Jason Liles (09) attended FHU for just one year. However, he describes that year as the inspiration for his professional career. While a student here, Jason appeared in Macbeth (Macduff) and Terra Nova (Admunsen). Jason now lives in LA, specializing in “creature acting.” Although his face is hidden by extensive prosthetics, Jason appeared in the Will Smith/Tommy Lee Jones comedy, “Men in Black III,” and in the 2017 release of the “Halo Wars 2” national commercial. His most recent roles include the death god Ryuk in Netflix’ live-action adaption of “Death Note,” George, the giant silverback gorilla in the action movie “Rampage” with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (2018), and the 2019 summer blockbuster “Godzilla: King of Monsters.”
Alaina Smith (15) graduated with a B.A. in theatre performance and was immediately offered two jobs. She spend the summer working as a scenic charge artist for Stages St. Louis, and then moved to California to become a member of the Sacramento Theatre Company. Since then, Alaina has performed on the west coast and back home in Nashville, TN. Currently, Alaina is completing masters work at Mary Baldwin University in the Shakespeare and Performance Program. Recently she toured with the National Theatre for Children. While at FHU, Alaina appeared in numerous plays and musicals, including the mid-south premiere of the musical Life on the Mississippi. She was featured in FHU’s production of The Doll House and in The Secret Garden. Alaina is a “triple threat:” an excellent actress, scenic painter, and photographer, and pursues business interests in all three areas.
Becky Hartle (13) serves in the Chester County School System as the elementary fine arts teacher. She teaches music, art, and theatre to over 900 students in kindergarten through third grade. She also works with local middle school and junior high school students, directing one or two productions each year. In 2023, Becky received the Modern Woodmen of America’s “Hometown Hero” award and in 2018, she received the “K-5 Teacher of the Year Award” in the Chester County School system. In 2016, Becky launched the Chester County Youth Theater, which serves hundreds of children each year. “FHU Theatre has instilled the knowledge, passion, and possibilities that theatre has brought to me. The experiences I had with the Theatre program at FHU gave me the leadership skills and content knowledge I needed to teach what I love.” Her favorite roles at FHU include Beth in Little Women, and Madeline Livingston in The Women of Lockerbie. Becky directed Roger and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, the first musical to be produced in the Black Box Theatre.
Abigail Lambert (16) graduated with a B.A. in Theatre Performance. She currently works for the Sacramento Theatre Company (STC) as their Young Professionals Conservatory Coordinator. Favorite roles at FHU include Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, Mary Lennox in the musical The Secret Garden, Grace Fryer in Radium Girls, and her solo performance in The Amish Project. Abby also serves as a music director, teaching artist, and accompanist at STC. Music director credits include: Life on the Mississippi, (FHU) Annie (Jackson, TN), ” Shrek, (STC) and Kiss Me Kate (STC). Abby also enjoys teaching children of all ages and has worked as a teaching artist in both Charlotte, NC and Sacramento. “FHU Theatre’s well-rounded training and opportunities gave me the experience and knowledge necessary to work in various aspects of professional theatre. Cooperating with the music department, FHU theatre encouraged me to develop my talents in all areas of theatre, not just performance, resulting in a set of marketable skills that will keep me working continuously. I am eternally grateful for the superb education the FHU Theatre Department provided, both mentally and spiritually.”
Tiffany Christensen Jones (07) completed her BA degrees in theatre performance and music. Her passion for ministry led her to Redding, CA shortly after graduation where she interned with the Arts Director at Bethel School of Ministry and subsequently produced and directed the school’s first full-length production in 2010. For several years, Tiffany worked in faith-based theatre education. More recently, Tiffany worked with the team creating the 2019 film “Unplanned.” “Being at FHU helped expand my vision for what the arts and ministry could do together,” she says. Currently, she lives in Fort Worth with her family and serves as the Head of Development for Believe Entertainment. Favorite roles at FHU include Miracle Worker (Annie Sullivan), The Winter’s Tale (Paulina), and Enchanted April (production director).
Will Slayden (01) has worked in a variety of venues. He started his professional career here at Freed-Hardeman as a Technical Director and Scenic Designer. Since then his designs have been seen at Wayside theatre in Winchester Virginia, Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, and at Century College in White Bear Lake Minnesota. He spent a couple of summers teaching and building for Trollwood Performing Arts School in Fargo North Dakota. Recently, Will confessed that “if it wasn’t for Freed-Hardeman and it’s dedication to individual attention both in the classroom and in practical application of my studies on the stage I would not have been nearly as confident about the skills and knowledge that I possess.” His work has also appeared in a number of smaller community theatre venues around the Twin Cities area. He currently is designing and teaching at Century College while holding outside contracts with a local community theatre as their Scenic Designer and Technical Director.
Starla Steward (05) was an active part of the program completing a B.A. in Theatre (performance) and a minor in communications. Starla performed regularly for adult audiences and for children with the Freed-Hardeman Pied Pipers. After graduation, Starla worked as a nanny in New York City, then with the Jackson Sun as a graphic artist before opening Starla Stewart Photography. “It is amazing how much theatre plays a role in my photography,” says Starla. “I value all of my experiences with the FHU theatre program. Even though the program is not very large, it allows for one-on-one coaching and the opportunity to have a lot of stage time. I was able to play a wide spectrum of characters from a young girl in Our Town, to a middle aged woman in All My Sons to a storybook narrator in Into The Woods. I use my theatre knowledge while staging my photoshoots. I’m grateful for what I gained from FHU theatre.”
Kell Christie (92) served as Theatre Memphis’ Artistic Director, having previously served that organization as Director of Education and Outreach. An adjunct faculty member at the University of Memphis, Kell holds an M.F.A. in directing and an M.Ed in curriculum and instruction after receiving a BA in English from FHU. An actress and director, she has been seen in such plays as A Little Night Music, Hamlet, and Once on this Island, for which she won the Memphis theatre community’s coveted Ostrander Award. Directing credits include Our Town, Romeo and Juliet, Godspell, Fiddler on the Roof, The Wizard of Oz, and Tintypes(Ostrander award for Best Ensemble). Kell Christie is the daughter of FHU’s late Professor of Theatre, Dr. Hank McDaniel and Joy McDaniel. “The FHU theatre experience allowed me to explore a wide variety of roles, both onstage and offstage. My first directing experience was at FHU, as was my first playwriting experience.”