ACT's Board of Directors
ACT's Board of Directors is a dedicated group of volunteers who participate in every aspect of the organization. Some of our members have been with us since 1975. We appreciate their commitment and hard work. Our Board has helped us to endure for over 47 years. Applause! Applause!
Arlene Wendt - Founder and President - had the idea to start a small theater company where we could present a variety of plays. She asked good friends Gail Gash and Carol Kerner to join her and talked her husband Ernie into investing $1,000 in her idea. The Actors Conservatory Theatre was the result back in the Spring of 1975 and ACT became a 46+ year exciting adventure. Hard working and talented friends guaranteed our success and ACT continues to thrive with Arlene at the helm. She has directed over 100 plays, received many awards in business and theater, is a Yonkers native, an IBM retiree from corporate television advertising and promotion, a proud mother of Sally, Janice, and Nora, and grandmother to 8 beautiful people.
Janice is ACT’s Resident Choreographer, House Manager, Co-Producer of ACT’s Junior Troupe, and Secretary for ACT’s Board of Directors (on which she has served since 1975). A Yonkers native, Janice has choreographed for summer stock productions, area theatre companies and high schools. She created the dances for most of ACT's musicals, including all of ACT's Junior Troupe productions. Janice studied dance with Joan Marlowe, Peter Humphrey Dance and Broadway Dance Center in NYC. She is Director of Croton Academy of Arts Connections Enrichment Program. This is Janice’s 27th year as a Girl Scout leader in Ossining where she leads two high school troops. Her proudest accomplishments are her four children and her 34-year marriage to Armand. Everyone in her family is active in theatre.
Robin is ACT's resident artist and graphic designer, lending her talent and creativity to our playbills, flyers, promotional materials, scenery, banners, etc. She also serves as co-producer of ACT's Junior Troupe and is involved in many aspects of the theatre operation - from promotion, to theatre set up, to sweeping floors! In the past, she has danced in many of ACT's musicals and was a member of our mystery troupe. Robin has served on the ACT Executive Board since 1981.
A retired Teacher of Elementary Grades, K-6 for over 30 years, and grandparent of four, MaryAnn has devoted her time to appearing in comedies, dramas & musicals with many theater groups in Westchester, calling ACT her home. Serving as a Board member since 2009, she’s assisted with house managing duties, co-producing, coordinating the volunteers, and serving as a liaison with Arts Westchester. Her ACT roles include Fiddler on the Roof, Nunsense, Grease, Laughter on the 23rd Floor, Moonlight & Magnolias, The Wedding Singer, You Can’t Take it With You, and Lost in Yonkers, as Grandma Kurnitz, in May, 2019.
Linda has been involved with theatre since middle school, both on stage and behind the scenes. She has had the enriching experience of directing musicals with young people (4th - 12th grade) for 15 years, and believes that musical theatre is invaluable to the development of our youth. Linda continues to enjoy performing and has appeared on ACT's stage in several productions, including The Wedding Singer, Gypsy, Fiddler on the Roof, Lend Me a Tenor, You Can't Take It With You, and the original screenplay stage adaptation of Cake and Candles. She is very happy to be part of the team that makes the magic of ACT.
After retiring from IBM Corporation, Carmela started a second career as a realtor with Keller Williams NY Realty in White Plains. Theatre has always been a major part of her life. She has been active in community/regional theatre throughout Westchester, Fairfield and NYC. With ACT, she was cast in their first musical production of West Side Story in 1975, performed in ACT's touring production of Godspell, and has performed in Best Little Whorehouse, Honk!, Songs from the Homefront,9 to 5, Nanny Claus, Footloose and ACT's Murder Mystery Troupe. She has co-produced many shows and you can find her in the box office for most shows. Off season, Carmela loves the game of golf. She lives in White Plains with husband, Russ (also an ACT alum). Her son Danny, his wife, Ki Lee Mak, and grandson Francesco (Frankie) also live in Westchester. Her dream is to pass on her love for theatre to Frankie; a very strong possibility he will be a Jr Troupe member!
Julia LaVerde, a Yonkers native, is ACT's resident Stage Manager. She has been a part of the ACT family since 2006. Julia has stage managed over 20 shows for ACT, and has fostered collaborations with other local theater groups including Westchester Collaborative Theatre, GoJo Clan Productions, Little Radical Theatrics, and Standing Ovation Studios/Lighthouse Youth Theatre. A Jill-of-all-trades, she has had a hand in all technical aspects of theatre production – set construction, costumes, sound and lighting. Julia is now taking on the new challenge of directing, and has a particular penchant for dramas and original works. In her alternate life Julia freelances with communications, web design, and wedding coordination, among other projects. Born and raised in Yonkers, Julia now resides in Irvington with her fiancé Keira (a lighting designer who understands her crazy schedule), and their cat Lina (who does not).
Keira Ferguson is the resident Lighting and Technical Designer for ACT. She started back in 2008 with Shenandoah, hanging lights and running the board during shows for other designers. Arlene, Janice and Armand gave her the opportunity to design a couple of shows starting with The Adventures of the Christmas Elf, in 2010 and Songs from the Homefront in 2012. Keira created the lighting for You Can't Take it With You in 2014 and all ACT productions since then. Keira is operational manager for a theatrical and studio lighting shop in Yonkers and currently resides in Irvington with her amazing partner, Julia, who happens to be ACT's stage manager. Actors Conservatory Theatre isn't just a place. The amazing people that make up this group are like a second family and Keira is excited and honored to be a part of the board to help continue everything that they stand for and create.
Sally Fitz - a Yonkers native - has served as ACT’s webmaster since 2014. In the very distant past, Sally performed in ACT’s mainstage productions, including Guys and Dolls, West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, and Castlelot. She was a member of ACT’s Godspell touring company and Falling Rock Zone improvisation troupe. In April 2019, ACT produced a staged reading of Sally’s original screenplay, Cake and Candles. Sally has worked in business, farming, and higher education. After a 32-year hiatus, Sally is delighted to return to ACT’s board.
Brian Crowley has proudly been a member of the ACT family for the past 10 years. Initially roped into the theatre company as a way to spend more time with his then-girlfriend (now wife), Jillian Paganelli, he has volunteered countless hours painting sets and running spotlight for the Junior Troupe shows. Brian has always loved the stage and has been performing locally since age 6. As a member of the band, Crowley Brothers, he was a semi-finalist in season three of Fox's "The X-Factor USA" and was crowned Z100/iHeartRadio's 2010 "Hometown Hero." On a performing hiatus, Brian "got serious," went to school and started working full-time as a digital marketer and content creator. He was, however, pulled out of musical theatre retirement to join the cast of ACT's Footloose (2016) and West Side Story (2018)! Brian is incredibly honored to be a part of the ACT legacy, serving as a board member and keeping the "good things happening" at ACT!
Jillian Paganelli has been part of ACT since birth. She has worked in every aspect of ACT's productions since childhood - set construction, concession, ushering, marketing, backstage, clean-up crew, etc. Jill has been dancing since she was 3 years old, and has been Dance Captain for ACT's productions of Footloose and West Side Story. She was part of the original ACT's Junior Troupe productions, including Damn Yankees, The Boyfriend and Seussical. Jill works as a feeding therapist in St. Mary's Children's Hospital. Jill's actual family and her ACT family have been intertwined for her entire life; she is delighted to, at long last, be an official member of ACT's board.
Anna Prestopino first joined ACT in 2016, helping a friend as a spotlight operator for ACT’s Footloose. She was immediately enamored with this group and the people involved, and she has been with ACT ever since. Though usually working as an assistant stage manager, Anna also dabbles in lighting and set/prop making. She is grateful beyond words to be a part of the ACT family. Outside of ACT, Anna often works with other theatre groups in the Bronx and Westchester. During the day, she can be found doing administrative work in Bronx. Anna is a recent graduate—finally!—of Southern New Hampshire University. In what little spare time she has left, Anna enjoys spending time with her family and boyfriend, binge-watching and then re-watching her favorite television series, and performing entire Broadway productions way too loudly in the car by herself.
Janice, Robin, and Carmela photos by Marietta Fitz.