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Academy Director

Mikayla Garren

A proud graduate of the Amarillo Little Theatre Academy, Mikayla is honored to return as the Academy Director. Mikayla holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in Musical Theatre from Abilene Christian University. While attending ACU, she took part in many productions including Metamorphoses as Alcyone/Others, The Glass Menagerie as Laura, and Mary Poppins as the title role. Mikayla studied directing, acting, voice, and dance which provided the opportunity to train under notable instructors such as Melissa Zaremba (Radio City Christmas Spectacular), Kei Tsuruharatani (Broadway’s Jagged Little Pill), and Melissa Young (Dallas Black Dance Theatre).

Mikayla signed with an agent in New York and moved to the city soon after graduation. New York offered many opportunities including teaching ballet at a private school, performing in Off-Broadway theaters, and continuing her training by taking classes and auditioning for regional theaters and Broadway National Tours. And while she misses the city greatly, Mikayla could not be more excited to step into the role of Academy Director this season.


Danielle Holbrook Compton

Danielle holds a degree in Special Education from West Texas A&M University. She is currently a teacher at Crockett Middle School, where she has taught since 2009. During her first two years in the classroom, she determined that her students needed a meaningful way to connect with their neuro-typical peers, so her STEP (Students Teaching & Encouraging Peers) program was started in 2011. Through this program, eighth grade leaders at Crockett have the opportunity to forge genuine friendships with their peers with differing abilities and spread their message of inclusion throughout the school and community. STEP received the Region 16 Best Practice Award in 2017 and was featured in the AISD magazine, Portraits, in the spring of 2018.

Danielle has presented numerous times at Region 16 and at local schools about Peer Mediated Intervention and the importance of genuine inclusion opportunities in schools and communities.

She co-founded the Amarillo Sandies Adaptive Sports Team in the fall of 2016, and continuesto serve as the Head of Delegation. The athletes on these teams compete in Special Olympics sports competitions across the area.

Connecting her students and athletes to the community in purposeful ways is one of her biggest passions. She can’t think of a more accepting and inclusive environment than the theatre, so to help start a new program at ALT for individuals with differing abilities is a real dream come true.

In her free time, Danielle enjoys spending time with her husband and two sons, reading, goingto the movies, learning about her family history, spoiling her nieces and nephew, and brunching with friends.

Carrie Huckabay

Carrie Huckabay has had the pleasure to teach the at ALT Academy for 18 years! During that time, she’s taught the very talented students of Theatre 4, Senior Company, Adult Acting, Playwriting, Theatre 3, and College Prep. Carrie holds a BFA in Theatre Arts Performance from the University of Texas at Arlington where she met her husband Nolan. Carrie and Nolan have two amazing, funny, sweet, sons, Ethan and Aaron. When not teaching, her hobbies include Yoga, cooking fabulous dinners, baking things with all the sugar and butter available, reading everything she can get her hands on and singing in the Choir at First Baptist Church.

Kara Leimer

Kara is a native of Amarillo.  She discovered and fell in love with acting in youth theatre when she was 11, and hasn’t stopped since! She recently completed her MFA in Acting from East 15 Acting School in London. During her time in London, she performed on the stages of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the Arcola Theatre, the West End’s Tristan Bates Theatre, and completed a Shakespeare intensive course at LAMDA. She also holds a BA in theatre from the University of North Texas, and she has acted professionally in the D/FW area with Shakespeare Dallas, Theatre Britain, and Kitchen Dog Theatre. Recently, she has been teaching in WTAMU’s theatre program, as well as co-founding Borderless Theatre Company and voicing several roles in their Radio Plays podcast. She is very excited to be back home at ALT, and has most recently been seen in the two Mainstage productions of Baskerville (Best Supporting Actress) and Peter and the Starcatcher, and she is beyond excited about the opportunity to share her passion for acting and storytelling through theatre with others!

Jill Ludington

Jill Hays Ludington has a BA in Theatre and English education and her Masters in Educational Leadership from West Texas A&M University where she now teaches as an adjunct professor and theatre student teacher supervisor. Jill will have her Masters in Theatre in Fall of 2022. “It’s never too late, guys!” She has had appearances at the state One-Act Play UIL level as an adjudicator, director, and student, and clinics schools all over the state. She is proud to have served on the TTAO Standards and Practices Committee and currently serve on the TTAO Board. Giving back to an art that changed her life is important to Jill, and she is grateful to be partnered with ALT as another avenue to do just that.

Michael Newman

Michael Newman holds a BA in Theatre Performance from West Texas A&M University. He is currently the Technical Theatre Director for Amarillo High School and Tascosa High School and has been teaching since 2012. He is also the Acting Coach for Anderson Model & Talent Agency. Michael is also an avid performer, with stage credits at ALT and other venues. Some of his favorites include Sweeney Todd (ALT), Spamalot (Merely Players), Noises Off (ALT/Merely Players), Peter Pan (ALT), The Lieutenant of Inishmore (ALT), Eurydice (ALT), and Over the River and Through the Woods (ALT). When not working in the theatre, Michael enjoys playing Dungeons & Dragons, painting, and obstacle course racing. He also enjoys spending every spare moment he can with his wife, Stacy, their 2 kids, Danlee and Dean, and dog, Kara.

Benjamin Nitschmann

A Senior Theatre Education Major at WT, Benjamin Nitschmann is excited to start his journey as an instructor of the arts here at Amarillo Little Theatre Academy. He is a director, actor, technician, designer but most importantly a passionate educator of the theatre working in DFW, Malibu, San Angelo and at ALT itself as a substitute for the past 5 years! He is currently Actor One in Vintage Hitchcock and Assistant Director of Caucasian Chalk Circle at WTAMU. He can’t wait to meet his new students for this year and share the beauty of the performing arts with them!

Macy Owen Dawson

Macy Dawson holds a BA in performing arts from Texas Tech University. She moved to Amarillo in 2017 to become the Theatre Arts Director at Crockett Middle School where she adored working for four years. Macy took a break from teaching for a year and worked as the Development Director for CASA, helping children in foster care, but ultimately missed working with children on the stage too much. Macy is elated to begin this school year with River Road Middle School as their Head Director and assistant direct at River Road High School! She made her ALT debut in 2019 in the show The Underpants in which she fell in love with all things ALT. She is over the moon to continue teaching at ALT this year with the Drama For All Six Week Intensive and is excited to take on Creative Dramatics!

Jo Smith

A volunteer for over 30 years, Jo’s first role at ALT was as Hope Harcourt in the 1990 production of Anything Goes. She moved to Amarillo in 1990 to do the musical TEXAS. Jo holds a BFA in Theatre from Cameron University. After many years away, she is so happy to finally be working among the people who share her passion for theatre!! Some of her favorite roles include Lola in the 1995 Amarillo College Summer Arts Festival production of Damn Yankees, Soul Girl in the 1994 production of Jesus Christ Superstar, Multiple roles in the award winning 1995 touring production of BEEHIVE, Sheree in Dixie Swim Club (2010), Huckaby in The Fantasticks (2004), Ensemble in the incredible production of Les Miserables (2012), Sonia in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, and most recently Diane in The Birds, Virginia Noyes in the hilarious production of It’s Only a Play, for which she received her first ALTA’s.

Jo is proud to share her love for theatre with her daughter Hana, who was an ALT Academy student since she was 3 and is now a grown woman who spreads her own passion for theatre. Her husband, Kyle, is an Amarillo Firefighter. The Smith family is rounded out by their Corgis, Piper and Korki.

Jo loves sharing her love for ALT with her Academy students. She is an Academy instructor teaching grades 3-8 in various theatre classes. It brings her great joy to see the growth in the students in class and especially watching their lights shine on stage.


Brandon Bellar

Brandon Bellar is an Amarillo native. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre Performance from WTAMU where he studied under Royal R. Brantley, Wm. Perry Crafton, and Dr. Bob Hansen. Brandon is the Office Manager for his family business- Abal Auto Sales,and also teaches private voice lessons. He co-directs the ALT Academy Show Stoppers and has served as Music Director for the ALT Academy musicals for the past thirteen years. His onstage work at ALT includes Little Shop of Horrors, Mary Poppins, Young Frankenstein,The Full Monty, Hairspray, La Cage Aux Folles, Kiss of the Spider Woman, South Pacific, Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Smoky Joe’s Café and The Producers. When he is not involved in a production, he enjoys traveling, outdoors, and spending quality time with friends, family, and his three children.

Socorra Carrillo

Socorra Carrillo is happy to return to the ALT classrooms to teach music while attending college. A senior at WTAMU, Socorra will graduate in May with a degree in musical theatre. At WTAMU, she performed such roles as Everybody/Somebody in Everybody and Susan in [Title of Show]. Socorra is excited to spend a last year with this theatre community and to work with young performers.

Erin Murphy

I have loved musical theatre since I was in preschool myself. I participated in high school and local theatrical productions in the Denver area, participating in All-State Choir and performing with my high school’s top choir at the Colorado Music Educator Association conference. I majored in musical theatre for two years at Eastern New Mexico University, then completed my bachelor’s degree in English at University of Colorado Denver. I attended the London Academy of Performing Arts Summer Shakespeare program and performed in improv troupes and community theatres in Denver, L.A., and New Hampshire. I participated in countless storytime/mommy and me/Kindermusik style classes over the years with my three children, and led preschool worship at my church. I performed in a dozen musicals and plays while living in New Hampshire, and since moving to Amarillo I am happily involved with ALT productions and serve on the ALT Guild. I currently teach the preschool and mother’s day out music program at First Baptist Church, lead worship with Community Bible Study, and spend time with my husband, Ethan, and our three children.


Beth Alexander

Beth is so happy to be a part of the Amarillo Little Theatre Academy. She has over 30 years of experience in dance. She has worked with and learned from professionals like Maria Tarinova, Wade Robinson, Nappy Tabs, Chris Judd, Frank Hatchet and more. Beth has been teaching all different styles of dance for 14 years. In the past two seasons at ALT she has had the honor of choreographing HONK!, Legally Blonde and Frozen Jr. and performing in Mary Poppins, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Mamma Mia! and Rock of Ages. She is excited to be a part of teaching the next generation the joy of dance.

Alina Bannavong

After several years of traveling as a dancer and choreographer for entertainers nationwide and teaching at Lone Star Ballet and Dance Academy, I am excited to share my experience and knowledge with the dancers of the ALT Academy!
At the age of 12, I began training in Jazz and Hip Hop. Upon attending Palo Duro High School, I broadened my education by studying stage direction and show production in conjunction with the Amarillo College Theater Department. This led to a promising opportunity with the outdoor musical, TEXAS, to be an understudy for various stage tech positions.
I also took dance classes with Jason Crespin! I am a Crespin Kid!
In college, I began studying ballet with Mark Lanham of LanDance Conservatory, as well as Crystal Bertrand and Edward Truitt at West Texas A&M University. While attending WT, I also worked as a choreographer and backup dancer for several entertainers in and around the state. 
I had the privilege to have spent time teaching dance internationally in Laos and Thailand at dance studios and performing arts academies in the following years and have also worked as a creative director, visual stylist, and actress in music videos, commercials, and short films for local and national television.
I now teach right here at home at Lone Star Ballet and Dance Academy, but am so tremendously excited to be able to call ALT another home.

Lugene Cole

Lugene has been a dance instructor for the Amarillo Little Theatre for the past twenty five years and previously held the position of Dance Coordinator for the Amarillo College Dance Department from 1993-2009. Formal dance instruction began at the age of six and then become an understudy dance instructor at age 13. In 2002 she received the Amarillo Globe News-Reader’s Choice Award for “Best Dance Instructor”, and is very proud to be a part of Amarillo Little Theatre Academy which was awarded Best Dance, Theatre and Vocal programs. Her competition teams have placed 1st and 2nd in regional for ballet, jazz and lyrical at Tremaine Dance Competitions. Dance competition teams have also won high awards in Gold, Hi Gold and solo Teen Dancer at Celebration Talent Competition. Many of her students have received scholarships to Boston Ballet, Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Dallas Ballet, Houston Ballet and Ballet El Paso. Most recently competition Teen Dancer was awarded a scholarship to study in L.A. along with performance opportunities with up and coming new artist in music videos. Cole has served as choreographer for the Summer Youth Musical productions of West Side Story, Beauty and the Beast, Oliver, Fiddler on the Roof, Annie, Big River, Oklahoma, Wizard of Oz, and choreographed The Little Match Girl for the Amarillo Little Theatre Academy.

Past performances include the Dallas State Fair, American College Dance Festival, and Amarillo Little Theatre productions of Follies, Li’l Abner, Carousel, The King and I, Scrooge, AChorus Line, and most recently La Cage aux Folles.

Cole is very excited to see a strong program in technique for dance and theatre implemented to give so many opportunities to students in the performing arts.

Joy Fowler

Joy Fowler has been dancing for 27 years. As an Amarillo native, her first experience with ballet was Lone Star Ballet’s The Nutcracker. She was two years old and decided that was exactly what she wanted to do. Joy began dancing at three years old and never stopped. She enjoys many different kinds of dance, but her favorite is her first love, ballet. In Amarillo she has danced at Amarillo College and Lone Star Ballet Academy. She has also performed in the Lone Star Ballet’s productions of The Nutcracker. At home, Joy loves cooking and baking for her family. She is an avid reader and loves learning new things. Her two puppies, Aloha and Moxie, fill her life with extra love and humor. Joy is so grateful to Ms. Lugene and Amarillo Little Theatre. She is looking forward to all the new experiences to come!