Current Students



Heather Bennett has been stage managing for almost a decade. She was introduced to the stage management world at California State University Bakersfield where she received her BA in Theatre. Plays grace her resume, but they are overshadowed by the many Shakespeare projects she has been a part of. Before applying for graduate school, she was the head of the stage management team for three seasons in Paso Robles and subsequent San Luis Obispo for the Central Coast Shakespeare Festival. She is honored to be accepted into such a wonderful program and cannot wait to explore what is in store for her.

A native of Jackson, MS, Avery Evans is a proud theatre graduate of Jackson State University.  He was a mentee in the Gateway and Stage Management Mentorship Program at USITT in 2018-19 respectively. His love for theatre started at a young age which he cultivated into a passion for learning and discovery throughout his matriculation as an undergraduate. Some of his productions that he has enjoyed working on include, As Much as I Can, Stick Fly, The Wiz, and A Streetcar Named Desire. His future plans include working for Cirque Du Soleil and owning his own production company.He is overjoyed to join his UCI family where he plans to become a well-rounded theatre practitioner, able to tackle any challenge along his journey. Avery would like to thank God, his mom, his beautiful daughter Demi, his mentor Ross, his undergraduate faculty and everyone who has helped motivate him to follow his dreams. 

Lyla Flashman is a Chapman University alumna with a B.A. in Theatre Technology and a double minor in Art History and Production Design, and is grateful to be continuing her education at UCI towards building a career in stage management. She was awarded the Musco Scholar medal for her undergraduate achievements, which include stage managing a sold out production of Avenue Q to a house of over a 1,000 seats. Although mainly a theatre bug, Lyla can be found enjoying galleries, live music, swing dancing, and quality time with loved ones. Having grownup in New York, she feels torn between the coasts and dreams of touring the world as a stage manager

Tyler Hahn graduated from Barry University in 2015 with a BFA in Theatre (Acting). He made his Stage Management debut in 2016 at the Miami Theatre Center working on the one-woman show Supa’Nova. He also traveled from Miami, with this show, to the Hollywood Fringe Festival. He then stage-managed for the Florida Shakespeare Theatre for their 2017 – 2018 season. He most recently worked as the Assistant Stage Manager for the world premiere of Confessions of a Cocaine Cowboy at the Colony Theatre in Miami Beach, Florida.



Jake Arpaia is a California native who started his education at Moorpark College which left him with three associates degrees in Acting, Technical Theatre, and Theatre Arts. He then continued to finish his undergraduate degree by completing a B.A. in Theatre at California State University Northridge. He has worked on many shows in his time in academia some of his favorites include Clue: The MusicalLegally BlondeHairspray, and Almost, Maine. He has worked in Props, Scenery, Design, Costumes, and various other departments; however, Stage Management is something he has always come back to. When not working in theatre he enjoys collecting comics and board games and playing video games. He believes that the best part of Theatre is the community that builds out of it.  He is excited to be a part of UCI's Stage Management program and is excited to see what the future brings.

John Pinero graduated with a B.A. in Theatre from Arizona State University in 2018. While attending ASU, he began stage managing productions for Binary Theatre Company and ASU’s Lyric Opera Theatre working on productions such as Legally Blonde, Copenhagen, and Bug. Since then, he has been spending time at the place “Where Dreams Come True”, Walt Disney World, as an Entertainment Manager overseeing daily operations. In his spare time, John enjoys going to concerts, dancing the night away, watching Disney movies, and longing for the holiday season. John is incredibly thankful to be at UCI and looks forward to stage managing once again. 

Bri Westad graduated from Ithaca College in 2019 with a BA in Theatre Studies and a Women’s and Gender Studies minor. Originally from Upstate New York, Bri is excited to enjoy the next few years in sunny California. Some of her favorite projects include Experiential Atonement: The Quiet We Keep (Ithaca College), Dig (Dorset Theatre Festival), Slow Food (Dorset Theatre Festival), and 9 to 5:The Musical (Schenectady Light Opera Company). While primarily a Stage Manager, she also enjoys lighting design and programming on the side. She is incredibly grateful for this opportunity and can’t wait to get started.



Sam Allen graduated in 2020 from Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah with a BFA degree in Technical Theatre (Stage Management Emphasis). His most recent works include Ain’t Misbehavin’ with West Valley Performing Arts (Stage Manager), Cherry Wine in Paper Cups with Sackerson Theatre (Stage Manager), Prometheus Bound (Stage Manager), Women of Trachis (Assistant Stage Manager) with the Classic Greek Theatre Festival, and the Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival 2018 -2021 (Production Stage Manager/Technical Director),

Blake Anthony Elliott (xe / xem) hails from Houston, Texas and is an alumnus of the University of Evansville Department of Theatre where xe received a Bachelor’s in Stage Management. With UCI as xyr new theatrical home, xyr credits span from coast to coast including stage management work with iTheatrics and Disney Theatrical Group in New York City, The New Harmony Project in Indianapolis, regional work in Texas, and The Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma. Blake is an artist, advocate, academic, and proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community. Xe hopes to use xyr work in the arts to uplift voices in the margins and build a better world. More Life. 

Jessie Bender graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a B.A. in Theater Arts. After several years of acting, she made her stage managing debut in 2019 with the UCSC Barnstorm Theater Company. While stage management became her primary focus, she took a short break to write and direct a Zoom play, Embrace the Chaos, which was produced through the Barnstorm company during Winter 2020. Prior to attending UCSC she spent her time hanging out with "The Peanuts Gang" while working as a character entertainer and dancer at California's Great America. Some of her favorite productions include Beauty and the Beast, The Children's Hour, The Fifth Dimension: Inspired by the Twilight Zone, and Romeo and Juliet. Jessie is thrilled to be joining UCI and looks forward to this next chapter of her life. 

Nicole M. Cortese (she/they) graduated from Cal Poly with a B.S. in Food Science and a Minor in Theatre Arts, and went on to earn her Certificate in Technical Theatre Production/Design from PCPA - Pacific Conservatory Theatre(focus in Costumes and Stage Management). She is excited to spend time focusing on Stage Management, a passion of hers, at UCI. Some of her favorite projects include “Treasure Island” (Central Coast Shakespeare Festival), “Julius Caesar” (PCPA), and “The Wolves” (PCPA). In her free time she performs as a drag artist and enjoys knitting, crocheting and sewing. She believes that Stage Managers are the biggest theatre advocates, and hopes to follow through on this belief and help to create a positive change in the theatre industry.