Matt Okin (Artistic Director) founded Black Box Studios in 2007 and opened Black Box Performing Arts Center in November 2015. Recent directing credits include: Skip & Rivka's Not-So-Kosher Interactive Wedding Experience, Cloud 9, The Goat Or, Who Is Sylvia?, Blood Brothers A Musical, Evil Dead The Musical, Bad Jews, RMTI’s new production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, True Groove Productions’ Diana & Navy & The Golden Tooth, The Pillowman, and Passing Strange (all at BBPAC); the Off-Broadway premiere of Huey Esquire's This Time, A New Musical Romance (at Theater For The New City, as well as BBPAC); and the BBS Ensemble's Falsettos “In Concert”, House Of Blue Leaves, and Next To Normal (bergenPAC), among many others. As a playwright, director, and composer, Matt's original musicals include: Out Of Whack: The All-Kids Rock Musical (devised, at Theater For The New City), Soul Searching (45th Street Theater, DR2 Theater, D-Lounge, and the NYMF), Generations (various NYC venues and NYMF), and A Match Made In Manhattan: The Interactive Jewish Wedding Experience (NYC and national tours). Other original plays, produced both in New York and on national tours include: Second Chances, Twist Of Faith, Walter Liked To Sit In His Big Backyard, Cherry Hill, The Ugly Wife, and Pigs. Matt received a BFA in Dramatic Writing from New York University's Tisch School Of The Arts. He has two grad school/college-age daughters, Rachel and Arielle.
Huey Esquire (Managing Director/Musical Director/Improv Headmaster) is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, playwright, filmmaker, improviser, and veteran of the early days of Black Box Studios. “Recovering” from a 20 year career as an entertainment and intellectual property lawyer, Huey co-founded Black Box Performing Arts Center, where he is Managing Director, resident Musical Director, and Improv Headmaster. In late Summer 2015, Huey began a developmental workshop of his original musical This Time, A New Musical Romance – for which he has written book, music, and lyrics – that continues development after an Off Broadway run, a collaboration among NYC’s famed Theater for the New City, Black Box Studios, and Huey’s own Generrus Theatreworks. Recent musical direction credits include (Scene work from) American Idiot, Blood Brothers A Musical, Evil Dead The Musical, RMTI’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Hair, and a concert version of his own This Time, all at BBPAC; recent production credits at BBPAC include The Goat Or, Who Is Sylvia?, Bad Jews, True Groove Productions’ Diana & Navy & The Golden Tooth, The Pillowman, and Passing Strange.
Frank Avellino (Teaching Artist/Director/Set Designer) also has experience as a producer and playwright. Directing credits for Black Box Studios include The Holy Ghostly and Dickens Abridged. Frank also has designed, with Gerard Bourcier, a number of recent sets for Black Box. Other directing highlights include Sweeney Todd, Doubt, The Mystery of Irma Vep, 13, and Rapunzarella White. Frank is also cofounder of Stage Scene & Song Performing Arts, and Boz and the Bard Productions, Inc., which will be producing the 2016 NYC Off Broadway debut of Dead Dog Park by Barry Malawer. Frank is grateful to Matt Okin for the opportunity to work with Black Box and its participants.
Sujeilee Candele (Teaching Artist) is a 20-year entertainment veteran signed with Innovative Artists Agency (Commercial and Voiceover) and The Mine Agency (Film & TV). Her professional experience includes commercials, short films, indie and feature films, and TV, including “Pride & Glory,” “Spiderman,” “Law & Order,” “Sex and the City,” and “Blindspot,” to name a few.
After earning a BA in Communications and Theater, Ms. Candele studied The Meisner Method at the Esper Studio in NYC. Subsequently, Ms. Candele completed extensive Bob Krakower TV & Film master classes. She is eager and excited to share her expertise with aspiring screen actors in Northern New Jersey and New York, so you no longer need to travel to NYC for a top shelf on camera technique class!
Dina Bogner Heiss (Teaching Artist) spent ten years as a successful agent representing young actors for film, television and theater. Most recently her clients included stars of the films Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Pitch Perfect, Frankenweenie and The Three Stooges, the television series Glee, Smash, Victorious, and How to Rock and the Broadway productions of Evita, The Book of Mormon, Mary Poppins, Billy Elliot, The Lion King and many, many others.
Dina has taught classes for young actors at studios throughout New York City and is so excited to be back in New Jersey and working with Black Box!
Simon “Shalom” Krischer (Master Set Builder) has been building sets for Black Box since 2007. No stranger to theatre, Simon has performed in productions of Fiddler On The Roof, I Ought To Be In Pictures, That Championship Season, Life In The Theatre, and more. He has also appeared in Rememberance Of Love, and America’s Got Talent. Simon’s hobbies include competitive eating. He has held local titles and has even been in the Guiness Book Of World Records! He currently lives in Teaneck with his wife, children, a guinea pig named “Rex” and a turtle named “Fluffy.”
Esti Mellul (Assistant Director, Stage Manager, Teaching Artist, Actor) is the Black Box PAC “graduate” who never left. Esti currently plays an active role as assistant director, stage manager, and teacher for Black Box Studios. Esti has acted in many Black Box and non-Black Box productions, including This Time, Les Miserables, Detective Story, Pippin, Fiddler on the Roof, and Sweeney Todd, and has directed and staged managed many others.
Esti will be graduating in May with a Master’s degree in Communication from Rutgers University. While at Rutgers, she co-founded and was the Executive Producer of Shem Productions, a student-run theater group. In her “ample” free time, Esti is writing and producing an album, sings in Tizmoret, Queens College’s professional and nationally-acclaimed Jewish acapella group, and tutors middle schoolers as well as collegiate athletes. Esti is very excited to be working with Black Box Studios, and is blessed that they keep bringing her back!
Michelle Puskas (Choreographer) graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BFA in dance from Rutgers University Mason Gross School of The Arts. She is a company member with Syncopated City Dance Company, a NYC based company taking inspiration from the jazz dances of the 1920’s-1950’s, specializing in acrobatic Lindy Hop. Michelle is the choreographer for the Discover Opera program at the Manhattan School of Music and the young scholars program at the Buck Hill Skytop Music Festival. Her dance credits include A Jazz Happening with Chet Walker, Cirque du Soleil’s Poetic Social Mission, Jazz at Lincoln Center Spring Gala (swing), Microsoft’s Launch Party for X-Box Kinect, Midsummer Night Swing, Frankie 100 Celebration at the Edison Ballroom, and Dance Legends at the Hammerstein Ballroom. www.michellepuskas.com
Leslie Russell, MA, (Teaching Artist) has been writing since before she was born. A screenwriter, entrepreneur ( joybreaksbarriers.com), former Hollywood producer, and comedy improv performer, she has countless credits in television and documentary and educational filmmaking. Many moons ago, she worked on various television sets as a producer of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, Benson, and Wheel of Fortune. Presently a Professor of Screenwriting at Stern College (NYC), she received her Masters Degree in Theater from New York University.
Jen Rudin, CSA is Black Box Studios’ prime casting contact in New York City. She has guided our students to auditions for feature films, voice overs, Broadway, and more. www.jenrudin.com