Alan M. Berks, Co-Artistic Director* (he/him), is a theater-maker whose work has been seen in all over the country. He has written or co-written the majority of plays and other art produced by Wonderlust. Previous as a founding member of Minnesota’s innovative Workhaus Collective, he wrote and produced The Great Divide, Feast of Wolves, and Music Lovers. Awards include: Minnesota State Arts Board (Ringtone), MacDowell Colony Fellow (They Want), and Jerome Fellow (Mourning Rituals). Other work includes: How to Cheat, Almost Exactly Like Us (Gremlin Theatre), 3 Parts Dead (Burning House Group), Everywhere Signs Fall (Gremlin), Home of the Brave (published by Playscripts), and They Want (based on The Oresteia by Aeschylus). Alan is also a teacher, communications consultant, former communications director at Pillsbury House + Theatre and co-founder and former editor of MinnesotaPlaylist.com.
Leah Cooper, Co-Artistic Director* (she/her), has been directing, producing, and managing in theater for over 30 years. Locally, she has directed for Rough Magic, Park Square Theatre, History Theatre, Commonweal Theatre, Gremlin Theater, 20% Theatre, Theatre in the Round, Shakespearean Youth Theatre, The Playwrights Center, and for the Breaking Ice (equity, diversity and inclusion) program at Pillsbury House & Theatre. She was the first Executive Director of the MN Theater Alliance from 2010-2016, serving over 450 theaters across the state; co-founding partner from 2007-2017 at MinnesotaPlaylist.com, and Executive Director at the MN Fringe Festival from 2001-2006. Leah is also a facilitator and consultant in community engagement and organizational development, and she serves on the board of directors for the Department of Public Transformation. Prior to working full time in the arts, she spent 10 years in the corporate sector as a software engineer and business consultant. She’s done a wide variety of things, but the unifying theme to her passion is inclusive creativity and creative inclusivity.
Laurel Armstrong (she/her) has worked in the performing arts as an actor, singer, dancer, voice-over talent, writer, director and producer. As a performer she was last seen in Wonderlust’s productions of Lost & Found, The Incarceration Play Project, and Hopscotch. She has performed with many other companies in the Twin Cities, as well as toured with Sesame Street Live! and worked as a singer for Universal Studios Japan. Locally her most recent producing/creating projects have been: Feed the Ducks in cooperation with Nautilus Music Theater, which virtually connected seniors with artists during the pandemic; Half-Baked with Theater Elision which gave an opportunity for artists to perform emerging, “half-baked” work; and East of the Sun, a concert-reading/retelling of the fairy-tale “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” with composer Natalie Nowytski. Her favorite projects are those that combine different styles, traditions, and people in ways that acknowledge and honor what is and what has been, while playfully stepping together into what could be.
Becky Dale (she/her), was the composer of original music for Wonderlust’s Lost & Found and The Capitol Play Project, and wrote and composed one of the Hopscotch Pandemic Pop-up Plays. She also worked with community members to co-compose original music for Wonderlust’s Look Again: The Normandale Play Project, and The Labyrinth and the Minotaur: The Incarceration Play Project . She participated as a community member in the Adoption Play Project and the Overachiever Web Series. Other community-engaged theater work she has done includes composing music for Cornerstone Theater Company’s touring production of California The Tempest, Cornerstone’s downtown LA production of Attraction, and founding, producing and composing for the West Side Theater Project, a community-engaged effort that staged three shows. Some of her other theater composing credits include Nautilus Music Theater’s Sister Stories, Ten Thousand Things Theater’s The Furies and Caucasian Chalk Circle.
Antonio Duke (he/him) is a Twin Cities based theater maker. Theater allows him to examine human behavior communally. Writing and embodying a character gives him the opportunity to evoke empathy publicly. Through writing and live audience interactions with a character he gains more insight into the human condition. He strives through storytelling to evoke a cathartic healing experience. His artistic mission is to provide conjuration spells for black folk. By offering black magic he hopes to illuminate a communal healing space. He conjures most of his muse from black spiritualities, specifically the deities from the Yoruba, Santeria and Voodoo traditions. He’s found through his solo work that some stories in the black experience need divine inspiration to tell fully. In doing so he follows in the tradition of a long lineage of African oral solo storytellers called Griots. He’s an alumnus of the University of Minnesota/Guthrie B.F.A Actor Training Program.
Andrea M Gross is a St Paul based costume designer, mama, advocate and activist. She is a company member with Wonderlust because she believes in the transformative way that stories here are gathered and told with love and dignity. Her costume designs have been seen in almost every production the company has made (In My Heart, The People’s House, and The Minotaur and the Labyrinth). Design work has been seen with Walking Shadow Theatre Company, Park Square Theater, The Ordway, and The Jungle. As Rubble&Ash, she collaborates with Barb Portinga to meld pieces from existing stocks of costumes; thrift, antique, and fabric stores; and purpose-build garments to combine elements in unexpected ways. She is a company member with nimbus theatre, where she made her local debut in 2005 and where she continues to grow, stretch, and become the storyteller she is. The intention is always to support the story and creation of character with skill and ingenuity. She is a founding member of Technicians for Change, and The Costume Collective. Andrea believes that a rising tide raises all boats and that we all do better when we all do better. (www.agrossdesigns.com)
Zeb Hults (he/him), was the scenic director for Wonderlust’s Incarceration Play Project, the Adoption Play Project, and Six Characters in Search of an Author Meets a Reality TV Show, and he was the technical director for the Capitol Play Project. He is a transplant to Minneapolis from New York City and Connecticut. Locally, Zeb has also worked as Technical Director or Stage Manager for Penumbra Theatre, Theatre Novi Most, Eclectic Edge Ensemble, Maple Grove HS, Circus Juventas, and Mad Munchkin Productions. He is currently the Assistant Technical Director for the Theatre Arts & Dance Dept. at the University of Minnesota. During his eight years in NYC, he worked Off-Broadway, in the theatre/event/fashion industry, and traveled across the country for a design firm, installing large-scale seasonal displays for casinos. In CT, he worked for the Goodspeed Opera House, was the Technical Director for the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts in Hartford, CT and as a Project Manager for Global Scenic Services in Bridgeport, CT.
Sophie Javna, Ensemble Member (she/they) is a recent transplant from Colorado and Oregon. She started with Wonderlust Productions as the Assistant Director for The Incarceration Play Project in 2022 and has since performed in their show and participatory ritual, Lost and Found. She is also collaborating on their Payne-Phalen Community Engagement project. Sophie loves playing with different aspects of theater-making, including acting, puppetry, visual art, singing, writing, movement, directing, and teaching. She is getting her Master of Social Work at the University of Minnesota, focusing on community-engaged arts as a therapeutic modality. She also gardens! Other credits include MN Fringe, Gadfly Theatre Productions, CLIMB Theater, Pillsbury House + Theatre’s Chicago Avenue Project, and Open Eye Theatre.
Megan Kim, Ensemble Member (she/her), Megan Kim is a graduate of The American Musical and Dramatic Academy-Los Angeles. She spent 9 years acting and singing in LA performing at various venues such as the Ford Amphitheatre and Fullerton Civic Light Opera, before returning to the Twin Cities. She is a company member with Wonderlust Productions. She performed in Lost & Found, The Incarceration Play Project, Hopscotch, Contact Tracing, The Capitol Play Project, Overachievers Web Series, The Adoption Play Project, and was the assistant director for Look Again: The Normandale Play Project. Other theatre credits include: Artistry, Smartmouth Comedy, Freshwater Theatre, Theatre Unbound and Nautilus Music-Theater. She also performs with Pillsbury House + Theatre’s Breaking Ice program.
Kari Olk, Ensemble Member (she/her), co-directed Contact Tracing, stage managed The Capitol Play Project, and was the production manager for The Overachievers Web Series. She graduated from the University of San Francisco with a degree in performing arts and social justice in 2015. She has been directing and acting in plays since she was a kid. As an adult she has stage managed with the University of Minnesota BFA/Guthrie Training Program, assistant directed with Theatre Latté Da, and run programming for Twin Cities Theater Camp, and Cristo Rey Jesuit High School. She also directed the Chicago Avenue Project for several years at Pillsbury House + Theatre. Kari believes in theater that generates new ideas, empowers new voices and sparks creativity. She is currently on hiatus from the company while she completes a graduate degree in Applied Theatre at City University of New York.
Gabriel Peñaloza-Hernandez (he/him/his) is a Texas native who holds a BA in Theatre and a Psychology minor. After graduating from Stephen F. Austin State University and completing a one year apprenticeship at the Commonweal Theatre, he decided to stay in the Twin Cities as freelance stage manager for various companies including Stages Theater, Rough Magic, Uprising, Shakespearean Youth Theatre, and Wonderlust Productions. He began working with Wonderlust Productions as the Stage Manager for The Incarceration Play Project and since has joined projects including Hopscotch and most recently Lost & Found.
Frances Matejcek, Communications and Research Associate (she/her) was born and raised in Minneapolis, and has been doing communications work for nonprofits in the Twin Cities for the past five years. She graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2020 with a BA in American Studies. Frances enjoys running, going on long road trips, sitting and thinking by bodies of water, and especially thinking about reality television. She is interested in how popular art and culture can be an expression of innate human desires.
Rosie Tabachnick, Audience Services (she/her), joined Wonderlust in the summer of 2021 as the production manager for Hopscotch and managed audience services for The Incarceration Play Project and Lost & Found. Rosie is a performer, director, and all-around problem solver. She is interested in experimental performance, new works, mending & repair, and listening to the radio. In addition to her work with Wonderlust, you can catch Rosie making theater in the Twin Cities with Commutator Collective and The Virginia Twins.
Mary Beidler Gearen, Board Member (she/her) is an award-winning theater actor, director and producer. She is a trustee at the College of Wooster, in Ohio, and serves locally on the boards of Playwrights’ Center and the Summit Hill Association. Mary received a Drama Desk Award as a coproducer of Latte Da’s “All is Calm – the Christmas Truce of 1914,” in its off-Broadway run. She has a brand new musical, “SKATES – the Musical” on “Covid hold” in Chicago. Mary has enjoyed film and commercial work, and enjoys editing/opining on scripts, screenplays and books. She favors new work development in all aspects of her career and supports numerous Twin Cities arts organizations that create it. Mary loves to travel and does so with gusto whether towing her tiny Scamp travel trailer to the national parks, exploring the Scottish Highlands, or delving into the canyons of New York City. She looks forward to learning more about the Wonderlust odyssey.
Marianne Combs, Board Member (she/her) is a veteran public radio journalist, with more than 20 years experience covering the Minnesota arts scene. In 2020 she was named Journalist of the Year by the Minnesota chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists, and has won multiple awards for her investigative reporting. She is particularly interested in the areas where the arts intersect with social justice. Currently she is the Managing News Editor for “Racial Reckoning: The Arc of Justice,” a collaboration between KMOJ, Ampers Radio for Diverse Communities and the Minnesota Humanities Center.
Kevin Lindsey, Board Member (he/him), who we met through the CAPITOL PLAY PROJECT, was also a participant and performer in the OVERACHIEVERS WEB SERIES. Kevin is currently the CEO of the Minnesota Humanities Center. Prior to that, he was appointed commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights in February 2011. He has over 25 years of experience in resolving complex legal and public policy questions as an attorney within private law firms, an executive in business, and in the public sector with the Office of the Ramsey County Attorney. In announcing his appointment, Governor Mark Dayton called Kevin ideally suited for the position, and said, “Kevin is a respected lawyer and advocate with deep experience in the community working on issues of fairness in the workplace and in the community. He will be a strong, professional voice in the Dayton Administration.” The department is responsible for enforcing the Minnesota Human Rights Act. The jurisdiction of the agency is broad, covering subject matter areas such as public accommodations, public services, business contracting, housing, education, and employment. In the area of employment, the agency investigates approximately 400 charges of employment discrimination, audits approximately 500 employers regarding their equal employment and equal pay practices, and investigates 100 ban-the-box complaints on an annual basis. Kevin received his JD and BA from the University of Iowa, where as a student he served as editor-in-chief of the Iowa Law Review. Commissioner Lindsey was recently honored by his alma mater with the 2017 Iowa Law Review Distinguished Alumni Award.
Michele Livingston, Board Member (she/her), is semi-retired from a corporate leadership background. She spends her time best in nature. A lover of the outdoors, Michele also engages around criminal justice reform and prison reform, people impacted by different abilities and disabilities, domestic violence prevention, and in supporting those re-entering society from incarceration. Michele’s goal is to simply be influential through story telling, from her many varied lived experiences. Michele became engaged with Wonderlust through story telling in response to the incredible story circle process held in the development and production of the play The Labyrinth and the Minotaur. Michele also participated in The Labyrinth and the Minotaur in the role as Educator and found the experience to be quite an incredible journey of discovery, connection, healing and overcoming.
Lacey Mamak, Board Member (they/he) first became involved with Wonderlust Productions as a story circle participant and cast member in the Normandale Play Project. A librarian at Normandale Community College, Lacey teaches research strategies and information literacy to students in all disciplines. Lacey is also a long-form improv performer and has appeared on stage at HUGE Theater, Strike Theater, Bryant Lake Bowl, and other venues. They were a portrait subject and participant in Leslie Barlow’s show at Minneapolis Institute of Art, “Leslie Barlow: Within, Between, and Beyond,” which explored the experiences of multiracial folks and/or transracial adoptees through paintings and videos. The thread running through Lacey’s work in the arts, including their work at Wonderlust, is the belief that art that comes from lived experience has the power to create transformative change.
Ned Rousmaniere, Board Member (he/his) is a behavioral consultant for organizations. He earned a Master’s degree in clinical social work at the University of Minnesota (1984). After several years as a child and family therapist, his professional focus turned to workplaces. As a counselor and consultant, he’s helped employees and leaders improve workplace satisfaction and effectiveness despite common challenges like change, conflict, and uncertainty. He’s supported all of MN state government for 20 years, with previous experiences at Honeywell, Wells Fargo, and the US Postal Service. In 2017- 2018 he participated in WLP’s Capitol Play Project . Previously, his school-aged daughter dragged him into a couple of plays, including one produced by community-based theater company Cornerstone Theater. That experience inspired Ned, and he’s been thrilled to build on it through WLP. Ned also gardens and bikes around town. After four decades away from sailing, he recently returned to the sport thanks to a small styrofoam boat that resembles a picnic cooler with a colorful banner for a sail.
Sarah Tan, Board Member (she/her) is an artist educator and deviser born and raised in Singapore. She has a B.A. in Theatre Arts and concentration in Education Studies from Carleton College, an M.F.A. in Theatre for Youth and Community from Arizona State University, and is a certified Trauma Support Specialist. Her background is in modern dance, physical theatre, professional theatre, and drama education. As a scholar, she has researched digital creations with young people, the performance of identity, and the intersection between the performing arts and healing trauma. Currently, she is a freelance artist educator in North America in the physical and online space. Learn more about what she’s up to at www.sarahtanhy.com.
*Leah Cooper and Alan Berks are the founders of Wonderlust Productions and are active ensemble and board members.
Thank you to our founding and past board members!
E.G. Bailey, Tru Ruts
Nancy Baldrica, Fraser Erica Fields, Fields Consulting, former CEO Brooks Grain
Julie Guidry, Upstream Arts
Ashley Hanson, Place Base Productions and Department of Public Transformation
Wu Chen Khoo, Technical Tools of the Trade
Jack Reuler, Mixed Blood Theater
Maren Ward, zAmya Theater Project
Harry Waters, Jr., Macalester University
Thank you to our founding and past ensemble members and staff!