Cody Estle, Artistic Director
Cody Estle became the Artistic Director at Next Act Theatre in December 2022. Before coming to Next Act Theatre, he served as the Artistic Director at Raven Theatre in Chicago. His directing credits at Raven Theatre included THE LUCKIEST (2022 Jeff Award nominee for Best Production and Best Director), SUNDOWN, YELLOW MOON, HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE (named by Windy City Times as the best of Chicago theatre in 2019), THE GENTLEMAN CALLER (2019 Jeff Award winning new play by Philip Dawkins), THE ASSEMBLED PARTIES, A LOSS OF ROSES (named by Chicago Tribune honorable mention as one of the year’s best in 2016), DIVIDING THE ESTATE, VIEUX CARRÉ (named by Chicago Tribune as one of the year’s best in 2014), GOOD BOYS AND TRUE, BRIGHTON BEACH MEMOIRS, BOY GETS GIRL and DATING WALTER DANTE. He has also directed plays at Northlight Theatre, Strawdog Theatre, Shattered Globe Theatre, First Floor Theatre, Redtwist Theatre, The Artistic Home, Haven Theatre, Mary-Arrchie Theatre and Citadel Theatre. In 2022, Cody was named one of NewCity’s Fifty People Who Really Perform For Chicago. He is a member of SDC and an alumnus of Columbia College Chicago.
Libby Amato, Interim Managing Director
Libby has been a member of the Next Act family for many years in a variety of roles, including House Manager, Ticket Office Attendant, Actor, Deck Chief, Administrative Coordinator and Business Manager. As of May 2023, she’s delighted to add interim Managing Director to the list. Libby is a long-time Milwaukee theatre professional. She’s also a soap-maker (it’s not as weird as it sounds), an avid hiker and a feline enthusiast.
Jessica Connelly, Production Manager
Jessica first began working with Next Act Theatre in 2003. Since 2006, she has been Next Act’s Resident Stage Manager, stage managing 70 productions. A few of Jessica’s favorite projects include: DEAR ESTHER, MASTER HAROLD… and the BOYS, LAST OF THE BOYS, MYSTERY OF IRMA VEP, GREETINGS, FAITH HEALER, PURGATORIO, GOING TO ST. IVES, VIGIL, GRACE, THREE VIEWS OF THE SAME OBJECT, TWILIGHT: LOS ANGELES 1992, BLOOMSDAY, SILENT SKY, EQUIVOCATION, I and YOU, BLOOD AT THE ROOT, THE REVOLUTIONISTS and 9 CIRCLES (Next Act Theatre); A RISING WIND (J.M. Kohler Arts Center); CHESAPEAKE, TROJAN WOMEN, THE SHAPE OF THINGS, the U.S. premiere of SKIN TIGHT, ACTUALLY (Renaissance Theaterworks); DISGRACED, FENCES and BLUE ROSE (Milwaukee Repertory Theater); SANTALAND DIARIES (Marcus Center for the Performing Arts) and HAIRSPRAY (Little Theatre on the Square). Jessica is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association and an honors graduate of UW-Milwaukee.
A.J. Magoon, Marketing Director
A Milwaukee-based arts administrator and actor, A.J. holds a BA in Theatre Arts and a minor in Public Relations from Marquette University. He has performed various administrative duties for Summit Players Theatre, First Stage, Theatre Gigante and Theatre Nervosa, and came to Next Act from Bottom Line Marketing and Public Relations.
In addition to his behind-the-scenes work, A.J. has been seen onstage with First Stage, Renaissance Theaterworks, Theatre Gigante, Sunstone Studios, Voices Found Repertory, Acacia Theatre Company, Summit Players Theatre, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre (Young Playwrights Festival), Theatre Nervosa, Quasimondo Physical Theatre, Windfall Theatre and Cooperative Performance. Outside of theatre, he enjoys baking and spending time in the great outdoors.
Pia Russo, Education Manager
Pia is a multidisciplinary educator who graduated from Marquette University in 2022 with degrees in Theatre Arts and Secondary Education. While most of her credits are still from Marquette, such as directing GIDION’S KNOT and DOUBT and stage managing ANTIGONE, she has also interned at Door Shakespeare, where she mostly overcame her fear of bugs, and has helped run the Next Actors program with her predecessor Grace DeWolff. She has taught a little at a lot of high schools, including Wauwatosa West and Pius XI High School. When not at Next Act, she can be found playing board games, chilling with her roommate and cat and yelling about how much she loves her students to anyone who will listen.
Mike Van Dreser, Facility Manager
Mike has served as Next Act Theatre’s Facility Manager and Rental Coordinator since 2011. Previously, he was the resident Master Electrician and Light Board Operator. Mike studied with renowned Lighting Designer Jason Fassl.
Some of Mike’s designs include I AND YOU; UnSILENT NIGHT; BRAVO, CARUSO!; IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE LIVE RADIO SHOW; NO CHILD…; PERFECT MENDACITY; and ONE TIME with Next Act Theatre and HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH, NEXT TO NORMAL, THE WILD PARTY and LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS with All In Productions.
When Mike is not working for Next Act he is working on building his own production company that services technical theatre needs for high schools, colleges
Christine Yundem, Ticket Office Manager
Christine discovered the world of audience services when she joined the staff of Milwaukee’s Performing Arts Center (n/k/a Marcus Center) in its inaugural season. She has worked with dozens of arts organizations and their audiences as ticketing evolved from paper and pencil to computer systems to the internet, providing new ways to enhance patrons’ experiences. Long a friend of Next Act Theatre and supporter of its mission, she was pleased to become part of its dedicated team in 2014. Since then, she has found in her interactions with Next Act audiences ample validation of her often-stated opinion that the nicest people come to theatre. Christine’s abiding interest in the fine and folk arts of diverse cultures means that she herself is often found in an audience.
Others of Note
David Cecsarini, Producing Artistic Director emertius
David proudly served as Artistic Director and Producer for Milwaukee’s Next Act Theatre for 30 seasons, where he directed more than 40 productions and acted in as many others. Behind the scenes, he created sound effects and scores for most of Next Act’s work and for many other professional productions. David was one of Next Act Theatre’s founders, shepherding the company from its founding in 1990 (read our full history) to his retirement in 2023. During that time, he was instrumental in the construction of two venues for the company, first the Off-Broadway Theatre at 342 N. Water Street and then the company’s current artistic home at 255 S. Water Street.
Charles Kakuk, former Managing Director
Charles joined David Cecsarini at the burgeoning Next Act Theatre in 1992, beginning a long and successful business partnership. His many administrative talents served the theatre well, enabling it to grow into two theatrical homes (the Off-Broadway Theatre and the current space at 255 S. Water Street). Charles guided Next Act with a deft hand for 22 seasons. Shortly before the 2014-2015 season, he lost his long battle with cancer. “He has truly given his all and Next Act survives as a testament to his determination and commitment,” David said. Today, members of the Charles D. Kakuk Legacy Society honor the memory of Charles and his commitment to Next Act by making planned gifts to the theatre.
Board of Directors
David Anderson, Johnson Controls (Retired)
Daniel P. Murray, Broadway Law Offices
Donna Martynski, Community Volunteer
Immediate Past President
Cathryn Jakicic, Trusted Media Brands
Brooke Billick, Artisan Partners Limited Partnership (Retired)
Terri Alioto, Community Volunteer
Haly Besaw, RW Baird
Paul Barno, Grantosa Drive Elementary School (MPS)
Michael Burzynski*, CliftonLarsonAllen, LLP
John DiMotto, Circuit Court Judge (Retired)
Mohammad ElBsat, Carrier Globe International
Annie Jurczyk, Keller Williams Realty, Inc.
Jane Lukic, Wheel & Sprocket/Kegel’s Inn
John McGivern, Actor, Writer, Comedian
Susan Schoenfeld, Community Volunteer
Sandra Zingler, Community Volunteer