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SUNNY IN THE DARK Headshots & Bios

Sunny in the Dark by Elaine Jarvik Sunny in the Dark by Elaine Jarvik
April 22, 2024

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Cast and Creative Team for Sunny in the Dark
From top Left: Jennica Anusua; Dan Beecher; Matthew Ivan Bennett; Alvaro Cortez; Brenda Hattingh Peatross; Ainslie Shepherd; Ben Young; Elaine Jarvik, Morag Shepherd


ELAINE JARVIK: (PLAYWRIGHT) most recent play at the Salt Lake Acting Company was Four Women Talking About the Man Under the Sheet in 2021. Previous plays at SLAC include Two Stories (2015) and (a man enters) (2011, co-written with her daughter Kate Jarvik Birch). Other plays include productions at Plan-B Theatre — An Evening With Two Awful Men, Based on a True Story, and Marry Christmas, as well as the children’s play River. Swamp. Cave. Mountain. — and The Coming Ice Age for Pygmalion Productions. She is a former newspaper reporter and current drummer with “The Distractions.”

MORAG SHEPHERD: (DIRECTOR) is one of the producers of Sackerson Theatre and the artistic director of Immigrant’s Daughter Theatre. She is a member of the Plan-B writers lab, where her play My Brother the Vampire, and Not One Drop (David Ross Fetzer grant recipient) has performed. Her play Worship recently performed with the Utah Arts Alliance (The Utah Review top moment of 2023); her play Do You Want to See Me Naked (Critics Choice Award, and Best Solo Performance) has performed in Salt Lake City, Tucson, and The United Solo Festival in New York City. Her site-specific play, Cherry Wine in Paper Cups performed outside the Salt Lake City library summer 2020, and her immersive play, A Brief Waltz in a Little Room performed throughout 2019 in Salt Lake City (The Utah Review top ten moments of 2019). Recent directing credits include Last Lies of My Mad Mother by Julie Jensen, The Beauty Queen of Leenane by Martin McDonagh, Melancholy Play by Sarah Ruhl, Body Awareness by Annie Baker, and Let the Right One In by Jack Thorne. 

JENNICA ANUSUA: (AJ) is an actress, musician, writer and director with a Masters in global mental health and a passion for supporting those who have survived complex trauma and violence. She loves the notion of the journey - from travel and cultural immersion to examination of the internal emotional landscape. Jennica is deeply passionate about the way we as humans connect, and believes that storytelling is both integral to who we are and has immense power to heal and build community. She is thrilled to return to the SLAC stage for this project and work alongside other brilliant artists. Recent credits include Yoga Play (SLAC), Night of Wrath, Mystic Mishap the Series, Falling for Christmas (Netflix) and Royal Façade.

DAN BEECHER: (TOM) has been acting in Salt Lake for well over 30 years. He attended the University of Utah’s Actor Training Program, and has since acted with most companies in the valley. SLAC audiences last saw him in Hand to God.

MATTHEW IVAN BENNETT: (ASTROPHYSICIST) has worked with SLAC, Pioneer, Pygmalion, Sackerson, Wasatch, Utah Shakespeare, and Plan-B Theatre. Since 2005, he’s premiered over 20 plays with Plan-B, including 13 radio plays with KUER’s RadioWest. Last year, his play From June to August was the Official Selection at Meanwhile Park. His one-person play Eric(a) won the Best Drama award at the United Solo Festival in New York. Twice he’s contributed to Great Plains Theatre Commons and was a finalist at the O’Neill for Let Down Your Hair (also workshopped at SLAC). He’s worked with Omaha Community Playhouse, The Constructivists in Milwaukee, and his short plays have appeared in Seattle, Toronto, NYC, and DC. His poetry has been published with Sugar House Review, Western Humanities, Utah Life, and unearthed. His feature film The Whole Lot (dir. by Connor Rickman) was an Official Selection at the Philadelphia Independent Film Festival in 2022 and at several others. Matt is a recent alum of Futurescapes and is a member of the Dramatists’ Guild. His next projects are: Mother of the Maid at Pygmalion; In Your Dreams at Sackerson; and, an absurdist comedy of his, Non, will play at the Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival this summer.

ALVARO CORTEZ: (MAN/DAD/PRIEST) is a local actor both in film and theatre based in Salt Lake City. A 2020 pandemic graduate from Westminster College in the B.F.A program. Alvaro started in his actor training since his Junior year at Hillcrest High in Midvale, Utah. Where he was first able to learn and work on his craft with dedicated faculty. Most recent work was in the Alliance Theater in the The Fringe Festival/The Classical Greek Theater Festival in The Bacchae (Dionysus) And a one man show of The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey. Other show credits have been Romeo and Juliet (Tybalt) & Much Ado About Nothing (Don Pedro), as well as The Memory of Water (Mike), The Zoo Story (Peter), and The Christians (Elder Jay) at Westminster College.

BRENDA HATTINGH PEATROSS: (ELISE) is excited to be a part of today’s reading and to be working with this group of local theatre collaborators in particular, many of whom she has had the pleasure of working with before. Eight years ago she acted with Daniel Beecher (playing Tom) in Stage Kiss, her first SLC production. Most recently she appeared as June in From June To August by Matthew Ivan Bennett who will be appearing as the brilliantly quirky astrophysicist in today’s reading. Brenda also appeared as Phyllis in Body Awareness at Pygmalion Productions, directed by today’s multi talented director/playwright/producer Morag Shepherd. Brenda acted in the multi-media play A Brief Waltz featuring playwrights Matthew Ivan Bennett and Morag Shepherd and in Shepherd’s play Poppy’s In The Sand. A year ago Brenda had the pleasure of doing a staged reading opposite the talented Ben Young in another play written by Matthew Ivan Bennett. Brenda is always excited to work with playwright Elaine Jarvik, whom she has done some readings with as well as understudying a part in one of Jarvik’s plays performed here at SLAC. Collaboration has always been at the heart of what Brenda enjoys about acting and today’s reading is no exception. How lovely to be able to work with all these talented people again! 

AINSLIE SHEPHERD: (SUNNY) is in 8th grade and enjoys painting, drawing, soccer, and crocheting. She recently played Chloe in Worship with Immigrant’s Daughter Theatre, and she also appeared in Sackerson’s production of A Brief Waltz in a Little Room. Ainslie is very thrilled to be Sunny in Sunny in the Dark

BEN YOUNG: (READER) is a graduate of the University of Utah’s Actor Training Program. Previous credits include Climbing With Tigers (Algernon) and You Will Get Sick (1) with Salt Lake Acting Company; Gruesome Playground Injuries (Doug) with Wasatch Theatre Company; Big Love (Constantine), Our Country’s Good (Phillip/Wisehammer), The Odyssey (Odysseus) with the University of Utah’s Theatre Department; My Brother Was a Vampire (Callum), River. Swamp. Cave. Mountain. (JJ), Alli and #3 (#3) with Plan-B Theatre Company.