Gwyneth Casey '21 Bonnie King ’13 Monroe Roush ’17 Connor Low ’25, and Emily Cintron '20
Gwyneth Casey '21, Bonnie King ’13, Monroe Roush ’17, Connor Low ’25 and Emily Cintron '20 make up the Chapman contingent of The Pickwick Players theatre group.

Chapman Alumni Set the Stage for Sondheim

This January, a team of Chapman alumni will bring the beloved musical “Into the Woods” to the stage in La Habra, Calif. Their production company, the Pickwick Players, is a new non-profit organization dedicated to the production of high-quality community theater that is accessible to all. 

The group got its start in spring 2023, when Gwyneth Casey ’21 and Emily Cintron ’20 met while performing in a production of “Little House on the Prairie: The Musical” with the Westminster Community Theater. While the two had attended Chapman at the same time, they had never met on campus — Casey majored in physics and French while Cintron was studying TV writing and production. 

A friendship blossomed between the two, along with fellow castmates Riley Hyde and Rachel Strysik — and so did the desire to produce their own show. Strysik recruited Bonnie King ’13, a Chapman alumna with a BA in theatre and a BS in accounting, and together the group formed the Pickwick Players. 

A fourth Chapman alumna, Monroe Roush ’21, was brought into the organization soon after and is the director of “Into the Woods.” An environmental science and policy major who works as an analyst for an economic development company, Roush was friends with Casey as an undergraduate and had experience as a musician in a pit orchestra during high school. 

“As someone with no directorial experience, I’m super excited to be part of a group that is letting me try something new,” says Roush. “We have cast members who have expressed interest in being part of different parts of our production, from hair and makeup design to set construction, so we are allowing people to have access to experiences that otherwise can be competitive to get, especially at community theaters in Southern California.”

“My education at Chapman helped me realize I can do multiple things to express my creativity and passion in my professional life,” said Cintron, who is a talent casting director for the Walt Disney Company. “On this project, I am able to perform in the show, while also acting as the casting director and spearheading marketing initiatives.”

“I learned so many musical skills at Chapman,” said Casey, who was a music technology minor and works as a content creator, where she applies her knowledge of physics to audio engineering and music production. Now she will play Cinderella as well as work on sound design for the show. 

King, who plays the Witch and is also the show’s choreographer, appreciates how her theater education at Chapman gave her a well-rounded skill set in all aspects of production. 

“I know about directing, lighting and all that goes into a show beyond bringing myself to a character,” said King, who works as a senior payroll specialist for a mortgage lender. “Accounting prepared me to switch gears very quickly between my right and left brain. And now I use that skill when thinking through the production side vs. choreography vs. acting.” 

When it came time to hire a music director for the production, the team turned once again to Chapman. A job posting made with the help of Connor Bogenreif ’15, career liaison in the College of Performing Arts, led them to Connor Low ’25, a music composition and performance major in his third year at Chapman.

“As I music direct with Pickwick, I am simultaneously taking conducting classes with Chapman University faculty, which has been an enormous help when leading the cast,” said Low. “This, along with my time working with Chapman Student Org Productions (CSOP) music directing large-form musicals, has given me the training, confidence and experience necessary to pull off a show like ‘Into the Woods.’” 

“Our goal is to provide community theater experience to people along all stages of their theater journey,” said Roush. “I love working with other Chapman alumni and students. I think that Chapman students are often very driven and optimistic, and this show has been a huge undertaking and learning experience.”

“Into the Woods” will run Jan. 12-21, 2024 at the Phantom Projects Theatre at La Habra Depot. All the ticket proceeds will benefit the Phantom Projects Theatre, which aims to bring accessible community theater experiences (including sensory-friendly performances) to children from diverse backgrounds. Tickets are available for purchase.

Staci Dumoski