Joe Murphy, President


Joe is the father of three: Son Cullyn is a music composition doctoral candidate at the University of Pittsburg and enjoying married life with his wife, Allison. Son Quinn is pursuing a career in film production and daughter Maeve is at Butler Universiety studying elementary education. Joe is an attorney with Meyer Capel, PC and currently the president of the firm. Although a native of Champaign, he received his undergraduate and law degrees on the East coast and began his law practice in Washington D.C. Since returning to Champaign-Urbana in 1994 to join Meyer Capel, Joe has focused his practice on a combination of telecommunications and intellectual property (including licensing).

Shawna Benton, Treasurer

Shawna Barbee, Tax Director and Certified Public Accountant for CliftonLarsonAllen LLP, Champaign, Illinois provides various consulting, tax and accounting services to closely held companies and individuals in Central Illinois. Prior to joining CliftonLarsonAllen in 2012, Shawna was a Federal Tax Manager at Grant Thornton LLP, Chicago, Illinois. Shawna has been in public accounting for over 7 years. She received her Bachelor of Science in Accountancy in 2005 and Master of Science in Accountancy in 2006 from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana.

Susan Zielke, Secretary

Susan Zielke is the Managing Attorney of the Eastern Regional Office of Land of Lincoln Legal Aid, located in Champaign. She and her staff provide free civil legal assistance to low income individuals in 14 counties. She is on the Board of Directors for PILI (the Public Interest Law Initiative); is a member of the ISBA (Illinois State Bar Association) and serves on their Delivery of Legal Services and Military Affairs Committees; and is a member of the East Central Illinois Women Attorneys Association, and the Champaign County, Vermilion County, and DeWitt County Bar Associations. She earned her B.S. in English and her J.D. cum laude from the University of Illinois. Her husband, Tom, is a secondary history teacher at Judah Christian School, her daughter, Ruth, is at Millikin University pursuing a degree in acting with minors in vocal and oboe performance, and her son, Josiah, is at Central High School.

Whitney Havice

Whitney Havice is a director, choreographer, and performer from Champaign, IL and has been involved in approximately seventy productions locally and in the Chicago area for various companies including the Champaign-Urbana Theatre Co., Parkland College Theatre, the Station Theatre, Armory Free Theatre, Twin City Theatre Co., and the Brown Paper Box Co., among others. Her first theatrical experience was with the Champaign-Urbana Theatre Co.'s production of The King and I in 1994, and she's been involved with the company ever since.  Graduating magna cum laude with a BA in English and minor in journalism from Bradley University, Whitney currently works in arts administration and serves as the Assistant Director of Ticketing Services at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, also helping to cultivate engagement work there, including the Dance for People with Parkinsons project. She has served as the Dance Rehearsal Director for Lyric Theatre @ Illinois, as Musical Theatre Dance instructor at the Little Theatre on the Square, and as dance instructor in a number of other styles for various studios and venues in the area, including the Champaign Park District.  Whitney is trained in the Vaganova ballet method.

Aaron Kaplan

Aaron Kaplan, conductor and cellist, began taking cello lessons at the age of five and has become an active conductor, performer, teacher, arranger, and arts administrator.  Aaron earned a master’s degree in orchestral conducting from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign under the tutelage of Donald Schleicher. He also earned a bachelor’s degree with high honors from the University of Illinois with a double degree in cello performance and music education. In 2013, Aaron was appointed the co-director of orchestras at Glenbrook North and Glenbrook South High School in Northbrook and Glenview, IL.  Prior to that, Aaron was music director and conductor for the Sangamon Valley Youth Symphony and Community Orchestra in Springfield, Illinois where he conducted three youth orchestras, a community orchestra and oversaw the beginning strings program. An avid promoter of musical theatre, he has been the music director/conductor for over 25 musicals including Chess, West Side Story, RENT, Guys & Dolls, and The Producers.

Phil Strang

Born and raised in NYC, Phil came to Urbana-Champaign in 1967 to attend the University and graduated in 1972. He helped create Record Service and was co-owner for 33 years. At the same time Phil was acting, singing, dancing and directing in 0ver 50 productions at the Station Theatre, Armory Free Theatre, Virginia Theatre, Parkland Theatre, Sunshine Dinner Theatre and Krannert Center. He also managed to raise two kids as a single parent between 1991 and now. From 2004 until 2016 when he retired, he worked for the University of Illinois, as Facility Manager for Foellinger Auditorium, Lincoln Hall Theatre and Greg Hall Theatre. Now Phil spends most of his time painting and writing and traveling with Mary.

Bob Weber

Bob Weber has been with the company since our production of Hello Dolly in 1993 when he worked on the stage crew. At the end of 1993 he was stage manager for the production of My Fair Lady. Since then he has been involved in a total of 56 shows with CUTC in some capacity from stage crew to stage manager to construction chair to lighting designer to scenic designer to technical director. He was on the committee that searched for our latest home and he directed the renovation of the Arrow building. He has been on the board since 1998. He is a retired materials engineer for the Army Corps of Engineers after 29 years at CERL. Before that he worked for the Navy in Annapolis, MD. He and his wife, Jan, have been married 45 years and have four grown children and five grandchildren.

Kelly Nowlin, Executive Director

Kelly has been executive director of CUTC since October 2015. She discovered her passion for community theatre in 2012 while serving as president for the Monticello Theatre Association. She enjoys acting and has been in several shows most recently Hallelujah Girls, and 12 Angry Women. She was recognized at the 2017 AACT Regional Festival with an award for outstanding performance in a featured role for her monologue in Love, Loss and What I Wore.  Kelly loves how theatre enriches the lives of those involved and believes there should be a place for everyone in community theater. She is most proud of helping to bring The Penguin Project to our area in 2016. Kelly is married to husband Ted and they have twin sons who are currently sophomores at Illinois State University. The entire family is active in community theatre! 

Cheryl Forest-Morganson, Artistic Director

Cheryl  is a music director, pianist, and vocal coach who is currently based in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. She was previously based in Boston, MA, Heidelberg, Germany, and San Francisco and Los Angeles, California. She is a specialist in lyric theatre repertory.

In Fall 2015, she began her doctoral studies in Vocal Coaching and Accompanying studying at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). Her dissertation will explore Chopin's Songs. Her doctoral cognate is in "the Science of the Singing Voice" through the Speech and Hearing Sciences department at UIUC. She earned her MM in Collaborative Piano studying at the Longy School of Music (Cambridge, MA), and her BA in Music at Valley City State University (Valley City, ND) while in residence in Heidelberg, Germany.