Board of Directors
Children’s Theatre of Elgin (CTE) was founded in 1988 by brothers Peter and David Akemann in response to a community need for performing arts opportunities that allowed for casting every child who was willing to work hard. Originally partnering with the City of Elgin Recreation Department, CTE soon became an established Elgin-based Illinois 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization in-residence at the Elgin Community College Arts Center. The company provides young artists and the community dynamic, family-friendly theatrical experiences.
In 1993, Fox Valley Theatre Company (FVTC) was added for young people ages 14-20 years as an affiliate of CTE to continue services to older participants and provide an advanced acting and vocal focus.
The two theatre companies are governed by a single board of directors, comprised of:
Executive Board – This includes the Board President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, and Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.
Producing Board – At-large members responsible for the governance of the organization and producing shows.
Artistic Board – Board volunteers with a background in music and/or theatre, who serve to guide the artistic direction of the organization.
Technical Board – Volunteers with a background in technical theatre who advise the Board on technical needs and lead tech programs.
Auxiliary members – A non-voting Auxiliary Board which handles publicity, set and costume shops, group sales, and equipment management. The Auxiliary Board members do not attend Board meetings.
Managing Director – CTE staff member who handles the day-to-day management of the organization, and serves to execute the decisions of the Board. The Managing Director attends Board meetings but does not vote.
Duties of the Board
Board members serve as producers for CTE/FVTC’s productions. Each individual is required to complete a Producer Class before accepting a Board position. In this way, they become familiar with the organizational structure and the process of bringing a large-scale production to the stage before embarking as full-fledged producers. Board members meet regularly to discuss and vote upon the operations of the organization. The Board is responsible for the financial, artistic, and overall well-being of the organization.
Producer Job Description
The Producer is ultimately responsible for the entire production, including the financial performance. Producer should ensure that the production breaks even or generates a modest gain as dictated by the Board. Each Board member, except the President and Treasurer, are responsible for acting as Producer for one show every two years. The duties of a Producer include creating a show budget, approving all show expenses, hiring independent contractors for the show (such as Show Director, Choreographer, etc), attending production meetings, serving as the final decision-maker when conflicts arise, and working for the overall success of the show. Each Producer has the chance to shadow another Producer before they produce their first show.
Meet our Board
Veronica is a manager and people leader in the digital consulting and transformation practice at a fortune 200 IT services and solutions provider. She has been in the information technology sector since 1999. Previously, Veronica began their career producing radio. Working at a nationally syndicated sports radio network, Veronica studio produced shows for the Super Bowl, Final Four, and the Olympics, while field producing for the Kentucky Derby. Veronica holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Columbia College in Radio. Her entire family has participated in numerous CTE productions dating back to 2014. They joined the CTE board in 2017, and became CTE’s President in 2022. When Veronica is not busy with work or CTE, you’ll likely find her on a roller coaster.
Jess started her theater journey with CTE/FVTC at the age of 15 and now is currently serving her second term as Secretary of the board. Her tenure with CTE eventually led to a career in theater, and she is now the Technical Coordinator at the Elgin Community College Arts Center, overseeing hundreds of theatrical and musical shows on their stages each year. In addition to her job, Jess is also a freelance photographer, focusing on children and families. She resides in Hampshire with her husband and son.
Larissa has been a longstanding member of Children’s Theatre of Elgin and Fox Valley Theatre Company, acting in dozens of shows starting in early elementary school. After graduation from the program, she came back to serve as a Production Coordinator and is thrilled to now be on the Board and producing shows.
Cindy Kline started her involvement with Children’s Theatre of Elgin when her child Kevin joined the company, over twelve years ago. Both of her children have been involved throughout their lives, Kevin as an actor Choreographer, and Rachel as an actor, and later as a Production Coordinator. Cindy owns and operates her own wealth advisor and tax firm in Dundee, and has served as Treasurer since 2019.
Matthew Bishop received his degree in Music Education from the VanderCook College of Music in Chicago, Illinois, where he spent time focusing on instrumental and vocal pedagogy and performance, composition/arranging, and conducting. He currently works at Dundee Middle School in West Dundee, IL, where he teaches choir, band, orchestra, a music class to students with special needs, and serves as music director and choreographer for the spring musical performed at Elgin Community College. His ensembles have received top ratings at regional contests and festivals. In addition to teaching, Matthew has guest conducted for local community ensembles, the Illinois Music Education Association’s Regional Elementary Chorus District VII, and presides as the conductor of the Cambridge Lakes Charter School’s ‘Summer Sing!’ vocal camp. He also serves as music director for Children’s Theater of Elgin/Fox Valley Theater Company’s productions that have included Mary Poppins, Little Shop of Horrors, Rapunzel, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.As an advocate of live music and community service, he calls together colleagues and professional musician friends to form the Bishop Super Band, a rhythm and blues band that plays school and community fundraiser events like Dundee Middle School’s ‘Schoolapalooza’, West Dundee’s ‘Heritage Fest’, and Elgin’s ‘Rib Fest.’
Catie is currently serving as a Board member, having served as Board President, a director, and a stage manager for the company over the past fifteen years. She graduated from Millikin University with a BFA in Theatre after attending Elgin Community College where she received her Associate of Arts. Catie currently serves as Managing Director of Steel Beam Theatre in St Charles. Some of her favorite on-stage roles were with Janus Theatre Company, Wheaton Drama, Independent Players, as well as several new scripted readings with the Page to Stage series. More recently, her favorite role is “playing” mom to her two amazing and energetic self-proclaimed theatre-kids who both attended their first rehearsals before their first birthdays. You might remember seeing Catie as the elf in CTE’s 1989 production of the Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, which cemented her passion for theatre and her lifetime dedication to CTE.
Jennifer Dienelt graduated with a B.S. from Illinois State University in child development. She then received her masters in Early Childhood Education and two endorsements (special education and ELL) from National Louis University. For over 15 years she has been teaching in Early Childhood Education (Special Education or At-Risk), and is a Developmental Therapist for the Early Intervention Program. She is married to her amazing husband and they have one daughter who started their CTE journey when she auditioned for A Ghost Tale for Mr. Dickens Jr. As a family they love to spend time outdoors, taking awesome pictures, listening to music, dancing, being a part of the CTE community, and reading books for their YourTube Channel. Their favorite saying is “knowledge is power”. She is beyond excited to be part of the CTE/FVTC board.
Melissa Downey is excited to share her time and talents with Children’s Theater of Elgin. Previously, she has ran the props table and helped out backstage while cheering on her son Aaron, 12. Melissa brings a love for children and learning with her to this position. As an alumni from Western Illinois University with a degree in elementary education, she continued her educational career at National Louis University receiving a masters degree in Education Leadership. She has taught for 21 years in School District 54. While teaching, she has had the opportunity to lead the production team for her school’s community musicals. Melissa loves to spend time with her husband and two boys as well as watching football and musicals.
Brent is excited to be a part of the CTE board and share his lifelong love of theatre with our young performers. Brent has spent the past 24 years working for United Airlines in a variety of corporate roles in Chicago, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles. Currently, he is the Manager of Harassment and Discrimination Investigations. When not in the theatre, Brent enjoys breathing in the ocean air from onboard a cruise ship or exploring new places with his favorite travel companion, his son Mason.
John Taylor is a new addition to the Children’s Theater of Elgin board. John has worked on 2 shows with CTE in the props department and the paint department. John has had a lot of experience creating detailed award winning homemade costumes for Halloween and personal cosplay. He is very excited to bring his creative flair to CTE. John also has experience on stage with High School Theater, 2nd City in Chicago and Stand-Up comedy. John is the proud father of Noah Taylor who is a CTE member and a devoted husband to his wife Kimberly Taylor. He is the head coach for the Elgin National Little League Padres that play out of the East side of Elgin. John lives in the city of Elgin where he also works as a Water Operator making clean drinking water for the city.
Anna Roberts has been with CTE since 2016 after her oldest daughter decided she wanted to give theater a try. Anna quickly found her niche in cast management and enjoyed working with the various cast members. She has been a valued member of School District U-46 since 2004. She has taught kindergarten, third, and fourth grades. She has also taught college level courses at National -Louis University. She is currently transitioning to the role of Rigor Equity Instruction Coach for the school district. With Anna’s organizational, operational, and growth mindset she is a valued member of our team.
Meredith has a long love of theater going all the way back to her highschool days when she was both on stage and off stage. She then joined Children’s Theater of Elgin when her daughter, Mara, showed an interest in theater. Seeing her daughter thrive and supported by this organization led her to wanting to be more involved in this wonderful organization. Meredith is a nurse that has specialized in oncology, orthopedics, medical surgical and quality. She has contributed a chapter to a patient’s book about their cancer therapy titled ’26 Points of Light.’ She is the proud mother of her daughter Mara and her son Shawn. She is also a native Texan so you may recxognize her by her overuse of the word y’all.
Smooch is a Jeff Award Nominated theatrical designer from the Chicago area. As the Technical Specialist at Hemmens Cultural Center with the City of Elgin, Smooch has led efforts to upgrade the facility’s technical elements, ensuring each production is professionally and artistically executed. He also is heavily involved in Elgin’s special event programs such as iFest, Movies in the Park, and Nightmare on Chicago Street, which has drawn crowds of over 18,000 people. As the Head of Lighting and Projection Design and Technology with Midwest Event Solutions, Smooch has been involved with and produced thousands of shows, from educational theatre and dance recitals, to music festivals and global tours. As a prominent designer in Chicago theatre, he has had the privilege of working with companies such as The Joffrey Ballet, The Irish Theatre Company, Halcyon Theatre, Hinsdale Dance Company, First Folio, Legere, Paramount Theatre, Shattered Globe, Red Clay Dance, Fox Valley Theatre Company, and many more. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of Children’s Theatre of Elgin/Fox Valley Theatre Company. Smooch holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Theatrical Design from Columbia College Chicago, as well as ETCP Certifications in Arena Rigging, Theatrical Rigging, and Entertainment Power Distribution. To see examples of his work, please visit SmoochDesign.com
My name is Allison Cherry and I have been a part of Children’s Theater of Elgin since my very first audition in 2nd grade. I grew up in the organization, graduated into FVTC, then began as an intern before I moved into the role I am today as a director, writer, teacher and board member. I have led or assisted in every aspect of the process from costumes and makeup, to music direction and choreography, but I have landed in my favorite role of directing. When I am not working with CTE, I am a 2nd grade teacher for Prairie View Grade School in Elgin. Here, it’s a whole different type of performance to get my seven year old students excited about math, science, social studies, and language arts. There’s a little bit of theater in every lesson. I also work with NISRA (Northern Illinois Special Recreation Association) where we put on musicals for kids and adults who have special needs. In each facet of my life, I do find theater and music – and above all the connection of a group of kind hearted yet eccentric humans working together to create art. And this is why I love and continue to be a part of Children’s Theater of Elgin for so many years.
From Texas twangs to directing dramas, Stephanie has spun her life around the stage like a seasoned pro. Hailing from the Texas Panhandle, where the hats are big and the hearts even bigger, She discovered her spotlight in 5th-grade theatre. Her first act? Amy in ‘Safety Kids.’ Fast-forward through a BA in theatre at BYU and an MA in Theatre Education at UH—turns out, she wasn’t just raising curtains, she was raising a family too (two little drama kings, to be exact). With 7 years teaching the theatrical ropes from grades 4 to 12, She’s mastered the art of managing both a classroom and chaos (it’s a fine line). Settling in Illinois in 2023 and finding teaching out of her reach, she decided to volunteer with CTE, but instead, she landed a job faster than you can say, ‘break a leg.’ She’s donned every hat backstage: director, producer, communicator, marketer, and accidental knuckle remover (thanks, brother). When she’s not conjuring up plays or wrangling her mini-performers, you’ll find her dreaming of lecturing at a college level someday. Until then, she’s the maestro of all things marketing, fundraising, and communication here at CTE. So, whether she’s corralling kiddos into character or chasing after her own, she’s a theatre enthusiast with a knack for the stage, a passion for teaching, and one less knuckle to count on. Cheers to life, love, and the theatre—a triple-threat performance, if she does say so herself!
KEEP IN TOUCH!
Click here to sign up and stay up to date with events and happenings right in your inbox!