JOAN SCHIRLE – Founding Artistic Director / Faculty

Joan Schirle is the founding artistic director of Dell’Arte International. She is an actor, playwright, director, deviser and teacher, whose acting work was recognized with a 2006 Fox Foundation/TCG Resident Actor Fellowship for professional development. In 2004 she was honored at the 16th Cairo International Experimental Theatre Festival as a leader in the field of experimental theatre. She served as director of the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre from 2003 – 2011.

Joan has directed productions at San Diego Rep, the Alley in Houston, Bloomsburg Ensemble, A Traveling Jewish Theatre, Touchstone Ensemble, Colorado University/Boulder and Dell’Arte. A principal actor-creator with the Dell’Arte Company since its founding, she most recently created the title role in “Mary Jane: The Musical” at the 2011 & 2012 Mad River Festival and again played the title role in the 2016 film version:Mary Jane: A Musical Potumentary,” which won the award for Best Musical Film at the 2016 Oregon Independent Film Festival. Read More.

LAUREN WILSON – School Director / Faculty

Lauren Wilson graduated from the École de Cirque in Brussels in 1990, and from the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre in 1992. Since then, she has worked with the Dell’Arte Company as a writer, director and performer in many productions. She received her B.A. from Reed College, and an M.F.A. in Theatre from Sarah Lawrence College, where she was awarded the Stanley and Evelyn Lipkin Prize for Playwriting. In 2008, she received a year-long Dramatists Guild Fellowship for Playwriting. Her comedies “Chemical Imbalance” and “The Golden State” are published by Dramatists Play Service, and her play “Wedding Duet” appears in the 2007 Vintage anthology Laugh Lines: Short Comic Plays. Before joining the faculty at Dell’Arte, Lauren also taught at the State University of New York, Humboldt State University, and American Conservatory Theatre. Recent projects include “Three Trees,” a full-length clown play devised and performed with her longtime ensemble partners Joe Krienke and Stephanie Thompson, and “Punctual Folly,” a film for three clowns. Lauren has been School Director at Dell’Arte since 2015.

ALYSSA HUGHLETT – Interim Managing Director

Alyssa Hughlett holds a BFA in acting from Texas State University, San Marcos, and an MFA from Dell’Arte International. She trained and worked for Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, MA, as an actor and education artist between 2005 and 2009. Alyssa has over 20 years of experience coaching and teaching gymnastics, and 7 years as a certified as a yoga instructor. She has been an actor with the Wharton Salon, a theatre company devoted to adapting and performing the works of Edith Wharton at her estate in the Massachusetts’s Berkshires, and has acted for Irina Brook, in adapting an original stage production of Oscar Wilde’s, The Canterville Ghost. In 2014, she was assistant to the director, Irina Brook, at the National Theatre in Nice (France), helping with an adaptation of Ibsen’s Peer Gynt with a cast of international actors, dancers, and musicians. Alyssa is a founding member and the 2017 artistic director of UpLift Physical Theatre, an ensemble founded in 2013 by an amalgam of actors, acrobats, dancers, musicians, and performers ( Their most recent work, Enmity of the People, premiered in Dayton, Ohio, at the University of Dayton, where she was an artist in residence. In addition to performing, Alyssa has been a teaching artist since 2006, and taught in over 10 U.S. states, from ages 5 through adult. Alyssa has performed locally for Ferndale Repertory Theatre, the Arcata Playhouse, Redwood Raks Dance Studio, Dell’Arte’s Mad River Festival, and she is a proud Mum.

MATT CHAPMAN – Director of Admissions

Matt Chapman is a performer, teacher, and director of physical theatre and clown. After three years working on the Faculty at Dell’Arte, he is now living and working in Oakland, CA. Matt is also Artistic Director and Co-Founder of Brooklyn’s Under the Table, now in its thirteenth year of making works and touring the country and globe. He has taught Clown at Marymount Manhattan College and Manhattanville College in New York, and has taught workshops at such places as the Kennedy Center, Actor’s Theatre of Louisville, NYU, Vassar, Sarah Lawrence, Towson, and many other universities and theatres. Matt regularly works abroad as well; he has taught and performed at festivals, schools, and theatres in South Africa, Denmark, Colombia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Canada, and England.

He is a Round 9 recipient of Theatre Communications Group’s New Generations Future Leaders program, plays guitar in the Oakland punk rock band The Big Forgive, and is a graduate of Dell’Arte International (’01) and the University of Kansas (’00).

ZUZKA SABATA — Associate Artistic Director, The Bartow Project

Zuzka Sabata is an alumnus of DAI and has been on staff, faculty, and a company member since 2010.  She specializes in community engagement programming. In 2015 she co-founded Dell’Arte’s Prison Project and taught theatre and creating original material to students at Pelican Bay State Prison for 3 years. She has been the artistic lead on DAI’s partnership with the Wiyot Tribe since 2016 and is currently working on a collaborative project between the Company and the Tribe to create a full-length performance based on the work of contemporary artist Rick Bartow (Wiyot). More info on this project is at For Zuzka’s additional creative work, see

KAREN WILKINSON – Marketing Director

Karen Wilkinson is a graduate of Humboldt State University, a former journalist on the North Coast and Sacramento area, and yoga aficionado. She enjoys being in the audience at Dell’Arte International, where she can watch the student performers grow and transform. At age 16 she visited Humboldt County for the first time and decided that’s where she’d attend college, and while she’s lived elsewhere since, the beauty and pace of life continues to draw her back. As Marketing Director, Karen promotes the fun, bold and touching work that would otherwise go unseen at Dell’Arte.

ANDREW DE LA PENA – School Administrator

Andrew De La Pena worked and studied around the world before returning to where he started: Northern California. He completed his degree in Theater Arts in New Orleans, in spite of Hurricane Katrina, and has worked with ensemble theater groups such as Yuyachkani in Peru, and Met Elkaar Theatergroep in the Netherlands. He spent five years teaching English in Thailand, South Korea, Hawai’i and Saudi Arabia and was a middle school Language Arts Teacher in San Francisco. He studied his M.S. in International Development Studies at University of Amsterdam with a specialization in producing community and indigenous film. He co-owns an online writing and translating company, Pairagraph, but gleefully distracts himself with the ukulele, piano and writing speculative fiction.

MICHAEL ‘SPIKE’ FOSTER – Resident Lighting Designer

In second grade, Spike played three French hens. In third, a mad scientist (he created an immense, foil-covered saw). Since then he has lit stages in 26 states, 16 countries, 4 continents, and both hemispheres, including 35 years with Dell’Arte International, and concurrently 40-plus years in local and community theatres. In 2019 Spike was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from Dell’Arte International.

Spike has toured two summer seasons – 1986 and ’88 – with the horse-drawn wagons of the Caravan Stage Company out of Canada. Other companies/directors include: First Voice in San Francisco; Jeff Raz from Alameda, Calif.; Big Sky from Hartley Bay, B.C.; and Synapsis from Eureka, Calif. In 2019 he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from Dell’Arte International.

When asked what’s been his best play or production, Spike invariably replies, “The next one.”

JAMES HILDEBRANDT – Technical Director

James Hildebrandt is a multimedia artist who lives in Arcata, Calif. Sculpture, puppetry and painting are his primary mediums, focused on community art projects. James is Technical Director at Dell’Arte International and artist in residency at the Arcata Playhouse. Most of his work can be seen in the community through theater productions and outdoor art installations. 

Currently James has two public art projects in progress. With the help of local community businesses and artists, a 27-foot long giant salmon puppet is taking shape. This puppet is being made with recycled materials and will swim the streets in the spring of 2020.

The second project is a Gateway to the Creamery District in Arcata. This project is a collaboration with local artists to create a sculpture and multiple street paintings, raising awareness of a creek that flows through the Creamery District, under the city and into the nearby estuary. The Gateway project is set to be complete in Summer 2020.

MARICELA ACEVES WEXLER – Fundraising Campaign Director

Maricela (Cela) Aceves Wexler graduated from Humboldt State University in the Fall of 2017 from the Environmental Studies program with an emphasis in Community Organizing. Before arriving in her position at Dell’Arte, Cela spent three years managing the Humboldt Cider Company tap rooms in Eureka. At the same time, she worked for Equinoss Consulting, assisting on various local project management jobs for The Humboldt Office of Education, the City of Arcata Community Development Department, and others. Informed and motivated by life experience thus far, her goal is to utilize and grow the skills necessary to support people and planet. She is also a volunteer community mediator at Humboldt Mediation Services, a ceramicist, a lover and admirer of live performance and music, and an international traveler.