Jessica “Red” Bays

A Northern Michigan alumni, Red graduated in 2001 with a Major in English/ Minor in Theatre and Speech Communications and appeared in many mainstage productions. From 1999-2001, "Red" toured the U.S. with "Poetry Alive," dramatizing poetry at both Collegiate and High School levels. In 2002 she was a World Premier member of George Sapio's Play-writing Award Winner, Ghosts, which earned her an Irene Ryan Nomination. While acting professionally in Lansing, Red was cast as Ouisa Kittredge in Six Degrees of Separation and was nominated for a Pulsar Award for Best Leading Actress for her interpretation of the role. This role also caught the eye of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, and the company was chosen to perform in the 2006 Night of Scenes. Since her return to Marquette, Red has appeared in productions at Lake Superior Theatre, Westwood Shakespeare Company and Vertigo Theatre. With Upper Peninsula Shakespeare Festival, “Red” has appeared as Lady Macbeth in Macbeth, the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet and Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams. In Wolf’s Head Theater Company’s inaugural production of Bug by Tracy Letts, “Red” appeared as Agnes.

In 2009, “Red” was honored with the City of Marquette’s Outstanding Performance Artist—given to a working community artist who has consistently made an impact in her artistic discipline. Red served on the First Nighters Club Advisory Board for Northern Michigan University, works as a Puppeteer for Peter White Public Library, a Storyteller and Scholar for “Prime Time Family Reading Time” with the National Endowment for the Humanities, and is a co-founder of Marquette’s own Vertigo Theatre Company. In 2014, Red worked as the project director for the Marquette Regional History Center while they produced an original theatrical production titled Willpower, under a Michigan Humanities Council Major Grant.


Christopher Scott Leith

Christopher has been acting and directing in Marquette and around the country for 20 years. He has appeared on many stages in the area, including Northern Michigan University, Westwood Shakespeare Company and Lake Superior Theatre. With Upper Peninsula Shakespeare Festival, Chris has appeared as Caliban in The Tempest, Duncan/Murderer in Macbeth, Tranio/Gremio in The Taming of the Shrew, Capulet in Romeo and Juliet and Lucius in Titus Andronicus. In Wolf’s Head Theater Company’s inaugural production of Bug by Tracy Letts, Christopher appeared as Jerry Goss.


Monica Nordeen

Monica Nordeen has appeared on many stages, local and in New York. In Marquette, Monica has appeared with Lake Superior Theatre (where she is also a board member), Northern Michigan University, The Vista Theatre and Negaunee’s Vertigo Theatre Company. With Upper Peninsula Shakespeare Festival, Monica has appeared as Lady Capulet in Romeo and Juliet, and with Wolf’s Head Theater Company as R.C. in Bug by Tracy Letts.


Melissa Neal

Melissa started working with the Upper Peninsula Shakespeare Festival in their inaugural production of The Tempest at their old school location of Presque Isle Bandshell. Apropos to the subject matter, Melissa and cast fought the elements including but not exclusive to: an attacking colony of bees emerging from under the stage during love scenes, the gentle yet deafening roaring of taconite pellets unloading from ships at the nearby actual ore dock, hoards dragonflies engaging in group sex on the lawn (thus obstructing/distracting the audience’s view) and Operation Freakout part 2. Melissa’s flexibility and endurance (both physically and mentally) is impressive. She brought a sense of authentic wonder and magic to her role, qualities that have continued to evolve and grow within proceeding UPShakes productions (in their new home at the Ore Dock Brewing Company, thank goodness) and the many other artistic endeavors Melissa engages in. Some credits include: Amis in As You Like it with Westwood Shakespeare Company (2015), Miranda in The Tempest with UPShakes (2015), William/The Bride in Frankenstein with UPShakes (2016) Young Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire with UPShakes (2017) and Lavinia in Titus Andronicus with UPShakes (2017). As UPShakes (as well as the new subsidiary Wolf’s Head Theater Company) is a small company of actors, often stage artists have to try their hand at some tech work/heavy lifting/even laundry—in Bug by Tracy Letts, Melissa had taken a “shine” to lighting (har har), and stage management—her attention to detail, organization, innovative insight and multifaceted creativity had been instrumental in making the production a success. 

Melissa is a student at Northern Michigan University where she studies mathematics, as well as dance and language. She is a brilliant ballet dancer, professional choreographer and published writer.


Thomas Laitinen

Thomas Laitinen is a native of Ishpeming, Michigan. After serving in the armed forces for a number tours, Tom began working the renaissance festival game nationally for many years. A graduate of Northern Michigan University, Tom excelled in stage combat and remains a certified Advanced Actor Combatant.

With Upper Peninsula Shakespeare Festival, credits includes Macbeth in Macbeth.


John Sarkela

John has appeared on stage with Upper Peninsula Shakespeare Festival in Macbeth as The Porter/Witch, The Taming of the Shrew as Hortensio, Frankenstein as Alphonse Frankenstein, The Doctor/Dancer in A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, and as Titus in Titus Andronicus.

John is an computer science instructor at Northern Michigan University and has an adorable puppy named Maija.


Devon Grice

Devon Grice is a stand-up comedian and dancer, and has lived in Marquette for last ten years. She has a son named Langston, and enjoys nature baths, sharp wit and Dia De Los Tacos.

Devon has appeared on stage as a Dancer in Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, where she used her superior skill to embody the pulse of New Orleans.