Great theatre is about challenging how we think and encouraging us to fantasize about a world we aspire to. 

-Willem DaFoe


OVATIONS THEATRE is a queer and black owned Arts Education program that offers inspiring and thought-provoking educational and performance opportunities for young musical theatre artists. Our learning environment supports creativity and open-mindedness, dedication and focus, individual expression and ensemble teamwork. Along with singing, dancing, and acting, our young people build confidence, problem-solving skills and strong friendships. They gain the fundamentals they need to blossom on-stage and off as they work together to create memorable—and magical—experiences for themselves and their audiences.

Founded by DMV native Darnell Patrick Morris, OVATIONS THEATRE is the DC-metro area’s only black and queer owned musical theatre education and performance program for young people. OVATIONS THEATRE rehearses in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and performs in local professional venues, including our very own The Harriet, with the benefit of top-notch production value. Our seasons are filled with exciting offerings, including full-scale productions, master classes, workshops and more.

Check out this feature on Artistic Director Darnell Morris by The Bethesda Magazine found on page 39


OVATIONS is thrilled to share that they have found a permanent studio space where all programming takes place. OVATIONS is now located at 16021 Industrial Drive, Gaithersburg MD Bay 7.



Darnell Patrick Morris (Founder & Producing Artistic Director; he/they) has been a Director, Choreographer and Theatre Educator in the Washington, DC area for the past decade.  His students have been seen on Broadway, National tours as well as many local professional stages including Signature Theatre, Arena Stage, Olney Theatre Centre, ATMTC, Wooly Mammoth and Ford’s Theatre.  Select Directing Credits – OVATIONS THEATRE: Frozen Jr, Urinetown, Ragtime, American Idiot, Cabaret, Matilda, Next to Normal, Hair, The Wizard of Oz, Little Shop of Horrors, Les Miserables, Carrie: The Musical, Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party, Disney’s The Little Mermaid JR,Gypsy, The Addams Family Young@Part, ParadeHeathers, Hairspray Jr, Sunday in The Park With George, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Jr, Spring Awakening, Rent, Into The Woods JrSweeney Todd and Seussical Jr. Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre: In The Heights, Into the Woods, Avenue Q, Hairspray, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Stillpointe Theatre: Caroline or Change. Kensington Arts Theatre: Les Miserables, Ragtime, Jekyll & Hyde, The Rocky Horror Show.  Awards: 2018 Ruby Griffith Award for In The Heights, City Paper 2015 Best Musical: Caroline, Or Change, 2014 Ruby Griffith Award for Les Miserables, 2013 Ruby Griffith Award for Avenue Q, 2012 Ruby Griffith Award for Hairspray, 2011 Ruby Griffith Award for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, 2009 Ruby Griffith Award for Pippin, 2014 WATCH Awards for Best Choreography and Best Musical for Ragtime, 2014 Best Community Theatre Production of a Musical in DC on In 2017 Darnell was selected as one of 6 up-and-coming DC area directors to participate in Signature Theatre’s Musical Theatre Young Directors’ Workshop.

10494551_10153585954333472_6363770564897714008_nMorgan Fannon (Managing Director; she/her) is incredibly excited to work with Ovations Theatre and all of these exciting, young performers! Morgan grew up performing in youth theater and, in fact, performed with Ovations Theatre’s founder and Artistic Director (Darnell Patrick Morris) in many challenging and wonderful shows! Favorite roles include the Moon in Caroline, or Change (StillPointe Theatre Initiative; Best Musical 2015 – Baltimore City Paper, Best Musical Professional Theatre – DCMTA), Leading Player in Pippin (KAT 2ND STAGE – Ruby Griffith Award), Nehebka in Aida (Toby’s), Sour Kangaroo in Seussical (St. Mark’s Players), Janis Joplin in Hairspray (Lazy Susan), and many, many more.


Mayumi Baker Griffie (Teaching Artist; she/her) is an accomplished Music Directed and Composer.  She studied voice at the University of Maryland, College Park School of Music. She has performed with the UM Symphonic Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra, and the University Jazz Band as both a pianist and singer.  Music Direction credits include KENSINGTON ARTS THEATRE: Rocky Horror Show, Jekyll & Hyde (nominated for Outstanding Musical Direction), Ragtime (won WATCH award for Outstanding Musical Direction).  HOWARD COMMUNITY COLLEGE: The 25th Annual… Spelling Bee and Ragtime.  KAT 2ND STAGE: A Year with Frog and Toad, Wizard of Oz. ACADEMY OF HOLY CROSS: And the World Goes Round, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat, High School Musical, High School Musical 2, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Annie, Grease, My Fair Lady, A Year with Frog and Toad, A Chorus Line, 42nd Street.

IMG_0100Valerie A Higgs (Teaching Artist; she/her) returns to OVATIONS after Music Directing HEATHERS:The Musical in 2017. She has music directed in New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia – most notably:  The TADA! Youth Theater; James Joyce’s The Dead with Quotidian Theatre, for which she was chosen by DCMTA as “Best of 2012 Musical Direction”; Jekyll & Hyde with KAT, for which she was co-nominated for WATCH’s Outstanding Musical Direction; and the 1996 Philadelphia world premiere of The Three Willies, a work conceived by the late jazz violinist and composer, Leroy Jenkins, produced by Temple University in collaboration with the late multimedia performance artist/poet Homer Jenkins, and choreographer/dancer Rennie Harris. She accompanies for local and state competitions, such as the Young Artists Competition of Gaithersburg, and is a pianist in three local tango ensembles. As always, thanks to APS.

IMG_20160119_115642Arielle Bayer (Resident JUNIOR COMPANY Music Director; she/her) holds a degree in Music Education from Shepherd University and has been a music teacher for Montgomery County Public Schools for ten years.  Previous OVATIONS productions include: Seussical Jr, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Jr, Hairspray Jr, Addams Family Young@Part and Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr. Over the years, Arielle has worked as Music Director with summer theatre camps, including Adventure Theatre, Glen Echo Children’s Theatre, and Imagination Stage.  Additionally, Arielle serves as Music Director for many local community theatre groups, including DTC, RMT, FtP, PTC, KAT, and MP.  She has also been involved as Music Director with the student theatre groups K2S, DTC Kids, and Act II @ Levine.

carly headshotCarly Schwartz (Resident JUNIOR COMPANY & STANDING_O Director; she/her) is thrilled to return to OVATIONS after working on Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr. Her first musical theater performance took place on the JCC stage almost 20 years ago, so she shares in the excitement of our young artists. She’s previously worked as the Dance Captain/Asst. Choreographer for Summer Theater Arts for Youth, and was most recently seen in the ensemble of Keith & Amy’s Opening Number at The Gateway Performance Arts Center of Suffolk County.

Joel Richon (Technical Coordinator; he/him) Joel entered the theater tech world running sound for Brigadoon in 2001 with the Music And Drama group at Goddard Space Flight Center. Since then he has worked on over 130 shows in various tech roles: running lights and sound; designing and building sets; and video recording and editing.

Morgan Thomas HeadshotMorgan Thomas (Teaching Artist; she/her) Morgan is a licensed attorney in Maryland who moonlights as a performer and teaching artist. She has been dancing for 24 years and was trained in the disciplines of ballet, tap, jazz, modern and African dance. After four years on Severna Park’s Dance Company, Morgan took a new course during her undergraduate career at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) by joining the Cheerleading Team. She served as the Team Captain her last two years. Additionally, Morgan was a member of the UMBC hip-hop dance competition team, Major Definition. She is currently a dance company member with Dance & Bmore, a creative movement collective, in Baltimore, Maryland.  Favorite past performances include Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Thoroughly Modern Millie, All Shook Up, The Wedding Singer, In The Heights, Parade and her favorite role to date was as Julian Marx in Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre’s production of Bullets Over Broadway (2018).

Molly S. Herson (Production Manager/Artistic Associate; she/her) has been a proud member of OVATIONS since 2016. She has performed on stage in several OVATIONS productions as well as working on the production side. Some of her favorite OVATIONS shows include The Wild Party (Kate), Les Miserables (Eponine), Hair (Jeanie) and Next to Normal (Diana). She also worked as an Assistant Stage Manager for Sunday in the Park With George and Parade at OVATIONS in addition to being the Gala Director for the OVATIONS 5 Year Gala. Molly is the President and a founding member of Virtual Cue and was as a counselor with Theatre Unlimited for 3 years. She also worked on the production team for numerous shows at Bannockburn elementary school. Molly performed at the Horatio Alger awards in 2018 and 2019 at Constitution Hall and sang with artists such as Laura Osnes, Garett Clayton, Betsy Wolfe and many others. She also had the opportunity to perform in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland in 2017 as Shelley in Bat Boy the musical. She is currently a sophomore at Elon University majoring in Arts Administration and minoring in Theatre with an emphasis in Directing. Molly is the Business Manager for her college a cappella group Twisted Measure. Molly is extremely excited to join the OVATIONS production team.

Jack Rosenberg (Artistic Associate/Alumni Coordinator; they, them), is stoked to be a part of the OVATIONS team. Jack has performed with OVATIONS for years, in such roles as the Emcee (Cabaret); Melchior (Spring Awakening); Dan (Next to Normal); Claude (Hair); Mr. Mushnik (Little Shop); Javert (Les Miz); Tommy (Carrie); Leo Frank (Parade); JD (Heathers); Lumiere (Beauty and the Beast), Tobias (Sweeney); and Cat in the Hat (Seussical). Jack is currently a student at the University of Michigan, majoring in Architecture, and the History of Art with a minor in Set Design. Jack loves working as an educator, namely a Hebrew teacher/ B’nai Mitzvah tutor and an Inclusion Facilitator/ Special Educator. He is beyond thrilled to continue working with this wonderful company 🙂

Bryan Stopak (Artistic Associate; he/him) is a theatre artist originally from the DC metro area. Bryan is a Senior at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Directing, Playwriting, and Production Design. Bryan is elated to be working with Darnell and the whole OVATIONS team! He has choreographed many shows in the DC area including All Shook Up, Godspell, Chicago, Catch Me If You Can (Act Two @ Levine) West Side Story (Summer Dinner Theatre) as well as being a featured choreographer in the Capital Fringe Festival for “LIFE! A comedic opera in three acts.” Bryan has also worked in Montgomery County Public Schools choreographing and directing students ages K-12. Instagram: @BrySto

Jordan Kelberg (Artistic Associate; She/her) is an actress, director and choreographer based in Bethesda, Maryland. She is currently studying Education with a minor in theatre arts at Elon University. Although Jordan has worked with OVATIONS for four years now in such shows as “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Ragtime,” and “Cabaret” along with her wonderful memories working for OVATIONS Summer Conservatory, Summer 2022’s production of Legally Blonde marked her directorial debut.

Kassidy Kepner (Artistic Associate ; She/Her) is very excited to be joining the OVATIONS team. Kassidy has been apart of OVATIONS productions since the 7th grade. Some past performances include St. Jimmy (American Idiot); Evelyn Nesbit (Ragtime); Maureen (Rent); Little Sally (Urinetown); and Madame Thenardier (Les Miserables). Kassidy has helped choreograph numbers in junior company productions such as Shrek Jr. and Suessical Jr. She currently choreographs for productions at elementary schools in Bethesda. Kassidy is thrilled to help out with the 2023 revival of Spring Awakening.

%d bloggers like this: