Meet Our Team

Board of Directors

Emily Newsome

Founder, Board of Directors

Originally from Los Angeles, CA, Emily Newsome (she/her) has been in love with acting and theatre for most of her life. Throughout her childhood and teens, Newsome found it impossible to get cast in any roles that were fitting for her. Teachers/directors at her performing arts high school would pick casts that were almost entirely white, and any roles for people of color were either grossly stereotyped or also played by white actors (or both). This disheartening experience led her to take a brief hiatus before the love of theatre drew her to UC Santa Barbara’s B.F.A acting program where she slowly began to find her footing.​After graduating with new found confidence, Emily began to land the roles she once would have thought impossible- Lady Macbeth in Shakes on the Deck’s Macbeth, and Katherine in Avalon Players’ Taming of the Shrew being two of the most notable and complexly challenging. But with this new growth came a new struggle.

“Actors endure endless scrutiny and give up so much of their time pouring their hearts and souls into their work and are rarely compensated for it,” Newsome says. “Art is nourishment for the human spirit. We need art, and yet artists are so mistreated. It is my hope that Berkeley Shakes can become a safe space for artists of all backgrounds that compensates them justly for their work. Affecting even a tiny bit of change within this deeply beautiful yet deeply flawed industry- that is the real dream.

Phillip Leyva

Founder, Board of Directors

Phillip Leyva (he/him) is an actor, educator, and US Army veteran originally from Los Banos, California. He moved to the Bay Area in 2011 after a transfer to UC Berkeley where he earned a bachelor of arts degree in English. Subsequently, Phillip enrolled at Saint Mary’s College where he earned a master of arts degree in teaching. Shortly after his first five years of teaching high school English, he wanted to discover new ways to enliven his performing arts lessons, especially Shakespeare, so he became involved in community theatre.

From that point on, Phillip performed in plays while teaching full time all the way up until the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March of 2020. Currently, he is the middle school teacher training coordinator for the Puente Project at the UC Berkeley Center for Educational Partnerships. He also teaches acting classes in Northern California prisons with the Marin Shakespeare Company’s Acting for Social Justice program.

Phillip wishes to create and maintain a safe environment that empowers actors, especially those who aren’t often afforded an opportunity to create professional theatre. He is committed to serving the military veteran community and recognizes that theatre can have a lasting positive effect on those who simply need a chance to express themselves artistically.

Jennifer Gallagher

Founder, Board of Directors

Jennifer Gallagher (she/her) is a local actor and musician who has spent the last five years touring the country with her Folk/Americana ensemble, Run Boy Run. The group was twice featured on “A Prairie Home Companion.” Jennifer has appeared in theatre productions with Twilight Theatre, Rose City Shakespeare Company,  Ralph Radio Theatre, and most recently portrayed Bianca in Taming of the Shrew with Avalon Players.

In her words:

“I have always been drawn to the works of Shakespeare, and am thrilled to be founding a company that I hope will do justice to the masterful storytelling of the author, while also exploring original dramatic portrayals. Our company seeks especially to empower female performers, reversing the age-old gender disparity in this medium. As a new mother, it is paramount to me that women are given the same opportunities to use their craft, and Berkeley Shakespeare Company is committed to providing opportunities for just that.”

Alejandra Wahl

Board of Directors

Alejandra Wahl is an artist who seeks to explore the intersection between justice, transformation, liberation, and healing in creative, imaginative expression. Most recently seen as Edward/Victoria (Cloud 9 at Custom Made Theater Co.); recent roles include Sabina (The Skin Of Our Teeth, Actor’s Ensemble of Berkeley), The Porter/Lady Macduff (Macbeth, Berkeley Shakespeare Company). A bilingual teaching artist and director, Alejandra directs theater programs with incarcerated men and women in California state prisons, using Shakespeare, contemporary plays, and acting skills as a tool for self-reflection and empowerment. She firmly believes in the radical power of theater, and is honored to have helmed the energetic, uplifting production of Berkeley Shakes’ Much Ado About Nothing.

Sam Logan

Board of Directors

Sam Logan most recently played Borachio in Berkeley Shakespeare Company’s production of Much Ado About Nothing. The show was part of his mission to perform in every single play by William Shakespeare. Previously, he’s played Edgar in King Lear at the B8 Theatre company, Laertes in Actors Ensemble of Berkeley’s production of Hamlet, Demetrius in theatreCORE’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Orsino in Antioch Classical Theatre Company’s Twelfth Night, and had a role in their production of As You Like It as well. Sam started with Berkeley Shakespeare Company in December of 2021 when he played Macduff in their debut production of Macbeth.

Erica Maier D’Ambrosio

Board of Directors

Erica Maier D’Ambrosio is delighted to be part of the Berkeley Shakespeare team! A choir director and music teacher by training, Erica has taught voice extensively at many theater companies, schools and choirs. She enjoys performing in operas, musicals and as a soloist when her schedule allows. Erica founded Trinity Voice Studio in 2006 and is proud to support singers in their musical endeavors throughout the Bay Area!

Company Members

Casey Anderson

Zeke Edmonds

Nick Mandracchia

Christian Munck

Elana Swartz

Zachary Vaughn

Lisa Wang

Evan Winet