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ABOUT THE THEATREZONE TEAM / BOARD

 
Mark Danni – Producing Artistic Director and Board of Directors

Mark Danni is one of the most well rounded people in the entertainment business. His directing, music directing and drumming skills make him a sought after commodity in the theatre world. After starting his New York City career as a drummer on Broadway for shows such as Chicago (starring Jasmine Guy, Jennifer Holiday, Vicky Lewis and Alan Thicke) Grand Hotel (starring Michael Jeter, Rex Smith and Jane Krakowski), Miss Saigon (starring Lea Salonga and Hinton Battle), Les Miserables (starring Colm Wilkinson, Ricky Martin, Andrea McArdle and Laurie Beechman), Joseph…(starring Michael Damian), Annie Get Your Gun (starring Bernadette Peters and Tom Wolpat) and Nunsense, he quickly moved into the conductor’s chair and conducted the national tours of Barnum and Les Miserables. During his 14 years in New York, he also toured with the shows The Phantom Of The Opera, 42nd Street (starring Gretchen Wyler and Marcia Lewis), the 25th anniversary tour of Hair (directed by James Rado and Galt McDermott), Evita, Les Miserables (starring Sutton Foster) and Fame as the drummer and/or percussionist. Regionally, he was the conductor of A Little Night Music at the Signature Theatre in Washington, D.C., where he also worked on the Studio Theatre’s production of Falsettoland. Quickly becoming a favorite in D.C., he was then asked to play drums for Al Gore’s Innaugural Gala in 1993, A Taste of Tennessee, starring Dixie Carter and Gary Morris.

 

Directing shows became inevitable for someone as creative as Mark. While conducting the tour of Les Miserables, he soon became a favorite conductor for many of the cast members and the director of the show started teaching him the ropes of directing, encouraging him to start directing himself. That’s just what Mark did. When he left the road, he started directing anywhere he could and even directed a few Off-Broadway productions. Some of those include the critically acclaimed play, Aggravation, and the musical workshop of What Would Esther Williams Do In A Situation Like This? (starring Richard Heard).

 

After leaving New York, Mark continued directing in Southwest Florida, and became the Founding Artistic Director of TheatreZone Inc., a professional theatre company in Naples, Florida. While Mark maintains a heavy directing schedule, he is still in demand as a conductor and drummer. At Sandy Duncan’s request, Mark toured through the state of Florida with her show, Sandy Duncan: celebrates Broadway, and has also played with the Naples Philharmonic.

 

Born and raised in Buffalo, NY, Mark attended Baldwin-Wallace College in Cleveland, OH. He is a trained director, conductor and percussionist whose teachers include Jack Lee, Eric Schaeffer, Dwight Oltman, Donald Schleicher, Rick Holms and Karen Carpenter.

 

In the spring of 2013 luxury lifestyle magazine Naples Illustrated polled the community and nominated TheatreZone founder Mark Danni. Mark was one of 12 worthy gentlemen to compete to be one of the seven finalists who are to be featured on the pages of the September 2013 issue of Naples Illustrated.

E-Mail the Artistic Director: Mark Danni

 
 
Karen Kayser Benson - Board of Directors

In the world of possibilities, Karen Kayser Benson is a facilitator, one who brings people closer to actualizing their dreams.

 

In her non-professional life (which means non-salaried), Ms. Benson has managed logistics teams for large productions, successfully coached and trained people to become event managers, team leaders, organized and lead tennis teams, bicycling teams and various charity fund-raisers.

 

Within the parameters of her professional life, she has been a talent agent, an actress, a casting director, a personal manager and an audition coach. During the many years behind the video camera, auditioning actors for commercials and films, Ms. Benson saw how vulnerable the human spirit is and how mismanagement or misdirection can damage that soul. Ms. Benson decided that, with proper guidance and some good coaching, actors could thrive and be successful. So she combined her talents as a casting director and an acting coach and dedicated her professional life to supporting and coaching actors.

 

During her professional life, Ms. Benson was invited to participate as a judge in Miss USA and Miss Teen USA Pageants for New York and New Jersey, again having the privilege and opportunity to work with young ladies who were in the throws of discovering their own talents and their inner beauty.

 

Perhaps the most satisfying job was being the casting director for Steve & Linda Horn Productions in New York for over 15 years. Steve Horn is one of the most honored commercial film directors with awards and acknowledgments that outnumber his competition. His work is on display at the Museum of Modern Art, as the example of extraordinary art in the television commercial field. While being in his company, observing him direct actors on set and on location, Ms. Benson had the privilege of not only training the actors for his work but also learning outstanding camera technique and acting skills from his direction. She was able to apply these techniques through a successful acting school which she formed with two compatriots, teaching audition and camera technique for 10 years to actors at all levels of their professional careers.

 

Background

Education: Bachelor of Arts from Mount Holyoke College, major: Radio and Television Production

 

Graduate work at Union Theological Seminary, matriculating toward a Masters of Fine Arts specializing in Acting.

 

Special Interests: Long distance cycling; Captain of USTA tennis team (rated 3.0); President of the Mount Holyoke Club of South West Florida, Board member of Theater Zone in Naples, Florida, Ambassador for Gulf Shore Playhouse in Naples and Secretary of her Home Owners’ Association in Bonita Springs, Florida.

 
 
Ed Cheffy – Board of Directors

Edward K. Cheffy is certified by The Florida Bar as a specialist in both Civil Trial Law and Business Litigation.  Rated AV -- the highest level of professional excellence -- by Martindale-Hubbell, he has been voted by his peers as one of “The Top 100 Super Lawyers” in Florida, and is included in “Florida Trend’s Legal Elite,” as well as The Best Lawyers in America. In 2009, he was inducted as a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers.


Mr. Cheffy graduated with honors from Harvard University with a degree in History and Literature and received his law degree, with honors, from the Ohio State University College of Law. A resident of Naples since 1985, he has practiced with Cheffy Passidomo managing commercial, business, construction and real estate cases.

 

Mr. Cheffy’s community service includes serving as Chair of the Board of Hospice of Naples, and serving on the Board of The Community School of Naples, leading the student mock trial team to three county championships, three regional championships and two state championships.

 
 
Ellen Elleman - Director of Operations

Entrepreneurial in spirit, Ellen Elleman enjoys her work as Managing Director of TheatreZone as it allows her to combine her MBA education with her creative side. Relatively new to Naples, Ellen and her family have lived in Atlanta, GA, Charleston, SC, Columbus, OH and San Diego, CA. Their goal is to have fun in all 50 states, as travel is their favorite pastime. They also love warm weather and the beach, and are happy call Naples home. In her spare time Ellen plays tennis, volunteers at The Community School of Naples and scrapbooks like a fiend.

 
 

Joseph Farley - Board of Directors

Joseph J. Farley is the founding member of long/short equity technology hedge fund Kelvingrove Fund LP.  Before that, he was Managing Director of Investment Research and Portfolio Manager of Private Capital Management, an investment advisory firm headquartered in Naples. Prior to joining PCM in 2002, Farley was an Executive Director at Morgan Stanley where he was responsible for equity research of the software industry. He has held similar positions at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette and UBS Securities. Mr. Farley earned both Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees in Economics from the State University of New York at Albany.

 
 

Billie E. Hazelbaker - Board of Directors

Billie E. Hazelbaker, a Naples octogenarian, was involved in Central Ohio Theatre for more than 40 years.  During that time, she acted in numerous productions and performed many backstage functions. She was an active member of the boards of The Players' Theatre of Columbus, the Senior Repertory of Ohio Theatre Company and The Goldston Mime Foundation.  She is the retired President of Design by Paradigm, a commercial interior design firm and currently administers the Hazelbaker Foundation.

 

Ms. Hazelbaker has authored two books and has had several plays produced.  Her first musical was presented in a limited off-Broadway run by The New York City Fringe Festival. She is currently collaborating on a new musical that is expected to have its world premiere in fall 2012. She and Ralph, her husband of 64 years, have together produced seven children, and received in return the gift of 21 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren.

 
 
Kathleen Kolacz – Resident Costume Designer
Kathleen has been involved in numerous Broadway shows and tours and lists Sound of Music, Showboat, Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon, Crazy for You, 42nd Street, Evita, Les Miserable, Follies, West Side Story and Big among her credits. She has been the assistant wardrobe mistress for Radio City Music Hall, Detroit OperaTheatre and Dayton Opera Theatre where she worked on productions of, among others, Turandot, Aida, Romeo and Juliet, Madame Butterfly, My Fair Lady and Die Fledermaus. She was also a guest wardrobe assistant for the opening of the premier season for Opera Pacific.
 
 
Karen Molnar – Resident Choreographer
Karen Molnar’s Choreography Credits include FILM: Italian Lessons. OFF-BROADWAY: Space Trek; A Musical Parody, Sea Fever, What Would Esther Williams Do… REGIONAL: A Chorus Line, Crazy For You, West Side Story, Pippin, Grease, Guys And Dolls, Hello Dolly, etc. COLLEGIATE: Merrily We Roll Along at Yale University. Some of her acting credits are FILM and TV: Guiding Light, One Life To Live, Sex And The City, For Richer Or Poorer, Step Mom, The Astronaut's Wife. THEATRE: Little Shop of Horrors (Audrey), Bye Bye Birdie (Rosie), Anything Goes (Reno Sweeney), West Side Story (Anita), A Chorus Line (Kristine), the European Tour of On The Town (Flossie/Dance Capt.), the National Tour of Wizard Of Oz (Glinda), and the Off-Broadway revival of Irene. Karen has a Bachelor of Arts degree in musical theatre and marketing from Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio.
 
 
Lisa A. Nakfoor – Board of Directors

Lisa A. Nakfoor, J.D., LL.M. is a Senior Vice President with U.S. Trust in the Wealth Management division. She has extensive financial experience in wealth management, estate planning, trust administration, tax planning and family office relationships.  Outside of her business experience, Ms. Nakfoor is committed to community involvement and has participated with many charitable organizations.

 
 
Susan Owens - Board of Directors
Susan Owens first moved to the Naples area in 1990 from Chicago. She has been involved in the business community as an award winning Realtor and member of Leadership Southwest Florida. Susan earned her Bachelor of Business Administration Degree from The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and her MBA from Keller Graduate School of Management in Chicago. Out of undergraduate school, Susan became a regional manager for the Revlon Corporation in Boston and Chicago. After earning her MBA and becoming a licensed stockbroker, Susan worked in the securities industry wholesaling financial products to Prudential and E. F. Hutton, among other national brokerage firms. As Vice President of The Related Companies, a large New York City security and real estate corporation, Susan earned several industry awards including Wholesaler of the Year. Today she continues to hold an active Series 7 license as a stockbroker in the State of Florida as well as her real estate license. She currently works with Amerivest Realty selling homes and other investment properties on the Gulf of Mexico.
 
 
Paul Phillips – Production Supervisor and Board of Directors
Paul Phillips has staged managed on Broadway for Mame, Sweet Charity, Chicago, Pippin, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Take her, She’s Mine, Open Admissions and The Rehearsal. He also stage managed Judy Garland at the Palace. Paul was under contract with MGM as an actor and stage managed numerous film and stage stars playing the summer stock circuit. Paul began visiting Naples with Gertrude Lawrence and Gwen Verdon and became a permanent resident in 2001.
 
 
Kathy Prutos – Director of Marketing
 
Rita Albaugh – Box Office Manager
 
David Stevens – Chairman of the Board of Directors

David Stevens has resided in Naples for more than 39 years and is a 24-year commercial sales leader. He earned his degree in real estate from the University of Florida and returned to Naples to begin his commercial real estate career. David also earned the Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM) designation, the leading indicator of expertise in commercial and investment real estate.  David is on the board of the Community School of Naples and has been a musician for TheatreZone productions since 2007.

 
Leigh Hazelbaker Straub – Board of Directors

Ohio native Leigh Hazelbaker Straub relocated to Naples, Florida in 1997 after spending more than 25 years in a variety of sales and marketing positions within the health care industry. A published author and respected authority on long term health care issues and facilities management, Ms. Straub is also a licensed commercial real estate agent and owner of independent online publisher Mainfest Press.

 

Ms. Straub is a graduate of Ohio State University with Masterís Degree in Journalism and her skills in business and communications are currently used working as a theatrical stage manager, which combines her love of theatre with financial acumen and organization. She is also a 10-year parent volunteer at The Community School of Naples, most recently serving on its Angel Ball gala committee that raised $750,000 for the schoolís financial aid program.

 
 

TheatreZone
13275 Livingston Rd.

Naples, FL 34109


888-ZONE-FLA
(1-888-966-3352)

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