Faculty Bios

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Playhouse Theatre Academy Teaching Artists

BRIANA BELLINGER-DAWSON

Briana Bellinger-Dawson is a New Haven native and teaching artist. Briana is in her 27th year of dance and 20th year of acting. At the age of 9, she performed in The Nutcracker on Broadway and at Lincoln Center in New York City. Briana has been a teaching artist for 11 years and she is currently enrolled in the NYU/ Yellowbrick Performing Arts program. She is the Dramatic Arts and Dance teacher for Nathan Hale School and the Musical Choreographer for Cooperative Arts & Humanities Magnet High School, both in New Haven, CT. She has recently directed and choreographed shows like "Shrek the Musical," "High School Musical Jr.", "Daisy on Harlem's Doorstep," "In the Heights" and "Rent." Briana has a great passion for arts education as it has helped mold her into the teaching artist that she is today.

MEGHAN O'LEARY-CLARK

Meghan O’Leary-Clark recently moved to West Hartford from New York City with her family and is thrilled to join the Playhouse Theatre Academy Education team. Alongside performing in New York and regionally for almost a decade, Meghan has worked, taught and collaborated with Actors as young as early childhood to college interns: Students on Stage (NH), Northern Stage (VT), Hope Summer Repertory Theatre (MI), The Hive Theatre Company (NYC) and Barbizon School of Acting and Modeling (NYC) have held some of Meghan's most cherished years as a teacher. As an Actor, her favorite theatrical credits include, No Sex Please We’re British (Susan), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Oberon/Hippolyta) HAIR (Dionne) and Pericles (Thaisa). Meghan received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting from The University of Connecticut. She’s a recipient of the Best Actress award from The Long Island Film Expo and co-starred in CBS’s Person of Interest. Meghan can be seen in various commercials and print ads (Subway, Art-Carved Bridal, Vista-Print), but her favorite gig by far is being Rowan and Cade's Mom. 

MATTHEW GUERRERA

Matthew Guerrera is a graduate of Muhlenberg College where he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Dance and Theatre with concentrations in education, choreography, performance studies, and stage management. Matt has studied dance for over twenty years in various locations throughout Connecticut and Pennsylvania as well as at the Broadway Dance Centre in New York City. He has received the award for Best Student Choreography at the 2015 KO Wyvern A Cappella Festival and is a two time nominee, and one time winner for a Broadwayworld.com award for Best Choreography (Non-Equity). Matt not only teaches various dance classes throughout Connecticut and Massachusetts, but he has also performed with and choreographed for a multitude of shows and local theatre companies. Matt previously taught in Allentown, PA where he performed professionally with the Muhlenberg Summer Theatre in My Fair Lady (Dance Ensemble) and Anything Goes (Dance Captain). On top of teaching dance, Matt currently works as a Front of House Associate for both Playhouse on Park as well as at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts. He is a Certified Personal Trainer and previously had the opportunity to study dance in Arezzo, Italy at the Accademia Dell’Arte.

JOSH KARAM

Josh Karam is an Actor/Musician/Director with a BFA in Music Theater from The Hartt School. Theater Credits include: Soapy DAYS OF 98 SHOW, Cleon PERICLES, and Josh was part of Playhouse on Park’s SAY THINGS FUNNY. Josh also has an enormous love for Improv and has a Certification in Interactive and Immersive Theater Performance. Currently Josh is Assistant Directing the Robin Hood Faire in Harwinton, CT. Josh has found so much creative expression in fantasy and improv through the Renaissance Faire circuit. As children we always imagine ourselves as Knights fighting dragons, or Superhero’s saving the day. Our Improv ability is only limited by the bounds of our imaginations!

NICK PALAZZO

Nick Palazzo is excited to be joining Playhouse Theatre Academy. He is a Teaching Artist for Hartford Stage and has performed nationally on both stage and screen. National Tour: FRIENDS! THE MUSICAL PARODY (Male Swing); Television: BLUE BLOODS; Off-Broadway: PINKALICIOUS (Mr. Pinkerton); Regional Theatre: Playhouse on Park: IN THE HEIGHTS (Sonny), PETER AND THE STARCATCHER (Ted); Goodspeed Musicals Festival of New Artists: LINCOLN IN LOVE (Stephen Douglas); Ocean City Theatre Company: CINDERELLA (Prince Christopher); Cortland Repertory Theatre: FIDDLER ON THE ROOF (Perchik) B.F.A in Music Theatre from The Hartt School.

ANNA RICCIUTI

Anna Ricciuti is a director, teaching artist, and technician who prioritizes new, innovative, and socially driven work and strives to create meaningful theatrical experiences for students of all ages. As a Connecticut native, she is absolutely thrilled to be joining the team at Playhouse on Park. Anna holds a BA in theatre from Muhlenberg College and her theatrical skills are diverse and varied. Some favorite recent credits include: THE REPAIR MAN (director, Muhlenberg College, 2018), ALICE IN CONCERT (production stage manager, Desultory Theatre Club, 2019), SOME GOOD TUNES (technical director, Simsbury Summer Theatre, 2020), and PIPPIN (director, Simsbury High School, 2022).

MICHAEL ZAPPALA

Michael is thrilled to be a part of the Playhouse on Park team for the summer musical theater program! Michael has served as a theater musical director for a variety of theaters in the Greater Hartford area including The Opera House Players, Little Theater of Manchester, and Manchester High School. Music Director credits include BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, FAME, and THE WIZARD OF OZ at Manchester High School. SHREK, THE MUSICAL, THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, and THE LITTLE MERMAID with the Opera House Players. This fall he will be music directing IN THE HEIGHTS with the Little Theater or Manchester. Pit orchestra credits playing keyboard 2 in productions of MAMMA MIA (Little Theater of Manchester), WILLY WONKA, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, THE LITTLE MERMAID, SHREK, THE MUSICAL (CAST Children’s Theater, Manchester).

Michael studied Science Education and Music at the University of Connecticut, where he earned a dual Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction. He presently works full time as a Chemistry Teacher at Manchester High School, and stays involved in the Performing Arts Department at the school where he designed a course in Musical Theater where students will explore character development, stage presence and vocal technique appropriate for theater performance. Outside of teaching and theater, Michael is an active group fitness instructor at Big Sky Fitness in Vernon, CT, as well as a Church Music Director in East Hartford, CT.

JILL ZARCONE

Jill Zarcone hails from Tolland, CT and besides being a teaching artist, she is also the Education Coordinator for Playhouse Theatre Academy! She brings almost seventeen years of experience in performance, scene studies, auditioning techniques, Shakespeare, comedy, puppetry, playwriting and directing to Playhouse and loves working with students of all ages. She is a BFA Performance graduate of Eastern CT State University and has MFA accreditation from the University of North Carolina with a focus on Theatre for Youth. She has worked with previous theatres such as Hartford Children's, Flock Theatre, Newington Children's, Little Theatre of Manchester, Windham Theatre Guild and the Greensboro City Arts Drama Center and also had the amazing experience of interning with puppeteers from Jim Henson's Co for two summers! When time permits she loves to read, bake, write, and go on adventures with her husband, son and her dog, fittingly named Adventure.