Justin Wade. Executive Artistic Director. 
The Mastermind. 

Justin began his involvement with Young Actors Theatre as a student, starring as the Prince Charming in numerous fairy tales. Thanks to YAT's training, Justin also appeared in numerous productions throughout Indianapolis, from Civic Theatre to Theatre on the Square. When he ceased to be a "young actor" and became an "older actor," he left Indianapolis for NYC, where he studied at the Academy of Musical and Dramatic Arts (which he liked, but always said his training at YAT was the best he's ever had). He returned and became the Assistant Director to the original founder, Charlotte Kaufman. He assisted Kaufman until ultimately landing his current position as Executive Artistic Director in 2005. He became so passionate about being an educational entrepreneur that he abandoned creating characters onstage in favor of creating model citizens offstage. Justin has produced over 350 productions featuring youth and has designed and implemented all of the programs the theatre offers today. 

Justin considers himself an educator first and foremost. He has worked intensely in various schools throughout Indianapolis as a drama instructor throughout his early career, and it was in the school that he began to develop his educational vision. Being a drama teacher for IPS, Lawrence Township, juvenile centers, the Indianapolis Art Center, charter schools, and more has allowed him real-life-on-the-job training under the mentorship of  principals, administrators and great educators. 

Justin continually fosters a unique vision for what a downtown theatrical program for youth could be. To Justin, theatre isn't just a chance to stand onstage in a cool costume and be silly. It isn't about your grandparents and cousins coming and clapping for you. It's a pathway to overcoming fear. To becoming self-empowered. To discovering who you are and what you are capable of because Justin believes that THIS is what theatre is. He strives to create as many theatrical opportunities for Indianapolis youth as possible. When Justin took over YAT, the organization served approximately sixty youth, presented three productions, and six individual performances annually. Under his leadership, YAT's enrollment has grown to 1,600 youth participants, twenty-five annual productions, and sixty-five annual performances. His vision has seen the creation and success of YAT’s four main programs: The Playground, The Woods, The Court, and The Street.  He created the Teen Advisory Board, which is the most effective and hard working youth board in America (we think so)! He instituted teen internship opportunities in directing and non-profit management, Beyond the Play--which brings underserved youth to mainstage shows, a poetry collective, schools programs, a movement group, and an ongoing performance laboratory on various social issues Indianapolis youth face daily. Justin is a busy guy with big ideas. He is a true educational entrepreneur. Justin created, along with the staff, the idea of Self-Empowerment Theatre, and he puts it into practice everyday. 

Students frequently cite him as one of the great influences in their lives, not just onstage, but off. Justin is personally committed to nurturing the young citizens of Indianapolis. He stresses that YAT is not just a program for students preparing to become theatre professionals, but a program to develop skills necessary for the future business owners, artists, educators, and leaders of our world. Justin is the recent recipient of Drug Free Marion County's youth advocacy award, and he was named one of the Top 15 to watch in 2015 by Indystar. He's energetic, intense, and a visionary. He's the mastermind. 

See Justin's TEDxIndianapolis talk: How theatre can respond to the world of exponential technology. 

Staff at Fantastical:Down the Rabbit Hole, 2014 (from left,Denise Warnsby, Justin Wade, Georgeanna Smith, Michael Burke, Catherine Wade, Julie Mauro)

Staff at Fantastical:Down the Rabbit Hole, 2014
(from left,Denise Warnsby, Justin Wade, Georgeanna Smith, Michael Burke, Catherine Wade, Julie Mauro)

Executive Artistic Director, Justin Wade, receives Drug Free Marion County's Youth Advocate Award, 2014

Executive Artistic Director, Justin Wade, receives Drug Free Marion County's Youth Advocate Award, 2014


Catherine Wade. Managing Director.
The Muscle.

When the Wade family moved to Indianapolis, Catherine was in kindergarten, and she couldn't wait to join YAT. Catherine's big brother Justin was doing it, and she thought he was cool (back then) and wanted a piece of that action. Catherine went from student, to intern, to set designer, to teacher/director until her position was formed in 2006, and she became an integral part of YAT's vast expansion.. Needless to say, she understands this business. . . all of it. Along with Justin, Catherine has created, developed, and implemented all programs that the theatre currently offers. She has helped define the mission statement and create the unique curriculum that measures YAT’s success. Catherine assisted in the creation of Self-Empowerment Theatre, and she makes sure we are teaching it every day. She has directed over forty youth productions, produced over one-hundred, and has been featured in the Indianapolis Star as one of Indianapolis’ most important women in the arts. Her raw and innovative style with youth has led to her being noted as one of the best youth directors in Indianapolis. In her current position, Catherine secures funding, oversees sponsorships and contributions, leads marketing and publicity, and controls the daily operations. Thanks to Catherine's work, we went from being an organization that depended on tickets and tuition alone, to being a fully fledged non-profit with support and sponsorships (in fact, she increased funding from 0% to 40%). If we have an idea for a program, Catherine will find a way to make it happen. This is when you assume that she must have serious training in the non-profit sector. No. Catherine doesn't have an MBA or a MPA. She has a BS in Fine Arts from IU. That's right, other than theatre, teaching self-empowerment, or making sure that the business has the juice to continue to grow; she's also a gifted artist who lends a hand with our graphics. 
Catherine wants YAT to be for ALL students. She procured funding for IPS students to attend Court performances, developed Beyond the Play, and increased our scholarships. Catherine is relentless, and she packs more results into a forty hour work week than most people do in a month. Her focus and determination helps YAT flourish. She's self taught, and she's a great teacher. She is the muscle. 


The Mentor. 

Georgeanna Smith first started working at YAT when she already had plenty of jobs; however, she met with Catherine and Justin, saw the program, and knew that sleep was for the weak and came on board. She first worked as an assistant to Justin in schools. Afterwards, she went from assistant, to full blown teacher/director, to salaried staff to Head of Acting to today; the Associate Artistic Director. She is the former Executive Artistic Director of the award winning organization, NoExit Performance, which NUVO Newsweekly has called “Indianapolis’ most adventurous theatre group.”  When Georgeanna took the helm of NoExit, the company grew from two members to nine, increased the operating budget from $5,000 to $50,000, began producing full seasons, and boasted some of the most critically acclaimed of any performance group in Indianapolis. She is now a proud company member of NoExit and continues to work as a free lance actress throughout the city. She was named one of IndyStar's Top 15 to watch in 2015, as well as being named as on of 2013’s “Most Compelling Performance Artists” by The Examiner. A graduate of the Jordan College of Arts at Butler University, Georgeanna graduated cum laude with high honors in theatre, where her favorite course work revolved around Theatre of Social Change. She received numerous awards and studied in St. Petersburg, Russia.  She was formerly a lead actor/interpreter at the Children's Museum. She has studied with Brian Bedford, Dan Kamin, Anne Bogart, Kristin Linklater, Joe Goode, Alexander Anisimov, and more. A former dancer, she has trained at the Academy of Dance Arts, the Jordan Academy of Dance, Gary Geis Dance Company, and Gregory Hancock. She has been seen onstage at the Children's Museum, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, NoExit, Q Artistry, Eclectic Pond, Defiance Comedy, Susurrus Dance, among others. She is a published author on the topic of creating museum programming for actors (IMTAL journal), as well as a featured presenter at the International Museum Theatre Alliance conference. An experienced director, Georgeanna’s work has been praised by critics city wide. She has previously worked with students at Pike High School, Fishers High School, Heritage Christian School, the Project School, Christel House Academy, and Herron High School. 

Georgeanna was instrumental in developing The Court, our social issues program, into what it is today; bringing devised work to youth, introducing YAT to site-specific theatre, and spearheading REACT, the teen theatre festival. She oversees interns, masterminds The Experiment, one of our summer camps; and focuses on bringing world class trends to YAT. Justin knew that she was the right person to bring on board when he saw his first NoExit show. Georgeanna knew she'd found the right job when Justin told her that YAT wasn't "just" a youth theatre. Georgeanna has used her passion for Theatre of Social Change to bring clarity to Self-Empowerment Theatre. She is passionate about working with students and giving them tools for life, not just for the stage. She is the Mentor. 



Claire's passions in life are her love of the arts and her hometown of Indianapolis. Trust us, she knows she loves Indy because she has seen it all. She's lived in Chicago, New York City, and San Francisco, but the 317 was calling her, and she hasn't looked back since. One thing that Claire loves about Indianapolis (besides the Colts, duh) is the many arts organizations. Since she now knows Indianapolis is in fact the best place to live, work, play and enjoy the arts; she has thrown herself in the arts scene with her great business mind and her killer communication skills. From an early age, Claire had several opportunities to study and learn about various arts – from fine arts to performing arts. She gets what we do without being an artist herself, which means she throws all of her creativity into the business. After receiving her degree in art history, Claire combined her passion with her education by working in the development office at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, thus empowering artists by providing them with the resources and means they needed. At the IMA, Claire designed and implemented tailored events for high level donors, major public exhibition openings, and fundraising events such as New Year's Eve at the IMA. Her passion for the arts and Indianapolis has led Claire to YAT. She couldn't resist the call of the wild (or in this case, the hundreds of empowered kids having breakthroughs every day). Here she focuses on securing funding for YAT so that we may continue to inspire Indianapolis youth through Self-Empowerment Theatre. 

The magician.

Michael Burke is a 2009 graduate of Butler University with a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre. During his tenure at Butler, Michael was an active student performing, directing, assisting and/or designing for all of the mainstage and student-led productions, which received high acclaim and praise. Most notably were his decorations as the Distinguished Third Year Theatre Student, the recipient of the Alma Meyer-Fitzgerald Outstanding Theatre Major Award, the scholarly achievements through the Butler Summer Institute, and his studies of physical theatre at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting. Michael has also studied under international theatre artists Phillip Zarrill, Firenza Guidi, Joe Goode, and Kristin Linklater. Since graduation, Michael co-founded paperStrangers Performance Group and took his production of Medea on a national tour where it earned the Outstanding Contribution to the Theatre of Los Angeles in an Ensemble Production in 2010. He served as an assistant to Michael Edwards, the Producing Artistic Director of the Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota, and since Michael's return to Indianapolis, he has assistant directed Peter Amster's Dracula at the Indianapolis Repertory Theatre and was honored with the 2012 Robert D. Beckmann Emerging Artist Fellowship from the Indianapolis Arts Council. Michael also serves as the Director of Marketing for NoExit Performance Group.

Gara Gaines - Curator

Teaching and Production staff:

AnnMarie Elliot
Jeff Martin
Julie Mauro
Ryan Mullins
Michael Runge