Meet Our Lead Instructors
Jennifer Keating Roca – Artistic and Executive Director
Jennifer began acting when she enrolled in “The Peter Pan Players” of Worcester at age 7. For the next 10 years, she received specialized musical theatre, dance and improvisation training with the popular group, and performed in over 50 productions, as well as being in a touring company.
At the age of 15, she began choreographing and ultimately directing the theatre company at her high school. She graduated with a degree in theatre from UMass Amherst, all the while still directing at her high school. She then traveled with professional touring companies, did summer stock productions, and eventually landed in NYC, where she worked for Disney Theatricals (“The Lion King”) and MTV during the day, while she continued her acting career in the evening.
Roles that she has played (many of them multiple times) are Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” Luisa in “The Fantasticks,” Kim MacAfee in “Bye Bye Birdie,” Esther in “Meet Me In St. Louis,” The Artful Dodger in “Oliver!” and Luna in Columbia University’s Short Film “Luna,” among many others! A few of her favorite shows she has directed and/or choreographed are “The Wiz,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “42nd Street,” “Anything Goes,” “Noises Off!” “Annie,” “Bye Bye Birdie,” “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” “Narnia,” “Alice in Wonderland,” among many others! She has directed MainStage productions at UMass Dartmouth, and was the drama teacher at Good Company Tutorials for five years- which is where she was introduced to the wonderful world of homeschoolers! AWIP is a dream come true for her. While living in NYC, her life changed… and she found herself singing in the choir of Times Square Church, which meets in an old Broadway Theatre. Only fitting that she would find herself there. She would love to tell you the whole story! She recently appeared in a music video for Kelce Mclernon’s single, “Mirrors,” and was selected as a national spokesperson for Noom.
She is grateful to her three kids for being patient with her as she has moments of ‘creative outbursts’ from time to time at home, resulting in a half-hour choreography lesson or script-writing session, or some other dramatic endeavor 🙂 Her children are only happy to take part in these moments, and are budding performers themselves.
Nicole DeRosa – Creative Arts and Acting Dept. Instructor
Nicole received her Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature and Theatre from Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts. She has worked as an actor and teacher and looked forward to becoming a writer of children’s books to combine her passion for the arts and education – which culminated in her first book being published, called “The Ribbit Exhibit.” She has taught acting and theatre at the YMCA, with Drama Kids International Academy, and her own Freeze Pop Productions, which is an all-girls course combining theatre arts with history, poetry, and more. She has also taught master classes at John Robert Powers. She has acted in many professional productions, including “Steel Magnolias,” “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” “Dancing at Lughnasa” and many more. Her film experience includes “Me, Myself and Irene,” “Strikingly Single,” and “The Union,” as well as many commercials (Harley Davidson, Countrywide Bank, Dunkin Donuts, and Cinemax to name a few). She most recently co-wrote the acclaimed “Leaving a Mark” children’s book with Dorian Murray, also known as #DStrong. Her most valued role is that of mother of three children; Nicholas, Olivia and Noelle. Raising them has been one of her life’s greatest accomplishments.
Melissa Lamb – Stage Manager and Tech Dept. Instructor
Melissa Lamb is a graduate of WPI with a degree in Chemistry and Theatre Technology. While at WPI, she worked in every aspect of technical theatre, with a concentration in stage management. She was also a member of Lens and Lights, which provided sound, lighting, and projection for concerts and other on campus performances.
Since leaving WPI, Melissa has worked with a variety of community theatre groups, including an assistant management position at The Vineyard Playhouse, a professional theatre company located on Martha’s Vineyard. She also worked with The Gazebo Players of Medfield where she was the stage manger for Helen Keller and Brighton Beach Memoirs, and worked as the Producer for their annual outdoor Shakespeare summer shows.
This is Melissa’s sixth year with illuminate, and is excited to be sharing her love of theatre with the next generation.
Michelle McWilliams – Dance Department Instructor and Choreographer
Michelle is a graduate of Dean College, with a Bachelor of Arts in Dance. She began her training at a local dance school at a very young age, and was a competitive dancer until she graduated high school.
She also began teaching at her dance school in her late teen years, and choreographed pieces for the annual recitals. Through her dance school, she had the experience of dancing in Disney World, Carnegie Hall, and attended countless master classes. She furthered her dance education at Dean College, where she became part of the dance company her senior year. She performed as part of the hip hop and tap company. During college she also choreographed her former high school’s musicals, and still taught classes at her former dance school. After graduating, she began teaching at another local dance school where she taught ballet, jazz, modern, hip hop, and tap. In 2013 she stepped aside from teaching dance to begin homeschooling her four children alongside her husband Kevin.
This is Michelle’s fourth year being on staff at Illuminate. She’s thankful for the opportunity to share her passion and joy for dance with the Illuminate community.
Cassie Hanudel – Music Department Instructor
Cassandra Hanudel earned her B.M in music education from Gordon College in 2004 and her M.M.Ed. in music education from the University of Hartford in 2010.
She taught music in the Needham Public Schools for 10 years, directing choirs and teaching general music, and was the choral director at Pollard Middle School for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade choruses as well as the award winning Treble Choir. Under Mrs. Hanudel’s direction the Treble Choir traveled and performed everywhere from Washington D.C. to New York City, won numerous gold medals at state festivals, and was invited to perform at Symphony Hall, Mechanics Hall, and the 2009 NAfME Eastern Division Conference in Providence, RI.
During her time at Gordon, Mrs. Hanudel studied voice and vocal pedagogy and sang with the College Choir and various other chamber ensembles. She has also performed with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus and has taught voice privately for 15 years. Since 2014 Mrs. Hanudel has been home with her children and has maintained an active voice studio, focusing on vocal pedagogy and performance techniques with high school students.
She is presently Assistant Conductor of the Community Children’s Choir at Gordon College.
Jason Lamb – Tech Director and Tech Department Instructor
Jason Lamb, a graduate of Worcester Polytechnic Institute, was introduced to theater production his freshman year and has been involved ever since.
During his time at WPI he was the President of Lens and Lights, WPI’s lighting, sound and projection club. He has worked on numerous productions as the Master Electrician, Lighting Designer, Master Carpenter and Technical Director. Jason actively participated in and served as the President for The Gazebo Players of Medfield. Jason has recently joined AWIP and is delighted be running Master Classes in Lighting and Set Construction. While not working on productions Jason finds himself immersed in the activities of his four busy children and his career as an IT Director. This is Jason’s sixth year with the company.
Raymond Santos – Media and Music Department Instructor
Although he did not grow up in a musical family and only started playing piano at age 17, Ray has performed in about a dozen orchestras and has directed about 10. He started a film/videography business in 2017 and since then has worked with clients like the UFC, Progressive Auto Insurance, and has won several film festivals.
His most recent work was shown at Sundance. His favorite shows have been Beauty and the Beast, Godspell, and Joseph… and The Wizard of Oz that Illuminate livestreamed in December 2020. In his free time, Ray likes take to the skies on a single engine plane.
Joy Capodanno – Art Department Instructor
Joy was born into an artistic family and focused on art at an early age. Her first drawing lessons began at the kitchen table and has never truly ended.
She was recognized nationally during her senior year of high school for her watercolor self portrait. She went on to study art education at UMass-Dartmouth where she logged hundreds of hours of drawing, painting and other art classes.
Joy and her husband have five children and have been homeschooling for three years and has been teaching art to homeschoolers for two years. Most recently, she has been creating custom watercolor paintings with a focus on architectural subjects and enjoys making something that will be both beautiful and meaningful for families. She also paints whimsically when the mood strikes her. Joy is passionate about helping students develop skills and discover their unique artistic talents.
Catherine Sipher – Music Department Instructor
As a piano instructor for over 20 years, Catherine Aday focuses on developing in her students strong technical skills, music theory foundations, and artistic expressions. Mastering these fundamentals, no matter the instrument, enables students to be lifelong musicians and music enthusiasts.
Catherine holds a Bachelor’s of Music degree from James Madison University, in Virginia, where she studied piano under Dr. Eric Ruple and piano pedagogy under Dr. Patricia Brady, and took more music theory classes than she can count. She is also a member of the Music Teachers National Association.
As a performer, she has experience serving as an accompanist to student vocalists, instrumentalists, and choirs. She absolutely loves sharing the beauty of music with her students and providing them with the skills to reach their goals.
Laura Jenkins – Music Department Instructor and Mainstage Music Director
Laura Jenkins is a singer, voice teacher, musical director and choral conductor. She has a Master’s Degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Massachusetts. She had the pleasure of directing three previous Mainstage shows with A Work In Progress Productions (Illuminate): The Wiz, Mary Poppins, and White Christmas. She also conducted High Notes choirs and taught vocal techniques classes. She is currently directing Hello, Dolly! at Barrington Christian Academy, where she was the choral and musical director for three years.
She maintains a private voice studio out of her home as well as serves as a worship team musician at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Providence. She has appeared locally with the Providence Singers. Previously, she was a voice faculty member at the Springfield Community Music School. She has also appeared with the Arcadia Players, the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, the Pioneer Valley Symphony, Commonwealth Opera and the Keene Chorale and Orchestra.
Zachary Larochelle – Salt+Light Coach
more about Zach coming soon!
Meet Our Student Instructors
Caleb Arruda – Media Department Instructor
more about Caleb coming soon!
Miriam Belli – Acting Department Instructor
Miriam is a junior in high school and the oldest of five kids. She has been homeschooled her whole life. This is her 4th year with illuminate. After doing a few homeschool plays, her family found illuminate in 2018 and Miriam joined the cast of Newsies. She instantly fell in love with musical theatre, and has been actively involved with illuminate ever since.
She has been in 3 mainstages as of 2021- with roles including Mrs. Potts in Beauty and the Beast and Glinda in The Wizard of Oz. She has interned for or performed in 3 Junior productions, interning for the music, acting, and writing department, and taking all the classes she can. She also just finished her first year as a member of Salt + Light- illuminate’s performance outreach team. She loves all areas of the arts, and she is so excited to help other kids find the same joy she finds in using our unique gifts to tell stories!
Mason Cummins – Acting Department Instructor
Mason has been with Illuminate since 2016, and has performed in four Mainstage productions with the company. He has undertaken roles such as the Tinman in The Wizard of Oz and Crutchie in Newsies. He has also interned for 3 junior productions, including Tom Sawyer Meets Pollyanna and Life in Moments.
Mason has always had a love for music and acting, and enjoys the whole experience Illuminate has to offer, whether its acting, interning, volunteer work, outreach, or otherwise. He is greatly looking forward to taking new steps heading into year 9 of Illuminate!
Aimiejeanne Given – Dance Department Instructor
Aimiejeanne Given is a senior in high school. She has danced since she was 7 and currently dances at Turning Point Dance Academy in Thompson CT. Right now she is taking ballet, contemporary, jazz, and tap. She has also taken several musical theater and hip hop classes.
Aimiejeanne interned last semester for the older musical theater class and enjoyed it immensely. This is her first year officially a member of the illuminate staff and she is super excited to help other kids grow through dance!
Belle Lamb – Dance Department Instructor
Meghan has been studying dance since she was two years old. She started as a dancer at New England Dance Academy in North Attleboro, where she was a member of their elite competition team. She then switched her focus to the study of classical ballet under the direction of Patricia Dubois at Heritage Ballet.
She most recently attended Nutmeg Conservatory as a pre-professional student. She enjoys working with young students and helping them find the joy in dancing.
Eleni LaFond – Art Department Instructor
Eleni is a freshman in High School and the oldest of 4 homeschooled kids who found their way to AWIP/illuminate over 6 years ago. She started out singing in high notes and taking summer workshops. Since then she has acted in three Jr Productions and interned in one, joined the set design and backstage crew for Newsies and Beauty and the Beast.
She found her way into the media department doing marquee boards for Newsies, BB, and various Jr. productions. She has also designed t-shirt logos for Finding Magic and Once Upon a Fairy Tale Jr Productions as well as the OZ mainstage t-shirt logo. She has also dabbled in costume design for Beauty and the Beast and OZ. She has been a student or intern for the Picasso art class for the last 5 years as well as drawing, painting on her own for years. She also designed and sells beaded bracelets on Etsy. She is excited to reach the next generation of illuminate kids and share her love of the arts with them. She is looking forward to teaching at illuminate this semester.
Skylar McWilliams – Dance Department Instructor
Skylar McWilliams has been dancing ever since the age of two. She took part in competitive dancing for a few years and learned lots of different techniques to help her move forward into teaching. Her first students she taught always made her smile and laugh, from then on she wanted to continue. Not only does she have an interest in dance, but she has and interest for acting and has been since the age of seven. Every single play had been performed with the wonderful people of Illuminate. She can’t wait to continue teaching and learning!
Cara Sherrod – Creative Arts Department Instructor
Cara is a senior in high school, and is in her fourth year with the company. She has been in the past three spring plays, and the past two (almost three) MainStage productions. Cara is the oldest of 5 kids, with the youngest being 3 years old.
Cara first fell in love with theater at summer camp, and her mom soon found Illuminate, where, on her first day she jumped right in and started interning for Joyful Noise. She started on the backstage crew for Newsies and has since performed in several dramatic presentations. She has also interned for three junior productions, as an assistant stage manager, an acting coach, and last year as an Assistant Director. Cara can’t wait to pass on a love of theater and other areas of the arts to young kids. Cara plans to attend college after high school and double major in business and theater education.
Matteo Silva – Music Department Instructor
Matteo Silva is a homeschooler who has taken 12 years of private Suzuki method training, his primary focus being classical with supplemental training in fiddle. His experience includes one year playing as a Second Violin as well as one year playing as a First Violin in the South Shore Conservatory Youth Orchestra.
Matteo also played Second Violin in the Great Woods Symphony Orchestra (Wheaton College); he has played in the Berklee Really Eclectic Orchestra (Berklee College), in addition to performing in various open mic venues, acting as a Fiddler for Contra Dances, and finally as a Solo Violinist for the Massachusetts Area Paranormal Society historical tour of East Bridgewater. His additional experience gained while attending several American Music String Camps and Fiddle Hell of Massachusetts has all helped to give him a wide range of experience and flexibility. Matteo has enjoyed being a part of Illuminate since 2017, and he is tremendously excited to use this opportunity to share his love of music with the community and expand upon the company’s instrumental offerings.
Meet Our Staff
Stephanie LaFond, Costume Designer, Costume Instructor, and Bookkeeper
Stephanie is a graduate of WPI and of the UWisconsin at Madison with a BS/MS in Civil Engineering as well as a licensed Professional Engineer. After college she worked in her field for many years, before taking time to homeschool her 4 children, who range in age from 6 to 12. Her children are all very active in the Illuminate community taking classes, working on and in productions and interning. She joined the staff as our bookkeeper in 2017.
Stephanie is also very active with her church, teaching Sunday School and as a member of the Ladies Philanthropic Society. Always a huge fan of musical theater and singing throughout her life, she has been involved with many productions, choral groups and choir in her younger days, but prefers the behind the scenes work to center stage. The granddaughter of two professional seamstresses, she is a predominantly self-taught sewer who loves creating elaborate Halloween costumes for her family. She created original costume designs for her first production with AWIP (now illuminate): Beauty & the Beast 2019, and “The Wizard of Oz” livestream. She is looking forward to sharing her love of costume design with the illuminate community.
Colleen Sutcliffe, Production Manager
Colleen Sutcliffe is a classically trained vocalist, performer, educator, trained massage therapist and certified personal trainer. She grew up in a musical and theatrical family and had countless experiences in the arts.
She began acting, singing and directing in her childhood and continued performing throughout her school years eventually leading her to pursue a degree in Theatre Arts in College. After college, she worked as the Theatrical Director for Somerset High School and as a cantor for a local church. Colleen always felt a connection between wellness and the arts and so she also attained certification as a massage therapist and personal trainer.
During her college years, she continued to hone her craft as an actor where she was nominated for an Irene Ryan Acting Award for her portrayal of Pearl in The Scarlet Letter . After many years of concentrating on performance, she received additional training and experience in technical theatre, scenic design, directing and education and she discovered a love and appreciation for all that goes into the “magic” of theatre.
Since starting a family, Colleen has taught drama classes, run a massage therapy practice and worked as a vocal coach for young singers but has put most of her creative energy into raising three amazing children. She feels blessed to be a part of the Illuminate Team and to have a chance to work with so many amazing kids and adults.
Lynn Dubeau, Building Supervisor and Volunteer Administrator
More on Lynn coming soon!
Katherine Sherrod, Administrative Assistant
Katherine has always loved music. She grew up taking piano lessons and singing, as well as learning a few other instruments as a child. She was in chorus, performed in musicals and served as a cantor and song leader for kids at her church during high school.
She received a BS in Spanish and Elementary Education from Regis College, where she was an active member of the Glee Club. They even toured in Greece and France during her time there. She went on to earn a Masters in Special Education from Simmons College and spent years working with children with autism both in classroom and home settings before staying home with her own kids. She would much rather be in the background supporting others now than in the spotlight!
Katherine is mom to 5 kids, ranging in age from 2-16! She has homeschooled for over 10 years now. She was very excited to find our company in 2018 after her oldest expressed an interest in drama and music. The 4 older kids immediately found classes and productions and loved being part of them! The following year, Katherine joined the team as a bookkeeping assistant. She is excited to use her organizational and office skills to further the mission of the company this year as Administrative Assistant.