Rafael Ascencio

Rafael Ascencio is the proud husband of Upstart Creatures founder, Michael Barakiva, and  the chair of the Upstarts Food Committee. He is President of Intermarket Sourcing, an international business consulting firm based in New York City, specializing in strategic market consulting for food and other products and services mostly from Mexico, his country of origin. Former Deputy Trade Commissioner for the Foreign Trade Bank of Mexico in New York, he studied International Relations at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) and Princeton University, where he was a Fulbright scholar. 

Deborah Constantine

Robert Dreyfuss

Bob Dreyfuss is an independent, investigative journalist based in New York City and Cape May, New Jersey, specializing in politics and national security. He is a contributing editor at The Nation, and he has written extensively for Rolling Stone, Mother Jones, The American Prospect, The New Republic, and many other magazines. He has appeared on numerous radio and television programs, including the PBS Newshour, Fox News, Democracy Now!, and MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” Bob has traveled widely and reported from Iran, Vietnam, China, and Tanzania, and he is the author of Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam. He is a graduate of Columbia University.

Al Lemke

Brendan Ryan


Brendan is a licensed CPA in the state of New York, who recently moved to the city in August of 2015 from South Carolina. He is a tax consultant for the financial services industry, who enjoys spending his time mentoring others, teaching seminars related to his industry, and providing pro-bono work to various start-up companies. Brendan is passionate about health, fitness and travelling the globe. As a member of the board, Brendan is most looking forward to furthering the Upstart Creatures mission of spreading interest and fascination with theater and the arts.

Lily Traub


Lily's day job is focused on technology and corporate America, but her real passion is for the non-profit arts sector. She has a BA from Wesleyan University where she worked in the campus box office, and she is a native Brooklynite, so being taken to the theatre and museums as a kid helped her to develop the habit early and she always has multiple theatre subscriptions at any given time. She is also an avid crossfitter and is an amateur mixologist, and although she's not much of a cook she does love baking desserts. She's thrilled to support this wonderful group through her time, expertise, and perhaps some cookies.

Andrea Winter


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Company Board Members

Paul Bernardo

Food Committee Chair

Paul Joseph Bernardo is one of the founding Creatures who has worked extensively in regional theater where favorite roles include: Iago in Othello, Brutus in Julius Caesar, Charles in Blithe Spirit, Marc in Art, Matt in Talley's Folly, and Valentin in Kiss of the Spiderwoman. He has appeared in numerous industrials and commercials as well as independent and feature films including Brian de Palma's Snake Eyes.  Paul is a proud graduate of the Shakespeare Theater’s Academy for Classical Acting at The George Washington University where he had the good fortune to first meet and work with Michael Barakiva.

Carol Halstead

Broadway : Gore Vidal’s The Best Man. Off-Broadway : The Duchess of Malfi ,  Pericles(Red Bull), Walking Down Broadway (The Mint), Easter Candy, Urgent Fury(Cherry Lane), The Mask (The Clurman), Alan Ball’s The Amazing Adventures of Tense Guy (Alarm Dog Rep). Recent Regional includes:  Hamlet (Santa Cruz Shakespeare), Richard III, Diary of Anne Frank (Shakespeare Theatre of NJ.) Titus Andronicus (Clarence Brown),Vanya, Sonia, Masha, and Spike (Portland Center Stage,Orlando Shakespeare &White Heron), Clybourne Park(Barrington Stage), A Song at Twilight (Portland Stage Company), Good People (The Old Globe), August: Osage County (Fulton Theatre), God of Carnage (Hudson Stage), The Clean House (Syracuse Stage), Private Lives (The Kitchen Theatre).  Other work at The Shakespeare Theatre DC, Baltimore's CENTERSTAGE, Denver Center Theatre Company, Chautauqua Theatre Company, Cleveland Play House, Merrimack Rep, Kansas City Rep., Gulf Shore Playhouse, San Jose Repertory Theatre (West Coast premiere of Teresa Rebeck's Bad Dates (Dean Goodman Choice Award for Best Solo Performance). Television and film credits include "Law & Order: Criminal Intent", "Jonny Zero", "As the World Turns", "All My Children", Towel Head and The Whipper Snapper. Here in New York Carol trains as a Third degree black belt in Seido Karate under Kaicho Tadashi Nakamura.​​

Linda Larson

Broadway: Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (understudied and performed);Jackie: An American Life; Deuce (understudiedandperformed). Off-Broadway: Anon (Atlantic Theater Co.); Bright Ideas (MCC); Five Women Wearing the Same Dress(MCC);Machinal (The Public/Naked Angels). Other NYC: IWill Look Forward to This Later (The Assembly); Motel Cherry (Clubbed Thumb/New Georges); Nightlands(New Georges); Karla(by Steve Earle, Culture Project); Little Eyolf (Century Center) Regional:A Doll’s House, Part 2(Hangar Theatre, Dir. Michael Barakiva); A Funny Thing Happened… (Hangar Theatre, Dir.: M. Barakiva); The Clean House (Syracuse Stage, Dir.: M. Barakiva), House Arrest (Mark Taper), The Smell of the Kill (Cleveland Playhouse); The Servant of Two Masters (Hartford Stage, Dir. Bartlett Sher), Three Tall Women (Pittsburgh Public). Film: The Kitchen(w/ Melissa McCarthy); The Greatest Showman; A Most Violent Year; Labor Day. Television: House of Cards, Blue Bloods,Law & Order: SVU, Masters of Sex (pilot).

Abby Royle

Abby Royle has performed in dozens of Off- and Off-Off Broadway productions, in regional theatre, and in staged readings and workshops. TV roles include Law & Order: SVU and Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and she’s appeared in feature films, including The Book of Life and No Such Thing. She has trained with renowned acting teach Tony Greco and the Upright Citizens Brigade. With Upstart Creatures: Lucia, Mad Forest; Paulinka, A Bright Room Called Day; Kirsten Noland, Turning Texas Blue; Ibrahim/Basma, Rituals of Signs and Transformations; Amalia Berg, The Magic Fire; and various characters in Uncommon Excerpts & Others. Abby is delighted to be an Artistic Associate of the Upstart Creatures and is a proud member of AEA and SAG-AFTRA. www.abbyroyle.com

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The Upstart Creatures are: Suzanne Agins & Michael Barakiva (Artistic Directors), Stephen Bel Davies, Paul Bernardo, Ariel Neema Blake, Carla Briscoe, Aren Carpenter, Suzanne Chesney, Gisela Chípe, Curzon Dobell, Autumn Dornfeld, Emilee Dupré, Hillel Friedman (Company Manager), Callan Gies, Erick Gonzalez, Adam Grosswirth (Managing Director), Carol Halstead, Brough Hansen, Patrick Harnett-Marshall, Logan Kovach, David Larsen, Linda Larson, Abby Royle, Roya Shanks, Eugenio Vargas, Alison Walls, Jay Yriberry, Gabra Zackman (Community Partnerships Director).

PO Box 631

Midtown Station

New York, NY 10018