Melissa Chalsma: Co-Founder, Artistic Director, Actor, Director
Independent Shakespeare Co.
Under Melissa’s leadership, Independent Shakespeare Co. (ISC) created the Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival, which has grown into the largest theater event of its kind in Los Angeles.Every summer, tens of thousands of Angelenos attend productions, theater workshops and lectures, and performances by local artists. All of ISC summer events are admission-free, and attract the largest, most diverse classical theater audience in Los Angeles.
Drawing on her experience as an educator, she has guided the company in the development of educational and outreach programming, reaching many corners of Los Angeles through partnerships with other municipal and non-profit organizations.
Melissa directs and acts in many ISC productions. Her directing includes Pericles, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Titus Andronicus, Measure for Measure, Richard III, Twelfth Night, and Romeo & Juliet.
She has performed in theaters across the country, on Broadway (including the American premiere of Harold Pinter’s MOONLIGHT with Jason Robards, Blythe Danner, and Liev Schreiber) and in the UK. In her ten years as a college faculty member she taught at Moorpark College, Pepperdine University, and California State University, Northridge. Melissa received her MFA from The Professional Theatre Training Program at the University of Delaware.
As one of the co-founders of ISC, David has performed in many ISC shows including the title roles in Hamlet, Macbeth, and Richard II and Richard III; Prince Hal in Henry IV; Touchstone in As You Like It and Sir Toby in Twelfth Night. Other theatre credits include Mother Courage at the Mermaid Theatre, London (with Glenda Jackson); Hamlet, Almeida at the Hackney Empire, London and Broadway transfer (with Ralph Fiennes); Ivanov at The Almeida Theatre, London and Maly Theatre, Moscow. Also a director, he created the Rockabilly production of The Two Gentlemen of Verona among other ISC productions.
David has appeared in several films including Ironclad (starring Paul Giamatti as King John), The Understudy and Perfection. David recently filmed the medieval siege drama Ironclad.
On television, David appeared as the hopeless British travel correspondent Lawrence Beldon-Smythe in the Travel Channel series Lawrence of America.
David has also composed songs for numerous film projects and theater productions (including the ISC original musical, Red Barn, now being developed as a film.)
He received his acting training at the Webber-Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London.
Marisa Tecson Johnston
Development & Communications Director
Marisa is responsible for fundraising, donor management, seeking grant opportunities, and communications efforts that support ISC’s artistic programming. She previously worked in Arts Learning at the Arts Council for Long Beach. Before entering the nonprofit arts sector she worked in the television industry for twenty years as a producer for MTV, TLC and HGTV. Marisa trained in classical ballet with Choo Chiat Goh and Lin Yee Goh (Goh Ballet School in Vancouver), and spent her summers studying in New York City at the Joffrey Ballet School, with Melissa Hayden, and with Douglas Wassell. Marisa holds a B.A. in English from Barnard College, Columbia University and a Masters in Arts Management from Claremont Graduate University. She serves on the board of the Kenneth Walker Dance Project, a contemporary ballet company based in the South Bay. She is a native of Vancouver, B.C., Canada and lives in Silver Lake with her husband and daughter.
Sabrina is immensely proud to be a part of such a talented company that is committed to diversity and community. Passionate about the impact of live theatre, her favorite part of working the summer festival is watching the audience’s reactions every single night.
As Operations Coordinator, she helps bring ISC’s productions to life in a multitude of ways: from answering questions in the office to overseeing concessions and front of house operations in the Studio to running the welcome table during the Festival. Sabrina first started working with ISC as a House Manager in the fall of 2016, soon after graduating with Bachelor’s degree from California State University, Northridge.
Janet comes to ISC with a desire to support the creation of engaging, culturally diverse arts programming for the Los Angeles community. She holds a B.A. in Narrative Studies and Political Science from the University of Southern California, and has worked as a Communications Consultant for the arts education nonprofit Theatre Of Hearts, a Media Production Assistant at The Autry Museum, and an administrative intern for Metro Art. In her free time, Janet enjoys reading, doodling, and working on art and video projects. Check out her art at www.janetnle.com
Board of Directors
Eduardo A. Braniff, Chair
Sarah L. Cronin
John C. Reilly