Graduate Student Directory

Graduate Students 2017-2018

Donnie Bales, 2020 M.F.A. Candidate (Arts Leadership)
Donnie Bales is from Marion, Virginia and holds a B.A. in Theatre Arts from Bluefield College. While completing his degree, he began working at Stagedoor Manor where he taught Film Analysis and Movie Making. He also designed sound for the multi-theatre performing arts camp and was the video department lead. After graduating, he began work at Thin Air Theatre Company in several roles including: Stage Manager, Lighting and Sound Operator, Assistant to the Theatre Manager, and Lighting and Sound Designer for the Gold Camp Arts Foundation. In 2012, Donnie moved to Wytheville, Virginia to serve as the Sound Designer at the Wohlfahrt Haus Dinner Theatre and started a commercial video production business, Bear Creek Studios.

Dylan Bomgardner, 2018 M.F.A. Candidate (Lighting Design)
From Schaefferstown, Pennsylvania, Dylan graduated from  Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, with a B.A. in Digital Media, Photography, and a Minor in Theatre. While an undergraduate, he filled many production positions including Lighting Designer, and Master Electrician to name a few. He served as the 2017 Resident Lighting Designer at Weathervane Playhouse(Newark, Ohio) where he designed South Pacific, A Comedy Of Tenors, and Avenue Q. He has also served as the  Master Electrician at Walnut Hill School of the Arts (Natick, MA) ,  as well as performing technical work at numerous other locations.   Dylan is also a concert and event IATSE Affiliate stage hand for IATSE Local 98 (Hershey, PA).   While here at Virginia Tech he has designed Melancholy , A Chip On Her ShoulderSetNet, Clybourne Park, and Glengarry Glen Ross.   Within the past year Dylan has teamed up with VT's Juxtaposition and Sensations acapella groups, as the lighting designer for their concerts at the Lyric Theatre.  View Dylan’s portfolio and website at

Lauren Chilton, 2018 M.F.A. Candidate (Properties Design and Management)
Lauren E. Chilton is originally from Charlottesville, VA, where she received a B.A. in Studio Art and Drama from the University of Virginia and worked for Heritage Theatre Festival as a props artisan.  She completed a scenic apprenticeship at Olney Theatre Center in Maryland before shifting to freelance props in the DC area.  Companies she has worked with include Folger Theatre, Imagination Stage, Forum Theatre, Synetic Theater, The Welders, and Constellation Stage. She has also worked as a props assistant at the Clarice Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland.  Productions she has designed at Virginia Tech include Vanya, Sonia, Masha, & SpikeThe Trojan WomenThe Divine: A Play for Sarah BernhardtGlengarry Glen Ross, and currently Nosferatu.  While a graduate student, she has also worked summers as a prop artisan for Colorado Shakespeare Festival and Contemporary American Theatre Festival, and also designed props for The Welders' to tell my story: a hamlet fanfic.  She is spending the upcoming spring semester at Santa Fe Opera for her academic internship and is looking forward to completing her project and report in walkable puppetry.

Caroline Davis, 2019 M.F.A. Candidate (Arts Leadership)
Caroline Davis is an interdisciplinary artist and arts administrator with a focus on development in the nonprofit sector. Caroline holds a Bachelor of Arts in Musical Theatre from Coastal Carolina University, and had previously worked as a professional actor in New York, around the South East, and touring nationally around the country as both a director and actor. Her work from Virginia Tech includes co-marketing coordinator for The Divine, and lead marketing coordinator for Mr. Marmalade. Most recently, she interned for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts with the development team at Washington National Opera. She currently holds membership with the Association of Performing Arts Presenters.

Allison Dellinger, 2020 M.F.A. Candidate (Stage Managment)
Allison is from Durham, North Carolina. She discovered her love of theatre during her time at Barton College, where she received her B.A. in Theatre with concentrations in Management and Performance, and minors in English and Exceptional Education (with a focus on Deaf and Hard of Hearing Education). Exploring the various facets of theatre production while an undergraduate, she found her passion in stage management. She worked in Raleigh, NC after graduating in 2016. A few of her favorite shows have been Steel Magnolias, Lombardi, and Spamalot. Ecstatic to be joining the Virginia Tech program, she looks forward to furthering her education and developing as a professional stage manager.

Joseph Fry, 2020 M.F.A. Candidate (Technical Direction)
Joseph Fry earned his Bachelors of Arts in Theatre Tech and Design, with a minor in Mathematics, at Winthrop University in Rock Hill S.C. Throughout and after his undergraduate education he worked for several Summer Theatres as an electrician or carpenter. In the fall of 2016 he worked at Meadow Brook Theatre in Rochester Hills, Michigan as a scene shop intern for a ten-month contract. Having been over much of the east coast, Joe decided that is where he would like to continue his career. He took his next step, which is coming to Virginia Tech to earn an MFA in Technical Direction.

Kate Handzlik, 2020 M.F.A Candidate (Stage Mangement)
Kate Handzlik hails from Doylestown, Pennsylvania and holds Bachelor of Art degrees in both Psychology and Photography from Milligan College. While at Milligan, she stage managed various main stage and student directed productions. After a brief period in social work in Southwest Virginia, she attained a Bachelor of Art degree in Theatre from East Tennessee State University. Kate recently completed a technical and stage management apprenticeship at Serenbe Playhouse, a theatre outside of Atlanta, Georgia, which specializes in outdoor, site-specific theatre. While there, she stage managed and worked in various technical positions for shows such as Miss Saigon, Grease, Of Mice and Men, Charlotte's Web, The Sleepy Hollow Experience, and The Snow Queen.

Felysia Havens, 2018 M.F.A. Candidate (Properties Design and Management)
Felysia is from Absecon, New Jersey. She graduated with a B.A. in Theatre from the University of Mary Washington, where she focused on costume crafts and props. After graduation, Felysia spent the 2014-2015 season at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, PA, where she worked as a props artisan apprentice. While there, she worked on shows such as 9 to 5, Bad Jews, Mary Poppins, Private Lives, A Life in the Theatre, Memphis, and several others.  

Olivia Jones, 2019 M.F.A. Candidate (Arts Leadership)
Olivia Jones is starting her second year in the MFA Arts Leadership Program at Virginia Tech, after completing a summer internship in New York City with Lincoln Center of the Performing Arts. Olivia holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. While completing her degree, she spent two summers running the Musical Theater program at Iroquois Springs (a summer camp in New York). During her final year she interned with Center Theater Group in their Education and Community Outreach Department. After graduating, Olivia moved to Omaha, Nebraska to work at the Rose Theatre where she developed specialized devised pieces, such as Young, Gifted, & Black, with teens to discuss current issues in Nebraskan communities surrounding people of color, queer youth, and women in today’s society. She also developed and implemented programs to engage students with special needs. After Olivia receives her MFA, she hopes to produce accessible works of art for young people and their families in order to instigate and motivate social change in their communities.

Robert Kitchens, 2019 M.F.A. Candidate (Directing and Public Dialogue)
Robert Kitchens is an artist interested in contemporary and community performance. A native of Elizabethton, Tennessee, Robert studied theater and photography at Milligan College. He acted for several seasons at the Barter Theatre as a Barter Player and resident company member. After moving to New York, Robert joined the Deconstructive Theatre Project, an ensemble creative laboratory that exists to devise and premiere new multidisciplinary work. He co-created and performed in several shows including The Orpheus Variations, Searching for Sebald, and Venice Double Feature, performing at LaMama Etc, HERE Arts Center, and The Public Theatre's Under the Radar Festival. Robert also interned at The Wooster Group in 2013, where he had the opportunity to perform in a workshop of Andrew Schneider's YOUARENOWHERE (Obie Award 2015). Robert is also a musician, performing primarily with the Brooklyn-based acoustic trio The Tumble, whose debut album Almanac was released earlier this year.

Ryan McHugh, 2018 M.F.A. Candidate (Arts Leadership)
Originally from Roanoke, Virginia, Ryan holds a B.A. in Media Arts and Design with a concentration in Corporate Media Communications from James Madison University. Post graduation he has worked for the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival in marketing, design, and production, as well as positions in public administration and planning. He has played and toured with various bands along with stints in concert booking and promotion. He has recently finished an assistantship in programming at the Moss Arts Center, and is currently interning with Washington Performing Arts (Washington, DC) in the External Relations Department.

Thomas Murray, 2018 M.F.A. Candidate (Directing and Public Dialogue)
Thomas Murray begins his third year in the MFA Directing and Public Dialogue program by directing Anna Deavere Smith's Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 at his alma mater Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. He will spend his fall internship semester in New York assisting Ping Chong + Company on their world premiere of Alaxsxa | Alaska at La MaMa e.t.c. and co-facilitating their DevisingHUB laboratory. In the spring of 2018, he will debut his newest docudrama, The Right of Way, in the Cube at the Moss Arts Center. This premiere follows community workshop performances last spring at Forum Theatre (Washington D.C.) and Actors Theatre of Georgia (Atlanta). He recently joined his colleague Kristin Rose Kelly in presenting their documentary work at the NYU Forum on Ethnodrama. Prior to coming to Virginia Tech, Thomas co-founded Waltzing Mechanics, a documentary theatre ensemble in Chicago, and served five years as their artistic director. For the Mechanics, he created Over My Dead Body and EL Stories and directed Body/Courage and Line One. Other Chicago directing credits include work with Rivendell, The Ruckus, Ka-Tet, Prologue, The Arc, Strangeloop, Broken Nose, City Lit, and Steppenwolf. He has trained intensively with Sojourn Theatre, Elevator Repair Service, and Ping Chong + Company. Thomas is a member of the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab and a recipient of the Outstanding Young Alumnus Award from Ball State University. His portfolio is at

Alison Owen, 2018 M.F.A. Candidate (Costume Design and Technology)
Alison is from Port Townsend, Washington. She studied Apparel Design and Theatre at Washington State University while working as the Costume Shop Assistant for the Department of Theatre and Dance. Alison worked as a Costume Designer in and around Seattle for Seattle Musical Theatre, Arouet, Ghost Light Theatricals, and Issaquah High School. In her first year at Virginia Tech she designed costumes for The Trojan Women and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

Estefania Perez-Vera, 2019 M.F.A. Candidate (Scenography)
Nia is from Hidalgo, Mexico. She graduated from the University of the State of Hidalgo, receiving a Bachelor Degree in Architecture, with a minor in Ephemeral and Scenic Architecture. During her undergraduate studies, she had an internship at Eduardo Gorozpe’s A-001 Taller de Arquitectura, in Mexico City, where she later started working as a Junior Architect in the development of various interior design projects. Theatre and film have always been her passion. She has performed as film director and screenwriter in three independent short films: Claroscuro, Street Lamp, and Somos Perez.  Nia developed as an actress and script adaptor on William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, and as scriptwriter and director of her original 3-act play The Dogs. All this was under the guidance of theatre actorand director Jesus Islas Ambriz at the Cultural Center of the University of the State of Hidalgo. As a scenography student at Virginia Tech, she looks forward to pushing the limits of the ordinary and transforming ideas into the environments where fiction comes to life.

Gabrielle Piazza, 2019 M.F.A. Candidate (Arts Leadership)
From Vassar, Michigan, Gabrielle graduated with honors from Adrian College, where she earned her B.A. in Mathematics and Musical Theatre with a minor in Spanish. She completed a general theatre apprenticeship with the Purple Rose Theatre Company in Chelsea, Michigan where she developed a passion for non-profit theatre. For the past three years, she has been a member of The Young Americans, an international music outreach organization. She has been on six tours with the group, visiting thirteen countries as a teacher, performer and, most recently, company manager. Gabrielle has spent the summer of 2016 running the box office and performing at The Young Americans Dinner Theatre in northern Michigan.

Mary Rathell, 2018 M.F.A. Candidate (Costume Design and Technology)
Mary V. Rathell is a Costume Designer and Crafts Artisan who is dedicated to creatively bringing theatrical productions to life by using an insightful perspective and a one of a kind aesthetic. Originally from the Washington D.C. area, Mary holds a B.A. in Theatre Arts from Davis and Elkins College in Elkins, WV.  Mary is a proud alumni of both the Joan Horvitz Costume Apprenticeship at the Cleveland Play House, as well as the Costume Internship Program at Florida Studio Theatre. Mary has experience in a variety of positions in theatres such as the Ohio Light Opera, Shawnee Summer Theatre of Greene County, Central City Opera, Baltimore Center Stage, Arts Nova, Connecticut Repertory Theatre, DOBAMA Theatre, Cleveland Public Theatre, and Groundworks DanceTheater. During her time at Virginia Tech, Mary has designed Melancholy Play, Boeing Boeing, Clybourne Park, A Chip on her Shoulder 2.0, and Glengarry Glen Ross. This fall, Mary is completing an internship with Gregg Barnes working on the World Premiere of Tina Fey's Mean Girls the Musical. Mary's final design at Virginia Tech will be Fun Home in the Spring of 2018.

David Salmo, 2018 M.F.A. Candidate  (Arts Leadership)
David Salmo is a graduate of Webster University holding a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Stage Management. Production credits include the Assistant Production Manager for the Repertory Theatre of Saint Louis, and the Production Manager for Cardinal Stage Company in Bloomington, Indiana. He has worked as the Assistant to the Executive Producer at the Saint Louis Muny, and most recently finished his first season as the Executive Director at the Shawnee Summer Theatre in Bloomfield, Indiana.

Jessica Talmadge, 2018 M.F.A. Candidate (Arts Leadership)
Originally from Santa Barbara, California, Jessica holds a B.A. in Film and Media from the University of California, Santa Barbara. While an undergraduate she worked as Box Office Manager for Ensemble Theatre in Santa Barbara, and completed an internship with the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Post-graduation experience has included working as Front of House Manager for The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego (involving two summers as House Manager for the Globe’s summer Shakespeare Festival), and House Manager for Ensemble Theatre and Marjorie Luke Theatre in Santa Barbara. She is currently interning in the Development Department at the Donmar Warehouse, London, England.

Tanner Upthegrove, M.F.A. Candidate (Spatial Audio)
A Southwest Virginia native, Tanner Upthegrove holds undergraduate degrees in Recording Arts and Business from Full Sail University. Tanner composes spatial audio for venues with multiple loudspeakers. Tanner joined the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology in 2013 as an audiovisual design and technology engineer, focusing on spatial sound engineering. Previously, Tanner taught audio electronics at Full Sail University in Orlando, Florida and was Assistant Mastering Engineer to Grammy Award recipient Bob Katz. Tanner holds an InfoComm CTS certification and is an active member in the Audio Engineering Society.

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