Austin Children's Theater

Mission Statement

The mission of ACT is to educate, inspire and empower children of all ages, backgrounds and abilities through the arts.

ACT provides an extracurricular learning experience in Austin, TX for children who are interested in the arts. ACT offers the opportunity to create, explore and produce all aspects of art.

Our primary objectives are to:

  • Inspire creativity and innovation in each student by recognizing and nurturing their individual talents.
  • Empower each student by cultivating positive self-esteem and confidence and by providing opportunities to show completed works of art.
  • Teach life skills through a curriculum that emphasizes an understanding of the creative process that can be used in all areas of life.

Our secondary objectives are to:

  • Provide the Austin, TX community with opportunities for cultural enrichment.
  • Maintain an inspiring and uplifting working environment for students, teachers and staff.
  • Instill a greater appreciation for the need to art and expression in everyday community life.
  • Offer specialized evaluation of handicap and learning disabled children in order to create specialized learning programs

About the Staff

Administrative Staff

Talena Martinez, Executive Director

Talena comes from a family of entertainers, one could say it is in her blood. Her mother would tell you that Talena saw a stage at the age of three, climbed up to center stage and that was the beginning of a life long love. That love was nurtured into a passion for creation and art. Talena has a strong belief in children and their abilities and talent. She has spent countless hours training tomorrow’s artists and hopes to continue to offer excellent training to the Austin area youth through ACT.

She has worked in the local Austin theater scene since she moved here three years ago from her hometown, Indianapolis. She has been nominated for her costume design for the Ethos production of Bell(e) as well as a nomination for best costume design for the Different Stages production of The Beard of Avon, which she was the assistant-designer for. Her national credits include costume design of a youth production of Jekyll & Hyde, stage management for a youth production of Les Miserables, technical work on shows including Madame Butterfly, The Good Doctor, Guys and Dolls, Othello, All in the timing, which traveled to the Scotland Fringe Festival, as well as many theater workshops, camps and classes. Talena has also worked on independent films and TV news shots geared to teens.

Erin Fleming, Assistant Director & Resident Writer

Erin Fleming has a background in the creative arts, as well as Human Resources and Administration. Erin studied at Temple University, and graduated with a BA in English and a certificate in writing. As a local children’s playwright, she has written over a dozen productions in Austin. She most recently wrote the book and lyrics for JIVE KITTY, SHADES OF GRAY, POWER UP!: MAYHEM IN METROVILLE, all ACT original musicals. Her work can also be seen on the stage of the JCAA theater’s program, for which she has written the scripts for THE JUNGLE BOOK and WIZARD OF OZ. Throughout the summers she works with the ACT campers to create an original script for each week of camp. Erin loves writing with and for children, teaching and challenging them as actors and as people, all while making sure it’s fun!

Emily Fagan, Marketing Specialist

Emily Fagan entered the world of theatre at age 7 in the musical Oliver! Emily continued to perform from then on staring in over 40 plays and musicals by the time she entered college. She also spent all of her weekends as a child and young adult building sets, constructing costumes and props, hanging lights…you name it she had a hand in it. Emily attended countless theatre workshops and camps throughout her childhood and was able to teach some of her own! Del Mar College in Corpus Christi snagged Emily her Freshman year where she stared in every show during her stay there and worked in the set shop between classes. The next year she gladly attended Southwest Texas State University and was a member of the theatre fraternity. Following her year in San Marcos, Texas A & M University- Corpus Christi had Emily as a Theatre major with a switch from acting to directing. One more move and Emily became a regular director at The Victoria Community Theatre in Victoria Texas and finished her degree at University of Houston – Victoria. Upon graduation in December of 2004 Emily quickly made her way to Austin (the day after her last class!). She has directed at University of Texas, stared in shows at Concordia University, produced her own show, and is a company member at The Vortex. Emily was the Executive Director of Groundwork Music Project and then went on to become certified in Theater, Speech, and English. After years of theatre, teaching, and many other adventures Emily is thrilled to be teaching in Los Vegas!

Ray Novosielski, Media Specialist

Ray Nowosielski was the director, co-writer, and co-producer of the feature-length documentary ‘9/11 Press For Truth’ (2006). He recently completed producing / writing the feature-length documentary ‘Losing Patients’ (2007) and the forthcoming companion feature documentary about Americans without health insurance (2008). Ray received a BFA from Chicago’s Columbia College film school. His short movies have received numerous honors, including the Prelude Creative Excellence Award in 1999. For four years, Nowosielski was the producer of the MTV2-affiliate television series 360 Degrees (1997-01). Fueled creatively by his dedication to various political and social issues, Ray ran for Indiana State House, District 40, in 2002 and 2004. He was one of Banded Artists’ original co-founders in 2001.

Adam Roberts, Austin Conservatory of Theater Director

Roberts has served as artistic director, musical director, or choreographer for over ninety productions to date, with choreography credits including two European concert tours. Having taught and coached musical theatre voice and dance styles throughout the country, his students have appeared on and off-Broadway, in regional theatre and national tours, and on film and network television. In addition to his current role as Musical Director for Music Theatre Online: 1866-1923 with the New York Public Library, Mr. Roberts’ credits include productions and/or faculty positions with Austin Children’s Theater, Austin Shakespeare, Ballet Austin, the Paramount and State theaters, Theatre at the J, St. Stephen’s School, ZACH Theatre, and others. A member of the Austin Critics’ Table, he is a contributing writer and arts critic for The Austin Chronicle and is currently authoring a book focused on music analysis for practitioners of musical theatre. Mr. Roberts is also highly active as an interpreter of sacred music, having served as Musical Director at Calvary United Methodist Church in Tallahassee, Florida, and Covenant Presbyterian Church in Wellsville, Ohio. He holds a Master’s degree in Music and the College Teaching Certificate from Florida State University and undergraduate degrees from Youngstown and Kent State universities.

Jon Roberts, Web Designer and Developer

Jon is currently the Senior Web-designer at Digital Cheetah where he has designed several sites including the Autodesk Student Community, in FIRSTbase, 40+ unique sites for Junior Leagues around the country, hospital foundations, and others.

Jon was the lead computer animator of the MTV2-affiliate television series ‘360 Degrees’ (1998-2001). As co-founder of Banded Artists, started in 2001, Jon did several animation, web and system administration projects. He was a lead computer animator on the feature-length documentary ‘9/11 Press For Truth’ while working with Banded Artists.

He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Computer Art at Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. Jon uses software including Maya and Lightwave for his computer animation work and Shake for his movie compositing and digital effects. He has produced computer animations for national television spots, including the Black Expo’s 2000 and 2001 “Summer Celebration”, the largest culture event in the nation, as well as original industrial animations for such major organizations as the U.S. Department of Energy and Centex Homes.

Jon has been with ACT from the very beginning. He is responsible for this website and the logo design, in fact, some might even credit him with the first good idea for the company’s name, Austin Children’s Theater otherwise known as ACT.

Office Staff

Hirrah Khataw, Multi-Media Assistant

Martha Zo Ryland, Intern

Kaley Klecka, Intern

Consultants and Resident Artists

Jason Amato, Resident Lighting Designer

Jason Amato’s career has spanned 17 years, designing over 500 local and international shows. He is the resident lighting designer for ZACH, Austin Shakespeare, Blue Lapis Light and the Vortex. The Austin Critics Table has honored Jason for outstanding lighting in 25 shows. He has also received B. Iden Payne Awards for his lighting of Troades, Trickster, The Exonerated, Omnium-Gatherum, Triskelion, Panoptikon, Despair’s Book of Dreams, and The Deluge. In 2002 he was honored with “Best Dazzler” in The Austin Chronicle’s Critics’ poll. In 2008, Jason received the “Outstanding Contribution to Austin Theater” award from Austin Circle of Theaters. He also has a website of his work

Patrick Anthony, Resident Lighting Designer

Meghan Bowman, Resident Choreographer

Nathan Dunton, Composer

Nathan has always had a passion for music. He wrote his first classical composition for his high school concert band in Port Aransas, TX. Nathan went on to get a degree at the University of Texas at Austin in Liberal Arts Plan II. Since then he has produced 3 albums and 2 EPs including The Dicky Comstock Show, which he wrote. He records with the studio band, The Springheeled Jacks and composes movie scores and musicals for ACT. His favorite instruments include sleigh bells because they bring all the wonderful feelings of the Holiday Season anytime of year and, of course, the piano because it is a great composition tool. His favorite part of the last Original Musical Project, JUST AS YOU ARE, was watching the songs being brought to life by the dances, story and characters. The girls bring so much energy and eagerness to everything.

Anne-Marie Gordon, Resident Set Designer

Michael Hernandez, Sound Design

Christine Jean-Jaques, Choreographer

Emily Krauser, Business Consultant

Betsy McCan, Artist-in-Residence

Tyler Mabry, Resident Composer

Trudy Martinez, Special Needs Consultant

Becky White, Technical Theater Consultant

Becky is currently the Technical Theater Director for Dripping Springs High School, where she teaches students the ins and outs of technical theater. Becky has worked at Zach Scott as the Assistant Technical Director and Westlake High School in the TEC Program. She has also sailed the seas as a cruise ship theatrical lighting technician. Becky has her B.F.A. in theater from Texas State. She has two beautiful daughters and a husband who was also very involved in theater. Becky’s many talents include set design, lighting design, working with children of all ages and she gives an excellent hug.


Alex Berry, Comedy-Improv Instructor

Kristin Cole, Film Teacher

Jen Coy, Summer Camp Teacher

Amy Downing, Acting Instructor

Downing has directed youth, designed acting curricula, and worked with students throughout Austin to devise, write and create their own performances. As a teaching artist she has worked with Austin Children’s Theater, Theatre Action Project, and ZACH Theatre. Ms. Downing’s acting credits with Texas companies include roles at ZACH Theatre (B. iden Payne award winner for High School Musical), Penfold Theatre Company, Paper Chairs, Austin Playhouse, and the State Theatre Company. She has appeared as Sally Bowles in the national tour of Cabaret (Sam Mendes, director), Trapped Family Singers with Alex Gemignani, and Medea Machine at the NYC Fringe Festival. Additional credits include Lady Capulet in the workshop of Terrance Mann’s musical Romeo and Juliet in New York City, Diana Morales in A Chorus Line, and Mrs. Sowerberry in Oliver! at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, Potiphar’s Wife in Joseph… at the Hangar Theatre, and television’s Guiding Light. Ms. Downing studied musical theatre at CCM and holds a BFA in Acting from Ithaca College.

Meghan Gill, Dance Instructor

Tina Gramman, Acting Instructor

Vanessa Gonzalez, Comedy-Improv Instructor

Michael Hernandez, Film Instructor

Christine Jean-Jaques, Dance & Voice Instructor

Yelena Konetchy, Ballet Instructor

Konetchy, a native Russian, moved to Austin from Michigan to further her career in choreography and dance instruction. With thirteen years of experience in classical ballet to her credit, she has studied pre-professionally at Bossov Ballet Theatre in Pittsfield, ME and danced professionally with the Illinois Ballet and Charleston Ballet Theatre. Ms. Konetchy has worked and studied under famed dancers Amanda McKerrow, Andrei Bossov, Sally Bliss, Vladimir Issaev, Alla Osipenko, Iliana Lopez, Larissa Ponomorenko, Jefferson Baum, and Joseph Fritz. Her performance credits include leads in Giselle, Don Quixote, the Nutcracker, and Paquita; Antony Tudor’s Little Improvisations and other original contemporary ballets; Cunningham, Ailey, Horton, Graham, Limon, and Hawkins, character folk dance, and the New Opera St. Louis’ opening production of Rigoletto. Her studies at Principia College in Elsah, IL included acting, set and costume production, and choreography. Ms. Konetchy is also certified in Vaganova ballet pedagogy under ballet master and teacher John White.

Erica LeBoeuf, Ballet Instructor

Tami Nelson, Comedy-Improv Specialist

Since her arrival in Austin in 2005, Tami has worked diligently in the improv community to become one of Austin’s most notable improv talents. She has been recognized by The Austin Chronicle’s Best of Austin Awards, The B. Iden Payne Awards, The Lone Star Sketch Fest, The Austin Improv Collective Awards and won Best of Fest at the 2008 Frontera Fest. In addition to her stage work, Tami has performed in videos and short films with Los Angeles based and with director Will Elliot, Winner of the 2007 SXSW Click Festival for Peterson’s Savings and Loan. In 2009 Tami made her Comedy Central debut with Studio8 (Atom TV) and was featured in an Intel commercial with iJustine (also produced by Studio8).

Tami has worked with students of all ages from kids (Creative Arts of St. Tammany) to teenagers (OutYouth) to college students (Oberlin Improv Conference, HaHa Food Festival at University of Arizona) as well as hundreds of adults. Tami has taught improv consistently since 2006 as well as serving as director/co-founder of two successful improv training centers.

Chris Trew, Comedy-Improv Specialist

Chris Trew aka Terp 2 it is a nationally touring comedian, rapper and improv teacher. He’s toured the country performing at most major comedy festivals in North America. He’s released two hip-hop albums and performs often in Austin at both comedy and music venues. is the homebase for all of Chris’ projects, including his professional wrestling blog.

Chris has worked with kids (Brite Lights Acting Studio, CAST), teenagers (OutYouth), college students (UT Informal Classes, Oberlin Improv Conference), and everyone in between. From casual performers to people aggressively pursuing a career in comedy. After years of teaching students the basics of improv at various theaters, winning numerous local awards and becoming notable festival performers, Chris opened The New Movement, a unique training center focusing on a specific style of comedy and performance.