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

-Willem DaFoe


OVATIONS THEATRE 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 Darnell Morris, OVATIONS THEATRE is the DC-metro area’s newest musical theatre education and performance program for young people. OVATIONS THEATRE rehearses in Rockville, Maryland, and performs in local professional venues with the benefit of top-notch staging, lighting, sound, props and costuming. Our seasons are filled with exciting offerings, including full-scale productions, master classes, workshops and more. Explore this site for complete information and check back frequently for updates. In the words of Pippin, “Join us…we’ve got magic to do!”

COVID UPDATE: Here at OVATIONS we will follow all local and federal policies on COVID. We will update as local governments and the CDC directs.


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) has been a Director, Choreographer and Theatre Educator in the Washington, DC area for the past decade.  His students have been seen on Broadway 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: 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) 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 (Resident SENIOR COMPANY Music Director) 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 (Resident SENIOR COMPANY Music Director) 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) 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 Choreographer) 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.

Burdette_Melynda_Headshot-2Melynda Burdette Wintrol (Director of STANDING_O) a performer, teaching artist, and arts administrator for over 15 years, hails from Frederick, Maryland. Melynda is a graduate of The Catholic University of America’s Benjamin T. Rome School of Music holding a Bachelor of Music in Musical Theatre. Melynda went on to earn her Master of Science in Nonprofit and Association Management. Melynda currently serves as the Arts Integration Manager at Olney Theatre Center and previously served as Director of Education at Adventure Theatre MTC. During her career, Melynda has been part of the education teams at Maryland Ensemble Theatre, Drama Learning Center, Black Rock Center for the Arts, Urbana Dance, and Center Stage Performing Arts Academy, in addition to maintaining a private voice studio in her home studio.  While attending CUA, Melynda was selected to represent the school in Italy and perform a private papal audience for Pope John Paul II.  Melynda has performed off-Broadway, on tour and in regional theatres across the country. A member of three Helen Hayes nominated ensembles, Melynda has performed with the Tony Award-winning Signature Theatre, Studio Theatre, Olney Theatre Center, American Family Theatre, Washington Savoyards, Maryland Ensemble Theatre, Workhouse Arts Center, Shawnee Playhouse, Prather Entertainment Group, Venus Theatre, Pallas Theatre Collective, Riverside Dinner Theatre, and Toby’s Dinner Theatre. Melynda is a member of EdTA and serves as a Helen Hayes Awards Judge for theatreWashington.

Morgan Thomas HeadshotMorgan Thomas (Resident SENIOR COMPANY Choreographer) 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).

Ballard,_Jenna professional photoJenna Ballard (Resident Production Stage Manager) is a semi-professional stage manager, producer, and prop designer. Professional stage managing credits include Faction of Fools’ The Miser and A Christmas Carol, Happenstance Theatre’s Prufbox and Seven Ages of Mime, and four seasons of stage managing the acting company of the Maryland Renaissance Festival. Most recent community theatre credits include Ragtime and Les Miserables at Kensington Arts Theatre, both directed by Darnell Morris. Jenna began life as an instrumental music teacher, with a BA in Music Education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, but left the teaching world for administrative work first at Johns Hopkins University and now at the Goddard Space Flight Center (which is a seriously cool place to work!).

Molly S. Herson (Production Manager) 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), 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) 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

%d bloggers like this: