About

Mission

Provide Performing Arts experiences that create community unity, educational opportunity, and economic growth.

The Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts mission is alive and vibrant.

To preserve our legacy and create sustainable, affordable programs by becoming the region’s premier location for professional theatre, arts education, and community involvement.

Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts showcases some of the best talent in the country, producing Broadway-quality shows—off Broadway in Warsaw, Indiana.

Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts is home to the Wagon Wheel Professional Theatre, Wagon Wheel Community Theatre, Wagon Wheel Symphony of the Lakes, Wagon Wheel Jr., Wagon Wheel Conservatory and the Wagon Wheel Concert Series.

E.D.I.A. Commitment

At Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts, everyone has a seat in the circle. We are committed to fostering an organization where all people experience inclusion, fairness, and respect regardless of race, gender, sexuality, or ability, and we resolve to demonstrate that commitment through action. We strive to recognize and address racism and discrimination of any kind, and we will hold ourselves and our collaborators accountable throughout the organization. We value the diverse experiences of our artists, patrons, and staff members, and the power those experiences have to enrich and inspire our local and national community.

*All of us at the Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts feel that actions speak louder than words. We are currently outlining our detailed action plan focusing on Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Accessibility.

Board of Directors

President – Emily Illingworth Kosnik
Vice President – Adam Turner
Secretary – April Fitterling
Treasurer – Kristin Mason

Tyson Baker

Shawn Brown

Melissa Jordan

Alyssa Lowe

Cary Schlotterback

Terry White

Administrative Staff

Lakesha Green

Executive Director

Bio

Bio coming soon…

Holly Lantz

Chief Operating Officer

Bio

Coming from a Performing Arts background, Holly is thrilled to be working with Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts as Chief Operating Officer. She combines her creative, financial and operational skills to help guide the future of Wagon Wheel.

Elisa Wise

Director of Donor Relations

Bio

“If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.” This rings true for Elisa who joined our staff full time in January 2018. Prior to becoming the Development Director at the Wagon Wheel, Elisa worked full time in Human Resources at Warsaw Community Schools and part time at the Wagon Wheel as a member of our Wagon Wheel Jr. staff. Elisa and her husband Matt are both Grace College alumni who fell in love with the Warsaw community and decided to move back immediately after graduating. Elisa is passionate about the mission of Wagon Wheel and is a strong supporter of our educational programs and community development opportunities. Elisa considers herself a “friend” raiser, not a fundraiser and wants all who come to the Wagon Wheel to feel like friends and family to the theatre.

Kris Underwood

Director of Marketing

Bio

Kris joined the Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts in 2016 and enjoys working with our marketing partners to get the word out on the great events we are able to have each year at the theatre. He has enjoyed attending events at the Wagon Wheel since his youth.

Sarah Anne Pfenning

Front of House Manager

Bio

Bio coming soon…

Creative Staff

Scott Michaels

Artistic Director

Bio

Prior to Scott’s 12 years as the Wagon Wheel’s Artistic Director, he spent 12 seasons as resident Choreographer/Director on nearly 100 productions. During that time he spent 4 years as the resident Director/Choreographer at the Armory Theatre in Janesville, Wisconsin. In his free time, he continues to work with high schools and colleges all over the Midwest directing, choreographing, and running countless workshops and master classes. Scott’s work on Cats at Arrowhead H.S. in Hartland, Wisconsin won USA Today’s award for Best High School Musical in the country for 2008. Scott spent 2 years as an adjunct faculty member at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL as the Musical Theatre Dance Teacher. He has over 25 years of performing experience from Chicago to Regional theatre. Scott has performed all over the country and Japan, and enjoyed a 2 year tour as a back-up singer for Perry Como.

Jennifer Dow

Associate Artistic Director

Bio

This marks Jennifer Dow’s 23rd year at the Wagon Wheel as a performer, her 13th year as the wig designer, and her 10th year as a wearer-of-many-hats.  After receiving her BFA in Music Theatre from Millikin University, Jennifer quickly found her creative home at the Wagon Wheel Theatre.  She lived and worked professionally as a performer in Chicago’s regional theaters while returning to the Wagon Wheel every summer. She moved to Warsaw in 2012 with her husband and Artistic Director, Scott Michaels, as the Wagon Wheel started operating year-round as a non-profit. Together they created the Wagon Wheel Junior program (Professional quality theatre for young audiences performed by young artists) producing 3 shows during the “off” season. She taught voice lessons locally for 4 years until she began taking on more responsibilities and became a full-time staff member in 2015. Among those duties, she has also served as Wagon Wheel Professional Theatre’s housing coordinator since 2010 finding over 60 company member’s homes-away-from-home during their summer and holiday contracts. She has over 25 years of professional experience in many facets of the theatre industry including: performance, wigs, make-up, costuming, props, stage management, administration, web development, graphic design, and education.

Kira Lace Hawkins

Education Director

Bio

Kira has performed in over 40 Wagon Wheel productions playing such roles as Miss Hannigan in Annie, Donna in Mamma Mia!, and Mary Poppins in Mary Poppins. Kira has an MFA in Acting from Penn State University and loves teaching students of all ages. She has served on the theater and music faculty of St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, and Manchester University in North Manchester.

Thomas Hall

Music Director

Bio

Thomas Hall holds a M.M. in Voice Performance from DePaul University in Chicago, IL. He has maintained a private voice studio since 2003, taught five years at Warsaw Community High School, music directed over 30 productions, worked as a Graduate Assistant in Voice and Opera at Ball State University. He has recently joined the Wagon Wheel Family as the music director for many Wagon Wheel Junior Productions, the music director for the latest production of Always, Patsy Cline, and he looks forward to working as a music director this upcoming summer season.

Matthew Helpert

Technical Director/
Maintenance

Bio

Matthew is the Technical Director at the Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts. He is honored to continue to work with the level of talent this theatre commands. In addition to technical direction, Matthew has worked as an event Lighting Designer and Operator, Electrician, Scenic Designer, and Audio Engineer on both the community and professional levels.

Chris Pollnow

Sound Designer

Bio

Chris always looks forward to another show with the Wagon Wheel—new friends are made, old acquaintances often return, and performances are always exciting and impressive. Chris made his first and only appearance on the Wagon Wheel stage in the 1983 production of The Music Man as one of the trumpeters in the Warsaw Community High School Honors Band. After realizing that his place was offstage, Chris attended Purdue University and majored in theatre sound design. He returned to Warsaw in time for the 1994 Summer Season as sound board operator and then as Sound Designer. In 1997, Chris left to be the Technical Director at Honeywell’s Ford Theatre in Wabash until he returned to the Wagon Wheel in 2000.

Jason Thompson

Principal Conductor & Director of Symphony of the Lakes

Bio

Jason is a dynamic and engaging conductor whose diverse passions include early music, orchestral masterworks, and symphonic pops. He was recently appointed principal conductor and director of the Symphony of the Lakes. He is professor of music at Indiana Wesleyan University where he has been on faculty since 2006. At IWU, he conducts the orchestra, opera theatre, and early music ensemble; he also teaches violin, viola, and music history. Jason holds a Bachelor of Science in Violin Performance and Conducting from Indiana University, a Master of Music in Orchestral Conducting from Bowling Green State University, and a Doctor of Music in Early Music Ensemble Direction from Indiana Unversity Jacobs School of Music.

History

Herbert Petrie was well known in the Warsaw area, spending most of his life in both the educational and performance sides of show business. During World War II, Major Petrie attended performances at the Penthouse Theatre in Fort Lawton, Washington, the country’s first theatre-in-the-round. When he returned to Warsaw, he remained so interested in the idea that he was determined to recreate the experience here in his hometown.

It all came together in 1955. The actual facility was a tent with a gravel floor, canvas chairs, an old chicken coop that served as the shop where they would build the sets and costumes, and also an area for dressing rooms. The “orchestra” consisted of Vernon Rector playing the Hammond organ.

Around 1961 a theatre building was built on the property. With its wooden shuttered windows and steel roof, the occasional thunderstorm would compete with the onstage performance.

It was a brand new experience: theatre-in-the-round! Audiences so close to the action onstage that they were practically a part of the show. It was the magic of live theatre in Warsaw, Indiana, and somehow it all worked.

More than 60 years later, audiences continue raving about the unique and intimate theatre-in-the-round setting.