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Celebrating International Women’s Day 2022

For Immediate Release:

Celebrating International Women’s Day 2022

Breaking the stereotypes at Arizona Broadway Theatre

(Peoria, AZ) March 8, 2022, Arizona Broadway Theatre (ABT) is celebrating Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day this year by featuring the women working at ABT and highlighting the diverse roles available to women in the performing arts. Like many theatres across the globe, Arizona Broadway Theatre continues to rebuild itself from the pandemic. Amid this daunting task, co-founders Cassandra and Kiel Klaphake seized the opportunity to restructure the organization with up-and coming artists and leaders. On the grand scale, men may still dominate many top theatre jobs; however, at ABT, that is not the norm. In its 17th year of existence, Cassandra, Artistic Producer, is changing that narrative at the theatre by including talented females eager to break the stereotypes found behind the scenes.

Audiences marvel at the glitz and glamour of the production elements on stage yet may not know anything about the individuals that create the magic behind the scenes. Every ABT show, regardless of where it may be found — in the Mainstage Theatre or the Encore Room — has individuals running the show, rarely seen by the public. Production Stage Manager Leigh Treat and Stage Manager Mandy Spartz, both Arizona natives, are two of those individuals running ABT shows.

Beginning as an intern at the age of 17, Leigh returned to the Theatre after graduating from Cornish College of the Arts with a degree in Performance Production. “A kid who never grew out of wanting to play pretend,” Mandy, a University of Arizona alum, was drawn to stage management at an early age. Both are responsible for overseeing all aspects of a production, including collaborating with the deck crew, sound, lights, and spotlight operators. The women in these roles include Karissa Noonan (Deck Manager) and Nicole Roush (Deck Crew), Emma Kendall-Reed (Sound Engineer), and Paige Adams(Spotlight Operator). All play an instrumental role in ensuring the success of a performance run. “I am proud of being a woman in the technical theatre industry,” says Adams. “This is a primarily male dominated industry and being able to pursue my passions because of my drive and skills, is something I’m profoundly proud of.”

From Chicago’s Roxie and Velma’s white coats to Gypsy’s creative burlesque outfits, ABT’s Costume department delivers vibrant creations which help bring each character to life on stage. “Ever since I was a little girl, I was always cutting holes in sheets and performing in the living room in front of my audience of one, my mother,” says Carter Conway, ABT’s Costume Manager. “I continue to fall in love with the craft and live to see my work combined with others on stage.” Two new additions to the department include Lily Haleokeawe Ray and Vanessa Groulx. Both women find that the theatre is a very inclusive and diverse art form, which allows their creative freedom and expression to shine in this field.

The breaking of barriers continues in “The Shop” (a.k.a. scene shop) with several women in this department. Many sets, including recent productions of Urine town, Elf, and Gypsy have been skillfully constructed at the hands of Sequoia Gutierrez (Carpenter), masterfully painted by Jessica Lyon (Scenic Charge Artist), and brilliantly illuminated by Rebekah Ryan, ABT’s Lighting Coordinator and Master Electrician. Lyon describes theatre as the place “where all art forms meet, like the middle bit of the Venn diagram of all things that are beautiful and moving.”

Historically, women’s roles in various theatrical fields have been disproportionately represented. Forging through this perception and stereotype, this troupe of strong, talented women is led by Cassandra Klaphake, ABT’s co-founder and Artistic Producer. A remarkable performer in her own right and recently seen on the stage in the theatre’s production of Gypsy, Cassandra ensures that each element of a production is of the highest caliber. From auditioning and casting talent nationally and locally; directing improvements to a performance during technical practices to designing costumes, she provides years of experience in the arts to mentor others and a strong representation of female leadership in the theatre.

“It is an honor to work with a talented and diverse group of women,” says Klaphake. “This group of artists, of fearless women, are not only at the top of their field, but they are also paving the way for a future generation. We are proving to little girls everywhere that anything is possible — they may dare to stretch their imagination and talent into the corners of the industry not typically inhabited by female artists. This group represents the future of our art form, and I’m honored to collaborate with them.”

Opening Friday, March 18, ABT’s production of Flashdance the Musical is a story about a young woman pursuing her dreams against the odds. This musical is directed and choreographed by Courtney Laine Self, another strong creative female artist from New York City who previously directed and choreographed ABT’s 2019 production of Xanadu. ABT continues to stand behind its conviction that women can take the lead in any aspect of a theatrical production, from the booth to the catwalk to the front offices and beyond.


Michele A. Meyer, Director of Marketing & Communications |

Liz Fallon, Communications Manager |


ABT Performing Arts Association, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and Arizona’s one-of-a-kind, award winning, state-of-the-art professional theatre showcasing locally and nationally acclaimed artists and providing palate-pleasing sit-down table service prepared fresh daily to accompany the award-winning on-stage fare. With one reservation, patrons enjoy a whole night’s entertainment without rushing around the Phoenix sprawl. Support from the community sustains professional musical theatre produced in the Northwest Valley. It also allows ABT to create and deliver youth programming that educates and engages students across metropolitan Phoenix. Arizona Broadway Theatre’s season is proudly sponsored by Arrowhead Cadillac. azbroadway.or