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.

  • Reynolds Whalen

    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.

  • Christian Shiveley

    Program Coordinator

    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.

  • Joe Dulude II

    Program Advisor

    Joe Dulude II is probably best known for his makeup designs for the Tony Award-- winning hit musical Wicked. He has won both an Etsy Design Award and Local 706 Makeup and Hair Guild Award for this work. Since Wicked, Joe has moved on to do such productions on Broadway, Off-Broadway and the West End as Sunday in the Park with George, Spongebob the Musical, Holiday Inn, Anastasia, Allegiance, Dr. Zhivago, On the Town, If/Then, Beautiful, The Wedding Singer, Grease!, Follies, Jekyll & Hyde and many more.

    He is a teacher of theatrical makeup at Pace University, Muhlenberg College and the Hartt School. He was the recipient of the 2017 Baker Grant for Artist in Residence at Muhlenberg. He teaches and presents worldwide for The Powder Group, Kryolan, The Makeup Show, as well as teaching his unique and creative classes in Sao Paulo, London and throughout the US. He has most recently added makeup for film to his resume on such productions as Detroit, The Discovery, Ghostbusters, Manchester by the Sea and Central Intelligence.

    Joe has also been working for the last 6 years as a Program Director for Camp Highlight, a camp for children that have LGBTQ parents. In his spare time, Joe is also a fine artist, photographer, playwright, actor and director. www.joedulude2.com

  • Nancy Marin

    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.

  • Cristina Soto

    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.

  • Diana Balarezo

    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.

  • Anna Bermani

    London 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.

  • Drasko Djurovic

    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.”

  • William Puga

    Galapagos Site Director

    ?My name is William Puga and I am a town councilor on San Cristobal Island in the Galapagos. I have been bringing volunteers to the island for about 17 years, who work on conservation, education, sports, art, drama, music and care projects., and serve the local community with their work. I was born on the island, but spent some years New York City. My interests include swimming and reading when I have time. I have dedicated my time to upgrading education and conservation here and helping our young people achieve their full potential. It is important that they are able to develop strong hobbies, and the projects our volunteers provide widens their horizons.

  • Debbie Koutroumanos

    Greece Site Director

    Debbie is a Greek-American who was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, she has been living in Athens for five years. She holds a bachelors degree in finance and business administration from Hellenic American University. Her professional background is in human resource management and customer service. She is an eccentric person who loves meeting new people and embracing new opportunities. She has a deep rooted love and passion for Greek history and culture which inspired her to start Opa Taxi and Tours in 2015. As an American and someone who has studied abroad herself she believes this combined experience of studying and living in a new country such as Greece is one of the best ways to grow, learn, and develop. An experience that will be remembered forever. Although she has very little experience in performing arts she absolutely adores Greek Traditional music and dances and is looking forward to learning a lot from students on site!

  • John Hayes

    Ireland Site Director

    John was born and raised in Ireland. He grew up on a dairy farm in Tipperary before heading to college. He studied at the National University of Ireland, Galway and University of Limerick. During his wonderful four years of college in Galway John loved the various productions staged by the world-famous Druid Theatre. During his year studying for his Masters in Limerick John loved attending visual art exhibitions and Drama performances at the renowned Belltable Arts Centre. Now he loves immersing himself in the cutting-edge arts scene in Dublin.

    John adores travelling and has lived and worked in five different European countries. He has taught in Spain, Germany, Ireland and the United Kingdom, worked on farms in the Netherlands and has led study abroad programs in the British Isles and Austria. John believes both international education and travel are essential in today’s world and is on hand to help smooth our participants' paths whilst abroad.

    John is married to Anja – 17 years and counting! Together they have two teens (Nathan 17) and tween (Lauren 15). When John isn’t dealing with teen vs tween friction and angst he loves watching westerns, war films and watching/tweeting about sport. He’s completely crazy about almost all sports and promises to take participants to see a match of one kind or another. All in all he’s a very friendly person who always wants to help others achieve their goals.

  • Pamela Cotter

    Ireland Program Director (Blas summer training programs)

    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.

  • Cristiana Gallai

    Italy Program Director

    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, since 2010 Cristiana is the Dean of Student Affairs. 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.

  • George Ndiritu

    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.

  • Ester Costim

    Philippines Site Director

    Ester Yao Costim is a graduate from the University of the Philippines with a Bachelors Degree in Biology. Previously, Ester assisted in conducting research on the aquatic flora and fauna of local Philippine lakes and coordinated with local government agencies to help VFV expand its environmental projects. Ester is an avid photography and hiking enthusiast, and prior to working at VFV 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 for VFV.

  • Rich Kurtzman

    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.

  • Alessandro Bruno

    Florence, Italy Site Director

    Born in Maryland, raised in Rome with Italian and Guatemalan parents and having traveled extensively through Europe, Central America, North America and China, Alessandro considers himself a citizen of the world. During his travels, he acquired a passion for the environment, its preservation, cultures and languages. This passion led him to obtain a BA in Geography with a minor in Chinese Studies from Humboldt State University in California. In 2010 he spent a semester studying abroad at the University of Shanghai in China and this outstanding experience turned him into an even stronger proponent of study abroad programs, no matter where. After graduation, his passion for the outdoors and the environment led him to successfully complete the National Park Service Ranger Academy as well as the National Outdoor Leadership School Wilderness First Responder certification. Wanting to get back into the international education world, he moved to Florence at the beginning of 2013 and has coordinated several study abroad programs in Florence and throughout Italy. Some of his hobbies are learning new languages (he speaks English, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French along with some German and Mandarin), cooking, traveling, sharing what he knows of this wonderful part of the world, and learning from other cultures.