WELCOME to the Mars Hill University Theatre Arts Department Alumni page! This is a page where we feature our alumni and their many successes.
Since graduating from Mars Hill University, Melanie Grace Morton has completed her Master of Arts in Musical Theatre Performance from The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland graduating with distinction. While attending the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, she performed on stages in Edinburgh at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, in London at the SOHO Theatre, as well as in Glasgow. She has also performed in New York City at the Signature Theatre and at The Public in Joe’s Pub with Lord of the Ring’s Billy Boyd and the new Tzeitel from Fiddler on the Roof, Alexandra Silber. Since completing her degree, she has traveled some through Europe to watch theatre, see art, and learn more about history. Since returning to the United States, she has been teaching voice lessons and dance classes as well as directing children’s theatre. She has accepted a position with AEON Corporation to teach English in Japan and will be moving to South East Asia this coming fall. She greatly misses her Mars Hill family, but is so thankful for their support and their part in making her into the confident actress and young woman that she is. GO LIONS!!!
“Since graduating I’ve studied at The New School for Drama where I received an MFA in acting. In current news I was just cast in an off-broadway show called ‘The Inevitable Fall, Rise and Fall of John Law: Part I’. It is an ensemble based show where 7 actors play 40 roles. Currently I am a company member for three different groups: Writopia, Strange Harbor, and No-Win Productions.” www.mackenzieknapp.com.
Daniel Hensley is an Asheville local who graduated from Erwin High School and Mars Hill University with a BFA in Musical Theatre, with studies in music performance and conducting. After college, Daniel taught with the VH-1 “Save the Music” program through the Bronx Arts Ensemble in NYC. Daniel has a teaching studio in Asheville for voice and acting using leading voice science techniques named the Performing Arts Laboratory which is aligned with the Asheville Music Academy and Rock Academy. He is a candidate for his licensure as a Certified Master Teacher with Estill Voice International. Daniel produced and directed [Title of Show] in 2014 and Sordid Lives 2015 through the Performing Arts Laboratory. Visit PerformingLab.com for more information on Performing Arts Laboratory and our sister companies.
“Since graduating from Mars Hill College with a BA in Theatre, I have been acting in theatre, film, and television. I have worked as the lead in several feature films in the last 8 years. I just finished a television series here in Charleston, SC that is currently being pitched to various networks. I got married in 2012 and adopted a baby in 2014. In the summer of 2015 and again in the winter of 2016, I attended IMTA (International Models and Talent Association) where I competed against hundreds of other actors in my age group. In 2015, I won second runner-up for Talent of the Year and then in 2016, I won Talent of the Year and secured an agent in Los Angeles. IMTA is a convention for aspiring actors of all ages to compete for top honors and agents and managers from around the world come to scout talent. Winning the competition, I gained the attention of a good deal of agents and decided to sign with one out of LA.”
Joshua Hasty is the stage technology teacher at Wando High School in South Carolina and is also the Auditorium Manager. He is a graduate of Mars Hill College and has a degree in Theatre Arts where he concentrated on sound design. Joshua has worked professionally for years, including two years at the world renowned Santa Fe Opera as an audio/video engineer and as a stage crew member. He has also worked with artists such as NewSong, Mike’s Chair, Maya Angelou, and many more. Joshua works downtown with Charleston Stage as their resident sound designer and he is also a member of I.A.T.S.E Local 333. Joshua is married to Jennifer Hasty, who is also involved in theatre as an Actor/Singer. In his free time, he likes to travel and take pictures.
HEIDI WHITFIELD has grown up dancing with three generations of her family from Greenville, Michigan. She has achieved national recognition competing, performing, touring and teaching Clogging, Irish Step Dance (popularized by Riverdance), Rhythm Tap, Traditional as well Contemporary forms of Percussive Dance including Gumboot and Body Percussion. She received a Michigan Dance Heritage Fellowship moving her to Maryland to join the international touring company, FOOTWORKS Percussive Dance Ensemble as a Principal Dancer and Co-Choreographer. Heidi has toured performing around the world as a Guest Dancer with many professional and GRAMMY winning recording artists including Nickel Creek, Lunasa, Balsam Range, Uncle Earl (for which she stars in their music video for “Streak O’ Lean, Streak O’ Fat”) and Eileen Ivers. She holds a BA in Theatre Arts from Mars Hill University in North Carolina where she also served as the Dance Captain and a Choreographer for the 21-time National Champions the BAILEY MOUNTAIN CLOGGERS. She is a proud member of the ALL AMERICAN CLOGGING TEAM. Most recently, Heidi was a featured clogger and dancer in the “Smoky Mountain Opry.” She was the original Creative Choreographer and Principal Dancer for the “Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Show” prior to that serving as Choreographer and Principal Dancer at the “Comedy Barn” for the Fee/Hedrick Family Entertainment Co. in Pigeon Forge, TN. She is currently located in Lancaster, PA where she is an Irish step dance instructor for Premiere Danse Academy.
Noel Barry (Class of 2005) is happy to say she has kept busy since leaving Mars Hill. She graduated with a BA in Theatre Arts in 2005. Upon returning to her hometown of Boca Raton, Florida, she spent two years studying theatre at Florida Atlantic University towards her MFA. She returned to Mars Hill and to SART in the summer of 2010 to be the Assistant Stage Manager for the season and had a cameo in A Little Night Music. Since 2010, she has been staging and co-directing the annual musicals for First Presbyterian Church of Fort Lauderdale. She works with both their middle and high school choirs. Recent productions include Once Upon a Mattress, Bye Bye Birdie, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, 42nd Street, and You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Professionally, she has been the stage manager for both Entr’acte Theatrix at The Crest Theatre in Delray Beach and for Outré Theatre Company at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale. Past productions have included Young Frankenstein, Bed and Sofa, Into the Woods, The Rocky Horror Show, and Avenue Q. She also briefly understudied the role of Florinda in Into the Woods at the Crest, which marked her first time performing onstage in 5 years. This spring, she is returning to the Broward Center to stage manage Outré Theatre’s productions of Goblin Market and Rooms. She also currently works for DEX Imaging, Inc. as an office administrator and receptionist while continuing to stage manage and direct throughout South Florida.
Amanda Ladd is an actress, singer, writer, and director in NYC. She is a member of Taxdeductible Theatre which is known for their bold and original play series The DARE Project www.taxdeductibletheatre.org. Recent credits include Greater Tuna at Okoboji Summer Theatre, Peterpat with Grand Ninja Productions, The Complaint with CEO Theatre, & The Hans Project with NY Theatre Ensemble. Amanda can be seen on screen in the TV pilot Vetted with ADD Productions and as Jean Harlow in the award winning short film Mary and Louise. In the past Amanda has worked for Disney Cruise Lines, Theatre Works USA, and NY Stage Originals. She is a proud member of Actors Equity Association.
Aaron Daniel Annas is passionate about the art of telling stories. He started his professional career as a stage performer, and after spending years on the stage, became interested in the art of storytelling through film and television. Aaron Daniel received a BFA in Musical Theatre from Mars Hill College in his home state of North Carolina and a MFA in Independent Film and Digital Imaging from Governors State University just outside of Chicago, IL. He has been blessed with the opportunity to be involved in musical theatre and theatre productions across the country. His most recent role and production is that of Musical Director in the Los Angeles premiere of The Butterfly Who Became a Cocoon, a new musical which he also composed with his wife. He has also worked as an editor in both independent film and the television industry for networks including National Geographic, History Channel, and TVOne. After teaching full time and working in Southern California, Aaron Daniel now lives in Amherst, New York, where he is an Assistant Professor of Media Production at State University of New York at Buffalo State. He also continues to work as Musical Director for the production company founded by his wife, Jenny, called Neybrave Productions. Currently, he is in pre-production to direct a new feature-length documentary exploring society’s rationalization of the existence of ghosts and hauntings. He will always remember some of his first experiences with this on the Owen Theatre stage at Mars Hill!
Kristofer Geddie, a North Carolina native, left New York, went to Venice Theatre to play “Coalhouse Walker” in Ragtime, never left and has been the Director of Diversity at Venice for the past 4 years. Kris holds a BFA in Musical Theatre from Mars Hill University. Kris has been seen numerous times on stage at Venice Theatre including: By the Way Meet, Vera Stark; Boeing Boeing; Five Guys Named Moe; Falsettos, Intimate Apparel, Smokey Joe’s Café and A Behanding in Spokane. At Venice Theatre, Kris has also had the privilege of directing Crowns, School House Rock Live! and assisting Ben Vereen on Hair. Prior to coming to Venice, Kris had been seen performing on stages around the world. Some other favorite theatrical experiences include; cruising the world as a 5-year Company Manager and Principle Singer for Jean Ann Ryan Productions on Norwegian Cruise Line; Twelfth Night; The Secret Garden; the premiere of C. Robert Jones’one-man show Bert Williams, Broadway Star; Angels in America; Dreamgirls; hanging quite a few times as “Judas” in Jesus Christ Superstar (including the European Tour with Director Baayork Lee); Hair; and La Cage Aux Folles. In addition to Kris’ duties at Venice Theatre, he serves on the steering committee for Embracing our Differences, as well as various committees in the American Association of Community Theatre. He is the state representative for community theatre in the Florida Theatre Conference, a member of the Long–Rang planning Committee and Chair of the Cultural Diversity Committee for the Southeastern Theatre Conference.
Michael Lester received a BFA in Musical Theatre from Mars Hill College in 1992. He continued at East Tennessee State University where he earned a Master’s Degree in Education in 1993. Michael currently resides in Abingdon, VA where he is employed by the Washington County School District. He has worked as a teacher at Abingdon Elementary since 1994 where he was named Teacher of the Year in both 1995 and 2009. In 2010, he was named Elementary Educator of the year for the county and went on to be honored as Washington County Teacher of the Year. Michael has also acted and served as a director and/or choreographer for schools, colleges, community theatres and regional theatres across Southwest, VA and Northeast, TN. He taught, directed, and choreographed for the Barter Education Wing at Barter Theatre in Abingdon from 2002-2004. He attributes much of his success, both professionally and theatrically to C. Robert Jones and the entire Mars Hill Theatre Department that he was an active part of from 1988-1992.
Cyrus N. “Russ” White is principal at The South Cabin Group LLC, a consulting and strategic planning firm for nonprofit boards of directors, based in St. Louis. Russ adds 15 years as a nonprofit CEO to his experience with the boards and executives of foundations and nonprofits supporting the arts, education, healthcare, faith-based organizations, and community services. He earned a BA degree from Mars Hill (NC) University and an MBA from Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management. Russ is married to writer and researcher Martha Grace Reese. He enjoys time with his family and dogs, as well as hiking, kayaking, and travel.
Since September of 1998, Susan King has played a supporting role in diversity education and outreach endeavors through the Office of Equity, Diversity and Compliance at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. She delivers workshops on building respectful living, learning, and working environments by valuing and celebrating differences, the Open Door program, writes feature stories for the Faces of Appalachian series and is involved in diversity recruitment and retention. Susan is a member of the Interpersonal Violence Council, the Sustainability Council, and the Chancellor’s Commission on Diversity. After earning a bachelor’s degree in theatre performance from Mars Hill College in 1976, Susan worked in professional theatre from 1976-1998 as an actor, director and general manager. She was a co-founder of two North Carolina theatre companies: the Licklog Players in Hayesville and Tapestry Theatre Company in Wilmington. Susan lives with her cats, a.k.a. The Seven Devils or The Criminals (in order of appearance): Rowdy, Silvaney, Buttercup, Huckleberry, Otis, BOB, and Katie. However, she is not crazy. Not yet.