TRISH CLARK, Executive/Artistic Director.
Actor, educator, producer, Ms. Clark received her Master of Arts degree in Acting and Directing from the University of Kentucky. During those years, Ms. Clark had the opportunity to play in A Tale of Two Cities (Madam DeFage), A Little Night Music (Desiree), Crimes of the Heart (Maggie), Sweeney Todd (The Beggar Woman), Chicago (Velma), and A Comedy of Errors (Adriana).
After finishing her graduate work at UK, Ms. Clark went on to become one of the founding teachers at the School for the Creative and Performing Arts, where her two daughters, Emily and Ellie, also were among the first students to study. She later taught Theatre classes at Tates Creek High School before being invited to open the new state of the art theater venue and establish a Theatre Department at the newly constructed Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in 1991.
Ms. Clark’s stage career continued as she worked with theatre groups in the community. She performed in the world premiere of Charles Pogue’s Whodunnit Darling? with Studio Players, Bullshot Crummond for Theatre DownUnder, Dancing at Lughnasa (Maggie), Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (Martha), and The Glass Menagerie (Amanda) for Phoenix Group Theatre, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Big Mamma) for Actor’s Guild of Lexington, and Agnes of God (Dr. Martha Livingston), a special production featuring the collaborative effort of UK and the Lexington Shakespeare Festival. She also performed in Much Ado about Nothing, All the King’s Men, and The Taming of the Shrew with the Lexington Shakespeare Festival.
As an educator, Ms. Clark has directed and produced over 100 plays for high school students from across Fayette County. Her students received many awards for their hard work and dedication, including several wins at the Kentucky Theatre Association State Drama Festival. Her production of Ntozake Shange’s, for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf was featured in a special presentation at UK’s Singletary Center for the Arts. She traveled many times with her award-winning students to perform in the annual Southeastern Theatre Conference.
Ms. Clark was named Fayette County Teacher of the Year, Kentucky High School Teacher of the Year, and the National Society for Arts and Letters Educator of the Year. In 1999, Paul Laurence Dunbar High School Department of Theatre was invited by the American High School Theatre Festival to perform in Edinburgh, Scotland. As part of the globally recognized Edinburgh International Fringe Festival, Dunbar students were the first Kentucky students to represent the United States at the prestigious event in 2000. After continued success, Her students again received a nomination to attend the festival in 2006.
Ms. Clark served as Artistic Director for the Lexington Shakespeare Festival from 1996 until 2005. In 2003, she chartered the Lexington Shakespeare Institute. Designed as an intense training ground for students in grades 9-12, the Lexington Shakespeare Institute combined her experience with that of other educators to ensure the future of Kentucky’s artistic talent. With the rare opportunity to work with experienced performers from across the nation under a well-rounded curriculum, students from Central Kentucky thrive amongst peers who share their same goals in the collegiate world as well as the professional arena. This program continued as LSF became the Kentucky Conservatory Theatre where she offered services as Artistic Director for SummerFest until 2009 and its training ground until 2011.
Ms. Clark recently signed with the Kentucky Humanities Council to portray Mary Todd Lincoln, an original script by local playwright, Bo List for 2013-2016.
VANESSA BECKER WEIG, Education Director.
Ms. Weig was born and raised in Central Ohio where she earned a B.F.A. in Acting at Wright State University in Dayton. After college, Ms. Weig spent a couple of years training and working in Chicago before moving to Columbus, Ohio where she served for ten years as the Education Director and Resident Director/Actor for the Phoenix Theatre (now CATCO). At the Phoenix, she directed, choreographed and appeared in over fifty productions as well as designing and implementing classes, camps, workshops, and in school residencies. Ms. Weig specializes in movement theatre and theatre styles such as Kabuki, Commedia Del ‘Arte, Laban, Puppets and Masks and Musical Theatre. Ms. Weig worked with several Central Ohio Theatres as an actor, most notable roles include Anita in West Side Story, Leading Player in Pippin and an award winning, regional tour of the musical The Secret Garden which incorporated both deaf and hearing actors.
Since moving to Lexington six years ago, Ms. Weig has directed Into the Woods, Hairspray, Aladdin Jr., and Mulan Jr. for the School for the Creative and Performing Arts. 13: The Musical for U.K.O.T.’ s Broadway Bound. Beauty and the Beast Jr.and Seussical: The Musical Jr. for The Academy for Creative Excellence which won Outstanding Production at the ITheatrics Junior Theatre Festival. Ms. Weig also directed the premiere showcase of Xanadu Jr. and the pilot of Elf Jr. for ITheatrics and the regional premiere of A Christmas Story: The Musical for Woodford Theatre. In addition to conducting several production in school residencies for Lexington schools, she has taught for ACE, Broadway Bound, and Kentucky Conservatory Theatre (Summerfest) where she served as Education Director for two years and directed Peter Pan. In Lexington she has appeared in The Bald Soprano (Mrs. Martin) with Balagula Theatre, Holes (The Warden) and Cinderella (Stepmother) with Lexington Children’’s Theatre, Pride and Prejudice (Miss Bingley/Mrs.Gardiner) and Legally Blonde(Paulette) with Summerfest. Ms. Weig is proud to be the co-founder and director the arts meets activism initiative, The Girl Project.
DAWN CONNERLEY, Technical Director.
Dawn is happy to be returning to the Bluegrass after a three year hiatus. Mrs. Connerley left Lexington to pursue her MFA in Technical Production at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. Previously you may have seen her work on the Lexington Children’s Theatre stage or Berea College’s Theatre Laboratory. She is looking forward to a great experience with the wonderful staff at Woodford Theatre.
JORDAN GUFFEY, Marketing & Development Manager.
Jordan obtained her B.A. in Arts Administration with a minor in Dance from the University of Kentucky. Jordan is dedicated to the production of high quality performing arts and arts education. In addition to her administrative work, she serves as tap dance instructor and choreographer for the Woodford Theatre Young Artists and Marketing Chair and Administrative Assistant for The Girl Project. She is a part time tap dance instructor for the University of Kentucky Department of Theatre + Dance and proudly choreographed Paul Laurence Dunbar High School’s spring musicals from 2016-2018. Prior to Woodford Theatre, Jordan served as Coordinator for three Arts Integration Academies for The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts and worked in development at Ashland, the Henry Clay Estate.
JENI BENAVIDES, Associate Education Director.
Jeni is thrilled to now call Woodford Theatre her artistic home, where she has recently come on as the Associate Education Director. She is also the Lead Guest artist for the Girl Project, and serves as the Co-Director for Voices Heard and The Girl Project Next Generation. A transplant from the Carolinas, Jeni hails from Charlotte, North Carolina and attended the University of South Carolina where she studied theatre, specifically focusing in performance.
After performing in the 72nd season of the outdoor drama, The Lost Colony, in 2008, Jeni wrote a comprehensive history on the theatre and the production for her undergraduate honors thesis. The thesis included transcripts of 16 interviews she conducted with directors, producers, former cast members and current cast members from the productions 70 year history – she has yet to turn it into a play, however one can always dream.
After receiving her BA, Jeni went on to study at the University of Kentucky, where she received her MA in Acting. Her master’s thesis, Cultivating the Unassailable, analyzed the pedagogy and application of The Pacific Performance Project (also known as P3/East), which integrates the Suzuki method, Shogo Ohta’s slow tempo work, as well as principles of aikido training. Jeni has trained with P3 in both South Carolina and most recently in Seattle. As an actor, Jeni has performed with Woodford Theatre, Kentucky Conservatory Theatre and Studio players, recently roles in Frankenstein (Justine), Twelfth Night (Fabian), and Beyond Therapy (Prudence). She also recently resurfaced as a documentary theatre artist in Woodford Theatre’s presentation of Voices Heard: Kentucky. After interviewing staff and a survivor from Greenhouse 17, an advocacy organization for survivors of domestic and partner violence, Jeni adapted their interviews into monologues and performed one of the pieces for Voices Heard. She is a passionate theatre educator who has taught with the University of Kentucky, Campbellsville University, the Academy for Creative Excellence and is so excited to start her education adventures at Woodford Theatre.