Coterie Leadership


The Coterie Board of Directors of The Coterie Theatre is pleased to announce the appointments of Jonathan Thomas as the theatre for young audiences’ managing director and Heidi Van as interim producing artistic director.

Thomas, who joined The Coterie in April 2022 as director of development, has served as interim managing director since November 2022, following the passing of longtime Coterie executive director Joette Pelster. Van joined The Coterie in February following the resignation of artistic director Jeff Church in December 2022 and will remain an interim leader at The Coterie until the Board completes its search process.

“Jonathan has proven to be the right leader at a critical time for The Coterie Theatre,” said Theresa Stoker, President of The Coterie’s Board of Directors. “He has demonstrated empathy and compassion for our grieving Coterie community while thoughtfully guiding our organization through a significant time of transition. He has earned the trust and respect of our Board, staff and broader arts community and we are enthusiastic about his plans to further enhance our culture at The Coterie.”

Thomas, a native Kansas Citian, has spent the majority of his career in the arts community. A graduate of the University of Kansas, he started out as a professional singer, having performed with the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Kansas City Chorale and Kansas City Symphony, among others. His career transitioned into arts administration and Thomas went on to lead development efforts for The Walden School in San Francisco, ArtsKC, the Lyric Opera and The Coterie Theatre.

“Fully committing to our mission of opening the lines of communication between races, genders and generations by redefining theatre for young people to include families and diverse audiences means fully committing to a more transparent and collegial internal environment,” said Thomas. “I am honored by the trust the Board has placed in me and am committed to working toward enhancing the culture of the organization so that each individual feels that their voice is heard.”

Heidi Van is a longtime Kansas City actor, creator and producer of live theater. She has long held a soft spot for The Coterie, as it launched her career 20 years ago.

“I believe The Coterie should be the number one theatre for young audiences in the nation,” said Van. “The actors, designers and production staff who literally embody the work and mission of The Coterie are important stakeholders in the organization and I am committed to demonstrating a mutual respect and understanding for all who come through our doors. I pledge to lead in alignment with The Coterie’s values: using our voices, leading with love, and confronting injustice through storytelling and imagination.”

Added Thomas, “We have the opportunity to demonstrate positive change in our industry by lifting up every person at The Coterie at every level of our organization. We look forward to working toward that goal.”

Jonathan Thomas (Managing Director) stepped into his role managing operations at The Coterie in November after the tragic loss of Executive Director Joette Pelster. He co-leads the organization with the interim producing artistic director, working to bring The Coterie’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.

Heidi Van (Interim Producing Artistic Director) is a creator, director, and producer of contemporary experimental live theatre. ”A stalwart of the alternative theatre scene” (The Pitch), Heidi challenges the way theatre meets its audience; installing performances anywhere but expected. She launched her career 20 years ago at The Coterie and has worked as an actor, educator, and director for the company. She is the founder and Artistic Director of Fishtank Theatre, a generator of new theatrical work, activism, and entrepreneurship. She is also the founder of The Black Box, an ever-evolving stage that acts as a spotlight in the world of theatre, shining a light on bold and provocative performances. Directing credits include Mr. Popper’s Penguins, The Cat in the Hat, Pete The Cat at The Coterie; Dance Nation, The Wolves and Project Dawn at Unicorn Theatre; Shows For Days, Belfast Girls, Dry Land, Death By Shakespeare, Motherfreakinghood! The Musical! at Fishtank Theatre; and My Fair Lady at Musical Theater Heritage. Heidi is a graduate of Dell ‘Arte International School of Physical Theatre in Blue Lake, CA. She is the recipient of the Charlotte Street Generative Performing Artist Fellowship, The Pitch Mastermind Award, and a proud recipient of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation SEED Grant. She is a graduate of Artist, Inc. and the Escholars program from The Bloch School of Entrepreneruship and Innovation.