About Us

SPAMALOT, with the Lady of the Lake (Mary Cusimano), and the Laker Girls. 2013, photo courtesy of Kristi Sestak.

SPAMALOT, with the Lady of the Lake (Mary Cusimano), and the Laker Girls. 2013, photo courtesy of Kristi Sestak.

Theatre at Santa Barbara High School has been performed continuously for 113 years, 95 of those years in the same space.  We are a public high school in Santa Barbara, California, and we are dedicated to giving as professional an experience to student actors and technicians as is possible--to that end, we employ professional designers, choreographers, musical directors and guest artists.  SBHS Theatre is a proud part of the SBHS Performing Arts Department, which currently offers five theatre classes with Department Chair, Otto Layman, four choral music classes (including award-winning A Capella and Madrigal Singers) under the direction of Mary LaFace, four instrumental music classes (including a nationally-recognized Jazz Band under the direction of Dylan Aguilera), and five dance classes (Beth Goldman).  We offer an array of entertainment all year round, in a renovated, 800 seat house featuring state of the art lighting and sound. 

We are proud to partner with the Santa Barbara Theatre Foundation. This parent-founded and led organization was formed to support the Santa Barbara High School Theatre Department as we renovate a space that has housed over 90 years of theatre. To date their efforts have led to the installation of a state of the art sound and lighting system, and the replacement of the entire lower floor with new, more comfortable seating.  Future plans include continued work on the sound and lighting system, along with the acoustics of the building. 

Otto Layman, Artistic Director

Otto has headed the Theatre Department since 1996.  In that time he has directed In the Heights; Urinetown, The Musical (2018); CryBaby (2017); Bullets Over Broadway (2017), Young Frankenstein (2016); Hair (2016), Pippin (2015), The Mystery of Edwin Drood (2015), Big Fish (2015), How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (2014) Chicago (2013), Cabaret (2013), Spamalot (2013), The Glass Menagerie (2013), The Drowsy Chaperone (2013), God of Carnage (2012), Into the Woods (2012), Alice in Wonderland (which he also adapted); Anything Goes (2011); The Little Shop of Horrors (2010); Singin' in the Rain (2010) and Pinocchio  (2009)--which he also adapted with Christina McCarthy and Lise Lange, with original music by John Douglas; Footloose (2009); A Village Fable; Hair (at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, where it was selected as a Pick of the Festival); Beauty and the Beast (2008); Jeff Barry: Music for a New Generation (2008); Peter Pan and The Pajama Game  (2007); On the Town and Still Life with Iris (2006); The Wind in the Willows and Carnival (2005); The Ash Girl and Copacabana (2004); Mrs. McThing and The Wizard of Oz (2003); Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and A Tale of Two Cities (2002); Frightnight and Into the Woods (2001); Alice in Wonderland (which he also adapted), Once in a Lifetime and Durang, Durang (2000); A History of the American Film, On the Razzle, and At this Evening's Performance (1999); You Can't Take It With You, The Threepenny Opera, and A Night of One Acts (1998); Alice Underground, The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940 (1997); and The Raven (1996).  Layman also has designed a number of sets including Into the Woods (2012), God of Carnage (2012), The Glass Menagerie (2013), Big Fish (2014), The Mystery of Edwin Drood (2015), Pippin (2015), Hair (2016), Young Frankenstein (2016), Bullets Over Broadway (2017), CryBaby (with Jonathan Mitchell, 2017), Urinetown, The Musical (2018), and In The Heights (2018). A longtime member of the Ensemble Theatre Company as an actor and Playwright in Residence, Mr. Layman received his A.A. in English Literature from San Diego Mesa College (1980); his B.A. in English Literature from UCSB (1982); an M.A. in Creative Writing from Boston University (1987) and a Master's in Education from UCSB (1996).


Christina McCarthy, Choreographer/Fight Coordinator/Puppet Designer/Aerial Trainer Emeritus

A graduate of Santa Barbara High School, she is currently the Acting Director of Acting Vice Chair of Theater and Dance and Director of Dance at UC Santa Barbara. She has taught ballet and modern dance at UCSB and in numerous private studios in Santa Barbara. Before the birth of her two sons, Malcom and Nolan, Ms. McCarthy worked as a dancer with Nina Wiener Dance Company in New York and was both a dancer and Assistant Artistic Director of Santa Barbara Dance Theater. In addition to her dance pursuits, she is a professional potter and puppet maker. Her puppets have been seen in productions by the Ensemble Theatre, Lit Moon Theatre, Genesis West Theatre Company, and Dos Pueblos High School.

Ms. McCarthy recently choreographed productions of Young Frankenstein (2016), Pippin (2015), How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying(2014), Chicago (2013), Cabaret (2013), SPAMALOT (2013);The Drowsy Chaperone (2012), Into the Woods (for which she also designed Milky White (2012); Anything Goes and Alice in Wonderland (For which she also designed the puppets (2011); The Little Shop of Horrors (2010); Singin' in the Rain (2010) and Pinocchio (2009) Footloose (2009); HAIR! (at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland); Beauty and the Beast (2008);    The Pajama Game (2007), Peter Pan (2007), On the Town (2006), The Wind in the Willows (2005), The Ash Girl (2004), Copacabana (2004), and The Wizard of Oz (2003) at SBHS.


Gianna Burright, Choreographer

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Gianna Burright, has just completed her MFA in Choreography at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London England, where she was a Leverhulme scholar and the recipient of the Lesley-Anne Sayers Research Award. Gianna has showcased her work all over Europe and the United States, including the Turner Contemporary Gallery, Bonnie Bird Theatre, and Resolutions Dance Festival, she is passionate about choreographing, performing and being a dance educator. At SBHS Theatre, she has choreographed Urinetown the Musical (2018) and In The Heights (2018).

Bonnie Thor, Costume Designer Emeritus

Growing up in Goleta, Bonnie can't remember a time she wasn't doing something creative.  She was a member of Santa Barbara Children's Choir, Dos Pueblos band, choir, and multi dimensional visual arts including participation in SB Arts Fund Mentorship Program with Ron Robertson. Bonnie Thor is excited and honored to be part of the dynamic SBHS Theatre team.  She’s happy to be back in her hometown, after multiple years in Portland, Oregon.  She designed costumes and wardrobe for collaborative projects in Portland as well as assisting designer Sarah Gahagan on Oregon Children’s Theater productions of Gathering Blue and A Year with Frog and Toad (2013)

Bonnie worked on her first production with SBHS How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (2014), and since then has worked on Big Fish (2014), The Mystery of Edwin Drood (2015),  Pippin (2015), Hair (2016), Young Frankenstein (2016), Bullets Over Broadway (2017), Crybaby (2017), and Urinetown, The Musical (2018). Bonnie is a new member of the Costume Designers Guild Local 892 as a Costume Illustrator. Bonnie received her B.F.A in Illustration from California College of the Arts, San Francisco/Oakland M.F.A in Fashion and Costume from Academy of Art University, San Francisco.

Mike E. Madden, Light & Set Designer

Mike Madden has been in collaboration with the Santa Barbara High School Theatre for over a decade. His first set design at Santa Barbara High School was Mrs. McThing  (2003), followed by Copacabana!  (2004), The Ash Girl (2004), Carnival! (2005), The Wind in the Willows (2005), On the Town (2006), Still Life with Iris (2006), Pajama Game (2007), Peter Pan (2007), Beauty and the Beast (2008), our touring production of HAIR; A Village Fable (2008); Footloose and Pinocchio (2009); Singin' In the Rain (2010); The Little Shop of Horrors (2010) Anything Goes, Alice in Wonderland (2011) and Into the Woods (2012); The Drowsy Chaperone (2012) SPAMALOT (2013) Chicago (2013) (lighting design), How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (2014), Big Fish (2014) (lighting design), The Mystery of Edwin Drood (2015), Pippin (2015) (lighting design), Hair (2015) (lighting design), Young Frankenstein (2016) (lighting design), Bullets Over Broadway (2017) (lighting design), Crybaby (2017) (lighting design), Urinetown, The Musical (2018) (lighting design), and In The Heights (2018) (lighting design).  Mr. Madden's entire professional life has revolved around technical theatre. Bit by the theatre bug in high school, he went to CSU, Chico, and earned his degree in Theatre Arts. Along the way, he has designed and teched live theatre all over Northern and Southern California, Ashland, Oregon, and London, England.  He has worked for roughly thirty different companies, and hundreds of shows as anything from deck hand to technical director, from designer to voice-over talent.

Jonathan Mitchell, Technical Director

Jonathan Mitchell, a Santa Barbara native, has been working in the field of technical production for almost two decades, with a background in touring show production. Having worked a large number of events in a wide variety of venues, Jonathan came to Santa Barbara High School Theatre with a diverse and deep knowledge of set construction, audio, lighting, and more. Jonathan also works with students during stagecraft class and after school, sharing this knowledge with the members of the technical crew. 

Beau Lettieri, Stage Manager Emeritus

Once upon a time, Beau Lettieri could be found in the Santa Barbara High School Theatre during many hours of the day (not anymore). Beau became interested in technical theatre during junior high school and immediately became involved in technical theatre at Santa Barbara High School on day one of his high school career. As a sophomore, he began stage managing productions with Cabaret (2013), and continued with Chicago (2013), How to Succeed in Business (2014), Big Fish (2014),  The Mystery of Edwin Drood (2015), Pippin (2015), Music of the Night (2016) and most recently Hair (2016). He also stage managed Young Frankenstein (2016) in spirit. Before that he worked backstage on The Drowsy Chaperone (2012), God of Carnage (2012), SPAMALOT (2013), and The Glass Menagerie (2013). A student in stage management at Manhattan Marymount College in New York City, Beau still continuesto be a part of SBHS Theatre, designing the production posters (in collaboration with Otto), along with the playbills and any other media for the department. He aspires to to work in the field of technical theatre for the rest of his life (#theatreforlife).