The Free Theatre Founders
The Free Theatre was formed in June, 2018 by a group of dedicated high school seniors who have the desire and drive to create a non-profit 501(c)3, student-run, tuition-free company for students who are passionate about creating theater.
Matthew Ciazza is a graduate of Georgetown Day School and pursuing a theater degree at USC. He has participated in regional dinner theatre, the Augusto Boal Summer Workshop, and the Carnegie Mellon University Summer Musical Theatre Pre/College. He feels that the free theatre is destined to succeed because it was created from a passion for independent art-free from restrictions. Matthew believes that as artists all we have is our reputations, so joining the free isn’t only a temporary experience, but a lifelong membership.
Pria Dahiya is a graduate of Bethesda Chevy Chase High school and currently studies directing at Carnegie Mellon University. She performed for the first time at the age of six as a wolf name Wolfie in “The Jungle Book” and has not stopped since. Some of her favorite roles have been playing a little boy in “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown,” playing a southern grandmother in “Oklahoma,” and playing a drunk mother in “Catch Me If You Can.” She directed” In the Heights” during The Free Theatre’s inaugural year! She has also directed the play “Miss Nelson Is Missing” for her high school and assistant directed “Oklahoma” with Act two at Levine. Outside of performing and directing she enjoys playwriting, painting, and reading. She is deeply passionate about promoting accessibility to theater education.
Jenny Dalrymple is a graduate of Winston Churchill High School, and is pursuing a degree in Musical Theater at Shenandoah University. She has been singing, dancing, and acting for as long as she can remember. When she performed in her first show in sixth grade, she knew that musical theater was what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. Some of her favorite roles have included Roxie in “Chicago,” Lorraine in “All Shook Up,” and Cinderella. She spent last summer at the Rutgers Summer Acting Conservatory, which helped her grow as an actress, and as a person. In her opinion, the biggest benefit of being in a theater company is being part of the family behind the scenes that creates the magic. This is the main reason why she wanted to be on the team creating The Free Theatre. This company provides a safe and inspiring environment where everyone can be themselves and do what they love together.
Kira Gandolfo is a graduate of Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Maryland, and will be studying at Boston College. She was our first director for The Free Theatre, taking on “Mamma Mia” in our inaugural season. Previous shows include “Oklahoma!” (Aunt Eller), “On the Town” (Madame Dilly), “In the Heights” (Camila)) and many more. In addition to performing, Kira is a part of clubs such as the Minority Scholars Program (MSP) and UNICEF at her high school. She is very excited to be part of The Free Theatre team, and help pave the way for youth in the DMV to continue learning “freely”. This program is exactly what youth artists all across the country need!
Carlos Hernandez is a graduate of Clarksburg High School. Credits include Prince Eric (The Little Mermaid), Usnavi (In the Heights, 2017 Cappie NCA Best Lead Actor in a Musical Nominee), and Ali Hakim (Oklahoma). During the 2017-18 season he trained at the Act Two Pre Pro Conservatory Program. He is vocally trained by vocal coach, Montel Butler. He played Sam (Mamma Mia) and Usnavi (In the Heights) in The Free Theatre’s inaugural season. He is now attending Penn State University.
Lily James is a graduate of Walt Whitman High School, and is now pursuing a musical theater degree at Boston Conservatory. She has participated in shows and performances since freshman year. She has previously worked with the Washington National Opera at the Kennedy Center and participated in Rutgers Summer Acting Conservatory last summer. The Free is a fantastic way to enhance the quality of our community through art and collaborate with other students!
Emily Lane is a graduate of Walt Whitman High School, and is now studying musical theater at USC. She has been performing in musical theater for the past 10 years. Some of her favorite productions include “Les Miserables,” “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown,” “Bat Boy,” “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “All Shook Up.” She c0-choreographed both “Mamma Mia” and “In the Heights” for The Free Theatre’s inaugural season. She also has worked as an apprentice choreographer on productions such as “Chicago,” “Oklahoma,” and “Catch Me If You Can.” Emily has been dancing for 14 years in styles including ballet, jazz, tap, lyrical, and her favorite, hip hop. Emily is thrilled to be a part of the The Free Theater Company because of the chances students will get to explore the opportunities theater offers beyond performing, in order to cultivate the total artist.
Devin Lucas is a graduate of St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, and is currently studying at Emory University. She is incredibly excited to be a part of The Free Theatre, and is so lucky to be working with such a wonderful and engaged team of students and professionals. A few of her favorite roles onstage have been Donna in “Mamma Mia,” Brenda in “Catch Me if You Can”, Agnes in “She Kills Monsters”, and Uzo in “Godspell”, but some of her favorite work in theatre has happened offstage as a company manager. Outside of theatre, she loves writing, drawing, and being involved in student activism. She hopes that The Free Theatre will give passionate students the opportunity to create and collaborate through art!
Julia McGowan is a graduate of Walt Whitman High School, and is majoring in musical theater at USC. She has been doing musical theatre since elementary school and has loved every second of it. Some of her favorite roles have included Sophie in “Mamma Mia” Ado Annie in “Oklahoma!,” “Celisse in Godspell,” “Cinderella” in Into the Woods, and “Mona” in Chicago. She spent last summer at the National High School Institute for acting, also known as Cherubs, at Northwestern University.
Jasmine Mondshine is a graduate of Washington-Liberty High School and is pursuing a musical theatre degree at James Madison University. Previous shows include The Spoken Word with Signature in the Schools, In the Heights, Mamma Mia, Catch Me If You Can, and Oklahoma. She has been dancing for 12 years and loved being dance captain for The Free. She is passionate about increasing access to arts education for all and can’t wait to see how The Free Theatre continues to grow!
Michael Votaw is a graduate of Winston Churchill High School, now attending Ohio Wesleyan University as a Musical Theatre major. He was inspired to start performing in 9th Grade by his older sister Anna. He has been involved in all of his school productions and his school show choir. His favorite roles include (Jud) Oklahoma! and (Mr. Strong) Catch Me if You Can. He is vocally coached by Lisa Carrier Baker and all the wonderful people at the Summer performing arts intensive (YAA). His training by Kevin Kuchar during the 2017-18 year truly shaped him into a complete performer. He is very excited to be a part of the incredible new opportunity for young aspiring artists that is the Free Theatre!