In 2017, after 15 years as an all-volunteer organization on Saint Paul’s East Side, Young Artists Initiative (YAI) announced the hiring of Matt Berdahl as the company’s first paid Artistic Director!

Matthew Berdahl, Artistic Director, has been active in musical theatre, Shakespeare, National Touring Children’s Theatre, commercial work, and various other professional mediums. He has directed four YAI productions: “Matilda”, “Seussical”, “Mary Poppins”, and “Disney’s The Little Mermaid.” He facilitates YAI’s outreach work, funded through the McNeely Foundation, visiting schools and teaching at local recreation centers, sharing the positive world of theater with youth on Saint Paul’s East Side.

 

Berdahl is a Minnesota-born and raised theatre professional who has performed, directed, and traveled the country working with various theaters connected with many strong communities along the way. Upon receiving his Bachelor of Arts from the Minnesota State University – Moorhead, Berdahl launched his career as an actor, performing with some of the Twin Cities theater’s staple directors and theater companies with strong ties to their respective communities. Following a bit of performing in Michigan, Berdahl made his career move back to the Twin Cities to focus on performing for youth as his primary task. Being selected YAI’s new Artistic Director brings his professional journey full circle. 

 



Michael Carlson, YAI Board Member
(He/ Him), has been a YAI Board Member since September 2019 and was elected as Board Chair in May of 2020. He is a licensed clinical social worker who has served St. Paul Public Schools since 2008. Michael has a Bachelor’s degree in Theatre from the University of Minnesota and has performed around the Twin Cities in plays and at open mics. In addition to the arts, Michael trains and competes in martial arts, and is a proud father of three children. 

 

Sarah Kraning, YAI Board Member, (She/ Her) is a new addition to the YAI team and is excited to contribute to such a fantastic organization! Sarah grew up performing in local Twin Cities theatres, and went on to earn a degree in Speech-Language Pathology. She has completed research about how cognition, communication, and charisma are affected in episodes with traumatic brain injury. After working in acute care and academic research for a few years, Sarah used her love of communication to become a writer for UnitedHealth Group’s research and development team. Sarah also has experience in fundraising and community outreach. When she isn’t working, Sarah loves hiking around Minnesota’s beautiful trails with her husband and dog.

Timothy Moy, YAI Board Member (He/ Him), has been a YAI Board Member since November 2011. He is a senior business analyst at Delta Airlines and a proud parent of two YAI alumni.

 

Clara Kennedy, YAI Board Member, (She/ Her), has been a YAI Board member since May 2020. She is a working actor in the cities and moved to Minneapolis in June of 2019 after working as an actor in Chicago for two years after college. She has directed for YAI before in their production of Frozen Jr in January of 2019. 

 

Jim Noggle, YAI Board Member, (He/ Him), has been a YAI Board Member since June 2020. He has worked for a variety of Twin Cities corporations over the past 20+ years, successfully leading multiple initiatives for various organizations in Finance, Supply Chain Management, Procurement, Logistics, Product Development, Project Management, Process Improvement, Strategic Planning, and Accounting.

 

Mollie Miller, YAI Board Member, (She/ Her), has been a YAI Board Member since November 2019. She is a mom of 2 silly and wonderful boys. She currently works at Roseville Area Middle School on the Behavior Team.  She has worked with kids for 25+ years coaching sports, creating unique ways for kids to express themselves. She is Chair of the City of Maplewood Environmental & Natural Resource Commission, Executive Board Member of AFSME Mn Council 5, Local 1129, Solar Advisory Board Member at Century College.

 

Jared Gray, YAI Board Member, (He/ Him), has been a YAI Board Member since January 2020. He is a Senior Creative Project Manager at Wells Fargo. He is an outside-the-box problem solver and brings a wealth of creative development experience to the board, especially as it pertains to the arts and entertainment. In fact, prior to Jared’s corporate roles, he worked as a production and story manager for various television programs and even had a stint at The Guthrie Theater as a dramaturg.  In his spare time, you can find Jared with his family, golfing with friends, or catching a show around town. 

 

Melissa Noggle, YAI Board Member, (She/ Her), has been a YAI  Board Member since June of 2020. She has been a school bus driver since 2004 and an independent stylist with Color Street since November of 2020. She currently has 3 ducks, a chinchilla and a leopard gecko for pets and enjoys spending time with her family horseback riding.

 

Ben Eng, YAI Board Member, (He/ Him), has been a YAI Board Member since May 2020. He Is a freelance theatre technician in cities his specialty is lighting design and front of house. He has lived in MN his whole life and attended college at Bemidji State University. He has worked on several YAI shows. Peter Pan as a flyer and was the lighting designer for Oliver, Little Mermaid and Mary Poppins.  When he is not doing theatre things.  Ben enjoys hanging out with friends and family, playing board games, taking in a hockey or baseball game and sitting around a bonfire.  

 

Robyn Wheeler, YAI Board Member, (She/ Her), has been a YAI Board Member since June 2020  has been one of YAI’s most enthusiastic volunteers since she became involved in 2014! When she is not pouring much of her time and passion into YAI, she serves the community as a forensic psychiatric nurse for Hennepin County – specializing in working at the intersections of the criminal justice system, substance use disorders, homelessness, and mental illness.

 

Tommy Lang, YAI Board Member, (He/ Him), has been a YAI Board Member since May 2020. He is a sound designer with three productions with Metro State University.  He also has 17 years of experience with promotions and back of the house with the Minnesota Twins. In his spare time he enjoys camping, golfing with friends and hanging out with his family

 

Katherine Carlson, YAI Board Member, (She/ Her), has been a YAI Board Member since June 2020 and is the Early Careers Diversity Program Manager for UnitedHealthcare. Katherine has a graduate degree in Human Resources and Industrial Relations from Carlson School of Management and a deep love for all things theater. In her spare time, she enjoys long hikes through Minnesota State Parks with her family, playing chess, and loudly singing show tunes, much to the chagrin of her son.

 

Barry Inman, YAI Board Member, (He/ Him), has been a YAI Board Member since May 2020. He is the Box Office Manager at the Jungle Theater. He has spent the past few years working for various theater companies in FOH and Administrative roles in town including Guthrie Theater and Theater Latte Da. 

 

Jeannette Ledesma, YAI Board Member, (She/ Her), has been a YAI Board Member since January 2019. She is the aunt of 2 YAI alumni. She is an avid supporter of the arts having worked with and for Saint Paul Public Schools for more than a decade. She is an Americorps alumni having received a Lifetime Achievement Award for her services with Reading Corps at Four Seasons A+ Elementary in Saint Paul, MN. Jeannette is the chair for the outreach committee. 

 

Matt Berdahl, YAI Board Member, Ex Officio, (He/ Him), has been a YAI Board Member since June 2020. He is a Minnesota-born and raised theatre professional who has performed, directed, and traveled the country working with various theaters connected with many strong communities, including musical theatre, Shakespeare, National Touring Children’s Theatre, commercial work, and various other professional mediums. Upon receiving his Bachelor of Arts from the Minnesota State University, Moorhead, Matt launched his career as an actor, performing with some of the Twin Cities theater’s staple directors and theater companies with strong ties to their respective communities. Following a stint in Michigan, Matt made his career move back to the Twin Cities in 2015 to focus on directing for youth as his primary task. He artistically participated in YAI productions: Matilda (Director), Seussical (Director), Disney’s Mary Poppins (Director) and Disney’s The Little Mermaid (Director), and Shrek Jr (Sound Designer). Matt was selected to be YAI’s Artistic Director in 2017, bringing his professional journey full circle: sharing the positive world of theater with Twin Cities youth and working to grow our great YAI community! 

 

Becky Wagner, YAI Board Member (She/ Her), recently joined the YAI board in January 2021. Currently a Program Manager at WEX, Inc. She brings a background of marketing and business development experience, as well as in theater and piano. The University of Minnesota brought her to Minneapolis where she studied English, interned at Interact Center, and taught beginner piano lessons.

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