Meet Our Team

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.”

Casey Anderson

Board of Directors

Casey Anderson (she/her/hers) is a Bay Area native, and is thrilled to be affecting change so close to home. While she has always been passionate about theatre and film, Casey recently discovered her intense love for acting. A latecomer to Shakespeare, she took a chance on herself and found people eager to share their gifts, knowledge and love for the bard and storytelling. She was fortunate enough to be cast as Rosalind in As You Like It with Shakespeare Napa Valley as her first leading role, which sparked a love for Shakespeare, and she’s never going back. Even more than being onstage, she is so grateful for the community that theatre has brought her. She believes that art can change people’s minds and change people’s lives in a way that nothing else has the ability to. Meeting Emily, Phillip, and Jen in The Taming of The Shrew with Avalon players was a joy, and it made her realize that she wanted to continue to work with like-minded people that take the work seriously and find joy in the process. Her goal is to help cultivate a culture of joy and a welcoming home for all people to feel safe to be vulnerable while sharing what they have to give the world. As Brené Brown says, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.”

In her words:

“The way that Shakespeare’s work enveloped me proves how far reaching and accessible it can be. It has given me so much and I want to pass that on to as many people as possible. It’s for young people and old, from all backgrounds, who feel the emotions, but don’t have the words. I want our shows and casts to represent the people and struggles of the place we are now. Shared experiences make people feel seen, and that’s powerful.”

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.