JUNIOR ADVISORY BOARD (JAB)
JAB consists of 13 of Central Alabama's brightest and most talented young people. They were selected through an application process to shadow our theater professionals and receive a FREE, hands-on education through on-the-job training in the theater...an opportunity you'll only find at CAT!
Interested in Joining the JAB? Click to apply!
Melanie Hollenstein (Chair)
Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, Melanie grew up with a passion for performing and anything theatre. She studied Musical Theatre at Birmingham-Southern College and graduated Cum Laude in 2016. Since graduating, Melanie has worked consistently as an actor around the country, appearing in shows such as THE GREAT AMERICAN TRAILER PARK MUSICAL, THE ANDREWS BROTHERS, NUNSENSE, and THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES. From September of 2017 to May of 2018, Melanie was a Resident Artist at the Birmingham Children's Theatre, where she performed in several musicals and touring shows, reaching children as far as Louisiana. In 2018, she served as an Original Cast Member in WINTERFEST at King's Dominion in Virginia. Over the course of 2019, Melanie worked as a Resident Actor at Mountain Rep Theatre in Colorado where she received a HENRY AWARD nomination for Best Supporting Actress. She closed out their season in their Christmas Olio, where she had the opportunity to originate several roles and tackle original material. Most recently, Melanie signed on to be a performer at Gaylord Rockies Resort for the 2020 Holiday season . Melanie serves on the Board of Central Alabama Theater (CAT), and also works there as the Office Manager, on top of being on the CAT stage from time to time.
Tiara Pennington is a student at the University of Alabama, and is the first ever MISS ALABAMA to reign for 2 years (2019,2020)! She was MISS ALABAMA'S OUTSTANDING TEEN 2016 and a Top 8 Finalist, Top 5 Community Service Finalist, and Top 5 Interviewer at MISS AMERICA'S OUTSTANDING TEEN 2017. She has also held the MISS TENNESSEE VALLEY title. She has completed close to 700 hours of community service. Her platform is the National Psoriasis Foundation and Psoriasis Take Action Alabama. Pennington has received a Proclamation from former Governor Robert Bentley for Psoriasis Take Action Alabama. She spoke with the Food and Drug Administration to provide safer drugs for people suffering with psoriasis. As a performer, she has won numerous vocal competitions at the local, state, and regional level. She was the National Fine Arts Award Winner in 2015 from the United States of America Achievement Academy. Tiara has also been an extra in the movie WOODLAWN, judged the Alabama Vocal Competition, been in several local commercials, and recently modeled for Alabama Wedding Magazine 2017.
Benjamin Kitchens is a Birmingham native and a recent graduate of Vanderbilt University, where he studied Theatre with minors in Math and Spanish. At school, he was a proud member of Harmonic Notion a cappella group, The Original Cast musical revue troupe, and VUTheatre. He received the Vanderbilt Performing Arts Community's Impact Award for his work. Favorite recent acting credits include "Marcellus Washburn" in THE MUSIC MAN, "Roderigo" in OTHELLO, "Steve" in SHE KILLS MONSTERS (Theatre Downtown Hobo Award Winner), and Norton Dill's A BLUEGRASS CHRISTMAS CAROL. When he's not in rehearsal, Benjamin enjoys teaching ACT/SAT-prep classes, guessing people's Myers-Briggs personality types, and consuming a delicious frozen dairy treat (FDT).
Alex Freeman is a senior at The University of Alabama majoring in Musical Theatre. He grew up in Tuscaloosa, getting involved in community theatre starting in middle school. Past credits include “Drew” in ROCK OF AGES, “Chad” in DISASTER! THE MUSICAL, “Fender” in HAIRSPRAY, and “Russian Soloist/Ensemble” in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF (with Birmingham-Southern College). He has choreographed and directed children’s theatre camp productions including MULAN JR. and ARISTOCATS KIDS. In high school, he was National Beta Club president, TCHS Choral Department president and TCHS outstanding senior. He has also went on to choreograph numbers with the TCHS showchoir. He is thrilled to get started as a member of the JAB at CAT!
Luke is a 2019 graduate of Birmingham-Southern College, receiving a BA in Musical Theatre. Originally from Bremen, Georgia, he has appeared in several high school, community, and college productions including "Pippin" in PIPPIN, "Jeff" in TITLE OF SHOW, "Motel" in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, "Seymour" in LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, and "Erik" in AND A CHILD SHALL LEAD. He was valedictorian of his class at Bremen High School, and he received the GHSA Best Actor award in 2015 and 2016.
Darby Burgess is a native of Florence, AL, and graduated Cum Laude from Birmingham-Southern College with a BA in Theatre Arts and a minor in History. She has been a part of numerous community, college, and professional productions with some of her favorite credits including "Catherine" in PROOF, "Brooke Ashton" in NOISES OFF, "Chava" in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, and "Evelyn Nesbit" in RAGTIME. Darby has also had experience in directing and choreography at both collegiate and professional levels. Aside from CAT Junior Advisory Board, Darby has been involved with different organizations around the Birmingham area such as The Dance Foundation, Birmingham Children's Theatre, Virginia-Samford Theatre, and Terrific New Theatre. Most recently, she has moved to Villa Rica, Georgia, to teach dance and choreograph.
Matthew Torbett is a 2019 college graduate, receiving a degree in Musical Theatre from Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, AL. He has also been a student of Ryan Scott Oliver and Tony Award-winner Lindsay Mendez’s Actor Therapy program, having completed two intensives in NYC. Aside from being onstage, he likes to choreograph and design/sew costumes. His passions include youth leadership education, arts advocacy, and audition technique/coaching. Recent productions at Birmingham-Southern include "Michael" in TICK, TICK... BOOM!, "Ensemble" in PIPPIN, "Poseidon" in THE TROJAN WOMEN, and "Avram" in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF.
Meryem is a Birmingham-Southern College graduate with a degree in Theatre Educational Psychology. She has directed and stage managed all over the community, including at CAT. Her directorial debut was at BSC for EMOTIONAL CREATURE:THE SECRET LIFE OF GIRLS AROUND THE WORLD. Other credits include "Shaindel" in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, "Kate" in PROBABLY, and "Geronte" in THE LIAR at BSC. She has assistant directed, taught and stage managed at The Dance Foundation in Homewood. She has also taught with the South City Theatre summer camp. Today, she works at the Birmingham Education Foundation.
Born and raised in Birmingham, Virginia Barr graduated in 2016 with a degree in Music from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. She has also recently obtained her Masters in Music Education from Samford University. Virginia has taught children’s music classes at South Highland Presbyterian Church, the South Highland Child Development Center, and at Trinity United Methodist Church. In Birmingham, her most recent stage roles include "Babe" in CRIMES OF THE HEART at the Birmingham Festival Theatre, "Tessy" in THE MISS FIRECRACKER CONTEST at Theatre Downtown, and performing in the ensembles of SPAMALOT and A CHRISTMAS STORY, THE MUSICAL at the Virginia Samford Theatre. During the summer of 2016, she performed the role of "Catherine" in POMME D’API with the Franco-American Vocal Academy opera program in France. At Bowdoin, she performed in various stage productions, including being a principal soloist in SONDHEIM ON SONDHEIM and "Rosaline" in SHAKESPEARE'S LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST. During the summers of 2014 and 2015, she performed as a mezzo-soprano in the Vocal Company of the College Light Opera Company in Cape Cod, where she was cast in a total of eighteen musicals and operettas. Her favorite roles there included "Gertie Cummings" in OKLAHOMA! and "Velma" in WEST SIDE STORY. She recently worked as the assistant stage manager for THE BIKINIS, and she is looking forward to working in future CAT shows!
Rachel Lockhart is a recent graduate of the Alabama School of Fine Arts with a focus in dance. Currently, she is a sophomore dance major at The Julliard School! She began training at the age of 2 at the J. Lockhart Performing Arts Institute. Since that time she has received formal training in ballet, jazz, modern, tap, contemporary, pointe, African, Hip Hop, and theatre. Rachel is no stranger to the stage. She has performed throughout Birmingham and Atlanta. Her list of credits include performing the role of "Marie" in the Alabama Ballet NUTCRACKER(2010 & 2011) and "Young Nettie" in the Red Mountain Theatre's 2012 production of THE COLOR PURPLE. She has received numerous summer scholarships in dance at prestigious institutions. In 2014, she received a scholarship to study at the International Ballet Intensive with Danita Emma, Momchil Mladenov, Darina Bedeva, Stevan Novakovich, John Gardner, Amanda McKerrow, Lisa Lock and Julie Long. In 2015 she received a summer scholarship with the Atlanta Dance Connection. In 2016, she received scholarships from Joffrey Ballet and Dance Theatre of Harlem. Summer of 2018, Rachel attended Juilliard’s summer dance intensive in New York. Rachel has performed in numerous dance concerts and countless community-service events which include, but are not limited to, the Sixth Avenue Baptist Annual Black History Musical Dance Dramas, Councilor Lashunda Scales Annual Christmas Celebration, Butterfly Confessions starring Roz Ryan and Anna Maria Horsford , and The Next Big Thing sponsored by the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham. Continuing to build upon her dance experience, Rachel has studied with Jenna McKerrow Wilson, David Keener, Martha Faesi, Terri Weksler, Germaul Barnes, Lorraine Graves, and Wes Chapman. She has work with several companies in Atlanta including Kiki Ely and Sakinah LeStage with ATLA and Allyne Gartrell, Artistic Director of the Atlanta Dance Connection (formerly the Founder and Executive Artistic Director of Dallas Black Dance Company II) and LeVon Campbell, ADC Company Manager. Rachel has also studied with a host of nationally recognized choreographers such as Christopher Robbins, Carlos Garland, Brian Friedman, Gil Duldulao, Chris Judd, Ian Eastwood, Dave Scott, and Tessandra Chavez. Rachel enjoys singing, modeling, choreographing and shopping. Although she keeps a busy schedule, she maintains an A average. In 2010, she won the Birmingham City District Math Derby over first place candidates from 33 schools and maintains a GPA of 3.6 today.
Jackson Massey is a graduate of Birmingham-Southern College, receiving a BA in Theatre Arts. He grew up in Montgomery, AL, but has grown to call Birmingham his home since beginning college. Jackson's credits include "Will" in AMERICAN IDIOT, "Mordcha" in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, "Selsdon Mowbray" in NOISES OFF, and "Jon" in TICK TICK BOOM. In addition to acting roles at BSC, he has also had the opportunity to serve as stage manager for both THE TROJAN WOMEN and THE TEMPEST. When not immersed in the theatre world, Jackson writes original music. He was recently the opener for the band Coin in August 2017. Jackson's 2016 album, Bruises & Scars, can be found on all digital music retailers. He is excited to work with the Junior Advisory Board!
Ryan Key is a graduate of Birmingham-Southern College, receiving a degree in Theater Arts. Ryan is from Atlanta, GA by way of Sandy Springs. His past credits include "Alonso" in THE TEMPEST, "Fredrick Fellowes" in NOISES OFF, and the "Representative of Jingletown" in AMERICAN IDIOT. In addition to acting, Ryan has extensive experience in lighting, often running lights for theatres in the community such as Virginia Samford Theatre and CAT. In his free time Ryan loves to read. He is so excited to be working with Central Alabama Theater!