2017-2018 Creative Team

Artistic Director

David Bell is a Professor of Music Theatre and a professional director who has worked extensively all over the world - Including Broadway, Off-Broadway, Carnegie Hall, The National Theatre, London's West End. The Kennedy Center, The Royal Albert Hall, Long Wharf, Ford's Theatre (Artistic Director 1983-1988), The Alliance Theatre, Atlanta (Associate Artistic Director 1992-2001), The Mongodor Theatre (Paris), The National Opera (Berlin), Bridgewater Hall (Manchester), and the closing Ceremony of the Barcelona Olympics. David has been nominated for 44 Joseph Jefferson Awards in Chicago (winning 10), the Laurence Olivier Award (London), 5 Carbonall Awards (Florida), 3 Helen Hayes Awards in DC (winning 1), 5 Atlanta Circle of Drama Critics Awards (winning 1) and has won the Dramalogue Award (LA), the Mac Award (NYC), 7 Atlanta Journal -Constitution awards, the Nebraska Award for Theatre Excellence, and has been awarded 3 National Endowment playwriting grants.

Music Supervisor

Ryan T. Nelson is a Lecturer in Music Theatre for the School of Communication at Northwestern University and Music Director for Northwestern's Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts. He also serves as Music Supervisor for the American Music Theatre Project (AMTP) and the famed "Waa-Mu" show. Ryan is the Resident Music Director at Chicago's Marriott Theatre, where he has music directed dozens of productions, including the world premieres of OCTOBER SKY, HERO, ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER: NOW AND FOREVER and FOR THE BOYS. His work on A CHORUS LINE and THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA at the Marriott has been recognized with Jeff Award nominations for excellence in Chicago theatre. Ryan has also conducted and orchestrated productions at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre and the Asolo Repertory Theatre (Sarasota, Florida). He has been on the faculty of Northwestern University for over a decade, formerly as an Assistant Professor of Music in Northwestern University's Bienen School of Music. His Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees in conducting are from the University of North Texas, where he was a student of Eugene Migliaro Corporon. 

Assistant Director

Joshua Fields is a junior theatre and computer science double major. His past involvement in Waa-Mu includes the Creating the Musical class and assistant sound designing BEYOND BELIEF. He works primarily as a sound designer and engineer both on and off campus, most recently sound engineering JTE’s PARADE and Griffin Theatre’s RAGTIME. In addition to assistant directing Waa-Mu, this year Josh will sound engineer the 76th Annual Dolphin Show. Josh is a proud member of the Jewish Theatre Ensemble, where he serves as Design Tech Supervisor.

Head Writers

The Head Writers of Waa-Mu are responsible for making a cohesive show out of a huge collaborative process. Head writers will typically lead (or co-lead) one of the nine twelve minute sections of the show in the winter Creating the Musical class, but will also be in charge of filling in gaps and making the story work as a whole. They are also responsible for developing the idea for the show with the Co-Chairs and the director, David Bell, before the start of the school year. In addition, they lead Writer’s Meetings in the fall, and are an integral part of the Creative Team meetings in preparation for the Creating the Musical class in the winter. 


Alexander Rothfield is a junior from Woodbine, MD majoring in Vocal Performance and Choral Music Education with a minor in Psychology and in the Musical Theatre Certificate program. He began his involvement in Waa-Mu freshman year as a member of Waa-2, and served as Head Writer in his sophomore year for last year’s Waa-Mu Show, BEYOND BELIEF. Some of his Northwestern performance credits include THE 86TH ANNUAL WAA-MU SHOW: BEYOND BELIEF, SWEET CHARITY (Vittorio Vidal), HAIR, THE SECRET GARDEN (Captain Lennox), THE DROWSY CHAPERONE (Gangster), and TROUBLE IN TAHITI (Trio). He is also a proud member of the Northwestern Undertones. He is honored to be working on such a unique process with an amazing team and cannot wait to see the show come into being.

Jordan Knitzer is a sophomore theatre major from New York City. He became involved with Waa-Mu in freshman year, writing for The Waa-Mu Writer’s Room Showcase and writing five songs in The 86th Annual Waa-Mu Show BEYOND BELIEF: A SUPERHERO STORY. Jordan’s performance credits include UGLY LIES THE BONE (2017), HANSEL AND GRETEL (2017), and THE EYE OF THE NEEDLE (2017). He is proud to be the special events co-chair of the Jewish Theatre Ensemble, and will be producing their song cycle in the fall. Jordan is incredibly excited and honored to help bring this amazing process to life again for the 87th time.

Writing Coordinator

Alec Steinhorn is a sophomore dual-degree in theatre and electrical engineering from Gladstone, New Jersey. Interested on writing for musical theatre with a focus on composition, he has written for musicals produced locally, and wrote and directed a musical, AREOPLANE, in his senior year of high school. Alec is also co-musical director of the Bix, Northwestern's premiere musical improv group, and an ensemble member of TBD, Northwestern's premiere Neo-Futurist-inspired theatre group. When not doing theatrical things, Alec can be found pursuing his other passions: hiking, reading, and sleeping.

Choreography Co-Chairs

The Choreography Co-Chairs for the Waa-Mu Show work tirelessly with the creative team, Co-Chairs, writers, Team Music, and the director to bring the show to life onstage.  Since the show is completely created from scratch each year, the music is written at a moment’s notice and changed on a daily basis - so the choreographers must be able to quickly adapt and put something on stage that will be constantly growing and changing up until opening night. 

Gabriella Green is a Junior Theatre major and Dance minor in the Music Theatre Certificate Program. Gabby has been involved in many areas of Waa-Mu during her time at Northwestern, including being in the Creating the Musical class for two years, an assistant stage manager for ANOTHER WAY WEST, and a section leader and cast member for BEYOND BELIEF. This year, she's excited to start her third consecutive year as Co-Director of Community Programming and also take on the role of Choreography Co-Chair for the the 87th Waa-Mu Show. Outside of Waa-Mu, Gabby is the Marketing Director for the X-Factors A Cappella and will appear in the Wirtz Center's fall production of COMPANY.

Drew Tanabe is a junior Theatre and Music double major in the Dance minor and Music Theatre Certificate Program. He is thrilled to be a part of the creative team this year after performing in the past two Waa-Mu Shows in highlighted roles such as a superhero, the river, and the public bathroom at the North Platte Post. Other Northwestern credits include MY FAIR LADY, SWEET CHARITY, GYPSY, and AMTP’s ATLANTIC. He is also a proud member of Graffiti Dancers and Tonik Tap.

Calvin Ticknor-Swanson is a sophomore from Easthampton, MA studying Theatre, Musical Theatre, and Dance. As a freshman, he assistant choreographed The 86th Annual Waa-Mu Show BEYOND BELIEF and is thrilled to be a Choreography Co-Chair for this year’s Waa-Mu Show! Calvin started his dance training at age four and has studied extensively in ballet, jazz, contemporary, and hip hop styles. His interest in choreography has lead him to choreograph multiple pieces for the Williston Northampton Dance Ensemble and, most recently, Northwestern’s Graffiti Dancers (of which he is also a proud member). He’s looking forward to bustin’ some moves with his fellow choreographers and the rest of the team!

Stage Manager

Dana Sussman is a junior double majoring in RTVF and History while minoring in Theatre. This year, Dana is very excited to be stage managing Company and The 87th Annual Waa-Mu Show at Northwestern. Some of Dana’s previous credits include stage management assistant at the Marriott Theatre for OCTOBER SKY, MAN OF LA MANCHA, HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS..., and THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY. At University of Miami, she was the stage manager for the opera’s MAVRA and AINADAMAR. At Northwestern, Dana was the assistant stage manager for AGAMEMNON as well as the stage manager for THE PROXY MARRIAGE and assistant director for PASSION PLAY. Dana is also the company manager for Lovers & Madmen.