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The Establishment of Theatre School of WNY

Buffalo has a new theater school. It’s called Theatre School of WNY, and it’s being run by some of the top theatrical talents in the region. The school, according to acclaimed playwright, composer, and lyricist Neal Radice, is already underway with preliminary programming in June. Acting classes will then kick into high gear this fall. 

Home base for the Theatre School of WNY will be in the Alleyway Theatre facility in the heart of Buffalo’s historic Theatre District. The teaching talents include members of Actors’ Equity Association, ACTRA, Dramatist’s Guild and multiple Artie Award winners and nominees, making this acting school one that should quickly become a highly respected, highly sought-after theatrical resource for anyone looking to hone their acting skills. 

The Theatre School of WNY is under the direction of Chris J Handley, who has emerged as the Head of Faculty. With twenty years of acting experience in Buffalo, New York City, and throughout the country, Handley’s diverse acting, teaching, directing, and producing expertise made him a shoo-in for the position. Moving forward, Buffalo is now armed with a theater school that could rival some of the best in the country, especially due to the massive amount of talents that have been amassed. Following is an overview of faculty and summer course offerings:

Chris J Handley – Head Of Faculty

Mr. Handley has worked in theatre for over twenty years in Buffalo, New York City, and across the country as an actor, teacher, director, and producer. As producer and director, his work has earned four Artie nominations as he oversaw a dozen musicals, including two local premieres: Stephen Sondheim’s Saturday Night and Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years. He has worked as an actor on stage in new, classic, and contemporary plays and musicals, television commercials, an award-winning independent soap opera, over two years as an entertainer on a Mississippi riverboat, and numerous developmental workshops of new plays and musicals. Along the way, his colleagues included many current Broadway performers, and several TONY-nominees.

Locally, he earned two Artie nominations for Best Actor in a Musical: Assassins and Alleyway’s Reefer Madness. As a teacher, Mr. Handley is on staff at the Broadway Mentors Program, has led various workshops on the craft, taught privately, and spent three years teaching BFA and BA theatre students Acting and Voice & Speech. He works regionally as a director as well as production speech/dialect coach. He has trained with Patsy Rodenburg at NYC’s Michael Howard Studios as well as Lincoln Center Education. Mr. Handley holds an MFA in Acting from Indiana University, a BFA in Musical Theatre from SUNY Fredonia, and is a graduate of Canisius High School where he received the Kenny Award. Mr. Handley is a member of Actors’ Equity Association.

The Faculty

Syndi Starr Buscaglia

Ms. Starr-Buscaglia has been involved in theater since the age of 8. As an actor, she has performed at the Alleyway Theatre, MusicalFare Theatre, The Kavinoky Theatre, regionally at Artpark for over 25 years, and is a multiple Artie Award winner. Mrs. Buscaglia is a retired Orchard Park Middle School teacher where she directed their musicals for over 30 years. She is also the founder of Orchard Park Summer Theatre Workshop, a camp which ran for over 10 years and has worked with theatre students at MusicalFare Theatre, Orchard Park Central Schools, and Williamsville Central Schools. Mrs. Buscaglia is permanently certified in NYS in English Education, Special Education, Elementary Education, and Gifted Education.

Ellise Chase

Ms. Chase is a current MFA candidate in Acting at Indiana University. When not bouncing around the stage, she loves reading, hiking, riding her horses, and eating cheese. Some fun facts about Ellise: she worked on a dude ranch in Wyoming as a wrangler for three years, she speaks a little Irish Gaelic, and can perfectly quote all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls. Some of her favorite roles have been Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire, Wendy in Peter And Wendy, and Roma in The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. She has performed at Erie Playhouse and with the Erie Philharmonic. Ms. Chase studied at Point Park and Gannon Universities.

Karen McDonald

Ms. McDonald has worked as a theatre professional for over 25 years as an actor, singer, writer and educator. She has performed in major theatres across the United States, Canada, Asia and Eastern Europe. Locally she has been featured at Alleyway Theatre, Studio Arena, Showboat Festival and Dominion Repertory Theatre. In Toronto: Fiddler On The Roof, Sound Of Music, Nunsense, Anne of Green Gables, Guys and Dolls, Oliver! to name a few.

In New York: Funny Girl, Those Were The Days, Gypsy and Othello. International and National tours: 42nd Street, Pirates of Penzance and Big River. Many of her plays have been featured at festivals and theatres, most notably Up In A Balloon which premiered at the Metro Room in NYC, subsequently at Cape May Stage in New Jersey and Dominion Rep in Fort Erie. She has taught through the Arts in Education of Western New York, Studio Arena Theatre School, Learning Through The Arts in Toronto, many performing arts schools and continues to be a guest instructor at various institutions and as a private coach. Ms. McDonald is a proud member of Actor’s Equity, ACTRA and the Dramatist’s Guild and is the first recipient of the Senator Dale Vulcar Award for Excellence in The Arts.

Neal Radice

Mr. Radice is Founder and Executive Director of Alleyway Theatre. He received his Master of Arts degree from the University of Buffalo where he taught acting and play production as a graduate fellow and adjunct lecturer. In addition to having directed and produced more than two hundred stage plays, musicals or operas during the past fifty years, he has taught directing and acting for the British Theatre Association, directed and designed for the Stephenville Festival of Newfoundland, and represented the United States at the International Theatre Association Conference in Krakow, Poland. He has designed sets, costumes, or lighting for well over two hundred productions and his credits as a playwright, composer, or lyricist include incidental music for theatre, full- length plays and musicals, modern operas, comedy and music revues, plays for children, and an adaptation of A Christmas Carol.

Joyce Stilson

Ms. Stilson is a graduate of University of Buffalo where she received her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts In Humanities degrees. She is a former teaching artist of the Western New York Institute for Arts in Education and The Regina A. Quick Center, member of New York State Theatre Education Association, and served as Marketing Chair of Buffalo’s annual Curtain Up! Celebration. She is a founding member of the Coalition of Arts Providers for Children of Western New York, Chair of its Professional Development Committee as well as Vice President. In addition, to serving on the faculty of the Empire State Partnership Summer Seminar conference for three years, she has also been a guest lecturer for Buffalo State College Fine Arts Department where she taught Introduction To Theatre and has been a guest instructor for several Western New York and statewide arts-in-education conferences. Ms. Stilson is a two time recipient of the New York Foundation for the Arts Artist in Residence at Olmsted School 67 and has been a panelist for, as well as recipient of, a Special Opportunity Stipend from New York Foundation For the Arts.

She has served as a panelist for New York State Council on the Arts/Arts In Education Program and the New York State Council on the Arts Theatre Program. Ms. Stilson was honored with Artvoice Artie awards for Best Supporting Actress as well as Costume Design and is a recipient of the Pathfinder award for excellence in education from Business First and Buffalo Alliance for Education. Ms. Stilson has been a member of the staff of Alleyway Theatre since 1989 during which time she has acted, directed or designed for dozens of productions.

Summer, 2018 Course Offerings

THE IT FACTOR (Grades 9-12)

June 3-24, Sundays, 10 AM-12 PM

Discover the magic stuff that draws us to certain performers. It is really magic? What is “stage presence?” How can you find it in you and use it to make your performance star-shining? Find out how to always be “in the moment.” All experience levels welcome.


June 3-24, Sundays 12:30-2:30 PM

A monologue is your own one-person play. Work step-by-step to choose, rehearse, and perform your own monologue, applying fundamental acting techniques. All experience levels welcome! Memorization required.

ACTING BOOT CAMP (Grades 9-12)

August 6-10, Monday thru Friday, 9 AM-3:30 PM

In this week long intensive, students will explore the actor’s process with classes in voice, movement, and acting. Masterclasses from guest instructors will include a variety of specialty theatre topics. Culminates in a presentation for friends and family showcasing the week’s training on the final day. All experience levels welcome! Memorization and commitment to attendance required.

Fall, 2018 Course Offerings


Grades 11 & 12

Sep 16-Nov 4, Sundays, 12:30-2:30 PM (monologue work) 2:45-4:30 PM (song work)

Never fear! Be prepared! College auditions are competitive, but you’ll be at the front of the pack with customized, individual coaching on your song and monologue. Plus, get personal feedback from industry and academic professionals during a Mock Audition Panel. Topics include: material choice, audition techniques, eliminating stage fright, headshots/resumes, what to wear, and more. Requires memorization and commitment to attendance and work outside of class. For serious students only. Class size very limited.


September 16-November 4, Sundays, 10 AM-12 PM

Start your journey in the theatre as you explore what it means to be an actor! Exercises in concentration, imagination, relationship, and awareness form the basis of this course. Students use games, exercises and short scenes to begin to develop an understanding of the essential building blocks of the actor’s craft. Some memorization required, all experience levels welcome!


September 15-November 3, Saturdays, 10 AM-12 PM

Building on skills introduced in Foundations I, this course continues to break down how an actor creates a believable performance onstage using exercises from some of the Great Acting Teachers of the 20th Century. Students will use voice, body, and imagination to begin to “live truthfully under imaginary circumstances.” Memorization required. Completion of Foundations I or instructor approval required.


September 16-November 4, Sundays, 12:30-2:30 PM

Ever wonder why characters suddenly burst into song? Sometimes we need more than words to express ourselves! In this class, students will focus on breaking down a song for meaning, while learning basic breathing and singing technique. Discover how YOU speak and sing, then explore how the character speaks and sings. Memorization and outside work required.


September 15-November 3, Saturdays, 10-11:30 AM

Stretch your imagination, learn about theatre techniques, make friends, and have fun all at once. Our “theatre games” class will introduce students to the basics of pantomime, improvisation, vocalization, characterization, stage presence, stage direction, actor etiquette, and teamwork. The class will culminate with individual performances by student actors for family and friends.

IMPROV 101 (Grades 7-9)

September 15-November 3, Saturdays, 12-2:00 PM

Students will learn basic acting techniques through improvisation games in this course where they compete with classmates! Become more familiar with theatre techniques including stage presence, vocalization, characterization, stage direction, actor etiquette, and teamwork. Culminates with a team competition for family and friends which will be judged by theatre professionals.

ADULT ACTING 101 (18 and older)

September 18-November 6, Tuesdays, 6:30-8:30 PM

For anyone who ever thought about being onstage, this is your moment. Based on ideas from master acting teachers Uta Hagen and Sanford Meisner, students will explore scenes from contemporary plays in a fun and safe environment. For real, for fun, or just to get out of the house! All experience levels welcome!

CONTINGENCY ACTING (Professional Actors Only)

Dates and times to fit your schedule.

One on one, open ended, private coaching for adult actors working in WNY. Weekly 60-90 minute sessions scheduled at the convenience of the participant. May also be combined in pairs. Focus will be on Mr. Radice’s distinctive techniques for approaching rehearsal & performance.

For experienced actors, space limited.

Registration And Details

Most courses require a minimum number of students and may be capped to ensure adequate time for individual attention.

Tuition is required paid in-full to reserve a spot and is non-refundable except in the case of course cancellation.

Further information including course tuitions, course instructors and registration deadlines, available online at:

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Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside, Buffalo Porchfest, and Paint vs. Paint. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market on Elmwood. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at Statler City, the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival, and The Flutterby Festival.

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