2015 Festival Details

Over 240 students and adults from five high schools and two community theater groups across five counties in New York’s Central and Southern Tier regions gathered at Cayuga Community College in Auburn, NY on Saturday, March 28 for CNY Arts’ 2015 Michael Harms Theater Festival. This annual celebration of youths in theater is a combination of musical and dramatic theater performances, feedback, and professionally-led workshops for both young performers and behind the scenes artists and crew.

Auburn High School, Dana West Jr-Sr High, Jamesville-DeWitt High School, The Media Unit, Onondaga Jr/Sr High School, Oswego Children's Theater, and Skaneateles High School participated in this year’s festival.

CNY Arts presented awards and scholarship for notable performances and technical work. Those were:

Festival Awards:

  • The Award of Excellence-High School was presented to Skaneateles High School Drama for their production of 42nd Street, directed by Michael Kringer.
  • The Award of Excellence-Community Theater was presented to The Media Unit for their production of From the Back of the Bus, directed by Walt Shepperd and student director Ana-Rachel Richardson
  • The award for Outstanding Technical Achievement was presented to Skaneateles High School Drama for their production of 42nd Street, directed by Michael Kringer.


  • The Michael Harms Memorial Scholarship was awarded to two (2) recipients Lauren Guinnip – Auburn High School and Elinor Meyer - Skaneateles High School.

Certificates of Achievement:


  • Honorable Mention for Individual Performance in a Musical: Joe Russo (Onondaga Jr/Sr School)
  • Excellence in Musical Performance: Kaitlyn Sevilla (Dana L. West Jr/Sr High School)
  • Excellence in Musical Performance: Zachary Driscoll (Skaneateles High School)
  • Excellence in Musical Performance: Ellie Legg (Skaneateles High School)
  • Excellence in Musical Performance: Grace McGee (Skaneateles High School)
  • Honorable Mention in Individual Comedic Performance: Zane Carnes (Auburn High School)
  • Excellence in Choreography: 42nd Street (Skaneateles High School)
  • Honorable Mention in Individual Comedic Performance: John Exner (Auburn High School)
  • Honorable Mention in Individual Comedic Performance: Tess Kennedy (Auburn High School)
  • Outstanding Choreographer: Abbey Fenner (Onondaga Jr/Sr High School)
  • Excellence in Ensemble Work: From the Back of the Bus (The Media Unit)
  • Honorable Mention in a Dramatic Role: Caitlyn MacAffee (Oswego Children’s Theater)
  • Most Promising New Musical: In The Can: The NOT a Gangster Musical (Jamesville-DeWitt High School)
  • Outstanding Performance in a Musical Comedy: Melissa Gao (Jamesville-DeWitt High School)
  • Outstanding Musical Arrangement: In The Can: The NOT a Gangster Musical (Jamesville-DeWitt High School)
  • Outstanding Comedic Ensemble: In The Can: The NOT a Gangster Musical (Jamesville-DeWitt High School)
  • Excellence in Costume Design: 42nd Street (Skaneateles High School)
  • Excellence in Costume Design: Beauty and The Beast (Dana L. West Jr/Sr High School)
  • Honorable Mention for Dramatic Performance: Abby Field (Oswego Children’s Theater)

Congratulations to all of the winners!

Below are respondent and workshop leaders bios, along with descriptions of each workshops.


The 2015 Festival respondents (those critiquing the performances) were professors from college and university drama departments. They were:

Matt Chiorini is the Director of the Theatre Program at Le Moyne College.  Originally from California, Matt has directed, acted, or taught in Tennessee, Arkansas, Colorado, and Florida, as well as in Central New York. As a playwright, Matt has several plays in publication, including a play that will premiere this summer as part of an international Shakespeare conference in Italy.  

Mark Cole is a graduate of New York University’s School of the Arts (MFA 1978). Recent performance work includes Love Letters for Theatre du Jour; Lizzie Borden Took an Axe (Andrew Borden) with the Covey Theatre Company at the New York International Fringe Theatre Festival and in Syracuse at the Barnes-Hiscock Mansion; The Mandorla (book & co-lyricist) with composer Fred Willard (Jazz Central, Syracuse); Take All My Loves, based on 28 sonnets of Shakespeare (Studio 24, Syracuse); the Fool in King Lear (Syracuse Shakespeare Festival) and Reverend Sholdeur in the independent movie Impossible Choice, produced by Media Artists. Mark wrote and performed in An Evening With Alan and Lawrence (with pianist Rob Auler) in Oswego (Waterman Theatre) and Syracuse (Studio 24). Mark’s Poe/Play, was performed in a one-person play festival in London, UK. He taught and directed in the SUNY Oswego Theatre Department for 35 years and is grateful to the many students he worked with for their inspiring creativity, dedication and spirit of risk which nurtured and informed his own education.

Cheryl Wilkins-Mitchell, a dance artist, has more than 40 years of experience as a performer, instructor, choreographer, Teaching Artist, coach, adjudicator, entrepreneur and community leader. Her career has encompassed stage, television and film. Currently a dance instructor on the faculty of Oswego State University and the Ballet and Dance Center, Wilkins-Mitchell recently accepted a new position as Director of the Dance Theater of Syracuse.

She earned a B.F.A. in Ballet with a modern dance minor (Horton) from the University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music (CCM). After years of performing and teaching nationally and internationally, Wilkins-Mitchell returned to her native Syracuse.

Prior to becoming the dance coordinator for the Syracuse University Southside Initiative KUUMBA Project, Wilkins-Mitchell was founder and director of the Onondaga Dance Institute for 13 years. ODI was the first African American owned dance studio in Syracuse, NY. Wilkins-Mitchell continues her mantra to be “creatively progressive and culturally significant.” Ms. Mitchell was asked to choreograph a piece for the Looking Back, Moving Forward: 50th Anniversary Commemoration of the Civil Rights Movement 1964-2014 by the SU Law School Cold Case Justice Initiative. The dance theater performance for the Martyrs’ Roll Call was described, by some who had lived the horror, as exquisite and very moving. Wilkins-Mitchell considers her co-choreography of the Syracuse Opera “The Pearl Fishers” a milestone in her career. She has choreographed several theater productions at SUNY Oswego, a SCMA centennial tribute to composer John Cage and several Society for New Music Vision of Sound performances.

Ms. Mitchell has received numerous awards and recognitions including the Syracuse University Martin Luther King, Jr. Unsung Heroes and Heroines Award, the Community Service Award by the Syracuse Chapter of the LINKS, Inc, Builders of Communities and Dreams Award by the Syracuse Commission for Women, and the Syracuse/Onondaga County NAACP honored her with the Freedom Community Service Award. Ms. Mitchell served on the New York State Council for the Arts (NYSCA) dance panel. She was invited by NYS Senator DeFrancisco to be the dance representative on his Young Artist Development Program Board. Ms. Mitchell is the mother of two adult children - Masai and Aisha.


Students participate in skill-building workshops, during the Festival, led by professionals making a living in the arts with extensive experience regionally, in New York City, and beyond:

Meggan Camp (Special Effects Stage Makeup) is currently in her 15th season, serving as the Syracuse University Drama Department’s Costumer and as Adjunct Faculty. She freelance designs in Syracuse, NY and surrounding areas. Her most recent credits include Damn Yankees (Merry Go Round Playhouse) The Three Little Pigs (Weston Playhouse) Seussical (SU Drama) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Weston Playhouse Other Stages) Lysistrata, As You Like It, Blood Wedding, Into the Verge, Steel Pier, Translations, My One and Only, She Stoops to Conquer, Real Love, Chicago, Sweet Charity, A Funny Thing…Forum, Taming of the Shrew. She has done work with Syracuse Stage’s Educational Outreach program, designing costumes for Backstory projects and sets for an original piece titled Annabel Drudge and the Second Day of School. North Carolina School of the Arts, MFA.

Bill Daugherty (Vocal Performance Workshop) holds a BFA in Acting from the Conservatory at Webster University where he completed his training after having attended Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield. He has appeared in theaters, clubs and concert halls around the world including Carnegie Hall, Weill Recital Hall, The Kennedy Center, The Paper Mill Playhouse, Die Kleine Komedie (Amsterdam), The Green Room (London), The Gardenia Room (LA), The Briar Street and The Halstead theaters (Chicago) and The St. Louis Repertory Theater. His regional credits include: Side by Side by Sondheim (Man); Evita(Magaldi); My Fair Lady (Freddy); The Little Foxes (Leo); A Funny Thing Happened... (Hero). His first New York appearance was a season with The Light Opera of Manhattan at the Cherry Lane Theater and he has been a perennial at Broadway’s Town Hall in the Broadway By The Year and Broadway Unplugged concert series. He opened for comedy legend Joan Rivers at Michael's Pub and singer Peggy Lee at The Ballroom. Bill is the recipient of 4 MAC awards and 3 of Backstage Magazine's Bistro Awards (including best male vocalist). He has been on the faculty at CAP21 musical theater conservatory for 18 years where he has taught Vocal Technique, Vocal Performance, Audition Repertoire, Audition Technique and Private Voice and holds master classes in performance around the country. Some of his former students include: Anne Hathaway (Oscar – Les Mis), Matthew Morrison (Screen Actors Guild - Glee), Nikki James (Tony – Book of Mormon) as well as Kristen Bell (Frozen), Natalie Cortez (West Side Story), Krista Rodriguez (Smash/Addams Family), Jason Tam (A Chorus Line), Lindsay Mendez (Godspell/Dogfight), Adam Gwon (comp -Ordinary Days), and Michael Longoria (Jersey Boys).He re-located to the Finger Lakes region where he will continue to teach undergraduate musical theater as well as maintain a private voice studio out of his home in Weedsport and work in association with the Merry-Go-Round Theater during the summer. This fall he will join the faculty as an instructor and resident director at Nazareth College in Rochester, NY

Becky Lynn Dawson (Stage Manager Workshop) (AEA Stage Manager) is from Lehi, Utah and holds a MFA from Mason Gross School of the Arts and a BFA from Utah State University. She is a proud member of Actors Equity Association and very excited to be a part of the 2015 Michael Harms Festival. Selected Stage Management credits include Mary Poppins, On The Town, Legally Blonde, Cats, Cabaret, The Drowsy Chaperone, 42nd Street, Hairspray (Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival); The Spitfire Grill; No Sex Please, We’re British, Chicago, M. Butterfly, The Search for Signs..., The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, I Hate Hamlet (Northern Stage); Divinamente New York 2009 & 2010 (EH Arts International); An Eclectic Evening of Shorts II & III (Artistic New Directions); Warning: Adult Content, Nemesis (Theatre 54); Spain (Bridge Theatre Company); Monster, House (English Rose Productions).

Maria De Mitchell (Creative Play) has been working in environmental theater for 25 years. She has taught workshops on creative play and improvisation for many years. She currently works on the teaching staff and in the performance company of the Sterling Renaissance Festival. She also serves as the Artistic Director for the Skaneateles Dickens Festival.

Carey Eidel (Acting) is the Executive Director and founding member of Auburn Public Theater. He came to APT from NY/Los Angeles following a 25-year professional career as an actor, teacher, writer, and director. In LA, he was one of the busiest acting coaches/teachers whose students included Haley Berry, Pam Stone (Coach) & Diane Farr (Rescue Me). He recently performed The Boys Next Door at Syracuse Stage and was just cast in their production of Hairspray! Carey studied acting at The Neighborhood Playhouse with Sanford Meisner and then with Wynn Handman. Off-Broadway: Wild Oats (premiere), Home Movies, andTwelfth Night. National Tour: The Wizard of Oz. Carey played “Sir Edward Ramsey” in The King and I at The Merry-Go-Round Playhouse. A veteran of over 50 television shows and films, Carey has worked with many of the top professionals in the entertainment industry. Television credits include Everybody Loves Raymond, The Amanda Show, 7th Heaven, General Hospital, Diagnosis Murder, 3rd Rock From The Sun, Yes Dear, Strong Medicine, Melrose Place, LA Law, and Fox’s Daddy Dearest. Film credits include: Lost World: Jurassic Park, Evolution, For The Boys, The Marrying Man, And The Band Played On, and C.H.U.D. In addition to working with APT, Carey currently teaches acting, screenwriting, film production, and acting for film at Cayuga Community College.

Tiffany Howard (Not So Glamorous Life of a Costume Designer) (MFA) has been with Merry-Go-Round Playhouse as the Costume Shop Manager and on staff designer since 2009, where she has been involved with the costumes of every production, both youth theatre and the playhouse since that time.  Prior to coming to MGR, Tiffany taught college in Missouri for 5 years, where she ran the costume shop and designed the majority of all productions during that time.  Her MFA is in Acting/Directing from Texas Tech University, but she fell in love with costuming while working in the costume shop during grad school and began pursuing costuming while in her first year there.  She has since won awards/nominations for her costume work and had the opportunity to design a large variety of shows from Cabaret to Marvelous Wonderettes and Lost Highway, musicals and straight shows.  This summer she will be designing West Side Story, Saturday Night Fever, Sweeney Todd and Forever Plaid, Plaid Tidings for Merry-Go-Round Playhouse, Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival.

Lisa Myers (Act The Dance) (Artistic Director, Merry-Go-Round Youth Theatre) is originally from Minneapolis, MN where she studied dance and acting for 18 years at many Twin Cities arts institutions including the Guthrie, Illusion Theatre, and Zenon Dance. She choreographed and toured with the nationally recognized acapella tap group The Tap Twistas, and studied with tap legends such as Brenda Bufalino, Savion Glover and Gregory Hines. After graduating from Concordia College in Moorhead, MN with BA in theatre, she has acted and taught professionally with arts organizations across the country including the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse, Absolute Dance Company, Prairie Fire Children’s Theatre, and the American Shakespeare Center. Since 2008 she has produced and/ or directed over 70 touring productions for the Merry-Go-Round Youth Theatre, and most recently directed and choreographed Church Basement Ladies; The last Potluck Supper for the Fingerlakes Musical Theatre Festival. She has a passion for revealing to the power of the arts to young people, and is very grateful to have met so many others in Upstate New York who share that same passion of passing the gift of theatre onto the next generation.

Dan Ozminkowski (Lighting Design) is a lighting designer from New York City.  He has designed at Merry-Go-Round Playhouse for the past six years, including On the Town, Cats, and Cabaret.  Additional regional design credits include Treasure Island, A New Musical (Arkansas Repertory Theatre); and Let Me Down Easy (Arena Stage, Wexner Center for the Arts, Philadelphia Theatre Company, San Diego Repertory Theatre and Berkeley Repertory Theatre).  Touring: Spirit of Uganda (2010, 2012, 2014; North America). New York: A Celebration of Maurice Sendak with Tony Kushner (92Y); If You Could See (off-Broadway); and Amanda Selwyn Dance Theatre (Resident Designer, 5 seasons).  University designs: Pace University, Princeton University, and Purchase College. Additional associate/assistant design credits: A Night With Janis Joplin (Broadway); Impressionism (Broadway); and Le Rêve (Wynn, Las Vegas). Dan was nominated for the Barrymore PECO Award for Outstanding Lighting Design in 2011. USA 829. Currently pursuing MFA Lighting Design, Parsons.  BFA Lighting Design, Purchase College.

Allen Shannon (Scenic Painting) is on faculty at Nazareth College as Professor of Theatre and Resident Scenic Designer and Production Manager. In New York, his work has been seen at JCC Center Stage, SUNY Brockport, and Merry Go Round Playhouse. Prior to Nazareth, he was on the faculty of several colleges from Texas to Iowa to Minnesota. A long time resident of Minneapolis, MN, his design work has been seen at Theatre in the Round, Bloomington Civic Theatre, Normandale College, and The Fitzgerald Theatre. He has also worked as a scenic artist for tours of Sesame Street, Muppet Babies, and Bear In The Big Blue House. Further design and scene painting work included Time Square installations for Target Corp. and Motorola as well as HGTV, KARE 11 TV, The Discovery Channel, and Good Housekeeping Magazine. Shannon also has an extensive background as a choreographer and instructor of Pointe/Ballet; working with The Monique Dance Companie, The Dance Conservatory of Southern Minnesota, and The North Dakota School of the Performing Arts. He earned his MFA in Scenic Design from Minnesota State University, Mankato where he won the Barbizon Prize for Scenic Design through the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.

Kevin Shumway (Improvisation) is an actor, director, drama coach, and teacher. His professional credits include appearances on stage in both CNY and NYC; work on feature films and TV shows; voice-overs for business, entertainment, and education; numerous commercials and corporate promotional and training videos, as well as print advertisements. Kevin has directed 17 high school plays and musicals, and teaches acting and play analysis as an adjunct instructor in the Syracuse University Drama Department. A graduate of SU Drama, he served on the boards of the Syracuse Shakespeare Festival and the Skaneateles Area Arts Council. Kevin has held membership in both Actors Equity Association and Screen Actors Guild.

Kathy Zamniak (Dance Auditioning for Dancers) is a choreographer and director in the Auburn area, and has been dancing for over thirty years. Kathy owns and operates her own dance studio in Auburn, Rhythm in Motion Studio, since 1980. She is the Master Choreographer for Seneca Cayuga ARC’s Fame program and has lead dance workshops at Wells College, Le Moyne College, and summer theater at The Morgan Opera House in Aurora. Kathy has produced and directed over 20 theater productions for Rhythm in Motion Studio, choreographed for Auburn High school, and Union Springs High School Musicals. She is certified with The Dance Education of America, NYC. Kathy is currently instructing “Dance for Musical Theater” at Cayuga Community College.