Meet Our Teachers
Valley Youth Theatre would like to introduce you to our highly trained, professional, teaching artists.
Carolyn Marie Wright is grateful be part of “the magic that is…” Valley Youth Theatre where she has the privilege to serve as Director of Education & Outreach, teach performing arts year-round and direct (most recently The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane). Previous clients include: Geffen Playhouse; Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum; The Second City; UCLA School of Theatre, Film & Television; Chicago Kids Company; MCC Theatre; New Victory Theatre; and Yale Children’s Theatre. Professional highlights: #Right2Recess with Humanity Play Project (winner Best Children’s Show at NoHo Fringe Festival 2017); Topanga Rose (nominated Best Faith Film at Burbank Film Festival 2016); Wini + George with Katharine Ross (winner Audience Award at LA OutFest 2013); The Best of Second City; This is Not a Tan and There Will Be Snacks at Comedy Central Stage; and BioShock video game. Training: Yale (BA Theatre Studies); NYU Steinhardt (MA Educational Theatre); and UCLA (MFA Acting). Proud member of AEA, SAG-AFTRA, and AATE.
Tarnim Bybee is completing her senior year getting her BA in Theatre at Grand Canyon University. Born in Switzerland to an Egyptian father and Swiss mother, she later moved and grew up mostly in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. She has had the pleasure of working professionally at Phoenix Theatre in Elf: The Musical and In the Heights, as well as the 2017 & 2019 New Works Festivals. Other performing credits include Grand Canyon University’s Anything Goes (Erma), You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown (Lucy), and West Side Story (Anita). Tarnim has also worked as Pinnacle High School’s choreographer for 4 consecutive years in their choir and theatre programs, including shows such as Little Shop of Horrors, Nunsense 2, and Honk! Jr.
Susan Gibson is currently the Principal of Fine Arts Academy in Tolleson, AZ. She was previously a Kindergarten through 4th grade teacher throughout the Phoenix area. In her role as Principal, she works with students directly on beginning Theater skills. In her free time, she loves to direct Theater. She has directed various youth shows throughout the Valley since 2009. She has been nominated and won various Zoni and National Youth Arts awards for Directing, Lighting, and Overall Production. Susan Gibson also has been involved in theater as an actor throughout most of her life.
Stacey Hanlon has been teaching for VYT since 2006. Stacey got the acting bug at 10 years old, when she played the role of “Fuzzy Bunny” in a production of Winnie the Pooh at the Magical Theatre Company in Barberton, Ohio. She is a founding member, teacher and performer with The Torch Theatre, a Phoenix-based improvisational theatre company. Currently, Stacey performs with The Light Rail Pirates, Junebug, JaxNReed and SIDECOACH! at The Torch. She moved to Phoenix from New York City in 2005, where she performed sketch and improvisational comedy, and was a producer and workshop director of the Oktoberfest comedy festival. Stacey is the co-founder of Conducted Stories Improv, a local organization that uses improvisational theatre to foster communication and social skills with youth on the Autism spectrum. She lives in central Phoenix with her husband and daughter, Ruby. She is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University.
Chelsea Howard is a current senior at Grand Canyon University where she is pursuing a BA in Theatre and Drama. As a former VYT intern with a performance and film background, Chelsea is excited and proud to share her knowledge and teachings with others as an instructor at Valley Youth Theatre.
Rebecca Joslin is an Arizona native and long-time VYT veteran. Since debuting in the orchestra pit at age 13, Rebecca has grown up at VYT, playing for two dozen shows, teaching 10 summers of camp, many years of education classes and music directing several shows, including 11 straight years of A Winnie-the-Pooh Christmas Tail! Rebecca holds a Bachelor of Music Education degree from Arizona State University and teaches orchestra and theater at Gilbert Classical Academy. In her spare time she is the proud parent of Annette, Philip and Charlotte!
Melissa Landes is a senior at Grand Canyon University studying voice and piano. Over the past few years she has developed a passion for musical theatre. Some of the shows she has had the opportunity to be a part of are West Side Story, Seussical the Musical, Cabaret, and Peter and the Starcatcher. Her all-time favorite musical is Finding Neverland because the message is so pure but so powerful. She is very excited about the opportunity to join the VYT team and work with such talented young people.
Tyson Lund is SO EXCITED to be working with Valley Youth Theater again this winter! Tyson grew up in Mesa, AZ. He has loved theater ever since he was a kid! He grew up auditioning and performing at different youth theaters across the valley, as well as at his local Jr & Sr High schools! He was nominated for several awards in his youth including the AriZoni’s and National Youth Art’s awards. While in college, he competed and was nominated for the Irene Ryan Acting Competition at The Kennedy Center American Theater Festival in both Los Angeles and Hawaii. He studied Theater Arts and Education at Eastern Arizona College for two years and then earned his Theater Education Degree at The University of Northern Colorado. Tyson has a deep love for acting, some of his most notable performances include Thenardier (Les Miserables), Francis Henshall (One Man, Two Guvnors) and Cogsworth (Beauty and the Beast).
Ashley Stults has performed and taught with VYT over the past 18 years, (her first show was Peter Pan in 2000). Ashley made her directorial debut with A Winnie-the-Pooh Christmas Tail. Ashley has performed across the country since her time at VYT. Some of her favorites include Seussical the Musical, One Man Two Guvnors, Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson, High School Musical and Beauty and the Beast. Most recently she was seen in It’s Only A Play and Beehive at Phoenix Theatre. Proud member of Actor’s Equity Association.
Laurie Trygg studied ballet in Buffalo, NY, where she danced professionally with the Empire State Ballet Company. After moving to Arizona she became a member of the Tempe Dance Company, performing and competing throughout the U.S. Currently Laurie performs in professional musical theatre here in the Valley. Credits include: A Christmas Carol (Ghost of Christmas Future), Cats (Cassandra), Legally Blonde (Elle's Mom/Judge), A Chorus Line (Sheila), Joseph and the Amazing... (Potiphar's Wife), The Odd Couple (Gwendolyn Pigeon). Avenue Q (Bad Idea Bear/Mrs T), An American in Paris, Elf: The Musical, Billy Elliot, Bullets Over Broadway, Chicago (Annie), Pippin (Aerialist/Player), and White Christmas (Rhoda).
Aaron Thacker-Woodruff, is a seasoned performer, director and educator. Aaron holds a B.F.A. in Musical Theatre Performance and a M.F.A. in Musical Theatre History & Direction. Recent regional performance: Sunset Boulevard (Artie), A Funny Thing Happened (Hero), Mame (Patrick), Cabaret (Emcee). Original role: Let Freedom Swing! at the National World War II Museum. Film: Tim Burton produced Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. Aaron’s professional directing and choreography credits include Grease, Some Enchanted Evening, Once Upon a Mattress and 13. Aaron currently teaches acting at ASA where he recently directed HONK! Jr. Aaron is so excited to join the VYT team!
Kate Wright grew up and began dancing at the age of 3 in New Jersey. She relocated to Virginia during middle school and continued training in the Richmond area as well as her high school dance team. Kate opened her own studio in Richmond in 2009, and continued to run, operate and teach for 9 successful years. She has taught hundreds of dancers in tap, jazz, ballet, contemporary, hip hop, pointe, and stretching and technique. Her choreography has been recognized on the east coast at numerous competitions for entertainment value and creative choreography. Kate moved to Arizona in the summer of 2018, where she continues to teach in the Phoenix area to share her passion and love for dance with the next generation!
Jessi Young is excited to be returning to VYT's summer theater program for her fourth summer season. She is passionate about exposing youth to the world of dance, theater, and music in an effort to empower kids to have confidence in the many challenges and opportunities they have in their lives. Moving, learning, and challenging each other in a space that is safe to explore, make mistakes, and achieve a goal as a team is her goal each summer with her "VYT Babies". Jessica has dedicated the last fifteen years to this work in many local theaters companies, high schools and dance groups as well as teaching dance throughout the States at conferences and workshops. Her work each summer with VYT has become a special and important part of her life's work and she simply can't wait to get back in the theater with the campers and staff.