Our Fearless Leaders!

Margo Proeh

Margo started her career at a young age as a child actress appearing in multiple national commercials, print ads and television programs. She has been a member of SAG-AFTRA for 38 years. Margo founded the Children's Theatre Company (formerly The Lake Forest Children's Co.) in 1993 and she switched her focus to follow her true passion of educating and inspiring young talent. As a creator, writer and producer of dramatic programs, Margo is recognized as a specialist in children’s theatre. She advocates for empowerment and building confidence and authenticity through life skills education. With over 25 years of expertise, Margo has created nationally recognized programs that transform lives.  She started teaching at The Gorton Center in Lake Forest, Eileen Boevers Center for The Performing Arts/Apple Tree Theater in Highland Park, The Winnetka Community House and The Principal Scholars Program at the University of Illinois Chicago Campus. With years of experience teaching musical theatre and more than 1000s of shows later the company has now expanded to locations in Highland Park, Vernon Hills, Libertyville, Chicago, Elgin, Oak Park/River Forest, Vernon Hills, District 214, and Norridge. The Children's Theatre Co. is also a program provider for After School Matters.  Margo also founded and produces the Chicago Youth Dance Exhibition.

Gabrielle Garza

Gabrielle is an actress and musician raised in Naperville, IL. She grew up watching old movie musicals like “Funny Girl” and “Hello Dolly” and instantly fell in love with musical theatre. After attending Emerson College and receiving her BFA in Musical Theatre, she moved to New York City to pursue her dream. Shortly after she booked the role of Anna in the Tony award winning musical “Spring Awakening”. She had the pleasure of working with the original creative team including Michael Mayer, Bill T. Jones, Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik, and exploring the country touring with this ground breaking and provocative show. After returning to New York, she also had the pleasure of working with Joe Mantello on the workshop production of Dogfight at Second Stage. After taking a break from acting,Gabrielle was fortunate enough to dive back into work with the Tony award winning theatre company Deaf West in LA on their unique production of “Spring Awakening” featuring deaf actors. She played a swing and understudied all the female roles having to learn American Sign Language and the guitar. After many years in NYC and LA, it was time to return home to Chicago.When not auditioning or teaching, she also sings in the cover band “Uptown Shakedown”. She is happy to be apart of The Children’s Theatre team, and hopes to inspire confidence and a love of the performing arts in her student

Becky Cooper

 Becky Cooper graduated in 1996 with a Dance Performance degree from Oklahoma City University. A dance instructor since 1989, Becky has been a master teacher in tap, jazz, and musical theater for conventions, workshops, and repertory intensives across the country and internationally. She has appeared in several musical productions throughout her pre-professional career, was featured in shows such as Annie, Gypsy, and The Sound of Music. During her college years, Becky performed various roles in OCU musicals alongside Kristin Chenoweth and Kelli O'Hara, was the first dancer and the first freshman to win Miss OCU, placed top 6 and won the talent competition in Miss Oklahoma, performed her tap solo at the American Legacy in Dance Awards honoring Peg Leg Bates, appeared on national TV in Ed McMahon's Star Search, and was the featured soloist in Mickey's Starland Show at Walt Disney World, where she sang and danced for thousands of children every day. She has danced professionally with Mark Yonally's Chicago Tap Theatre, Especially Tap Chicago with Lane Alexander, Sarah Savelli, Jay Fagan, Julie Cartier, and Bruce Stegmann, and was privileged to be a founding member one of Billy Siegenfeld’s Jump Rhythm Jazz Project. Throughout the years, Becky's choreography has been consistently acknowledged for its creativity, storytelling, and entertainment value. Her Chicagoland theatre choreography credits include Crazy For You (co-choreographer), My One and Only, Peter Pan, Guys and Dolls, Anything Goes, Children of Eden, Hairspray, Seussical Jr, Mary Poppins, Wizard of Oz, Lion King, Jr, and Chicagoland holiday favorite Let It Be Christmas. In 2007, Dance Chicago honored her with the New Voice in Choreography award for her outstanding children's work. 

Larissa Kowal

  

I grew up dancing both at Elk Grove High School on the Orchesis Dance Company and at Lynnette's School of Dance. I have training in numerous styles including jazz, tap, ballet, pointe, hip hop, and modern dance. 

I attended Illinois Wesleyan University, where I studied music education and dance. My primary instrument is alto saxophone, which was my core instrumental focus at Illinois Wesleyan. I was involved in multiple dance productions during my time there as both a dancer and choreographer. I spent two years as the president of Cohesion Dance Company, which is entirely student-run. I graduated in 2015 with a Bachelor of Music Education degree and a Theater Dance minor.

Since graduation, I spent two years as the assistant color guard director at Elk Grove High School. I am going into my third year as the general music teacher for grades K-8 at the Brian Piccolo School of Excellence in Chicago.

Willow Star Faygenholtz


Willow Star Faygenholtz started dancing at a young age taking ballet, jazz and hip hop classes and performing in local talent shows in her home town of Santa Cruz, California.

She was mainly a swimmer in high school but still pursued her love of dance by dancing on the semi-pro sharketts dance team in 2005/06.

Willow’s ethnic roots in dance became obvious when she trained and studied the art of traditional Hawaiian Hula dance and decided to compete in the 2007/08 Miss Santa Cruz pageant. She won the Artistic Expression Award and pursued the love of dance in her studies at Cabrillo Jr. College in Aptos, California where she studied and performed closely with amazing choreographers Tandy Beal, Cid Pearlman, and David King.There she choreographed her 1st work for the stage with 21 dancers and was awarded the 2009 Special Recognition for Achievement in Dance by Cabrillo dance department.

Graduating with an AA in Liberal Arts and General Science degree in May 2009, motivated Willow to grow and expand her skills and talents with a change in educational environment.Inspired by her mentors, she moved to Chicago and attended Columbia College for Performing Arts. During her studies she expanded her repertoire from dance performance to fashion modeling working with teams of creative professionals to produce fashion shows, print media and advertising, and TV segments for events and fashion designs. Willow graduated with a BS in Dance and Performing Arts in May 2012.

Since graduating Willow currently models full time as a freelance and agency represented talent. Modeled on WGN, YOU & Me This Morning Show, Fox32 News, Steve Harvey show, Empire and many other TV appearances. She has Shot international Guaranteed Rate commercial with Ty Pennington, Citgo commercial, UW Health commercial and few more yet to release. She has worked with and had resent print ads with Harley-Davidson, Aldi usa, Veil magazine, Glamour wedding, Chicago Style Wedding, Streetwise, Groupon, VS Chicago magazine, Style Me Pretty and many more 

Jennefer Ludwigsen

Jennefer Ludwigsen has been a professional actress and teacher since graduating form Northwestern University in 1999.  She has taught at Northwestern University, for Evanston School Disctrict #65, and the Eileen Boevers Center for Performing Arts at Apple Tree Theatre in Highland Park. She also was an associate teaching artist with Free Street Programs where, in partnership with the Fiction Writing Department of Columbia College, she helped with the Write/Act program in Chicago public schools. Jennefer is the founder and director of Doorways: Creating Theatre for Children in Door County WI where she serves as the Director of Education for Door Shakespeare. As an actress, Jennfer has performed on stages in Chicago, Seattle, and Los Angeles, and most recently spent her 11th summer as a company member with Door Shakespeare. Her TV credits include CRIMINAL MINDS, CSI, KEY & PEELE, and numerous commercials. Currently airing is a sketch on-line for The Onion. As a writer, she is currently a staff writer with jokes4miles.com, creating content for children diagnosed with cancer. Her stories have been heard on KCRW and NPR, and various storytelling venues in Los Angeles. Jenn holds a MFA from the Professional Actor’s Training Program (PATP) at the University of Washington.

DeAndre McLaurin (Dre)

  

DJ, emcee, and dancer, DeAndre McLaurin (Dre) encompasses all of these assets into his ability to entertain. Dre is from the Chicago suburb of Joliet, IL. Growing up Dre was

exposed to many different styles and genres of music. He has since then used the

knowledge he has gained since being a child to make himself a better rounded

entertainer. He has been involved in the entertainment industry for over 5 years

working with A-Z Entertainment as a DJ, Emcee, and dancer. He has also recently received the opportunity to begin Deejaying on the cruise ships on Chicago’s coveted Navy Pier. Starting as a dancer Dre quickly found his skill and love for Deejaying and emceeing. He has successfully done several types of events ranging from school events, to bar/bat mitzvahs, to corporate events and many more. He has also been fortunate to perform at many different venues ranging from country clubs to schools , to hotels , and many more. Dre also has taught a range of classes from dance fitness to kid’s hip hop. Dre focuses on being able to give his audience an interactive experience when doing any type of gig. He also has a talent for getting everyone involved and being able to accommodate the entire audience. Dre is very knowledgeable about music and makes it a point to stay relevant with new music as well as appreciative and knowledgeable of older music. Overall, Dre has the ability to work with many different types of audiences no matter the demographic and always puts his best effort forward to make sure that everyone has a great and memorable experience.

Christina Melgar

Christina Melgar has been working professionally in the entertainment industry for the past 6 years. She began her professional debut voicing “Party Paige” on PBS Kids’ The BIG show. Her love for performing has grown through her 5 years experience as an Event Emcee. She has emceed events as large as The Taste of Chicago, Chicago Parent Magazine’s Annual Playdates, and The Hot Chocolate Run. Christina’s love for being in front of a crowd came from being in several theatrical productions since the age of 11. Her most recent credits are Lowly Worm in Busytown and Marcy Park in Spelling Bee. With experience in Hip Hop, Improv Dance, Musical Theatre, Poms, Spanish Dance and Ballet, Christina enjoys teaching young performers how to perform with enthusiasm and a smile.

Jami’a(Ja-Me-Ah) Taylor

 

Jamía graduated with her Bachelors of Arts in theatre from Columbia College, Chicago. She has an array of experience mentoring young and “old” in musical theatre and music. She plays ten instruments (Flute, piccolo, oboe, trumpet, mellophone, french horn, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, Bass guitar and piano) is trained in stage combat, performs stand-up and has acted and directed many shows. Jamía has performed at Second City several times to sold out shows for LOL theatre. She has been a lead in several short films, directed her own show, created her own theatre company called Inside Out Theatre with her friends and has been featured several news articles. She's currently in a show called Love and Information at Three Brothers Theatre. Jamía has worked as an assistant teacher at Galileo Science camp where the kids learned about compasses, different types of trees and how to survive in the wilderness. She teaches swimming lessons and coaches 11 and under girls at D214. Her Mission is to spread love, create, never give up and to stay healthy both physically and mentally by being positive and spreading love and knowledge›