EVCT Staff

Karen Rolston

Producing Artistic Director, Workshop Instructor & Mainstage Director

Karen is currently the Producing Artistic Director at East Valley Children’s Theatre.  She has been involved in theatre in the Valley for the past 31 years as a director, music director, scenic designer, sound designer, props designer, and actor in numerous community and college productions; film and commercial work, voice over acting and has received numerous local and regional awards for her work.   A graduate of ASU with degrees in music and theatre, Karen is a retired teacher having taught in the  Mesa Public Schools, Chandler-Gilbert Community College and Arizona State University.


Nicole Gibson-Rice

Express Troupe Director

Nicole Gibson-Rice has over twenty years experience in children’s theatre.  She has a BA in Theatre from the University of North Carolina and an MFA in Theatre for Youth from Arizona State University.  She has worked for EVCT since 2007 and has loved every minute of it.  She holds a special place in her heart for the Express program and has written over 20 shows with the help of her creative and fearless students.

Joel Cranson

Workshop Instructor and Main Stage Director

With a BA in theatre from Grand Canyon University, Joel Cranson began directing with East Valley Children’s Theatre in 2010. His first show was the multi-award winning production, The Goat’s Gruff. Additional productions at EVCT include The Secret Garden, OZ, and Peter Pan. Joel has previously served as a member at large on the EVCT board of directors and often directs the Mystery at the Museum as part of EVCTs annual fundraising gala. Joel is an Arizona native and currently resides in Tempe with his wife, Brenda, and daughter, Jordan.

Kelly Nicole

Class Instructor & Director of Literature Alive

Kelly Nicole is a professional actress, working around the valley for over 10 years. She has starred in countless theater, film, television, and commercials, both nationally and across the valley. She has also received multiple award nominations for her acting work. She absolutely loves sharing her love for acting with young performers, and firmly believes that, even if performing isn’t your end goal, there are so many life skills to be learned in fun and interactive theater classes.

Aaron Blanco

On the Spot Teen Improv Troupe Director

Aaron is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s B.F.A. Acting program with a stage combat certification. He is a professional Phoenix actor and stage combat choreographer. His recent credits include Beau Jest at the Hale (Bob), Peacemaker at Phoenix  Theatre (Bluey), and various roles/stage combat work with Southwest Shakespeare.

Aaron would like to thank Bry and his beloved daughters for their continued support in his acting career.

Breona Conrad

Acting Instructor

Breona Conrad is delighted to be a part of the staff teaching in the classroom at East Valley Children’s theatre.  Breona has been a professional actor across the country since graduating with her BA in Acting with a minor in Vocal Performance from Indiana-Purdue University Fort Wayne (now PFW) 11 years ago. Phoenix credits include The Complete Works…Abridged (Broadwayworld.com winner Best Actress 2017), Sense and Sensibility, Pride@Prejudice (Southwest Shakespeare Company), A Discourse…Invisible World, Natural Shocks (The Bridge Initiative), Macbeth, The Taming (Class 6 Theatre), and American Idiot with Stray Cat Theatre.  When not onstage, Breona’s passion for teaching keeps her quite busy outside of EVCT as she is the Director of Education at the Southwest Shakespeare Company. For a peek at her approach to Shakespeare, check out her passion project alongside her husband at unrehearsedarizona.com.

Stephanie Gaumer

Class Instructor & Musical Director for Main Stage Productions

Stephanie began working at EVCT last Christmas, 2018, and has enjoyed every second of this experience, from workshops to camps and musicals. She has spent the majority of her musical career as a musical director in Pennsylvania, New York, and Connecticut as well as being a vocal director for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.  She has owned and operated a music and movement program ‘Music Together of Western Fairfield County.’  In addition, she has been a special education teacher for elementary, middle and high school students. She is so excited to be musical directing the main stage productions this season at EVCT.

Katie Olsen

Office Manager

Katie Olsen – Is the current office manager for East Valley Children’s Theatre. Katie will be managing the office, classes, troupes, camps and more throughout the year. She has a AAFA in Theatre from Chandler-Gilbert Community College and has worked in Higher Education for the last three years at Northland Pioneer College. Katie started working with EVCT in 2006 till 2015 as a stage manager, instructor and camp administrator. EVCT and Karen Rolston has been an inspiration to her life and she looks forward to working with all the children/families that walk through its doors!