Coterie Leadership

Jonathan Thomas

Jonathan Thomas, Managing Director, co-leads The Coterie with the producing artistic director to bring the organization’s innovative performances and programs to the Kansas City region. Jonathan began his path as a professional opera and musical theatre performer out of college, working locally with many area performing arts organizations including the Kansas City Symphony, Kansas City Chorale, Simon Carrington Chamber Singers, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and New Theatre & Restaurant. After seven years building a successful insurance and financial advising agency, he moved to San Francisco to follow his passion in arts administration. Before returning to Kansas City in 2018, he served as the development manager for The Walden School for three years, where he oversaw organizational fundraising strategies and expanded alumni relations. At ArtsKC, he served as Senior Development Manager, which greatly expanded his knowledge of the Kansas City arts sector. Prior to joining The Coterie, Jonathan served as the Senior Manager for Individual Giving and Partnerships at Lyric Opera of Kansas City, combining his love for the performing arts with his passion for leadership and fund development. Jonathan received a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from the University of Kansas. He continues his commitment to educating and advocating for the arts by serving on the Orpheus KC board, the Johnson County Park and Recreation Artist Selection Committee, and by chairing the Theatre in the Park advisory council. He is a frequent guest speaker about the economic impact of the arts in Kansas City, appearing at the NAAAP Leadership Conference, Arts Day for Centurions, and at the Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. Jonathan is married to Gail Nakano and is a father to Sofia, a freshman at Cornell University, Tristan, a freshman in high school, and Cassia, a two-year-old who is undecided about her college plans.

Khalia Davis

Khalia Davis, Producing Artistic Director, co-leads The Coterie with the managing director to bring the organization’s innovative performances and programs to the Kansas City region. Khalia is a multidisciplinary artist and arts leader who most recently served as the Assistant Director for the Broadway-bound world premiere, The Hippest Trip: The Soul Train Musical. As the former Artistic Director of Bay Area Children’s Theatre (BACT), she led the world premieres of a kids play about Racism, which brought together over 40 theater producing partners, including The Coterie, and was viewed on Broadway on Demand nearly 80,000 times during its limited run then became a free resource for educators and their students; and The Imaginaries: An Immersive Musical, an original new work that transformed their theater into an accessible playground created by the newly-formed BACT Writer’s Room, which was created as a direct response to the lack of opportunities for BIPOC playwrights and composers specializing in TYA projects. During the COVID pandemic when theaters were closed in the Bay Area, Khalia worked in partnership with former Executive Director of BACT, Nina Meehan, to conceive and produce various forms of theatrical digital and audio content for young audiences that activated their creativity and imaginative play, showcasing the potential for future digital and theatrical collaborations in TYA programming. Khalia directed and devised other new works like the award-nominated world premiere, She Persisted, The Musical, based on the popular children’s book by Chelsea Clinton; the off-Broadway world premiere of an original adaptation of Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings with New York City Children’s Theater; and the world premiere Arthur and Friends Make a Musical! based on “Arthur,” the longest-running animated series on PBS with First Stage. Other prominent theaters include: A.C.T., Atlantic Theater Company’s Atlantic for Kids, New York City Children’s Theater, Disney Theatrical Group, Spellbound Theatre and more. As a producer, Khalia has helped organizations reach hundreds of thousands of young people through interactive “edu-tainment” with the nationally known Story Pirates, generated new digital pre-school content with Spellbound at Home, and produced children’s media with her personal company, Kids at Heart Productions. Before assuming her role as Artistic Director of Bay Area Children’s Theater in 2020, Khalia served as the Director of Inclusion and Education with Brooklyn Children’s Theatre restructuring their children’s musical theater programming through an anti-racism lens. Khalia is a proud board member for TYA/USA, Spellbound Theater, and The Story Pirates. Awards include: 2019 Emerging Leader Fellowship-TYA/USA, 2019 NYCCT Leader Fellowship, and 2021 Corey Medallion Award-Children’s Theatre Foundation of America. Khalia has a BA in Theater Arts from the University of Southern California. To find out more, visit

Jason Coats

Jason Coats, Box Office Manager, was a career educator and artist prior to joining The Coterie team. He was born and raised in the Kansas City area and has performed in and directed for theaters all over the metro area, including The Coterie’s joint performance of the regional premiere of Newsies with the White Theatre. He had the honor of serving as Education Director for The Barn Players Theatre for 12 years, developing and overseeing all their youth programming. With an MA in education from University Missouri-Kansas City, Jason has taught theatre and other content areas for the last 20 years in the Kansas City, KS, and Shawnee Mission school districts, with experience in grades K-12. He has also performed with the Heartland Men’s Chorus, Kansas City’s gay men’s chorus, for 14 years. Jason is also one of the directors for Project Pride with The Coterie.

David Golston

David Golston began working as Director of Marketing & Public Relations for The Coterie in January 2013. Prior to The Coterie, he worked as Director of Marketing and Public Relations at InterAct Theatre Company in Philadelphia, PA, for seven years, as Director of Marketing for Unicorn Theatre in Kansas City, MO for six years, and from 2003-2008, he served as General Manager for National New Play Network, an organization of theatres nationwide focused on the development and continued life of new plays. He has also worked as a freelance graphic designer and marketing consultant for several up-and-coming arts organizations in the Kansas City area. With over twenty years of experience promoting hundreds of productions, including dozens of world premieres, David is proud to have dedicated his career to organizations with missions to create and develop groundbreaking new works of theatre and introduce new audiences to the inspiring power of the performing arts. David is a graduate of the University of Missouri – Kansas City, where he completed a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

Carol Kobza

Carol Kobza, Development Manager, was a Theatre major before she switched to something more practical, like a dual major in Art and Psychology… but she always kept her passion for theatre. As a fundraiser, her goal is to make people want to get up off the couch, give, and become part of something they love yet couldn’t create on their own. At nonprofits such as the Bemis Center and Bone Creek Art Museum, Carol led volunteer teams, boards of directors, and supported executive directors. Through her independent strategic consulting business, Carol has put development best practices to work to grow small nonprofit organizations with a wide range of missions from urban farming to therapeutic horseback riding. She felt a bit like a rock star when she worked with Enrique Chi of Making Movies and founder of Art as Mentorship in its earliest stages of articulating its vision and purpose. During her career at Hallmark Cards, Inc. Carol served as an art director planning every type of product Hallmark had on its shelves, as a designer of workshops on creativity and innovation, and was promoted to innovation team leader developing a new sub-brand called Keepsake Kids that generated $10M in incremental revenue. Carol completed the professional fundraising certification program at the Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership at UMKC. She holds a BA from the St. Catherine University in Art and Psychology as well as Graphic Design training at Kansas City Art Institute. The best management training she received came from watching the entire Ted Lasso series three times. Last spring Carol successfully drew a bluebird couple to her yard where they nested, getting them through the hot summer with ice packs on the roof of their house, removing a marauding snake from their house, and eventually watching three baby bluebirds fledge.

Stephanie Laaker

Stephanie Laaker, Booking Coordinator & Box Office Associate, works with teachers to bring Coterie artists to their classroom. She has worked as a teaching artist and theatre practitioner in Kansas City since graduating with a BFA in Theatre Performance from University of Central Missouri.  She is grateful to work as an administrator and educator with an organization that shares her passion for theatre as a tool for communication and growth.

Tressa Lee

Tressa Lee, Box Office Assistant & Marketing Specialist, joined The Coterie in July 2022 working part-time in the box office. She put her 5+ years of marketing and content creation experience to use by assuming responsibility for The Coterie’s social media accounts in February 2023 when she was promoted to full-time. She is passionate about creating a stellar experience for every patron that attends a Coterie show and promoting the amazing work done by The Coterie on and off the stage. In her free time, she enjoys traveling to new places, singing in shows and at jam sessions, and reading a good mystery or sci-fi novel.

Allison Nissley

Allison Nissley, Theatre School Director, has worked in theatre as a teaching artist, performer, director, and stage carpenter. She got her start working as a teaching artist at The Coterie as an education intern and as a freelance teaching artist. A Kansas City native, she earned her undergraduate degree in theatre from Northwest Missouri State, then began working in Kansas City, as a theatre artist. She has worked professionally in theatre for young audiences, touring and performing educational theatre with the National Theatre for Children, based in Minneapolis, before settling back in Kansas City.

Derek Trautwein

Derek Trautwein, Technical Director, is a Kansas City theatre artist with a wide berth of professional and educational experience. After graduating from Northwest Missouri State University in 2009 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Theatre Performance, Derek received his Master of Arts Degree in Theatre History in 2012 from the University of Central Missouri (UCM). During his time at UCM, Derek began his journey as a carpenter and Technical Director to accompany his endeavors in acting, directing, and playwriting. From 2013 to 2023, Derek served as faculty amongst the Department of Theatre and Dance at Benedictine College in Atchison, KS. Initially hired as the Technical Director as he oversaw all sound, light, and scenic elements, Derek was promoted to Assistant Professor and Department Chair in 2021. Derek’s final directing spotlight at Benedictine, The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie, received a Meritorious Achievement Award for Play Direction from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in 2023.  Around Kansas City, Derek has worked with the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Kansas City Public Theatre, KC Melting Pot Theatre, Relevance Productions, Card Table Theatre, and Stuffed Buffalo Productions. Since 2012, Derek has been an active participant in the Kansas City Fringe Festival, producing over a dozen pieces of original works written by other artists as well as his own, including Deceit, which earned Derek the inaugural Mark Edelman Best New Play Award in 2019. Derek’s original plays have also been featured multiple times each for Kansas City Public Theatre, Olathe Civic Theatre, and the Kansas City Horror Play Festival. Lately, Derek has been bouncing around multiple spaces in the Kansas City theatre community including performing on stage in This Random World: The Myth of Serendipity at the Just Off Broadway Theatre and Elf the Musical with Padgett Productions as well as serving as technical director of Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 at The Black Box, The Shooter produced by Trish Mitchell at the Just Off Broadway Theatre, and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer: The Musical at The Coterie. Moving forward, Derek seeks to create on his own terms while aiding artists of all kind find their voices and venues.