Ellen Kirk is a Kansas City native currently teaching preschool at Clay Platte Montessori. In addition to being fortunate enough to teach for the Coterie she also spent all summer teaching Camp Shakespeare with the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival. Ellen is an actor and improviser around town playing on any stage that will allow her to do so. She graduated from Cornell College with a focus in Theater and Gender Studies in 2008. Once a full time nanny, Ellen found that being a Teaching Artist was the perfect mesh of all the things she loves most.
Whitney Klass graduated from William Jewell College in 2013 with a BA in Speech and Theatre Education and began her career at Cristo Rey Kansas City high school as the Theatre, Speech, and Debate Director. During her three years there, she directed multiple plays and one musical in addition to creating and utilizing lesson plans for the classroom. Subsequently, she went back to school and earned her MA from UMKC in Theatre History and Dramaturgy in 2017.
Chase Gutherie Knueven is a recent graduate of Nebrasksa Wesleyan University, receiving his BFA in Acting. During his time there, Chase has been blessed to be a part of many fine productions, such as: Death of a Salesman, Dancing at Lughnasa, Comedy of Errors, and many more. Chase has taken part in many musicals, including: Into the Woods, 1776, and Chicago. Right now he is overjoyed to be back on the Coterie team, teaching youngsters and having fun! Chase is currently working to save up for the big move to New York City in the spring.
Matthew Koehler is a teaching artist, lifelong thespian, and believer in the value of artistic expression. Forged in the Omaha youth theatre scene, he went on to earn a BFA in Theatre with a concentration in acting from Kansas City's Avila University. Matthew has worked at many theaters around town, both on and off stage. Previous credits include Young Frankenstein at The White Theatre, Band Geeks with Faust Theatre, and the Kansas City Fringe Festival. Growing up in the arts taught Matthew that the lessons of theatre are inherently bound to the skills it takes to cultivate a full and forthright life. He uses this mindset - along with heaping loads of creative energy - to help inspire his students to grow both as actors and as people (and have some fun along the way).
Stephen Kopel is a proud Kansas City native. Stephen’s life long love of the theatre began as a teenager, attending local productions with his family, including many at The Coterie. Stephen currently resides in New York City, where he maintains an active freelance career, while also serving as casting director for Roundabout Theatre Company, the nation’s largest not-for-profit theatre. Broadway credits include: Moulin Rouge! The Musical, Jagged Little Pill, The Lifespan of a Fact, The Play That Goes Wrong, Sunday in the Park with George, Amelie, Holiday Inn, She Loves Me, Noises Off, On the Twentieth Century, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Violet, The Winslow Boy, The Glass Menagerie, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Once, Harvey, Don’t Dress for Dinner, On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, The Road to Mecca, Anything Goes, The People in the Picture, The Scottsboro Boys, Brief Encounter, Sondheim on Sondheim and Hedda Gabler. Select Off-Broadway credits include: 72 Miles to Go…, Toni Stone, The Robber Bridegroom, Merrily We Roll Along, Kingdom Come, Invisible Thread, Indian Ink, The Common Pursuit and The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore. Stephen also served as resident casting director for Encores! Off-Center, an annual musical theatre concert series, from its inception in 2012 until 2017. Encores! credits include: Little Shop of Horrors (with Jake Gyllenhaal & Ellen Greene), A New Brain (with Jonathan Groff & Ana Gasteyer), The Wild Party (with Sutton Foster & Steven Pasquale) and Tick Tick Boom (with Lin-Manuel Miranda & Leslie Odom Jr). In his free time Stephen enjoys working with many of the nation’s top regional theaters. Recent collaborations include work with American Repertory Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Denver Center Theatre Company and Hartford Stage. Stephen is a five-time recipient of the Casting Society of America’s Artios Award, presented annually to recognize excellence in casting. He has served as a Tony Award voter since 2016.
Stephanie Laaker is a teaching artist and actor happily residing in the Kansas City metro. She holds a BFA in Theatre Performance from University of Central Missouri, and is so grateful to be working in her hometown! In addition to The Coterie, some of the orgainziations Stephanie has taught with are Heart of American Shakespeare Festival, Kansas City Young Audiences, and the Barn Players. Stephanie loves teaching Shakespeare and language, and also loves exploring new ways to communiate and create with her students.
Sarah Mae Lamar is a native of Kansas City, with degrees in Vocal performance and Theater Education from Mid America Nazarene University and Kansas State University. She has performed in and produced musical theater all over Kansas City for the past seven years. Some of her local professional credits include shows at Starlight, Musical Theater Heritage, Quality Hill Playhouse, and The New Dinner Theater. Sarah also spent a year singing at a dinner theatre in Aspen, Colorado, and a summer with the Lyceum Theatre in Arrowrock, Missouri. Some of her favorite roles include: The Homeless Lady in A New Brain, Anna Murrant in Street Scene, and the Stepmother in Into the Woods. Sarah Mae has recently started her Master’s degree in Liberal Arts with a Theatre emphasis to pursue teaching at the collegiate level. She is thrilled to start with Donnelly College as an adjunct professor in October.
Todd Lanker is a director, actor, and teacher. He was trained at WORKOUT (the physical theatre ensemble of Wheaton College), the Michael Howard Studio NYC, the Actor’s Gang Theatre LA, and the Master of Fine Arts program at UMKC. Todd has served as the Artistic Director of Shakespeare in the Shed, a theatrical collaboration with Angel City Brewery in Los Angeles and as Associate Artistic Director of METropolitan Ensemble Theatre.
Katie Lee is a proud K.C. native, teaching artist, and director. She always knew she wanted to be a teacher, so she pursued a degree in Speech, Theatre, English education from Northwest Missouri State. After teaching high school for a while, she headed off to the University of Central Missouri where she received her MA in Theatre with an emphasis in history and criticism. Katie has been teaching theatre to Kansas City's youth for over a decade and has directed several children's shows in the area. Katie is the Assistant Head of School at Guidepost Montessori in Leavenworth and also serves on the board of Kansas City Public Theatre. In her free time, Katie can be found gardening or exploring the Kansas City arts and food scenes with her husband and two sons, Caellum and Elwyn.
Michael Lee has been improvising for 11 years and teaching improv for 5 years officially. A member of the KC Improv Company and Co-Founder of Crusty Mustard Improv, Michael has seen much growth in the improv community in Kansas City since returning home in 2016 and he is excited to help share the art form with a younger audience.