Cue the music. Cue the lights. Cue the Lehigh graduates who are dedicated to theatrical arts. They outline their numerous accomplishments on campus and off as well as give their younger selves some great advice.

Robert Riley straightens his tieRobert Riley ’03

Time at Lehigh
Riley came to Lehigh as a football-playing accountant, but in the spring semester of his first year, he took an acting class with Kashi Johnson, professor and chair of the Department of Theatre. That semester the department sought Black actors for its production of A Raisin in the Sun. Riley was asked to audition but refused. After several pleas, he finally agreed out of a sense of obligation to the Black community on campus. He was cast in the lead role.

“I thought it was a mistake,” he says. “But others believed in the talent they saw in me more than I first saw in myself.” Soon after that first performance, he hung up his cleats and powered down his calculator. Theatre became his focus — in roles both on stage and in public. Many remember him as Wave Man. Wearing ribbons on his biceps and a pompom on his head, he was a fixture at home football games and inspired spectators in the stands to do the wave.

For a stage production he directed and starred in, he stood on campus in costume as a character from I’m Not Rappaport and encouraged people to attend the show. With Johnson, he co-wrote a play called Untold Truths, and together they staged it at Touchstone Theatre in Southside Bethlehem. The story weaved together monologues that explored what it meant to be a person of color at a predominantly white institution. He played 14 roles while Johnson played 12.

“Without Lehigh, I wouldn’t have this career,” he says. “I thank Kashi for her guidance in my bio in every playbill.”

After Lehigh
He earned his MFA in acting from Ohio University. Then auditioning became his job. “Very seldom are you just offered a role, so getting one feels like vacation compared to the work of auditioning,” he says.

He’s had roles on stage, in television, and on the big screen and lived in New York City, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. He landed some stable television roles with a three-year stint on Hit the Floor and for five years on a reboot of Dynasty. He was cast in the Broadway premiere of Lombardi and had a role in the Bourne film series. 

Career Highlight
“Working alongside James Earl Jones, Phylicia Rashad, Terrence Howard, Anika Noni Rose, and Giancarlo Esposito in the 2008 Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams' play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” he says. When Howard stepped away from his role in the show, Riley, as his understudy, stepped in.

Advice to your younger self
“This is a noble profession that helps put smiles on people’s faces,” he says. “And every job you get makes you a better professional. The more people you understand, the more you can expand the roles you play.”

What’s next?
He has work that will take him from Budapest to central New Jersey with parts on episodes of two CBS series: FBI: International and True Lies. He then films a thriller and a BET Christmas movie. He is also partnering with Ambassador Arts Academy for a youth documentary filmmaking camp.

“I work in fiction all day long, so it is fun to read and watch non-fiction,” he says. “It helps feed my mind because when you are in front of the camera, only you can get you into a character, not the sets, costumes, or your scene partner.”


Nicki Hunter outside the Tony AwardsNicki Hunter ’09
Artistic producer at the Manhattan Theatre Club
Theater with a Minor in Business

Time at Lehigh
While Hunter knew of competitive college programs where students would live, eat, and breathe theatre, it wasn’t what she valued. She wanted to be on stage, feel supported by brilliant people, and be able to study other things. “I wanted to be deeply aware of and in touch with the world around me,” she says.

So theatre at Lehigh felt like the perfect fit. Hunter applied early decision and dove in when she arrived on campus. By the third day, she auditioned for A Midsummer Night’s Dream and got a minor part. But soon big roles came in A Doll’s House, No Exit, Three Sisters, and The Winter’s Tale. While she dabbled in directing, she focused on acting. Her favorite class was called Dramatic Action, which helped her refine how she read and analyzed plays.

After Lehigh
Hunter felt that she should apply to graduate school for acting, but what she should do and what she wanted to do were in conflict. “The constant rejection faced by an auditioning actor is something I didn’t want,” she says. So she looked for other opportunities.

Those began with an internship with the special events team at the Manhattan Theatre Club. “My business minor taught me that a foot in the door is a foot in the door,” she says. While there, she worked hard on less-than-glamorous jobs and took advantage of the opportunity by speaking with leaders and staff across all departments.

“I built relationships and showed my interest, so when a role opened up on the artistic staff, I was asked to apply,” she says. For 14 years, she has worked in nearly every role in the artistic production office at MTC. In her current role, she helps develop new plays and serves as a point person between the artists and institution.

Career Highlight
She gets to see plays. Every show in New York City but around the world too. “It is exciting to find and cultivate new voices that will appeal to new audiences,” she says. Manhattan Theatre Club also has an active pipeline of new plays in development.

Advice to your younger self
“Listen to your gut,” she says. “Not to what you are supposed to do. There are so many paths in theatre, so be open and listen and don’t overthink what your life needs to look like.”

What’s next?
Hunter worked with a playwright for the last six years on a professional debut that just opened off Broadway called The Best We Could. She is also in early rehearsals for another new show written by Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Auburn that opens this spring and stars Laura Linney. 


Teniece Johnson moves in the rainTeniece Divya Johnson ’04 ’06G
Intimacy coordinator and stunt performer
Business with a Minor in Africana Studies; Master of Arts in Sociology

Time at Lehigh
Johnson was a 3 guard on the women’s basketball team, earning a starting position as a first-year student. They played all four years despite navigating major injuries, including a torn ACL, meniscus and bilateral fasciotomy. Johnson didn’t really have time for theatre as an undergraduate between their academic schedule and athletic commitment.

They received a Presidential Scholarship to earn a master of arts at Lehigh where they discovered the power of devised theatre, a genre where a performance is created collaboratively. With the guidance of Kashi Johnson, professor and chair of the Department of Theatre, they started The Hip-Hop Collective at Touchstone Theatre in Southside Bethlehem.

“This was my first playground where Brown and Black youth and members in the community had an open mic and could use hip-hop theatre to share and create their stories,” they say. 

After Lehigh
Johnson headed to the University of Florida to earn a master’s degree in theatre. During that time, they traveled with a team of creatives and medical professionals to Rwanda, 15 years after the genocide, to create and perform a communal piece to help facilitate healing. That word is key in Johnson’s career as the first Black intimacy director on Broadway and first Black intimacy coordinator (and enby) in film and television. 

As an intimacy coordinator, they work to heal any negative experiences from previous intimate moments, both personal and unchoreographed professional scenes. “Each person’s experience and history are in the room with us, in the background, as actors work to create a scene,” they say. Drawing it out of the background is crucial. “The words ‘they make love’ as read on a page can mean many different things to different people,” they say.

Their work is to help the actors understand limits, advocate for themselves, and collaborate with each other. “We need clear boundaries to tell dangerous stories,” they say.

They have worked in many Broadway sets laced with dangerous scenes, including Slave Play, MJ: The Musical, Richard III, and Almost Famous. They also perform stunts as an actor double and actor trainer. That means fights, falls, wirework, fire, and car chases/explosions on shows like Orange is the New Black and She-Hulk: Attorney at Law and the film BlacKkKlansman

Career Highlight
“Intimacy coordination is not a cape you put on or a box you check,” they say. “You have to live it, personally and professionally. The impact of this work matters at this moment in time and requires more voices and points of view. Many times voices were silenced by the privilege of others, but now is the time to have those hushed voices take up more space.”

Advice to your younger self
“Stay soft,” she says. “Don’t let others harden you. Just because others have not seen it before doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable or worthy or important. Believe in yourself through it all.”

What’s next?
Johnson is busy, working on a show for BET, a play at the SoHo Rep, and working with the Black Intimacy Consent Collective. “Consent is an issue that belongs to all of us,” they say. “We need others if we are going to solve this problem.”


Lucas Ingram takes a selfie on the field at the Super BowlLucas Ingram ’13
Freelance art director

Time at Lehigh
Ingram came to Lehigh to study civil engineering. By the end of his first year, he switched to IDEAS, the four-year integrated honors program. Eventually he became a theatre major. He loved theatre in high school and began to work on light design and tech at Lehigh. He served as secretary and vice president for Mustard and Cheese and a member of the Improv Club.

After Lehigh
He earned his MFA from the University of Iowa in lighting, scenic, and projection Design. Then a Lehigh alumnus offered him an internship in the art department at the Tony Awards.  From there Ingram worked on many live event productions, including the MTV Video Music Awards, Country Music Awards, Democratic National Convention, Oscars, Super Bowl, and Good Morning America.

For the awards he’d travel six weeks at a time, arriving on location to then plan, install, and run the event. He soon switched to set management and art direction on episodic television, creating over 1,100 sets during three seasons of the CBS show The Equalizer

Career Highlight
A favorite of his was the university’s production of Urinetown. “I was the assistant lighting designer for the show, and when it opened, I went to every performance,” he says. “I was a good audience member, laughing hysterically.”

Advice to your younger self
“Branch out and take electives,” he says. “I use my engineering skills every day as I build sets, and I use the knowledge from my electives the most. Those classes have helped me know more of everything I am interacting with.”

What’s next?
While he sees the future as a nebulous question mark, he does know that the show he’s been working on was renewed for another season. “I am focused on my work for the season finale more than looking out too far,” he says.


Lee Micklin stands high above the NYC skylineLee Micklin ’08
Stage manager
Theatre with a Minor in Russian and Business

Time at Lehigh
Micklin dreamed of being a pediatrician until he shadowed one during high school. That’s when his pre-med plans changed. His love of languages then sent him toward a degree in Russian. 

During this pursuit of a college plan, he worked as a stage manager for a high school production of Les Miserables and went to summer camp where he learned more about stage management. 

It never crossed his mind that this avocation could be a vocation until he attended Admitted Student Day at Lehigh and met with Mary Nicholas, professor of Russian and then chair of the Modern Languages and Literatures Department. At her suggestion, Micklin went to check out the Zoellner Arts Center … and fell in love.

“It was the first time I could see myself doing theater for a living,” he says. Of course, he still studied Russian, but theatre became the main focus until his parents insisted on a business minor (just in case). At Lehigh, he built sets, directed, and stage managed. No surprise that he liked the last one best.

“The lovely thing about theatre at Lehigh is that it was open to all–theatre majors, athletes, students from other departments,” he says. “You are shielded from how great that is until you are out working in this business.”

After Lehigh
With New York City in his career sights, he went to Yale School of Drama to earn a master’s in stage management. Following that three-year program, he entered the market on a high note, working as a production assistant on the 2011 Broadway revival of Follies, starring  Bernadette Peters and Elaine Paige while the late composer Stephen Sondheim looked on. 

Micklin was in the studio as the cast recorded the album and witnessed as Sondheim changed a word in a song that he was never satisfied with (pitiful for those who care). “Here I thought I might work on one Broadway show in my career but am now on my 13th show,” he says.

He has been stage manager for Evita, starring Ricky Martin; Cabaret at Studio 54, directed by Sam Mendes; and Oh, Hello on Broadway, starring John Mulaney and Nick Kroll.

Career Highlight
At Lehigh he directed two shows in the black box theatre: Bug by Tracy Letts and A Number by Caryl Churchill. He was stage manager for A Shape of Things by Neil LaBute. He also worked on the Chekov masterpiece Three Sisters where he had to combine his theatre and Russian skills by translating the original lines for actors — part of an independent course by Profs. Nicholas and Ripa.

After campus, a highlight was working again with Sondheim, this time on the 2012 revival of Into the Woods. They snapped a photo together at the Central Park stage where the performance was part of the summer series.

Advice to your younger self
“Pursue more passions,” he says. “There are things I wish I had done, but if I had, I might not be where I am now.” One of those things was traveling to Russia. As a student, such a trip didn’t feel safe, so he took a three-month break in 2018 from a long-running Broadway show (Anastasia) to visit the country. Later he went to Columbia University to become certified to teach English in case he felt the pull to travel abroad. 

What’s next?
He is working on the Neil Diamond musical A Beautiful Noise, which opened in December. “My family played his songs when I was a baby, or so my mom tells me, but I don’t remember them,” he says. 


Ed Kahn smiles on his college campusEdward Kahn ’83
Retired professor, Ohio Wesleyan University
Theatre and Metallurgy & Materials Engineering, Dual Degree

Time at Lehigh
Kahn came to Lehigh as an engineering student, but the environment on South Mountain encouraged him to explore and experiment. Within his first year, he was working on stage as an actor. Soon he was pursuing both degrees. Over his time on campus he served as president of Mustard and Cheese, and during his junior year, he directed J.B. by Archibald MacLeish for the Theatre Department’s season at the Wilbur Drama Workshop in the old Power House theater.

“The department had enough faith in me to do that work, and I credit my directing mentor, Augustine Ripa, and a great bunch of talented, hard-working, and supportive classmates for its success,” he says.

After Lehigh
He worked as an engineer in materials analysis at IBM for three years. But he continued with theatre, connecting with some college students in his area to produce shows. He then left engineering and pursued an MFA in directing at Northwestern.

Lehigh invited him back as a sabbatical replacement for a semester, but he remained a bit longer to teach part time and direct a show. He earned his Ph.D. at Tufts in 2001. He set down more permanent roots in the Midwest, teaching theatre at Ohio Wesleyan for almost 20 years before retiring in 2020. 

Career Highlight
Rather than zero in on moments in his career, Kahn looks at others. “Seeing my students succeed is my highlight whether in theatre or other careers,” he says. “Theatre helps them learn to be creative, collaborative, and lead.”

Kahn notes that he is not made for the limelight but thrives behind the scenes. “I like working with the team and letting the work speak for itself rather than stand in the center of that,” he says.

Advice to your younger self
“Embrace the journey is what I’d tell myself,” he says. “And I credit my engineering experience with helping me think critically about performance and teaching.” That desire to investigate and explore never waned. During his tenure in Ohio, he continued to learn and travel, pursuing studies in Asian theatre in Hawaii and completing a Meisner training program. 

What’s next?
Sure, he’s taught a few courses over the last few years and helped his department through a reorganization. But true to form, Kahn is headed for a quick jaunt in NYC where he will watch a former student debut a show at the Public Theater. He will have time as well to check in on a few Lehigh friends.


Daphnie Sicre smiles looking up from a stoolDaphnie Sicre ’98
Assistant professor, Loyola Marymount University
Journalism and Theatre Double Major with Minor in Education

Time at Lehigh
Sicre was born in Ecuador and raised in Spain until she came to the U.S. at age 15. She was told that she wasn’t really college material. “As a woman of color and immigrant who spoke English as a second language and had learning disabilities, I could have believed my English teacher,” she says.

But she didn’t. She was recruited to Lehigh on an athletic scholarship for soccer and track. During her first year, she took an acting class with Augustine Ripa and was asked to audition.  She was soon cast in two one-acts written by María Irene Fornés and directed by since-retired theatre professor Pam Pepper.

Sicre’s schedule was packed with morning classes, afternoon practices, and evening rehearsals. She was involved in many shows including Zora Neale Hurston’s Spunk and August Wilson’s Fences.

“Even back then, Lehigh produced a play by a Black artist every year. Today that feat alone is remarkable at a predominantly white institution,” she says. “But it demonstrates how Lehigh was on the cusp of representing the global majority.”

When she knew that her life after Lehigh was bound for a classroom, she applied for and was accepted as a Presidential Scholar. Rather than earn a master’s degree in her fifth year at Lehigh, she earned another bachelor’s degree in history. “Back then, if teaching in New York, you had to major in what you taught, and journalism and theater weren’t options,” she says.

After Lehigh
Sicre began to teach in New York City while earning a master’s degree in social studies at Columbia. She then went to Florida, teaching at an urban high school in North Miami. She started a theater program from scratch and within four years won the top prize at the Florida Theatre Conference, where high schools from across the state compete in a one-act festival. 

“My students watched as other schools rolled in with expensive costumes and extensive sets while we had nothing,” she says. “It challenged them to get clear on their purpose and what it takes to succeed. The win meant so much to them.”

While teaching in Miami she earned her master’s in educational theater from NYU. She then entered the Ph.D. program at NYU and began her classwork and research while directing at many theaters and teaching at a variety of New York colleges. Balancing all of that took time, 10 years in fact, but it brought many amazing opportunities.

Career Highlight
It starts when James Earl Jones visited campus while she worked as stage manager on Fences at Zoellner. The win in Florida with her students is up there. So is serving as a culture consultant at Nickelodeon for shows and movies, and directing an outdoor pandemic performance of a LatinX version of Samuel Beckett’s classic Waiting for Godot.

Her research as well. She took a class on Blackness in Latin culture that changed the trajectory of her research, writing the first dissertation in the country on AfroLatinidad in U.S. theatres. She is now seen as its primary scholar following the publication of six book chapters.

Advice to your younger self
“I would say bet on yourself,” she says. “Lehigh took a bet on me. Lehigh gave me an opportunity, the confidence, and a foundation. I owe so much to Jack Lule, my journalism adviser, who fought for me and believed in me. I have never seen someone believe so deeply in me. He is a premier example of what a teacher should be. I still send him notes about my successes. Augustine Ripa in theater also believed in me. I love Lehigh and how it changed my life.”

What’s next?
A show she directed, La Egoista, winner of the 2022 National Latine Playwrights Award, just opened at the Skylight theater in Los Angeles. Days later she began directing a youth production at East West Players, the nation's first professional Asian American theater organization, that will tour area schools and community centers.