Conservatory Faculty & Staff

Summer 2021
STEPHEN AGOSTO (Section Director/Musical Theatre Instructor) serves as Senior Director of Artistic Engagement at Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ, recipient of the 2016 Regional Theatre TONY Award. He is a member of the artistic team that shepherded such new musicals as The HoneymoonersThe Sting (starring Harry Connick Jr.), Unmasked: The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Half Time (directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell). In January 2017, Stephen drafted the Musical Theater Common Prescreen, a universal set of guidelines for college entrance that now boasts over 65 participating MT programs and impacts thousands of students annually. Stephen’s long career in arts education includes programming and curriculum consultation for numerous educational institutions including the New York City Department of Education and the Maine Arts Academy. For five years Stephen served as Director of Musical Theatre at Talent Unlimited High School in Manhattan where he and his students were Circle in the Square “Teens on Broadway” honorees, recipients of “Special Honors” from the Gershwin Theatre Awards, and recipients of The Shubert Organization High School Theatre Award (Top Honors). He is currently an adjunct professor of theatre at Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University and a frequent master instructor for universities across the country. Additionally, he has directed, choreographed and/or provided musical staging for shows internationally. Early in his career, he was a performer in such shows as Beauty and the Beast (2nd National Tour), Godspell (National Tour), The Marriage Play (Soho Playhouse, OB), and Sam (OB, written by Nicholas and Mel Brooks) to name a few. Stephen holds a BFA in Acting from The Theatre School at DePaul University and a Graduate Certificate from The Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theatre.
EMMA CANALESE (Section Director/Dance Instructor) is a graduate of The Western Australian Academy of the Performing Arts and The Neighborhood Playhouse, NY. She is also an associate member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC). Directorial and choreographic work includes Einstein and Mileva (World Premiere at Theatre Row, NY), Peter and The Starcatcher (The Naples Players, nominated for Best Director of a Musical, Broadway World Regional Awards), Silent Sky (The Naples Players, Naples Florida Weekly Top Pick), Hollywood, Hollywood (Midtown International Theatre Festival, nominated for Best Direction and Best Choreography), Yellowpants (SOLOCOM at The Pit, NY), America (Downtown Urban Theatre Festival, winner of Best Audience Award), Thick Gnat Hands, The Brazilian Dilemma, Stick, Stiff , Any Given School Day, Twenty (Collective NY), The Tempest: Remixed (Teatro Heckscher, NY), A Sense of Purpose On Sunday’s (IO Myers Theatre at UNSW, Aust), Par amnesia (Seymour Centre with One Extra Dance, Aust), The Magic Flute (Talent Unlimited), Oklahoma and Mame (Stagedoor Manor). She is co-writer and director of the play A 100 Years of the History of Dance that toured Australia in 2019, was a Western Australian Critics Choice winner at Fringe World Festival 2020 in Perth, Western Australia and has runs in Brisbane at The Powerhouse (2019) and La Boite Theatre Company (2021). Emma co-wrote and co-directed the short film 13 (Awarded Best Screenplay and nominated for Best Direction in Sparrow Film Project). She directed and produced the web series Kate Plus Date in collaboration with Martian New Media, was associate producer for the short film Blink: The Observer (Backslash Bomb Productions), producer on HIV and AIDS: Let’s keep talking PSA (GLAAD), First AD on short film Corn Bread and Bad Luck (Rocky from Da Bronx Productions) and for feature film Lighthouse Unmanned (LU Productions). She is co-creator of the micro series Historgrams. In 2020, she directed Holiday’s From The Heart, a virtual performance and fundraising program produced by Bravehearts For Broadway, streamed on for The Actors Fund. Emma produced, directed and performed in The Collective NY’s C:10 To Go, a touring production of short plays and workshops aimed at schools and colleges, taken to Coastal Carolina University in 2017. She is a director, choreographer and teacher for The Papermill Playhouse Conservatory and Intensive Summer Programs and was a guest choreographer for The Papermill Playhouse Show Choir. She taught dance for Rutgers-RSAC, was guest director/choreographer for UNSW Dance and Drama Dept. and StageDoor Manor, among other engagements. Most recently she has directed for Ponoma College, CA.
CHRISTOPHER COOLEY (Arranger) has enjoyed a wide variety of musical activities as a freelance accompanist, organist, cocktail pianist, arranger, and composer in and around New York City for over 20 years. Recent projects include a recital of the music of Ricky Ian Gordon with Opera Noire; a workshop of Sheila Silver’s new opera “A Thousand Splendid Suns”; a summer tour of Europe (2019) including work as pianist and composer at festivals in Italy; and a Broadway-themed dinner cruise for Hornblower Cruises, for which he arranged the music.  He has concertized with various instrumental and vocal soloists in five continents, as well as Alice Tully Hall and Carnegie Hall, and has served on the staff of numerous summer opera festivals in Italy, Germany, and Austria.  Chris holds a doctorate in Collaborative Piano from the Manhattan School of Music and is currently living in Lithuania, working as a vocal coach and pianist at the Klaipeda State Music Theatre.
LISA E. COONEY (Program Coordinator) has been with the Paper Mill Playhouse Education and Outreach department since 1998 and in 2007 became the Director of Education. Now in her 23rd season at Paper Mill, Lisa oversees the development and management of the Tony winning theater’s nationally recognized education and outreach programs including the Rising Star Awards, the Adopt-a-School Project, the Paper Mill Theater School, Theater For Everyone/Autism-Friendly performances, Paper Mill Prep College Discovery & Audition Coaching, the Actor’s Fund Actor’s Home Residency and the Summer Professional Training Programs & New Voices Concert. Lisa has a long history in the New Jersey arts education community and has planned many successful programs for a variety of providers in the state. Prior to her long tenure at Paper Mill, Lisa was the Director of the NJ Summer Arts Institute at Mason Gross School of the Arts/Rutgers University and served on the Board of the Institute for Arts & Humanities Education. Additionally, Lisa has managed events and programs for Newark Symphony Hall, the State Theater and George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, NJ. Lisa served on the 2010 and 2020 conference planning committee and 2016 grant panel for the National Alliance for Musical Theatre and has co-chaired the Rules & Regulations committee for the National High School Musical Theater Awards. Lisa is the recipient of the 2010 New Jersey Governor’s Award in Arts Education for Distinguished Service in the field and the 2011 Innovators Awards from the Cultural Access Network of NJ and NJ State Council on the Arts for designing and implementing Autism Friendly performances for children with autism and other developmental disabilities. Lisa also received the 2015 New Jersey Governor’s Jefferson Award for Public Service. In 2017, at the invitation of the Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts Jane Chu, Lisa made a presentation on her work at the public meeting of the National Council on the Arts in Washington DC, a lead funder of her work. Over the past decade, she has served as a consultant on Autism-Friendly programs to several performing arts centers around the country, most notably the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. Lisa graduated from Rutgers University and currently resides in Mendham, New Jersey.
BRUCE DE LA CRUZ (Music Director/Arranger) is a freelance music director, arranger, orchestrator and accompanist in the NY/NJ area. He is currently a staff accompanist at Montclair State University and at Paper Mill Playhouse where he has been part of their Summer Conservatory and “Children’s Theatre On Tour” programs. A major proponent of new works, he has been music director, arranger and orchestrator for new musicals such as Wendy’s Shadow and The Most Incredible Thing by David Maglione which have both had local and regional premieres. He has most recently served as music director for Songs For A New World, Falsettos, Into The Woods, Curtains, Guys And Dolls, Hair, Rent, Legally Blonde, If/Then, American Idiot and conducted a full orchestra in the concert version of Porgy and Bess at Union County Performing Arts Center where he is currently the resident music director.
SAM GROISSER (Music Director/Arranger/Class Pianist) is a music director, accompanist, arranger, and conductor working in New York and Chicago. Graduate of Northwestern University (BA in Music Direction, Music Theatre Certificate, Sarah Siddons Society Scholarship recipient). Recent credits include works at The Fulton Theatre, Paramount Theatre (The Secret Of My Success [pre-Broadway tryout], Newsies), The Marriott Theatre (Madagascar, Darling Grenadine), and musical works at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with the American Musical Theatre Project. At Paper Mill Playhouse, Sam has worked on past New Voices Concerts and is a proud New Voices alumnus (first appearing as an actor in New Voices of 2008: Paper Mill Goes Platinum). Sam is a member of the American Federation of Musicians (Local 10-208).
JOHN HOUSLEY (Section Director/Acting Instructor) directed Songs for a New World, Company, Baby, and Urinetown at Montclair State University where he is an adjunct professor. A graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, he has been the acting teacher at Paper Mill Playhouse’s Musical Theater Conservatory since 2001 where he has written and directed their New Voices concerts. He is the writer of the acclaimed movie Dadetown and his film Jack 1/24/71 was a finalist at the Sundance Institute.
MATTHEW LOWY (Music Director/Arranger) is an NYC-based composer and music director.  This is his twelfth summer working on New Voices at the Paper Mill Playhouse, where he has also worked on various projects as music director, conductor, arranger, and accompanist.  Matt spent several years touring nationally and internationally, including An American in Paris (Music Supervision, orchestrations), A Chorus Line (U.S., Japan, and Shanghai; music director/conductor/orchestrations), and 42nd Street (music director/conductor).  Matt also worked as a keyboard sub at Beetlejuice on Broadway.  He is currently a composer in the Advanced BMI Lehman Engel Advanced Musical Theater Workshop, where he received the First Year Jerry Harrigan Musical Theatre Award in 2019.  His original musicals have been performed at Sound Bites, NYTF Winterfest (These Walls; winner, best short), the New York International Fringe Festival (Fallen Skies, Overall Excellence Award in Music Composition), and the C.I.C. Theater Company (How Christmas Feels).  Matt proudly holds a B.M. in Music Composition from The Boston Conservatory.
SUZI MARTINEZ (Section Director/Acting Instructor) (aka the actress formerly known as Susan Ancheta) is thrilled to be in the company of these talented Conservatory artists and students! Broadway Credits: Miss Saigon (Mimi) and Flower Drum Song (Asst. Dance Captain/Swing/Understudy Linda Low). Additional show credits include Europe & National Tours: A Chorus Line (Connie), West Side Story (Anita) as well as regional theater: South Pacific (Liat), Peter Pan (Tiger Lily) and off-Broadway shows. Fun facts: 1st audition in NYC landed her on the television show FAME; was an original Knicks City Dancer (Madison Square Garden); sailed through Tahiti and Australia performing on Princess Cruises; sang at the Vatican (Leonard Bernstein’s Mass-televised in Italy). Since 2008, she has been a Teaching Artist for Paper Mill’s after school classes as well as the Paper Mill Players Camp. Choreography credits as Adjunct Professor at Fairleigh Dickenson University (Cabaret, Hair, Pump Boys and Dinettes, Pippin) ; Theater Works (Junie B. Jones, Henry & Mudge, Skippy Jon Jones, If You Give A Pig A Pancake) ; Director/Choreographer for numerous school shows and currently is a certified NJ teacher for grades K-6 who teaches Performing Arts for grades K-2 at Uncommon Schools. Earned B.F.A. from Southern Methodist University, Meadows School of the Arts in Dallas, Texas.
JENSYN OERTEL-MODERO (Section Director/Musical Theatre Instructor) is thrilled to be working with the very talented team and students at Paper Mill Playhouse again. She has her M.A. in Theatre Studies from Montclair State University and her B.F.A. in Musical Theatre from The Boston Conservatory. Jensyn is a certified Theatre & Dance educator and is currently the theatre teacher and director/choreographer at Rahway High School. In addition, Jensyn directs and choreographs at Mount St. Dominic Academy and is the proud writer of Professionally Developed: A Musical About #ArtsEd. Her most favorite role is that of mom to Mackenzie and Jackson.
MONA SEYED-BOLORFOROSH (Music Director/Arranger) is a Music Director, Conductor, Pianist and Arranger whose work encompasses numerous genres including Musical Theatre, Symphonic Music, and Opera. Recent credits include Amour, a Virtual Revival (Associate Music Director), MENASAFIED at Ars Nova (Music Director, Arranger) OFF-BROADWAY: Heather Christian’s Oratorio for All Living Things (Piano) NATIONAL TOUR: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella (Keys 3), Credits in opera, film, and orchestral music include Heartbeat Opera (Music Assistant) and Harry Potter Soundtrack Orchestra (Former music director, conductor). She is an alumna of Berklee College of Music, where she studied composition and conducting.
IVETTE SOSA DEMPSEY (Section Director/Dance Instructor) has over 15 years of experience in show business and teaching various styles of dance. She has performed in numerous musicals and stage productions including West Side Story at the famed La Scalla Opera House in Milan, Italy; Latinologues on Broadway and Yo soy Latina at the TONY award-winning Crossroads Theater in New Brunswick to name a few. Ivette is best known as a member of the pop singing group Eden’s Crush where she toured with superstars ‘NSYNC and Jessica Simpson performing her Billboard #1 hit single “Get Over Yourself.” Her TV and Film credits include Chasing Papi, Disney’s Even StevensSabrina the Teenage Witch, and various commercials and music videos. Most recently, television audiences can hear Ivette sing “Imagine” in the UNICEF national campaign. Ivette is a graduate of Marymount Manhattan College with a BFA in Dance. She is currently The Theater Arts teacher at Nicotra Early College Charter School where she is also interim director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Ivette teaches voice and dance at Across the Floor in Woodbridge where she directed The Lion King Kids, A Cabaret Night, and various workshops on audition techniques. Some Choreography credits include: How to Succeed…, Crazy for You, …Charlie Brown, Anything Goes, 42nd Street and Urinetown. She had the pleasure of directing up and coming pop star Rich Hennesey in his music video for his new song “Dodged a Bullet” and choreographed The Adamms Family and Footloose at Hillsboro High School. She is happy to be returning to Paper Mill Playhouse for her 5th summer as a Dance Instructor/Section Director for New Voices.
ANDREW DAVID SOTOMAYOR (Music Director/Arranger/Class Pianist) Music directing credits include the First National Tour of Escape to Margaritaville, the Off-Broadway premiere of Curvy Widow, Some Enchanted Evening at Paper Mill Playhouse, Man of La Mancha at Westport Country Playhouse, Newsies and West Side Story  at Maltz Jupiter Theatre, The Will Rogers Follies at Merry-Go-Round Playhouse and Cutman: A Boxing Musical at Goodspeed, among others. As a composer, he has provided music and lyrics for the original musicals 50 Shades of F***d Up, and Committed as well as scores for the short film Cuba 1961: A Love Story, and the independent feature film, BX3M. He is a proud graduate of Stetson University in Florida.
MEG ZERVOULIS (Music Supervisor/Music Director/Arranger) Broadway: West Side Story (current revival), The Prom, Mean Girls, …Great Comet of 1812. Off-Broadway: The Visitor (upcoming @ The Public), Merrily We Roll Along (Fiasco/Roundabout), CagneyRated P. Other New Works: Breathe (May 14th ’21 Album and Streaming Release), Broadway Vacation (Seattle 5th Ave upcoming), Buñuel (Public Theater in development), and Jeannette (in development).  At her home base, Paper Mill Playhouse, her credits include Mary PoppinsBandstand, and Ever After, and their annual New Voices concerts. Meg is also active as a music educator and music therapist and is a proud member of Local 802 and Maestra. Education: Carnegie Mellon University.