SAMANTHA JONES (Founder/Director/Instructor/Perfromer) brings over 25 years live comedy experience in NYC to HVI. With four solo shows and fifteen years in stand up comedy and sketch under her belt, JONES is known for her booming stage presence and outrageous characters. As a professional actor/director, improvisation has inspired all of Jones’ artistic work. Along the way she had founded, performed with and directed dozens of troupes including Faux Show, The Mug Shots, The Outrageous Instincts, The Baker Dozen, The Free Association and Please Stand By. Her credits include Bull on CBS, Sonia in Vanya & Sonia & Masha & Spike, Law & Order SVU, Comedy Central, MTV's Run's House, The Uprights Citizens Brigade and Jack Black's Acceptable TV. More at www.therealsamanthajones.com
NICOLE SYRLIK (Company Member) is Brooklyn born and has slowly migrated north over the years to have landed in Hurley, NY. An Improv student for more than ten years, she has occasionally performed to the accolades of tens of people. An accomplished extra in three films, she has mastered the art of waiting around and chatting until called by the director for a scene. When not doing Improv or extraing, Nicole enjoys feeding local children to her carnivorous plants, music and dance. Now, after flirting with Improv for years, she has finally decided to ask it out on a date and actually perform in front of a live audience that has been drinking. What could possibly go wrong ?
ELAINE MAGGIORE (Company Member) is grateful to be included in the company of HVI.. Elaine began her informal training in improv while working in the healthcare setting as a Registered Nurse. Nearing retirement she has decided to hone her skills formally with Sam Jones at Hudson Valley improv. Elaine's goal is share her zany, offbeat characters with others in order to help them heal through laughter.
VICTORIA FORD (Company Member) is a native New Yorker and has been living in the Hudson Valley for the last 20 years. Her first introduction to theatre was with the Nat Horne Theatre, many moons ago, in NYC, where she trained for musical theatre. She studied acting at HB Studios with Michael Beckett, and went on to become a member of Equity and worked with the Puerto Rican Travelling Theatre, and The Henry St. Settlement where she did educational theatre, performing in schools in NYC. She has done commercials, film and print work. By day, she is a certified lighting consultant and is the sole proprietor of NY Lighting Design. Scared to death of improvisation, she jumped into the HVI classes and is so happy she did.
TRISTA POLO (Company Member/ Show Director) brings a long career of performance and speaking to HVI. Improv is not new to Trista, but she usually brings it to her speaking engagements. As an EMCEE for 400+ person trainings and trainer of classes all over the country, Trista is known for an energetic and comedic performance that engages her students/audience and leaves them better than she found them. Trista is not afraid to bring vulnerability to her performances and is trusted by her fellow actors. She was lead singer for MAD CITI a 60’s rock band based on Long Island. Trista is an award-winning trainer and speaker as well as
a Toast Master.
BETTINA SKYE (Company Member) has the amazing chameleon-like ability to pique our interest, fearlessly taking on bold characters with amazing spunk. In 2012, she won the award of Best Actress in the Hudson Valley following in the footsteps of Melissa Leo and Vera Farmiga who won in the 2 years previously. Her credits include “Uncertain Terms”, “Blue Suede”, “Escape from Kings Park”. If you’re a fan of “Cake Boss”, she will also be appearing on the hit reality show as well as opposite comic hero Bronson Pinchot in the “Kung Fu and Titties." With her track record of being a vision of diversity, Bettina may soon be regarded as one of the must-followed women on the independent scene.
PUNKY DAVIS (Company Member/ Show Director) got her theatre degree at Marymount Manhattan College. She is an actress, writer, singer/songwriter and guitar player. Lizzie studied at UCB, Michael Howard Studios, and wherever else they would allow her to take the stage. She also studied with Fay Simpson, Deborah Kampmeier, and is currently studying with Samantha Jones. Her most recent appearances have been in Deborah Kampmeier’s film “Split,” and John Jeserun’s episodic masterpiece, “Chang In A Void Moon” The Lizzie Maya Band performed throughout many downtown Manhattan venues, before Manhattan was taken over by the zombies. She is thrilled to be a company member of HVI.
BRETT EIDMAN (Company Member) is an award winning comedian/writer/actor who is best known for his song parody of “Shaft, Barack Theme” which was played on thousands of radio stations and CNN. Comedy bits from his, “What’s So F#@k’n Funny?” CD released on the Uproar Entertainment label, are played regularly on Sirius XM .A graduate of The Second City, Chicago and the Upright Citizens Brigade, NYC, Brett has been seen and heard on several TV and Radio Shows including Saturday Night Live, Nickelodeon, What Would You Do?, Law & Order, Imus in the Morning, CollegeHumor, FunnyorDie, and Above Average. Brett is the subject of a short-film documentary entitled- "In The Name Of Comedy", which is currently screening at film festivals worldwide. www.bretteidman.com
GREG KNOWLES (Company Member) holds a doctorate in music and is a Professor at The Juilliard School. Starting in Los Angeles as a session and touring drummer, he continues to perform in an authentic ‘60’s band strictly for fun. When not teaching, he works as a record producer with Bimperl Entertainment & Media, which has an artist development deal with major labels who sign their artists. Greg spent 25+ years on the Board of Governors, Board of Trustees, and 3 terms as Los Angeles President of The Recording Academy (Grammy Awards). In 2012 the Heredity Knights of Britannia bestowed “Sir Greg” a knighthood for his philanthropic work with young musicians. This is his first time doing improv or comedy of any kind, “I am scared to death of it, but am really enjoying it.”
MICHAEL WITHALL (Company Member/Show Director) has been performing with Hudson Valley Improv since its start. He studied Theatre and Improv at SUNY New Paltz way back in the early 90’s and got his Improv start with The Baker’s Dozen Improv Troupe and at Parker Theatre’s Summer Rep Cabaret. Michael has recently been seen at Half Moon Theatre’s Ten Minute Play Festival and Tenth Year Anniversary Gala Performance, and will be seen in Half Moon Theatre’s production of A Christmas Carol this Holiday Season. He lives in Rifton with his beautiful and talented partner, Samantha Jones and his two wonderful daughters, Cricket (13) and Calico (12). Michael loves: coffee and improv, his family and friends, good food, living in the Hudson Valley and visiting New York City. He loves: movies, baseball, short walks on the beach, wet kisses and dry martinis.
JOHANNA TACADENA (Company Member/ Show Director) has been performing for over 20+ years on stage and on-camera. Her other hats include makeup artistry and casting and is co-owner and casting director for BreakThrough Casting. Johanna is beyond thrilled to be a part of HVI and is absolutely honored to learn from the great, Samantha Jones.
JENNIFER NOLAN ( Company Member) has been acting and improving for as long as she can remember. Whether it has been home movies as a kid or traveling between the east and west coast for movies and commercials, Jennifer craves the camera and stage. While some believe that acting and improv call to her because she can't sit still, it's really because it's her passion. Her love for the arts drives her forward and always gives her audience the best performance they can get. So come catch her latest performance while you can because she'll be off to her next project.
GAIL HANDELMAN (Company Member) grew up in Brooklyn, New York and moved up to the Hudson Valley at the age of 27. As a child she enjoyed acting in play with friends and often fantisized about being other people. Therapists could have a field day with that one! Having been a Probation Officer for the past 30 years, improv skills have been useful and a crucial took for the job. Thinking on your feet is a must! Now moving towards retirement, it was time to break out of her comfort zone. Being part of this troupe makes her childhood fantasy a reality, even though it's terrifying!
PHILIP MEHL (Company Member) began his performance studies at the famed LaGuardia High School of the Arts. Since that time he has appeared in television commercials and series, held a recurring role on the improv show Live from Off Center, and has sung in Carnegie Hall over a dozen times. When he is not involved in all that lunacy, he is a professional social worker and award winning healthcare administrator who relies heavily on his two extraordinary daughters and husband to keep him sane.
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