About Performing Arts Abroad
Performing Arts Abroad (PAA) offers unique and fulfilling international performing arts programs to individuals and groups, enhancing understanding of our diverse world through the transformative arts of theater, music, dance, and film. Our organization sends students and professionals on trips for study abroad, internships, volunteering, and career workshops. PAA believes the experience of cross-cultural collaboration is invaluable for performing artists and is committed to providing international programming of the highest caliber to promote a more global perspective for our participants.
Founder and Executive Director
Reynolds graduated summa cum laude from Washington University in St. Louis in 2008 with a degree in Theater and African and African American Studies. For an honors thesis Reynolds filmed, edited, and produced a full-length documentary in Kenya with Haba na Haba, a group using performance for education and social change in the slums of Nairobi. This project earned him the Forum on Education Abroad Undergraduate Research Award. A year later, Reynolds organized a trip to bring Haba na Haba to the United States for a tour of St. Louis and Washington University. Immediately after graduation, Reynolds worked in Rwanda as a filmmaker for Millennium Congregations, an interfaith organization connecting communities of faith in the United States with development projects in Rwanda’s Bugesera District. Reynolds then served two years with Teach for America, teaching in the South Bronx and receiving a Masters Degree in Education from Hunter College. He completed a second graduate degree in African Studies from Indiana University in Bloomington, and his Masters thesis focused on the impact of donors on the creative process of Theatre for Development (TfD) groups in Kenya.
Reynolds has traveled extensively in Africa, spending time in Ghana, Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He also studied acting, voice, and movement at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. Reynolds is a two-time Rhodes Scholarship finalist, the inaugural recipient of the Dred and Harriet Scott Award for the Advancement of Human Rights, and the winner of two research fellowships. He was also a Dialogue Fellow for the Xenia Institute, has twice served as the co-director for the Roosevelt Institution’s International Diplomacy Center (Washington University branch), and was president of the Graduate Students of African Studies (GSAS) at Indiana University.
Reynolds lives in Northampton, MA with his wife Julia who is a professional costume designer and all around wonderful person. In his free time Reynolds likes to play his guitar, go hiking, act in local productions, hit the karaoke bars, sing with his dog Captain (the best doggy singer in the universe), and play various yard games such as KanJam, cornhole, "cups", and Kubb.
Ben is an actor and playwright from San Luis Obispo, California. He trained at the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts (PCPA) in Santa Maria, CA and graduated with honors from UC Berkeley with a BA in Theater and Performance Studies. Ben has performed professionally around the country in Shakespeare festivals, children’s theater, and regional repertory theaters. As a playwright, Ben’s play Prodigy received its world premiere at Brelby Theater in Phoenix, AZ. His award-winning one-man show, Questions of the Heart has been performed at Fringe Festivals in Indiana, Ohio, and New York, and all over the country in theaters, coffee shops, living rooms, schools, churches, and bars. He is the Artistic Director and a founding member of Inquisitive Productions.
Ben has lived two years in Argentina, and has traveled in Germany and the UK.
Christian has been a musician for most of his life. He began performing at a young age on the trumpet in his school's concert and jazz bands, as well as playing bass guitar in various bands throughout high school and college. Most recently, he has taken up the drums, collaborating with a longtime friend on different projects. His travels have taken him to almost all of the Caribbean, various countries in Europe, and Lyon, France where he lived for three months. His favorite city so far has been Budapest, Hungary, and his favorite experiences were scootering around the countryside in France, and exploring the neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince.
Caitlyn graduated Westfield State University in 2010 with a degree in Theatre and a concentration in Acting. She is currently pursuing her MFA from Bay Path University. As an actor Caitlyn has worked in Theatre, Film and TV professionally throughout Boston, NYC and DC. After an East Coast tour of Romeo and Juliet in 2013, she settled on the Eastern Shore of Maryland to work full time on her own children’s theatre company, specializing in learning life skills through improvisation, Shakespeare and dramatization.
In addition to her work as an actor, Caitlyn writes for several online blogs, including her own www.caitlynaconley.com. Focusing mainly on the millennial experience, she covers travel, arts and those random list-icles that us twenty something’s can’t look away from.
Caitlyn has travelled extensively throughout Europe, New Zealand and South America. She lives in Western MA with her rockstar boyfriend and their dog, Walter Jr.
Belize Site Director
Nancy has led a life of active participation in the Tourism and Hospitality and Film industries, and in conservation activism, being invited to sit on the board of diverse NGOs and conservations groups; Namely FCD (Friends for Conservation and Development), APAMO (Association of Protected Areas Management Organizations) and BAVIA (Belize Audio Visual Industry Association). She founded Miss Rainforest International to raise awareness of Belize special ecosystems and their treats, and to fund the cause of abandoned and abused children. From youth groups to quasi-governmental groups, her spirit and gusto for life in Belize grew to be well sought after. She has stood with Oceana activist Ted Danson and his wife Mary against offshore oil exploration in the pristine waters of Belize. She has been nominated for woman of the year award of the United States Embassy in Belize. She works with girls assisting them through the justice system to stop the scourge of human trafficking and violence against women and children. Wife and mother of two, Nancy has a degree in International Relations and Diplomacy.
Costa Rica Site Director
Cristina Soto, director of CRLA, (Costa Rican Language Academy) co-founded this language school, which combines Spanish instruction with Latin Dance classes and other cultural activities in order to provide students with a complete cultural immersion. Since 1986 she has been fulfilling her passion by working with more than 25,000 students from all over the world. She has also worked for many years as a volunteer in homes for abandoned children and other social projects. This work touched her own life when she adopted two children from a local home.
Cristina believes in the importance of volunteering, not only as a way to improve the lives of others who are less fortunate, but as a valuable and rewarding experience for the volunteer. During the past 15 years CRLA has also incorporated a volunteering program to provide support to more than 40 social and ecological projects throughout Costa Rica. While studying Social Sciences in the University of Costa Rica Cristina received training in classical ballet and modern dance. Although her career is now focused on education and volunteer programs, she is still passionate about the arts and sponsors various artists in dance, music and plastic arts.
Ecuador Site Director
Diana was born in Quito, the capital of Ecuador. Maybe this is why she loves so much the Andean landscapes and gets lost when there are not mountains around her! She is trilingual (Spanish, English and French) and has worked with people from all over the world for many years already. This has allowed her to see the world from a different perspective and be friends with people with different backgrounds, ideologies and cultures.
In high school, she studied five years at the Compañía Nacional de Danza. And, during her junior year of college (at the State of Indiana) she took a pottery class that made her fall completely in love with plastic arts and decided to get a minor in this area. After this time her life took a different path; she never lost the interest in ballet and although she doesn’t practice it anymore, she enjoys every piece she watches. And she is still involved in culture and art through a family business that runs an Ecuadorian magazine focused in these areas.
Diana has traveled extensively around Ecuador (a lot by foot and through the mountains since during her free time she practices trail running). She has also backpacked in Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Mexico and Venezuela and has run 50km ultratrails in Ecuador, Colombia and at the Argentinian Patagonia. She has also camped in some National Reserves in the US and Canada, and visited Spain, France, Italy, Belgium, Austria, among others, knowing she cannot die before diving at the Great Barrier Reef!
Diana is also an active volunteer of the United Nations World Tourism Organization and earned a Bachelor's degree in Tourism Development and Hospitality (and a minor in plastic arts) and a Master’s degree in Social and Environmental studies. Her other hobbies, besides trail running, include other sports such as mountain biking and swimming, and, although she does not claim to be good, she loves photography.
England Site Director
Anna holds a B.A. in English and German from Ca’Foscari University of Venice. The Italian village where she was born was never enough for her and from a young age she decided she wanted to see the world and meet a lot of people from different cultures. Fascinated by foreign languages and traveling she first studied abroad in London when she was in high school and then at Humboldt Universität in Berlin a few years after. New York City holds a special place in her heart, ever since she was an intern at the Italian Cultural Institute there. After volunteering and working for the not-for-profit association AFS Intercultural Program helping hundreds of high school students enroll and prepare for their experience abroad, she moved to London and focused on working with university students. She loves West End musicals, fashion, drinking green tea, spending time at the V&A museum, studying Korean and backpacking throughout Southeast Asia.
Galapagos Site Director
William was born on the island of San Cristobal in the Galapagos. He has worked with volunteers for more than 15 years with various organizations, such as the Galapagos National Park. Besides being PAA’s site director, he is also the town’s councilor for San Cristobal Municipality and has spent many years improving the local education system through government and community programs. William enjoys swimming and hiking in his spare time.
Ghana Site Director
Bernard Woma has shared the stage with artists such as Maya Angelou, Yo Yo Ma, and Glen Velez. He has performed for international dignitaries and presidents such as U. S. former president Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela and Queen Elizabeth II. He was recently honored as the cultural resource person for President Barack Obama's family when they visited Ghana. He is a true cultural treasure from Ghana who has toured the world as xylophonist and lead drummer of the National Dance Company of Ghana. Bernard is an extremely dynamic artist and deeply experienced educator. His recent appearances in the US include a performance with New York Philharmonic at the Avery Fisher, Lincoln Center, South Dakota Symphony Orchestra and Minnesota Orchestra, residency with the Ethos Percussion group, performances and teaching at New York's AXF: African Xylophone Festival, and various universities and colleges. The performance of his composition "Gyil Nyog Me Na" in the spring of 2006 at Zankel Hall in Carnegie Hall is a testimony of his musicianship. Bernard is the Artistic Director of Saakumu Dance Troupe and the founder and director of the Dagara Music and Arts Center in Accra, Ghana.
Ireland Site Director (Blas)
Pamela Cotter is a dancer, choreographer, and teacher from Montreal, Quebec, Canada. In 2006, she moved to Ireland to pursue the BA in Irish Music and Dance at the University of Limerick, from which she graduated with First Class honours (2010). She went on to complete the MA in Ethnomusicology at the University College Cork (2011) with honours, where her thesis took the form of a comparative analysis of the leading organisations in traditional Irish music and dance, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann and An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha. Before moving abroad, Pamela also completed a Diploma in Honours Social Science with a double major in Child Studies and Women Studies from Vanier College, Montreal, Quebec.
Pamela began dancing at the age of ten, focusing on Tap, Irish, and Ballroom. Since moving to Ireland, she has had the pleasure of dancing with several shows around Europe and the UK, including performances at the Munich Philharmonic and the Festival Interceltique de Lorient. Most notably, Pamela was commissioned in 2010 to choreograph a new Irish music and dance show, Scéala, later performed in Torino, Italy.
Pamela is a qualified Irish dancing teacher (T.C.R.G.) with An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha and is currently lecturing on both undergraduate programmes at the Irish World Academy, the BA in Irish Music and Dance, as well as the BA in Voice and Dance. She is also working on a research PhD that examines the communal participatory events which take place during Irish traditional music festivals.
Italy Site Director (Florence)
Cristiana graduated from the Università degli Studi di Firenze in 2008 with a Masters degree in Foreign Languages: English and Japanese. Her passion for international education and study abroad started at a young age with several summer study abroad experiences in the UK. At the end of her first year of university she decided to spend the three-month break in Boston, MA where she was able to enhance her understanding of the US culture and further improve her English. The following year she spent a semester in Paris, France, taking courses at the “Denis Diderot-Paris VII” through the ERASMUS project.
Cristiana began working at Florence University of the Arts in 2007. Having gained experience in various departments of the university, Cristiana has been the Dean of Student Affairs since 2010. At the same time she also coordinates the various internship and experiential learning project opportunities at the school. A local Florentine, Cristiana has a wealth of knowledge to share with students about her hometown. She loves nothing more than spending her free time in the traditional artisan quarters of the city and encourages students to explore the lesser-known areas of Florence.
Italy Site Director (Rome)
Romina is a native Roman, and graduated in 2005 with a degree in International Communications at the University for Foreigners of Perugia. In 2007 Romina graduated with an MA in in International Affairs at the SIOI school in Rome, and International Relations at the same University of Perugia. After finishing the MA she undertook an internship at the Italian Development Cooperation Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Rome. In 2008, Romina was offered a position to work as a Communication and Public Information Officer within the civilian component of the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Herat for the NATO mission in Afghanistan. Between 2008 and 2009 she accomplished two missions in Afghanistan.
In 2009 she started working for the Italian Development Cooperation Office at the Italian Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon where she worked as a Communication and Public Information Officer and led joint projects with Italian troops within the United Nations mission in Southern Lebanon. In the summer of 2010 Romina went to work in Yemen, where she held the same office with the Italian Development Cooperation Department of Sana’s. In the spring of 2011, due to the serious and uncertain situation in Yemen, all the Italian Embassy staff was ordered to leave the country for security reasons. Because of the consequences of the Arab Spring in all Middle East, the Arabian Peninsula, and in Northern Africa, Romina has decided to work in Rome and enjoy with her friends and family the beauty of the Eternal City.
In addition to directing all business functions of PAA’s Rome operations, Romina coordinates and oversees most program activities. She is primarily concerned with participants' enjoyment, growth, and satisfaction with their time in Rome. During her free time Romina loves going to live concerts and music festivals. She loves music, especially blues, rock, jazz and electronic. Her favorite bands and songwriters are: Depeche Mode, Sigur Ros, the Chemical Brothers, Ben Harper, Leonard Cohen, Fleet Foxes, Pearl Jam, REM, Elliot Smith, and Bud Spencer Blues Explosion.
Kenya Site Director
George is the Director of VOCAL, a group using the performing arts for education and development in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. He has also served as the Deputy Director of Culture, PR, and Marketing for Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA), an organization with over 17,000 members in dozens of slum areas in Nairobi. George is a graduate and International Fellow of the DeVos Institue for Performing Arts Management at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington D.C. He also holds a certificate in jazz and Norwegian folk music, dance, and Norwegian culture and language from Sund Folkhogskole School in Norway.
George is a prolific musician and artist. He has traveled and performed in many countries, including the United States, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Canada, Senegal, Switzerland, South Africa, Tanzania, and the Czech Republic. George also starred as the protagonist in Peace Wanted Alive, a 2008 documentary on post election violence in Kenya that won second prize for best documentary in a prestigious African Movies Awards in Nigeria. Most recently, George developed the music for Generation Firimbi, a Kenyan musical on corruption.
George has also represented Kenya in many development initiatives. He was a consultant for UN-Habitat on “Image-In the MDGs”, a project aimed at empowering youth through photography. This venture has developed into a program called Shootback that now uses digital media of all kinds to promote Nairobi’s slums, and employs many young people to better their community. He has led delegations to Geneva for an anti-child labor summit, Vancouver for a UN-Habitat World Urban Forum, and Dakar for the African Cultural Diversity Conference, among many others.
In addition to his native tongue of Kikuyu, George speaks English, Swahili, Norwegian, and Luo.
New Zealand Site Director
Alexandra Hill (Alex) was born in Perth, Western Australia and spent the first two years of her life in Lae, Papua New Guinea before returning to Australia. Although born in Australia, she considers herself more of a Kiwi, as she has lived in New Zealand for most of her life and now resides in Wellington.
Alex has worked in international education for twelve years, nine working directly with US study abroad students. She feels privileged to have supported students from Africa, South East Asia, Central and South America and the Pacific as well. At the beginning of 2014, Alex commenced a Masters in International Development at Victoria University of Wellington and is particularly interested in scholarship programmes and the role international education plays in development.
In 2011, Alex and her family moved to Singapore where they lived for two years. Living and working cross-culturally furthered her understanding of the challenges that international students face when studying abroad. Although demanding at times, living and travelling in Asia, sampling amazing food and making friends with people from all over the world was a fantastic experience, which like studying abroad, has had a marked impact on Alex, her husband and children’s lives.
Travel is one of Alex’s favourite activities, but even when she is not travelling she furthers her knowledge of other cultures through reading, meeting international students, listening to current affairs, volunteering, and through cooking international dishes. Having two boys keeps her active and as a family they enjoy wharf jumping, swimming, day walks and exploring the outdoors.
Alex looks forward to welcoming Performing Arts Abroad students intending to study in New Zealand and will be on hand to provide support during the semester, as well as hosting a range of excursions that will give students a real taste of New Zealand’s unique culture and landscape.
Ester Yao Costim
Philippines Site Director
Ester Yao Costim holds a Bachelors Degree in Biology from the University of the Philippines. Previously, Ester conducted research on the aquatic flora and fauna of local Philippine lakes and coordinated with local government agencies to help a local volunteer project expand its environmental programs. Ester loves photography and hiking, and prior to her current position she was an administrative staff at a local university. Today Ester is responsible for helping to look after as many as 200 annual volunteers, as well as assisting in researching new projects and placements in need of both international and local volunteers. Ester’s down-to-earth yet professional and friendly nature makes her well-liked by fellow staff and volunteers, and helps her successfully coordinate programs for Performing Arts Abroad.
South Africa Site Director (White River)
Paul Bruce-Brand joined Michael Matthews to found the Music Development Academy where PAA volunteers and interns work to spread the joy of music and dance to the population of White River, South Africa. As a member of the Board, Paul is responsible for Sponsorship, Band Liaison, Organization of the Route 40 Music Festival and relationships with overseas institutions such as Carnegie Hall and The Rock School Scholarship Fund.
Whilst the Academy is Paul’s passion, he is also involved in the Tourism Industry and manages two hotels. He has previously also owned successful businesses: a Gas Station, Convenience Store, Nando’s chicken franchise, and a travel business.
Prior to buying his own businesses, he completed an honors degree in Social Sciences at the University of Natal, and spent a year in northern California and worked at Sugarbowl Ski Resort. He was also a Human Resources Manager for Sun International (Hotel Chain) and was with Anglo America before that.
He then left the Corporate World and embarked on his own businesses.
His involvement in the Music and Dance Academy and his family are Paul’s real love.
In addition to running the Academy Paul is also a qualified Trauma Counsellor and has successfully assisted a number of children in Mpumalanga. PauI is 46 years of age, married with three children.
South Africa Site Director (Cape Town)
Chris Groenewald is a 35 year old film and TV producer. He comes from very humble beginnings where he had no money to study for big degrees, but was always driven to do great things in life. Chris started his career in photography for the fashion industry and modeling portfolios, and developed an interest in design. After experimenting with Corel Draw, he landed a job with a big printing company and soon became head designer. On one project, he needed to create a DVD and no one was available to do it for him, so Chris got his own video editing software and completed the project himself. This reignited a passion for video, film, and editing that started in the church and since then has led him to the main path of his career. Chris began starting businesses that led him to co-own a South African Guesthouse TV Channel that was created to play in all rooms within a guesthouse, and garnered support and interest from local restaurants wanting to promote themselves through Chris’s channel. Since that original channel, Chris has climbed the industry ladder, networking with celebrities such as Tracy McGregor and more, and now considers himself among the other big players in the industry.
Part of Chris’s motto today is to get youngsters to look past their circumstances and use their talents to overcome adversity, much like he did as a young person. Chris has great passion to give opportunity to young aspiring people because he knows how hard life can be chasing your dreams. Since 2008, Chris has created corporate productions for local government companies, TV commercials for Ghost Armour in Africa, as well as developed the design for a big Camo Clothing range in Africa also designing their new Camo Ranger Series for Trophy Camo. His current big project is working on a TV series concept for Alcatel OneTouch mobile phones.
Spain Site Director
Rich Kurtzman has been living in and loving Barcelona since 2002. Originally from Chicago, Rich took his passion for Spanish language, study abroad and all things Spain to Barcelona to work with students and hasn´t look back since.
Rich studied abroad twice in college - in St. Petersburg, Russia and Madrid, Spain - and participated in an internship in a study abroad office in Milan, and has a variety of experience working in international education from advising students in the U.S. to teaching Spanish Culture and Intercultural Communication courses, to Director. While he does not have much Performing Arts experience (unless you consider playing the Rabbi in his high school production of Fiddler on the Roof, or a couple years in show choir), Rich has a huge admiration for the Arts and loves working with the students in Barcelona whether they are on stage, behind the scenes, singing, dancing or similar.
He looks forward to working with all the future Performing Arts Abroad students who plan to come to Barcelona and following in the footsteps of other Barcelona alumni who have been able to do solo performances, and worked to make productions big and small come to life.
France Site Director
Drasko was born in Belgrade, Serbia, and graduated from the University of Belgrade - Faculty of Law, where he also obtained a master's degree in constitutional law. He worked as an associate in a law firm in Belgrade and was hired by the Official Journal to analyze the jurisprudence of the Serbian highest courts. However, he decided to leave his comfort zone, and come to France, where he obtained a second master's degree in comparative law at Sorbonne University. He fell in love with Paris or more preciously with one beautiful inhabitant of this amazing city and he is currently a Ph.D. student at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences. Drasko was a participant of numerous seminars, conferences and summer schools in Serbia, France and worldwide. He is a national rowing umpire in Serbia and in France and he raced several half marathons. He accomplished skydiving course and has an international diver certificate. Drasko is a self-proclaimed expert in finding the best low-cost train and airplane tickets.
From Drasko: “Money can't buy happiness, but for a few bucks you can buy a low-cost ticket, so explore, dream and discover. That is the best possible receipt for happiness.”
What Drasko loves about Paris: “From the beautiful architecture to the endless choice of the exhibitions, plays and operas, Paris offers you a unique experience that will build your memories for a lifetime. Often romanticized as a capital of luxury and prestige, Paris is an incredible mixture of a real big city and a fairy tale.”