Wheelock Family Theatre is a professional theatre associated with Actors' Equity Association. Many of our casts also include children and teens, most of whom are selected from students in our classes and workshops.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
Elbert Joseph (Servant Wang, Pearl Dragon, Peach Vendor, Green Tiger, Noh Quartet)
“As an actor who is Black and Hard of Hearing, pursuing a theatre career is doubly difficult for me. As an actor who is Hard of Hearing, the concatenation of listening and focusing is a challenge. Additionally, developing my speech ability has been difficult. I was once told by a performer that I was difficult to understand and that I should keep my conversations short. While I felt hurt, I began to understand that most of my characters were non-verbal due to my diction. It encouraged me to be strong and to practice my voice work. I took a voice class at Wheelock Family Theatre with Kathryn Woods. It was helpful but I felt it wasn't enough for me as a Hard of Hearing actor in a mostly hearing world. So I kept working on my speech and diction and never gave up. I promised myself that I would not get discouraged and that I would have an impact as a theatre artist. I want to be a leader not only in colorful casting at WFT and elsewhere, but also for access and inclusion.
I 'grew up' at Wheelock Family Theatre, starting with the first show I saw with my classmates - Peter Pan. That's when I understood how theatre transforms lives on and off stage. When I returned to school I was given a homework assignment to choose an actor from the show as a pen pal. I chose Jane Staab. I wrote her and told her what a strong influence Peter Pan had on me, and how I would love to be in it and meet her. When WFT produced Tuck Everlasting, I met Jane, still in costume as Mae, and had the opportunity to speak with her. Jane encouraged me to audition for The Wizard of Oz the following year and I did. It was my first audition ever and my first acting experience. I felt I didn't do well, but my passion and hunger for performing must have come through as Jane called to let me know I had been cast as a Munchkin.
I am glad to be a Hard of Hearing and Black actor – it makes me unusual in the Boston theatre community, and I am glad to be bilingual in English and American Sign Language. I carry WFT’s mission in me. I want to transform lives through theatre and demonstrate that casting and storytelling can be reimagined and reinterpreted to reflect our audiences. Working at WFT has shaped me as a person and taught me about self-reliance as well as my responsibilities towards humanity. WFT has become my second family and I am so proud to be a part of it! I would especially like to thank my pen pal, acting advisor, peer, director, and family member, Jane Staab - thank you for spreading my wings. Thank you for the wonderful magic you gave me, I will always treasure it.”
EJ is an actor (Pink Lady Slipper at American Repertory Theatre, multiple roles in Arabian Nights at Central Square Theatre, The Horse and School Boy in Pippi Longstocking at WFT), ASL Interpreter (Porgy and Bess at American Repertory Theatre, Wicked at Opera House, Billy Elliot at Opera House) and ASL Coach (Flashdance at Colonial Theater, Mountaintop at Central Square Theatre). Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is his 19th production at WFT.
Grace Napier* (Ma)
"Working at Wheelock Family Theatre has truly been a family experience for me. Having spent much of my creative life here, I most treasure the opportunities I have had to perform opposite my husband, Bill Monnen, in The King and I, Cinderella, and Hello, Dolly! After our daughter, Christina, was born, she also joined me in rehearsals and backstage for Little Women. When Bill and I became part of WFT's administrative staff, finding caring sitters for her was easy among Wheelock College's wonderful early education students. Later, our daughter took to the stage and was even part of my main stage directing debut at WFT, the IRNE award-winning production of Seussical. Onstage, backstage, in offices and classrooms, Bill and I have found a loving and diverse family at WFT for our daughter as well as ourselves. We are so grateful to have been adopted by Jane Staab, Sue Kosoff, and the extended WFT clan! Since this book is one of my daughter's favorite novels, it is a distinct pleasure to create yet another onstage family for Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, one in which parents and children must journey far to discover and appreciate true happiness. My Korean mother journeyed across the world so I could be born with the rich opportunities available in the United States. Like her and Ma, I have travelled far, but returned to find professional and personal contentment here at WFT, our theatre home."
Grace Napier joined Actors' Equity Association for her very first role at WFT, Julie Jordan in Carousel. Immediately after graduating from M.I.T., she moved to New York to pursue a professional acting career that has spanned the U.S. and Canada. Highlights included a national tour of The King & I (with Rudolf Nureyev and Liz Robertson), the U.S. premiere of Odessa (with Jack Dabdoub) at Walnut Street Theatre, as well as Trinity Rep's musical version of A Christmas Carol (with Stacy Keach). Whenever possible, however, Grace returned to WFT for opportunities to be cast not just in Asian shows such as The King and I, but most often in non-traditional roles in shows such as The Music Man, The Secret Garden, and Cinderella. After moving back to Boston to start a family, Grace has continued to perform at WFT, appearing in Fiddler on the Roof, Little Women, Once Upon A Mattress, The Tempest,The Jungle Book, Hello, Dolly!, The Prince & the Pauper, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, The Phantom Tollbooth, The Beanstalk, the Giant & Jack, Sara Crewe: A Little Princess (twice), Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan, Aladdin & the Wonderful Lamp, and Anne of Green Gables (twice).
As a teaching artist for over 15 years with WFT's education program - and most recently as part of its collaboration with the Boston Lyric Opera - Grace has been delighted to pass her love of theatre, music, and dance to hundreds of young actors. She is most proud of her work with the Story Troupers, WFT's elite summer touring intensive for teens. The Troupers program not only polishes teen performance skills, it makes books and literacy vibrant and appealing to young children all over the Metro Boston area.
Bill Mootos* (Magistrate Tiger)
"I always love coming back to Wheelock Family Theatre, a very special place for me. As a kid with a wild and active imagination, finding refuge in acting in (and even writing) plays was a great way to channel my creativity. I didn’t see my first professional production until middle school, and it was such an eye-opener. While I’d always loved TV and Film, I don’t think I realized that anyone could act and tell stories on stage until I saw it happening right before me – it was then I realized I wanted to act. To me there’s nothing quite like being able to “try on” different characters and live out different stories that can inspire, teach, or simply entertain others.
Working at Wheelock, I’m surrounded by young people who are often seeing or acting in their first professional show, and it reminds me of what it was like for me as a child. My first Wheelock show (The Beanstalk, The Giant and Jack) was also the first show I performed in that my very young niece and nephew could see, given that most of the theater I do is geared toward adults. It was so much fun for me to have Kaylee and Sean see Uncle Bill on stage (playing a character named Uncle Bill!), and after the show they got a backstage tour and a couple turns down the penguin slide! They had their first experience of live theater, and to this day theater is a part of their lives.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon beautifully captures what it is to be young, yearning for adventure and dreaming of a better life for your family. I’m excited to be a part of it!"
Bill has appeared at Wheelock Family Theatre in A Tale of Two Cities, Saint Joan, The Lord Of The Flies, and The Beanstalk, The Giant and Jack.
Bill is a proud member of AEA, SAG-AFTRA, and StageSource.
Caroline Workman* (Minli)
"Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is my fourth mainstage production at WFT, and Minli my first role in a non-musical. I am excited to be involved in a play that connects me more closely to my Chinese heritage. I am thrilled to be part of such a large, and diverse cast, including young children who are making their professional debut on the WFT stage. Jane Staab is one of my favorite actor-directors, Grace Lin one of my favorite author-illustrators, and Minli, one of my favorite fictional characters. Like Minli (spoiler alert!), I understand that reaching a destination can be impossible without the help of others. I am incredibly grateful to the teachers, mentors, friends and family who believe in me and support me in doing what I love. For me, good fortune = being part of the WFT family."
Caroline (Minli) is a 14 year old eighth grade student who loves to dance, act, and sing. She is a proud member of the Actors Equity Association. She started performing at age four, in local productions with the North Cambridge Family Opera and the Deborah Mason School of Dance. She has trained in ballet, jazz, tap, modern, and hip-hop for ten years, and has worked her way up to be a senior member of the pre-professional Cambridge Youth Dance company (CYDP). With CYDP she has had the privilege of performing at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC, at Symphony Space in NY, and in Boston at the Museum of Fine Arts, BU Dance Theater, Fenway Park, and the Cutler Majestic Theater, with the touring cast of Fela!
In summer 2009, Caroline was selected to participate in the NYC Tap Festival, an opportunity for youth to train with internationally renowned teachers. She was the youngest student placed in the advanced repertory group and was recognized with the Capezio TapFuture award. At the festival she was also “tapped” by choreographer Ray Hesselink and casting director Nora Brennan to audition for the musical Billy Elliot. Caroline turned down the opportunity to be in the original cast of the first national tour because it would be too disruptive for her family, schoolwork, and childhood. Although openings in the Broadway company were rare, her parents agreed she could go to New York if the chance came up. They encouraged her to be part of local theater productions, both to gain experience and to test her commitment to performing. Caroline was cast as an orphan in WFT’s production of the musical. Annie, directed by Jane Staab. She is grateful to Jane for creating the role of another orphan, Maisie, and for giving her a dance cameo in the show. She loved every minute of rehearsal and performance, and Annie marked Caroline’s professional debut.
When the call came a year later that the Broadway company “needed a short-term replacement to start in 2 weeks,” Caroline was in the middle of fifth grade and ten years old, but ready to go. Her job as the ballet girl small swing was to learn all the ensemble tracks and be on standby backstage all eight shows a week. After 3 months her original contract was extended and over the course of a year she performed in over 100 shows in eight different roles. Swings mostly filled in for scheduled absences, or had a few hours advance notice, but on several unforgettable occasions, she filled in at a moment’s notice. Other memorable experiences on the Great White Way include participating in Equity’s 9/11 Tenth Anniversary tribute in Times Square, performing in fundraisers for Equity Cares About AIDS (Easter Bonnet, Gypsy of the Year), and recording the 2011 Carols for a Cure CD.
Caroline credits Wheelock Family Theatre, and the talented cast and crew she has had the privilege to work with, for instilling her love of musical theater. Other credits include the Coroner Munchkin in The Wizard of Oz, directed by James Byrne, and Bet in Oliver!, directed by Susan Kosoff. WFT is a very special place for many reasons: the opportunity for children to be part of productions with professional actors, its commitment to non-traditional, inclusive casting, its selection of works that impart important messages and appeal to all generations, and its great educational programs. Caroline knows a lot of “theater kids” from all over the country, and most are not as fortunate as she is to have a wonderful resource like WFT in their home state. Caroline has received valuable training (and has had lots of fun!) in several of WFT’s education programs, including the summer musical theatre intensive (with Ilyse Robbins and John O’Neill), and opera workshop (with Grace Napier). She believes that it is important to keep learning and practicing. She continues to train in dance and takes voice lessons (Doug Jabara). Last summer she participated in the teen performance intensive (with Fran Bernstein) and had her first experience as a background actor in a feature film, Infinitely Polar Bear.
Members of Actors’ Equity Association appearing in photos on this website: Bill Mootos, Grace Napier and Caroline Workman.