About Rise Above

Rise Above Performing Arts was formed with a dedicated group of talented individuals who shared some common dreams. The vision and mission of this not for profit organization is to help those with the desire and love of the performing arts to be able to express that love in a way that exceeds all expectations. We partner with local organizations to help them achieve their performance goals. In addition, we provide financial support to send young actors to receive the training they desire to help them attain their goals.

Meet Our Team

Jacob Ruscoe
Artistic Director

Jacob has always been a natural actor. As a child, he studied at Florida Studio Theatre and has been a part of countless productions throughout his career. He has directed numerous shows including Into the Woods, Children’s Letters to God, All My Sons, and The Love Note to name just a few.

Jacob served as the dramatic director for YEX which is a national youth organization for 10 years. During his tenure he wrote, directed, and produced theatrical productions which were seen by thousands of people each year. He has been recognized with the Outstanding Actor’s Award by the National Theatre Festival and has received multiple awards for his playwriting works.

Jacob holds a Doctoral degree in Administration and Management and has personally helped aspiring actors attain their lifelong performance dreams. In addition to his work with Rise Above, he dedicates his time to help local elementary school students learn and experience the art of the theatre in ways that equip and prepare them for future success. Jacob brings a relentless dedication and virtuoso skill set to every production he produces.

Joi Chapman
Musical Director

Joi holds a Bachelor of Music Education degree from Bowling Green State University, and has taught elementary, middle, and high school music at different times in her teaching career. She is a high performing, model music teacher for Sarasota County Schools. Along with being a performer herself, she has directed musical theatre productions for several elementary schools, as well as for a local dance studio’s musical theatre encore program. She also teaches private piano and voice lessons.

Joi directs multiple Choir and Show Choirs and brings an engaging and instructional approach to her musical direction. Under her tutelage, performers are able to expand their musical talents as she continually produces Nationally Award winning productions including her most recent accomplishment where her Concert Choir placed first in the nation!

Rachael Henry

Rachael discovered her love for dance and theatre at the age of 4. Since then, she has studied tap, jazz, lyrical, hip hop, ballet, and musical theatre at multiple studios. She has performed in countless musical theatre productions. Some of her favorite roles include Little Red in “Into the Woods,” Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” Sophia in “Fools,” Winnie Tate in “Annie Get Your Gun,” and Frenchie in “Grease.” Rachael is also a founding member and now teacher for the awarding-winning musical theatre troupe Spotlight Kids. She has travelled with them to national theatre competitions and conventions including one where she was awarded Best Student Choreographer nationally.

Rachael has worked with numerous Broadway professionals in her many years with Broadway Artists Alliance as both a student and work-study. She has also had the opportunity to work with Musical Theatre International, iTheatrics, and Disney in filming the Choreography DVD for Lion King Jr. She learned so much from these experiences and has made invaluable connections. Rachael is currently studying Musical Theatre at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City. She hopes to pursue a career in the performing arts as both an actress and choreographer.

Krista Baker
Development Coordinator

Krista is an educator who has helped direct numerous productions including Seussical Jr., Little Mermaid Jr., Beauty and the Beast Jr. and Aladdin Jr. Krista has always enjoyed the arts. In high school and college, she was on Dance Teams and involved in Concert Bands.

Krista has extensive experience in marketing and management. She has a unique talent for bringing stakeholders together to support the work of Rise Above. Krista possess a passion to help individuals find and express their gifts and talents.

Kevin Ray Johnson
Creative Artistic Advisor

Kevin is a Singer, Actor, Playwright and Director and is happy to be on board at Rise Above Performing Arts. As a performer Kevin has performed all over the country. In 2014 he made his Off Broadway debut performing in the Original Cast of ‘The Love Note’ at The Actors Temple Theatre (www.thelovenote.com). In 2015 Kevin performed in the New York City Revival of ‘Merrily We Roll Along’ with The Astoria Performing Arts Center which was awarded the 2015 New York Innovative Award for “Outstanding Production of a Musical”. Other NYC Credits include: ‘Carrie – The Musical’ (Westchester Sandbox Theatre) and ‘This Time’ (Workshop and AEA 29 Hour Reading; Theatre for the New City). Several years before that he performed in the National Tour of ‘Blues Journey’ with The Kennedy Center Theatre for Young Audiences on Tour. Kevin has also performed in Guys and Dolls at Asolo Repertory Theatre and is also the only African American to have performed the role of Dr. Madden/Fine in the Pulitzer Prize Winning Musical ‘Next to Normal’ 4 Times regionally and was featured in ‘Arts in Color’ for that accomplishment.

As a writer Kevin was recently acknowledged by Broadwayworld.com as “Growing into one of New York City’s finest up and coming Playwrights”. He is most known for his Coming of Age Drama The Unpredictable Times and his biopic play Reginald: From Baltimore to Billionaire based on the first African American Billionaire Reginald F. Lewis. His work has featured the likes of Alex Brightman (Tony Award Nominee ‘Dewey’ in School of Rock, Matilda, Big Fish, Boq in Wicked, Glory Days), Kyle Scatliffe (Olivier Award Nominee The Scottsboro Boys, Broadway’s Les Miserable, The Color Purple), Isaiah Johnson (Hamilton, The Color Purple, Merchant of Venice w/ Al Pacino), Matt Shingledecker (Fiyero in Wicked, West Side Story, Spring Awakening), Brian Charles Johnson (Original Broadway Cast of Spring Awakening “Otto”, American Idiot), Remy Zaken (Original Broadway Cast of Spring Awakening “Thea”), Thay Floyd (Waitress), Savannah Frazier (Amazing Grace) and Hillary Porter (A Bronx Tale). Other writing credits include: Before it got “Unpredictable” (Off Broadway: The Davenport Theatre), Life Inside an Open Kaije (Capitol Fringe Festival), The Next Day (New York Theatre Festival).

For more information on Kevin please visit – www.kevinrayjohnson.com, www.facebook.com/KevinRayActor

Jeff Dulitz
Technical Director

Jeff grew up on Broadway in New York City. He attended Music & Art High School in Harlem and went on to college at the Aaron Copeland School of Music where he graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree. After obtaining his Masters in Administration, he was a pit musician for several Broadway shows in NYC. He became a Music Director and conducted many musical productions. Jeff also studied Sound & Lighting Design and become a Technical Director and eventually was a Theatre Manager for over 60 musical productions. He was also a TV Producer and produced many videos for MSG Productions.

In 2013, Jeff moved his wife and 4 children to Sarasota where he continued to pursue theatre and was fortunate enough to become a part of Rise Above Performing Arts.