Teaching Artists

Meet Our Teaching Artists!

SteppingStone partners with a number of incredibly talented and highly qualified Performance Artists from around the Twin Cities. Our Teaching Artists have extensive experience working with youth, are annually background-checked, and are held to a high standard of Best Practices in the classroom. Collectively, these Artists and Educators provide your students with a high-quality, engaging, and age-appropriate theatre learning experience.



Ansa Akyea
Specialty: Acting
Ansa is a Swiss born Ghanaian-American actor and proud graduate of the University of Iowa's distinguished Masters of Fine Arts Acting program. Ansa has worked as an actor and director at some of the best local and regional theaters throughout the Twin Cities, such as the Guthrie Theater, Mixed Blood, and Ten Thousand Things. He can also be seen and heard on film, radio, and television. Ansa is the recipient of the 2011 Minnesota Playwright Center's McKnight Award for Acting, Citypages Best Actor Award 2007, and the 2013 Minnesota Playwright Center's Many Voices Fellowship, and an Ivey Award for the Guthrie Theater's production of Clybourne Park.
Ashawnti Sakina Ford
Specialty: Improv
Ashawnti Sakina Ford is an actress, teaching artist and international improviser whose work is centered on arts accessibility and social change. She performs once a month with her improv troop BLACKOUT IMPROV tackling hard topics and the funny. She has taught social justice theatre internationally in Monrovia Liberia and London England. She is also the co-founder and co-artistic director of the Black Ensemble Players; a theatre company designed to give black performers and technicians opportunities to work together and grow in their careers.
Atim Opoka
Specialty: Music
A Vocalist, Actress, and Teaching Artist in the twin cities, Atim is a bold, charismatic, and versatile performer who studied Vocal Performance at McNally Smith College of Music. As an actress & improvisor, Atim has worked with metro companies Smartmouth Collective, Chameleon Theatre Circle, and Lyric Arts. As a Musician, Atim writes and performs original material and regularly performs as a backup vocalist for local bands. Her music is a fusion of County, Blues, Folk, and Pop. Atim teaches Music, Acting, and Comedy with Children's Theatre Company, Stages, Lyric Arts, Climb Theatre, and Ashland Productions.
Devyn McQueen
Specialty: Acting
Originally from Texas, Devyn McQueen relocated to the Twin Cities three years ago. Since then, she has taken her BFA in Theatre Design & Technology and applied it towards working with youth. Her experience in the Cities includes two years as Child Supervisor for the Guthrie’s A Christmas Carol, one year as a Teaching Artist with SteppingStone, two years as a Classroom Assistant with SteppingStone and one year as an instructor with Bricks 4 Kidz. Devyn is a charismatic and outgoing theatre professional who enjoys helping young artists grow and learn.
Emily Villano
Specialty: Music
A charismatic and versatile vocalist with a passion for music, Emily brings a captivating voice, persona, and a funky style to everything she does. Along with her career as a singer, Emily has a passion for arts education and teaches with a number of organizations including Youth Performance Company, Nova Classical Academy, Lakeshore Players, and Ashland Productions. As a freelance educator, Emily is a vocal coach, music director, and stage director in addition to maintaining her private vocal studio. Emily graduated with a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from McNally Smith.
Gretchen Grunzke
Specialty: Improv
Gretchen earned her BFA in Acting from Marymount Manhattan College and has extensive experience as an actor, comedian, and teaching artist in NYC and the Twin Cities. She studied Improv and Sketch Comedy at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater - the only accredited improv and sketch comedy school in the U.S. - and now she's hilarious. Gretchen currently performs with Stevie Ray's Comedy Cabaret and Huge Theater and teaches at the Brave New Workshop, BCT Artistry, and her private studio. She just returned from teaching drama at the International School of Como in Italy.
Jack Bonko
Specialty: Acting
Jack is a recent graduate from Minnesota State University Moorhead where he double majored in Acting and Integrated Advertising and Public Relations. He is a local actor and teaching artist that has worked with Ashland Productions in addition to SteppingStone. He has also worked with the Guthrie Theatre as their Child Supervisor during productions.
Jane Froiland
Specialty: Acting
A St. Paul-based actor, director, and teaching artist, Jane has taught with Lakeshore Players, Youth Performance Company, Stages Theatre, Yellow Tree Theatre, and many more. Onstage, she has appeared with Children’s Theatre Company, Park Square Theatre, Mixed Blood, Jungle Theatre, Frank Theatre, Ten Thousand Things, Old Log , Dark and Stormy, and Gremlin, among others. Jane directs the Spring play at Woodbury High School, is the Head Coach of the White Bear Speech Team, and is a performer with Science Live Theatre at the Science Museum of Minnesota.
Julia Gay
Specialty: Dance
Julia is an actor, dancer, playwright, and stand-up comedian. She completed her BA at Macalester College. Julia was the recipient of the Playwrights' Center's 2017-18 Many Voices Mentorship. This is her fourth season with St. Paul-based professional dance company, Ananya Dance Theatre (ADT), training, performing, and touring in the contemporary Indian dance form of Yorchha. As a teaching artist, she has led Arts Literacy youth workshops in the St. Paul Public Schools. Through the Irreducible Grace Foundation she collaborated with vulnerable youth who have experienced foster care, homelessness, and incarceration. More recently she collaborated on a poetry mural workshop for young adoptees at the Families with Children from Asia Midwest Conference.
Kiera Stegall
Specialty: Storytelling
An animated storyteller and educator, Kiera has more than fifteen years of experience working with children from birth through upper elementary school. After years of professional storytelling, Kiera joined the world of children's theater. Encouraging the creativity and imagination of children, she loves bringing characters and stories to life on stage. Using process art, devised theater concepts, and children’s literature, Kiera cultivates a creative and supportive environment where all children are welcomed as artists and actors. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in spirituality and the arts, while serving as a Director of Children & Family Ministry in the Twin Cities.
Kristin Fox
Specialty: Directing
Kristin Fox has been working as a teaching artist, director and actor across the Twin Cities and the Upper Midwest for over 15 years. She earned her Master of Fine Arts in Directing from Minnesota State University, Mankato where she spent time teaching theater history and acting courses. She is the current Artistic Director for the teen theatre program, SOS, at Merrill Arts Center in Woodbury, MN.
Laurie Dehmlow
Specialty: Music
A music educator, Laurie has multiple accreditations including a B.S. in Music Education and a M.M. in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy. As a performing artist she has been in several musical theatre and chamber opera productions in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois. In addition to teaching classes for Steppingstone (since 1992), Laurie teaches children's music literacy and private voice lessons at St. Joseph's School of Music, Children's Theatre Company, and local elementary schools. Additionally, Laurie direct two children's church choirs.
Lydia Wildes
Specialty: Acting
Lydia is the theatre director and teacher at Minnehaha Academy middle school, and has also performed around the Cities - including at Steppingstone! A graduate of the University of Northwestern St. Paul, with a degree in Theatre Arts and a minor in Music, she also works as a private voice and piano instructor. She specializes in teaching Shakespeare, character development, and improv.
Pedro Bayon
Specialty: Acting
With over 30 years of experience, Pedro is a Theatre Artist and Teaching Artist from Puerto Rico. He has worked with local companies including The Ordway, Teatro del Pueblo, and Mixed Blood, amongst others. Motivating minds to explore their creative potential is what motivates Pedro to keep teaching and mentoring students ages 5-85.
Shae Palic
Specialty: Acting
Shae has been a Teaching Artist with the University of Minnesota BFA Acting Program in the capacity of Assistant Director and Intimacy Workshop Facilitator since 2016. In addition to SteppingStone, Shae is also a Teaching Artist with Lyric Arts and the Saint Paul School District. She received her degree from the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theatre BFA Actor Training Program.
Terrell Woods
Specialty: Beat Box
An established Hip Hop Artist, Terrell Woods (aka Carnage The Executioner) has spent over 20 years making music and working with youth and adults from all walks of life and various socio-economic backgrounds. He possesses a knack for establishing strong and healthy relationships. His specialties include fostering personal and artistic growth and helping all people find the voices they might not identify with just yet. Terrell stands firm in his support and practice of provoking positive self-expression, nurturing leadership skills, and speaking in favor of social justice. 10+ years of teaching beat boxing/vocal percussion and song writing has helped him build an impressive artist resume that extends all the way to Europe.