Artistic Director, Co-founder
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. 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), and in the UK. In her 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.
Managing Director, Co- founder
As a theater artist, David has performed in many ISC productions including the title roles in Hamlet, Macbeth, and Richard III. 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. 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.
Xavi is a native Angelino, born, raised, and staged “east of the river” in the historic barrio of Boyle Heights. Xavi has marketed, produced, written, performed and advised on dozens of Spanish, English & Spanglish advertising campaigns including projects with Ford Motor Company, Dr. Pepper, Gatorade, Jarritos, Five Gum, Boost Mobile, Miller Lite, Hulu’s Web Series - East Los High, Budweiser, Denny's, AT&T plus many others. Between being on-stage and behind the scenes, Xavi has worked as an independent copywriter where he’s been responsible for ideating and executing innovative digital marketing campaigns such as the universally praised campaign for Ford Motor Company’s, Fiesta Movement Campaign. Recognized as a Young Leader of Color by Theatre Communications Group, Xavi also oversees Marketing, Branding and Social Media for Company of Angels & Latino Theater Company at The Los Angeles Theatre Center. Grounded in his roots and community, Xavi teaches spoken word, theatre, and creative writing through Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas' "i.am.college track" college prep after-school program in Boyle Heights. Xavi studied Creative Writing with a concentration in Spoken Word from the University of California, Santa Cruz and has Associate of Arts Degree in Graphic Design, Merchandising & Marketing from FIDM Los Angeles. Xavi es una flor chillante that rose through cracked concrete into the spotlight. He is a testimony to the positive power that the word and stage can unearth in youth who have been pushed out from schools, into gangs, inside jails and out to tell their story under the spotlight and beyond its boundaries.
Board of Directors
Eduardo A. Braniff, Chair
Sarah L. Cronin
John C. Reilly