Staff & Board of Directors

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 two YAI productions: “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. 

Barbara Deming, YAI Board Chair, is a senior management consultant for the State of Minnesota, and has assisted state and local agencies, multi-agency stakeholder groups and education institutions with organizational assessment and planning since 1988. She is also the proud mom of two YAI alumni.

David Holewinski, YAI Board Member, has been involved with the organization since its inaugural season, and is currently working as a Mental Health Social Worker at the VA Medical Center in Minneapolis. He has prior experience with diverse populations including persons with disabilities and traumatic brain injury.

Benjamin Lacina, YAI Founder and Board Member, founded Young Artists Initiative in 2004 with colleague and friend Jefferson Fietek. He brought his Education Director lens to the initial development of the organization, assuming Artistic Direction from 2011-2017. Ben has a Bachelor’s Degree in K-12 Vocal Music Education, a Master’s Degree in Gifted Education & Talent Development and an Ed.S. degree in Education Leadership. He taught for more than 13 years at the elementary and middle school levels, served three years as Teaching & Learning Specialist for K-12 Talent Development in the Anoka-Hennepin School District, and is currently the Arts Program Manager for Creative Arts Secondary School in downtown Saint Paul. 

Susan McCarthy, YAI Board Member is parent of a YAI participant and a physician with the Minneapolis VA Health Care System.

James McCormick, YAI Board Member is a software engineer and consultant in addition to being a theater fan and YAI parent.

Timothy Moy, YAI Board Member is a senior business analyst at Delta Airlines and a proud parent of two YAI alumni.

Laurie Mucciacciaro, YAI Board Member is an independent software consultant, has been an active participant in the last six YAI shows, and is the mother of two YAI alumni.

Carrie Schmitt, YAI Board Member is the parent of a YAI participant and brings experience from her role coordinating volunteers at her daughter’s school theater program.