Above the Timberline Event Photo

Above the Timberline

A Breathtaking Visual Journey
Written, Illustrated, and Adapted for the Stage by Gregory Manchess

In an alternate future where the weather of the world has been permanently altered, the son of a famed polar explorer sets out in search of his father, who disappeared while looking for a lost city buried under the snow. But Wes Singleton believes his father is still alive - somewhere above the timberline. Adapted from the exquisitely painted novel, the world premiere stage adaptation is sure to delight.


PLEASE NOTE: This production contains flashing lights and loud noises, including recorded sounds of gunshots, missiles, and explosions, that may be startling to some viewers.

Friday, October 15th at 8:00pm - Opening Night Party
Saturday, October 16th at 2:00pm - THEATRE FOR ALL PERFORMANCE

Saturday, October 16th at 8:00pm
Wednesday, October 20th at 8:00pm
Thursday, October 21st at 8:00pm
Friday, October 22nd at 8:00pm
Saturday, October 23rd at 8:00pm

Location: Forest Roberts Theatre

Tickets are $17 for General Public, $12 for NMU Faculty/Staff, Seniors, and Military, $10 for Students, and $5 for NMU Students.


Cast List


Galen Michael Ahlstrom
Linea Amarae' Robinson
Wes Wyatt Schmitt
Solon Kai Alec VanHorn
Wilkes Hanna Numinen
Sam DaShawn Mitchell
Tau, Oarsman 2 Aster Bechek
Elizabeth, Crewman 2 Maisie James
Edwards, Zhuan, Voice Quinn Skelly
Lathom, Mok Maya Moreau
Weatherman, Sentry Keely-Shaye Hanson
Scopeman, Struts Gracie Fries
Crewman 3, Enemy Airman Shannon Knowski
Oarsman 1, Flight Leader Amelia Rhinerson
1st Officer, Voice, Runner Zoe Hajec
Indomitable Crew Cassidy Hope Olson, Keely-Shaye Hanson, Aster Bechek, Shannon Knowski, Zoe Hajec, Noah Proctor,
Austin Graham, Maisie James, Justin Atkinson, Aaron Knaus
Adamant Crew Bryson Krieger, Gracie Fries, Rebecca Piepszak, Sophie Shrauger, Eric Saunders,
Amelia Rhinerson, Rhiannyn McCauley
Villagers Maisie James, Maya Moreau, Gracie Fries, Shannon Knowski, Amelia Rhinerson, Zoe Hajec,
Aaron Knaus
Snow Leopards Aster Bechek, Maisie James, Maya Moreau, Gracie Fries, Amelia Rhinerson, Zoe Hajec
Rhinos Quinn Skelly, Maya Moreau, Keely-Shaye Hanson, Shannon Knowski, Zoe Hajec
Falcon Puppeteer "Athena" Sophie Shrauger
Falcon Puppeteer "Feathers" Rebecca Piepszak
Polar Bear Puppeteer "Patch" Cassidy Hope Olson
Polar Bear Puppeteer "Paw"  Rhiannyn McCauley
Polar Bear Puppeteer "Grim" Heart: Noah Proctor, Spine: Austin Graham, Head: Rebecca Piepszak
Polar Bear Puppeteer "Lump" Heart: Justin Atkinson, Spine: Eric Saunders, Head: Bryson Krieger

Creative Team


Director Keli Crawford-Truckey
Scenic Designer Lex van Blommestein
Lighting Designer David Pierce
Assistant Lighting Designer Seth Bowen
Media Designers Gregory Manchess, Dan Zini
Assistant Media Designer Erin Hope
Costume Designer Em Rossi
Assistant Costume Designer Gianna Bratke
Sound Designer Dan Zini
Assistant Sound Designers Ryan Harvey, Amarae' Robinson
Puppet Designer Em Rossi
Properties Designers Keli Crawford-Truckey, Alec VanHorn
Production Stage Manager Clair Kaminski
Technical Director Braeden Ingersoll
Assistant Technical Director Sylvia Bednarczyk


† Indicates membership in Alpha Psi Omega, the National Theatre Honor Society.

Additional Artistic Staff


Composers Barbara Rhyneer, Dan Zini
Art Director Lex van Blommestein
Assistant Stage Managers Elijah Fenske, Rebecca Brand
Audio 1 Ryan Harvey
Master Electrician Ethan Rickert
Sound Programmers Ryan Harvey, Dan Zini
Media Programmers Erin Hope, Dan Zini
Run Crew Dane Krusick

Forest Roberts Theatre Professional Staff


Producer Bill Digneit
Directors of Theatre and Dance Jill Grundstrom and Bill Digneit
Production Manager David Pierce
Technical Director and Scene Shop Supervisor Braeden Ingersoll
Properties Artisan Keli Crawford-Truckey
Scenic/Paint Supervisor Lex van Blommestein
Master Carpenter Emily Kendall
Costume Shop Supervisor Ann Juidici
Lighting Supervisor David Pierce
Sound and Media Supervisor Dan Zini
Marketing/Box Office Manager Lilith Kontos

Forest Roberts Theatre Staff


Scene Shop Technicians Sylvia Bednarczyk, Emma Block, Seth Bowen, Noah Proctor, Samantha Wardisiani
Costume Shop Student Supervisor Joel Shinavier
Costume Shop Staff Ella Bartlett Filipowicz, Rhiannyn McCauley, Amelia Rhinerson, Suzanne Shahbazi, Elise Wilcox
Electrics Student Supervisors Marla Alden, Megan Hibbard
Sound/Media Student Supervisor William Squires IV
Electrics/Sound Technicians Ryan Harvey, Erin Hope, DaShawn Mitchell, Ethan Rickert, Amarae' Robinson
Assistant Marketing/Box Office Manager Aubrey Wolck
Marketing/Box Office Staff Toni Danz, Erin Hope, Clair Kaminski, Logan Stoner


† Indicates membership in Alpha Psi Omega, the National Theatre Honor Society.

Cast Bios

Alec VanHorn (Solon Kai) is a theatre technology and design major with a minor in art and design. He strives to be a jack of all trades with experience so far in carpentry, woodworking, sewing, jewelry, blacksmithing, makeup, singing, and acting. Alec also built and painted the firearms for this production, he hopes to own and operate a prop-shop in the future. With interests in pre-industrial lifestyles, art, and construction, he plans to live off-grid after graduation in December.

Hanna Numinen (Wilkes) is a senior here at Northern Michigan University pursuing a B.S. in Theatre and Entertainment Arts with a minor in dance. Some recent roles of theirs at the FRT include Pam in The Full Monty, Terk in Tarzan, and Wednesday Addams in The Addams Family. She would like to thank her loving parents and boyfriend for their support. Enjoy the show!

Maisie James (Elizabeth, Crewman 2) is a freshman at Northern and is so excited to be performing in Above the Timberline! Maisie is a secondary English education major with a minor in theatre. Maisie has been doing theatre since middle school and is extremely passionate about acting and singing. She can be found working in a public practice room way too late at night or hunched over a massive bucket of movie theater popcorn checking out a new horror movie. Maisie would like to thank her family for their endless support and love, as well as her newfound friends in the Theatre and Dance Department.

Quinn Skelly (Edwards, Zhuan, Voice, Rhino) is excited for his first performance on Northern Michigan University's campus. In the world premiere of Above the Timberline, he plays multiple roles for your entertainment. Please sit back and enjoy the night as we take you to a better place.

Maya Moreau (Lathom, Mok, Villager, Snow Leopard, Rhino) is a freshman B.F.A. at NMU. She's performed in shows such as Mary Poppins as Mary Poppins, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee as Olive Ostrovsky, Noises Off as Vicki, and has an upcoming performance as Mrs. Greenway in Elf the Musical. Maya has had rigorous training in classical music while playing the cello, and incorporates this knowledge into her art. She hopes to work and train hard in the B.F.A. program throughout her next four years at NMU in order to land major professional roles in the future. 

Keely-Shaye Hanson (Weatherman, Sentry, Indomitable Crew, Rhino) is a second-year student here at NMU and comes from the small town of Minocqua, WI. She is pursuing a B.A. in Theatre and Entertainment Arts. So far she's been involved in A Christmas Carol and a couple of the Spotlight Variety Shows on campus. Keely is excited to finally be back on stage and living her dream of acting. 

Gracie Fries (Scopeman, Struts, Snow Leopard, Adamant Crew, Villager) is a senior pursuing a B.A. in Dance with a business concentration. Her passion lies in the musical arts, with twenty-one years of dance instruction and vocal lessons. She was a pro-dancer in the 2019 “Dancing With Our Stars Marquette County Style, Disney Edition” and co-choreographer for SAYT's 2019 production of Frozen Jr. Gracie has performed in several FRT productions including Rock the FRT, Tarzan, Beauty and the Beast, What We Leave Behind, and the Spotlight Variety Show. Her latest works include North x North Coast, in which she choreographed, performed, and helped compose original music with Dan Zini; and CO/LAB COLLECTIVE, in which she choreographed and performed “Thunderstruck” with her band, Tease. Her hobbies include singing, playing bass, baking, gardening, and spending time with the people she loves. Being one of the first of her family to attend college, she is proud to be a Wildcat with much support from her family, friends, and the Theatre and Dance Department faculty!

Shannon Knowski (Crewman 3, Enemy Airman, Indomitable Crew, Villager, Rhino) was involved in many musicals at Port Washington High School such as Cinderella and Tarzan, and also performed in community theatre productions at Memories Dinner Theater (The Marvelous Wonderettes and Man of La Mancha). She also appeared as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz at Lakeshore Productions. Shannon has been involved in productions with Port Rec theatre since she was four years old, including shows such as The Little Mermaid (Carlotta) and Sleeping Beauty (Princess Aurora). She is a freshman at NMU pursuing a B.F.A. in Musical Theatre. She is thankful to her family and friends for all of their support.

Amelia Rhinerson (Oarsman 1, Flight Leader, Adamant Crew, Villager, Snow Leopard) is a freshman biology major at NMU, but she is not new to theatre! She has been performing since sixth grade with notable roles such as Moley (Wind in the Willows), Mrs. Paroo (Music Man), and Golde (Fiddler on the Roof) along with several other ensemble and supporting roles for shows at her local theaters. She is very excited to be a part of Above the Timberline as a cast member as well as in the costume shop. She will continue to work with costumes this season, but is hoping to be in the cast of a few more shows next season!

Cassidy Hope Olson (Indomitable Crew, Patch) is a junior at Northern Michigan University. They are currently working on applying to be a part of the Independently Created Program at Northern. Cassidy is planning on studying content creation and strategy. They are a content creator on TikTok, sharing their life experiences from a different perspective, telling unique stories, and creating safe online social spaces for all. @cassidyhopeolson

Austin Graham (Indomitable Crew, Grim) is a freshman at Northern Michigan University and is currently studying theatre and entertainment arts. Before attending NMU, he graduated from LaSalle High School in St. Ignace, Michigan. Austin has had a lot of experience with the performing arts and theatre. Throughout his four years of high school, he was a member of the LaSalle High School Drama Club. In the summers he had off from school, his passion for the arts and entertainment didn’t take a break. For four summers, Graham participated in The Young Americans Performing Arts Summer Camps, and has been getting into the music scene for roughly 2 years now. Earlier this season, Austin was cast in the Spotlight Variety Show and performed a rendition of Tom Petty’s "Free Fallin’."

Aaron Knaus (Indomitable Crew, Villager) is a fifth year theatre performance major with a minor in outdoor recreation. His specialties include voice acting and narrating. Aside from acting, Aaron spends time at many of his remote outdoor haunts: numerous lakes, trails, and creeks where he can be found throughout the entire year. Aaron is also a performer of the electric keys of old. 

Justin Atkinson (Indomitable Crew, Lump) is a freshman here at NMU. He is very happy to be a part of this performance and many more to come. 

Eric Saunders (Adamant Crew, Lump) is back into theatre after a two-year hiatus. His theatre experience before Above The Timberline includes performances such as The Phantom of the Opera, A Midnight Summer's Dream, All Shook Up, The Bells Are Ringing, and several others. One of Eric's favorite plays he's performed in (besides Above the Timberline) was The Princess Bride as Fezzik. This performance is his first time as a puppeteer, and this experience is one he will not forget. Eric would like to thank everyone who helped to create this production for this incredible experience, and hope you enjoy the show.

Bryson Krieger (Adamant Crew, Lump) is in his first year at NMU and excited to be a part of the theatre program. Being introduced to theatre at a young age, Bryson has grown to love taking part in many different types of productions including community theatre (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast) and high school theatre (Into the Woods, Peter and the Starcatcher, Little Shop of Horrors). When not onstage, Bryson enjoys exploring, adventuring, questing, and playing Scrabble with his friends. He would like to thank his family, friends, and his new theatre family for helping him with his theatrical journey.

Creative Team Bios

Gregory Manchess (Playwright) is the artist, author, and playwright of Above the Timberline. Widely awarded in illustration, his versatile oil paintings have been showcased for countless books and magazines such as TimeRolling StoneThe Atlantic, and National Geographic. He has painted numerous USPS stamps including the Mark Twain portrait commission and The March On Washington Forever Stamps. His illustrations were highlighted in the Coen Brothers' movie, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, and recently his mission patch designs accompanied the NASA astronauts to the International Space Station. He lectures at universities across the country and teaches online at SmArter Art School.

Braeden Ingersoll (Technical Director), originating from Des Moines Iowa, recently received his M.F.A. in Technical Production from Florida State University, where he strove to advance his knowledge in the industry and as an educator. Prior professional credits include Technical Director for Des Moines Metro Opera & Theatre Aspen and Assistant Technical Director for Creede Repertory Theatre. Braeden is also an active member of the United States' Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) having served as President for a Graduate Student Chapter & earning the Director's Choice Award for the USITT/ASTC (American Society of Theatre Consultants) Renovation Challenge in 2019. 

Lex van Blommestein (Scenic Designer, Media Designer, Art Director) is so happy to be doing the scenic design, vehicle puppet design, and art direction for this marvelous production. Lex says "It feels like my time scenic designing professionally (The Black Rep, Memphis Playhouse on the Square, Cincinnati Shakespeare, and more) as well as academically (SIUE, Meredith College, Principia College, MSU, and NMU) have driven me towards this amazing, challenging, and inspiring production." He would like to thank Greg Manchess for writing this, Keli Crawford-Truckey for spearheading direction, and the design team for being so inspired. He would also like to thank Em, Ruby, and Talvi. Cheers!

Em Rossi (Costume Designer, Puppet Designer) is an NMU alumnus (2004 B.S., 2006 M.A.). After designing many productions at FRT and other theaters in the Marquette area, she relocated to Detroit where she obtained an M.F.A. in Costume Design from Wayne State University. Em has designed costumes and puppets for professional and educational theaters all over the country, but is very happy to be back “home” in Marquette with her husband Lex and daughters Ruby and Talvi. 

Dan Zini (Sound Designer, Media Designer, Composer, Sound/Media Programmer) is a designer and engineer in sound, media, and lighting with over a decade of professional experience. He also works as a composer, studio engineer, musician, and live entertainment/broadcast programmer and holds many internationally recognized technical certifications. Dan’s client list is extensive and includes Andy Grammar, Afroman, Samantha Fish, Carlos Nunez, Alash, Sandra Joseph, Joshua Davis, LDI Las Vegas, Hershey Entertainment, and various theatre companies serving on over 100 productions including The Wizard of Oz, Les Miserables, and Mary Poppins. Dan currently serves as the Sound and Media Supervisor for the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance at NMU and is a frequent lecturer for the Theatre and Dance and Media Studies Departments.

Dr. Barbara Rhyneer (Composer) began her performance career by studying violin, trumpet, and dance in her home town of Anchorage, Alaska. After earning a D. A. in Orchestral Orchestra Conducting and Violin Performance from Ball State University, Dr. Rhyneer joined the NMU Department of Music faculty where she is in her 25th year directing the university orchestra, providing string lessons to music majors, and teaching classes in conducting, string pedagogy, and music literature. While she isn’t teaching, Dr. Rhyneer enjoys writing music, singing, performing with the local Irish band the “Knockabouts,” and spending time with her husband and her two teenagers.

Sylvia Bednarczyk (Assistant Technical Director) is a junior B.F.A. Theatre Technology and Design student from Oak Lawn, Illinois. Recent credits include Assistant Stage Manager for The Tempest and Romeo and Juliet, Properties Designer for an/one’s ivory tower, and Production Manager for North x North Coast. Additionally, Sylvia is currently one of the assistant scenic designers for Elf the Musical, and will be the Production Stage Manager for Next to Normal in the winter. Sylvia is above excited to be creating consistently again!

Erin Hope (Assistant Media Designer) is from Kalamazoo, Michigan, pursuing a B.A. in Theatre and Entertainment Arts with minors in English and deaf studies. This is her third year attending NMU, and she has worked previously on Romeo and Juliet (Script Supervisor) and Twelfth Night (Builder, Painter, and Run Crew). Erin is excited to be back at NMU to work on shows in person for the public. 

Gianna Bratke (Assistant Costume Designer) is a sophomore at NMU. Even though this is her first show at NMU and first time working with costumes, she believes she did some pretty good work with the airmen costumes and some of the puppets too! She would like to thank her dogs for being so supportive even though they are hours away downstate, and some of her friends for giving some second opinions or just giving the thumbs up on her designs this past summer. It's an honor for her to work on world premiere of Above the Timberline and she hopes everyone enjoys it!

Seth Bowen (Assistant Lighting Designer) is pursuing a B.F.A. in Theatre Technology and Design and plans on becoming a professor of theatre someday! He is originally from McNaughton, Wisconsin and is currently in his senior year here at NMU. Seth has taken part in many different performances at NMU including The Full Monty (Malcolm), Cats (Gus), North x North Coast (What If? Scenic and Props), Romeo and Juliet (Lighting Designer), Spotlight Variety Show (Scenic Coordinator), and CO/LAB COLLECTIVE (Scenic Coordinator). Seth is super excited to be a part of this artistic creation and is excited to light the wintery world that is the show! Seth intends to use his skills to the best of his abilities and hopes to bring life to what lies within Above the Timberline.

Ryan Harvey (Assistant Sound Designer, A1, Sound Programmer) is a second-year theatre technology and design major focusing on sound and visual media. He got started in the technical theatre world by getting stranded at his older brother's rehearsal in his freshman year of high school and hasn't escaped since. Recently he has packed his schedule, working on both the Spotlight Variety Show and CO/LAB COLLECTIVE while also being employed in the Theatre and Dance Department’s electrics shop. He is thankful for a program with enough opportunities to keep him busy all year.

Clair Kaminski (Production Stage Manager) is a senior B.F.A. Theatre Technology and Design student with a concentration in stage management. She is thrilled to have had the opportunity to work on Above the Timberline as the Production Stage Manager. The collaboration it took to put this show together was unlike anything she has ever experienced, and she is so grateful to have been able to be a part of it. She would like to thank her family, friends, and the theatre and dance faculty for supporting her throughout this process. She hopes you enjoy the show!

Rebecca Brand (Assistant Stage Manager) is an aspiring dancer new to the NMU theatre program with a love for all performing arts. Her focus is in ballet and dance direction and she is eager to fortify her repertoire with the opportunities NMU provides.