Z Puppets Company Bios

creative directors

Shari Aronson

Chris Griffith

booking manager

Erica West

administrative MANAGER

Rachel Wandrei

Kid City Outreach Coordinator

Gaosong Vang Heu*

teaching & performing artists

Derek Phillips*

Gustavo Boada*

Julie Boada*

Gaosong Vang Heu*

Jessica Huang*

Ifrah Mansour*

Ricardo Vazquez*

Laurie Witzkowski

* Denotes Kid City Artist Team

Shari Aronson

creative director

Z Puppets co-Creative Director and Founder Shari Aronson earned an M.A. in Drama Education from the University of Arizona, studied physical comedy with Sigfrido Aguilar in Mexico, Theatre of the Oppressed with founder Agusto Boal and puppetry with Sandglass Institute and OBIE award-winner Paul Zaloom. Shari has written plays for family audiences through commissions from the Minnesota History Center, Science Museum of MN, Mill City Museum and Minnesota Cancer Coalition. Along with collaborator Chris Griffith, she has received multiple awards for their work in puppetry from the Minnesota State Arts Board, Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, Jim Henson Foundation,  Puppeteers of America, Jerome and McKnight Foundations. Shari has also developed interactive environments for the MN Children's Museum and Science Museum of MN.

Email shari@zpuppets.org

Chris Griffith

creative director

Before Chris Griffith was co-Creative Director and Founder of Z Puppets, he was co-founder and artistic director for 13 years of Galumph Interactive Theater, nationally recognized pioneers in participatory theater. Additionally, Chris served as editor of The Puppetry Cookbook and Education Coordinator for In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater. As a clown/juggler, he has performed for The Minnesota Children’s Museum, the Minnesota Fringe Festival and the Edmonton International Street Performer’s Festival. In addition to their accomplishments in performance, for over ten years, both Chris and Shari have served as arts education consultants for the national Educational Theater Association, Minnesota’s Perpich Center and taught residencies for students of all levels. His work has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Minnesota State Arts Board, Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, Jim Henson Foundation, Puppeteers of America, Jerome Foundation. In 2009, Chris received an Ivey award for his puppet design.

Email chris@zpuppets.org

Erica West

BOOKING MANAGER

Erica's professional experience encompasses 15 years of booking and talent management, performance as both a professional vocalist and a dancer, and a decade as the Administrative Director at the Twin Cities-based college, IPR College of Creative Arts. You can catch her around town with her performing with her R&B, Jazz band or collaborating with other local musicians, including her husband.

Email erica@zpuppets.org

Gustavo Boada

KID CITY ARTIST TEAM

Gustavo Boada, (Perú-1954) is a theater-based multidisciplinary artist with more then 25 years working in professional Theater in Peru, Chile, Puerto Rico and New York, Vermont and Philadelphia. USA.

Since he moved to Minneapolis in 2007, he had been working as Mayday Parade staff and roster artist with Heart of the Beast Mask and Puppet Theater. He also works teaching artistic residencies about puppetry, mask-making, and stilting, and receives commissions to build big puppets and pageants, and tour his children’s puppet shows for diverse community organizations and school districts of Minnesota.

Julie Boada

TEACHING ARTIST/KID CITY ARTIST TEAM

Julie Boada is an Anishinabe artist, storyteller, puppeteer and arts educator. She has worked regionally and nationally for the past 23 years, both with In the Heart of the Beast Mask and Puppet Theatre and independently. She has worked with many arts organizations including the L.A. Music Center, The Minnesota History Center, and The Fergus Falls Center for the Arts. Recent original work includes Beauty All Around, Between the Worlds, Shota and the Star Quilt, Coyote Stories, and Retelling the World where Julie has served many roles- as designer, performer and director. She has over a decade of experience working on the annual Mayday Parade with Heart of the Beast. Julie has received grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board and the Jerome Foundation and is a 2014 Ivey Award recipient. Julie has a B.A. in Studio Arts and American Indian Studies from the University of Minnesota. She is passionate about work that inspires, builds community and fosters cultural pride.

Gaosong Vang Heu

teaching artist/kid city artist team

Gaosong V. Heu is a St. Paul- based actor, vocalist, musician, playwright and teaching artist. She is currently a teaching artist for the Children’s Theater Companies Neighborhood Bridges Program, as well as a Class Notes Artist with Classical Minnesota Public Radio for the 2015-2016 school year.

Gaosong is also a talented administrator and is serving as Outreach Coordinator and Project Manager for KID CITY, Z Puppets' collaboration with Maplewood Parks and Recreation.

 

Jessica Huang

GranT Writer/kid city artist team

Jessica is a multiracial, Minneapolis-based professional playwright, recipient of a 2014 Metropolitan Regional Arts’ Council’s Next Step Grant and a 2012 Many Voices Fellowship at the Playwrights’ Center. Her plays, which live at the intersections of race, gender, and community, have been developed and/or produced in the Twin Cities at Mu Performing Arts, the Minnesota Museum of American Art, the Minnesota Fringe Festival, Redeye Theater, The Playwrights’ Center, Pangea World Theater and Pillsbury House Theatre, and nationally at 2nd Generation, the University of Missouri-Columbia, the Consortium of Asian American Theaters and Artists (CAATA), the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts and the Source Festival.  For the past six years she co-founded and co-led the Unit Collective, which has brought 200+ playwrights, actors and directors from underrepresented communities together through a monthly production of short new plays. In 2014, her play Purple Cloud was nominated as one of the best plays written by female playwrights in the past year by LA-based group The Kilroys. The play premiered at Mixed Blood Theatre in 2015. Jessica also works as a freelance grant proposal writer and fundraising consultant specializing in the arts. 

Ifrah Mansour

kid city artist team

Ifrah Mansour is a multi-disciplinary artist who blends poetry, photography, movement and installations made from recycled materials. Off-stage she enjoys teaching elderly East African students, leads craft circle programs and Healspace gatherings, tends community gardens and is in training to be a bike mechanic. In 2015, Mansour became the first Somali artist to perform a show at the Minnesota State Fair.

Ricardo Vazquez

kid city artist team

Ricardo Vazquez is a Puerto Rican actor/writer who has performed with Mixed Blood Theatre (Next to Normal, Crashing the Party, House of the Spirits), Park Square Theatre (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Of Mice and Men), Ten Thousand Things (The Seven, The Music Man), History Theatre (Working Boys Band), Pangea World Theater and Teatro del Pueblo (Oedipus El Rey, Lorca in a Green Dress). He was awarded the 2012-2013 Jerome Many Voices Fellowship and received the 2013 Emerging Artist Ivey Award.


Rachel Wandrei

Administrative Manager

Rachel Wandrei is a freelance performer and arts administrator in the twin cities metro area. A classically trained opera singer, she also has a background in restaurant management. Rachel works regularly with Forecast Public Art on their “Making it Public” artist workshop series and was formerly the company manager for Mixed Precipitation's Picnic Operetta. In 2013, she helped open City Food Studio, a culinary incubator in South Minneapolis, and is Food Vendor Coordinator for the 2016 May Day Festival. Rachel is completing a Masters Degree in Arts and Cultural Management at St Mary's University with an emphasis on performance in public art.

Email rachel@zpuppets.org

Derek Phillips*

Teaching artist/KID CITY ARTIST TEAM

Derek Phillips is a native of Kansas City, Missouri and a 1977 graduate of Carleton College. He began his dance career with the Nancy Hauser Dance Company and later toured nationally with the Children’s Theatre Company. Derek has been a roster artist for the Minnesota State Arts Board’s Artists-in-Education Program and conducted annual residencies for the Montevideo, Minnesota public schools for over twenty years. He has taught as part of the Dance/Math program at Whittier Community School for the Arts in Minneapolis and instructed and performed for the City Children’s Nutcracker Project. He has also served as Development Assistant for Intermedia Arts’ capital campaign and Adjunct Dance Education Coordinator for the Perpich Center for Arts Education. Currently, Derek is a teaching artist for both the Children’s Theatre Company and the Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts. He tours internationally with Katha Dance Theatre, performs English country dances with Minnesota Traditional Morris, and is a 2016 Minnesota SAGE Awards Nominee.


Derek Phillips is a native of Kansas City, Missouri and a 1977 graduate of Carleton College. He began his dance career with the Nancy Hauser Dance Company and later toured nationally with the Children’s Theatre Company. Derek has been a roster artist for the Minnesota State Arts Board’s Artists-in-Education Program and conducted annual residencies for the Montevideo, Minnesota public schools for over twenty years. He has taught as part of the Dance/Math program at Whittier Community School for the Arts in Minneapolis and instructed and performed for the City Children’s Nutcracker Project. He has also served as Development Assistant for Intermedia Arts’ capital campaign and Adjunct Dance Education Coordinator for the Perpich Center for Arts Education. Currently, Derek is a teaching artist for both the Children’s Theatre Company and the Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts. He tours internationally with Katha Dance Theatre, performs English country dances with Minnesota Traditional Morris, and is a 2016 Minnesota SAGE Awards Nominee.