Board of Directors

Current Members of the Board of Trustees

ARIEL ARBISSER, a native of Davenport, IA, attended Cornell University and has served as Artistic Director of the Melodramatics since January of 2011. She began working with the MTC in 2006 as Makeup Designer for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and continued to serve as Makeup Designer for a total of nine MTC productions. In 2008, Ariel began performing with the MTC as Woman #2 in Jason Robert Brown’s Songs For A New World and has since played the Old Woman in Candide, Marmee in Little Women: The Musical, and, most recently, Maureen in Rent. During her time at Cornell, Ariel sang with the co-ed a cappella group the Chordials, in which she served as President for two years, co-produced two albums with the group, and was featured as a soloist on three of the four albums the group recorded while she was a member. In 2010 Ariel was awarded two Contemporary A cappella Recording Awards from the Contemporary A cappella Society of America (CASA) for Best Mixed Solo and Best Mixed Song of the year. Later that year, Ariel was voted Runner-Up for Favorite Female Vocalist of 2010 in the A cappella Community Awards and was a featured soloist on an international compilation album of the best academic and professional a cappella of the year (both honors also hosted by CASA). Recently, Ariel spent a year producing, co-writing, and performing in Sex, Drugs, and A Cappella: An Original Web Series. The music from the pilot presentation, featuring Ariel as a soloist, was recorded in Ithaca and arranged and produced by music producers from Fox’s Glee and NBC’s The Sing Off and can be found on iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify, with full episodes on YouTube. In 2011, Ariel was featured on another national compilation album of the year’s best a cappella, and she was invited to perform and record with professional all-male a cappella group Overboard from Boston, MA. Ariel joined the Actor’s Workshop of Ithaca (AWI) in 2010 and will graduate from the program in May 2012. With AWI, she’s had the opportunity to perform in the Actor’s Workshop of Ithaca Theater Company’s production of Poona the F***dog (and other plays for children), and assisted with makeup in their productions of Poona… and Far Away. In May 2011, Ariel played Nehebkah alongside Broadway performers in the Aida Benefit Concert in Bailey Hall at Cornell University to raise money for children’s education in Africa. Currently, Ariel sings in the local funk/soul bands The Jeff Love Bandand The Mutron Warriors. Ariel was recently awarded an Honorable Mention in the Ithaca Times’ Jim Catalano’s “Jimmies” awards for Best Female Singer in Ithaca in 2011 for her work with the Jeff Love Band.

TIM DYSTER is a member of Cornell’s Class of 2012 and is currently pursuing a B.A. in Biological Sciences and a minor in Music. Tim has been member of the MTC since 2009, and became a member of the Board of Trustees in 2011. Company credits include: I Love You Because (Jeff Bennett), Candide (Assistant Director), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Assistant Director, Director of Marketing), Little Women: The Musical (Director of Alumni Affairs), and Rent(Director). In the spring of 2011, Tim directed a staged concert version of the musical Aida, working with Broadway actors and students from Cornell and Ithaca College to raise money for children’s education in Africa. During his time at Cornell, Tim also took part in independent research on Wilson’s Disease and was recognized for his outstanding scholarship when he received the William T. Keeton Award from Cornell’s Biology Department. Tim was recently accepted to medical school and will begin his allopathic training in the fall of 2012.

TYLER EHRLICH is a junior at Cornell, studying Music and Information Science. Tyler has helped produce bare, Spring Awakening, Rent, Little Women: The Musical, and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Although his primary role in the company is directing the pit orchestra, Tyler is also the Business Manager of the MTC. In the Music Department, Tyler studies conducting with Professors Cynthia Johnston Turner and James Spinazzola. He is also the teaching assistant for the Cornell University Wind Symphony, where he assists in conducting both rehearsals and concerts. On clarinet, Tyler studies in the studio of Lenora Schneller, and has played in the “G Major” Woodwind Quintet on campus. An active developer, Tyler develops Android applications at the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology. He also does freelance web design work around the University; a recent project was designing a library database system for the Music Department Wind Ensembles. Tyler hopes to continue to study conducting in graduate school, and looks forward to continually serving the Melodramatics Theatre Company as member of the Board of Trustees.

JOSHUA K. LEADER has been associated with the law offices ofLeader & Berkon since 1996 and became a Partner on January 1, 2006. He handles a wide range of litigation matters in areas such as complex commercial, securities, product liability, toxic torts, and intellectual property actions in state and federal courts. Mr. Leader has considerable experience in commercial matters, from the firm’s representation of a major telecommunications corporation in contractual disputes over fiberoptic capacity agreements, to the interpretation of integration clauses in major retail supply agreements and disputes over pharmaceutical co-promotion agreements. Mr. Leader is actively involved in the firm’s growing securities litigation practice, representing a major broker-dealer in arbitrations before the NASD. In addition, among his varied activities, Mr. Leader also has experience in aviation, trademark, copyright and art forgery matters. He has represented a concert promoter in litigation with a well-known performer and film production companies as well as an award-winning young film director with respect to contract matters and negotiations in the entertainment industry. Mr. Leader also has significant experience in mass tort and complex product liability litigation, including the defense of clients in nationwide semiconductor manufacturing litigation, the firm’s defense of a major appliance manufacturer against mass subrogation claims brought to circumvent class action rules, as well as a variety of product liability actions, involving issues relating to manufacturing and design defect allegations, fire cause and origin, spoliation of evidence, product recalls, and indemnification. Mr. Leader also heads the firm’s litigation technology team.

JUSTIN LEADER (Chairman) is a graduate of Cornell University (B.A., ’07) and Carnegie Mellon University (Masters of Entertainment Industry Management, ’09). Justin founded the Melodramatics Theatre Company in 2004, producing Assassins, Into the Woods, Bat Boy: The Musical, An Evening with Jeff Marx, William Finn’s A New Brain and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. He also directed Assassins and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and performed in Assassins, Into the Woods and Bat Boy: The Musical. Justin has experience at The Atlantic Theater, the producers of the Tony Award-Winning Spring Awakening, Fox Broadcasting Company, and NBC Universal. Justin lives in Los Angeles, California, where he is the Producer at Big Red Button Entertainment. Visit his website at JustinLeader.com.

Previous Members of the Board of Trustees

ROBERT BURG has been involved in the MTC since its first production of Assassins and has since performed such varied company roles as Lead Creative Consultant, Associate Producer and Dramaturg. Robert holds a Masters in Theatre History and Criticism from CUNY Brooklyn and a Bachelors in Liberal Studies from SUNY Purchase. He is also the proud co-founder and co-president of Striking Prose, Inc., a professional freelance copywriting company. Additionally, he is a critic with a popular website and recently appeared as an expert panelist on the TV Guide Network’s The 25 Greatest TV Characters of All Time special. Robert currently lives in New York, NY, with his partner and somewhere around 400 DVDs and 500 books.

RACHEL MAYER, a Cornell University graduate student in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, initially developed her passion for live musical theatre in her hometown of Rochester, NY, performing in every production at her high school. Arriving at Cornell as an undergraduate in 2007, she began to work for the MTC as Makeup Artist and over seven seasons with the company, rose to the position of General Manager and President. Her most recent company credits include I Love You Because (Stage Manager),Candide (Assistant General Manager, Stage Manager), and General Manager through Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Little Women: The Musical and Rent. Additionally, Rachel was a Rawlings Presidential Research Scholar in her undergraduate career and is completing her student teaching semester through Cornell’s Teacher Education Program this spring. Rachel will graduate in May with her certification and Masters in Teaching, and she plans to teach Biology and Health in both the U.S. and abroad. As a teacher, Rachel hopes to find a way to continue instilling a love for theatre in the hearts of her students.

CHRIS TOLBERT is a graduate of the Ithaca College class of 2010 where he majored in Music Education. His primary instrument is trumpet. In 2006, Chris became a founding member of the brass quintet Five Cents Sharp who performed as guest artists at the international brass festival “Brass im Frankenwald” in Lichtenberg, Germany in 2008. Chris has also obtained admission by audition to the substitute/extra list with the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, and performed as an orchestra musician with several Central New York regional theaters including Cortland Repertory Theater, and Ithaca’s Hangar Theatre. Chris began his work with the MTC as the trumpet player and Conductor in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. He continued to work with the company as Orchestra Director for seven more shows including Leonard Bernstein’s operetta,Candide. As Music Director, Chris has also worked for Cornell University’s Schwartz Center for Performing Arts’ production of Soiree/Cabaret, as well as the Hangar Theatre on their production ofThe Piano Lesson. Both of these roles required the arranging and composition of music as well as cast instruction and live performance. Chris is currently living in northern Virginia teaching in Fairfax County Public Schools and pursuing professional ensemble auditions on the trumpet.

KATIE VAN CLEAVE graduated with a B.S. in Atmospheric Sciences from Cornell University in 2010 and is currently working toward her Masters degree in Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She was with the Melodramatics for seven seasons, serving as General Manager for The Last Five Years, Songs For a New World, Cabaret, I Love You Because, and Candide. She served as Stage Manager for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street as well as Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party.