Administrative & Creative Team
Paul Whelihan (Producing Artistic Director) has been a producer for three decades in New Jersey’s professional theater circuit. While still an undergraduate at Montclair State University, he co-founded Ironbound Theatre in Newark, where Whelihan served as Managing Director. He was the Development Director of Forum Theatre Arts Center in Metuchen, and Audience Services Coordinator for Premier Stages at Kean University. In 2007, Whelihan co-founded Running Rabbit Theater, a company organized to instill a lifelong appreciation of and support for theater in young audiences and their families. Running Rabbit received unprecedented first-year funding from both the NJ State Council on the Arts and The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. Whelihan is an actor, director, stage manager and playwright as well. He’s written nine plays for family audiences, including the ground-breaking Treasure Island, the first professional production of its kind in New Jersey wherein the entire cast used spoken word, singing and American Sign Language to illuminate the story. His first play produced by Pushcart is 2017-18’s Velveteen Rabbit. He has performed, directed and stage-managed off-Broadway (47th Street Theater, 59 East 59 Theatres, NY Fringe Festival, 54 Below) and regionally (Royal Poincianna Playhouse, Broward Center for the Arts, Centenary Stage, Luna Stage Company, Bickford Theatre at Morris Museum, Forum Cultural Arts Center, Quillo Arts Center, The Growing Stage, Dreamcatcher Rep) in musicals, dramas, original works and locally produced television, film and web series projects (featured in the web series, The Madness of Art). As a teaching artist, Paul directs productions for Franklin Middle School (Somerset), Rockaway Valley School (Boonton), MLK School # 6 (Passaic), and Breezy Point Summer Theatre Program (NY).
Larry Hochman (Orchestrations) is the Tony Award-winner for orchestrations for “She Loves Me” (2016 revival) and Tony and Drama Desk award-winner for “The Book of Mormon.” He received Tony nominations for “The Scottsboro Boys,” ”Monty Python’s Spamalot,” (Hochman also received Drama Desk nominations for both), “Fiddler on the Roof” (2004 revival) and “A Class Act.” Larry was the orchestrator for the recent “Hello, Dolly!” revival starring Bette Midler, and composed additional music for Disney’s “Little Mermaid,’ for Stephen Spielberg’s “Amazing Stories” and for numerous celebrity concerts. Hochman’s other awards include the ASCAP Award for Musical Theater (“One Man Band”), 4 Emmy Awards for “The Wonder Pets” television series and a Bistro Award for composing “One Man Band.”
Susie Paplow (Choreographer) has been a member of Pushcart Players since 1985 when she joined the company as an actress. She spent many happy years performing with Pushcart and continues to choreograph for the Company. She is also a proud Pushcart Board Member. While performing will always be in her blood, in 1993 Susie changed career paths to join her family business, Travers and Company, where she ran the NY Showroom until the Company’s sale in 2008. Since 2009, Susie has been running the show at de Le Cuona, Inc., a High-end, Luxury Lifestyle Collection based in the UK. As US Operations Manager, Susie is the face of de Le Cuona in the United States representing the Collection across the Country and throughout Europe.
Ruth Fost (Co-Founder) is a playwright, designer, actor, administrator and advocate for the arts, with a particular focus on arts in education. Fost has appeared in more than fifty leading roles in major productions ranging from Simon (Neil) to Shakespeare to Shaw. She has written 30 musical plays for children, has performed throughout the country and abroad and recently published a children’s book to accompany Pushcart’s production of Alice in Wonderland. Ruth is currently creating a book to accompany her musical play for young audiences, Dear America, celebrating the precious legacy of freedom and democracy in our country.
**Actors’ Equity Association Members**
Terrence P. Burnett (Actor/Teaching Artist/Puppet Design & Construction) has had the great privilege to have worn many hats in his long association with Pushcart Players. As an actor, Burnett has performed in London, New York and numerous regional theatres, mostly in NJ. He attended Montclair State University in NJ and the Webber-Douglas academy of Dramatic Arts in London. Burnett is currently a part of Pushcart’s production of The Last, The Very Last…Butterfly, which has been touring since 1997. He has designed and built the puppets for Pushcart’s productions of: Peter and the Wolf, Happily Ever After and Alice In Wonderland. Burnett is the recipient of the Star-Ledger Award for Best Actor in a Play for his performance in Three Days of Rain with Dreamcatcher Rep, and was most recently seen in a successful Off-Broadway run at P.S. 122 in NYC and in The Loman Family Picnic at 12 Miles West Theatre.
Megan Bussiere (Actor) is a NY-based actor originally from Edison, New Jersey. She received her M.A. in Speech Pathology from Kean University, and currently provides American accent training at AccentsOff in NYC. Theater credits: Billy Elliot (Dead Mum/Mrs. Wilkinson understudy), Singin’ in the Rain (ensemble/Kathy understudy), True Love (P!nk workshop in NYC), White Christmas (Judy), My One and Only (ensemble), Legally Blonde (Swing/Norwegian Cruise Line), and Tokyo Disneyland (character performer). Proud member of Actors’ Equity Association. www.meganbussiere.com.
Oscar Castillo(Actor/Teaching Artist) A native New Yorker, Oscar is a graduate of Kean University with a BA in theatre. He is a founding member of The Theatre Project. For the past 15 years Oscar has been a member of The Pushcart Players performing for young audiences throughout the US. Oscar also performs throughout New York City with Peculiar Works Productions. Some of his favorite productions with PWP include “Stealing Pears”, a project based on the story of Don Quixote and Tom in “Androboros”, the first play to be produced in America back in 1917 which performed and Fraunce’s Tavern in NYC in October of 2017.
Harry Patrick Christian (Actor/Teaching Artist) began his career as a teenager playing Huckleberry Finn at Atlanta’s Peachtree Playhouse. In New York City, Harry has appeared in original Off-Broadway productions and at the New York Musical Theater Festival. Additionally, he has worked with several of New Jersey’s best professional theaters, including Dreamcatcher Repertory Theater, Luna Stage Company, WhatExit Theater, Bickford Theater, 12 Miles West Company, Playwrights Theater and The Forum, playing a host of wildly varied roles. A proud member of Pushcart Players, he is a long time Arts-in-Education instructor, and has performed in nearly 3,000 mainstage shows , including their tour of The Last…Butterfly in Czech Republic and the Terezin Concentration Camp. As a Dreamcatcher Rep member, Harry has appeared in many shows including Fuddy Meers, The Mystery of Irma Vep (named Top 10 of 2002 by The Star Ledger), The Laramie Project, Expecting Isabel (named Top 10 of 2006), Pride’s Crossing, The Pursuit of Happiness, This (Best Play 2010) and Distracted. Additionally, with the Pushcart Players, Harry has directed for nearly a decade at the Del E. Webb Performing Arts Center in Arizona and also works with the Passaic Police Department Youth Services Division conducting workshops for first-time violent crime offenders. Harry is a director at Essex Youth Theater and a member of Actor’s Equity Association and SAG/AFTRA.
Melessie Clark (Actor) Melessie is a Pittsburgh native and recent graduate of Point Park University where she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in musical theatre. Her credits include Gypsy & Wedding Singer (Pittsburgh CLO), A Sign of the Times (Goodspeed Musicals), & Dreamgirls (Alhambra Theatre). She has also been seen in Dulcy (Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre), The Old Settler (New Horizon Theater) and toured the Tri-State area performing The Faces of Black History sponsored by McDonald’s (Irving Street Rep.). Melessie is the 2012 Miss Steeltown for the Miss America Organization and the 2014 National American Miss Pennsylvania. www.melessieclark.com
Melissa Cox (Actor) is a Master graduate of Fairleigh Dickinson University, where she studied Musical Theater as well. Cox performed the role of Beth in Little Women in Maplewood, NJ and has been seen as Martha in Spring Awakening and Sister in Damn Yankees.
Robert Evanick (Stage Manager) is in his 16th season as the multi-talented Stage Manager for Pushcart Players. A musical theatre graduate of Shenandoah University, Rob is also an accomplished singer/songwriter who is well known in the club circuit of the metropolitan New York area. As an actor he was seen in numerous productions including Of Thee I Sing, How To Succeed…, Jesus Christ Superstar, Big River and Gigi.
Gerald Fierst (Teaching Artist/Storyteller) is one of America‘s most acclaimed storytellers. As a performer, he has appeared throughout the US, in Europe, and in Asia, telling original stories, stories from his own Jewish tradition, and stories from world folklore; as a writer and teacher, he has worked for school systems and universities across the US, leading workshops for teachers and students in writing and performance. He has served as a Co-director of the MidAtlantic Storytellers‘ Gathering, as a member of the board of The New York Storytelling Center, and as artistic director of the Jewish Storytelling Center at the 92nd St Y in NYC. Fierst has been a featured teller and ghost story teller at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, TN, a Storyteller in Residence at the International Storytelling Center, and is on line with a scholastic.com web page Meet the Storyteller
In 2008-10, he represented the United States through its embassy in Spain, performing stories with noted childen‘s author Margaret Read MacDonald as part of US State Department‘s cultural programming. Fierst has released four audiotapes Monstrous Mischief, Tikun Olam (both Parents Choice Silver Honorees), Jewish Tales of Magic and Mysticism, and The American Spirit. http://www.geraldfierst.com
Stacie Gogo (Actor) is currently in her sixth season with the Pushcart Players. Throughout her time with the company, she has performed in 7 different productions, and some of her favorites include Alice in Alice in Wonderland, Rosa in Ellis Island: Gateway to America, and Griselda (Cinderella’s Stepsister) in Happily Ever After. She attended Wilkes University where she obtained her B.A. in Musical Theatre with a Dance Minor. Since receiving her degree, Stacie has been seen performing around the country in several regional and touring productions, as well as Off-Broadway. Stacie has performed in 28 states, so far! Some favorite roles include Penny Pingleton in Hairspray (Westchester Broadway Theatre), Tinkerbell in Peter Pan (Weathervane Repertory Theatre), Kit Kat Girl in Cabaret (The Players Theatre/Brooklyn Theatre Arts Project, NYC), and Lead Vocalist in Crusin’ Into the ‘70s (Joey Casella Productions, Poconos, PA). Stacie is a proud member of the Actors’ Equity Association.
Christina Gordon (Actor) is a New Jersey native with an M.F.A. in Acting from Rutgers University/ Mason Gross School of the Arts. Previous credits include: Good People (The Public Theatre & Shadowland Theatre), A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It and Reasons to be Pretty. Television credits include: HAPPYish, Person of Interest and Guiding Light. Film credits include: I Hate Being Black and Damsel. Additionally, Christina co-wrote and produced the award wining short-film, I Hate Being Black. This is Christina’s fourth season with Pushcart Players, performing in Little Red Riding Hood & Other Stories and Stone Soup & Other Stories. Christina is extremely proud & grateful to God to be working amongst such a talented group of people. She is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association and SAG-AFTRA. www.ChristinaGordon.com
Thomas Carey Gsell (Actor) is an actor, theatrical director, and theatrical designer based out of New York and New Jersey.. Mr. Gsell has been working in the theater since the age of nine when he began performing with Yates Musical Theatre for Children, touring the tri-state area and beyond. By the age of eighteen Thomas had been in roughly 50 productions. Mr. Gsell recently graduated from Montclair State University with a Bachelor of the Arts in Theater Studies. While at Montclair State he became an active member of the Montclair State University theater community while also continuing to work outside of the university. for more information please visit http://thomascareygsell.wixsite.com/thomascareygsell
Oise Ohiwerei (Actor) is thrilled to be a part of the Pushcart family! He was recently seen as a videographer at the New York Fringe Festival and as an actor in the short film Solutions which was selected to be screened at the Chain NYC Film Festival. Now taking a step back from film and videography, he is continuing to pursue his aspirations of being a stage actor as well as a full time student at Rutgers University.
Phebe Taylor (Actor) has been a Pushcart Player since 2004. She was recently seen flying around as Peter in Peter Pan at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre. Phebe is a company member of the Heartland Actors’ Repertory Theatre in Indianapolis, appearing in the summer Shakespeare productions of The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing, Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Tempest, and The Winter’s Tale. She is also a frequent performer at Indianapolis’ Phoenix Theatre, including such shows as Urinetown, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, The Zippers of Zoomerville, Boston Marriage, Peter and the Starcatcher, and the National New Play Network’s “Rolling World Premiere” of End Days. A graduate of the Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama, Phebe lives in Queens and is an avid vintage toy and game collector.
Joshua Wanger (Actor) received a bachelor of music degree in vocal performance from Westminster Choir College in 2013. During that summer, he performed with Westminster Choir, the choir in residence at Spoleto Festival USA, for the third and final time. Joshua worked for two years at the Juilliard School library before he was seen in A Little Night Music (Mr. Erlansen), Zuccotti Park (ensemble/cameraman), and a touring production of Skippyjon Jones: Snow What?! (Skippyjon). Recently, Joshua had the pleasure of singing at Madison Square Garden in Game of Thrones: Live Concert Experience. Joshua is excited to work with Pushcart Players and he is a proud member of Actor’s Equity Association.
Gia Ware (Actor) is a graduate of Montclair State University, with a B.F.A. in Theatre. She’s an International Performer seen in Off- Broadway, Regional Productions, and International Tours around the World. At the young age of 8, she got her start as a vocalist at the Apollo Theater’s Amateur Night. Since perfecting her craft, she’s traveled the world singing and acting in various theatrical performances. Countries have included the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Japan, France, Taiwan and more. Favorite show’s include : National/ International Tour of Dreamgirls, Aida, and Little Shop of Horrors. In 2007 she was in the original cast for It Happened In Little Rock in Little Rock, Arkansas for the 50th anniversary of the Little Rock Nine. In 2015 she starred in the revised production of Little Rock leading to win the 2015 Barrymore Award. As a vocalist she’s been featured with VH1 events, Summerstage, and much more. She’s currently a vocalist and acting coach throughout the tri-state area. Along with her husband, Jonathan Ware, Gia is partial producer of The Reactivation Series. Her produced and written cartoon show Gia’s World can be seen on Youtube. “To God Be The Glory, Forever and Ever… AMEN.”
Corey Whelihan (Actor) is an alum of Ithaca College’s BFA Acting program. He has appeared Off Broadway in the Pearl Theatre’s production of The Winter’s Tale and is a regular in the classical productions of Smith Street Stage in Brooklyn. He has also appeared nationally in Chamber Theater’s touring production of Eureka! and with The Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire in Manheim, PA.
Board of Directors
Nicole Oliver graduated from Fordham University at Lincoln Center with a BA in Theatre. Nicole worked as a professional actor in regional theatre, educational touring companies, and Theatre for Young Audiences. She is a member of Actors’ Equity Association. Her love of teaching came when she performed at the Kaleidoscope Festival in Aberdeen, Scotland. At the festival, she was given the opportunity to teach some local youngsters an acting workshop. She realized that she may have found her calling
Nicole was hired to teach drama at PS#3 by The Jersey City Public School District in 2004. It was there that she founded the nationally award winning Conwell Kidz Drama Program.
The Conwell Kidz Drama Program has been highlighted on ABC, CBS, News12 NJ, NJ.com, the Jersey Journal and others. They have also performed at community events such as Mayor Fulop’s Inauguration, All about Downtown Festival, I Love JCPS festival, Van Vorst Park Children’s Festival, and The Hoboken Arts Festival. The Conwell Kidz have also won top honors at The National Performing Arts Festival in Walt Disney World, FL as well as The Junior Theater Festival in Atlanta, GA. Students have piloted productions with iTheatrics, Disney Musicals, and Musical Theatre International. The Conwell Kidz recently launched the national release of Mary Pope Osborne’s “Magic Treehouse: Pirates Past Noon” at the prestigious New Works Festival in Atlanta, GA.
The program has received national recognition, but, more importantly, has created an alumnus of students who return back time and time again and recall the program as their greatest memory.
In 2016, Nicole was hired by The Jersey City Public Schools Arts Department to direct the district in their first ever district musical production. Over 150 students auditioned for this production in which 50 students from 26 schools were selected through an audition process. In March 2016, the musical “Les Miserables” had a successful run at NJCU to an audience of over 2,000. parents, community members, JCPS staff members, students, the JCPS District Superintendent, Dr. Marcia Lyles. Broadway producer Ken Davenport, who attended the production wrote “Super kudos go to Jersey City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Marcia V. Lyles and Les Miz Director Nicole Oliver for making this production happen. The future of the theater is in good hands, thanks to people like you.”
Nicole was nominated for The Carnegie Mellon Excellence in Theatre Award presented by The Tonys. Last January, she was the recipient of the Freddie G Teacher Fellowship through iTheatrics, MTI, Disney Musicals, and theatrical guru Freddie Gershon. Last summer, through the fellowship, she studied under the tutelage of Broadways finest including director Jeff Calhoun and choreographer Chris Gatelli. Her program also received a generous $5,000 grant from the Gershons. Nicole was the 2016-2017 JCPS District Teacher of the year. Jersey City is the second largest district in the state.
Susie Paplow has been a member of Pushcart Players since 1985 when she joined the company as an actress. She spent many happy years performing with Pushcart and continues to choreograph for the Company. She is also a proud Pushcart Board Member. While performing will always be in her blood, in 1993 Susie changed career paths to join her family business, Travers and Company, where she ran the NY Showroom until the Company’s sale in 2008. Since 2009, Susie has been running the show at de Le Cuona, Inc., a High-end, Luxury Lifestyle Collection based in the UK. As US Operations Manager, Susie is the face of de Le Cuona in the United States representing the Collection across the Country and throughout Europe.
Joan Hajducsek Rosen – My entire life has been committed to excellence in the arts, first as a young pianist, then as a music educator and arts advocate with forty plus years experience in education, twenty-six of which were spent in administering the Bayonne Public Schools’ Music and Art Department, where I supervised a staff of over forty teachers and adjunct staff in twelve different locations in an urban setting complete with a population of approximately ninety-five hundred diverse students. At present, I teach private piano. Although professionally trained as a musician, I have always had a passion for all of the arts. That passion has emerged through the medium of photography with most recently a solo show at the Watchung Arts Center.
My career encompasses degrees from Kean University and New York University, Steinhardt School with affiliation with various professional organizations on the local, county, state and national levels where I held leadership roles, such as Past President of Art Administrators of New Jersey, Co-coordinator of the Hudson County Alliance of Teen Artists, and a member of the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership Team.
Scholarship programs for the Cedar Grove Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Inc., the Cedar Grove Rotary, and the Bayonne Historical Society were developed by me as well as an Arts Advocacy one in my name at Bayonne High School.
I have served my community as the Vice President of the Bayonne Community Museum Board and Trustee for the Free Public Library and Cultural Center of Bayonne. I am a charter member of the Bayonne Remembers 9/11 Committee and was instrumental in acquiring “The Teardrop” monument, “To the Struggle Against World Terrorism”, for Bayonne from the Russian government as a permanent piece of public sculpture in memory of those who lost their lives on 9/11. I have been recognized by my alma mater with the Holy Family Academy 2010 Night of Stars Professional Achievement Award; the Bayonne Historical Society Woman of Achievement 2010 Award; and the Hudson County Woman of Achievement 2011 Award. The Bayonne High School Choral Parents Association highlighted my contributions to the choral music program in their Night of a Thousand Stars. Most recently, the Concerned Citizens of Bayonne honored me at their annual event for my work with the Arts in the Bayonne community. I have also achieved the N.J. State Governors Award for Bayonne Board of Education Support of the Arts and New Jersey State Best Practices Recognition for the Arts.
I reside in Bayonne with my husband, Allen, proprietor of Treasures Unlimited Jewelers of Cedar Grove. I am the proud mother of Kristyn Allison Rosen, an art and photography teacher for the Hartford, Connecticut Technology and Design Magnet High School, Pathways. The joy of my life is my granddaughter, Arielle Claire.
“The old woman I shall become will be quite different from the woman I am now. Another ‘I’ is beginning.”- George Sand (Amanda Dupin)
While at the Bayonne Board of Education he had a wide variety of teaching experiences that included math, science, language arts, reading and social science at the elementary and high school levels. He worked for well over a decade as a guidance counselor and spent a good portion of his career involved in every area of special education at the district and state level. Larry also worked as an administrator for the Department of Special Services with a focus on the High School. His innovative Transition program was awarded a Best Practice by the New Jersey State Department of Education.
For almost two decades Larry was a faculty member of the Department of Communication Sciences at Kean University. At Kean he taught under graduate and graduate classes in effective oral and written communication practices.
Currently Larry is a Licensed Marriage and Family therapist. He specializes in short term goal oriented counseling for those facing transition challenges in career, relationships, marriage, school and work.
As a strong proponent of the arts Larry served as president of the Spotlight Players Association at Verona High School. He is also a supporter of the Surflight Theater on Long Beach Island, and a patron of the Roundabout and Public Theaters in New York City. He loves the New York stage scene but also enjoys local theater. His favorite local venues are Montclair State University productions, Luna Stage productions as well as Studio Players and Barn Theater productions.
Patrick has performed, directed and choreographed all over the state including the Union County Performing Arts Center. 4th Wall, Villagers, Livingston Community Players, Marlboro Community Players, Sayreville Main Street, Westfield Community Players and many others. A graduate of Drew University, Patrick has staged such shows as Fiddler On The Roof for the Union County Arts Center, South Pacific, Big River, and A Wonderful Life for the Shawnee Playhouse in Shawnee, Pa, as well as close to 200 plays and musicals at many theaters across NJ including; March of the Falsettos, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Cradle Will Rock, Once Upon A Mattress, Tomfoolery, American Idiot and West Side Story. Patrick has directed, choreographed and/or held leading roles in numerous professional family theater productions such as Charlotte’s Web, Schoolhouse Rock- Live!, Popeye, Narnia, The Wizard of Oz, Treasure Island (world premiere musical), Winnie the Pooh Christmas Carol (world premiere musical) and Stuart Little among many others. He also choreographed the critically acclaimed production of Pageant at the Forum Theatre in 2002 (in addition to its two month run at the Cuillo Arts Center in West Palm Beach, FL) as well as playing “Marcus Lycus” in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and “Eddie/Dr. Scott” in the 2003 production of Rocky Horror Live! Patrick made his NYC debut in Reefer Madness the Concert at Joe’s Pub starring Alan Cumming and Ana Gasteyer. As an AEA Stage Manager, Patrick’s experiences include most notably, Come Fly With Me starring Bruce Adler and Confessions of Stepin Fetchit starring Roscoe Orman to name a few. Luna Stage, Premiere Stages, The Forum Theatre and The National Black Theatre of Harlem are some of the wonderful theaters he has been lucky to have experienced as an AEA PSM. Patrick is currently the President of the New Jersey Association of Community Theaters and the General Manager of the Union County Performing Arts Center. He is incredibly honored and excited to be serving on the Board of Pushcart Players.