what we do

At The Jewel Box Children’s Theater Company, our focus is to help children build confidence and realize their full creative potential through the arts. Our holistic approach to children’s theater fosters confidence, creativity, artistic expression, self advocacy and a collaborative spirit. At The Jewel Box Children’s Theater Company, children can explore and discover their artistic voices at their own pace in an encouraging, communal setting. Our goal is to create meaningful programming that helps build strong, vibrant communities where children thrive, helping to cast a bright future for our community.

meet the team

Anna Kate Mohler

Executive and Artistic Director


How long have you been involved in theater?


What brought you to theater?

When I was six my mom signed me up for my first theater class because I had really bad social anxiety. Theater class became this special place where I learned to communicate in a social setting that was also really fun and creative and inspiring. After that experience I was hooked and theater has been a huge part of my life ever since.

How did you get involved in children’s theater?

I had been performing forever and I had worked as a nanny for years so it was a natural transition. As an adult Jewel Box is actually the one and only Children’s Theater experience that I have had. I always knew that I wanted to start a theater company for kids, I had experience working with children and families and I had spent time on the business side of the theater world so it just made sense.

Why did you decide to found Jewel Box Children’s Theater?

Jewel Box was founded on the belief that every child deserves the opportunity to experience quality arts programing regardless of their socioeconomic status. I knew that their was a gap when it came to easily accessible music and theater programing and I wanted to fill that gap. I believe whole heartedly that the arts can ignite great change within ourselves as individuals as well as within our communities. I am driven to create opportunities and experiences that facilitate a sense of purpose and community.

What would you tell a student who is nervous about starting classes at Jewel Box CT?

I would let them know first that its okay to be nervous. Then I would tell them that theater and music are great ways to practice being brave. The big plus is that you get to work in a supportive group setting and you only ever do what is best for your comfort level.

What is the most rewarding part of what you do?

Watching the kids work together to figure things out in imaginative and creative ways is one of the most inspiring and rewarding experiences. My best childhood memories are of working on theater productions and every single one of my lifelong friends I met through theater. Facilitating that same positive communal experience for our students is something that I find a lot of joy in.

Andy Zacharias

Operations and music director


What brought you to music?

I loved building and tinkering with things as a kid and playing instruments was a kind of extension of that. I have always been interested in puzzles and math too. When I first started learning about music I was fascinated by how it all fit together like a big math puzzle. I started to see that the more you learn about music the more there is to love. There is really no end to the possibilities when it comes to music. 

How did you get involved in Children’s theater

My first experience in children’s theater was as a kid in a production of Peter Pan at Sacramento Children’s Theater, I got to play one of the last boys and even say a line! After graduating fro CSULB, I landed a summer job music directing at a musical theater summer camp for kids and realized that I really enjoyed music directing and teaching .

Why did you decide to found Jewel Box CT?

Jewel Box CT was founded to give every kid a chance to take part in music and theater. I was especially interested in helping kids get experience in writing their own songs and creating their own musical theater shows from the ground up. 

What is your background in teaching music?

I began teaching music in Long Beach back in 2000 while I was pursuing my undergraduate degree at CSULB. I have a masters degree in music and have taught at various institutions including USC, Cypress College and The Orange County School of the Arts. As a music director I have worked throughout Orange County and Long Beach.

What is your teacher super power?

Being able to hear any melody that someone sings and be able to add chords and arrange it on the spot.

Why is music important important for children?

It helps us learn how to express ourselves, and get our emotions out. 

Kari Venaas

teaching artist


How long have you been involved in theater?

I have been performing in Theater since 5th grade (age 10.) My first role was a Blue M&M in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. 

What brought you to theater?

I had always loved singing with my Grandma Stella, and was in Dance Classes from age 3. I would always put on “shows” for my family, and had seen a few live theater shows that peaked my interest. When my elementary school announced the show, I jumped at the chance to audition. 

How did you get involved in JBCT?

I met Anna Kate and Andy while doing shows at the Long Beach Playhouse. When they announced JBCT, I thought it was a great idea! I started by volunteering with their first Sunday conservatory class. 

Why should kids get involved with theater?

Theater teaches you so many great life skills! Reading, memorizing, public speaking, critical thinking, how to work as a team, patience, social skills, focus, and confidence! All of my closest friends I know from Theater! 

What is your favorite song to sing sing the shower?

That’s a hard one. It’s always show tunes, but the specific song will change from time to time. Usually it’s Defying Gravity from Wicked, When He Sees Me from Waitress, or anything I am working on at the time. 

Who is your favorite performer? 

Bernadette Peters!!! I was introduced to her as Lily in the original Annie Movie, and was in awe of her as the Step Mother in Cinderella with Brandy and Whitney Houston. She was also the first person I saw on Broadway during a trip in High School! 

Give us your best quote. Something you think you say a lot as a teacher or a catch phrase that the kids would attach to you. 

Have fun and be kind! Those are the two most important rules of Theater, and in life!

What is your teacher super power?

Positivity and Patience. We all learn differently and that’s totally great. Being able to breathe, relax, and encourage each student , is always a plus! Everyone deserves the opportunity to try their best! I always want to make sure my students are having fun and know they are in a safe space. 

Why is Improv/Theater Games an important part of Theater?

Improv is judgement free and let’s you be yourself! It’s so fun and silly. There are no wrong choices, so all you have to do is say Yes! It’s also really great if you struggle with overthinking or second guessing yourself, like me! It forces you to get out of your head and think on your feet!

Christina Wilson

teaching artist


What brought you to music?

I had always enjoyed music, but it wasn’t until high school that I decided that I wanted to study, teach, and create music for the rest of my life.

How did you get involved with Jewel Box?

Andy and I performed in the same jazz ensemble in college, and was blown away by the launch of Jewel Box Children’s Theater. 

Why is music important important for children?

Music is the closest thing to magic, to me. Music is also for everyone, so it’s incredibly important to me that every one has access to it.

What is your teacher super power?

I can hear the chords to most songs once or twice, and I’d be able to play them on the piano from memory!

What is your favorite song to sing in the car?

If I am in a good mood, “Alice” by Lady Gaga. If I’m in bad mood, the entire Jagged Little Pill album by Alanis Morrisette

Who is your favorite performer?

The performer I’ve seen the most is probably Moira Smiley. I just love her energy, and how she holds so much respect for the music of the world.

What is your favorite quote?

“Music is a journey, not a race”.

Something you say a lot as a teacher

“Sing aaaaaaaall the way to the back of the hall!”

How long have you been involved in music and performing?

I started playing clarinet in the 5th grade, and joined choir in the 8th grade. I’ve been performing professionally for 15 years.

Why should kids get involved in theater?

Theater teaches so so much more than lines, blocking, and acting. It teaches work ethic, team building, and resilience. It also gives children a sense of belonging, a place to feel welcome, a sanctuary.

Why is singing important?

We all have this ancient instrument that is capable of not only communicating the vast range of human emotion, but also as a therapy, a release, and an expression.

Lovelle Liquigan

teaching artist

Erwin Tuazon

teaching artist

Board of directors

Patricia Maldonado McMaster, president

Patricia Maldonado McMaster is a very active community member. As director of community outreach for the Orange County School of the Arts, she represented the school to the Latino community and represented the school at different community organizations. Her past experience includes: President of the National Latina Business Association of Orange County, President of the Long Beach-Manta sister cities and President of the Sister Cities of Long Beach, board member of the Boys and Girls club in Santa Ana and Acacia Adult Day Services in Garden Grove.

Catherine Learned

Catherine Learned has dedicated her life as an Orange County Deputy Public Defender in juvenile court acting as a leader, advocate and voice for youth.  

Laura White

Laura White has established careers both in the performing arts and special education. She received her MFA from The London School of Performing Arts. Laura is currently a special education teacher with Long Beach Unified School District dedicated to teaching students with moderate to severe needs.

Joy Shannon

Joy Shannon has an extensive career as arts educator, with teaching duties including the Orange County School for the Arts, Fullerton College, and Laguna College of Art and Design

Brian Gibbs

With more than a decade of global experience in Class III medical device education and marketing, Brian is a professional and disciplined medical device marketer with a reputation for precision. He has managed a vast range of clinical education and product marketing engagements for market-leading devices from design to launch. Brian spent most of his professional career at Edwards Lifesciences, the global leader in heart valves and hemodynamic monitoring. He has additional experience working with non-profits, financial services, academia, and clinicians. Brian earned his MBA from The Paul Merage School of Business at UC Irvine and his BA from the Department of Economics at UCLA.

Naomie Worrell-Tate

Naomie Worrell-Tate is a Long Beach, CA community member who has actively served for several years in various roles for the Parent Teacher Association advocating for a safe and positive school environment for every child. Naomie currently works for the Long Beach Unified School District as a Paraeducater supporting students with special needs.