Staff & Leadership
Michael Weber | Artistic Director
Michael previously served as artistic director for the inaugural season of Drury Lane Theatre Water Tower Place (now The Broadway Playhouse) and at Theatre at the Center (1998-2004). His productions of Sunset Boulevard, Sweeney Todd, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Pal Joey, Assassins and Side Show at Porchlight Music Theatre, Grand Hotel at Drury Lane Theatre Water Tower Place and She Loves Me at Theatre at the Center were each nominated for the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Production-Musical. Directing credits include Living the History-125 Years of The Auditorium Theatre starring Patti LuPone and John Mahoney, Fifth of July and Talley’s Folly at the Oak Park Festival Theatre,The Petrified Forest at Theatre at the Center, Beauty and the Beast at Marriott Theatre, Over the River and Through the Woods at The Mercury Theater, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at Pheasant Run Theatre, and Cirque du Symphony at Sears Center Arena. The recipient of two Joseph Jefferson Awards, he wrote and directed nine Joseph Jefferson Awards ceremonies (2009-2018). Weber’s regional acting credits include Annie Get Your Gun and Gypsy (both starring Patti LuPone) at Ravinia, Disney’s My Son Pinocchio at First Stage Milwaukee, Around the World in 80 Days at Cleveland Playhouse, The Winter’s Tale and Henry V at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, It Had To Be You (starring Cindy Williams and Eddie Mekka) at Little Theatre on the Square, Angel Street at First Folio Shakespeare, and The Gifts of the Magi at Indiana Repertory. Weber is proud to serve as a pledge host on WTTW, Channel 11, and is author of the play, WAR of the WELLeS.
Jeannie Lukow | Executive Director
Jeannie took the helm as Porchlight’s first Executive Director in September 2014. She is a founding member of Porchlight’s board of directors, and served as president for six of her many years on the board. An integral member of the company since its inception, Jeannie held the positions of marketing director, grant writer and managing director in the early all-volunteer-staff years. She has helped lead Porchlight from this unique perspective of both the staff and board sides, continuing to drive organizational growth, brand expansion and fiscal sustainability. Prior to joining the staff at Porchlight, Jeannie co-founded Bespoke Cuisine, one of Chicago’s leading boutique catering and cooking party venues, which she co-owned for 12 years before selling in 2014. Prior to Bespoke, Jeannie built a 15-year career in marketing communications, much of it spent in association management. Her most recent position in that field was as Managing Director of Marketing Communications for the National Association of Realtors, with over 1 million members. Jeannie holds a Certified Nonprofit Accounting Professional designation through FMA. She is a native Michigander and graduate of Michigan State University, as well as an extensive world traveler, avid foodie and dog lover.
Artistic & Operations
Christopher Pazdernik | Producing Associate & Company Manager
A director/choreographer with “a near encyclopedic knowledge of musicals” (NewCity Stage), Christopher is best known for his critically acclaimed production of High Fidelity (Jeff Awards, Best Director & Best Production of a Musical) with Refuge Theatre Project, where he serves as Artistic Director. Recent credits also include Merrily We Roll Along (Porchlight Music Theatre); Carrie (Ohio Northern University); The Rink, Anyone Can Whistle, City of Angels & Applause (Porchlight Revisits), Wicked City (Chicago Theatre Workshop); & Story of A Story (The Untold Story) (Underscore Theater Co.). Also at Porchlight, he has directed Miracle on 34th Street; assistant directed Candide, A Catered Affair, Dreamgirls & End of the Rainbow, as well as directing numerous New Faces Sing Broadway cabarets. His management credits include Associate Producer on The CiviliTy of Albert Cashier (World Premiere) and The Rosencranz Mysteries as well as Company Manager on First Date (Chicago Premiere) and A Splintered Soul. An openly HIV+ artist, Christopher was also a 2016 Windy City Times 30-Under-30 honoree for his contributions to Chicago’s LGBTQ community and currently serves on the Ambassador Committee for the AIDS Run/Walk Chicago and as Chairperson on the Community Advisory Board for Howard Brown Health, one of the nation’s largest LGBTQ organizations. Proud Artistic Associate of Porchlight Music Theatre since 2010!
Alex Rhyan | Production & Operations Director
Originally from Arlington Heights, the Northwest suburbs of Chicago, Alex is an outgoing, adventurous person that has a deep passion to create entertaining and motivating theater through collaboration. Alex received a B.A in Theater with a concentration in Stage Management from Columbia College Chicago. After graduating, he freelanced as a Technical Director and Production Manager for more than a dozen production at Chicago theaters including; American Theater Company, About Face Theater, Steep Theater, Porchlight Music Theatre and more. Alex greatest accomplishment to date was working alongside the leadership team as the Production Manager at Windy City Playhouse where helped bring to life 11 productions including the Playhouses most acclaimed immersive production SOUTHERN GOTHIC which is still running and celebrating over 500 performances.
August Compton | Audiences Services Manager
August moved to Chicago from Atlanta, Georgia nearly two years ago. While in Atlanta, she completed a Playwriting Apprenticeship with Horizon Theatre Company, joined their Front of House team, and immersed herself in a community full of up-and-coming theatre artists. She holds a BFA in Dramatic Writing with a Minor in Creative Writing from the Savannah College of Art and Design, where she graduated in 2015. While she’s always been a storyteller, it wasn’t until her first year of college that she really dove into the world of theatre, though she’s never looked back since. August is a cat lover, avid reader, frequent movie-goer, and thrilled to be part of the Porchlight team as it continues to grow in new and exciting ways. August oversees the audience experience, including subscriber relations and managing the Front of House (box office, house management, concessions) team.
Carmen J. Gonzalez | Development Director
Native Chicagoan Carmen J. Gonzalez has more than 15 years of development and communications experience in the philanthropic, nonprofit and corporate sectors, and revels in strategizing and forming win/win professional relationships with organizations and individual supporters. She is bi-cultural with language skills in English and Spanish, and also has extensive training in all areas of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion. Carmen began her career as the founder of Fiesta Marketing, Inc., a full-service firm serving both corporations and nonprofits. Fiesta was the first in-house marketing firm for McCormick Place, Navy Pier and Soldier Field, as well as being contracted for all of the City’s major summer events including Taste of Chicago and the Blues, Jazz and Viva! festivals. Carmen also did fundraising and Diversity & Inclusion consulting for Rush University Medical Center, Alzheimer’s Association and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur, Feinberg and Pritzker foundations. A lifelong theatre lover, Carmen began taking acting lessons in elementary school, majored in theatre in high school and studied marketing, communications and acting at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She is certified in Leadership, Experiential Marketing/Events and Communications from the Disney Institute. In her spare time, Carmen enjoys photography, travel, gardening and spoiling her dog and cat.
Finance & Administration
Dan Thomas | Finance & Administration Director
Dan has a varied 10+ year career in arts education, finance and small business management. He holds bachelor’s degrees in both Music/Jazz Studies and American Studies & Religion, and holds an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management with majors in entrepreneurship and marketing. After school, Dan started at Chicago’s Merit School of Music as a Program Associate, working his way up to Director of the school’s Alice P. Pfaelzer Conservatory. Following work with Chicago Public Schools and Settlement Music School (Philadelphia), Dan turned his expertise to small business with roles at both Presence Inc and Field retailers in Chicago.
Rebeccah Singer | Education Director
Rebeccah came to Porchlight from Emerald City Theatre where she worked in youth arts education for nearly six years, two of them as the company’s Education Manager. She has also been a teaching artist for Lookingglass Theater, The Playground Theater and the iO Theater. Rebeccah holds a BFA from Syracuse University where she graduated Magna Cum Laude, and has been been through the Second City Conservatory and the iO Theater Improv program. She is thrilled to join Porchlight and continue expanding its youth education and outreach programming.
SHOUT! Marketing & Media Relations
Serving as Porchlight’s marketing and PR director, James Juliano—along with SHOUT! business partner Jill Evans La Penna—guide Porchlight’s corporate branding and programmatic marketing. Their firm provides individualized client campaigns, working in a variety of industries including theatre and dining. James and Jill partner with each client to identify their specific needs to make each project a success.
Austin Packard | Marketing Manager
A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Austin holds a BAC in Theatre Technology and Design from Bowling Green State University, and joined Porchlight Music Theatre after finishing three years in Live Entertainment at Cedar Point. In addition to Porchlight, Austin is a freelance graphic designer and theatrical technician, with a longstanding passion for music, theatre, Stephen King, and his pets Georgie & Theo. Austin is proud to be a part of the Porchlight team and the Chicago theatre community.
Michelle Freeman Cucchiaro / Chicago, IL
For as long as she can remember, Michelle has had a passion for musicals. At a young age, listening to – and singing along with (albeit not well!) – Broadway cast albums. And in Chicago, the very best place for musicals is Porchlight. In addition to musical theatre, film plays a major role in Michelle’s life. She serves on the Gene Siskel Film Center’s advisory board, and has been a member of the Chicago International Film Festival/Cinema Chicago for many years. During the late 1970s, when Chicago/Off Loop theatre was in its infancy, Michelle (along with her husband Steven) served on the audience development board at Victory Gardens Theatre, and later on the board of directors at VG. A lifelong Chicagoan, she takes great pride in the current theatre scene, subscribing to and supporting many of the local theatres. She is also a member at the Arts Club of Chicago, and proud to be an advocate for Porchlight Music Theatre.
Brenda Didier / Libertyville, IL
Director-Choreographer / Owner, Lincolnshire Academy of Dance
Brenda is a freelance choreographer/director based in Chicago and owns and directs the Lincolnshire Academy of Dance, which she founded nearly 20 years ago. She received the Equity Jeff Award for Best Director of a Revue for Porchlight’s Ain’t Misbehavin’ (2014), and she has received Non-Equity Jeff Awards for both direction and choreography, After Dark Awards for choreography, the National Youth Theatre Award for choreography and the 2010 Broadway World Chicago fan favorite award for choreography/non-equity. Brenda has collaborated with Porchlight on more than a dozen productions including, most recently, Sophisticated Ladies, A Chorus Line, Billy Elliot The Musical, In The Heights, Dreamgirls, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and the smash-hit Ain’t Misbehavin’. She has served as a guest instructor/choreographer for Northwestern University, Columbia College, the University of Illinois- Champaign/Urbana, the University of Wisconsin-Parkside and Carthage College. She has choreographed musicals, industrials, special events as well as productions for Second City’s mainstage and five installments of Cirque Shanghai at Navy Pier’s Skyline Stage. These productions toured and played in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and Cirque Shanghai Extreme Off-Broadway.
Jeremy Eden / Chicago, IL
Co-CEO, Harvest Earnings Group, Inc.
Rhona Frazin / Chicago, IL
Rhona recently retired after a non-profit leadership career spanning more than five decades. Boxes of well-worn 33 1/3 rpm Broadway original cast recordings from the 60s, and 70s attest to her long love for musical theater and the great American song book. Her earliest work experience focused on public relations and marketing for Goodman Theatre and Goodman School of Drama, Wisdom Bridge Theater, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in Urbana, and Drury Lane Theater McCormick Place. Executive Leadership roles followed with The Nature Conservancy and The John Marshall Law School. For 18 years she led all institutional advancement efforts, including two highly successful capital campaigns, for Metropolitan Family Services (formerly United Charities of Chicago), the region’s oldest largest non-sectarian human service organization. In 1994, she was named President and CEO of the Chicago Public Library Foundation. Throughout her career, she actively gave back to the non-profit sector as a speaker for the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Publicity Club of Chicago, Family Service America, Women in Philanthropy and the Urban and American Library Associations. She has served on a number of non-profit boards, including Girls in the Game, Wisdom Bridge Theater, Acorn Center for the Performing Arts in Three Oaks Michigan, and as a member of the Joseph Jefferson Committee. A BMI lyricist, she and her husband, retired Judge Julian Frazin, have written scores of parodies and song lyrics together, including “The Voice Above the Crowd” a tribute to the great radio voices of baseball,which was performed at the 1993 Major League All-Star Game by STYX lead singer Dennis DeYoung.
Tony Gibson (Chair) / Chicago, IL
Choreographer-Director and Secondary Education Specialist
Tony is a nationally recognized choreographer/director who’s been working with young people for over 25 years. He has choreographed over 35 musicals and numerous award-winning choral ensembles for high schools across the country. He was a guest educator for the Department of Defense Dependent Schools in Europe, and was invited to participate in the Kennedy Center’s Artist as Educators Workshop in Washington, D.C. Tony served as Education Director for Northlight Theatre in Skokie, managing Northlight’s education and outreach programs as well as developing and directing Northlight’s musical theatre summer camp. Tony is excited to be part of the Porchlight family and to take part in supporting and shaping the future growth of this wonderful theatre.
William Gilmer / Chicago, IL
Clinical Professor of Psychiatry
Bill is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and the Director of Psychiatric Research and Academic Development at Edward Hines Jr VA. Bill also serves on the Scientific Advisory Board of the National Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), an advocacy and educational organization with a national network of peer support groups and online services for people living with mood disorders and their families. A lifelong enthusiast of theatre, he was drawn to Porchlight’s commitment to expressing meaningful, dramatic themes through music theatre. As an admirer of the works of Stephen Sondheim and Lin-Manuel Miranda, Bill subscribes to the words of Sondheim’s Franklin Shephard, “Musicals are popular. They’re a great way to state important ideas. Ideas that could make a difference.” Bill is delighted to be a supporter and board member of Porchlight Music Theatre, a company whose artistry embodies those words.
Mark Hudson / Chicago, IL
Cross-Division Group Senior Procurement Manager/Media & Agency Relationships
Mark Hudson is currently leads Marketing Procurement focusing on media and agency relationships at Walgreens Boots Alliance. Previously holding roles in marketing, procurement, agency account & creative services and a member of the ANA (Association of National Advertisers). His love for music began as the son of a minister and having an older sister with a strong influence by taking him to shows and playing musical albums at home. He and his partner, Russell Johnson, are avid theatregoers. A native Chicagoan, he also serves on the Goodman Theatre Premier Society Council and supports other Chicago theatres companies and organizations including the Pullman Educational Foundation. His passion and background come together by becoming an active supporter of the Porchlight Music Theatre with its roots in the community and providing an intimate theatre experience. Mark is excited to serve on the board and looks forward to an amazing future of Porchlight.
James Jensen / Chicago, IL
Concert Producer & Manager of Special Projects, Drury Lane Theatre
Jim has been working professionally in theatre as a producer and general manager for over 30 years. During that time he has been responsible for the production and management of over 100 productions and concert attractions. Recently he was co-producer and general manager of the Drury Lane Water Tower, and currently produces concerts and oversees all talent hiring for Drury Lane Oakbrook. Prior to that he was general manager of the Royal George Theatre, where he co-produced the long-running Forever Plaid. He also general managed Angels in America and many other Chicago productions, co-produced the first Chicago production of Forbidden Broadway, and was company manager for the first national tours of Aspects of Love and Evita. He was a founding member, former board member and past vice-president of the League of Chicago Theatres. He is on the advisory board of the Chicago Cabaret Professionals and is a member of the Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers. A Northwestern graduate, he also teaches in the Theatre Management Program at the Theatre School at DePaul University.
Jonathan Klein (Secretary) / Park Ridge, IL
Professor & Executive Department Head, UIC Department of Pediatrics
Jon is a pediatrician specializing in adolescent medicine and in health services research. He is a graduate of New Jersey Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health. After residency and fellowship in Boston and North Carolina, Jon served on the faculty of the University of Rochester in New York for many years before moving to Chicago to work for the American Academy of Pediatrics as Associate Executive Director in 2009. In 2017, he moved to the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Medicine as Professor of Pediatrics and Executive Vice Head of the Department, where he helps develop people and programs serving the south and west side of Chicago. Jon spent most of his adolescence as a theater techie, first with the New Players Company in Ridgewood, New Jersey, and then at Brandeis University, as a stage manager and lighting designer, before drifting into health policy and medicine. He and his wife, Susan Cohn, have two adult children, and are active members of Chicago’s lindy hop/swing dance community. They both love musical theater, and are delighted to have the chance to support Porchlight’s mission.
Charles Laff / Chicago, IL
Partner, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP
Chuck Laff is an attorney specializing in intellectual property and served many years as an Adjunct Professor of Intellectual Property Law at Loyola University of Chicago Law School. Chuck earned a Bachelor of Science Degree from Purdue University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. During his career, he has had the opportunity to work with the owners of valuable intellectual property, including merchandising rights and copyrights for popular film characters and musical works. Chuck also serves on the Board of Managers of a fast-growing highly-innovative material science company. Growing up in Chicago, Chuck had the opportunity to watch live entertainment in intimate theaters and night clubs and learned to appreciate the wonderful experience of watching live performances up close. As lovers of theater, Chuck and his wife, Diane, regularly attend and are particularly fond of musical theater. Chuck and Diane are firm believers that the theater is an essential part of our culture, serving as a wonderful vehicle for educating audiences and encouraging people to open their minds and hearts. With his background and beliefs, it was natural for Chuck to join the Porchlight family and participate in the exciting growth of Porchlight and musical theater in Chicago.
Steve McDonagh / Highland Park, IL
Co-Owner, Hearty Boys
Along with spouse Dan Smith, Steve makes up one half of the cooking duo known as The Hearty Boys. They are trend setting Chicago caterers, authors of Talk with Your Mouth Full, original winners of Search For The Next Food Network Star and hosts of Food Network’s Party Line With the Hearty Boys. Their most recent book is an everyman’s guide to the current cocktail movement titled The New Old Bar. Dan and Steve have had 3 Michelin recommended Chicago restaurants, but at the moment are happily focusing on catering and their son, Nate. Steve has recently returned to acting full time, has appeared with Porchlight Revisits, The Goodman Theatre, Chicago Med and numerous productions at Theatre at the Center under Michael Weber’s direction. Steve has been a member of Actors’ Equity for 30 years.
Sara Siegall / Palatine, IL
Partner, Chapman & Spingola LLP
Sara hails from Miami, Florida, having moved to Chicago in 2005 to begin her legal career. Her passion for musical theatre began with the downward plunge of a chandelier, when she was taken to a production of Phantom of the Opera at age 13. Since then she has developed a special affection for the works of Stephen Sondheim, and will travel unreasonable distances to see the latest production of her favorite Sondheim show. Sara is a commercial litigator at the Chicago-based law firm Chapman Spingola, LLP, where she concentrates her practice in the areas of business and intellectual property disputes, securities, professional liability, and appeals. She loves the law (almost) as much as the theatre, and is excited to come to work each morning to help her clients solve their problems, defeat their adversaries, and advance their business interests. Prior to law school, Sara was a high school English teacher (and drama club sponsor) at Chelsea High School in New York, New York. She lives in Palatine with her husband and two young daughters.
Tamara Sims / Chicago, IL
Owner/Director Sales & Marketing, Something 2 Dance 2 DJ Entertainment
Tamara is beyond elated to be part of the Porchlight family. An avid Sondheim lover, Tamara’s first Porchlight production was Merrily We Roll Along and she has been a devoted fan ever since. Tamara and her husband own the award-winning companies Something 2 Dance 2 DJ Entertainment and Elegant Event Lighting in Schaumburg. Tamara will always greet you with a warm smile and she can also let you know where to find the best desserts! Her passion for theater is only exceeded by the passion she has for her business and life partner, Jay. Tamara is a graduate of Loyola University.
Brian Troy (Vice Chair) / Chicago, IL
Owner, Leopard Adventures: Custom African Safaris
Gretchen Upholt (Treasurer) / Chicago, IL
Lead Consultant, Fiscal Management Associates
Gretchen is a Lead Consultant with FMA, a consulting firm focused on building nonprofit organizations’ capacity in finance and operations. In that role Gretchen is responsible for the business development and growth strategy of FMA’s Midwest region, while also playing an active role as trainer, coach, and consultant to nonprofit clients across the country. Prior to FMA, Gretchen spent 5 years in international development, first as a Community Development Consultant for the Peace Corps in Ukraine, then as head of the Volunteer Department at the Thabyay Education Network in Thailand. Gretchen’s diverse experience includes working in corporate citizenship, housing and homelessness and the arts. She holds an MPA from NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service and her BA and MA in Arts and Cultural Management from American University in Washington, DC. Gretchen is also a board member for the National Peace Corps Association and maintains her love of the arts not only as board member with Porchlight but also a singer with Allegrezza Singers, a Chicago-based SATB choir.
Jeannie Lukow / Chicago, IL
Michael Weber / Chicago, IL
Mary Kay Conley / Orland Park, IL
Rhoda Reeling / Chicago, IL
Wm. Eric Bramlett / Naperville, IL
Creative Arts Director, Community Christian Church
Former Porchlight Artistic Director
John Bucchino / New York, NY
Award-Winning Broadway & Film Composer/Lyricist
E. Faye Butler / Chicago, IL
Cheri Coons / Chicago, IL
Kevin Depinet / Chicago, IL
Award-Winning Set Designer
William Finn / New York, NY
Tony Award-Winning Composer/Lyricist
Joel Grey / New York, NY
Academy, Tony and Grammy Award-winning Actor, Director, Photographer
Larry Grossman / West Hollywood, CA
Peabody and Multi-Emmy Award-Winning Composer
Linda Kline / New York, NY
Tony Award-Nominated Author
Jesse Klug / Chicago, IL
Award-Winning Lighting Designer
Sean Allan Krill / New York, NY
Chicago Theatre & Broadway Actor
Dominic Missimi / Northfield, IL
Award-Winning Artistic Director, Director & Teacher
Jill Moore / Phoenix, AZ
Porchlight’s Founding Artistic Director
Lonny Price / New York, NY
Emmy Award-Winning Actor, Director & Author
Hollis Resnik / Chicago, IL
Bill Russell / New York, NY
Tony Award-Nominated Author & Lyricist
Chuck Smith / Chicago, IL
Resident Director, The Goodman Theatre
Walter Stearns / Chicago, IL
Executive Director, Mercury Theater Chicago
Former Porchlight Artistic Director
Bob Walton / New York, NY
Author, Composer/Lyricist & Triple-Threat Broadway Actor
Jim Walton / New York, NY
Author, Composer/Lyricist & Triple-Threat Broadway Actor
Maury Yeston / New York, NY
Tony Award-Winning Composer/Lyricist