Meet the Stories that Soar! Creative Team!

Sharon O’Brien, aka The Magic Box Lady, is co-creator of Stories that Soar! and first cousins with the Magic Box Family. Her entrepreneurial/actor father and librarian mother provided her with an over-active imagination, a knack for collaboration, and an endless love of stories. As the Artistic Director for Literacy Connects, she envisions a world where everyone, regardless of age, has equal opportunity to share their creative ideas.

Dallas Thomas, Stories that Soar! Production Manager AKA “STS! Get It Done Girl,” holds a BFA in acting from Oklahoma State University and has worked extensively as an actor, voiceover artist, and theatre educator. Dallas has been part of the STS! team since 2007 and is responsible for much of STS!’ behind-the-scenes magic.

Daniel “Sly” Slipetsky, Accompanist, is a free-lance jazz pianist/tubist. Sly honed his jazz skills while in college (Delaware and Arizona.) He has been fortunate enough to be able to earn his living strictly as a performing musician. Sly is proud to provide music for Stories that Soar!

Pete Swan, Musical Director, is a jazz drummer, educator and music producer/owner of Pete Swan Productions. He leads the Pete Swan Trio and Quintet and Big Band Express. His private teaching studio focuses on azz drumming. Pete is honored to be part of the STS! family, which combines all the elements of music, education and production in the service of changing the lives of young people.

Cecy Abarca is a proud native of Tucson, Arizona, and her previous theatre credits include work as a director, teacher, and performer on stages across the country. Her most notable roles include Marisela in Just Like Us, Soledad in Luna, Silly Girl in Beauty and The Beast. Cecy earned her AA in Theatre from EAC (2017) and her BFA degree in Theatre Education and Acting from the UNCo (2019).

Rafael J. Acuña is a professional actor, amateur musician, and video editing greenhorn with 8 years of experience on stage and behind the scenes, and 4 years of experience with Stories that Soar! Rafael has his AFA in Theatre Arts from Pima Community College and has been using it in primarily educational settings. Rafael loves contributing to his Tucson community, and loves ALL OF YOU for supporting STS and everything it represents.

Jacquelyne Barra is new to Stories That Soar and she is so extremely proud to have been apart of such a tremendous cast. She hopes that students continue to be inspired by their stories and continue writing. Thank you very much for your support, please enjoy the show

John Thomas Benson is an actor in Los Angeles. John Thomas was a member of the STS! Ensemble in 2014 and 2015. He is thankful that he was able to work with the STS! team remotely to continue the important work of empowering youth through arts and literacy.

Zita Bidleman-Owens has a BA in Dance and a Ma in Choreography. She has a Dance Education certificate from NC. She teaches children of all ages, and adults creative dance online. Zita assists DanceSequences with outdoor community and children’s dance classes. She has worked with Stories That Soar since fall of 2019.

After graduating with her degree in theater, Ali Castro moved to LA to search for bigger opportunities. She has created a small business of freelance animation and illustration. She wishes to one day produce her own cartoon.

Frankie Corey-Gelb is a theater student at Pima Community College with passions for both performing and technical work. She recently stage managed “The Fantasticks” at Pima Community College and assistant stage managed “The Monte Awards” at Arts Express. This is Frankie’s 6th year with Stories that Soar! and loves the team more and more with each passing year. She’s extremely proud and glad that STS! was able to find a safe and creative way to perform during this pandemic.

Rob Crowthers (actor/editor) is delighted to be making his virtual return with Stories that Soar! from city of brotherly love! Recent credits include working as a Hospital Outreach Specialist with the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp/Paul Newman foundation. Producer and co-host of HOP Game show Hour run by patients for patients at Childrens Hospital of Phialdelphia! Rob has a Bachelors of Arts in Film. Check out his instagram for fun inspiring content: Instagram @robbieabba

Gianbari “Debora” Deebom (She/Them) is an entertainer and artist in Tucson, AZ. Graduate from PCC; this is her first season with STS! and she can’t for more. Some of her favorite credits include Singin’ in the Rain(Miss Dinsmore), Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery(Mr. and Miss Stapleton), Mamma Mia! (Rosie), Tartuffe(Monsieur Loyal), Moby Dick(Dagoo), Valerie: A Cosplay Monologue (Valerie), and Aristophanes v. Euripides: Dawn of Poetic Justice (Myrrhine), and Sweeney Todd(Beggar Woman). Enjoy the Show!

Rachel Gardner has been with us for several years and enjoys playing all the creative characters you kids come up with! She loves sunshine and water and hiking with her two pups, Toffee and Zeus. Rachel is an American Sign Language Interpreter and recently graduated from NAU with a BA in Humanities.

Tiffany Jensen is grateful for another successful season with STS! The challenges brought on by the pandemic have taught us many lessons. We have all grown as performers and stretched our creativity to new levels. Special thanks to her little performing troop of guest artists at home. I am in awe of the resilience you and my fellow STS team and cast members have shown throughout this past year.

Cyndi LaFrese is thrilled to be working with STS again! She has been an actor, stage manager, project manger, and now video editor with them and loves every minute! She holds a BA in Theatre from UA, has performed with various theatre companies in Tucson, and cohosted/produced a radio morning show on My 92.9 FM from 2015-2020. Cyndi is currently traveling with country with her wife, dog, and vintage camper, documenting their adventures on their YouTube Channel, Wifing Around.

Marchus Lewis is honored to be a part of the Stories that Soar! family in this wonderful season of shows. Above all, he is committed to a life in theatre as a means of participating in the artistic dialog that is so vital to the health of any society, and especially ours. He has received an AFA in visual and performing arts at PCC where he studied theatre. Thank you for supporting local theatre.

Felisha Mena has been involved in theatre for many years now and has cherished every second of it. Not only is she an actress, you can also find her working behind the scenes as a theatre technician. She is a high spirited person who loves to bring joy to people on and off stage. Felisha enjoys sharing her artistic creativity with others through her love for theatre. Which is why her goal is to inspire and motivate everyone through the Arts.

Alyssa Ruiz has been a part of the STS! ensemble for 3 years now. This season, she was able to learn new skills such as editing, animating, and film directing! She is so incredible proud of how far the STS! ensemble as come through this past year. Enjoy the show!!

Leora Sapon-Shevin is a performer, educator, and playmaker passionate about all forms of collaborative creative expression. She has performed with STS! since 2018 and it is her honor to help bring such wonderful stories to life. She has worked with The S&S Theatre, Clowns Without Borders, and wrote and performed A Safe Passage at LTW, The Tucson Fringe, and across the U.S. with She holds a MA in Theater Ed. from Emerson College and is a graduate of Dell’ Arte International.

Anel Schmidt is a native of Sonora, Mexico. She holds a B.A. in Theater from La Universidad de Sonora. In 2000, Anel was awarded “The Best Actress in the state of Sonora” for her role in “El Monje.” Anel moved to Tucson in 2004 and continued her career in the US acting in multiple theater productions. Since 2009 she has been an actor with Stories that Soar! She is the proud mom of Renée and Liam!

Myani Watson has been with Stories that Soar! for 4 years. She just closed on a production of West Side Story with Arts Express and you can see her in their upcoming show A Chorus Line this summer

Tyler West is from Tucson but now he lives in NYC! He has worked with STS! for several years, but hasn’t seen them since moving away in 2019. He has worked at theaters like UofA’s A.R.T., LTW, and The Rogue. In NYC he works at burlesque and variety shows like The Slipper Room, The Box, and The House of Yes. It’s been a crazy year, but a major highlight was being able to work with his STS! family again.

An Actor with Stories that Soar! for 13 years running, Ian Whittaker has worked in theater and film for more than 26 years getting his start in musical theater at the age of 8. Ian has written, directed and starred in several projects while maintaining an active role as a core member of STS! Obtaining a Bachelor in Emergency Management, Ian currently serving as a volunteer Firefighter / Paramedic in Pinal County.

To-Ree’-Nee’ Wolf is an award winning artist, singer-songwriter and performer. Known for her evocative use of materials and bright bold colors, To-Ree’-Nee’s murals and mosaics have helped to transform and empower Neighborhoods and Communities for more than twenty five years. She is an Artistic Associate of Invisible Theater and a proud member of the Stories That Soar Ensemble. Most recently, she has released her debut solo CD, “A Wolf By Any Other Name.

Literacy Connects is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit © 2018

Qualified Charitable Organization Code: 20553

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