The Board of the Port Tobacco Players announces the upcoming Winter General Membership Meeting and elections for the 2021 Board of Directors. Current PTP members should have received a paper ballot for Board elections the week of Dec. 29, 2020. Returned ballots must be postmarked by Feb. 1, 2021, in order to be counted. Be aware of possible USPS delays -- we encourage you to mail your ballots in early! If you believe you are a current member but have not received a paper ballot in the mail, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.
Below are bios for the 12 members running for a position on the Board. This year, there are 5 open slots and members can vote for up to 5 of these nominees to fill those slots. Winners will be announced at the Winter General Membership Meeting on February 6, 2021 at 4 PM. Please scroll through to read bios for all 12 nominees before casting your ballot! The nominees are:
Shemika Renée Berry
Michael Beyrle Jr.
Kaitelyn Bauer Dieguez
Zach Ball - WATCH award winning Set Constructor, WATCH nominated Set Designer, Music Director, Actor, Singer, Featured dancer, and all around good guy, humbly requests you vote for him to be on the esteemed Board of Directors. No, I'm not kidding! Yes, I'll do a good job!
Shemika Renée Berry is a costumer, award nominated and winning actress (WATCH Award nominee 2015 and First Qtr Winner Enginuity Film Festival 2017), and an award winning makeup artist (WATCH Awards 2013 and Clifton Film Celebration 2017). She is also the former Head Costumer and Makeup Adjunct Professor at the College of Southern Maryland. After serving in the Air Force for 5 1/2 years, this former officer decided to pursue her dreams of being on stage and film. She has performed on many stages throughout the DMV to include roles in "A Midsummer Night's Dream", "The Miracle Worker", "A Raisin in the Sun","Doubt: A Parable", "Fences", "The Color Purple", "Seven Guitars", "August: Osage County", and “Ragtime”. Her costume, makeup and hair designs have spanned shows from fantasy to period era productions. She has done background work on "House of Cards", "The Blacklist" and "VEEP". In addition to being an Historical Interpreter at The National Colonial Farm in Accokeek, MD, she also travels to schools throughout Maryland bringing historical figures to life. She recently portrayed Harriet Tubman at The Capitol Building in honor of Harriet Tubman Day, sponsored by Democratic Vice Presidential elect, Senator Kamala Harris.
Michael Beyrle Jr. - My name is Michael Beyrle and I was raised in Florida most of my life. I joined the Navy and left my hometown to serve our country. I ended up all over the east coast and deployed a couple times. I ended my 13 year career here in Southern Maryland where I have remarried and have made it my current home.
After being involved in my first show at PTP, I have fallen in love with the stage and what happens behind it. After my first two shows, I got to be a stagehand where I learned more of how the shows are put together. After being involved in a few more shows, I felt the need to help out more. I asked to be an assistant stage manager so I can learn even more about how shows operate. I hope to work my way up to stage manager and even producer.
Carol Charnock – I have been a member of the Port Tobacco Players since 1986 and have served multiple terms on the Board of Directors. I am a charter member of the Costume Guild and have served as Vice President, Secretary, Chair of the Costumes, Properties, Encore, and am currently the Membership Chair.
I am very excited to be back on the board and am enjoying keeping the Members informed of current PTP activities through the newly established Members News. With the tremendous assistance of the Public Affairs Committee, we are working to update/correct the information in the membership database and trying to find new and interesting ways to engage the membership during this time when we are not actively performing shows.
I’m looking forward to following up on these projects and working with the other chair persons to come up with new ideas for our growth and transition back into the fantastic performing venue that we have always been.
PTP has been family for me since I joined in 1986 and all of my “boys” have been active in many areas of PTP – from backstage support to on stage performances. PTP is an amazing community of talented and imaginative individuals and I look forward to serving you in the future in whatever capacity the membership and board feel appropriate to my skill set.
Kaitelyn Bauer Dieguez has been a member of PTP since 2009 and has participated in 30 of their productions, as well as productions at HBP, NTP, and SMCM, in that time. She has acted, directed, makeup designed, costume designed, set designed, set constructed, and set painted throughout the past eleven years. She has also worked as a counselor for Camp Mockabee on and off since 2010. Kaitelyn has been nominated for four WATCH awards in makeup, one in hair, and one in set design and won makeup and hair in 2015 for PTP's Cyrano. Most recently, she designed makeup for Guys and Dolls and directed You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. She has also served as HBP’s WATCH representative for two years.
Outside of her local theater community endeavors, Kaitelyn graduated from St. Mary's College of Maryland with a BA in English and Theatre in 2015 and then completed the MPS program in Publishing at The George Washington University in 2018. In 2015, she married fellow PTP member Anthony Dieguez, and they have a 14-month-old daughter, Willa aka Peach. After working as a copywriter and administrative assistant in real estate, she currently works full time as a mom and caregiver.
As a member of PTP’s board of directors, Kaitelyn hopes to continue the organization’s mission of entertaining, educating, and enriching the community through local theater. The past year has demonstrated that live theater is not always a guaranteed way of achieving the mission. Until we can gather again onstage, Kaitelyn endeavors to help PTP create more avenues to engage the community through distant and safe performances and education opportunities.
Craig Hower has been a member of the Port Tobacco Players most of his life. He has performed on stage in over 40 productions, directed nine, designed more than 25 whether it be sets, lights, makeup, sound, special effects or stage combat. He has been nominated for nine WATCH awards and won three. He was the Artistic Director for our only Ruby Griffith Award winning production of A Raisin in the Sun as selected by the British Embassy in Washington, DC.
He has performed in a dozen and directed a few shows in the Maryland Community Theatre Festival Association system including one that went to regionals. He has also worked with other community theatre companies in the region including The Hard Bargain Players, Little Theatre of Alexandria, Dominion Stage and Charles County Community College. But none of this is why you should vote for him.
He has served on the Board of Directors twice before. The first time he was Public Affairs Chair and in his term his committee reorganized and broadened the format of our newsletter that would be called The Odeum. This was the same committee that established our domain name and launched our website. He also improved our relations with local businesses by encouraging us to join and then represented us with the Charles County Chamber of Commerce. This effort made it possible for him to launch the “For Openers” Program, to celebrate our opening nights and improve opening weekend attendance. He also conducted our first market study to determine how people heard about us, where they were coming from and in turn began collecting addresses for our first e-mailing list. The second time he served on the board he was Facilities Chair and during that time he worked closely with our Design Advisory Committee as well as contractors and builders to make it possible to purchase our building and complete the 1.5-million-dollar renovation completing phase one of our new theater.
In the years before, between and after those terms, he also served on many other committees, most notably two terms as the Play Reading Committee chair and a special committee to reform the system we use to select plays and directors for our upcoming seasons. He currently sits on both the Renovation Design and Renovation Construction Committees for PTP and for the last three years he has served on the Bylaw Review committee, ensuring that the language of our bylaws is legal and not contradictory to our existing laws and practices. His driving goal as a member of this committee has always been that the language and bylaw itself benefit the company and its members and not just the Board of Directors. And that is why you should vote for him.
Craig has spent the last twelve years working in regional theatre with The Shakespeare Theatre Company and now with Arena Stage at The Mead Center for American Theater. He has previously served for six years on the Board of Hospice of Charles County, ten years on The Maryland Community Theatre Festival Association and currently sits on the La Plata Farmer’s Market Committee and the Keep La Plata Beautiful Committee, specifically on the Arts subcommittee.
Craig is no stranger to parliamentary procedure and is, in fact, a big fan and he has every intention of using this to your advantage. If elected to this board, it is his plan to leave it better than he found it.
William Righter - I would be honored if you considered voting for me to become a Board Member at Port Tobacco Players. I have been involved with the theater since 1984 and feel I bring a unique perspective to the Board as we move forward in the age of Covid -19. In the 2013/2014 season I was in the Cast of Fiddler on the Roof at Avram, Mr. Fezziwig in A Christmas Carol, and played the title role of Cyrano in the Watch award winning production of Cyrano. In the 2014/2015 season I was the Assistant Stage Manager for Annie. In the 2016/2016 season was Assistant Producer of Westing Game as well as played the role of Otis Amber and was the Assistant Producer of Rabbit Hole. In the 2017/2018 season I produced the hugely successful holiday production of “The Christmas Schooner”. In the 2018/2019 Season I produced “A Christmas Carol in Washington” and played Dr. C in the same production. I returned to the stage again in 2019’s “Elf the Musical” as Walter Hobbs.
I am also the Producer of the widely successful Encore Kids and Encore Teens program at the theater and I’m slated to be the Producer of the upcoming seasons production of “12 Angry Men” and the highly anticipated “Beauty and the Beast”. I am a huge advocate for promoting our next generation of actors and production team members at the theater and strive to make a safe and healthy environment for everyone that participates at the theater. If given the opportunity I will represent the entire membership and work to be transparent in all of the Board’s decisions and endeavors. I thank you for your time and consideration.
Carol Russell - I began my relationship with Port Tobacco Players after my retirement. I volunteered my skills as a seamstress in May of 2014. I did a bit of stitching for Cyrano as they readied for tech week. After that, it was headfirst into Music Man. It seems as though the costume loft has been a second home ever since. I have served in the loft in some capacity for all but a handful of shows. In shows small and large, I have measured, sewn, altered, dyed, laundered, sparkled, repaired, and/or was a dresser. I took the plunge as costume director for Hairspray and Blithe Spirit in 2016. In 2019, I costume directed two shows that were WATCH nominated for Outstanding Costume Design: James and the Giant Peach and Guys and Dolls.
Meanwhile, in 2015, I stepped right out of my comfort zone (a gift to my sixty-year-old self). I auditioned and was cast in the ensemble of Oklahoma and later in A Christmas Carol as Mrs. Fezziwig. Two years later, I was honored to be cast in Sister Act ensemble. It gave me the view of the hive of activity and expertise that goes into each and every show.
I was raised in Prince George’s County. I was much happier with sports than the classroom, but I did more than well enough to graduate! My post high-school education began at Syracuse University (Fashion Design and women’s basketball) but all that snow led me two years later to the palm trees of Southern California’s Whittier College (BA, English). I returned home and worked in downtown DC for a year for the government and finally found my path. I returned for a second bachelor’s in Secondary Education (UMUC) and my teaching career began. After motherhood also began, I returned for my Master’s (UMBC – Instructional Systems Design/School Administration) and, immediately after, completed a big chunk of doctoral work (UMUC – School Administration).
My thirty-four career years were spent in the Charles County Public Schools and I have been a county resident for thirty-two years. I have been a teacher, vice principal, principal, and pupil personnel worker. I got to know all of Charles County.
Further management and leadership roles have been honed in my membership in Alpha Delta Kappa, an international honorary organization for women educators. I served as chapter historian, president-elect, and then president for two bienniums. I served the as an officer (Historian) in the Maryland Executive Board for two bienniums and then as Newsletter Chairperson (committee of one) for the next two bienniums.
I have learned a respect for community theater in my short years at Port Tobacco Players. It survives on the gifts, backbone, skills, and tenacity of volunteers. It never seems to sleep and requires consistent tending of both the physical structure and its diverse community of members. There are small jobs and large ones that support the vision of Port Tobacco Players. It requires the whole village and that is often a balancing act.
I was blessed with a career that taught me problem solving, patience, balance, organization, cooperation, compassion, the benefits of hard work, and the importance of maintaining a sense of humor. It would be an honor to serve in yet another capacity at the theater.
JaNeene Sanders is a currently an interim PTP Board Member. JaNeene is also a member of the PTP Cultural Diversity, Belonging, and Accountability Council. Additionally, JaNeene is participates on the PTP Playreading Committee. JaNeene has been immersed in performing arts since childhood. She has a knack for creativity and extensive experience writing, directing, and acting in both theater and film productions. One of her favorite recent roles has been as Annelle Dupuy in Steel Magnolias.
JaNeene has a broad skillset which includes a readiness to learn and a unique ability to cope with sudden changes. Her skillset also includes creating and strengthening positive relationships with others, and she has excellent communication skills which are frequently used to positively promote organizations.
The future of PTP is bright and JaNeene is happy to be a part of it. She plans to bring a strong enthusiastic commitment to the Port Tobacco Players Board of Directors, a passion to boost even more diversity here at PTP, and is willing to provide her assistance on all future PTP planning as needed. JaNeene would like to thank Kathy Mead and Ben Simpson for giving her the opportunity to join the PTP family by working on the Calendar Girls production during the 2017/2018 season. Isn’t it amazing what one “yes” can do? Since that time, JaNeene has participated in more productions both on stage and behind the scenes.
Ben Simpson - Live theatre is my life and passion and it all began at PTP. My mother took my sister and me to see “South Pacific” when I was in first grade. I remember sitting in the front row and being blown away. From that point on I told my parents that’s what I wanted to do when I grew up. Four years later I auditioned for my first show at PTP, “Wee Pals”. My mom told me not to get my hopes up, since there were a lot kids at the audition, but that didn’t deter me and I was cast! After the show closed I was asked to join the newly formed Encore Kids. I performed in a few PTP shows throughout high school and then went off to college to pursue my dream. I work extensively in the professional setting, however I had a major injury and was forced to return home to LaPlata.
When I returned to Southern Maryland I devoted myself to PTP. I served on the Board of Directors of PTP for six years. I was the Vice President (2017-2020); as well as, Productions, Education and Facilities Chair for six years (sitting out for one year as bylaws dictate). I’m very excited to rejoin the Board to help make our organization stronger and thrive. In my “time off” I have served as the chair of the Fundraising Committee and continued to serve on the Facilities and Play Ready Committee helping to ensure our theatre’s future.
I attended Lees-McRae College and received my Bachelor’s degree in Musical Theatre and Dance. After graduation I began to perform professionally all over the country. I performed as a “gypsy” dancer, jumping from one theatre to another. My favorite professional credits are Paul in “A Chorus Line”, Younger Brother in “Ragtime”, Action in “West Side Story” and Lumiere in “Beauty and the Beast”. When I came home for a visit I found out my high school friend was directing “Assassins” at PTP and I knew I had to do the show. That was my “revival” at PTP. Some of my more recent PTP acting credits include Snoopy in “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown”, Harold Hill in “The Music Man”, Benedick in “Much Ado about Nothing”, Trinculo in “Tempest”, Wilber Turnblad in “Hairspray” (WATCH Award nominated), Robert in “Boeing Boeing”, Mookie in “The Wedding Singer” (WATCH Award nominated), Hysterium in “Forum”,
Cinderella’s Prince in “Into the Woods”, and Stanley in “Brighton Beach Memoirs”. In addition to performing I have directed and/or choreographed “The Sound of Music”, “Elf”, “Fiddler on the Roof”, “Annie”, “White Christmas”,“Godspell”, “See How They Run”, “Calendar Girls”, “Sister Act”, and “Guys and Dolls”.
There is nothing like the opportunity to sit in a dark theatre and watch something special only that particular audience will ever experience. It’s my goal to continue to keep live theatre a vital and integral part of our Southern Maryland community.
Stacey Swickert A longtime member of Port Tobacco Players, Stacey has been happy to serve this year on the Board of Directors as the Education Chair. In a year that has been difficult for our theatre, she has worked to implement education classes and helped to coordinate virtual content. In making the tough decision to cancel Camp Mockabee this past summer, she reached out personally to members who requested refunds to make sure that those requests were met and the connections with our families would remain intact. She also created a virtual interactive Theatre Arts classroom that students could click through and visit different sites with educational theatre links. In the past she worked with the players on a multitude of shows. Her recent credits include stage managing for Move over Mrs. Markham, and Elf. Some of her on stage credits include, Suzanna in Bedroom Farce and Jennifer in Paint your Wagon. She has worked on stage, as well as crew, lights, sound, and house. She has also directed a one act and assistant directed in the past. Stacey was awarded The West Valley of Phoenix Fine Art Scholarship for her work with including dramatic arts in education. She also, is part of the fundraising committee and has helped with construction for some of the recent renovations at the theatre.
Stacey is the 5th grade department chair for an Elementary school in Alexandria, Virginia. She specializes in Special Education co-teaching. Believing that education should not and cannot exist in a vacuum, Ms. Swickert works to ensure that students experience a multitude of artistic venues to acquire knowledge while “showing ” what they know. She brings this passion and skillset to her work with the Port Tobacco Players. Theatre is a mirror for the human condition; it fosters empathy and helps to develop social and emotion intelligence. Teaching students in a theatre context inspires them to be part of something bigger than themselves, helps teach responsibility and encourages participation within a community. Supporting our youngest members as they learn and grow with our group helps to create friendships and lifelong members that benefit both our organization and our membership. Running for the Board of Directors will allow Stacey to continue the work she started and considers so vital.
Tara Waters is running for a second term to the Board of Directors. For the last three years, she has volunteered as Membership Chair (2018) and then Productions Chair (2019-2020), as well as working with the Fundraising, Nominations, Bylaws, and Playreading committees. She hopes you will reelect her to the board so she can continue to work with Port Tobacco Players as we make improvements and prepare to return to our space in 2021.
Tara was lucky enough to find Port Tobacco Players ten years ago when she moved to Mechanicsville. She has been onstage or in the pit orchestra for over a dozen PTP productions from 'A Christmas Carol' in 2011 to 'You're A Good Man Charlie Brown' last March. She's also worked on set painting, had a (one brief) shining moment helping out in the light booth, and was a counselor for PTP's Camp Mockabee. Prior to her work with PTP, Tara worked in dinner and community theaters in Maryland for over twenty five years. She was Assistant Director of the Young Artist Theatre in Scaggsville, Md, a children's musical theatre company, and also ran their summer theatre program from 2004-2006. After that she took a theater staff position at Camp Mataponi in Sebago, Maine. During this time period, she also was the chairperson of her college sorority's philanthropy committee which raised money to support juvenile diabetes research, and was also a member of the Towson University Panhellenic Board. She graduated from Towson University in 2008 and became a bookkeeper and eventual restaurant manager for a large burger chain (YUM!), where she was in charge of purchasing and scheduling. Nowadays she stays home with her three boys, and is remaining active with virtual productions and fundraising while the theater is in intermission.