Artistic Staff Bios
KAREN AZENBERG (Director/Choreographer) This marks Karen Azenberg’s seventh season as Artistic Director at PTC. Favorite projects include the world premieres of Alabama Story and “i”; the regional premieres of Sting’s The Last Ship, and Les Misérables; and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Newsies, Sweet Charity and The Rocky Horror Show. Originally from New York, her work there includes Lyrics and Lyricists (92nd St. Y), Blocks (a collaboration with Johnathan Larson), Prom Queens Unchained and choreography for Richard Greenberg’s The Dazzle (Roundabout Theatre Company). Among her other credits are National Tours of Carousel and Brigadoon, West Side Story (over 15 productions), and productions at Indiana Repertory, Geva Theatre Center, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Goodspeed and Utah Shakespeare Festival. Karen is a past president of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC). Her favorite productions are her son Alexander and her daughter Emelia.
PHIL RENO (Musical Director/Conductor) has been the music director/conductor for numerous Broadway shows: Something Rotten, Promises, Promises, Elf-The Musical, The Drowsy Chaperone, The Producers, Thou Shalt Not, Dame Edna: The Royal Tour, Dame Edna: Back with a Vengeance and Cats. Off-Broadway: The Diva Is Dismissed (Public), A New Brain (Lincoln Center), Chess (Master Theatre). National Tours: Joseph… (with Donny Osmond), world premiere of Music of the Night, Starlight Express and Bob Fosse’s Sweet Charity. Regional: Minsky’s (pre-Broadway premiere at Ahmanson), How the Grinch Stole Christmas (premiere at the Old Globe), Melissa Manchester’s I Sent a Letter to My Love (premiere at North Shore), Happy Days (premiere at Falcon Theatre). Television: Music director/conductor for “Broadway Under the Stars,” CBS 2002-2006; CBS Tree Lighting in Bryant Park 2006-2013. Film: The Producers. Reno has conducted six original cast albums and has been nominated twice for a Grammy award for his work as a producer of Something Rotten! and The Drowsy Chaperone cast albums.
GEORGE MAXWELL (Scenic Design) has been the resident scenic designer at Pioneer Theatre Company for over 25 years and has had the distinct pleasure of designing over 100 productions for the company. Recently he designed Newsies and The Will Rogers Follies for PTC before retiring in January. A few of his favorite PTC designs include Next to Normal, Rent, White Christmas, A Christmas Story, Chicago, Metamorphoses, Enchanted April, West Side Story, Proof, Peter Pan, Noises Off, Man of La Mancha, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Miss Saigon, Fiddler on the Roof and A Christmas Carol: The Musical. He was tapped by the Utah Opera Company to design The Coronation of Poppea and The Ballad of Baby Doe. Maxwell has also designed for the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and for the Utah Shakespeare Festival. He is a member of United Scenic Artists. To see more of his work, visit gmaxwell.weebly.com.
PAUL MILLER (Lighting Designer) Previously at PTC: Mamma Mia! In the Heights, Much Ado About Nothing, A Few Good Men, I Hate Hamlet, The Count of Monte Cristo and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Broadway: Amazing Grace, The Illusionists, Legally Blonde, Freshly Squeezed and Laughing Room Only. Off-Broadway: Desperate Measures, Clinton The Musical, Pageant, Vanities, A New Musical, Waiting for Godot, Addicted, Nunsense, Balancing Act and 10 productions for New York City Center Encores!. Regional: The Old Globe, Dallas Theater Center, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Asolo Rep Theatre, American Conservatory Theater, Cleveland Play House, Pasadena Playhouse, Goodspeed Opera House and Westport Country Playhouse. National Tours include: The Illusionists, Elf-The Musical, Shrek, Legally Blonde, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber from Fleet Street, Hairspray, The Producers and The Sound of Music. Television: Live from Lincoln Center, Netflix and Comedy Central specials and New Year’s Eve from Time’s Square for the last 18 years. Internationally: The Stratford Festival, London’s West End, Vienna, Milan (Teatro alla Scala), Brazil, The Philippines, South Africa and China.
BRENDA VAN DER WIEL (Costume Designer) is part of the design faculty for the University of Utah Theatre Department and serves as head of the Performing Arts Design Program. She designs regularly for that department as well as for Pioneer Theatre Company and the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Recent works in Utah include Chess, Hello Dolly!, the masks for Animal Farm, Blue Stockings and the Avenue Q puppets for the Babcock Theatre. Some favorite designs for Pioneer Theatre Company include Mamma Mia!, Outside Mullingar, Alabama Story, Rent, Emma and A Christmas Story. Some favorite designs for the Alabama Shakespeare Festival include Annie, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Little Mermaid, Mary Poppins, Macbeth, Much Ado About Nothing, The Comedy of Errors and The Count of Monte Cristo. Her work has also been seen at Utah Shakespeare Festival in Mary Poppins, Treasure Island and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
ALLAN BRANSON (Resident Sound Designer) is thrilled to join Pioneer Theatre Company. He previously worked at The Arkansas Repertory Theatre as their resident sound designer for six seasons, where he designed such shows as Because of Winn Dixie (world premiere), The Bridges of Madison County (regional premiere), and Memphis (regional premiere). Branson is a proud member of The Theatrical Sound Designers and Composers Association.
AMANDA FRENCH (Hair and Makeup Designer) has been a makeup and hair designer for over 28 years. She has worked for Montana Shakespeare in the Parks, the Utah Shakespeare Festival, Utah Opera, Egyptian Theatre Company and the University of Texas at Austin. She is a contributing writer in the tenth edition of Stage Makeup by Corson, Glavan and Norcross and her work can also be seen in The Costume Technician’s Handbook by Ingham and Covey, and Wig Making and Styling: A Complete Guide for Theatre and Film by Ruskai and Lowery, first edition. She attended the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati where she studied with Hair and Makeup Designer Lenna Kaleva. She is a member of the United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) and a current University of Utah adjunct assistant professor of wigs and makeup.
SARAH SHIPPOBOTHAM (Dialect Coach) is a graduate of the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. She teaches in the Actor Training Program at the University of Utah. Her work as dialect coach for PTC includes Oslo, Twelfth Night, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The Last Ship and Oliver!. She was seen on stage in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and King Charles III. Shippobotham also works as resident voice and dialect coach for the Shaw Festival in Canada.
BECKY LYNN DAWSON (Stage Manager) joins Pioneer Theatre Company for her second season. She holds an MFA from Mason Gross School of the Arts and a BFA from Utah State University. Selected stage management credits include From Here to Eternity, Saturday Night Fever (Merry-Go-Round Playhouse), The Spitfire Grill, Chicago, M. Butterfly (Northern Stage), The Christians (Gulfshore Playhouse), Divinamente New York 2009 & 2010 (EH Arts International), Warning: Adult Content (Theatre 54), Spain (Bridge Theatre Company) and Monster, House (English Rose Productions). She would like to send many thanks to her family for their continuing support.
MARY P. COSTELLO (Production Stage Manager) has worked on over 40 productions during eight seasons with PTC. Favorites include Sting’s The Last Ship, The Will Rogers Follies, Les Misèrables, In the Heights, Next to Normal and Rent. Other stage management teams: Indiana Repertory Theatre, Connecticut Repertory Theatre, Boston Theatre Works, Grand Valley Shakespeare Festival and the Utah Shakespeare Festival. Proud Equity member.
KALLIE ERICKSON (1st Assistant Stage Manager) is a recent grad from the University of Utah with a BFA in stage management. Recent stage management credits include form of a girl unknown and Stags Leap (SLAC), In The Heights: Concert Version (PTC), You Never Can Tell (Babcock Theatre) and Dogfight (Babcock Theatre). She is super pumped to be back at PTC this season with some of her favorite people! Love to the fam and to her pup.
TAHRA VEASLEY (2nd Assistant Stage Manager) is excited to be back at PTC! Previous Assistant Stage Manager credits include Mamma Mia! (PTC), Steel Pier (Marriott Center for Dance), Animal Farm (Babcock) and Twelfth Night (Salt Lake Shakespeare). Previous Stage Manager credits include Chess (Marriott Center for Dance), Our Country’s Good (Babcock), Eclipsed (Studio 115/ KCACTF), Trash! (Sucker Punch Productions), Hamlet (U of U) and UYT Summer Productions.
RYAN GRAYTOK (SDCF Observer) is a NYC-based director/choreographer living in Brooklyn with his husband, 90-pound dog, two rabbits and lots of pet hair. Recent credits include Chess (choreographer/assistant director) and Ragtime (choreographer) Off-Off Broadway and Jekyll & Hyde (co-director/choreographer) Off-Broadway. He would like to thank: Karen for the mentorship, laughs and movie in her mind; Elishia, David and the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation for the incredible opportunity to work and learn on Fleet Street; the amazing cast and crew for their talent and warmth; and the biggest “Thank you!” to his husband Chaz for the constant love and support.
STEPHEN SONDHEIM (Music and Lyrics) wrote the music and lyrics for Saturday Night (1954), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962), Anyone Can Whistle (1964), Company (1970), Follies (1971), A Little Night Music (1973), The Frogs (1974), Pacific Overtures (1976), Sweeney Todd (1979), Merrily We Roll Along (1981), Sunday in the Park with George (1984), Into the Woods (1987), Assassins (1991), Passion (1994) and Road Show (2008) as well as lyrics for West Side Story (1957), Gypsy (1959) and Do I Hear A Waltz? (1965) and additional lyrics for Candide (1973). Anthologies of his work include Side by Side by Sondheim (1976), Marry Me a Little (1981), You’re Gonna Love Tomorrow (1983), Putting It Together (1993/99) and Sondheim On Sondheim (2010). He composed the scores of the films “Stavisky” (1974) and “Reds” (1981) and songs for “Dick Tracy” (1990) and the television production “Evening Primrose” (1966). His collected lyrics with attendant essays have been published in two volumes: “Finishing the Hat” (2010) and “Look, I Made a Hat” (2011). In 2010 the Broadway theater formally known as Henry Miller’s Theatre was renamed in his honor.
HUGH WHEELER (Book) was a novelist, playwright and screen writer. He wrote more than thirty mystery novels under the pseudonyms Q. Patrick and Patrick Quentin, and four of his novels were transformed into films: “Black Widow”, “Man in the Net”, “The Green-Eyed Monster” and “The Man with Two Wives.” For films he wrote the screenplays for “Travels with My Aunt”, “Something for Everyone,” “A Little Night Music” and “Nijinsky.” His plays include Big Fish, Little Fish (1961), Look: We’ve Come Through (1961) and We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1966, adapted from the Shirley Jackson novel), he co-authored with Joseph Stein the book for a new production of the 1919 musical Irene (1973), wrote the books for A Little Night Music (1973), a new production of Candide (1973), Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1979, based on a version of the play by Christopher Bond), and Meet Me in St. Louis (adapted from the 1949 M-G-M musical), contributed additional material for the musical Pacific Overtures (1976), and wrote a new adaptation of the Kurt Weill opera Silverlake, which was directed by Harold Prince at the New York Opera. He received Tony and Drama Desk Awards for A Little Night Music, Candide and Sweeney Todd. Prior to his death in 1987 Mr. Wheeler was working on two new musicals, Bodo and Fu Manchu, and a new adaptation of The Merry Widow.