Wilson Jermaine Heredia to Lead World Premiere of HOW TO DANCE IN OHIO at Syracuse Stage

How to Dance in Ohio is scheduled as the 2022/2023 season opener at Syracuse Stage and will run Sept. 21 – Oct. 9, 2022.

By: Jun. 16, 2022
Wilson Jermaine Heredia to Lead World Premiere of HOW TO DANCE IN OHIO at Syracuse Stage
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Syracuse Stage has announced casting for the world premiere of How to Dance in Ohio, a new musical inspired by Alexandra Shiva's Peabody Award-winning documentary of the same name. With book and lyrics by Rebekah Greer Melocik (she/her), music by Jacob Yandura (he/him), choreography by Mayte Natalio (she/her), and direction by Sammi Cannold (she/her), How to Dance in Ohio is scheduled as the 2022/2023 season opener at Syracuse Stage and will run Sept. 21 - Oct. 9, 2022. Tickets go on sale July 25.

How to Dance in Ohio's fourteen-member cast includes Tony Award-winning RENT star Wilson Jermaine Heredia (he/him), Broadway veterans, and seven autistic actors. Heredia leads the cast as Dr. Emilio Amigo, alongside Haven Burton (she/her; Shrek the Musical, Violet) as Teresa, Darlesia Cearcy (she/her; Shuffle Along, Once On This Island) as Johanna, Carlos L. Encinias (he/him; Les Misérables, Mamma Mia!) as Kurt, Desmond Edwards (he/him) as Remy, Amelia Fei [Yi-Hsuan Fei] (she/her) as Caroline, Nick Gaswirth (he/him; Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812) as Michael, Gaelen Gilliland (she/her; SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical, Legally Blonde) as Amy, Madison Kopec (she/her) as Marideth, Liam Pearce (he/him) as Drew, Marina Pires (she/her; Aladdin, On Your Feet!) as Ashley Amigo, Imani Russell (they/them) as Melissa, Conor Tague (he/him) as Tommy, and Ashley Wool (she/her) as Jessica.

How to Dance in Ohio is a heart-filled new musical that explores what it means to belong, the courage it takes to put yourself out in the world, and the universal need to connect. Based on Shiva's award-winning documentary, produced by HBO in 2015, the musical follows the challenges and exhilarations faced by a group of seven autistic young adults at a counseling center in Columbus, Ohio. With the support of clinical psychologist Dr. Emilio Amigo, the center arranges a spring formal dance, and encourages them as they encounter love, fear, stress, excitement, and hope, along the path to human connection.

Through a dedication to authentic autistic representation, the musical's creators adhere closely to the documentary's narrative and spirit, offering a visible platform for autistic actors in a way that has never happened before in a new musical, both on and off the stage. Ava Xiao-Lin Rigelhaupt (she/her) serves as the production's ASD Creative Consultant with Becky Leifman (she/her) as the Director of Community Engagement. Music direction is by Lily Ling (she/her) with music supervision by Matt Gallagher (he/him). The full creative team will be announced at a later date.

The musical was originally developed with the legendary Broadway director Harold Prince and is dedicated to his instrumental work on the project. The production has received support from the Prince Fellowship and The Shubert Organization's Artistic Circle. Gilliland, Holtzman, Leifman, and Lopez are alumni of Syracuse University.


Haven Burton (Teresa) made her Broadway debut in "RENT" as Maureen, and went on to star as Elle Woods in "Legally Blonde" on Broadway. She then originated the role of Gingy and the Sugar Plum Fairy in "Shrek the Musical" on Broadway, and went on to replace Sutton Foster as Princess Fiona, in which she also starred on tour. In 2016, she starred as Lauren in "Kinky Boots" on Broadway, and also appeared in "Violet" in 2014.

Darlesia {Dar.lee.see.ah} Cearcy (Johanna) recently appeared as Diana in "Next to Normal" at Westport Country Playhouse for which she was nominated as Best Actress in a Musical by Connecticut Critics Circle Awards. She was last seen on Broadway as Erzulie: Goddess of Love in the Tony Award winning revival of "Once on this Island." She appeared as an original cast member and performed as Lottie Gee in Audra's McDonald's stead in the amazing Broadway musical "Shuffle Along." She has performed on Broadway as Nettie in "The Color Purple," Sarah in "Ragtime" for which she received a Helen Hayes Nomination, and "The Goodbye Girl." She won the BTF award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical for "Nina Simone: Four Women" at The Berkshire Theatre Group. Her television credits include: guest star on "High Fidelity," "Madame Secretary," "FBI," "House of Cards," "Elementary," "Law & Order: SVU," and "Nurse Jackie." Upcoming: The World Premier of "HOW TO DANCE in OHIO" as Johanna. Catch her on the episodic "The Watcher" (Netflix). Urvisionhousse.com

Carlos L. Encinias (Kurt), originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, studied Theatre at BYU, and is a proud New Yorker since 2000. Broadway: Les Miserables (Fueilly), Mamma Mia! (us Eddie/Father A), Good Vibrations (us Jan/Class President), Scandalous (Ramon) starring Carolee Carmello. Off-Broadway: Altar Boyz (Juan/Abe/Mark). Regional: Barrington Stage, world premiere A Crossing (Arturo); Olney, Miss You Like Hell (Manuel); Papermill Playhouse, A Christmas Story (us Santa); Phoenix Theatre, Evita (Che); Westport Playhouse, Man OF La Mancha (Padre); Sundance, Cinderella (Prince).

Desmond Edwards (Remy) is a recent graduate of Lyman High School in Longwood, Florida. He joined theater his sophomore year of high school as sound designer, composing orchestral pieces for his school's plays before becoming an actor his junior year. His favorite roles include Audrey Two from his school's production of "Little Shop of Horrors."

Amelia Fei [Yi-Hsuan Fei] (Caroline) is an actress and voice over artist from Taiwan. Some of her credits include "The King and I" (u/s Lady Thiang), "Julius Caesar" (Cassius, Cinna) and "Avenue Q" (Christmas Eve).

Nick Gaswirth (Michael) Broadway: "Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812;" "A Christmas Story: The Musical." Tour: "Wicked," "A Christmas Story." Regional: "I Am Harvey Milk/I Am Anne Hutchinson" (Lincoln Center/Strathmore), "Secondhand Lions" (Seattle 5th Ave), "James and the Giant Peach" (Goodspeed), "Yeast Nation" (FringeNYC), "The Gig" (NYMF)," Minnie's Boys" (York Theatre), "The Full Monty" (Westchester Broadway), "Candide" (Arden), "A Year With Frog and Toad" (Arden).

Gaelen Gilliland (Amy) Gaelen has performed on Broadway in WICKED, LEGALLY BLONDE (original cast and MTV Recording), 9 to 5 (original cast), HONEYMOON IN VEGAS (original cast), KINKY BOOTS and SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS (original cast). She has toured the U.S. with the first national tours of SEUSSICAL (Mayzie), THE ADDAMS FAMILY (Alice Beineke) and MEAN GIRLS (Mrs. Heron/Ms. Norbury/Mrs. George). TV appearances: The Blacklist (NBC), WeCrashed (AppleTv), The Tony Awards with LEGALLY BLONDE (2009) and SPONGEBOB (2018), The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (2007, 2014 and 2018), The Today Show, The View and Good Morning America! Love to Andy and Max.

Wilson Jermaine Heredia (Dr. Emilio Amigo) is best known for winning the 1996 Tony, Drama Desk and Obie Awards for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for the role of Angel in the musical "RENT." He also garnered an Olivier nomination when he reprised the role in London. He reprised the role again in the 2005 film. He returned to Broadway in "La Cage Aux Folles" opposite Harvey Fierstein. He recently played the role of Dan in "Next to Normal" at the Westport Country Playhouse, directed by Rob Santana. Other films include "Flawless," with Robert De Niro and Philip Seymour Hoffman and "Rainbow Bridge Motel." He's featured in Lin-Manuel Miranda's film adaptation of Jonathan Larson's "Tick Tick . . . Boom" for Netflix. TV: guest starred in "Banshee," "Blind Spot," "Without a Trace" and "Law & Order: SVU."

Madison Kopec (Maridith) is a native of South Bend, Indiana, where she grew up performing in community theater. Diagnosed Autistic as a junior in high school presented challenges, but opportunities also manifested. In 2019 she was cast in the industry reading of "INDIGO - A New Musical," followed by the industry reading of "How to Dance in Ohio."

Liam Pearce (Drew) recently completed his B.F.A. in musical theater at Pace University. Previous credits include "If/Then," "Amelie," "Spring Awakening," and a reading of "Newton's Cradle" by the Saunders Collective. Liam is thankful for this piece because of its extreme importance for representation amongst the ASD community and for helping Liam find parts of himself and his own unique traits of his autism that he had not uncovered before.

Marina Pires (Ashley Amigo) is a Brazilian born singer, actor, and songwriter based in New York's Hudson Valley. Past credits include: Jasmine "Aladdin" (Broadway), Gloria Estefan "On Your Feet!" (Broadway First National Tour & The MUNY), Vanessa "In The Heights" (Dallas Theatre Center), "Evita" (Asolo Rep), "PHISH" (Madison Square Garden), The Witch "Into The Woods" (Holy City Light Opera). As a songwriter, Marina's lyrics have been featured in the Off-Broadway musical "A Never-Ending Line" and on Broadway Records' Songs by an Immigrant with Jaime Lozano. She's performs nationally and throughout NYC at 54 Below, Rockwood Music Hall and Joe's Pub with her folk band, The Heartstrings Project.

Imani Russell (Melissa) is a Black+Boricua queer+trans+disabled multi-hyphenate artist from Crown Heights (unceded Lenape land). Trained in classical music, musical theater, and acting, Imani has a B.A. in Drama from Vassar College and an M.A. in Musical Theater from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Imani has performed off-Broadway, most recently in the Trans Entertainment Guild's production of "The Civility of Albert Cashier" (The Player's Theatre), and has also performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. In addition to the stage, Imani is an emerging voice actor. They also write music under the name NANí and recently released a two-song EP titled "sweetbitter creature." Imani believes in and creates in pursuit of Black queer+trans power and safety, indigenous sovereignty, and art as an act of love and community.

Conor Tague (Tommy) is a graduate of the Professional Conservatory of Musical Theatre at New York Film Academy. His credits include the role Cody Hill on the "Law & Order: SVU." Theater credits include William Barfée in "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," Freddy Benson in "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," King Charles in "Pippin," Underling in "The Drowsy Chaperone," as well as multiple fundraising concerts and cabarets with EPIC Players and ActionPlay organizations.

Ashley Wool (Jessica) is a New York native and a graduate of SUNY Geneseo. Favorite regional credits include: "Company" (Amy), "Xanadu" (Kira/Clio), "The Addams Family: (Wednesday; OnStage Critics Award nominee).


P3 Productions is a Tony Award-winning producing team led by Ben Holtzman (he/him), Sammy Lopez (he/him), and Fiona Howe Rudin (she/her). Upcoming Productions: HOW TO DANCE IN OHIO (World Premiere: Syracuse Stage), GUN & POWDER, MIDSUMMER, BRADICAL, and projects with award-winning artists John Leguizamo and Shakina Nayfack. Select Co-Producing/Investment credits: HAMILTON, MOULIN ROUGE, A CHRISTMAS CAROL, BE MORE CHILL, THE KITE RUNNER, and A STRANGE LOOP (with A Choir Full Productions), and others. Keara Moon (she/her) serves as the company's assistant producer with Pua Tanielu (she/her) as the producing intern. www.p3.productions

ABOUT Syracuse Stage

Founded in 1974, Syracuse Stage is the non-profit, professional theatre company in residence at Syracuse University. It is nationally recognized for creating stimulating theatrical work that engages Central New York and significantly contributes to the artistic life of Syracuse University, where it is a vital partner in achieving the educational mission of the University's Department of Drama. Syracuse Stage's mission is to tell stories that engage, entertain and inspire people to see life beyond their own experience. Each season 70,000 patrons enjoy an adventurous mix of new plays, and bold interpretations of classics and musicals, featuring the finest theatre artists. In addition, Stage maintains a vital educational outreach program that annually serves more than 21,000 students from 16 counties. Syracuse Stage is a constituent of the Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national organization for the American theatre, and a member of the Arts and Cultural Leadership Alliance (ACLA), the University Hill Corporation and the East Genesee Regent Association. Syracuse Stage is a member of The League of Resident Theatres (LORT), the largest professional theatre association in the country.