BLAIRE BARON Artistic Director, Founder
A native of Los Angeles, Blaire began working professionally in theatre and television at age 20. While attending The New School in New York, she studied with theater legends, Geraldine Page and Estelle Parsons. She performed on/off Broadway with The Roundabout Theater, Ensemble Studio Theater and Playwrights Horizons. Blaire appears in over 50 films and TV series, including Seinfeld, Malcolm in the Middle, A League of Their Own and Fly Boys.
Blaire was invited to the very first Youth Arts Professional Teacher Training by the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles. She then directed theatre in underserved communities while acting professionally. Blaire created The Hero Program: prevention education (K-8) using theatre as a tool for young people experiencing normal to extreme challenges. The program was incorporated in 5 L.A. schools.
Blaire launched the first Shakespeare Program at The Center for Early Education, Los Angeles – also our own Shakespeare for Social Justice workshops, which have permeated the entire approach of of the Shakespeare Youth Festival.
In Africa: Blaire – as a solo scout – went to Botswana and launched a Shakespeare program at a rural village in the Kalahari, where 340 kids participated. Then came Kenya with our entire SYF Team. She has returned to Africa for this work three times, in the past eighteen months.
Growing up with Shakespeare, Blaire’s daughter, Lily Larsen, has the inherent courage to run for L.A. City Counsel in 2020. Son Liam Larsen, after playing Hamlet in a SYFLA production, immediately entered Early College at Bard:Simon’s Rock at age 15. To date, Blaire and Julia Wyson have produced and directed over 50 Shakespeare productions.
JULIA WALKER WYSON, Executive Director
Julia began acting in Chicago, where she performed with many of Chicago’s foremost theater companies, including Bailiwick Repertory, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Court Theater, Chicago Dramatists Workshop, Commons Theater and Pegasus Players. She has worked in regional theaters across the country, including Alabama Shakespeare Festival, New American Theater in Rockford, Illinois, New Stage Theater in Jackson, Mississippi, and First Stage Milwaukee. Shakespearean roles include Juliet in Romeo & Juliet, Rosalind in As You Like It, Cordelia in King Lear, Lady Percy in the Henry IVs, The Queen in Richard II and Hermia in Midsummer Night’s Dream. “Shakespeare-adjacent” roles include Doll Tearsheet in Blaire Baron’s Outspoken.
She received her Theater degree from Northwestern University, and her MFA in Shakespeare from the Alabama Shakespeare Festival Professional Actor Training program, and has studied at the Actors’ Center in Chicago. A former dancer, she has performed with a variety of Chicago dance companies, and expanded her experience with Movement for the Stage at the Laban Institute in New York. She is particularly passionate about working with Shakespearean text, and helping her students understand the joys of iambic pentameter.
Julia has worked extensively performing for and with children. She has taught acting and movement workshops to children all over the country from inner-city Chicago, to rural communities in Alabama and Illinois, to Los Angeles, Pasadena and Glendale, and most recently in Kogelo, Kenya, as an artist-in-residence at Sauti Kuu Foundation, at the invitation of director Dr. Auma Obama.
As a director and movement coach, she has created shows for Chicago Actors Ensemble, Bailiwick Repertory, and MoMing Dance and Arts Center in Chicago, and Zoo District and the Northwestern University Entertainment Alliance in Los Angeles.
Julia became the Executive Director of the Los Angeles Drama Club in 2007. Since then, she has directed all but nine of Shakespeare’s 37 plays (we’re not counting Two Nobel Kinsmen, Love’s Labors Won or Cardenio) and she hopes to add at least a few of those nine to her resume soon.
ANNIWAA BUACHIE, Director & Teaching Artist
A true Renaissance woman, Anniwaa is a South London Ghanaian – British, award winning Actress (The Alan Bates Outstanding Newcomer award), Dancer and writer. A former ballet and contemporary dancer at the Royal Academy of Dance. Anniwaa is an actress is shifting sands in the entertainment industry in the United Kingdom, United States and in Ghana. An esteemed stage actress, she has worked extensively on stages in London and internationally, performing at world renowned theatres such as The Pubic Theater, The Old Vic, Young Vic, and the National Theatre of Ghana. She made her debut on the ‘Silver Screen’ in Aux, sharing the screen with Welsh treasure and Lord of the Rings Star: Jonathan Rhys Davis. Her portrayal of “Eka,” a Nigerian mother battling with issues concerning FGM in the TV series Survivor’s Remorse garnered a tremendous positive response from the industry. Early on in her career she became the founder and Artistic Director of Golden Delilah from 2009 -2015. Golden Delilah was an innovative Theatre company which celebrated new writing which promoted strong female roles. This theatre company showcased a diverse range of actors, directors and writers aiding them in the development of their career.
As an actor who started from very humble beginnings, she is an avid supporter of community outreach work, she is a Board member and head of the Outreach Committee at Los Angeles Drama Club.
J. BAILEY BURCHAM, Technical Director, Director & Teaching Artist
J. Bailey Burcham is a trained and practicing actor/director/writer/technical director/producer who moved to LA from Kansas in 2014 (after receiving his second degree) to pursue his theatrical career. As a writer, he recently had some success in sketch comedy after winning the 2018-19 season of Serial Killers with his two scripts: Basil and Dick (2nd Place Winner) and Three Guys, One Groupon (Season Winner). Bailey has directed 15+ shows since moving to the West Coast including an award-winning conceptualization of Little Shop of Horrors in 2017 (Panic! Productions). Of his many acting credits some favorites include: Danny in Danny and the Deep Blue Sea (Theatre 68), Max Bialystock in Mel Brooks’ The Producers (Casino Tour), Dave Bukatinksy in The Full Monty (Casino Tour) and Luther Billis in South Pacific at Musical Theatre Wichita. Bailey found his home with SYF in 2015 when he was brand new and didn’t know where to begin. Bailey would like to thank Julia and Blaire and all of his fellow teaching artists for giving him a home, as well as a big thank you to the kids of SYF for creating magic every time they step on stage.
KILA PACKETT, Director & Teaching Artist, Stage Combat
Kila has performed at numerous Off-Broadway and regional theatres, notably The Mark Taper Forum, Brooklyn Academy of Music, and Classic Stage Company. His television credits include: Hawaii Five-0, Grey’s Anatomy, Counterpart, Shooter, and Wisdom of the Crowd.
Kila has taught drama for the BELL Foundation, Columbia Business School’s Senior Executive Program, Columbia High School Institute, and Classic Stage Company in New York. In Los Angeles, Kila has led workshops in Shakespeare and stage combat for Los Angeles Drama Club’s Shakespeare Youth Festival, Society Performers Academy, and Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum.
He is a co-author of the Off-Broadway hit, Unnatural Acts, for which he received a Drama Desk nomination. He is a head mentor with Young Storytellers, Associate Director of Los Angeles Drama Club, and co-producer for the LA-based concert series, A Little New Music. Kila is a Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center fellow and proud graduate of Columbia University’s School of the Arts.
ESDRAS TOUSSAINT, Director & Teaching Artist
Esdras Toussaint is a Haitian born, American actor, director, producer, and teacher with a passion for community outreach. He earned his MFA in Theatre from Columbia University.
Esdras now works and lives in the Los Angeles area and continues his work in community engagement with several organizations. He has contributed his talents to several outreach programs, including Classic Stage Company’s Young Company in New York, Theater Masters in Colorado, The Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum in California, and The Sauti Kuu Foundation in Kenya, Africa.
His theatrical career extends from the experimental and the avant-garde to Shakespeare and the classics. Esdras serves as a resident Artistic Associate at the prestigious Los Angeles Drama Club (the country’s youngest Shakespeare ensemble). His directing credits include: Timon of Athens, Antony and Cleopatra, Comedy of Errors, Twelfth Night, Clybourne Park, and the internationally renowned play Outspoken by the great Blaire Baron.
He is forever grateful to his acting coach James Brill of The Neighborhood Playhouse, and his wife Jeanie.