Metropolis Performing Arts Centre

DRAMA - FACULTY BIOS

Drama Bios


Jessica Lauren Fisher is thrilled to be teaching at the Metropolis School for the Performing Arts.  She is also on the teaching staff at the Academy of Citadel Theatre.  She is a founding member as well as the casting director for Eclectic Full Contact Theatre.  She has performed in Operas, Musicals and plays throughout the Chicago and Indiana area portraying everything from mice to men.  Favorite roles include: Sarah Daniels (Spinning into Butter), Despina (Cosi Fan Tutti) and Adelaide (Guys and Dolls).


Rachel Flanigan Passionate about both arts and education, Rachel has been a proud Metropolis faculty member since 2014 teaching various acting and improv classes as well as serving on the Drama Curriculum Committee. Currently, Rachel is a full time Program Assistant and manages admissions for the National High School Institute at Northwestern University; a program which caters to gifted youth studying Theatre, Film, and Debate. Rachel received her BFA in Acting from Missouri State University (MSU) in Springfield, MO. While attending MSU, Rachel founded and coached their official improv team, Grin and Bear It, which is still active today. An innovative instructor, Rachel is constantly looking for ways to expand programing and offer new opportunities to students. Throughout high school and college Rachel spent her summers as camp counselor and eventually Program Director for the West County YMCA’s summer Theatre Camp. During her four year tenure as Director, Rachel developed two new programs where she coached young actors and directed full length productions and musicals. As well, she implemented a popular improv camp which transitioned into a year round improv troupe. Working with exceptional students at the YMCA is where Rachel first developed her love of teaching. Since moving to Chicago Rachel continues to pursue her passions in acting, education, and community engagement. 


April-Dawn Gladu joined the Metropolis faculty in 2008. From 1999 -2007 she was an Associate Artist for the Orlando Shakespeare Theater (OST) where she performed, taught, directed and wrote world premieres, classic adaptations and Theater For Young Audiences. She is particularly proud of her adaptations of The Jungle Book, The Emperor & The Nightingale, and The Secret Garden, which have had dozens of productions throughout the USA, Canada, the U.K., New Zealand, India, South Africa, Mexico, Singapore and Kenya. She also spent seven years writing and directing shows and special events for Walt Disney Entertainment, where she has worked with people as exciting as Christopher Reeve, John Ritter and Drew Carey. Her largest show had over 2,000 participants! Since 2004 her show The Perfectly Princess Tea Party has been playing 5 days a week at the Grand Floridian Resort to sold out crowds and her show Cinderella’s Princess Court closed in 2006 after over 1,000 performances at the World of Disney Store in NYC. Before moving to Orlando she worked for Women’s Project & Productions in New York City and developed new plays for companies such as Ensemble Studio Theatre, Pulse Ensemble Theatre and Six Figures Theatre Company.

Robin Hughes
is a director, actor, casting director, teacher, and private coach with a 30 year career that began in Minneapolis, MN as a young actor at Child’s Play Theatre Company in Bill Bradford’s original production of Cindy/Cinderella. After graduating with honors from Concordia University-St. Paul (B.A.-Theatre, English; Music minor), Robin started her professional acting career at The Guthrie Theater under the direction of Garland Wright (Christmas Carol) and acted in Joanne Akalaitis’ world premiere of The Rover, working also on The Screens with Akalaitis and Pravda with the Goodman’s Robert Falls. An Illinois State University (MFA-Acting) and Steppenwolf School graduate, Robin was awarded the coveted Steppenwolf Acting Fellowship and was brought to Chicago to work with the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, acting in the world premiere of The Ballad of Little Joe directed by Tina Landau, and also working with Anna Shapiro (Side Man), David Cromer (Orson’s Shadow), Jessica Thebus (Whispering City), John Malkovich (Hysteria), and Terry Kinney (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), which went on to Broadway and the Barbican. Other regional and local acting credits are with Theatre in the Round, Phipps Center, New Tradition, Victory Gardens, Paramount-Copley, Bailiwick, Circle, Griffin, Light Opera Works, Dominican, Mary-Arrchie, New Millennium, and Metropolis. She is an Actor’s Equity Candidate and also a proud and active full member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers. At Metropolis since 2002, Robin has operated as an education manager, company manager, production manager, and later as artistic director & producer for the company. She acted in and directed over 40 Metropolis productions and is currently a resident director and the resident casting director for the company. As a teacher and private coach for nearly three decades, Robin’s teaching credits span from Minnesota to New York for students ages 2-91. She is currently an adjunct faculty member at Dominican University and the Chicago Actors Studio, and a core faculty member with the Metropolis’ School of Performing Arts. She has taught everything from Improv to Mask and Dialect Study to On-Camera, and she enjoys them all.

Steve Leaver
is the Executive Artistic Director of Imagination Theater, a theater company that uses original, participatory theatrical programming as means to address various social issues with audiences nation-wide. Mr. Leaver oversees all aspects of the company and has been in charge of designing, writing, directing, and facilitating countless programs for schools and corporations. In addition to his work at Imagination Theater Mr. Leaver has been teaching at the Metropolis School of Performing Arts since 2002. He has taught acting classes for all ages and directed student productions of The Laramie Project and The Dining Room. From 2008-2012, Mr. Leaver served on the Board of Directors for the Illinois Theatre Association where he was representing Theater for Young Audiences. Through his work at the ITA, Mr. Leaver helped to coordinate the Theater In Our Schools conferences every March held in partnership with the American Alliance for Theatre in Education. Most recently, Mr. Leaver has been one of seven theater teachers and professionals working with Arts Alliance Illinois to adapt and adopt the National Core Arts Standards for the State of Illinois. Those new learning standards will be presented to the Illinois State Board of Education sometime late 2015. Mr. Leaver graduated Cum Laude from Illinois State University where he holds a Bachelors of Science degree in theater.

Andrew J. Pond moved to Chicago in 2002 from South Florida, where he had studied with the likes of Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLuise, José Quintero, and Charles Nelson Reilly. While there, he taught and directed at both InterAct Summer camp, and the Miami Shores Theatre's summer camp. Since moving to Chicago from the tropics (for the weather), he has worked extensively as an actor, director, and playwright with several children’s theatres, teaches drama classes for all ages at several theatre companies, is an Elvis impersonator, juggler, magician, balloon artist, plays with puppets, does Muppet voices, performs stand-up comedy, and has a degree in philosophy so he can use words like “epistemology” at parties. Otherwise, he is completely normal.

Jeremy Schaefer is an active teaching artist and performer at schools, theaters, and festivals across North America.  He currently improvises around town with Laugh Out Loud Theater, Chicago Improv Productions, Improv Playhouse, and International Stinger.  He has previously performed with companies like pH Productions, The Big Picture Group, Childsplay, Janus Theater, Piven Theatre, and The First Folio Shakespeare Festival.  He is also a storyteller and stand-up comic.

Abby Vombrack started life in the theatre at the age of three putting on shows in the living room with her sister. Since then, she has dedicated her life to arts education and theatre performance. She is now a freelance theatre teaching artist and actor who graduated from Illinois State with degrees in Theatre Education and Acting. She currently works with Metropolis School of Performing Arts as an acting instructor, Buffalo Grove Park District as a drama instructor, and Highland Park High School as a production assistant specializing in props and costumes. Abby has experience teaching, adapting material for, and directing individuals with a spectrum of abilities and ages. Her adaptation and directing achievements include The Wizard of Oz for a special education course at Highland Park High School; Eurydice at Normal Community High School; and various summer camp productions for casts of forty to eighty campers. Illinois State performance credits include: Ilse (Spring Awakening), Logainne (25th...Spelling Bee), Titania (A Midsummer Night's Dream), and Mother Courage (Mother Courage & Her Children) for which she received the award for Outstanding Performance by an Actress from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. She is also a three-time Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship nominee and national finalist. Additional performance credits: Henrietta (The Claire Play, The Kennedy Center), Heather (American Idiot - Midwest Regional Premiere, Up & Coming Theatre), Doralee (9 to 5, Wilmette Park District), and Soupy Sue (Urinetown, CLC). Abby is thrilled to join the SOPA community and looks forward to learning, playing, and having fun in classes!

Megan Willhite has been teaching and directing for Metropolis School of the Performing Arts since 2003 and has been a teaching artist for Metropolis Outreach since its inception.  She is the lead teacher for the Outreach department’s program, Flourish in the Footlights, which gives teenagers and adults with special needs a chance to refine their acting techniques followed by the opportunity to create and perform a full scale production on the Metropolis stage.  Megan also helped develop the MetropolTots curriculum when she served as the Early Childhood Department head for SOPA from 2006-2010.  In addition to teaching and directing, Megan has previously served in several other capacities at Metropolis including Assistant Camp Director for both Lights Up! and Curtains Up!, Education Office Manager, Internship Coordinator and Child Coach for the production of A Christmas Carol.  She also directs a Reader’s Theatre program with the Special Education District of Lake County and has taught workshops for Theatrically Inclined.  Megan has a BA in Theatre and Communications from Monmouth College and has performed professionally with AlphaBet Soup Productions, Shantz Theatre Company, Morton College Theatre for Youth, and at Six Flags Great America.