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  theatre artists of all ages. Our learning environment supports creativity and open-mindedness, dedication and focus, individual expression and ensemble teamwork. Along with singing, dancing, and acting, our artists 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 theatre education and performance program for all ages. 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. Please note that we off Shady Grove Rd by way of Gaither Rd. Once you pass the Monster Mini Golf on your right hand side you will come to a stop sign at Industrial Dr; take that Right. We are your third Right; 16021 Industrial Drive 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.

Morgan 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.

Carly Schwartz (Associate Artistic Director/Resident STANDING_O Director; she/her)
Carly is thrilled to return for her 6th season with OVATIONS after making her directorial debut last season with Little Shop of Horrors and Mean Girls Jr. Previous OVATIONS choreography credits include Frozen Jr, Seussical Jr, Shrek Jr, Matilda Jr and The Little Mermaid Jr. She also works tirelessly as the “Backstage Mom” during Junior and Senior Company performances. A master of safety pins and bobby pins, almost every wig and costume change has her hand in it!

Bryan Stopak (Associate Artistic Director/ Resident JUNIOR COMPANY Director; he/him) Bryan proudly served as the Technical Director of OVATIONS Theatre for the 2021 season (American Idiot, Beauty and The Beast, Parade, Ragtime) in addition to teaching classes. For the last year Bryan has been living in New York City and before that lived in Philadelphia where he earned his BFA in Directing from The University of The Arts. Prior to joining OVATIONS, Bryan was a featured choreographer in the Capital Fringe Festival for “LIFE! A comedic opera in three acts.” Bryan has directed and choreographed many shows regionally including All Shook Up, Godspell, Chicago, Catch Me If You Can (Act Two @ Levine) West Side Story (Summer Dinner Theatre) Notably, Bryan’s creative influence has also extended to numerous MCPS schools as a Choreographer, Designer, and Director. In addition to his directorial pursuits, Bryan is in the process of developing a Lady Gaga Jukebox Musical, which had a workshop at The University of The Arts in 2021. Presently, he’s a dedicated Pom coach at Magruder High School and is eagerly looking forward to directing and choreographing Disney’s The Little Mermaid and SpongeBob the Musical at OVATIONS in the upcoming season. Catch a glimpse of his journey on Instagram @BrySto.


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.

Anna Balchunas (Music Director of INTO THE WOODS; she/her) is an active and dedicated member for student education in the performing arts. A proud graduate of Shenandoah Conservatory, Anna holds a B.M. in Choral Music Education and is currently pursuing her M.S. in Performing Arts and Leadership Management. She spends her days as a high school choral director in Prince William County Schools and her evenings in the theatrical world. Recent production experience includes The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and Oliver! with Prince William Little Theatre, Avenue Q with Reston Community Players, and Finding Nemo Jr. with Pied Piper Theatre. In addition to theater, Anna adores singing with The City Choir of Washington and serving as their Chorus Vice-President. Into the Woods! was one of the first stage experiences she had in high school and she is looking forward to giving back to the community as the Music Director for this production.

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.

Margot Cohen (Music Director of MATILDA; she/her) is thrilled to be working with the ovations family but this time as a part of the production team! She recently finished her run as Kate Monster/Lucy the Slut in Ovations production of Avenue Q! Margot is a full time music teacher at Wheaton High School by day directing the choir as well as teaching piano and AP Music Theory and a music director and private instructor by night! Prior to becoming a high school teacher, she was the General Music Teacher at Sherwood Elementary school for two years. Previous music directing credits include: Little Shop of Horrors, Annie Jr, and Side Show. She would like to thank Darnell for giving her this opportunity as well as the rest of the production team and she hopes you enjoy the show!

Valerie 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.

Eliyahu Kheel (Music Director for GYPSY; He/Him) is so excited to be returning to Avenue Q after having played Trekkie seven years ago! Previously, Eliyahu has directed and music directed shows in Maryland, NYC, and Boston. Select performing credits include “Panch” in Spelling Bee, “Trunchbull” in Matilda, “Rudolpho” in Matilda, “Man in the chair” in Drowsy Chaperone, “Rapunzel’s Prince” in Into The Woods, “Beast” in Beauty and the Beast, and can be seen this October/November in Ragtime with Maryland Theatre Collective. When not on stage, Eliyahu is a certified voice teacher from the John Henny Contemporary Voice Teacher’s Academy and has a private voice studio in Randallstown. Find him after the show to schedule a lesson! Thank you to his amazing wife Keira for her continued love and support and to Darnell for this wonderful opportunity!

Joel Richon (Technical Director; 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).

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.

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