Department of Theatre Arts: Faculty and Staff


Linda Nell Cooper
Associate Professor (Chair, Department of Theatre Arts)

Phone: (434) 582-2078

Mrs. Cooper, a graduate of Liberty University, holds a Master of Arts in Humanities from Hollins University, has completed ABD of her Ph.D. from the University of Virginia, and has continued education at The College of William & Mary. Mrs. Cooper is a registered songwriter with BMI in New York City, and is a member of both The Dramatists Guild of America, and The Gospel Music Association. Mrs. Cooper also works professionally as a director and choreographer, and is a member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers.  She was the Executive Producer of The Miracle at The Miracle Theater in Pigeon Forge, TN, and is a commissioned writer/director for Fee-Hedrick Family Entertainment, Inc.

Besides being a winner of the Charles M. Getchell national award for playwriting, her lyrics for Rebel Cry were a finalist in the national Lehman Engel Musical Theater Competition in New York City in the fall of 2002. Rebel Cry was a national finalist in the 2003 David Mark Cohen Playwriting Competition sponsored by the Kennedy Center, and April Morning was a 2004 semifinalist in the Appalachian Festival of New Plays. Besides the recently completed musical, The Miracle, other works include Monte Cristo: The Musical, April Morning, Ribs for Dinner, June & Judd of the Blue Ridge, Fireflies, Who’s Your Best Friend, Shenandoah Christmas, Christmas at the Five & Dime, One Holy Lamb, and To Each His Own. She is currently working on a new Christmas musical, and a concept for a new musical based on the Holocaust. She and her husband own Greenbrook Productions, Inc.

Mrs. Cooper teaches Playwriting, Advanced Acting, Musical Theatre, and Advanced Musical Theatre. Most recent directing credits include Into the Woods, and Peter Pan and Tarzan for the Alluvion Stage Company. Mrs. Cooper has received five Kennedy Center American College Theatre Merit Awards for excellence in directing.

Scott Hayes
Associate Professor (Associate Dean, School of Communication & Creative Arts)

Phone: (434) 592-6744

Film/television (SAG) credits include Superbook, The Pallbearer, Hidden Fears, Law and Order, and Central Park West.  Theatrical (AEA) credits include  Blood Brothers, The Mousetrap, My Way-A Tribute to Frank Sinatra, The Will Rogers Follies, Misalliance, The Gifts of the Magi, and The Little Prince.  Scott has written five plays (Return to Pacific Grove, Searching for His Heart, His Eyes of Love, Redeeming Love, and The Joseph Secret) and has won the Best Short Drama award in the Christians in Theatre Arts national competition.   He is also a professional producer, director and combat choreographer with more than 100 productions to his credit, and he continues to serve as artistic director for the Parable Theatre Company. 

Scott recently celebrated his eighteenth year of teaching, during which he has worked at six universities in the United States and England.  He currently is the Associate Dean of the School of Communication & Creative Arts at Liberty University, overseeing the graduate and undergraduate departments of Cinematic Arts, Digital Media and Communication Arts, Studio and Digital Arts, and Theatre Arts.   He is an associate professor for the Department of Theatre Arts, where he directs and teaches acting courses.

Scott and his wife, Sarah, are the proud parents of three daughters, Emma, Abigail, and Eliza.  They live in Forest, VA.

Neal Brasher
Assistant Professor

Phone: (434) 582-7621

Mr. Brasher is a native of Alabama and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music and History from Samford University in Birmingham and a Master of Fine Arts in Acting from The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. His professional credits include multiple roles with The American Shakespeare Center, Alabama Public Television, and Oklahoma Shakespeare Festival where he played the title role in Macbeth.

Mr. Brasher joined the Liberty faculty in 2004. He teaches a range of courses including Acting I, Foundations of Theatre History, Voice for the Stage, Stage Accents, and Classical Acting Styles. Most recent directing credits include The Rivals, The 39 Steps, A Man for All Seasons, and All My Sons.

Chris Nelson
Assistant Professor

Phone: (434) 582-2627

Mr. Nelson holds a Master of Fine Arts in Acting from Regent University. As a professional actor, some of his credits include Chris in Terrence Malick's The New World, starring Colin Farrell, Davey Boy Smith in the independent feature Judges, David in the independent feature As It Is In Heaven and multiple other film and commercial appearances.

In 2011 Mr. Nelson had the privilege of directing The Miracle at the Miracle Theater in Pigeon Forge, TN.  In 2007 he also had the honor to direct and produce 1607: First Landing, an outdoor drama located in Virginia Beach, VA to pay tribute to America's 400th Anniversary.  For six years he worked as an artist-in-residence for Spring Branch Community Church, a part of the Willow Creek Association, where he performed and directed as part of their drama ministry.  Since then he continues to work with the church as an independent performer.

He currently oversees the Liberty University Summer Arts Program, which welcomes nearly 200 local and out-of-state students to the campus each summer.  Similarly, he worked four years as the Summer Arts Coordinator at Regent University where he designed multiple theatre and film camps. Mr. Nelson also sits on the board for the Hollywood Youth Theatre, a new children’s theatre company in Burbank, CA.

He teaches Acting I, Acting II, Drama in the Church, Introduction to Motion Picture Directing, and Acting for Film. Most recent directing credits include Ragtime, Little Shop of Horrors and Carousel.  He has received Kennedy Center American College Theatre Merit Awards for excellence in directing for both Little Shop of Horrors and Ragtime.  

Andy Geffken
Assistant Professor

Phone: (434) 592-5771

Mr. Geffken received his Masters of Fine Arts in Acting at Regent University. In 2008 he graduated from Liberty University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies and a minor in Theatre Arts. He appeared in numerous LU Theatre productions during his undergraduate career. After graduate school he helped start the Americana Theatre Company in Plymouth, Massachusetts where he also served as Marketing Coordinator. He has studied Stage Combat for several years, training with some of the world’s premiere combat instructors through the Society of American Fight Directors in which he is also a member.

Mr. Geffken teaches Acting I and II, Theatre Appreciation, Voice for the Stage, Senior Project, Stage Movement, and Stage Combat; also serving as Fight Director for all main stage and Alluvion productions. Mr. Geffken is excited to be the director of the Fall Workshop production that features the department’s underclassmen; past productions include Leaving Iowa and Shakespeare’s, The Taming of the Shrew. He also is grateful to be a part of bringing back Liberty’s Summer Shakespeare production which he hopes to see become a staple of summer theatre in the Lynchburg area.

He and his wife, Erica, are overjoyed to be back in Lynchburg with their sons, Rhett and Flynn, to raise their family and reinvest their lives in the department where they met and fell in love.

Barry Gawinski
Assistant Professor

Phone: (434) 592-6307

Mr. Gawinski received an MFA in Technical Theater from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

He has been actively involved in theater technology and design since 1989.  He has been a professional lighting designer for dance, theater and opera working both nationally and abroad. He has been the Resident Lighting Designer for the Dance Department at Virginia Commonwealth University, and Adjunct Lighting Designer for James Madison University’s Dance Department.  Prior to coming to Liberty, Mr. Gawinski was the Systems Division Manager and Lead Integrator for Barbizon, in Washington, DC, having worked on many projects for prominent television studios, theatres, government facilities and worship facilities in the DC/MD/VA/PA region including the John F. Kennedy Center, CNN, the Paramount Theatre in Charlottesville, and multiple projects for the office of the President of the United States and the Pentagon.  Barry had the pleasure of working for Dr. Falwell when he was Barbizon’s lead designer for the theatrical and broadcast lighting system for the new 5,000 seat sanctuary at Thomas Road Baptist Church.  A few years later he was again Barbizon’s lead designer for the lighting and rigging systems for the Tower Theater here at Liberty University.

While at Liberty University, he has been the Scenic Designer for the Department of Theatre Arts’ production of She Loves Me, and the Lighting Designer for Alluvion Stage Company’s productions of Tarzan, Les Miserable, Kinderstransport, Mary Poppins, and The Little Mermaid.

Outside of Liberty, Barry enjoys writing and directing Gospel-based dramas for churches and Outreach.  He is thrilled to be able to combine his love for theatre with his personal desire for advancing the Gospel through the dramatic arts, and loves that he has the opportunity to help raise up young designers to bring Christian world-view into secular arts.  

Barry and his wife Rachel have three girls: Abby, Emma, and Lily.

Connie Hecker
Assistant Professor

Phone: (434) 582-7078

Mrs. Hecker received her Bachelor of Science in Industrial and Interior Design from the University of Cincinnati and her Master of Fine Arts in Technical Theatre from Kent State University. She is a native of Ohio from the little town of Chagrin Falls. Connie has designed shows for musical theatre, drama, and opera around the Greater Cleveland/Akron area, including for the Akron Civic Hall All City Musical Ragtime, Cuyahoga Community College East  Botanic Garden, Harry’s Christmas, and The Complete Works of William Shakespere;  Dobama Theatre A Bright New Boise, Kent State University Ragtime, Cloud Nine, Grapes of Wrath, Solon Art Center Werther and Heights Youth Theatre The Little Princess and Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.

Connie has been the Scenic Charge Artist at Porthouse Theatre, as well as painting numerous other shows. She enjoys designing video and still projections to use in shows.

Connie served many years on her church Global Outreach team. She has a deep respect for the power of theatre arts and music when used in the process of tilling the soil of hearts and minds, planting, growing and tending the Gospel seed to be ready and ripe for harvest.

Connie came into the theatre through a side door while raising her 5 children, Alexis, Catherine, Elizabeth, James and Stephanie and enjoys seeing her oldest grandchild Sabrina continue the family theatrical tradition. She fully expects Calvin and Leo to join in.

Academic Staff

Patricia Justice
Administrative Assistant

Phone: (434) 582-7078

Patricia Justice brings many years of program planning and organization experience to the Department of Theatre Arts.  She has worked for many years in the Youth Services Department of Lynchburg Public Library where she presented hundreds of youth programs and story times.  Patricia also has a background of mentoring college-aged young adults, previously working with and managing Liberty University’s Synchronized Skating team.  Patricia works on handling the many organizational details of the Theatre Arts Department, and enjoys serving the staff, faculty and students. 

Patricia is currently pursuing a Liberal Arts degree through Baypath University.  

Amanda Poch
Administrative & Budget Manager

Phone: (434) 582-7080

Ms. Poch received a Master of Business Administration, as well as a Bachelor of Music from Liberty University. She serves as administrative supervisor and manager of budget development, manages all ticket sales in conjunction with the University Ticket Office, and assists the Summer Arts Coordinator with all summer program details. 

She also directs the orchestras for all Main Stage academic productions, as well as Alluvion Stage Company productions. In 2007, she was awarded the Excellence in Theatre Production award, and has been chosen on several occasions to perform in the School of Music’s Piano Showcase, both as a soloist and an accompanist. She was also named a University Employee of the Month in July of 2012 and February of 2014.

In her spare time, she works as Assistant Worship Leader at Living Word Baptist Church, works as a curriculum writer & music teacher for the Liberty Online Academy, and spends as much time as possibly with her adorable puppy Thor.

David Steele
Media Specialist

Phone: (434) 582-2628

David is a graduate of Liberty University with a degree in Visual Communication Arts (VCAR), with a concentration in Graphic Design (2011). While at Liberty, David also studied Psychology, Computer Science and Theatre Arts, and worked part time in the Theatre as the Media Assistant before getting hired full time in July, 2011.

As Media Specialist, David provides quality designs for the Department of Theatre Arts in the form of posters, programs, billboards, radio and tv commercials, and other advertising signage. David also spearheaded the new radio drama program, Playhouse of the Airwaves, which has had 2 broadcasts so far, with another one scheduled for this Fall.

David lives in Lynchburg with his wife, Katelyn, and their 6 month old son, Elijah. 

Melissa Yowell
Department Pianist

Phone: (434) 582-7078

Melissa Yowell graduated from Liberty University in May, 2013 with a B.A. in Theater Performance and a B.M. in Piano. In her undergraduate studies, Melissa also studied Voice. She began working as an accompanist at age 12 for choirs, churches, singing tour groups, and homeschool co-ops. When Melissa came to Liberty as an undergraduate student studying Theatre, she simultaneously became immersed in playing piano for voice lessons on campus as well as playing in the orchestra pit for several theatre productions.

With a love for both music and theatre, Melissa is excited to work in depth with students, helping them strengthen their musical abilities and practice their craft.

Technical Staff

Mark Howieson
Production Manager

Phone: (434) 592-6305

Mark holds an MFA from Carnegie-Mellon University in Technical Production. He has previously held faculty positions in the theatre departments of the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, the University of Florida, and the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. His professional credits include the Grove Shakespeare Festival in California, Great Lakes Theatre Festival in Cleveland, Minnesota Opera in Minneapolis, and Sea World of Ohio. As a technical director he has over 175 shows to his credit.

He and his wife Stephanie reside in Staunton, VA.

Will Smith
Scenic Artist

Phone: (434) 592-7590

Mr. Smith graduated from Liberty University with a B.A. in Theatre Arts, with an emphasis in Production.  His love for theater and art began as a child when he got involved with his church's theatrical productions.  He quickly grew to love all the aspects of theater, but became especially interested in scenic and painting work.

His LU credits include Hairspray, A Christmas Carol, The Civil War, The Phantom of the Opera, Oklahoma, Little Shop of Horrors, The 39 Steps, Into the Woods, She Loves Me, and All My Sons.  He has received three Irene Ryan nominations for his work as Properties Master, Scenic Artist, and Scenic Designer.  Professionally, he has worked on Peter Pan, Tarzan, Les Miserables, Kindertransport, and Mary Poppins (Alluvion Stage Company), The Marvelous Wonderettes, Honk!, and Grease (Jenny Wiley Theater), and The Andrews Brothers (Allenberry Playhouse).

Aside from theater, he enjoys digital media and fine painting. His art has won several awards and been featured in events across the state of Tennessee. Mr. Smith enjoys the community and collaboration of theater, and enjoys sharing ideas with others. 

April McWilliams
Technical Director: Lights & Sound

Phone: (434) 592-6306

Mrs. McWilliams graduated from Liberty with BS in Communication. She continued her technical education with LDI Institute and Broadway Master Classes. April is pleased to return to Liberty Theater after a five year hiatus where she worked all over the East Coast as well as Colorado and Wyoming doing production work. Professional credits include George Winston, John Deere, MLB Commissioner's party and the Colorado Film Commission.

Nathan Klein 
Assistant Technical Director: Props & Rigging

Phone: (434) 582-4937

Mr. Klein, a Lynchburg native, graduated from Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, NC with a B.A. in Communications, with an emphasis in Television and Radio.  He was first introduced to Theatre through the GWU work study program as a student.  It was during those four years he developed a stronger passion for Theatrical arts, film, graphic design, and special effects.

Mr. Klein humbly thinks of himself as a jack of all trades when it comes to theater and film.  He is always ready to lend a helping hand, and constantly looks for ways to refine his craft.

Nicole Campbell 
Assistant Technical Director: Light & Sound

Phone: (434) 592-4690

Nicole Campbell  graduated in 2008 with a BA in Theatre Arts from Christopher Newport  University where she studied Design and Technical Theatre.  While originally intending to pursue a career in acting, Nicole fell in love with the production side of the theatre.   Shortly after finishing her BA she received her M.Div. degree in Christian Ministry from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.  

Nicole has done prosthetics and FX makeup for VCU film school.  Her love for the church has brought her to assist in technical production in multiple church venues in Virginia and North Carolina. 

As Assistant Technical Director of Lighting & Sound, Nicole Campbell is both designing and implementing lights and sound for various productions during the semester. Nicole currently lives in Forest with her husband and brand new baby boy, Gaines.

Greg Vinson
Sound Engineer

Phone: (434) 592-2016

Gregory, a Portsmouth, VA native, is a graduate of Full Sail University with a degree in Recording Arts. After graduating, his sound experiences included Radio, Film, Music, and Corporate A/V.  He developed a love for Theater as Audio Technician at Busch Gardens, and continued to enhance his abilities as Sound Design/Engineer Manager for Royal Caribbean International Cruises.

Mr. Vinson is also an accomplished musician and songwriter with many professional credits to his name.  Greg currently lives in Lynchburg with his wife Candace, son Cylus, and his pet fish “Kung Fu”.

Kathy Jordan
Costume Manager

Phone: (434) 592-4689

Kathy is a 1991 graduate of Liberty University, earning a B.S. in Education. As a student at Liberty, Kathy performed in various theatrical productions. In addition to working as Office Manager at Thomas Road Baptist Church’s Music Office,  Kathy has costumed for TRBC’s Virginia Christmas Spectacular (Living Christmas Tree) for the last 15 years  as well as various shows at Lynchburg Academy of Fine Arts, and for Liberty Christian Academy’s theatrical productions.

As Assistant Costume Manager for Liberty’s  Department of Theater Arts, Kathy is responsible for assisting the head costumer in all areas, as well as designing and costuming designated shows each year.

Brianne Crist
Costume Shop Manager

Phone: (434) 592-4689

Brianne Crist graduated from Liberty University with a B.S. in Fashion Merchandising and Interiors, as well as a Minor in Business. As a student, she was very involved with her department’s honors program as well as the Liberty University honors program. Brianne also participated in the FACS Department’s annual fashion show as a designer, where she earned the “Best Execution in Workmanship Award.” 

Brianne has always nurtured a love for theatre, beginning her association as a student worker and then interning in the Theatre Department's Costume Shop.