The Conservatory faculty at Stephens includes Broadway professionals, ballet masters, regional theatre managers and artistic directors, and professional lighting and design artists.


Jennifer Hemphill

Dean of the Conservatory for the Performing Arts

M.F.A., Kent State University; B.F.A., Tisch School of the Arts at New York University

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Jennifer Hemphill spent two decades in New York before transitioning into academia. She was seen on Broadway, on National Tours, in Europe, regionally, with symphonies, and at sea. In addition, she has taught masterclasses and workshops across the United States. Jenn is a respondent for the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, and is a member of MTEA and SETC. She is also a proud member of the Actors’ Equity Association (AEA) and the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC).


Lisa Brescia

Associate Professor and Chair, Acting & Musical Theatre

M.F.A., Academy for Classical Acting; B.A., Empire State College

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Lisa Brescia is renowned for her Broadway experience, starring in leading roles in Dear Evan Hansen (Heidi), Mamma Mia! (Donna), Wicked (Elphaba), The Times They Are A-Changin’ (Cleo), Aida (Amneris), and The Woman in White (Marion Halcombe). Regional credits include the world premiere of A Comedy of Tenors (Racon), The Winter’s Tale (Hermione), Hamlet (Gertrude), August: Osage County (Ivy), Victor Victoria (Victoria) and Cabaret (Sally Bowles). Brescia trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and was chosen for their esteemed 3rd year company, received her Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Arts from Empire State College, and graduated with honors with her Master of Fine Arts in Classical Acting from the Academy for Classical Acting at George Washington University.


John Hemphill

Assistant Professor of Acting

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Most recently, John was seen across the United States playing "Larry Murphy" in the First National Broadway Tour of Dear Evan Hansen. Other tours include Mamma Mia! and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. John also starred in the Broadway production of Mamma Mia! and was in the original Broadway company of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s School of Rock. Film: Zodiac directed by the Academy Award nominated David Fincher. TV: (including but not limited to)  Castle, Monk, Grey’s Anatomy, Las Vegas, The Black List, Mr. Robot, Big Love, Desperate Housewives.


Darren Gibson

Assistant Professor of Dance

Ballet Tech School

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As the first graduate of The New Ballet School at the age of 16, Darren Gibson became a principal dancer and ballet master while also serving on the board of directors. Gibson staged ballets for Richmond Ballet and Boston Ballet, and assisted Ann Reinking for the American Ballet Theatre. He appeared as a featured performer in George C. Wolfe’s New York Shakespeare Festival production and Broadway revival of On the Town, and Twyla Tharp’s Movin’ Out.  He was an assistant choreographer for The Look of Love, choreographed by Ann Reinking, and was an original cast member in the first national tour of Fosse. Gibson was a featured performer and resident director/choreographer in London West End's production of Fosse and Movin’ Out.  Other credits include: City Center Encores: House of Flowers, No Strings! and the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular.  Current member of AEA, AGMA and AGVA.


Jamey Grisham

Jamey Grisham

Assistant Professor of Musical Theatre

M.F.A., Brown University, B.F.A., Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts Theatre Conservatory

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Jamey is a multidisciplinary artist with a body of work that spans six continents and more than 100 productions and venues worldwide. Those ventures have garnered him six Encore Michigan Wilde Awards, six Travel Weekly Magellan Awards, and a THEA Award. A union professional, Jamey serves in national governance for the Actors’ Equity Association and SAG-AFTRA, and is a two-time recipient of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society Foundation Observership. His training includes Brown University (M.F.A, Stephen Sondheim Fellow), Roosevelt University (B.F.A, Newberry Library Fellow), LAMDA, and Harvard University. Alongside his work with Stephens, Jamey also serves as Core Faculty and Head of Acting for the Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School in Colorado.


Nollie Moore

Nollie Moore

Associate Professor of Voice

M.Ed. & B.A., University of Missouri-Columbia

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In his nearly three decades of teaching in Columbia, Missouri, Nollie has instructed singers at every level of study. Under his leadership, his singers have established a tradition of successful collaborations and acclaimed performances with mid-Missouri arts organizations, in regional theaters across the nation, and on Broadway. 

Moore is active as a professional tenor singing regularly with regional orchestras, for which he has sung leading roles in Die Fledermaus, La Traviata, Madame Butterfly, and Carmen. His classical solo work includes Handel’s Messiah, Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass, Beethoven’s Mass in C Major, Mozart’s Requiem and Verdi’s Requiem. He made his Carnegie Hall debut as the featured soloist in A High Lonesome Bluegrass Mass by Tim Sharp and sang the same work at the iconic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee. He can be seen regularly on Missouri’s professional regional theater stages where his work includes Forever Plaid, Oliver, The Music Man, 1776, Crazy for You, and Annie. As musical director Moore’s work includes The Secret Garden, Assassins, Into the Woods, White Christmas, and Godspell


Michael Burke '86

Assistant Professor and Chair, Technical Theatre/Costume Design; Director of Production & Operations, Okoboji Summer Theatre 

M.F.A., B.F.A., Stephens College

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Michael Burke’s professional work included 15 seasons at The 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle as a stage manager and as the company manager, working on more than 35 productions, including the pre-Broadway productions of "Jekyll & Hyde," "Hairspray" and "The Wedding Singer." Other regional credits include The Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis and The American Heartland Theatre in Kansas City. At Stephens, Mike oversees all production areas and has technical direction and sound design responsibilities. His in-class teaching includes a variety of technical theatre courses. Mike is also the faculty adviser to The Warehouse Theatre Company. He serves as Director of Production and Operations for Okoboji Summer Theatre. Mike is a proud member of the Actors' Equity Association and the Production Managers Forum and a graduate of Stephens College.



Brandon PT Davis

Zach Humes

Assistant Professor of Theatrical Design

M.F.A. in Design & Technology University of Minnesota, B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies: Scenography Miami University

Zach Humes is a designer, technical director, and theater educator whose work concentrates in ensemble creations, devised pieces, original adaptations, and new work from emerging playwrights.  He has designed with Theatre de la Jeune Lune, La Jolla Playhouse, Berkeley Repertory Theater, American Repertory Theater, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Guthrie Theater, Mabou Mines/SUITE, The Moving Company, Theater MU, Mixed Blood Theater, Brave New Workshop, Open Eye Figure Theater, Cleveland Public Theater, and others.  Zach is a sometimes performer, recently as an onstage stagehand in Karen Sherman's "Soft Goods," (Walker Art Center, UCLA Center for the Art of Performance, TBA Festival Portland, OR.)

You can view his portfolio of work at


Montana Carlson

Assistant Professor of Theatrical Costume Design

M.F.A., Western Illinois University, B.A. Truman State University 

Before graduate school, Montana worked as a full-time substitute teacher where she directed and designed high school theatre productions as well as coaching high school improv. Professionally, she worked for the past four seasons as the costume shop manager and costume designer at the Clinton Area Showboat Theatre where she has designed works such as The Wedding Singer and State Fair. Most recently she worked for Norwegian Cruise Lines as a Wardrobe Supervisor for the musical Six.


Travis McFarlane

Collaborative Accompanist 

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Travis grew up in a musical family of educators and performers. After studying Music Business at

 Graceland University, piano has been a full-time endeavor.  He has been playing the piano professionally for over 25 years. This includes accompanying musical theater classes, ballet technique classes, performing in ensembles (locally and regionally) in Musical Theater, Rock, Jazz, Soul and Classical styles. 

Being part of The Conservatory is an enjoyable challenge.  Getting to work with the accomplished and talented faculty, staff and wonderful students is a great pleasure!


Craig Carnelia

Guest Artist, Acting

Craig Carnelia has had four shows produced on Broadway. Working with composer Marvin Hamlisch, he wrote the lyrics for Sweet Smell of Success, with book by John Guare, and Imaginary Friends with Nora Ephron.  As both composer and lyricist, Craig wrote the score for Is There Life After High School, and contributed songs to Working. Off-Broadway, he wrote the score for Three Postcards at Playwrights Horizons, with book by Craig Lucas, and contributed to the review, Diamonds, directed by Hal Prince. Regionally, he wrote the score for Poster Boy at Williamstown Theatre Festival.

Awards include two Tony Award nominations, two Drama Desk nominations, two "Best Plays" citations, the Kleban Award, and the Johnny Mercer Award. 

As a teacher of "acting through song," Craig taught renowned ongoing classes in New York for the Broadway community for close to three decades. His book, The Reason to Sing: A Guide to Acting While Singing, is used at numerous universities and conservatories throughout the country, including Stephens.


Audra Sergel

Audra Sergel

Guest Artist, Voice

B.S. University of MO-Columbia, M.MEd Central Methodist University

Audra Sergel is a vocalist, pianist, educator, and creative from Columbia, Missouri. For 24 years, she has taught private vocal and piano lessons at Sergel Music Studio, as well as teaching, accompanying, and directing at Stephens College, the University of Missouri-Columbia, and Central Methodist University. Sergel serves as the Artistic Director of the Quorus, Columbia’s LGBTQ+ Community Choir, and as the Music Director at Unity of Columbia.  She has musically directed and performed in theatrical and cabaret productions across the Midwest, including at Okoboji Summer Theater, the Chicago Musical Theater Festival, the Kansas City Fringe Festival, the Citizen Jane Film Festival, Roots ‘n Blues ‘n BBQ, and the True/False Film Festival. An active performer and musician, you can hear Ms. Sergel’s original music on all streaming platforms.


Paula Vanlandingham

Paula Vanlandingham

Guest Artist

B.A., M.A., University of Missouri-Columbia

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After earning her B.A. in Theatre at the University of Missouri, Paula studied at the Lee Strasberg Institute in New York. She later completed additional graduate work and holds a master's degree in Linguistic Anthropology. Paula has been a professional dialect coach for film, television, stage, and the video game industry for 15 years, and speaks several foreign languages.  Her coaching work has been seen on every major network and streaming service, as well as notable productions in the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises; one of her projects earned an Academy Award in 2015. 

Learn more at


Ruth Ann Burke

Ruth Ann Burke

Director of Engagement; Executive Director, Okoboji Summer Theatre

M.B.A. and B.F.A., Stephens College; M.A., Drake University

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Ruth Ann currently works as the Conservatory’s director of engagement and just completed her 25th season at the Okoboji Summer Theatre. Prior to returning to campus in 2007, she worked in marketing and public relations in Seattle. Burke is a proud alumna of Stephens College earning both her BFA degree in Dance and a Master’s in Business Administration and also holds a Master’s in Communications from Drake University.


Kristy Simpson

Admissions Navigator

B.E.S., University of Missouri

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Kristy Simpson is the admissions navigator in the Conservatory for the Performing Arts at Stephens College. Previously, Simpson was the administrative assistant for the Conservatory and School of Integrative Studies.  She was an operations manager for an e-commerce company prior to joining Stephens. Simpson received the HE Wilkerson Award in 2019 and serves as the chair of the Staff Advisory Council for Stephens College.  Simpson sits on the board of Columbia Entertainment Company as vice president.  


Conservatory for the Performing Arts

Kristy Simpson,
Program/Admissions Navigator

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