Elizabeth Blakemore

Owner/Artistic Director

Elizabeth graduated magna cum laude from Concordia University-Chicago with degrees in Theatre and Business at the age of 19. While in college she was active in her university’s music and theatre programs and the Artists of Concordia Theatre Student Managers Board. She oversaw publicity and costumes during her sophomore and junior years and was honored to chair the Board her senior year. After graduation Elizabeth toured the country for a year with Captive Free, a relational music ministry team sponsored by Youth Encounter. Since moving to Atlanta in 2006 she has taught theatre and acting classes for a number of schools including Master's Academy, Portfolio Academy, Artios Academy, Renaissance International School of Performing Arts (RISPA), the Jewish Community Center of Atlanta, and WOW Talent.  She has also assisted with casting for CYT.

She has worked on 50+ productions for children and youth as a director, music director, and technical director.  Past directing projects include "The Pirates of Penzance", "The Dancers", "The Music Man Jr.", "Once Upon a Mattress Jr.", "Tom Sawyer", "Little Women", "Seussical the Musical", "Bugsy Malone Jr.", "The Wizard of Oz", "Dougly the Uckling", "Moby Dick the Musical", "Schoolhouse Rock", "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory", "How to Eat Like A Child", "101 Dalmatians", "The Jungle Book", "Alice in Wonderland", "A Year with Frog and Toad', "Shrek the Musical", "Annie" and "Peter Pan".  

In addition to teaching and directing, Elizabeth routinely performs around Atlanta at various theatres. Past acting roles include Catherine in "Proof", Laura in "The Glass Menagerie", Betty in "The Foreigner", Mistress Page in "The Merry Wives of Windsor", Dr. Vivian Bearing in "Wit" and most recently Mattie Fae in "August:Osage County" and Cora in "Desire, Desire, Desire" in a showcase at the Alliance Theatre and Mom in "Old Maple: My Everlasting Friend" for the Young Voices, New Visions Play Festival at the Alliance Theatre.  She also works as a Teaching Artist for Synchronicity Theatre's Playmaking for Girls program which serves at-risk girls in local youth detention centers and owns a private piano studio through which she teaches private lessons to 10+ students each week. 

Patrick Baxter
Teaching Artist

Patrick grew up in the Atlanta area where he played sports such as baseball and wrestling throughout high school. He had done a couple of small plays as a kid but the only one he remembers is being Fritz in his fifth grade's production of The Nutcracker. It wasn't until he took an intro to theatre class in College that he was bit by the theatre bug. He went into Kennesaw State University as a pre-vet/ pre-med major but took acting classes as electives until his sophomore year when he changed his major to Theatre and Performance Studies. He Graduated from KSU in July 2012 with a BA in Theatre with an acting concentration but also took many classes in lighting design. His most recent Theatrical credits include: Strong For Life (Tell Tale Theater), The One minute Play Festival at Actors Express, The Devil Tree as the productions technical director (The Collective Project Inc.) The Red Herring where he played the hot headed Wilhelm and doubled as the production's technical director (The Collective Project Inc.), and Dark Forest as a member of the ensemble (KSU). Patrick is also in the process of applying for Seminary School where he hopes to get his Masters of Divinity. He hopes to combine his two loves, Theatre and God, by becoming a youth pastor and continuing to teach Theatre as well as perform. In his spare time Patrick likes to spend time outdoors with his dog Harper. Thank you Forefront Arts for letting me into your theater family!

Alana Cheshire
Teaching Artist

Alana Cheshire was bit by the theatre bug at a young age through drama classes and camps, and she's thrilled to be giving that experience back as a teacher. An Atlanta native, she graduated from Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music with a BS in Vocal Performance and Theatre. In Atlanta, Alana has performed professionally with The Alliance Theatre, The Atlanta Opera, Fabrefaction Theatre Company, TellTale Theatre, Next Stage Theatre Company, and Theatre on the Prowl; outside of Georgia, she has worked with Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival, Brown County Playhouse, and Cardinal Stage Company. When she’s not performing or teaching drama, Alana works with children’s choirs, plays the piano and the ukulele, and spends quality time with her cat, Rupert. Alana would like to thank her amazing friends and family for their support, and Forefront Arts for this wonderful opportunity!

Andrew Crigler
Teaching Artist

Andrew Crigler is an aspiring director, teaching artist, actor, movement choreographer and writer. He recently received his BA in Theatre and Performance Studies from Kennesaw State University with a minor in dance. He has taught at the Alliance Theatre, Georgia Ensemble Theatre, and Jitterbug Performing Arts and is thrilled to begin teaching with Forefront Arts! Andrew was recently the movement choreographer for GET's TYA show Aesop's Fables. Recent acting appearances include: A Wrinkle in Time, Confederacy of Dunces (Theatrical Outfit), The Ugly Duckling (Serenbe Playhouse), The Girl From 2a, Revolutio: Children of an Idle Brain, The Othering of Mr. Windebaggin, The Theory of Everything, (The Collective Project Inc.), and Strong4Life (Telltale Theatre). Andrew made his directing premiere with The Red Herring with The Collective Project this summer. He will also be playing the role of Owen Godwin in the Collective Project Inc.'s The Devil Tree this fall. Andrew is also a Balloon Artist, Mime, and Poet. He would like to thank Jesus Christ for his gifts, abilities, and passions. Anything good Andrew does is only because of Christ's work in his life. To Him be the glory!

Mandi Lee
Lead Teaching Artist

Mandi is a graduate of Providence Christian Academy in Lilburn, and recently graduated with Departmental Honors from Webster University with her B.F.A. in Acting. She has been a part of the Atlanta theater community since age 7 when she became a founding member of The Talent Factory. Since graduating from college and returning to Atlanta, she has toured the Southeast with two One Woman Shows, performed with Onstage Atlanta, Georgia Shakespeare Festival, Georgia Ensemble Theater, Pinch n Ouch Theatre, 7 Stages, and is represented by J. Pervis Talent. She has been teaching acting in various places since high school and is thrilled to be a part of the Forefront Arts family.

Antonia LaChe
Teaching Artist 

Antonia is simply known as Nia by many. She is a graduate of the University of Georgia and left with a major in Theatre and Advertising with Sociology minor. Following her graduation, she became a proud member of the 2011-2012 New American Shakespeare Apprentice Company. She then followed her Apprenticeship with a Teaching Artist Internship at Atlanta Street Theatre and a Teaching Assistant internship with Synchronicity Theatre Company’s Playmaking for Girls summer program. Acting and teaching are both things that Nia has been equally passionate about for years. She has been a Teaching Artist since college and has self taught herself Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed Techniques as well as received formal residency training with both the Shakespeare Tavern and Atlanta Street. Also, she has been an actress since her youth and some of her more recent credits include performing with The Shakespeare Tavern, Georgia Ensemble, and Academy Theatre Company. She is overjoyed to be working with Forefront Arts and can’t wait to pass her love for theatre on to the next generation! Thank you Forefront!

Dianna Johnson 
Assistant Teaching Artist 

Dianna is pursuing a degree in Theatre at University of North Georgia and then plans to continue her education Kennesaw State to earn a Bachelor Degree in Musical Theater.  Dianna has been involved with Forefront Arts for the past 2 years.  She has performed as Capt. Gray Beard in "How I Became a Pirate" and Princess Fiona in "Shrek the Musical, as well as choreographing "How I Became a Pirate" and "Willy Wonka".  Dianna studied ballet, tap, and jazz for 6 years at Sawnee Ballet and performed in many productions that included "Bye, Bye Birdie", "Cinderella" and "The Nutcracker." Musical theater is her passion and she has performed pieces from several productions including "Wicked", "The Sound of Music", and "A Chorus Line". 

Shane Olcott
Assistant Teaching Artist 

Shane is a graduate of South Forsyth High School. He has been involved with Theatre since the beginning of his freshman year. He has performed in such roles as Sweeney Todd in "Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street," Javert in "Les Mis." and Shrek in "Shrek teh Musical".  He looks to major in Theatre this coming fall at The University of North Georgia. 

Olivia Tidwell 
Teaching Artist Assistant
Olivia has performed for the past 2 seasons with Forefront Arts in "How I Became a Pirate", "Willy Wonka", and "Shrek the Musical".  Last summer she was a summer camp intern and this year she is excited to be on summer camp staff!
In addition to drama , she also performs with Christian Fine Arts of Forsyth, takes piano and voice and is part of her Student Ministry Leadership team at First Baptist of Cumming. She would like to thank the teachers of Forefront Arts for their encouragement and direction. A special thank you to her parents for giving her the opportunity to pursue her creative side and her Brother for encouraging her to go after her goals.

Kirstin Calvert

Teaching Artist

Kirstin is a graduate of The University of Georgia with a BA in Theatre. She came to Atlanta to join the 2011-2012 New American Shakespeare Tavern Apprentice Acting Company. Kirstin continues her relationship with the Shakespeare Tavern as an actor and a Residency Teaching Artist. She is also entering her second season as the Director of Junior Players, a young artist performance troupe at the Alliance Theatre. Kirstin has performed with the Shakespeare Tavern, Academy Theatre, Onstage Atlanta, Give Us Brains Sketch Comedy, and Out of Box Theatre in Marietta. She is honored to be joining Forefront and influencing future performers.

Ciarra T. Hodges

Teaching Artist

Ciarra T. Hodges is an actress, dancer, and educator. It was in high school under Katherine Alexander’s direction that she was inspired to pursue a career in acting. Ciarra went on to study Theatre Arts at Clark Atlanta University and with the Youth Ensemble of Atlanta. As someone who is well acquainted with performing, she is a lover of all things creative. Ciarra also has a passion for working with children. Currently, she teaches theatre and dance with Forefront Arts, LLC. She believes that there is much to learn from the children of the world. You may have seen her as Mother Superior in John Pielmiere’s "Agnes of God" and as Ruth Younger in Lorraine Hansberry’s "A Raisin In The Sun". She has also been featured as Adrienne Herndon and Phillis Wheatley at the Atlanta History Center. Most recently, she took on the role of The Woman in Black in "The Woman in Black". Ciarra is grateful for all opportunities that she has been granted and cannot wait to experience the awesome opportunities that have yet to come. She believes that if she inspires but one person, touches just one life, then her job is done.

Stephanie Willis
Teaching Artist

A near-native Atlantan, in 2009 Stephanie Willis graduated summa cum laude from Oglethorpe University with a BA in Traditional Form and Modern Aesthetics (an individually-planned liberal arts major). Since then, Stephanie has been a professional actor and teaching artist in the Atlanta area. In addition to Forefront Arts she has taught with Georgia Ensemble Theatre, Georgia Shakespeare, and several homeschool performing arts organizations. An experienced teacher, her specialties are Shakespeare, Voice for the Actor, and Musical Theatre, though she relishes all arts-related studies. As an actor, Stephanie has performed with the Alliance Theatre, Georgia Ensemble Theatre, Georgia Shakespeare, and the Fern Theatre (as Hamlet in an all-female version of the play). A voiceover artist, Stephanie often records narration for videos and audiobooks. Above all, she is privileged to help cultivate the next generation, and takes her teaching inspiration from Walt Whitman: "There was a child went forth every day; / And the first object he looked upon, that object he became; / And that object became part of him for a day, or a certain part of a day, or for many years, or stretching cycles of years." 

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