Meet the ACT Staff

We’re pleased to present some of the Academy of Children’s Theatre Staff! One of our core goals is to provide professional guidance from experienced and qualified instructors. This is why we maintain a team of staff members that are both well educated and have proven success through personal experience.

Lynn M. Hamilton

Owner, Director

Lynn is an actress, director, author, international conference speaker, wife, and mother of four. She is the owner of ACT and president & founder of the Academy of Community Theatre (ACT II). She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Theatre Arts from the University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire where she earned membership in the National Collegiate Players. Lynn has over 35 years of experience in stage and radio, including voice work for Focus on the Family. She has also been a guest on numerous television and radio broadcasts around the country.  Though she will always love acting, teaching and directing have captured her heart. Some of the favorite shows that she’s directed include A Christmas CarolThe Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, The Legend of Robin Hood, and Little Women.

Vanessa Rankin

Senior Studio Director

Vanessa is a playwright, teacher, wife, and mother. She earned her B.A. from CU Boulder and her M.P.A from UCCS. She has created magic in the entertainment departments of Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, and Six Flags Elitch Gardens. She loves acting and some of her favorite past productions include, The Baseball Show (Heritage Square Music Hall), Nunsense (Breckenridge Backstage), and Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge (Denver Victorian). She was nominated for a 2007 Denver Post, Ovation Award and Marlowe Award, for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy, for her role as Sue Lawson in, Not Now Darling! (Miner’s Alley Playhouse), and was part of the cast for the 2010 Ovation Award nomination for Best Comedy, Getting Married (Germinal Stage). She is committed to volunteering, having been a Big Sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters, a Disney VoluntEAR and she served in the Peace Corps, Armenia. She is very excited to be a part of the ACT team!

Leah Brooks - Vocal Instructor at the Academy of Children's Theatre.

Leah Brooks

Vocal Instructor

Leah Brooks is a North Carolina native who transplanted to Colorado Springs in July 2022. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2021 with a B.A. in Music with a focus in Vocal Performance, as well as a B.A. in Political Science. She currently teaches music and choir at a K-8 school in the Springs, and has been teaching private vocal lessons for 3 years. In undergrad and high school, she music directed Aladdin, Jr., Bonnie and Clyde, and Ghost Quartet, and taught piano lessons for four years through a music education non-profit. In addition, she received theatre training from Carolina Broadway Theatre Co. during her childhood and adolescence, where she performed in musicals including Into the Woods, Footloose, Once Upon a Mattress, and the original workshop The Imaginary. She is thrilled to be working with ACT!

Sarah Embree

Musical Theatre & Acting Instructor

Sarah is thrilled to be teaming up again with ACT! She received a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and Design from Winthrop University and has worked professionally as a director, actress and designer of the stage for over 20 years.  Some of her most memorable roles include Mary Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, Shelby in Steel Magnolias, and Maria in Sound of Music. She has experience in film, commercials, audio book narrations and radio voice-over work. She received both a Kennedy Center of the Arts award and a Caroline Award for her lead actress role as Ruth in Blithe Spirit.  Some favorite directorial memories include Into the Woods, Hello Dolly and You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

Sarah Embree - Musical Theatre & Acting Instructor at the Academy of Children's Theatre.
Elyse Jett Clark - ACT II Choreographer at Academy of Children's Theatre and the Academy of Community Theatre.

Elyse Jett Clark

ACT II Choreographer, Musical Theatre & Dance Instructor

Elyse began dancing at the young age of four and has been dancing ever since. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Visual and Performing Arts from the University of Colorado – Colorado Springs in 2011. Elyse has been a dance instructor for ten years and has directed numerous dance productions including How the Grinch Stole ChristmasThe Lion King, and The Christmas Letter! She has won awards at statewide dance competitions, including Best Choreography, Entertainment Awards, and Best Costume. She loves sharing her passion for theatre and dance with her students and is excited to be working with ACT & ACT II! 

Shayla Mellen

Musical Theatre, Dance Instructor & Choreographer

Shayla Mellen has a Bachelors of Arts in Visual and Performing Arts with a Dance Major and Theater minor which she received at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. As well as an Associate of Arts in Dance Performance on a full-tuition scholarship from Casper College. She has been dancing since the age of 2 and dance and theater are her absolute passion. She has been in many musicals, plays, and dance shows such as Double-Sided Coin, Collective Trust, Mary Poppins, The Wedding Singer, Six Characters in Search of an Author, A Rock N Roll Fantasy, and an adaptation of Charlotte’s Web through dance. She is the Show Choir and Musical Choreographer at Vista Ridge High School and Show Choir Choreographer for Falcon High School. Shayla has also choreographed some of her own original dance shows such as Resurgence and Psyche through UCCS. She has loved being a part of the ACT staff for a couple of years now.

Shayla Mellen - Musical Theatre, Dance & Choreography Instructor at Academy of Children's Theatre and the Academy of Community Theatre.
Bob Rais - Acting, Shakespeare, Stage Combat, Film & Improv Instructor at the Academy of Children's Theatre.

Bob Rais

Acting, Shakespeare, Stage Combat, Film & Improv Instructor

Bob is thrilled to be joining the Academy of Children’s Theatre! Bob is currently a lecturer with The Department of Visual and Performing Arts at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Robert is a trained actor and a member of Actor’s Equity Association, The Screen Actor’s Guild, and The Stage Directors and Choreographers Society. He specializes in comedic theatre training derived from his work at The Second City, Carnivores In Action, and Burnt Toast. He has worked as an actor and director at The Signature Theatre (NYC), The Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Theatreworks (Colorado Springs), Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival, Tennessee Repertory Theater, and many more. Some of Bob’s favorite roles are, Falstaff-Merry Wives of Windsor, Scrooge-A Christmas Carol, The Complete Works of Shakespeare, John Adams-1776, Hook-Peter Pan, and Herod-Jesus Christ Superstar.

Felicia Semer

Acting & Musical Theatre Instructor

Felicia is beyond thrilled to be joining the team of ACT and ACT II! She began performing at the age of 12 and has been committed to the craft ever since. Previous to graduating college she spent time in Los Angeles working on various film and television sets including Jersey Boys and Castle. In 2015 she returned to her alma mater Pine Creek High School to Assistant Direct their Spring Production of “Xanadu” which was awarded a MainStage slot and high praise at the International Thespians Festival in Lincoln, Nebraska. She graduated from CCU with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and a Minor in Theatre in 2016. She then went on to start her own private acting coaching business which saw many young performers earn their first professional contracts. She has also been a guest instructor for various schools throughout Colorado. Felicia has performed in theaters and vocal concerts all over Colorado Springs as well as being a soloist and board member for Soli Deo Gloria Choir. Her greatest desire is to show young performers the value of excellence in art and to share everything that the performing arts have given to her. 

Felicia Skrzypek - Studio Director, Musical Theatre Instructor at Academy of Children's Theatre (ACT).
Lee Ann

Lee Ann Soulvie

Voice & Musical Theatre Instructor

Lee Ann Soulvie is currently a full-time choral and piano teacher in Colorado Springs, and has been teaching voice, choir and musical theatre for almost 30 years!  She grew up in Illinois, where she began performing at a young age in voice, dance and theatre.  She majored in Musical Theatre from Millikin University in Decatur, IL and received her Masters in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy from Webster University in St. Louis.  Her life long passions for performance coupled with teaching have brought many rewarding opportunities along the way for her and her students.  She has performed as a choral soloist, appeared in many musicals, operas, directed/choreographed numerous musicals for children’s groups through adults, and owns High Note Studio where she teaches privately. 

Alaina Stroble

Musical Theatre & Acting Instructor

Alaina Stroble was born and raised in the Colorado Springs area and started dancing and singing at a young age. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre with a Minor in Dance from Colorado Mesa University, along with training in Classical Piano and Violin. Her performing experience includes Opera (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, A Hand of Bridge), Musical Theater (Newsies, CATS, Mamma Mia, Beauty and the Beast, 1776), Film (Peaches, Snap, MODS), Dance (The Nutcracker, Swan Lake), Stage Plays, Music Videos, and Vocal Showcases. She had worked with performing companies from Grand Junction to Denver including High Desert Opera (Dorothy – The Wizard of Oz), Factory Five-Five (Luke/Ares – The Lightening Thief), Dance Art Media of Littleton, and Village Arts of Colorado Springs. Some of her more “behind the scenes” roles extend to Directing, Choreography, Stage Management, Set Building, and Musical Composition, with one of her original songs being featured in GhostLight Ensemble’s most recent production One Last Final Thing to Say, which was awarded Silver for Best Play in The Gazette’s Best of The Springs (2023). She is honored to be part of the ACT team, and can’t wait to see you in class!

Alaina Stroble - Musical Theatre & Acting Instructor at the Academy of Children's Theatre.
Jerilyn Winstead, Studio Admin at the Academy of Children's Theatre.

Jerilyn Winstead

Administrative Director

Jerilyn Winstead, when not Studio Admin is an author/entrepreneur, having founded two mermaid businesses where she wore many hats and tails. With her business, Burrowgroves, Jerilyn is writing her own novels and offering professional ghostwriting and editing services. She grew up in Brazil, Indiana, and Chicago, then in St. Louis she got married and had four kids in a row – still not sure what happened. In 2000 the Winstead’s moved to Colorado, where they enjoy homesteading in Colorado Springs and traveling the world. Jerilyn also spins yarn and knits. She participates in LARP and medieval re-enactment and collects unusual hobbies.

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