist to watch after successful engagements in US regional opera companies. This season, Nestorak sings Monostatos in The Magic Flute with Toledo Opera and Opera Grand Rapids. He also sings The Witch in Hansel and Gretel with Brava! Opera, and performs Count Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia with Opera Roanoke.

Last season, Nestorak performed the Physician in
The Fall of the House of Usher and Spoletta in Tosca with Wolf Trap Opera, Pang in Turandot with Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre, and reprised Gastone in La traviata with Austin Lyric Opera. In recent seasons, Nestorak débuted at Opera Carolina as Gastone in La traviata, and later returned as Trin in La fanciulla del West. He also performed as Basilio in Le nozze di Figaro for Toledo Opera, Ali in Zemire et Azor for Skylight Music Theatre, and sang a solo recital in Hillsdale, Michigan. Other recent engagements include Tobias in Stephen Sondheim’s gruesome favorite, Sweeney Todd, at the Glimmerglass Festival after débuting there as Monastatos in Die Zauberflöte the season before; appeared in the title role of Albert Herring and Jupiter in Semele at Opera MODO; and as Lord Geoffrey in The Picture of Dorian Gray at Opera Fayetteville.

As a Benson Young Artist at Palm Beach Opera, Mr. Nestorak’s assignments included: Tonio in
La fille du régiment, Spalanzani and Nathanaël in Les contes d’Hoffmann, Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Oronte in Alcina, George Gibbs in Our Town, and Malcom in Macbeth. He is also an alumnus of the Young Artist Program at the Crested Butte Music Festival where his assignments included Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia and Harlequin in Der Kaiser von Atlantis.

Also maintaining an active concert calendar, Nestorak’s concert credits include Händel’s Messiah and Alexander’s Feast, Rossini’s Petite messe solennelle, Beethoven’s Mass in C and Choral Fantasy; and Mozart’s Mass in C-Major. Nestorak regularly earns accolades in the competition circuit including recognition by Classical Singer Magazine, the National Association of Teachers of Singing, The Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Crested Butte Music Festival, and the Marcello Giordani International Voice Competition.

Mr. Nestorak holds a Master of Music degree in Voice from University of Michigan, where he appeared as Der Tanzmeister in
Ariadne auf Naxos, Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, and Nerone in L’incoronazione di Poppea. He also earned a Bachelor of Music degree from Hillsdale College, where his credits include Kaspar in Amahl and the Night Visitors and The Beast in Beauty and the Beast. Nestorak’s training also includes time at the Lyric Opera Studio of Weimar where he performed Tamino in Die Zauberflöte.

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HANSEL - COURTNEY ELVIRA, MEZZO-SOPRANO hails from St. Petersburg, FL. This past summer, she completed her second season with Des Moines Metro Opera’s Apprentice Artist program, covering Prince Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus. In September she sang the role of the Second Lady in Kentucky Opera's The Magic Flute.

This past year, Courtney sang the role of Third Spirit in The Magic Flute with St. Petersburg Opera and covered roles in her second season with Opera Saratoga. This coming year, She looks forward to performing Kate in Dayton Opera’s The Pirates of Penzance next February and the mezzo soloist in Handel’s Messiah this coming December. She’ll also be making her debut in two operas with Opera Ithaca in mid April 2019.

In 2016, Courtney completed Des Moines Metro Opera’s Opera Iowa program, singing the role of Angelina/Cinderella in La cenerentola. She also covered Javotte in Manon and study covered Orphée in Orphée et Eurydice in her first season with Des Moines Metro Opera. In 2015, Courtney joined Kentucky Opera’s touring production of Le nozze di Figaro as Cherubino. That summer, she made her first appearance with Opera Saratoga, covering Tisbe in La cenerentola. In the summer of 2014, she sang Dorabella in Così fan tutte for Opera in the Ozarks.

Other awards and honors include Honorable Mention at Opera Ithaca’s Edward M. Murray Competition (2017) and an Encouragement Award from the Iowa District Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions (2016).

Courtney graduated in 2015 from Carnegie Mellon University with her master’s degree in Vocal Performance after studying with the acclaimed Maria Spacagna. As per the recommendation of Mrs. Spacagna, Courtney continues her studies with Stella Zambalis.


Brazilian-born soprano Ariana Wehr, originally from Batesville, Indiana is a graduate of the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program with Washington National Opera and has been seen in the 2016-2017 season as Barbarina in Le Nozze di Figaro as well as Susanna in the Emerging Artist's Performance of Le Nozze di Figaro, Ms. Holy in the world premiere of Mohammed Fairouz's The Dictator's Wife, Zerlina in a concert version of Don Giovanni directed by Francesca Zambello, and performed in Justice at The Opera, a concert of operatic scenes dealing with legal issues narrated by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Francesca Zambello.

During the 2017-2018 season she performed in a workshop of Proving Up, singing the role of Younger Daughter, an opera by Missy Mazzoli and Royce Vavrek, with Opera Omaha, singing Amy March in Little Women with Annapolis Opera, and Konstanze in The Abduction from the Seraglio with Brava! Opera Theater in Ashland, Oregon as well as competing in the 8th Mt. Fuji International Opera Competition Shizuoka, Japan. She ended the season by winning the New Orleans Regional Metropolitan Opera National Council Audition and was a semifinalist in New York.

In the 2015-2016 season, Ariana was Abigail Williams in Francesca Zambello's production of The Crucible at The Glimmerglass Festival, Kahua in the world premiere of Better Gods at Washington National Opera and as Gretel in Washington National Opera's Holiday Opera production of Hansel and Gretel. She has appeared as Frasquita in Washington National Opera's 60th Anniversary season opening production of Carmen. She also made her debut with The National Symphony Orchestra singing Mozart's Exsultate Jubliate in 2015, covering the Forest Bird in WNO's production of Siegfried and covering the role of Musetta in La bohème at The Glimmerglass Festival.

She was the soprano Artist-In-Residence for Pensacola Opera for the 2014-15 season where she performed the roles of Monica in The Medium, Musetta in La bohème, and Edith in The Pirates of Penzance. She has been a member of the Young Artist Programs of Nashville Opera, where she sang the role of Berta in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Des Moines Metro Opera as Niece I (cover) in Peter Grimes, Opera Louisiane as Gretel in Hansel and Gretel, and for two seasons with Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre.

She was an Apprentice Artist with Des Moines Metro Opera in the Summer of 2013 where she covered Niece I in Peter Grimes and performed seven scenes. She was also a Young Artist with Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre in early 2013 for their productions of La Bohème and as Crystal in their touring outreach opera, Frankenboy! A Monsteropera. She made her operatic debut with Opera Louisiane in Opera Louisiane's production of Hansel and Gretel as Gretel and was the soloist in the Louisiana premiere of Zelenka's Magnificat in C with the Baton Rouge Early Vocal Ensemble.

Other roles include: Zerlina in Don Giovanni with DC Public Opera, Festival South Opera, and covering the role at Natchez Festival of Music, Marianne in Romberg’s The New Moon with LSU Opera, Musetta in La Bohème with LSU Opera, First Sheep in Candide with Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre, Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro, Le feu and Le rossignol in LSU Opera’s production of L’Enfant et les Sortileges, Giunone in La Calisto, and Papagena in Die Zauberflote with the Bay Area Summer Opera Theater Institute in San Francisco, Mrs. Nordstrom in Louisiana State University’s production of A Little Night Music, Barbarina in Le Nozze di Figaro with Lyric Opera Studio Weimar in Weimar, Germany.

Ariana has also portrayed many leading ladies in scenes programs like Musetta (La Boheme), Despina (Cosi fan tutte), Mary Warren (The Crucible), Sophie (Werther), Hero (Beatrice et Benedict), Massenet’s Cendrillon, Ilia (Idomeneo), Cinderella (Into The Woods), Zerbinetta (Ariadne auf Naxos), Giulietta (I Capuleti e I Montecchi), Alice (Falstaff), Konstanze (Die Entführung aus dem Serail), and Arabella, as well as Adina (L’elisir d’amore).

Ariana studied with Patricia O’Neill at Louisiana State University where she received her B.M. in Vocal Performance in 2011 and her M.M. in Vocal Performance in 2013. She currently studies with William Stone.

She was an Encouragement Award Winner from the Portland District Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in 2013 and won the 2nd Place Marie E. Crump Memorial Award in the 26th and 27th Annual Annapolis Opera Vocal Competition in 2014 and 2015. She was the 3rd Place winner in the 2015 Jensen Foundation Vocal Competition and an Encouragement Award winner in the 2015 Giulio Gari International Vocal Competition.

She is thrilled to also have won a 2015 grant from The Julian Autrey Song Foundation and is one of the top prize winners of the Sullivan Award from the 2015 Sullivan Foundation Competition and is so pleased to have been a finalist in the 2016 George London Foundation Competition.

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MOTHER - STEPHANIE SANCHEZ, SOPRANO Praised for her “full, rich sound,” Stephanie Sanchez is quickly creating a name for herself as an excitIng young mezzo-soprano. Though still in the early stages of her career, Ms. Sanchez has already gained a variety of formative experiences through her work with many prestigious companies. Her repertoire ranges from Handel to Wagner as well as premiers of contemporary American works. This summer Stephanie will be making debuts with St Petersburg Opera as Flora in La Traviata and also at the inaugural season of Teatro Nuovo in New York City as Roggero in Tancredi. In the spring of 2018, Ms Sanchez was chosen as the sole recipient of the 2018 Igor Gorin Memorial Competition, an award given yearly to a promising singer at the start of their careers.

Stephanie joined Arizona Opera as a Marion Roose Pullin studio artist for the 2017-2018 season. There she performed the roles of Persephone in Hercules vs. Vampires, Paquette in Candide, Berta in Il barbiere di Siviglia and, closed out the season as Flosshilde in Wagner’s Das Rheingold. The fall of 2018 will mark Stephanie’s return to Arizona Opera to cover Maria in Maria de Buenos Aires and sing Baroness Nica in Charlie Parker’s Yardbird.

Ms. Sanchez completed her artist diploma at the prestigious Shepherd School of Music at Rice University under the direction of Julie Simson in 2017. Her roles at the Shepherd School include 'Rosina' in Il barbiere di Siviglia, the mezzo soloist in Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden gesellen, and selections from Norma, Ariadne auf Naxos, and Dialogues des Carmélites.

Stephanie was a member of the Gerdine Young Artist and Gaddes Festival Artist programs at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis for three consecutive seasons (2014, 2015, 2016). Mostly recently, she performed the role of Dryad in Ariadne on Naxos and covered the role of Composer in the same production. Other roles at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis include Ruth in Pirates of Penzance, Sister Mathilde in Dialogues of the Carmelites, and A Young Girl in La rondine.

Some of Stephanie’s other roles and engagements include the role of Yesi in the world premier of “hip-hopera", Stomping Grounds at the Glimmerglass Festival, Amastre (cover) in Xerxes at the Glimmerglass Festival, Isabella (cover) in L’italiana in Algeri at Sarasota Opera, Mere Marie (cover) in Dialogues des Carmelites at Sarasota Opera, Zita in Gianni Schicchi at Opera Maine, Abuela in En mis palabras at Atlanta Opera, and performances of the title role in Carmen at both Emerald City Opera and Opera Breve. Stephanie also won first place in the 2016 Young Texas Artist Music Competition in Houston, TX and second place in Opera Connecticut’s 2016 Opera Idol Competition.

Ms. Sanchez was born and raised in Las Cruces, New Mexico and earned her masters degree in vocal performance from New Mexico State University in 2012. In 2009, Stephanie graduated from New Mexico State University with a degree in Biology and Biochemistry and a minor in music. She currently resides in Phoenix, AZ.

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FATHER - ALEX SOARD, BASS-BARITONE Praised as a “stand out” (Opera News), “rich and elegant” (Palm Beach Arts Paper), and “refreshing” (Miami Art Zine), bass-baritone Alex Soare is on the verge of an exciting career. Recent engagements for Mr. Soare include performing as a soloist in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with Glacier Symphony Orchestra and Chorale, and as Zuniga in Carmen, Prince Gremin in Eugene Onegin, Tom in Un ballo in maschera, and in Before Night Falls with Florida Grand Opera. This season, Mr. Soare performs the role of Mustafa in Italian in Algeieri with Winter Opera St. Louis, Father in Hansel and Gretel with Brava! Opera, and Leporello in Don Giovanni with Opera Hong Kong.

In recent seasons, Mr. Soare was a Mary Ragland Young Artist with Nashville Opera, singing the role of Samuel in The Pirates of Penzance, and returned to Des Moines Metro Opera to cover the role of Jack Rance in La fanciulla del West. He also was a Resident Artist with Florida Grand Opera where he performed Don Basilo in Il barbiere di Siviglia, First SS Officer in The Passenger, and covered the title role in Don Pasquale. Other recent engagements include Gremin in Eugene Onegin and Escamillo in Carmen with the Aspen Music Festival; der Sprecher in Die Zauberflöte and Elisha Fitzgibbon/Legs Diamond in a world premiere workshop Rosco with Opera Saratoga; as Sulpice in La fille du regiment and in Tosca with Opera North; Dulcamara in L'elisir d'amore with Opera Iowa; and Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte with Candid Concert Opera.

Soare had the pleasure of participating in the Des Moines Metro Opera apprentice program covering the roles of Orest in Elektra and Capulet in Roméo et Juliette. He also participated in the Aspen Music Festival and in the Opera on the Avalon Festival. Previous role highlights include the title role in Gianni Schicchi, Superintendent Budd in Albert Herring, and King Balthazar in Amahl and the Night Visitors.

Mr. Soare is an award recipient of The National Society of Arts and Letters, The Metropolitan Opera National Council, The Bel Canto Foundation, The Pantazelos Foundation, The Romanian National Song Competition, and Hariclea Darclee International Voice Competition. He has been a finalist for the Jensen Foundation Vocal Competition, The Marcello Giordani Vocal Competition, and Sherrill Milnes Opera Idol Competition.

Mr. Soare started his opera training in Brasov, Romania while earning a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Universitatea Transilvania. He then continued his studies in Salzburg, Austria at the Universität Mozarteum. He later completed a Master of Music in Vocal Performance and Operatic Literature at Northwestern University.


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Crowned Miss America 2002 days after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Katie Harman’s reign set her apart...as did her performance of a beloved Puccini aria to clinch the title: "When Oregon's Katie Harman won the Miss America crown in 2001, it was her dramatic rendition of the opera aria "O Mio Babbino Caro" that gave her the edge over competitors. In a flowing red gown on a vast, empty stage, she took Puccini's delicate melody and gave it just enough restrained emotion to create one of those rare moments of spine-tingling intimacy -- all the more amazing given the arena setting.” - Grant Butler, The Oregonian (2007)

Her professional career flourished and she began to make her mark as a unique breed of performer; one with the elegance of starlets past, and the solid technique of a devotee. Katie has headlined both full-scale productions and concerts with opera companies, musical theater companies, symphonies, and private events throughout the nation, including the Boston Pops Orchestra, Denver Philharmonic, Tuscaloosa Symphony, Shreveport Symphony, Oregon Symphony, Vancouver Symphony, Newport Symphony, Gold Coast Opera, Obsidian Opera, Eugene Opera, Astoria Music Festival, Sunriver Music Festival with Thomas Lauderdale & Pink Martini, Portland SummerFest, Stumptown Stages, Staged Musical Theater Company, and Portland's Singing Christmas Tree. In 2016, she was hand-selected to work with legendary sopranos Renée Fleming and Deborah Voigt, receiving praise from both for her "beautiful tone quality" and presence. In 2007, Katie debuted her first solo album, Soul of Love. The album was met with critical acclaim and Katie was named a “talent to watch” by reviewers. In 2010, Katie’s voice was featured on the small screen with a principal role as a singer in an episode of HBO’s dramatic series Big Love.

Armed with gorgeous orchestral arrangements of operatic, jazz, film, musical theater and holiday favorites penned by the great Norman Leyden (fellow Oregonian and former conductor for the Oregon Symphony Pops, made famous as Glen Miller’s arranger during and post-WWII), Katie also stars in a touring namesake show, “Katie Harman & Friends”. She delights in each opportunity to share Norman’s treasured musical gems alongside accomplished colleagues and an audience who laps up the richness of his arrangements.

In the midst of performing, Katie also saw a need for concentrated music lessons in her community and in 2014 she opened her own music studio - Songbird Studio - offering private voice lessons and music classes. Katie's lessons are built upon a solid foundation of pedagogy ("the science of singing"), tried-and-true repertoire, theory and musicianship. Each lesson is individualized to the student's skill level and needs, with the highest standard of teaching as endorsed by the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS).

Katie’s official duties as Miss America also shaped her into a compassionate, service-driven woman. In the wake of 9-11 she traveled the nation 20,000 miles a month, meeting directly with rescue workers at Ground Zero and the Pentagon, family members of those lost in the attacks, military officials, the President and First Lady, government officials, and thousands upon thousands of concerned American citizens. In addition, she aimed the Miss America spotlight at supporting breast cancer patients and championing comprehensive cancer care, converging with patients, medical professionals, health care advocacy groups, pharmaceutical manufacturers, legislators, businesses, students, media entities, and many more. Her work as an advocate was featured by numerous media outlets, including The Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN with Paula Zahn, Late Night with David Letterman, People Magazine and The Washington Post, and was also honored by Fox Chase Cancer Center, University of Pennsylvania Cancer Center, Metcalf Institute of Radiation Oncology, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and the Cancer Research Foundation of America.

Katie remains an active voice for the cancer community. She is a celebrity ambassador for Providence Cancer Center, a member of the Honorary Board of Volunteers in Medicine, and a member of the Cancer Advisory Committee for Sky Lakes Medical Center. From 2001-2008, she also proudly served on the National Board of Directors for the Breast Cancer Network of Strength. Her philanthropic endeavors extend to advocacy for Arts in Education where she served as Chairman of the Youth and Education Committee on the Board of Directors for The Ross Ragland Theater from 2006-2013 and helped establish Artists in Residence for the RRT's Youth StARTS Program from 2013-2015, providing Arts Education for area elementary schools left without music programs as a result of district budget cuts. For the past thirteen years, she has also been the voice and face of Portland Rescue Mission’s annual campaigns to garner aid for homeless men and women, and is presently on the Board of Directors of CASA of Klamath County, aiding the community's most vulnerable citizens: foster children caught in the legal system. In addition to her professional career and philanthropic commitments, Katie is also a speaker for women’s groups addressing faith, family, and true beauty (see the "True Beauty" section below for more information).

Katie’s drive to serve as a strong voice, in both song and speech, led her to pursue higher education in Music and Communications. With the scholarship assistance she earned from the Miss America Organization, she earned a Bachelor of Science in Communications from Portland State University (2005) and a Masters of Music Performance from Southern Oregon University (2017).

Katie and her husband, an F-15 pilot, instructor and commander for the Air National Guard, reside in Southern Oregon with their two children.


Based on the fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm, Hansel and Gretel by Engelbert Humperdinck tells the familiar story of two children who happen upon a mysterious Gingerbread house in the woods and are captured by a Witch. The fully staged opera will feature a richly talented national cast of professional opera singers and instrumentalists and will be performed in English with a translation by Marcie Stapp. Humperdinck's rich lyrical score completes the magic as the enchanting family opera returns to southern Oregon for the first time in 15 years. 

Friday, March 22, 7:30pm


Sunday, March 24, 3:00pm

Mountain Avenue Theater

201 S Mountain Ave, Ashland 97520

Performed in English with a Marci Stapp Translation


Artistic/Stage Director - Willene Gunn
Conductor - Martin Majkut

Children's Chorus Mistress - Amy Merwin

Stage Manager - Amie Vaughan

Costume Design - OSF Costume Rentals, Karen Douglas, Donna Boehm

Set Design and Build, Tech Director - Doug Ham

Light Design - Robert Peterson

Wig Mistress and Make Up - Virginia Carol Hudson


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