Our Instructors

Brandon Adams (Sr. Production, Ensemble) A native Oklahoman and graduate of the University of Oklahoma, Brandon is thrilled to be returning to the Sooner Theatre where he previously served as Production Manager for five years. Heavily influenced by his mother’s passion for the stage, he began performing at a very early age, ever grateful to have been bitten by the theatre bug. He has performed in and directed many productions throughout the region, including performing in Germany in the Poteet Theatre’s award winning production of John and Jen. Favorite performance credits include: Seymour (Little Shop of Horrors), the Baker (Into The Woods), Jesus (Godspell), Finch (How To Succeed), and most recently as the principal vocalist for Holland America Line. A firm believer in the transformative power of theatre, he looks forward to sharing his talents and passions with those both on and off of the Sooner stage.

 

Jennifer Heavner Baker holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts with an emphasis in Music Theatre from the University of Oklahoma. She is a professional actress and choreographer who has worked in numerous productions across the country. Most recent roles include Rita La Porta in Lucky Stiff, Nancy in Oliver!, Carlotta in Phantom, Miss Mona in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and the Prima Donna in Sugar Babies at Bucks County Playhouse. Additionally, she has appeared in commercials, television and film. As a choreographer, her jobs include Six Flags Amusement Parks, Discoveryland, Bear Creek Farms, the Oklahoma Dome Dedication, numerous musicals and live events and Oklahoma Lottery commercials. She is active with the Norman Christmas Parade and June Bug Jam, co-directs Norman’s Celebrity Sing, serves on the cabinet for United Way of Norman and is a board member for the Norman Chamber of Commerce. Jennifer resides in Norman with her husband Jay and their two daughters, Addison and Aubrey.

 

Julie Benningfield (Acting, Claymation) is an educator with 19 years of experience in the classroom, teaching speech, drama, video production, music and language arts.  She holds a Bachelor of Arts from Northwestern State University in Speech and Psychology with a minor in Music. She also holds a Master of Education with an emphasis in Theater.  She has taught workshops in each of her fields throughout her career to age groups ranging from 5 to 18 years of age. In addition to her teaching experience, she has performed in numerous plays and musicals as well as directing plays for both children and adults.

Whitney Crites' (Show Troupe, Ensemble, Musical Theatre Technique) contagious spirit, enthusiastic attitude and exceptional choreography have put her in high demand as a master class teacher and choreographer around the nation. Most recently she traveled the nation with Nickelodeon’s wildly popular Yo Gabba Gabba! Live as the Assistant Choreographer and Dance Captain. Currently she is serving as the Asst. Director/Asst. Choreographer for SuperWhy Live! coming to a theater near you this spring! She has also been the choreographer for the Reckson Center Christmas Tree Lighting, starring and Johnny Weir from the Olympic Men's Figure Skating Team and Shiera and Loli's Ditty Doodle Works on the CW Television Network. 

    While choreography and teaching are Whitney’s passion, she also loves to perform and entertain. She has been fortunate enough to work with artists such as NeYo, Snoop Dogg, Kerry Russell, Cold War Kids, The Roots, Bootsy Collins, Biz Markie, Sarah Silverman, Erika Badu, Solange Knowles and Freddie Prince Jr. Her theater/live credits include: All Shook Up, Kidz Bop Live, Xbox Kinect Times Square Launch, Elan Awards honoring Anne Reinking, Jerry Mitchell and Rob Marshall, The Best of... Broadway, Dance Break, Pajama Party Live, and NYC Promos for Looney Tunes the Movie as Daffy Duck. Television: Lucille Roberts Fitness, Sheira & Loli’s Ditty Doddle Works and One Life to Live. In 2010, Whitney was fortunate enough to perform at the White House Easter Egg Roll along with the cast of Glee, Justin Beiber and Reese Witherspoon! 

Catherine Etter (Pee Wee Production, Musical Theatre technique) is thrilled to join the teaching staff at the Sooner Theatre!  She spent her last year at university studying voice under acclaimed tenor Bruce Fowler, and is still under his tutelage.  Catherine loves all three areas of musical theatre, and has a special place in her heart for dance. Catherine’s choreography experience includes working with the St. Philip’s Community Theatre Project on their production of Godspell as well as four years of choreographing her high school show choir.  Some of Catherine’s favorite roles include the title role in Thoroughly Modern Millie, Chava in Fiddler on the Roof, a Gypsy in Verdi’s opera, La Traviata, and most recently, Sister Sophia in a professional production of The Sound of Music. She looks forward to working with bright and eager young students!

Stephanie Govich (Theatre Dance Technique, Broadway Kids, Sr. Production, Advanced Tap) Stephanie brings with her over 15 years of teaching experience, including classical ballet, tap, modern, jazz, musical theatre and pointe.  While living in NYC, Stephanie was on faculty at Broadway Dance Center and New Dance Group Arts Center, and studied with such outstanding teachers as Kat Wildish, Germaine Salsberg, Shea Sullivan and Ginger Cox.  She was also selected as a guest choreographer for the Arts In Motion Company in NYC. Stephanie's students have performed on Broadway, Paper Mill Playhouse, North Shore Music Theatre, Music Theatre of Wichita and Lyric Theatre.  Regionally, Stephanie has been on faculty at Lyric Theatre, Dance Unlimited and Sooner Theatre, and will be joining the OU Music Theatre faculty this fall.
Stephanie graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Central Oklahoma with a B.A. in Dance Education where she received the Department of Education’s Most Outstanding Student Award. She has performed with Friends University and the Wichita Ballet Theatre, featuring Nilas Martins and Wendy Whelan.  Stephanie has also appeared in many musical theatre productions and was a principal dancer with Royal Caribbean International.  She has had the opportunity to work with many accomplished artists such as Lane Alexander, Frank Chaves, Bill Evans, Savion Glover, and Clay Taliaferro.  

Stephanie resides in Norman with her husband Mat and daughters Mila and Jelena.

 

Mat Govich (Musical Theatre, Piggy Nation, Private Voice) MATEJA GOVICH is a singer/actor with 15 years of professional experience, including the Tony Award winning Broadway revival of “Cabaret” at Studio 54. Most recently, Mat played the role of Tateh in Lyric Theatre’s critically acclaimed production of “Ragtime.”  Off-Broadway and regional credits include: “O'Pioneers” (Louis Bergson), “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” (Joseph), “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” (Miles), “Oklahoma!” (Curly), “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” (Adam), and “Company” (Harry).  He has performed onstage with Kelli O'Hara, Brooke Shields, Raul Esparza, Gina Gershon, and Matt McGrath. He has also performed with his sister, star of Broadway and television, Milena Govich.  Mat holds a Masters degree in Music with an emphasis in music theatre and vocal pedagogy from the University of Central Oklahoma. He currently teaches voice both privately and at various studios in the Oklahoma City region.  www.govichvoice.com 

Melissa Griffith (Musical Theatre, Private Voice) graduated Cum Laude with a B.M. in Music Theatre from the University of Central Oklahoma. In her time at UCO, she studied voice under Dr. Marilyn Govich, and nearly completed a second degree in Vocal Music Education. She recently received credit as the vocal arranger for the world premiere of the new musical “Flipside: The Patti Page Story.” Melissa will be appearing with Lyric Theatre in December as Belle and Mrs. Fred’s Sister in “A Christmas Carol,” but most recently, she played the role of Gertie in Discoveryland’s “Oklahoma!” Other favorite credits include: “High Society” (Tracy Samantha Lord), “Steel Pier” (Precious McGuire), “Cosi Fan Tutte” (Fiordiligi), and “The Will Rogers Follies” (Ziegfeld’s Favorite). She currently resides in Yukon with her husband Ryan, who also shares a passion for music as an instrumentalist and band director. Melissa is thrilled to join the Studio at Sooner Theatre and looks forward to an exciting year!

Steven Harris (accompanist) was born in Norman Oklahoma in 1975. He has earned his (BFA)- Bachelors of Fine Arts in (Music) Piano major from the University of Oklahoma in 2008. While attending OU, he worked as a professional musician throughout the state and once in a while out of state. His duties have included working as an (associate musical director)- rehearsal pianist and vocal coach for musical theatre productions from grade school through professional levels. He has worked with productions such as, A Chorus Line, Damn Yankees, Sooner Theatre Showcase, Will Rogers Follies, My Fair Lady, Godspell, Good News, The Music Man, Oklahoma, Fiddler on The Roof, The Wizard of Oz, Li’l Abner, The Fantasticks, etc. He is currently on the accompanying/coaching staff for the University of Oklahoma School of Music, Musical Theatre and the School of Dance. He has also served as accompanist and teacher assistant for Moore Public Schools vocal/instrumental program since 2001.Steven is extremely proud of having affiliations with Sooner Theatre Productions and working in the new Studio of The Sooner Theatre.

Mandy Jiran (Private Voice) holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Musical Theatre performance from Oklahoma City University and a Master of Arts degree from the University of Oklahoma. She is a faculty member in the Weitzenhoffer School of Musical Theatre at the University of Oklahoma, teaching musical theatre voice. Her professional credits include performances with Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma, Kansas City Starlight Theatre, Great Plains Theatre Festival, Casa Manana, and the Main St. Theatre, where some of her favorite roles have been Lucille in the World Premiere musical Grossingers with Gavin MacLeod, Madame in The Unsinkable Molly Brown with Cathy Rigby, Sr. Robert Anne in Nunsense II, Rosamund in The Robber Bridegroom, Vi Petty in Buddy-The Buddy Holly Story, and the principle female in Swing!, and My Way; A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra. She has been a guest artist with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic and performs with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic POPS Chorale. She has worked as music director, accompanist, and vocal coach for Sooner Theatre Studio and Lyric Theatre Thelma Gaylord Academy.  Her students perform regionally, on National Tours, Off Broadway and On Broadway.

Joie Sherman Johnson (Musical Theatre, Private Voice) holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre from the University of Oklahoma. She was one of the original musical theatre and private voice instructors for the Studio during its inaugural season and is thrilled to be teaching again for the Sooner Theatre. She’s had the opportunity to perform such roles as Patsy Cline in Always, Patsy Cline (The Sooner Theatre), Tzeitel in Fiddler on the Roof (Lyric Theatre), Sarah Brown in Guys in Dolls (The Black Hills Playhouse), Squeaky Fromme in Assassins and many, many more. She also had the great privilege to perform with Broadway star, Kelli O’Hara, in Lyric Theatre’s production of Oklahoma!, as well as opening for Al Jarreau as a soloist with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic. Additionally, she has appeared in commercials and recorded voiceovers for Riverwind Casino, Chesapeake Energy, The Oklahoma Lottery, OG&E, Mountain States Toyota, The American Quarter Horse Association and Eskridge Auto Group. She recently returned to Norman from Washington, DC, where she worked for the New York Stock Exchange. During her time at NYSE, she was asked to perform at the annual holiday tree lighting ceremony on Wall Street and also rang the closing bell in December of 2011. She currently works for Switzer Talent Agency, sits on the board of directors for the OU Theatre Guild, and sings and writes with her husband, John (a guitarist), in the Americana/country duo, North Meets South.

John Johnson (Contemporary Guitar) is a professional guitar player and one half of the musical duo, North Meets South. John trained under Tulsa guitar virtuoso and Tulsa Philharmonic soloist, Randy Wimer. He studied guitar at Northeastern State University and performed with the Northeastern State jazz band. In addition to the guitar, he also studied the trumpet under the tutelage of Harry Connick Jr., band member, Will Campbell. He has performed at Nationals Stadium in Washington, DC, on Wall Street at the New York Stock Exchange and was recently a guest artist on OklaVision TV. He is a regular on the local music scene and is excited to bring his passion for contemporary guitar to the studio. www.northmeetssouth.com.

 

Ethan Kahn (Tap for Musical Theatre)

 

Brett Marley (Acting I & II)

Melany Pattison (Jr. Production, Broadway Kids, Show Troupe) has been directing children's shows at the Sooner for the past 9 years.  She is the co-founder of "Summerstage" and Young Producers" camps. Melany graduated from OU with a BFA in vocal performance.  She toured and directed with Cimarron Circuit Opera Company for 20 years.  Melany is on staff at All Saints Catholic School here in Norman.  She teaches general music, choir, drama, and directs a Show choir.  She was selected as their "teacher of the year"  in 2008.  She has a daughter Molly who is a Jr. at Norman High and has been on the Sooner stage many times growing up.  Her first performance at the Sooner was when she was 4 years old.  Her twin boys, Nick and Clay, are both students at OU.

Bassit Shittu (Hip Hop)

Clint & Buck Vrazel (FUNdamentals of Improv) have been performing and teaching improv for 11 years and are a driving force in the Oklahoma improv scene. They are co-artistic directors of OKC Improv, the state's premiere professional improv showcase and learning institution, where they currently teach classes and perform with numerous troupes including Fortune's Fools (improvised Shakespeare), The Ones Your Mother Warned You About (original relationship comedy), Short Order Crooks (short form improv), Sketchers in the Wry (original sketch comedy), Villain: The Musical (improvised musical), and their nationally recognized duo act, Twinprov, that specializes in creating reality-altering improv, sketch, and musical comedy.

The Vrazels are well versed in numerous improv disciplines, forms and techniques and have trained with some of the finest improv instructors from around the country including:

Amanda Austin (Dallas Comedy House), Jill Bernard (HUGE Theater, Minneapolis), Joe Bill (Annoyance Theatre, Chicago), Craig Cackowski (iO West, Los Angeles), Andy Carey (iO, Chicago), Susan Messing (Annoyance Theatre, Chicago), Tami Nelson (New Movement Theater, Austin), James Niigonwedom Sinclair, Rich Talarico (iO West, Los Angeles) and Zach Ward (DSI Theater, Carrboro). 

Oklahoma natives, Buck and Clint graduated from the prestigious Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics. They both attended Duke University before transferring to OU where Clint completed a degree in Mathematics and Buck is currently finishing up a degree in Psychology. In September, the Vrazels will be honored as part of this year's "Forty Under 40 Awards." Sponsored by OKC Biz, "Forty Under 40" recognizes outstanding OKC community and business leaders under 40 years old.

As Twinprov, Buck and Clint have performed and taught at theaters and festivals around the country. As their rapper alter-egos The Doppelgangstas, they’ve played several concerts and opened for nerdcore rapper MC Frontalot. Their YouTube videos have garnered over 165,000 views and their "New Moon Rap" was featured on Last Call with Carson Daly. They are the creators of the original musical long-form improv shows Rap-sody, String Theory and Dream Machine. 

Twinprov Official Festival Selections: Big Sexy Weekend of Improv (Dallas) (2010), The Chicago Improv Festival (2011), The Colorado Improv Festival (2011), The Dallas Comedy Festival (2010), Duofest (Philadelphia) (2011), Duke City Improv Festival (Albuquerque) (2011), Impfest (Kansas City) (2010), Improv Festival Oklahoma (2009, 2010, 2011), Improvaganza! (Honolulu) (2011), Kansas City Improv Festival (2011), Los Angeles Improv Festival (2011), The New Orleans Improv Festival (2009), The Out of Bounds Comedy Festival (Austin) (2009, 2010, 2011), The San Francisco Improv Festival (2011), and The Twin Cities Improv Festival (Minneapolis) (2011)

Alie Walsh (Theatre Dance, Tap) is a junior musical theatre major at the University of Oklahoma. She is originally from Shawnee, OK where she danced at the Jim Paul Dance Company for 16 years and assistant taught for 8 years.  Ali  worked with Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma performing Ragtime(Ensemble), Hairspray (Lou Anne), Oliver (Ensemble), High School Musical 2 (Charpette/Martha u.s.), Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Wife).  University Theatre As it is in Heaven(Izzy), Rent (Ensemble), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to theForum (Geminae/ Philia u.s.), The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber(Dancer). She loved getting the opportunity to work for Sooner Theatre this summer with the “Gotta Sing Gotta Dance” camp and can’t wait for the year to start!

Tish Willis (Studio Director, PeeWee Production, Private Voice) has a Bachelor's Degree in Vocal Performance/Pedagogy and Choral Education from Eastern New Mexico University and a Masters degree in Musical Theatre from Oklahoma City University. She is also the Choir Director for Harrah United Methodist Church. Tish taught private voice at Stagestruck Studio in Oklahoma City for thirteen years and is currently a member of the Oklahoma City Philharmonic Pops Chorale. Her latest role is that of wife to husband Greg Willis and mom to Connor and Sutton Willis. She is thrilled to be part of the family of The Sooner Theatre and is excited for a fantastic upcoming year!