Teaching Faculty

Theatre School of WNY Faculty

Chris J Handley

Chris has worked in theatre for over twenty years in Buffalo, New York City, and across the country as an actor, teacher, director, and producer.  As producer and director, his work has earned four Artie nominations as he oversaw a dozen musicals, including two local premieres: Stephen Sondheim’s SATURDAY NIGHT and Jason Robert Brown’s THE LAST FIVE YEARS. He has worked as an actor on stage in new, classic, and contemporary plays and musicals, television commercials, an award-winning independent soap opera, over two years as an entertainer on a Mississippi riverboat, and numerous developmental workshops of new plays and musicals. Along the way, his colleagues included many current Broadway performers, and several TONY-nominees. Locally, he earned two Artie nominations for Best Actor in a Musical: ASSASSINS and Alleyway’s REEFER MADNESS. 

As a teacher, he is head of the Alleyway Theatre School of WNY. He is on staff at the Broadway Mentors Program, has led various workshops on the craft, taught privately, and spent three years teaching BFA and BA theatre students Acting and Voice & Speech. He works regionally as a director as well as production speech/dialect coach.

He has trained with Patsy Rodenburg at NYC’s Michael Howard Studios as well as Lincoln Center Education. Mr. Handley holds an MFA in Acting from Indiana University, a BFA in Musical Theatre from SUNY Fredonia, and is a graduate of Canisius High School. Mr. Handley is a member of Actors’ Equity Association. 

He teaches College Audition Prep as well as special masterclasses and private coachings.

Todd Benzin

Todd Benzin has been a professional actor and improviser for over 20 years. He has appeared on stages throughout Buffalo like Shakespeare in Delaware Park, Irish Classical Theatre, Kavinoky Theatre, Road Less Traveled Productions, MusicalFare, Jewish Repertory Theatre, Ujima, the New Phoenix Theatre, Subversive Theatre, and Alleyway. Todd has also improvised in a variety of venues with groups such as ComedySportz, the Eclectic Improv Co., Show B, and Babushka. In 2018, Todd was awarded the first-ever Outstanding Character Performance Artie for his portrayal of Franz Liebkind in “The Producers” at the Kavinoky Theatre. He has also had on camera experience in films like “The American Side” and has done voice-over work on a number of projects.

Todd has been teaching improv workshops for several years, and has also studied under Michelle Gigante and Josie DiVincenzo for acting and is a graduate of the prestigious Second City Improv Conservatory program in Toronto.

He teaches Teen Foundations.

Don Gervasi

DON GERVASI is a graduate of Toronto’s Second City Conservatory Program and has been acting and improvising for over 25 years. He can be seen in the films MARSHALL (starring Chadwick Boseman and Josh Gad); and QUEEN CITY (starring Vivica A. Fox and Peter Jason). He has performed on many Buffalo stages including Kavinoky Theatre, MusicalFare Theatre, Road Less Traveled Productions, and Jewish Repertory Theatre of WNY.  He is a proud member of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE); Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA), and Actors’ Equity Association (AEA) where he has served as Equity Liaison for the Buffalo-Rochester Area since 2010.

As an improviser, he has trained under Susan Messing, Mick Napier, Moira Dunphy, Jerry Schaefer, and the late Frank McAnulty. He is a founding member of Buffalo’s own Eclectic Improv Company and long-form duo Babushka; and has improvised with the likes of Jason Alexander, Phil Lamarr, Dan Castellaneta, and Catherine O’Hara.

You may also recognize Don from recent AAA and Seneca Allegany Casino commercials. He also co-hosts the comedy podcast The Discount Deejays.

He teaches Adult Acting 101.

Karen McDonald

Karen has worked as a theatre professional for over 25 years as an actor, singer, writer and educator. She has performed in major theatres across the United States, Canada, Asia and Eastern Europe. Locally she has been featured at Alleyway Theatre, Studio Arena, Showboat Festival and Dominion Repertory Theatre. In Toronto: Fiddler on the Roof, Sound of Music, Nunsense, Anne of Green Gables, Guys and Dolls, Oliver! to name a few. In New York: Funny Girl, Those Were The Days, Gypsy and Othello. International and National tours: 42nd Street, Pirates of Penzance and Big River.

Many of her plays have been featured at festivals and theatres, most notably “Up In A Balloon” which premiered at the Metro Room in NYC, subsequently at Cape May Stage in NJ and Dominion Rep in Fort Erie.

Karen has taught through the Arts in Education of Western New York, Studio Arena Theatre School, Learning Through The Arts in Toronto, many performing arts schools. She continues to be a guest instructor at various institutions and as a private coach.

A proud member of Actor’s Equity, ACTRA and the Dramatist’s Guild, Karen is the first recipient of the Senator Dale Vulcar Award for Excellence in The Arts.

She teaches Adult Acting 201 and Teen Intermediate.

Bella Poynton

BELLA POYNTON is a playwright, director, and scholar from Buffalo, NY. She was a Regional Playwriting Resident at Road Less Traveled Productions from 2016-2018 and is the director of Queen City Playwrights, Buffalo’s new play development workshop for area playwrights. Recently, her work has been produced and developed by The Bechdel Group, MadLab Theatre, Quantum Dragon Theatre Company, Alleyway Theatre, The Great Plains Theatre Festival, Panndora Productions, and Otherworld Theatre Company and Post-Industrial Productions. She has been a finalist for the Heideman Award, the Woodward/Newman Drama Award, and the Sam French OOB Festival. Recently, her short play The Offer was published in The Best Ten-Minute Plays of 2019 (Smith & Krauss) and her article “Rambling with Robots: Creating Performance Futures with Online Chatbots” was published in Global Performance Studies. Her article “Playwriting with Robots: Creating Cyborgian Theater with Online Chatbots” is forthcoming in Theatre/Practice. Bella is a member of the Alleyway Playwrights Circle, the literary manager of Post-Industrial Productions, and serves as the Graduate Liaison for the Mid America Theatre Festival’s Playwriting Symposium. She holds a BFA in Acting from Boston University, an MFA in Playwriting from The University of Iowa, and is currently PhD candidate in Performance Studies at The University at Buffalo.

She teaches Playwriting 101.

Darryl Semira

DARRYL SEMIRA has been a professional actor for the last 21 years. His Broadway credits include MAMMA MIA!, the original Broadway cast of BOMBAY DREAMS, and the first national tour of MONTY PYTHON’S SPAMALOT. Darryl has also appeared on TV and at regional theatres throughout the country in world premieres of shows by Charles Strouse, Maltby and Shire, and Maury Yeston. Locally, he has starred as Berowne in Love’s Labour’s Lost at Shakespeare in Delaware Park, as well as appearing in shows at the Kavinoky and Road Less Traveled. He recently worked with Anne Bogart and members of SITI Company, training in Viewpoints and Suzuki while directing and acting in developmental stages of THE THREE SISTERS. Originally from Madison, Wisconsin, he has lived in both New York City and Los Angeles (where he was an acting teacher and coach at the renowned Margie Haber Studios). He received his BFA in Musical Theatre from the University of Michigan and is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association and SAG-AFTRA.

He teaches Adult Acting 301.

Neal Radice

Mr. Radice received his Master of Arts degree from the University of Buffalo where he taught acting and play production as a graduate fellow and adjunct lecturer.  In addition to having directed and produced more than two hundred stage plays, musicals or operas during the past fifty years, he has taught directing and acting for the British Theatre Association, directed and designed for the Stephenville Festival of Newfoundland, and represented the United States at the International Theatre Association Conference in Krakow, Poland. He has designed sets, costumes, or lighting for well over a hundred productions and his credits as a playwright, composer, or lyricist include incidental music for theatre, full-length plays and musicals, modern operas, comedy and music revues, plays for children, and an adaptation of A Christmas Carol. Mr. Radice is Founder and Executive Director of Alleyway Theatre.

He teaches private coachings.