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From the Professional Theatre, Music and Dance Community



Tom Fulton:
Artistic and Producing Director

BFA - Southern Methodist University - Theatre/Acting/Directing
ME Master of Education. Kent State University
Producer, Director, Curriculum Development, Acting (Stanislavski), Shakespeare, Chekhov, Voice for the Stage, Musical Theatre, Script Analysis, Sense Memory/Experiencing (Stanislavski), Technique, Characterization, Directing, Private Audition  (

Certified Career Technical Educator, State of Ohio, Department of Education.  Executive Director, Fairmount Center for the Arts; Artistic Director - Center Repertory Theatre, Phoenix Theatre Ensemble, Cleveland Theatre Company, Cain Park Summer Theatre.  Actor/Director - Cleveland Play House Company;   Adjunct Professor of Theatre, Case Western Reserve University, Cuyahoga Community College, Cleveland State University; Director of Drama, Gilmour Academy; Chairman, Actor's Equity Liaison Committee; Professional Actor, Director, Teacher; At the Academy, he has directed: Academy Dreams, The Crucible, Midsummer Night's Dream, The Three Sisters, Macbeth, Sweeney Todd, The Cherry Orchard Les Miserables and Roar of the Greasepaint. (In 2013-14, he directed CABARET and The DARK OF THE MOON. In 2014-15, Tom directed WEST SIDE STORY, THE FANTASTIKS and RICHARD III. In the 2015-16 season, he directed SECRET GARDEN, DOUBT, and ACADEMY DREAMS for the JUNIOR PLAY FESTIVAL.) Tom is a 44 year Member of Actors Equity Association, having received his professional union association in 1972.


Dusten Welch
Managing Director

Laban Technique, Stage Combat (Hand to Hand, Foil, Sabre, Knives, Broadsword)
BA, Theatre - Ashland College

Dusten is an adjunct professor at Baldwin Wallace University and a local professional actor and director.. He is a fight choreographer and an acting teacher. Last summer, Dusten directed Side Show for FTA The Miss Firecracker Contest for the Academy. In 2014-15, he directed THE MISS FIRECRACKER CONTEST, TREASURE ISLAND. In 2015-16, he directed ACADEMY DREAMS and William Shakespeare's TWELFTH NIGHT.

Ben Needham
Theatre Complex Manger (Main Stage, Studio Theatre, Rehearsal Halls)
Lighting Design, Set Design, CAD Design, Technical Director, Technical Theatre Track Instructor, Theatre Renovation
Performing Arts Center, Studio Theatre and Complex Manager

MFA (University of Georgia, Scenic Design, Computer Animation for Performing Arts); BA (Case Western Reserve University - Theatre Arts) Adjunct Professor University of Georgia, Lakeland Community College, Lake Erie College, Kent State University) Light & Set Design Constitution Hall, Washington DC, Horatio Alger Association) Theatre Design and Renovation Atlantic Lyric Theatre; Technical Director, Set and Lighting Design, Cedar Point Amusement Park, Atlantic Lyric Opera, Laurel School, Fine Arts Association, Case Western Reserve University and many theatres in Northeast Ohio. Ben is also owner of Digital Squirrel (, a full service design studio offering Scenic, Lighting, and Multimedia Design for Theater, Themed Environments, Television and Film.

Mitchell Fields

Acting, Sensory, Improvisation, Audition, Theatre History, Acting for the Camera, History of Film, Shakespeare, Director, Improvisation Show, Guest Actor.

Mitchell Fields is a freelance actor, director and acting coach in private practice. At Baldwin Wallace University, Mitchell has been an adjunct professor in the Theatre and Film departments since 1996. In 2000, Mitchell won the Adjunct Faculty Excellence Award from the Alpha Sigma Lambda Honorary Society and was again nominated in 2010. He is also the recipient of the Delta Zeta's Inspiration through Education Award. Recently Mitchell was appointed the Associate Director of the Chagrin Falls Performing Arts Academy. In the summer Mitchell teaches at Fairmount Performing Arts Conservatory.  In addition,  he has been a member of Actors Equity for almost 40 years and has appeared in most of the professional theatres in Cleveland. In earlier years Mitchell has performed in both upstate New York and Off Broadway in New York City. In film he has performed opposite James Coburn.  He also served as the head teacher at Second City's Training Center. Mitchell's most recent are as a director, including the plays Celebration and Pride and Prejudice, The Apple Tree, Diary of Anne Frank, The Crucible, Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.  His most recent roles as an actor include OW Gant in Look Homeward Angel and  Dr. Chebutykin in The Three Sisters. Mitchell's training includes an M.A. from Columbia University in Theatre and Film. He lives in Beachwood, Ohio with his wife, Barbara  and has two adult children, Matthew and Joanna. Mitchell has directed a number of acclaimed productions at the Academy including ARSENIC AND OLD LACE, RAISIN IN THE SUN, PICNIC, and OUR TOWN to name but a few. He also serves as Associate director with Tom Fulton on curriculum development, and in rehearsal for the Musicals and Shakespere productions.

Cody Swanson

Cody Swanson
Production Stage Manager / Administrative Assistant
BFA University of the Art, Philadelphia Pennsylvania
Graduate - Academy for the Performing Arts
Advanced Actor Combatant - Society of American Fight Directors
Professional Stage Manager
Teaches: Stage Management, Etiquette for the Theatre, Foreign Accents, American Accents, Stage Combat, Acting

Cody has worked as Stage Manager for Mamai Theatre company for the past 4 years. He has worked as an actor at Lakeland Community College, Big Dog Theatre, The Cleveland Play House. He has sung with the Cleveland Orchestra.

Christine Woods

Christine Woods

Technical Director

Christine is a designer, instructor and technician recently returning to the Cleveland area. She spent the last year managing and learning the media of escape rooms at the Denver Escape Room.

She holds a BA in Technical Theatre from Case Western Reserve University and was awarded the 2012 Arnold Philip Award for Excellence in Studio Art.

She specializes in special effects makeup and design. She also has worked as prop master, assistant scenic designer, and ASM for a number of Cleveland theatres including Mamai, The Cleveland Playhouse, Magical Theatre Company, The Cleveland Art Museum, and Dobama.

Woods is returning to her position as Technical Director for a fourth season with the Academy for the Performing Arts, where she acts as the resident makeup artist and teaches makeup and sfx to high-school juniors and seniors who are pursuing careers in the entertainment industry.


Caitlin Van Niel
Box Office Manager
Costume Designer, Costume Workshops, Costume Practicum

Caitlin Van Niel served as Administrative Director at the Academy for 4 years before she left to raise her new family. is the guts of the Academy. She now works for the Academy part time in Box Office Management and Costume design for selected shows.

She is a brilliant costume designer. Take a look at the costumes on our actors throughout the web site and you'll see her work over and over again.

Marcia Snavely
Music Director, Accompanist

Marcia Snavely started studying piano at the age of 5 and accompanying and performing at the age of 6. She has always had a multi-faceted career. While at Case Western Reserve University she completed chemistry studies as well as a graduate program in classical organ. She has been a research scientist specializing in analytical chemistry, has coauthored a book and is a patented inventor! A business woman who runs her own consulting firm, she has also completed two CDs that include modern piano interpretations of folk songs, hymns, and Christmas music. She is currently the organist at The Federated Church in Chagrin Falls and serves as Music Director for numerous musical productions at Actor's Summit Theater and the Chagrin Falls Performing Arts Academy. Marcia is the immediate past Dean for the American Guild of Organist, Cleveland chapter. Her musical skills are legend, as she coaches and accompanies many musical venues Classical, light jazz, opera and Broadway show tunes.

Wendy Kriss
Movement, Tai Chi, Director

BFA Kent State University, Theatre; State of Ohio Department of Education, Certified Substitute Teacher; Four Year Certificate Corporeal Mime Technique, with Etienne Decroux, Paris France. Non Violent Communication Rita Herzog. Ohio Arts Council Artist in Residence Theatre Movement; Shaker Height High School Theatre Department Substitute Teacher - Theatre Movement, Director; Qigong Academy, Tai Chi Instructor, Board of Mental Retardation, Tai Chi Instructor, Adjunct Professor, Cuyahoga Community College, Aging Initiatives, Tai Chi, Way of the Artist.



Chagrin Falls Performing Arts Academy - 400 East Washington St.  - Chagrin Falls, Ohio 44022   440-715-4004