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 – Chairman of the Board

 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 Johnson
 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 is a graduate of Booker High School’s VPA Theatre program and the American Music and Dramatic Academy in New York City. She has been seen in readings and productions o A (Funny) Imagination! At Dixon Place, Dramatists’ Guild and New York Theatre Winterfest originating the role of Dee’s Sister. She has also appeared in numerous local theater productions throughout her childhood in Venice, Sarasota, and Bradenton. Her favorite roles include Into the Woods (Little Red), The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Logainne), Fools (Sophia), Annie Get Your Gun (Winnie Tate), and Grease (Frenchie). Rachael has choreographed for various schools and theatre companies including AMDA, Ashton Elementary, Brentwood Elementary, Stage Door Studios, and Booker High School. She has trained with Broadway Artists Alliance and worked with Musical Theatre International as part of the choreography DVD for Lion King JR. She participated in the Junior Theater Festival for three years and received a national award for Excellence in Student Choreography. 

Rachael has learned so much from these experiences and has made invaluable connections. Rachael is so proud to be a founding member of this amazing company and to work with so many sweet and insanely talented kids!
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.
 Melissa Rand
  House Manager – Board of Directors

 Melissa Rand is so proud to be a part of Rise Above. She has watched this group from afar and is thrilled to work   more hands on and share her experiences with them! Melissa has been in Florida for 6 years and has appeared in   many productions at The Players Centre.
 Her favorite recent credits include Will Roger’s Follies (Betty Rogers), A Chorus Line (Diana Morales), Young   Frankenstein (Elizabeth Benning), and Cabaret (Kit Kat Girl).
Ana Stephenson
Publications Manager

 With Ana’s versatility in the arts of photography, graphic design, and marketing, she falls nothing short of   consistent excellence in the execution of each of these divisions.
 Ana graduated from Palm Beach Atlantic University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing, and there she began   her career first interning at ESPN West Palm, then building her own photography business–Via Daci LLC, and   continuing onto her first corporate job at Hubbard Radio West Palm Beach.
 Since starting Via Daci LLC and joining Hubbard Radio West Palm Beach, Ana has expressed her unique talents in   the visual arts through taking headshots and promotional shots for commercial use of Hubbard Radio employees   and on-air talents. Additionally she has also photographed over 40 music artists, namely Charlie Puth, Rascal   Flatts, Dierks Bentley, Florida Georgia Line, Ludacris, and many more through concerts; Hubbard Radio’s annual   country music festival, ‘Rib Round Up’; interviews; meet-and-greets; and morning tv shows occasionally hosted at   our studios as well as generating graphics for events and updating the websites of the company’s seven radio   stations.
 For Rise Above, Ana continues her excellence in graphic design, designing promotional and marketing content for   each upcoming show.
 For photo work, Ana’s portfolio and contact is at www.viadaci.com
Allison Dygret-Tomlinson
Operations Manager – Board of Directors

 Allison has been in Concert Sound and Staging for the last 8 years. Allison has been involved in musical theatre   since attending Julie Rohr Academy from a young age.
 Her most notable role was as “Connie” in the Sarasota Players 2012 production of A Chorus Line. She has   performed and assisted in productions for various elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as numerous   concerts with Quarter Deck Productions. She and her husband are excited to be a permanent part of Rise Above   and continuing to exceed expectations in production value.
JB Tomlin
RAC Geneneral Manager

 JB has been in the musical theatre and concert sound and staging business for the last 15 years. JB has served   as Sound Designer at Players Theatre of Sarasota and many other theatres, schools, and studios with production   credits including The Fantasticks, The Who’s Tommy, The Producers, Putnam County Spelling Bee, Seussical the   Musical, and dozens of others.
 Along with numerous sound productions for concerts including Thompson Square, Robin Zander of Cheap Trick,   Dick Hyman, Highway to Hell, and many festivals. JB has produced sound design for Ashton Elementary School   for its first seven years as well as for Rise Above since its second season. He and his wife are excited to be a   permanent part of Rise Above and continuing to exceed expectations in production value.
Brian Chinn
Board Member

 Brian’s love of Theatre began in High School becoming the technical director for the plays stretching the limited   technology available at the time.  That love continues in bi-annual trips to Broadway to see the latest shows that   are out as well as traveling locally to see shows.  
 Brian has a long history of working with non-profit organizations.  He spent 10 years as IT Director for on non-   profit followed by 8 years as Director of International Operations for another.  He serves on the board of directors   of another non-profit working with teens.  Brian currently spends his time as Realtor in Texas.
 “It is an honor to serve Rise Above and the Rise Above Community and I hope we can continue to grow and allow   kids to have an amazing experience introducing them to theater and helping them find their hidden talents.  The   staff of Rise Above is unmatched and I am excited to see what they do each and every time!”
Gregg Barker
Business Adivsor – Board Member

 Gregg Barker is an entrepreneur who has been an executive and founder in two successfully startup businesses,   one as CIO the other as Co-founder and CTO both of which are still operating on their own today.  After selling the   company in 2016 Gregg joined Microsoft.  Gregg’s current role as a Principle Solution Architect requires him to   manage relationships and negotiate at the C level with fortune 500 customers around the globe.
Donnie Hebert
Board Member

 As a business owner of a product that embraces creativity and artistry Donnie is always able to bring an   interesting perspective to the table
 In his first career he worked in the country of Niger on the edge of the Sahara desert with nomadic herders   helping bring education to traditionally isolated communities. He worked to make it possible that these children   could access education and have options that previously were not available to them. In an environment that came   with many life challenges Donnie helped them overcome challenges by teaching them to think creatively and dare   to dream in a land where dreams rarely exist.
 Currently Donnie owns a Lego business and is inspiring both children and adults all over the world by using the   medium of a building brick. He teaches individuals how to use a simple platform to bring their circle of influence   into the world they build and take them on an unforgettable journey by showcasing their talent and hard work