Digging Up Dessa
Family Weekend Performance Dates: December 10-17, 2022
School Day Matinee Dates: December 8-16, 2022
Touring Dates: September 12 - December 6, 2022
Dessa is a modern-day 12-year-old with no shortage of mysteries to solve and fossils to find. But in the aftermath of her father’s death, this smart, funny young scientist struggles to overcome her grief and anger at all the changes in her world. Dessa's unlikely comfort comes from a remarkable new friend, one only she can see and hear – Mary Anning, the 19th-century paleontologist. But why is Mary’s portrait not on the museum wall alongside those of her male counterparts? Dessa decides that she’s going to fight to earn Mary the respect she deserves. With help from her new classmate and once-rival, Nilo, Dessa unearths secrets of the past and present – for Mary’s legacy and her own way forward.
By Laura Schellhardt
Best enjoyed by ages 9 and up
Sponsored by Erie Insurance
Location: The LCT Main Stage and On Tour
Length of Show: Approximately 1 hour long
Amoni Adair (Dessa)
Amoni Adair was born and raised in Lexington, Kentucky. She was recently in LCT's Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. When she is not preparing for a role, you can find her spending time with her family. She is very excited for her second season with Lexington Children’s Theatre.
Stephanie Berger (Esther)
Stephanie Berger is thrilled to be making her debut at Lexington Children’s Theatre! Originally from Miami, Florida, she graduated from Florida Southern College with a BFA in Musical Theatre and a minor in Psychology. Recent regional credits include performances with Mill Mountain Theatre as Medium Alison in Fun Home (Equity) and Chef Pisgetti in Curious George, as well as performances with The Rev (Merry-Go-Round Playhouse), and more! In addition, she served as the President of the award-winning Studio Box Improv troupe. She has a passion for comedy, teaching, and spreading the love of theatre to everyone she meets. Many thanks to her family and friends for all the love and support! She is grateful and excited for such an amazing opportunity! @stephaniebergerrr
Leila Bruske (Mary Anning)
Leila Bruske is a recent graduate of the BFA Musical Theatre program at Emory & Henry College. There she appeared in numerous productions, notably as Ilse in Spring Awakening, Claire in Ordinary Days, Leilani in Legally Blonde, and Nick Bottom in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Regionally, she performed with Saratoga Shakespeare Company in their production of King Lear, as well as their “Shakespeare for All” tour which aims to make Shakespeare accessible to kids across the Capital Region. She is also a former summer camp counselor where she taught drama to girls aged 6-16. She is so thrilled to be with LCT, send thanks to her family and friends, and hopes you enjoy the show! www.leilabruske.com
Steven Horn (Nilo)
Steven is an actor from Kansas City, Missouri. He recently graduated from Missouri State University with a BFA in Acting. His previous credits include Paul in Moon Over Buffalo and Clown 1 in The 39 Steps (Tent Theatre), as well as Chuck in She Kills Monsters, Everybody in Everybody, Leonard Grossman in These Shining Lives, and Fabian in Twelfth Night (Missouri State University). He is thrilled to be making his LCT debut and appearing for the first time on a stage not in Missouri!
T. Young, Jr. and W.T. Young Storage; Dr. John Denison DDS; HighBridge Spring Water; Sally Horowitz, Sally Horowitz Photography; 3M Cynthiana; Bluegrass Youth Ballet; Copy Express; Bobby Taylor; Matthew Snoddy, Network Therapists, Inc.; Pro Sound and Lights; Transylvania University Theater Department; University of Kentucky Department of Theatre and Dance; Mahan Multimedia; University of Louisville, Centre College
Production Staff Credits
Heather N. Branham (Director)
AnnDee Alvidrez (Scenic Design)
Scarlett Kellum (Costume Design)
Gabriel Slusser (Lighting Design)
Stephanie Berger (Musical Arrangements)
Kate Tayler (Stage Manager)
Gabriel Slusser (Technical Director)
Laika Myers (Lead Carpenter)
GraceAnne Miles (Charge Artist)
GraceAnne Miles, Laika Myers (Scenic Painters)
GraceAnne Miles (Properties Manager)
Dani Garner (Front of House Manager)
Dani Garner, Ian Valencia-Miranda, Hannah Fyffe (Box Office)
Rhonda Bell, Shelbea Fordham, Liz Spurlock (Educational Materials)
AnnDee Alvidrez (Scenic Designer)
AnnDee Alvidrez is excited for the opportunity for this debut with Lexington Children's Theatre! Her select design credits include: Always...Patsy Cline, Native Gardens, Dear Jack, Dear Louise, (Creede Repertory Theatre) Fabulous Monsters (The Public Theatre of San Antonio) El Nogalar, In Arabia We’d All be Kings, Men on Boats (Texas State University) AnnDee holds a MFA in Scenic Design from Texas State University. She wishes to continue growing and working with theatre that focuses on mental health. Check out her website! anndeealvidrez.com
Rhonda Bell (Education Director)
Rhonda is excited to continue her journey at LCT as Education Director. She holds an MA in Theatre from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa and a BA from Berea College. Rhonda enjoys driving her car, watching cartoons, and having lively debates with her students.
Octavia Biggs (Director of Shooting Stars Youtheatre)
Tavia has worked hard over the last 19 years to bring children’s theatre to Eastern Kentucky. She believes strongly that all children have the ability to be creative and through that creativity will discover the gifts they possess. She would like to thank LCT and the W. Paul and Lucille C. Little Foundation!
Heather N. Branham (Resident Director / Company Manager)
Heather is overjoyed to be back at LCT after an artistic odyssey spanning from "The Little Apple" of Manhattan, KS to "The Second City" of Chicago. She earned a Master of Arts from University of Kentucky and serves on the KPW board. Heather dedicates this season to Eddy and Huckleberry.
Ashlee Collins (Development Director)
Ashlee began her journey with the theatre in 2014 as an arts administration intern. You may have also seen her on the main stage in several productions including The Giver, Old Dry Frye, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and Duck for President.
Ashlee has worked with theatres all over the country, including Chicago Children’s Theatre, Camp Merrie Woode in North Carolina, and most notably, with Broadway in Chicago as a marketing assistant during the first National Tour of Disney’s Aladdin!
Ashlee welcomes heartfelt conversations about the impact theatre can make and how members of our community can work together to make a better world for our young people.
Shelbea Fordham (Education Associate)
Shelbea Fordham is a graduate of Samford University. Recently she made her Italian debut with OperaViva! and performed at St Paul's Cathedral with the Cathedra Church of the Advent Choir. Credits include The Magic Flute (Papagena), Something Rotten! (Bea), Pirates of Penzance (Kate), and Cabaret (Fraulein Kost, Kit Kat Girl).
Hannah Fyffe (Box Office Assistant)
Hannah Fyffe is an Arts Administration Major at the University of Kentucky. She is also minoring in both Spanish and Studio Art. Hannah loves working with and exploring all art forms and mediums. Her many hobbies include roller skating, thrifting, collaging, and learning!
Dani Garner (Marketing and Patron Services Coordinator)
Dani’s journey with LCT started in the education department in 2015 and has continued through various roles over the years. Dani is immensely grateful to have the opportunity to serve the incredible young people in this community. Dani’s ultimate goal as an artist is to inspire young people to be the best artists and humans they can be.
Emily Hampton (Stitcher)
Emily graduated from the University of Kentucky with a BA in Theatre in 2020. She is passionate about costuming and the fiber arts!
Kathryn Henriques (Director of Marketing and Analytics)
Kathryn started with LCT in 2015 as an Arts Administration Intern, became a full-time staff member in 2016, and since then has held a few different positions, most recently Director of Marketing and Analytics. Thanks to the LCT Family for all your love and support over the years!
Scarlett Kellum (Costume Shop Manager)
Scarlett has been designing and building costumes for 15 years. She studied theatre arts at San Jose State and the University of Cambridge, England and has a BFA in Fashion Design for the Art Institute of California San Francisco. Before joining the LCT team in 2019, Scarlett started her career in theater in Northern California where she was the costume shop manager/costume designer at Theatre Rhinoceros, Second Wind Theater, Custom Made Theater, and others. She is also a HUGtavist with Free Mom Hugs KY.
Helen Killius (Marketing and Sales Manager)
Helen Killius has been a part of LCT since August or 2021. She is a 2021 graduate of University of Kentucky and is excited to help create compelling stories for audiences of Lexington and beyond.
Jeremy Kisling (Producing Artistic Director)
Welcome to LCT! We want this to be your theatre, a place where you feel empowered, enriched, and emboldened. I am so honored and humbled to work with such amazing and talented artists and individuals every day! Thank you for being here, for your support, and for being a part of the LCT Family.
Erin McGuire-Thompson (Operations Manager)
Erin received her BA in Dramatic Arts from Centre College and her MFA in Dramatic Media from the University of Georgia. Erin is a published children's book illustrator and is developing her series of early readers, early graphic novels, and picture books as a writer and illustrator.
GraceAnne Miles (Charge Artist / Properties Manager)
GraceAnne graduated from Centre College in 2012 with a BS in Philosophy/Fine Arts. She worked as a technical director, designer, and scenic painter before moving to North Carolina to complete her MFA in Scenic Art/Education at UNCSA in 2021.
Laika Myers (Technical Associate)
Laika Myers is a recent graduate from Bowling Green State University where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Communication with a focus in Design and Technical Theatre. Laika is super excited to join the Lexington Children's Theatre team and to share her passion for theatre with them!
Rachel Ray (Managing Director)
Rachel has a BA in English and a BS in Speech Therapy from U.K. In her free time, she likes to hang out with her husband, Bobby, and their three dogs, read, run, and craft. She is a founding board member of First-Generation Women Achievers of the Bluegrass and a proud volunteer for Girls on the Run.
Gabriel Slusser (Technical Director)
Gabriel has worked throughout the southeast in positions ranging from sound engineer to lead electrician to shop foreman at theatres including Titusville Playhouse, Inc., Georgia Ensemble Theatre, and Buford Community Center. As LCT’s Technical Director, he facilitates the implementation of all scenic, lighting, audio, and projection elements for their season.
Liz Spurlock (Resident Teaching Artist)
Liz, born and raised in Georgia, graduated from Columbus State University with her B.S. in Theatre Education. She has worked in many areas of theatre, including lighting, directing, and acting. Liz is excited to start her career in theatre education at Lexington Children’s Theatre!
Kate Tayler (Resident Stage Manager)
Kate Tayler graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications degree from Bowling Green State University in Design & Technical Theatre. She is originally from Monroe, Michigan. Kate is very excited to continue sharing her love for stage management and for theatre for young audiences to LCT!
Ian Valencia-Miranda (Box Office Assistant)
Fond of all things arts, Ian has been involved in theatre in some capacity for most of his life. He is currently a student studying Design and hopes to carry that forward into his work with theatre. He is also the father of an orange kitten named Toes Beans!
As a creative team, it is expected that we should approach a production with an artistic perspective.
With Digging Up Dessa, a deeper imperative also emerged: to balance the serious subject matter with a message of inspiration and hope. We want to empower audience members of all ages to take initiative, to have conversations, make art, and participate in peaceful social movements about difficult, but important, subjects. Expressing ourselves in healthy ways helps us to heal.
Speaking of inspiration, Mary Anning is an agent of healing for our main character, Dessa, in the play. Mary’s many contributions to paleontology were not celebrated in her own lifetime and that was frustrating to her. Imagine what she could have accomplished if she were living now! Here’s some good news, though: thanks to scholars and activists who shed light on her rightful place in history, many more people know about Mary Anning every year. She now has her own statue, countless books (and a few movies) written about her life and work, and plaques with her picture in natural history museums across the world. Want more good news? Inclusion and diversity efforts are creating better access to career fields, like paleontology, that were historically very much one color, one class, and one gender. As anthropologist Margaret Meade explained, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
At LCT, we are committed to making compelling theatre for young people. We truly hope that the budding scientists, artists, scholars, and leaders (young and old) in our audience take home some moments to share about this production. Most of all, we hope everyone exits the theater today with a great sense of urgency to celebrate family, teachers, and friends who provide optimism and care for our young people – our future. We thank them for lighting the way.
-Heather N. Branham, Director
“Watch out for each other. Love everyone and forgive everyone, including yourself. Forgive your anger. Forgive your guilt. Your shame. Your sadness. Embrace and open up your love, your joy, your truth, and most especially your heart.”
LCT Professional Staff
Rhonda Bell, Education Director
Octavia Biggs, Program Director of Shooting Stars Youtheatre
Heather N. Branham, Resident Director / Company Manager
Ashlee Collins, Development Director
Shelbea Fordham, Education Associate
Dani Garner, Marketing and Patron Services Coordinator
Kathryn Henriques, Director of Marketing and Analytics
Scarlett Kellum, Costume Shop Manager
Helen Killius, Marketing and Sales Manager
Jeremy Kisling, Producing Artistic Director
Erin McGuire-Thompson, Operations Manager
GraceAnne Miles, Charge Artist / Properties Manager
Laika Myers, Technical Associate
Rachel Ray, Managing Director
Gabriel Slusser, Technical Director
Liz Spurlock, Resident Teaching Artist
Kate Tayler, Resident Stage Manager
Ian Valencia-Miranda, Box Office Assistant
Indigenous peoples have lived on the land now called Kentucky for at least 12,000 years. Every community owes its existence and heritage to generations from around the world who contributed their hopes, dreams, and stories to making the history that led to this moment. Indigenous peoples have always lived on the land that is now called Kentucky and continue to live here today. The place we now call Kentucky is primarily Shawnee, Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Osage land.
A commonly cited claim many of us heard in history class growing up is that this region was merely a hunting ground. This claim is a myth, perpetuated at first by land speculators who wished to improve land sales, and still today to absolve settler colonists and their descendants from grappling with their history of land theft, genocide, and white supremacy. The continuation of this myth is harmful for all of us.
Lexington Children’s Theatre is committed to creating an environment where everyone feels welcome to enjoy the magic of theatre. Learn more about Audio Description, ASL Interpretation, Sensory Friendly Performance, and Pre-Visit Resources by following the link below.
LCT's Annual Campaign
When you donate to our Annual Campaign, you are providing funds to help further our mission of providing arts and arts education to young people across Kentucky. Learn more about LCT's Annual Campaign by visiting https://www.lctonstage.org/support-us/give-online/ or by emailing our Development Director, Ashlee Collins, at email@example.com.
Thank you to our 2022-2023 Donors
The Moughamian Family
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The Browning Family in memory of Alex Simpson.
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When you become a member, you’re a part of our LCT Family and the work we do to bring theatre to young people and families across the Commonwealth and beyond! You’re also getting the opportunity to see professional, imaginative theatre at an affordable price.
We LOVE our 2022-2023 Members
Ms. Sally Baker
Ana Bastos de Carvalho
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Larry & Vivian Snipes Legacy Fund
Thank you to the donors who have honored the legacy of Larry and Vivian Snipes by donating to the Larry and Vivian Snipes Legacy Fund! These contributions will help us us write LCT’s next chapter by creating a fund that will sustain the theatre through the next several years, honor the legacy of Larry and Vivian, and underwrite the big ideas our new leadership will bring. To learn more about the Larry and Vivian Snipes Legacy Fund, or to make your contribution, visit www.lctonstage.org or contact Development Director, Ashlee Collins, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 859.254.4546 x230
Thank you to our Legacy Fund Donors
Jennifer Barricklow and Tim Sorenson
Jane G Bowen
The Broderson Family
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Miles and Clark Roland
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Unified Professional Theatre Auditions
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Jan (aka gaga)
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