Meet Our Faculty and Staff
Dr. Michele Pagen
Michele is a professor of theatre in the Department of Culture, Media, and Performance at California University of Pennsylvania. A native of southwestern Pennsylvania, Michele knew that if given the opportunity, she would build a place where area youth could study theatre and musical theatre in an environment that was safe and nurturing, yet challenging and professional. The Mon Valley Performing Arts Academy is just that place. She received her B.A. in Theatre from California University of Pennsylvania and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Directing and Staging Pedagogy from Bowling Green State University. Michele teaches the acting sequence, directing, and voice for the actor courses at the University. She is an Estill Master Trainer with Estill Voice International.
Michael is now in his 32nd years as a music teacher for the Belle Vernon Area School District. He teaches middle and high school vocal music and directs the high school plays and musicals. A supporter of music in communities, Michael has musically directed musicals for the past 30 years in many of the local community theaters. Additionally, he is a member of “The Summer Singers” and also a member of Pittsburgh’s premier vocal group, “Voces Solis”.
John is a graduate from New York University with a MA in Performing Arts Administration and a graduate from Shenandoah University with a BFA in Musical Theatre. This is his 5th year teaching with the Academy. He is the Artistic Director for the Main Street Theatre Company, the resident theatre company at the State Theatre Center for the Arts. His directing and choreography credits include: Pippin, Beauty and the Beast, The Drowsy Chaperone, Newsies, Mamma Mia, Spring Awakening, Chicago, Peter Pan, Annie, Sweeney Todd, The Music Man, Carrie, Gypsy, Mary Poppins, Hairspray, The Producers, 42nd Street, The Nutcracker, and Cats. He is a proud member of the Actors’ Equity Association and his performing credits include: Spamalot, La Cage Aux Folles, Gypsy, All Shook Up, A Chorus Line, Anything Goes, Chicago, 42nd Street, and Footloose.
Christina is thrilled to be back teaching at MVPPA for another year! She is a Cal U alumna with a BA in Theatre/Musical Theatre '11, M.Ed. PreK-4 Education '21. Most recently, she directed SE Jr and co-directed SE 2022, HONK! Jr. Christina currently teaches Kindergarten at Canon-McMillan SD, where she incorporates music, singing, and creating art daily into her lessons. She hopes your youngins want to come play at MVPAA!
Alexandra is a 2020 alumna of California University of Pennsylvania where she received her B.A. in Theatre with a Concentration in Musical Theatre, as well as her Estill Voice Training Figure Proficiency Certification. She began her dance training at the age of three, and quickly fell in love with the world of musical theatre and performance. Alexandra also serves as the choreographer for Uniontown Area High School's spring musicals, as well as the director of their dance team and auxiliary. She has performed in a variety of musicals over the years. Some of her favorites including Pippin, Elf: The Musical, and Edges. She is excited to teach and share her love of dance and performance with younger generations. www.alexandradawnwilson.com
Destiny Cumberland is the Administrative Assistant for MVPAA, returning to the team in this new role after 2 years as the Acting Teacher for Upper Elementary and Middle School. Destiny holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and will graduate with her Master of Business Administration in May 2022. She also completed an Arts Administration internship in London, England, during the summer of 2021 with The Space Theatre. Destiny is an avid stage manager, frequently working on productions for PennWest California and Washington Community Theatre.
Delaney Harvey (they/them) is a Junior Theatre major with a concentration in Musical Theatre at PennWest. Delaney started dancing at age 3, studied competitive dance at Lanzi Academy of Dance from 2010-2020, and taught competitive dance at Studio K Dance Center from 2020-2022. They have served as Dance Captain under John Wagner for ELF the Musical (Fall 2021), The Drowsy Chaperone (Spring 2022), and soon again for PennWest's production of A Christmas Carol.
Acting and Improv
Eli Gilbert is a newly graduated teacher from Pennwest California and is very excited to take on his three classes for the upcoming semesters. Eli has been working with MVPAA for three years now, helping with two years of Summer Experience, one improv class, and filling in for other MVPAA teachers. He cannot wait to help his students grow in their craft and expand their acting belt!
Noah is a senior at Penn West California studying Pre K-4 Education with a minor in Musical Theatre Performance. He is a Rutledge Scholar at Penn West as well as being involved in the programs AYO, University Players, and Rainbow Alliance. Noah also is a teacher at Gemini Theater Company in Pittsburgh teaching children's acting and theater. Their performance credits include: The 39 Steps, The Drowsy Chaperone, Exit Pursued by a Bear, Elf, Into the Woods, Footloose, Chicago, Hunchback of Notre Dame and more. Noah's true passion grew as he studied at the academy Pittsburgh Musical Theater, so he is so excited to help grow and inspire future students passions while teaching at The Mon Valley Performing Arts Academy!