Youth Theatre Interactions

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Mission Statement



Board of Directors

African DrumsWho We Are

Mission Statement

Youth Theatre Interactions, Inc. (YTI) provides professional instruction in the performing arts to Westchester County youth. With the support and participation of their parents, YTI nurtures creativity and pride in accomplishment while fostering discipline, confidence, and critical thinking in young people. Empowered by these attributes, our youth will become positive contributors to society. Furthermore, they will possess the skills necessary to proceed into the professional arts community

Enriching the lives of young people through the arts.


  • Develop the artistic abilities of our students by encouraging full use of their creative potential

  • Instill an understanding and appreciation of the power of the arts

  • Promote the arts as a tool to develop students’ interpersonal and critical thinking skills

  • Encourage parents to participate in his or her child’s personal growth and artistic development

  • Maximize the connection between YTI students and the real world of the performing and arts by:
    • Employing professional artists as instructors
    • Providing workshops that prepare students for professional auditions
    • Exposing students to stage management and production techniques as part of their performance experience
    • Provide performance opportunities in a variety of diverse venues

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IIn 1971, the Yonkers Community Action Program was asked to develop an after-school program that would help keep kids away from drugs and crime. James P. Hill, an employee of YCAP and professional musician, developed the School 12 Program, which began as a music workshop. Shortly after, Mr. Hill met Paul Kwame Johnson, then a theater major at Sarah Lawrence College. Mr. Johnson added his expertise to establish a new drama workshop to the program. In 1973, Hill and Johnson along with co-founder Turhan Von Brandon sought non-profit status for their program and renamed it Youth Theatre Interactions, Inc. (YTI), a performing arts school providing instruction free of charge to the youth of Yonkers. As interest and funding grew, the program was expanded to include dance workshops, photography, training in lighting design, sound and stage management. Today YTI provides instruction in drama, digital production, voice, music, and six different forms of dance. These services are provided at a modest fee to youth from all over Westchester County.

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James P. Hill, Paul Kwame Johnson, Turhan Von Brandon

Kwame Johnson, Dr. Mary Lane & Jimmy Hill

YTI Founder Kwame Johnson,
Board President Dr. Mary Lane &
YTI Founder Jimmy Hill

Board of Directors

Elliott Black – Board President
Genia Flamia – Vice President
Howard Schatz – Treasurer
Chelsea Freeman – Secretary
Susan Borowitz
Symra Brandon
Lisa Copeland
Rashida Heslop
Deborah Hudson-Jenkins
Tom O’Keefe
Mary E. Lane
Jodi-Ann Lyons
Ricardo Lima
Suzanne Newman – Ex-Officio

Advisory Board

Patricia Adams, Turhan Von Brandon, Judith Z. Matson, Rev. DeForest Raphael, Paula Redd-Zeman, Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins

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Executive/Artistic Director

Donise C. Lyons
Donise C. Lyons, the Executive/Artistic Director of Youth Theatre Interactions, Inc. (YTI) implements the strategic goals and objectives of YTI, conceives, develops and implements the artistic vision and focus of the organization, and represents YTI to various stakeholders on the local, statewide, and national level.

Donise is a YTI alumna and has been a part of this organization since 1998.  After leaving YTI, Donise went on to the University at Buffalo where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre, with a concentration in performance, and Communication, with a certification in Public Relations and Advertising.  Once she completed her undergraduate education, Donise went on to become a New York City Teaching Fellows and receive her Master of Science degree in Urban Education.  She spent five years as New York City public school teacher, working primarily with special education students in the South Bronx.  Throughout her tenure as a public school teacher, Donise remained a staunch advocate of arts integration in the classroom, and specifically tailored her curriculum to allow students performance opportunities.

Donise is a living representation of the impact Youth Theatre Interactions, Inc. has on youth in our community.  She credits the eight years she spent as a student at YTI with helping to develop her work ethic; her appreciation of the intrinsic value of the Arts; and most importantly her sense of self-worth.  Donise’s goal is to continue building YTI into a driving force in performing arts education in Westchester County.


YTI Instructors & Key Personnel

Aixa M. Rosario Medina (Latin Dance)
Native of Puerto Rico,  Aixa M. Rosario Medina, has been living in N.Y. for the last 24 years performing regionally and internationally. Professional experiences include: Broadway, regional and international theatres; industrials, t.v., film, commercials, choreographer, assistant choreographer, dance and pilates instructor. Today she owns a Pilates studio in Yonkers, N.Y.  where she lives with her much loved husband Paul, son Aidan, and daughter Ana.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        
Alston Jack (Steel Band)
 Mr. Alston Jack of Tobago is our instructor of Steel Drums and Director of the YTI Pan Band.  In addition to playing the steel drum, Mr. Jack is an arranger and composer.  He has worked with Moods Steel Orchestra, Bamboo Steel Band, Harlem All Stars Orchestra, Tobago All Stars Steel Orchestra, Desperadoes Steel Orchestra and Renegades Steel Orchestra.  He has appeared at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, The Apollo, Birdland and the Village Gate, as well as on tour in Finland and Mexico. 
He conducts lecture/demonstrations with the YTI Pan Band as well as composing, arranging and directing for our touring Steel Band.  In addition to his love of Steel Band, Mr. Jack also enjoys acting, singing, songwriting, and percussion. 

Andrea Rohlehr (Keyboard)
Independent music artist, Andrea Rohlehr, (pronounced Rolere), currently resides in Yonkers, NY with her husband and two children. Originally from St. Louis, MO, Andrea is an entertainer, vocalist, songwriter, musician (piano & Flute), visual artist, private vocal coach, aspiring motivational speaker, and self- published children’s book author.
She holds a Bachelor of Music Education degree from The University of Kansas and taught middle school music in St. Louis before relocating to New York. She has worked as a facilitator for songwriting workshops and CD projects with Young Audiences/ New York as well as free-lanced with numerous music ensembles.
As an independent artist she performs with her husband as Andrea & James and The AndJam Band (formerly aj). They have 9 CD’s available via their website
Andrea’s debut eBook ‘The Grandchild’, a middle grade children’s magical realism story, is available via Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook.

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Barnabus Perry (Vocal)
A native of Westchester, New York, Mr. Barnabus M. C. Perry is a magna cum laude graduate of America’s Oldest Black Institution of Higher Education, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania (1837); where he has achieved a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music. Mr. Perry is a national and international artist, performing and recording on world-renowned stages such as the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (Washington, D.C.), The Grand Ole Opry House (Nashville, Tennessee), Christ Church Cathedral (Nassau, Bahamas) and Andrew W. Melon Auditorium (Washington D.C.) Musically, at Cheyney University, Barnabus was under the vocal studio of Dr. Sebronette Barnes-Aborom, tutelage of Professor Damon H. Dandridge, and Professor Marques L. A. Garrett’s choral direction. 
He has also studied music and is affiliated with Tuckahoe High School (Eastchester, New York), Concordia College Conservatory of Music & Art (Bronxville, New York), and Benedict College (Columbia, South Carolina). At Cheyney University, Barnabus was an active member of the Keystone Honors Academy (KHA), Cheyney University Concert Choir (CUCC), Cheyney University Gospel Choir (CUGC) as president, and the Department of Residence Life & Housing as Head Resident Advisor. Mr. Perry has competed and placed in various competitions in which would include The New York State School of Music Association (NYSSMA). Barnabus is also affiliated with the 105 Voices of History National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Concert Choir (105 VOH), Wells Fargo “Emerging Leaders” Entrepreneurship Project, National and International Vocal Ensembles, Student and Conductor’s Leadership Summit and the Student Leadership Council for this organization, etc.
One of Mr. Perry’s ultimate goals is to further his education and achieve a PhD in a music area and become a music educator at a Historically Black College or University. Currently, Mr. Perry is pursuing his Master of Music degree in Choral Conducting from Messiah College, singing with the notable Riverside Choral Society of New York City, and teaching music at Youth Theatre Interactions Inc., which is an organization where he has been teaching since 2011.

Chelsea P. Freeman (Ballet and Tap Dance)
Chelsea has been training in dance from a very young age and was a student at The Ailey School, Ballet Hispanico, The School at Steps, and Youth Theatre Interactions, Inc. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Dance with honors from the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD) and is currently enrolled in graduate school for her Masters of Business Administration. At UMD she was a founding member of Prima Dolls Dance Team, a now thriving dance team in the Washington, DC area. Since graduating, she’s had the wonderful opportunity to work in music videos, commercials, and photo shoots with acclaimed directors and artists. Chelsea has also been a company member of Full Force Repertory Theater, VashtiDance Theater and Some Dance Company. She’s worked with David Fernandez, Soraya Lundy, A. R. Kadeem, and Devon Smith, to name a few New York City- based choreographers. Currently, you can catch Chelsea dancing with The Westchester Knicks and performing as a freelance artist in the New York City area. As a proud YTI alumna, Chelsea is thrilled to be back teaching such passionate students for another year! 

Davalois Fearon (Lyrical Dance)
Choreographer/dancer/teacher Davalois Fearon was born in Jamaica and raised in the Bronx, New York. She is a recipient of the 2014 Bronx Council on the Arts BRIO fellowship, a member of the Joyce Theater’s Prestigious Young Leaders Circle Artists’ Committee, and a senior member of the Stephen Petronio Company. Her choreography has been presented nationally and internationally. In addition, she has performed and taught around the world, developed an education program for the Stephen Petronio Company, staged Petronio repertory, and assisted Mr. Petronio in the creation. Dava received a BFA from the Purchase College Conservatory of Dance.

Hillary-Marie Michael (Tap Dance)
Hillary-Marie has made her mark in the dance community as an artist who specializes in one of America's greatest art forms, tap dance. An acclaimed soloist and ensemble member, Hillary-Marie has been featured at some of the most prestigious venues on the east coast and her high energy classes and performances have brought her to studios and stages around the world. She has worked with Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards (Cotton Club Sophisticated Ladies), Jason Samuels Smith (A.C.G.I.), Derick K. Grant (Rhythm Is Our Business), Maurice Chestnut (The Above Ground Project), NJTAP Dance Ensemble (since 2006), Awoye Timpo (Sonnets on Tap), Boston Tap Company, (Rhythm in the Night), Christopher Scott (W-L-U-V), Marvin Hamlisch, Nat Adderley Jr., both the Princeton and New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, among many others. As seen in dance editorials, Hillary-Marie is one of the youngest accomplished producers and directors on the tap scene as the Founder and Director of Jersey Tap Fest, New Jersey's sole dance festival featuring world-class tap faculty and extravaganza. Hillary-Marie is thankful for the artists of the past and present who have provided and continue to provide abundant inspiration and encouragement

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Juan Michael Porter II (Ballet)
Juan Michael has worked with H.T. Chen & Dancers, Michael Mao Dance, The Martha Graham Dance Company, The New York City Opera, Balasole Dance, Flexicurve Dance/Pascal Rekoert, Genesis Dance Company, and Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Company. 
In 2008, Mr. Porter II founded The Moving Beauty Series, an independent art production collective that presents artistically provocative yet commercially viable new work. From 2010 until 2013 he worked at Webster Hall as The Director of Dance for The Quarterly Art Soirée. His creative work has been commissioned and presented by Creative Concepts Productions, Dixon Place, newSTEPS/Chen Dance Center, The White Box Gallery, and Webster Hall. In 2013 Mr. Porter II served as the guest artist in residence for Sangre de Cristo Art Center where he danced under the direction of Stephen J. Wynne, taught ballet, and created new choreographic works. 
Mr. Porter II studied on scholarship at STEPS on Broadway with David Howard, Jeff Shade, Milton Myers, and Troy Powell (whom he also assisted) and at The Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance with Yung Yung Tsaui and Lone Larson. 
Outside of art, Mr. Porter II served as the Regional Coordinator of The New York Road Runners Foundation, where he worked with thousands of students throughout NYC, training them in running. 
Mr. Porter II joined YTI, Inc during the 2014 Summer Intensive.

Mamie Duncan- Gibbs (Theatre Jazz)
Duncan-Gibbs has been dancing for over 40 years and has had an extensive career in Theatre,Television and Film. Broadway Credits Include: Chicago, Cats, Jelly's Last Jam, Kiss Me Kate, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and Liza Steppin' Out at Radio City Music Hall. Off Broadway, she was featured in Radio City's productions ofThe Christmas Spectacular and The Easter Extravaganza and in performances at City Center, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and Madison Square Garden. She worked directly with Bob Fosse on the national tour of Sweet Charity and starred inSophisticated Ladies in Atlantic City and Chicago in Las Vegas. In her spare time, Duncan-Gibbs travels around the country judging competitions, helping young, aspiring dancers reach their goal of performing professionally.

Marissa Wolf (Drama)
Marissa is an NYC actor/teacher/writer originally from the great state of NJ. This past summer she taught Acting for Film during YTI’s summer session. Marissa is an NYC teaching artistat Hamilton Heights Elementary and PS 15 as part of Arts for All’s Literacy Through Arts program.  She also facilitates monthly theater workshops at Children’s Village Sanctuary in Hawthorne, NY.  She is a member of the New York Madness Acting Company and a writer for She most recently played The Pilot in Brick Monkey Theater Ensemble’s production of Grounded. Other select credits include Wait Until Dark (Suzy Hendrix), The Crucible (Elizabeth), Hamlet (Gertrude), The Cherry Orchard (Varya), Fiddler On the Roof (Chava),A Little Night Music(Charlotte). Marissa has an MFA in Acting from Ohio University and a BFA from NYU’s Tisch. Looking forward to a wonderful fall semester at YTI!

Paul Kwame Johnson ( Drama and Intimate Realities)
Co-Founder and founding Artistic Director of Youth Theatre Interactions, Inc. Founder and Artistic Director of “The YTI Mime Time Players” and the “Intimate Realities “ Theatre Company of YTI. MFA in Acting and Directing from Sarah Lawrence College; William Henry Danforth Scholar/Fellow in Educational Theatre; Five times Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts Director including directing productions at Alice Tully Hall and Lincoln Center Out of Doors; Awarded the keys to the City of Detroit and a High commendation from the City of Los Angeles for work in theatre in those cities; Acting Instructor and Director for The City of Newburgh Youth Bureau, The City of Peekskill Board of Education, the Theodore D. Young Community Center, the Boys and Girls Club of Newburgh, the Boys Club of New York. Presently directing the production “American Moor” written and performed by Emmy award nominated actor and former YTI instructor Keith Hamilton Cobb.

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Priscilla Lomotey (Hip Hop Dance)
Priscilla Lomotey first began her training at the age of 8 in ballet, tap and jazz.  Priscilla is a graduate of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts with a BFA in Dance.  She also studies at Alvin Ailey, Peridance Capezio, and Broadway Dance Center.  Her love of dance has driven her to become as versatile as possible and she has expanded her repertoire to many different genres of dance such as hip hop, contemporary, street jazz, funk, modern, African, and Latin.  Priscilla has performed in pieces from numerous noted choreographers such as Tweetie (Hip-Hop), Angelica Burgos (latin jazz, of Ballet Hispanico), and Robert Taylor (contemporary/street jazz, of So You Think You Can Dance).  She has also competed and placed in nationally and internationally known dance competitions such as "Starpower," "Showstoppers," and in "West Coast Dance Explosion."

Vado Diomande (West African Dance)
Born into the sacred stilt-dancing tradition of the Mahouka people in northwest Ivory Coast, Vado was born to dance. His father and uncle taught him the sacred ways, and soon Vado demonstrated rare excellence in the age-old customs. Discovered as an adolescent by talent scouts, Vado joined the budding Ballet National de Cote D’Ivoire in Abidjan, training in the traditional dances of over 60 ethnic groups of the Ivory Coast.
 Hailed as a captivating performer internationally, Vado’s career as a principal dancer spanned 15 years in the Ballet. Most impressive were his acrobatic dances of the Tall Mask, “God of the Sacred Forest”, Gue-Pelou.  In 1989, Vado established his own dance company, L’Ensemble Kokiegna d’Abidjan, in Abidjan, touring Ivory Coast and Australia. He re-established his company in New York City in 1994 as Kotchegna Dance Company, developing a corps of multicultural dancers and a repertoire that is widely loved and admired.
Choreography began for Vado at the Ballet National. He has been commissioned by dance companies, theatre companies and schools to create powerful traditional dances, and has inspired many students and teachers to integrate his culture into their dances.  Vado is a guest artist with many illustrious performers, artists and dancers. He has been a part of Tamango’s Urban Tap ensemble for many years, touring the US and Europe. He has contributed to Maimouna Keita, Umoja, Les Merveilles de Guinee, Seventh Principle, Les Ballets Africains, Ballet Djoniba, Masabo, Spirits SOA, Ancestral Messengers, as well as Haitian, Brazilian, tap and modern dance companies.  As the heartbeat of all West African musical traditions, the drum is an integral part of Vado’s artistic life; he has drummed all his life. He often creates drum pieces for performers of all kinds, and is a beloved drum teacher.
 As a master dance teacher, his inspiration leads his students to pursue both dancing and drumming, in true African tradition. He has taught at the Djoniba Dance & Drum Centre since 1994, as well as at Alvin Ailey, Fareta, and Ifetayo, PMT Studio, New Dance Group and Black River Studios and gives workshops to schools and colleges everywhere.  Djembes, doundouns, songbas, kenkenes, yado…Vado is sought out and highly
respected for his craftsmanship and superb sound in all his drum-making and repair work. Professionals in many drum fields rely on his expertise.

Yalani Bangoura (West African Dance)
Yalani is a master dancer, performer, choreographer, acrobat, and teacher of dances from his country, Guinea, West Africa.  He is also known for his exciting hip-hop dance. Yalani was a member of the award winning West African dance and drum company, Les Merveilles de Guinea under the direction of Mr. Kemoko Sano, former choreographer for the legendary Les Ballet Africains of the Republic of Guinea. In addition to studying with Sano, who is considered one of the most recognized authorities on West African culture, Yalani has also studied with Yamoussa Soumah, a principal dancer and teacher with Les Ballet Africains.   He has toured with Merveilles in the United States and Europe and has also toured West Africa including the countries of Mali, Guinea, Senegal, and the Ivory Coast.  Yalani now works as an independent contractor, teaches a weekly class in Philadelphia, Pa., and continues to be in residence with several dance companies as a master artist.

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