Suzanne Agins

Artistic Director

Suzanne Agins is a freelance director who specializes in new work.   Recent: Dreamgirls (Cape Fear Regional Theater), In the Heights (Hangar Theater- Regional Premiere), The Club by Amy Fox (Rough Cut production at Ensemble Studio Theatre). Off Broadway: world premiere of Radiance by Cusi Cram (Labyrinth Theater Company, developed in Rising Phoenix’s Cino Nights series); world premiere of Jailbait by Deirdre O’Connor (Cherry Lane).  Other projects include:  Alligator by Hilary Bettis and The Burden Of Not Having A Tail by Carrie Barrett (Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference); Fuente Ovejuna: A Disloyal Adaptation by Cusi Cram, inspired by Lope de Vega's play (Princeton University, developed with Labyrinth Theater Company); Noel Coward's Fallen Angels (Dorset Theater Festival);  Lucy And The Conquest by Cusi Cram (World Premiere, Williamstown Theater Festival);  Wing It, a new musical inspired by Aristophanes’ The Birds, by Gordon Cox and Kris Kukul (World Premiere, Williamstown); three Maddy Mann stage shows created with Ryan Migge (Ars Nova, soloNOVA festival at the DR2, Dixon Place); Maddy Mann's webseries QUADS!; The Secret Narrative Of The Phone Book by Gordon Cox (World Premiere, Kraine Theater).  Ms. Agins served as Artistic Associate for New Plays at Williamstown Theatre Festival from 2005-2007.  She holds an MFA in Directing from UC San Diego, is the recipient of a Princess Grace Fellowship, an adjunct faculty member at Princeton University (her alma mater), and a member of SDC.

Michael Barakiva

Artistic Director

Michael Barakiva is an Armenian/Israeli-American theater director and writer based in New York City.  Most recently, he directed Perfect Arrangement by Topher Payne for Primary Stages. His first novel, One Man Guy, published by Macmillan (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), was ranked the #1 Gay Young Adult novel on Goodreads in 2014, named to the Rainbow List and Family Equality Council’s Book Nook and released in Brazil by LeYa.  Michael also serves as an adjunct faculty member in NYU’s Dramatic Writing Program.  He is an avid board-game player, and a proud member of the New York Ramblers, the world’s first openly-gay soccer club.


As a director, Michael has worked in New York and across the country developing new plays and staging classics.  Credits include White People by Neil Cuthbert and They Float Up by Jacquelyn Reingold (Ensemble Studio Theatre, NYC), UP by Bridget Carpenter (Oregon Shakespeare Festival), Burn This by Lanford Wilson (Shakespeare Santa Cruz) and The Clean House by Sarah Ruhl, Turn of the Screw by Jeffrey Hatcher and Blithe Spirit by Noel Coward (all at Syracuse Stage). 


Workshops/readings include the Roundabout Theater Company, ARS Nova, New Dramatists, NY Stage & Film, New York Theater Workshop, Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference and Playing on Air. Michael has also taught and directed at Vassar College, Bard College, Syracuse Drama, University of Rochester, U of U at Salt Lake City, National Theatre Institute, Fordham University and UC Davis.


In addition to his novel One Man Guy, Michael received a Sloan Commission to write The Nature of Things about the Ancient Roman poet Lucretius, and co-wrote String Theory with Amy Boyce Holtcamp and Sarah Braunstein (Connotation Press).  He is currently working on Hold My Hand (FSG), a standalone sequel to One Man Guy, as well as The Aether Wild, a post-apocalyptic science-fiction fantasy, with Suzanne Agins and Rosemary Andress. 


Michael is a recipient of the David Merrick Prize in Drama, a Drama League Summer Fellowship, a Granada Fellowship at UC Davis and the Phil Killian Fellowship in Directing at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  He is a graduate of Vassar College and the Juilliard School, where he studied as an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Directing.

Stephen Bel Davies

NEW YORK:  NYMF- Austentatious (NYMF Award- Outstanding Actor) dir Mary Catherine Burke, Roundtable Ensemble- Save the World (Stagger), Ensemble Studio Theatre- City of Dreams (Sigmund Freud) , dir. Chris Smith  REGIONAL: Shakespeare Santa Cruz- Romeo and Juliet (Mercutio) dir Kim Rubenstein & Burn This (Larry) dir Michael Barakiva,  Kentucky Shakespeare Festival- Pantalone Rides Again (Pantalone), Utah Shakespeare Festival- Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Bnejamin), Mountain Playhouse- Marvin’s Room (Hank) Dir Guy Stroman.  Founding member of The Upstart Creatures, a new theatre co in NYC.  He has also narrated over 120 audiobooks.  TRAINING: The Juilliard School Drama Division.

Paul Bernardo

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.

Carla Briscoe

Carla Briscoe graduated from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, where she trained with the Atlantic Theater Company. Recent credits include Jarry Inside Out in Washington D.C., the NY production of David Adam Gill's Providence, and Helen Pafumi's Abominable, directed by Kirsten Kelly. She has worked with and at the Upright Citizens Brigade, NY International Fringe Festival, New Dramatists, HB Playwrights, IRT, Ars Nova, Theater J, New Georges, The Kennedy Center, LAByrinth Theater Company, the People's Improv Theater, and The Sundance Institute, among others. Film & TV credits: Blue Caprice, A Little Help, and Breaking the News.  Her play, The Lie Down, was a semi-finalist for the Princess Grace Award in Playwriting, and she can be seen performing stand-up at Carolines on Broadway, the Broadway Comedy Club, and other local venues.  She is currently producing and directing the episodic docuseries, Released: Life After Prison.

Suzanne Chesney

Suzanne Chesney is a Brooklyn based costume designer, mother of 2, avid baker, and proud Upstarts Creature who has been designing in NYC since 2004. She is the first costume designer to become a member of the Ensemble Studio Theatre where she has designed well over a dozen productions including NY premiers of Isaac's Eye by Lucas Hnath and Photograph 51 by Anna Ziegler, White People, Please Continue, and Kentucky. Regional credits include Blithe Spirit, Turn of the Screw, and To Kill a Mockingbird (Syracuse Stage). Clybourne Park, The Glass Menagerie, The Diary of Anne Frank, and Between Riverside and Crazy (Pittsburgh Public Theatre). Third (The Hangar Theatre). Suzanne was an assistant costume designer on numerous episodes of "Law & Order" (NBC) during seasons 16-20 and on season 1 of "Unforgettable" (CBS).

Gisela Chípe

Upstart Creatures: Turning Texas Blue, 'Twas The Night Before The Apocalypse. As an Ecuadorian-American born in Brazil, Gisela is no stranger to diverse and delicious stories. Gisela has appeared Off-Broadway in Emancipation: Nat Turner (Classical Theatre of Harlem), Laws of Motion (PS122) and all over the nation in the plays O Guru Guru, Dracula (Actors Theatre of Louisville: Humana Festival), Hamlet: Prince of Cuba, Yentl (Asolo Repertory Theatre), The Clean House, Blithe Spirit (Syracuse Stage), Water By the Spoonful (Studio Theatre), pride@prejudice, (Capital Repertory & Chester Theatres), Midsummer, Bat Boy! The Musical, The Seagull, Comedy of Errors (Great Lakes Theatre & Idaho Shakespeare Festival), A Christmas Carol (Really Inventive Stuff--Radio), Macbeth (Stonington Opera House), 1001, 9 Parts of Desire (Contemporary American Theater Festival), Comedy of Errors, The Crucible (North Carolina Shakespeare Festival), The Underpants (Shadow Lawn Stage), Merchant of Venice (Colorado Shakespeare Festival), Misalliance, Major Barbara, Barrymore Award-winning Tuesday (PTTP).  Her film and television credits include Diving Normal, Paper Cut, Dog Days, Black?, Monogamish, Luz Marina, and CBS’s The Good Wife. You may have heard Gisela’s voice in the promos for the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil on NBC Universal and Univision. As a co-writer and actor in The Life Model Gisela premiered her play at On the Boards in Seattle January of 2016. Gisela received her training from University of Delaware—PTTP (M.F.A.)

Curzon Dobell

Autumn Dornfeld

Autumn Dornfeld made her professional debut at 19 in Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music as Anne, a role which won her a City Search Award for Best Supporting Actress. Since then, she has appeared in dozens of productions on and off Broadway, and across North America, including: The Graduate (Broadway and National Tour),  Beebo Brinker Chronicles (37 Arts, NYTW), David Gordon's UnCivil Wars with Estelle Parsons (The Kitchen/PickUp Co.), Prometheus Bound with David Oyelowo (CSC), The Taming of the Shrew (ATA), Will Eno's Intermission, Wedding  Pictures (EST),  Frankenstein Upstairs (The Secret Theater), Perfect Harmony (Fringe, Fringe Encores), Homebody/Kabul (NYTW), The Parrot (Flea). Regional: The Grapes of Wrath (Intiman), Under Midwestern Stars (KC Repertory), The Tin-Pan-Alley Rag (Maltz-Jupiter), The ThreePenny Opera (Playmakers Rep, Bartlett Sher, dir.), Ruby Sunrise, Fabulation?! (Sundance). Her film and tv credits include: Law and Order, All My Children, Trading Women (with Angelina Jolie), The Undeserved, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Sunburn, and Fall to Rise, as well as several commercials and industrials. In addition to the Upstart Creatures, Autumn is a member of Rising Phoenix Repertory and the actor collective The(blank)Space. 

Emilee Dupré

Broadway: Chaplin, People in the Picture. Off-Broadway: Venice (Public Theater), The Blue Flower (Second Stage), Seascape with Sharks and Dancer (The Lion Theater). National Tours: A Chorus Line, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Fosse. Regional: Moneymaker (Heather Theater), Cabaret (freeFall), Oklahoma! (Arena Stage), First Wives Club (Oriental Theater). Film: Tyco Parks the Car, Waiting on Mary. Emilee has a BFA in Acting from NYU Tisch School – The Atlantic Theater Company. Twitter &

Instagram: @emileedupre.

Joseph Ford

Joe Ford is an actor who lives in New York. He began his career doing improv in Nashville, Tennessee, making it to the 2014 College Improv Tournament Finals with his troupe, Tongue 'N' Cheek. He later moved to New York to study acting under William Esper and completed the two year conservatory program in June 2016. Joe joined the Upstart Creatures in October of 2014 and hasn't looked back since.  It's one of his favorite things.

Hillel Friedman

Company Manager

Callan Gies

Callan Gies is a NYC based director, currently interning at Theatre Communications Group. Her directing credits include Middletown, We Are Not These Hands, and The Insanity of Mary Girard. She has been dabbling in film after co-founding Watts Street Productions. Callan was inspired to work with the Upstarts after assistant directing at Michael Barakiva’s Hangar Theatre over the summer of 2017. It is a delight to work with this group of brilliant and engaging artists and Callan looks forward to continuing to support the work of the Upstarts.

Erick González

Credits include: Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew, Macbeth in Macbeth, Duke Orsino in Twelfth Night, Iachimo in Cymbeline, Valentine in Two Gentlemen of Verona, Theseus in A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Duke Vincentio in Measure for Measure (Frog and Peach), Don Pedro in Much Ado About Nothing, Marc Antony in Julius Caesar, Orlando in As You Like It (Hip to Hip Theatre), El Loco por Fuerza (Repertorio Español), Marfa Lights (Intar), Three Sisters (The Wild Project), Noche Tan Linda (PRTT/Pregones), Farragut North (Premiere Stages). Television: Sony Crackle's StartUp. Proud member of the Upstart Creatures. 

Adam Grosswirth

Managing Director

Adam Grosswirth is the Membership Director at the National Alliance for Musical Theatre, where he is responsible for planning, implementing, and maintaining services, programs and benefits for 200 member theatres across the country, including two annual conferences, surveys, publications, member discounts and online services. Adam previously spent ten years as a stage manager, during which time he worked on many Broadway, Off-Broadway, regional and developmental productions, including Spring Awakening, Zanna Don’t!,Here Lies Jenny, The Big Time, Xanadu, Aida, The Green Bird, Serenade, The Secret Narrative of the Phone Book and Bright Lights Big City, and spent three seasons as the Stage Management Supervisor at the Williamstown Theatre Festival under the artistic direction of Roger Rees.  Adam is a native New Yorker and a graduate of Tufts University.

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.​​

Patrick Harnett-Marshall

Patrick Harnett-Marshall is a NYC-based stage manager and dramaturg. Projects include: In the Copse of the Dog King (The Silent Barn), La déroute (New Georges), Hookin' or Daughters of Jerusalem (Dixon Place), You Heard It Here (Hudson Guild) and Icons/Idols (The New Ohio). He is a recent graduate of Bennington College where he has directed María Irene Fornés, dramaturged Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, translated Lope de Vega and chopped onions​, among many other vegetables​, for a body of seven hundred hungry ​undergrads.

Jon Kovach

Since moving to NYC in Fall '15, Jon has played on several NY stages: Theatre Row, The Tank, Bay Street, Guild Hall, Capital Rep.. Regional credits include: Merrimack Rep., Playhouse in the Park, Human Race Theatre Co., and Wellfleet Harbor Actors' Theatre. Jon is a Miami University of Ohio theatre graduate, the founding artistic director of Unity Productions, and has worked with internationally recognized film-makers (G. Clooney, A. Goddard), and authors (N. Balthazar, R. Jones). Receiving awards and critical acclaim as an actor, musician, director, writer, and producer, Jon continues to expand on his career in the arts.

David Larsen

David has performed on Broadway in Good Vibrations, Billy Elliot, American Idiot, and Hands on A Hardbody. Starred as Elder Price in the National Tour of The Book of Mormon.



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.

Roya Shanks

A proud founding member of the Upstart Creatures, Roya has performed Off-Broadway with such companies as the Abingdon, Urban Stages and Prospect Theater. She also worked at the Geva Theatre, Cleveland Play House, Triad Stage, Texas Shakespeare Festival, Premiere Stages, Summer Theatre of New Canaan, the Old Globe and on more far-flung stages in Israel, Turkey and China. A graduate of Yale and the Maggie Flanigan Studio in New York, Roya has appeared on The Americans, The Slap, The Blacklist, Gossip Girl, One Life to Live, As the World Turns and the feature films Dogs Lie and The Longest Week. She works steadily in the world of voiceover.

Joan Valentina

Joan Valentina has worked extensively in New York and regionally at theaters such as The Working Theater, La MaMa, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park ,and The Kennedy Center.  Favorite roles include Rose in "Fences"(Swine Place in Baton Rouge) and Mrs Muller in Doubt(South Carolina Repertory Company)) Film and TV credits include numerous Soaps  and industrials, Law & Order, Two Weeks Notice and the indie Film "One World." Joan is delighted to be a Creature.

Eugenio Vargas

Eugenio Vargas is an actor, music director, and pianist. Most of his acting work has been done in regional theatres, and some of his favorite credits include Mr. Snow in Carousel at the Olney Theatre, Prince Karl Franz in The Student Prince at the New London Barn Playhouse, and Juan in Altar Boyz at the Tent Theatre. As a music director, he has conducted orchestras and lead casts for You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, The Rocky Horror Show, Carousel, The Boys from Syracuse, The Wedding Singer, and many concerts and cabarets (including the Upstarts' 2016 Gala). He is also an audition and vocal coach, and his clients have gone on to book everything from Broadway to recurring roles on major television shows. Thanks to Adam for getting him involved with the Upstarts and to Suzie and Michael for embracing him as a company member! Proud graduate of Northwestern University and member of the Actors' Equity Association.

Alison Walls

Alison Walls is an actor and director from Wellington, New Zealand and longtime Upstart. She recently graduated with her PhD in Theatre and Performance Studies from the Graduate Center and holds an MFA in acting from Sarah Lawrence College. Alison has performed on stage and screen, directed, and occasionally puppeteered, both home in New Zealand and in the US. Alison is currently Visiting Assistant Professor in Theatre and Performance Studies at Governors State University in Illinois.

Gabra Zackman

Community Engagement Director

Gabra Zackman is an actress, writer and audiobook narrator, most recently seen in the highly acclaimed off-Broadway Bedlam production of Sense and Sensibility.  She has traveled regionally to work on many shows including: Last Gas (Geva); Reckless (Denver Center); My Name is Asher Lev (Arden World Premiere); Metamorphoses (Hartford Stage, KC Rep post Broadway tour); Love Song (Cincinnati) and 9 seasons with The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival.  She has been seen on TV on Law and Order, Law and Order: SVU, and All My Children and recently shot Mrs. Drake (directed by Caitlin FitzGerald) as one of the leads.  Gabra also has an award winning career in audiobook narration and is the writer of The Bod Squad Series (Pocket Books 2015/2016). Gabra is passionate about telling stories in all genres, and is driven by being a strong voice for the women she has the privilege of portraying.  She is also a great lover of being in the kitchen, and doing work that gives back to the community.

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