Meet the Teachers
Meet the Teachers
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Minnie Beechner-Holmes

Acting Instructor

Minnie is an ELA and Social Studies teacher at Aubry Bend Middle School by day and a Supermom and First Act Teacher by night! But wait…there’s more! She not only teaches improv, but has been known to perform on the World Famous improv team, The Argon Ship, with First Act’s own former Artistic Director, Gina Milbourn and fellow teacher, Jeff Yarnell.  Minnie and her four boys have been involved with First Act for over a decade. We are thrilled to have her teach with us again!

Amy Carson

Amy Carson

Dance Instructor

Amy has been dancing and performing since she was four-years-old. She grew up in Overland Park, KS, studying at various studios in the Kansas City area and performing with Christian Youth Theater. Amy performed in over 16 shows with Christian Youth Theater, and taught at the newly established CYT dance studio when she was in high school.

While in high school, Amy traveled to NYC to perform jazz and tap pieces at Project Dance and choreographed for her high school’s show choir. Amy graduated from Kansas State University in 2013 with a degree in Elementary Education. During her time at K-State, she was a member of the K-State Tap Dance Ensemble, performed in over 8 main stage productions, competed in 2 of the Homecoming Dance Competitions, and took a variety of technique and master classes in the Dance Department.

Amy taught 3rd Grade in the Park Hill School District for 5 years, has choreographed shows at CYT the past 4 years, and has taught dance classes at CYT since 2013. Amy loves getting to continue her passion for dance and performing for the Lord at First Act!

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Katie Dahlstrom

Vocal Instructor

Katie Stueve Dahlstrom is a graduate of Baker University where she obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education and of Kansas State University, where she obtained a graduate certificate in Music Education. She’s been performing and teaching professionally in the Kansas City metro for over ten years. She is currently the music teacher at Holy Trinity Catholic School, and has worked with the Leawood Stage Company and the Gardner Edgerton Youth and Community Program Theater Academy, as a rehearsal and pit accompanist, and as a musical director, respectively. She is also an accomplished accompanist and accompanies choirs and cantors as a church musician regularly. Teaching kids to love Jesus and to love music is her lifelong passion and she’s excited to join the faith-filled team at First Act.

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Kelly Edgar

Vocal & Dance Instructor

Kelly is a First Act KC Alumni and started her journey with them in 2005 at the age of 8. She holds a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance with a minor in Theatre from Kansas State University and has been teaching private voice lessons out of her home for 4 years. She has performed professionally in the KC area with theatres like KCRep, Unicorn Theatre, The Coterie and The White Theatre in a variety of classical and contemporary musical theatre roles. The primary focus of her lessons is allowing the student to experiment with their vocal technique safely and efficiently and establishing a consistent vocal routine. She currently lives in Blue Springs, MO with her husband and cat, Bunny and loves inviting students into her home to be a part of their love for the performing arts.

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Michelle Evans

Acting Instructor

Michelle is the owner of MJE Acting Studio where she offers her services as a private acting, audition, and college audition coach to students both in the US and Internationally through online lessons. Michelle has been working professionally since 2004, both on and off the stage, as an actress, director, and teaching artist. During her professional career Michelle had has the fortune to direct and/or perform in over 80+ productions with some of her favorites being The Fantasticks, Noises Off, Hairspray, School for Wives, Arsenic and Old Lace, Three Postcards, Tarzan, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Buried Child, Pippin and In The Heights. She has won several awards for her directorial work both on regional and national levels. As a private acting coach, Michelle’s students have had success gaining entrance into top collegiate Acting and Musical Theatre programs as well as professionally on Broadway, National Tours, Regional Theatre and TV/Film. Michelle is also Co-Owner of College Audition Project (CAP), one of the nation’s premier college audition companies and the co-author of the College Audition Workbook. Michelle is a frequent guest artist and adjudicator for both the International Thespian Festival and State Thespian festivals around the US, local high schools, and theatre companies. In addition, Michelle has served as an adjudicator and committee member for the prestigious High School Musical Theatre Awards (Jimmy Awards) in both Atlanta (Shuler Awards) and Kansas City (Blue Star Awards) since 2012. She is also a frequent adjudicator for State One Act, Speech & Debate, and Literary competitions around the nation. Always in pursuit of sharing her knowledge with others, in 2017, Michelle began her writing adventures. You can find her articles and columns about Acting, College Auditions, and the industry on www.dramatics.org, www.performerstuff.com and www.theatreartlife.com.You can find out more about Michelle at www.mjeactingstudio.com or CAP at www.collegeauditionproject.com

Patrick Graham

Patrick Graham

Vocal Instructor

Patrick Graham is a teacher, classically trained baritone, lifelong musical theatre nerd, and occasional Ethel Merman impersonator. He did his first CYT show in 2005 (Prince John in Robin Hood…the FIRST EVER CYT KC East show) and has been involved ever since.

As a singer and performer, he has been praised for his “vocal strength” and “beautiful tone.” Patrick has sung with the Ad Astra Music Festival, Seagle Music Colony, Eastman Opera Theater, Eastman Collegium Musicum (under the direction of Grammy award winning lutenist Paul O’Dette), the Rochester Fringe Festival, and the University of Missouri Opera.

His operatic and theatrical credits range from 18th century French Baroque opera to 21st century new opera to classics of the American Musical Theatre canon. His solo concert work includes Bach’s St. John Passion, Haydn’s The Seasons, Liszt’s Missa Solemnis, and a whole plethora of Bach Cantatas.

In 2019, he was awarded the Una Creditor Encouragement Award at the Kansas City District Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and in 2016 he won his division of the NATS National Student Auditions. Patrick recently completed his Masters Degree in Voice Performance & Literature from The Eastman School of Music and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Voice Performance from the University of Missouri (GO TIGERS).

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Becca Graham

Dance Instructor

Becca Graham is a born and raised Kansas Citian. She entered the dance world at the age of 4 and has been in it for nearly 25 years! Her training consists of tap, jazz, ballet/pointe and modern/contemporary dance with an emphasis in Horton, Ailey and Graham modern dance techniques. Becca is excited to join the First Act Dance Studio and to watch students grow in confidence with dance!

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Lindsay James

Vocal Instructor

Mezzo-Soprano Lindsay James earned her Bachelor’s degree in Vocal Music Education from Harding University and a Master’s degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Lindsay’s versatile voice has brought opportunities with local theaters including Theatre in the Park, StoneLion Puppet Theatre, Musical Theatre Heritage and the Lyric Opera of Kansas City. In addition to performing, Lindsay has enjoyed teaching and music directing for CYT KC for the last nine years. One of my favorite things about teaching is watching my student’s progress from their very first lesson to the recital. It’s exciting when something “clicks” and the student is able to do things they never thought they could. Can’t wait for this semester to begin!

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Tyler MacSweeney

Acting Instructor

Tyler MacSweeney graduated from Avila University in December of 2019 with a Bachelor’s in Directing/Producing. First Act has been a part of his life ever since he first joined as a freshman in high school back in 2011. Ever since then, his world was completely changed, and has gained so many meaningful and irreplaceable memories and experiences from his time with First Act. In his spare time, he enjoys writing his own plays. Tyler can’t wait to continue working with the wonderful staff and students at First Act to create amazing shows and memories all for the glory of God!

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Andrew Milbourn

Acting Instructor

Andrew Milbourn began in the heart of America. That’s right, Here in Overland Park, Kansas. Coming from a very artistic family, acting is a true passion of Andrew’s. He began his acting career with CYT KC.

Since graduating from Texas Christian University with a BFA in Acting, he has worked in numerous theatres around the country. He has also studied with the Groundlings Improv Group.

In addition to being in love with Jana (his best friend and BRIDE), Andrew is a sports fanatic, total nerd, and lvl 55 air hockey player.

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Jana Latchaw Milbourn

Acting Instructor

Jana (she/her) is a seasoned theatre director, actor, acting coach, drama instructor, and stage manager. She has directed a multitude of plays and musicals including Matilda, Macbeth, Urinetown, and most recently, Les Misérables. Jana began her training at George Daily Auditorium as a student, and continued on to become part of the artistic/directing team of the children’s theatre program. At Northwestern College, Jana received a BFA with an emphasis in acting. After graduating, she moved to Kansas City and has been directing, performing, and teaching ever since. In addition, Jana serves as the Co-Director of First Act Kansas City’s Acting Track. Passionate and particular, Jana strives to create honest, thought-provoking, and heartfelt theatre and to ensure that all students feel supported, valued, and celebrated.

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Becky Ochoa

Acting Instructor

Becky is an Iowa native, who just happened to make her way down to KC 3 years ago! Becky holds a BA in Theatre from Northwestern College in Orange City, IA. She focused mostly on tech theatre, with an emphasis in Stage Management, Directing, and Lightning Design. She also loves teaching theatre classes, from preschool kids to high schoolers. Becky loves instilling a love a theatre and storytelling in students, and always pushes them to learn, and do their best.  Recent Stage Management credits include Les Miserable (First Act Theatre Arts), Taming of the Shrew (Rising Tide Theatre Company), and The Glass Menagerie (Northwestern College).

April Okken

April Okken

Dance Instructor

April has been dancing since she was in preschool. She received a BS in Math and a minor in Dance from Missouri State University. While attending Missouri State, she was a member of the Sugar Bears Dance Team.

As a Sugar Bear, she danced in Spain, at the Macy’s 2001 Thanksgiving Day Parade, and the National Dance Competition at Walt Disney World, which aired on ESPN. April has also performed in Las Vegas, 1996 Summer Olympics, and Theater in the Park’s Singin’ in the Rain. She has choreographed shows for CYT as well as high school musicals and dance teams.

April choreographed Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Seussical the Musical for TTIP and won the Demi Award for Best Choreography for the 2009 season. She became a certified Jazzercise Instructor in the spring of 2014 and enjoys motivating people to achieve their fitness goals.

She has also taught Musical Theater Dance at MidAmerica Nazarene University. April has been married to Brett since 2003. They have 3 children: Jeremiah, Kathleen, and Matthias. She is blessed to be teaching at First Act, sharing her love of dance for the Lord!

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Meghan Reeb

Acting Instructor

Meghan received her BFA in Technical Theatre and Design from Avila University in the spring of 2019. Meghan took the opportunity to work at Walt Disney World in Entertainment Costuming, working with top-notch performers from around the world. She has previously worked with Starlight Theatre education program as the Education Intern as well as a teacher for their programs in the KC Metro area. Her theatrical credits include: The Unsinkable Molly Brown (Molly Brown), Silent Sky (Costume Design), Peter Pan (Assistant Stage Manager), Little Shop of Horrors (Ronette), just to name a few. Meghan believes that musical theatre and the arts give you a true chance to challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone, and have fun being creative! Meghan is excited to share her love of singing and performance with the First Act community! 

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Caroline Shackelford

Dance Instructor

Caroline is thrilled to continue her career in performing arts and dance education after moving from Philadelphia with her husband and golden retriever. Along with training in classical Vaganova ballet, Caroline has performed and taught jazz, tap and musical theatre dance classes. She also interned with Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre and Arkansas Repertory Theatre in high school before receiving her bachelor’s degree at the University of Arkansas in her home state.

View More: https://ariphotography.pass.us/opb-session

Carlye Stone

Dance Instructor

Carlye Stone is a professional ballroom instructor with the USA Dance National 9 Dance Runner up title. Carlye began dancing Ballet, Tap, & Jazz at a young age and transitioned into Hip Hop and Show/Musical Theatre in her teenage years. She began her journey in ballroom dancing in 2013 and has been teaching ever since! Singing and dancing is a huge passion of hers and she can’t wait to share her love of it!

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Hillary Talken

Vocal Instructor

Hillary  is a First Act Alum and a private music teacher in the Kansas City Metro area! She graduated from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee in 2019 where she received a Bachelor of Music in Commercial Music. Since graduating, Hillary has used her classical and commercial training in her time as a church musician, performer and educator. She has a particular passion for music education and the incredible power it has to foster community. Here’s to happy and healthy singing!

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Liz Watkins

Dance Instructor

Liz started teaching in the Kansas City area in 2015. In addition to teaching, she was a part of the Kansas City Swingsters performance team for a number of years and has competed in West Coast Swing, Country, and Ballroom. Liz loves teaching all ages because she is passionate about bringing the joy of dance to everyone.

Hope Williams

Hope Williams

Dance Instructor

Hope began dancing at age 6 with AngelFeet Dance Studio in south central Kansas. Here she trained in ballet, tap, jazz, pointé and was a member of the touring Ministry Team. After interning at The Washington Ballet at THEARC in Washington D.C., Hope found her calling to teach dance while assisting with the DanceDC program.

While pursuing her bachelors at Kansas State University she performed at many venues including the Kansas Dance Festival in 2013, The Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art, the Kansas State Fair, and many others. Hope was a member of the K-State Tap Dance Ensemble, the Kansas State Theater Organization and received her bachelors in theatre with a concentration in dance.

Hope has taught for CYT in the dance studio since 2015 and has choreographed four CYT shows: James and the Giant Peach, The Wizard of Oz, Annie Warbucks, and Madagascar. She looks forward to growing with the First Act family and whatever opportunities come in the future!