Board of Directors
Meribeth is an arts manager with over 31 years' arts marketing, development and managing experience. In June of 2018, she became the managing director of the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts where she works with an incredible three-person management team and stellar staff.
Previously, she was Executive/Artistic Director of Desert Foothills Theater. During her 12-year tenure at DFT she started Desert Foothills Youth Theater, developed DFT's education program, expanded the number and quality of performances each year from two to more than 12 and led the theater to the start of a capital campaign to develop its new space.
Before that she worked as marketing director for the Pittsburgh Dance Council and Pittsburgh Dance Alloy, provided private consulting in nonprofit marketing and fundraising, taught arts management courses at Point Park College, taught performing arts/theater at Foothills Academy Elementary Prep, directed and stage managed productions for Thoreau, NM, a Production Company, Oberlin College, the Physical Theatre Group, the Nathan Group and many more.
She is a member of Class VIII of the ASU Lodestar American Express Leadership Academy and a proud 2018 OnMedia Arts Hero. She is also a working theater director and stage manager working with several theaters throughout the valley including Desert Foothills Theater, Fountain Hills Theater, Desert Stages Theater, Starlight Community Theater. Pinnacle Creative Arts and more.
RICHARD POWERS HARDT
Richard has a BA in Theatre Arts from Northern Arizona University and has been acting, designing, writing and directing theatre in Arizona for over 35 years. Before moving back to Phoenix, Richard directed the comedy improvisational group, “Local Motion” in Flagstaff.
Richard is a director and designer. Recent credits include directing the Arizona premieres of “Maple and Vine”, “Rapture, Blister, Burn” and “Grand Concourse” for Theatre Artists Studio, and “All Through the Night” for Theater Works. Other favorites through the years include the Actor’s Equity Project, “Extremities” at the old Planet Earth Theater, “King Lear” and “Much Ado About Nothing” for The Shakespeare Theatre, “The Importance of Being Earnest” for Mesa Little Theatre, “ Dark of the Moon”, “Beyond Therapy” and “Almost Maine” for Theater Works and “Speed the Plow” for Theatre Artists Studio.
As a writer, he has had several produced plays including an adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” which ran for three winters at Theater Works. Some of his favorite acting roles include Charlie Fox in David Mamet’s, “Speed the Plow”, “Toby Belch” in Shakespeare’s, “Twelfth Night” and King Sextimus in the musical, “Once Upon a Mattress”.
Richard was a co-founder of The Shakespeare Theatre and Off-Center Productions. He has worked with numerous theatres around the valley and has received ariZoni nominations for both directing and design, as well as a win for his set design for “Dark of the Moon”. He is currently a member of the Board of Directors at Theater Works and is their Artistic Committee chair and is an Artistic Member of Theater Artists Studio.
Robyn McFarland holds a BFA in Theatre Education from Arizona State University and a MEd in Secondary Education from Northern Arizona University. She spent several years on the executive board of Tempe Little Theatre and stage managed many productions with the troupe, including “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Kiss Me Kate,” “Barefoot in the Park,” and “Godspell.”
Currently a junior high school computer technology teacher, Robyn has previously taught theatre and directed student productions of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” “The Music Man,” “Into the Woods,” and “Fame.” She brings her passion for the theatre into the classroom wherever possible.
Robyn lives in Mesa with her husband Brian and their son Charlie.
In 2013, after working for 25 years in New York City, Gil Benbrook moved to Phoenix where he now serves as the Phoenix Theatre Critic for the national theatre website TalkinBroadway.com – reviewing over 100 shows a year. He also created and operates the PHXStages.com website, which covers all theatre in the Phoenix metropolitan area.
In New York, Gil worked for Viacom where he served in numerous financial roles, including the Senior Vice President of Financial Planning & Analysis. But his first job within the Viacom family was as the first production accountant at MTV Networks, working on various MTV and Nickelodeon TV shows. He also served as the Business Manager for the $25 million dollar Broadway premiere production of Alan Menken’s A Christmas Carol musical and also was the production accountant for the Beavis and Butthead Do America feature film. Prior to his stint at Viacom, Gil worked for Rankin & Bass Animation, overseeing the production finances for the “ThunderCats” TV show.
Gil received his BS from the Indiana University School of Business with an emphasis on marketing and a film studies concentration.
Gil is happy to serve as a member on the Board for the ariZoni Theatre Awards of Excellence and is proud to support and promote the vast talent the theatre community in the Valley has to offer.
BJ Garrett is a producer, actor, and director with over 20 years of performing arts experience in the Valley. Since January 2020, he has served as the Artistic Director of Space 55 Theatre, where he had previously spent 4 years (2013 – 2017) as a member of the company’s Artistic Ensemble.
Favorite prior directing credits include A Bloody Mary Christmas, Fennec the Fox, and Edward Albee’s The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?. Memorable acting credits include Wit (Posner), Uncle Vanya (Astrov), The Norwegians (Tor), Mr. Burns, a post-electric play (Matt/Burns), God of Carnage (Michael), Curiouser & Curiouser (Tweedle Dum), and a recurring role as Jay Travers in Space 55’s Night of the Chicken series, for which he has received 3 ariZoni nominations.
BJ is also a partner with award-winning local film collective Synthetic Human Pictures. Established in 2006, Synthetic Human is a collective of creative professionals whose mission is to create films that contribute to a greater understanding of what it is to be human. Synthetic Human’s short films have received millions of views on YouTube, as well as awards for directing, editing, cinematography, and acting at festivals across the country.
BJ currently lives in North Phoenix with his girlfriend and 3 cats. He enjoys pool and board games, and devotes a possibly concerning amount of time to watching professional wrestling.
Kandyce Hughes is an award winning actor, director, designer, choreographer, and voice talent for theatre, film, and commercials. Kandyce has been active as an ariZoni Board member for over 12 years and she is proud to be one of the original authors of the “ariZoni Rubrics,” the only existing set of theatrical rubrics used by an awards organization in the country.
She has directed and choreographed many award winning plays, musicals, films and commercials. Her choreography was featured in, Canvas Falcons, an original musical performed at the Orpheum Theatre, which won first place as a feature length musical at the New York and Los Angeles Independent Film Festivals. As a former dance teacher for ASU and Rio Salado Community College, she was awarded “Teacher of the Year.” She was also instrumental in creating a pilot program of drama and dance for the housing projects of Phoenix and Guadalupe. She believes in the importance of every element of theatre and has assisted with costumes for the regional tour of The Full Monty, Cats, and 42nd Second Street.
As an actor, some of Kandyce’s roles include: Gabrielle, The Dinner Party, Lee, Tale of the Allergist’s Wife, M’Lynn, Steel Magnolias, Elie, Father of the Bride (Tribune Spotlight Award), but her favorite role is always the role she is currently playing.
Ilana Lydia is a playwright and director, with many shows’ experience acting and designing sound, as well. She has published two novels on Amazon and has taught theater at the university level. She founded The Play Writes in 2018, an organization which supports playwrights and screenwriters during their entire artistic process, from pitch to submission. In addition, she teaches a free Creativity Class through B3 Theater to teens and adults.
Upon her return to Phoenix from her Masters program at Utah State University, Lydia started Theater In My Basement, S/W Annex with a friend, developing many new plays as a director. She worked on the musical Where the Wild Things Are for Vagabond Youth Theatre. After a hiatus she returned on the scene with her 2014 revival of her children’s play Rumplestiltskin’s Fire at Brelby Theatre.
Since then, she has directed the feminist piece The Waiting Room for Mesa Encore Theatre where she took Director of the Year for a Black Box Production. She became Associate Artistic Director for B3, then Bare Black Box Productions, in May 2017, before moving on to become the Artistic Director in September. Lydia was the 2017 recipient of the New England Theatre Conference's Aurand Harris Memorial Playwriting Award for her children’s play The Mulligrubs. Working alongside coach John Perovich, she studied writing, as well as working with Brelby’s Write Club and Space 55’s Writer’s Club. In 2019 Lydia won Laughing Pig’s ShakesSmash Festival with her work The Role of the Actor. She has kept busy directing and producing as well as writing, bringing Droppin’ Johns, my love | my lumberjack, True Believer and The Last Castrato, A Woman on Stage, B3’s Festival of Shorts, Polyphemus, The Time Machine, be my little baby, B3’s Second Festival of Shorts, The Play of Endings, Matt & Ben, An Appeal from One of the Scummettes, The PreCog, Empty Words: An Adaptation of Crime & Punishment, Rosemary’s Baby Goes to High School, the Published Play Project, the UNPublished Play Project, Frankenstein: Prometheus Bound, The Third Festival of Shorts, Fefu and Her Friends, Herlandia, and Sincerity Forever to the stage. In addition to heading up B3 Theater, Lydia was also Associate Artistic Director for Aside Theatre until the pandemic.
William Symington earned a B.A. in Creative and Performing Arts from Grand View College in Des Moines, Iowa. William received his M.F.A. in Theatre from Arizona State University after completing an internship at The Goodman Theatre in Chicago. His areas of concentration are Technical Direction and Scenic Design. Professionally, William served as the Technical Director at Arizona State University's Lyric Opera Theatre in the School of Music for 9 years, and then became the Scenic Designer/Production Manager for the next 5 years before coming to Grand Canyon. During that time, William acted as the Scenic Designer, Technical Director, and Scenic Artist for several companies throughout the Valley including Phoenix Theatre, The Cookie Company, Actor's Theatre of Phoenix, Paradise Valley Community College, Valley Youth Theatre, Shakespeare Sedona, Southwest Shakespeare, Central Arizona Community College, and Intel Corp.
While at Arizona State University, Professor Symington acted as Production Manager, Technical Director, Scenic Designer, P.R. and Outreach Coordinator for Lyric Opera while serving on the Fine Arts Staff Counsel. Professor Symington has had the great fortune to work in nearly all of the areas of entertainment production arts and has thus learned a great deal from his students over the years. In his spare time, William and his family volunteer at his daughter's school in the student garden. As a family, we enjoy many of the arts including crafting, painting, theatre, dance, music, and film.