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 Symphony of the Lakes, Wagon Wheel Jr. and Center Street Community Theatre.

Board of Directors

President – Deb Bishop
Vice President – Adam Turner
Secretary – Alyssa Lowe
Treasurer – Kristin Mason

Dr. David Hoffert
Emily Kosnik
Robyn Palmer
Jeanne Phipps
Cary Schlotterback
Jennifer Shepherd
Joni Truex
Terry White

Administrative Staff

Jay Michaels

Executive Director

Bio

The Wagon Wheel has always been a special place for Jay because he met his wife at a Rascal Flatts concert here at the theatre!  Jay brings over 20 years of radio management and event planning to the Wagon Wheel!  He says, “I am excited to be a part of the team here at the Wagon Wheel!  There is so much history here and I hope I can do my part to add to the legacy!”

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

Administrative Assistant

Bio

In October of 2018, Sarah Anne came to work as our Administrative Assistant here at the Wagon Wheel. She graduated in 2019 with an Associates degree in Business Operations, Applications and Technology. The first show she saw here was Young Frankenstein in 2017 and she and her wife have been subscribers ever since. Sarah Anne says “I grew up with a love for music, and being on the stage when I could. I am excited to be apart of this wonderful professional theater, it really is a dream come true.”

Creative Staff

Scott Michaels

Artistic Director

Bio

Prior to Scott’s 11 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 Janseville, 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.

Kira Lace Hawkins

Education Director

Bio

Bio Coming Soon!

Jennifer Dow

Creative Team
Wigs/Housing

Bio

This year marks Jennifer Dow’s 21st season at the Wagon Wheel as a performer, her 11th season as the wig designer, and her 7th year as a wearer of many hats including organizer of the Wagon Wheel Jr. program. After receiving her BFA in Music Theatre from Millikin University, Jennifer’s favorite place to work quickly became the Wagon Wheel Theatre. Her most memorable roles on the Wagon Wheel stage are A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Puck), AlwaysPatsy Cline (Louise), Young Frankenstein (Frau Blucher), Marvelous Wonderettes (Suzy), Guys and Dolls (Adelaide), Seussical (Gertrude), South Pacific (Nellie), Meet Me in St. Louis (Esther), and Superman (Sydney). Other regional credits include Cats (Rumpleteaser) at the Marriott Lincolnshire, Grand Hotel at Drury Lane Water Tower, Jekyll & Hyde (Emma) at Pheasant Run, and performing as a singer with the Rockettes for 3 seasons in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.

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.

Matthew Helpert

Technical Director/
Maintenance

Bio

Bio Coming Soon!

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.