The Most Epic Garden Players Concert Ever Performers

Alyssa Lin (Alumni Performer)
attended Garden Players from 2016-2019 and is now a student assistant. She was apart of Your Turn, Switch it Off, and Magic it Up. Alyssa currently attends LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts as a vocal major. She gives a big shoutout to Ms. Betina, for everything she's done for Garden Players. Enjoy the show!
Ash Rasputnis (Alumni Performer)
is an actor, comic, writer, and cosplayer/costume designer from Forest Hills, New York. She began her stage career with the Garden Players in 2004, graduating in 2009. Since then she has performed in local productions of Cabaret; Phantom of the Opera; Almost, Maine; and 12 Angry Men, as well as a variety of one-act plays. Like many writers, she gets very little writing done. Her cosplayer repertoire includes beloved characters such as Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle, Sailor Uranus from Sailor Moon, Starfire and Raven from DC Comics, and dozens more. She is beyond thrilled to be returning to her theater home for this amazing anniversary event!
Autumn Clarke (Alumni Performer)
attended Garden Players from 2018 up until graduating in 2021. She was in Switch it Off 2018, What If 2020, and The Tree of Answers 2021. As an alumni, she still loves to be involved in Garden Players by volunteering to help with shows. Being part of the Garden Players introduced her to theater, which is now her biggest passion. She is currently attending Townsend Harris High School where she is going to be the club president for the THHS Nightingale Theatre Company for the upcoming year. She still loves to be involved in theater!
Benny Wilkinson (Alumni Performer)
absolutely loved working with the Garden Players for the past three years! His theatrical credits include: Switch It Off 2023 (Cutter); Your Turn 2022 (Dr. Ice); Creature Mountain and The Slime Corporation (Morgan); Idols; Effigy; and Confirmed. Benny is a playwright with multiple works in progress, and you can also see him performing with the AMAS Musical Theater Teen Academy. He will be attending Townsend Harris High School and plans to continue working with Garden Players in the years to come.
Brandon Razzo (Alumni Performer)
just finished his last season as a Garden Player, and will be attending Forest Hills Drama Academy in the fall. As a Garden Player, he really enjoyed being a part of Switch It Off in the role of “parent” and “Alex” in Creature Mountain. Other recent roles he has played outside of the Garden Players include “Jack Kelly” in Newsies Junior and “JoJo” in Seussical Junior. He has truly enjoyed being a Garden Player. He thanks Ms. Betina for all of the opportunities she has given him, and the wonderful training he has received with her.
Caroline Itskov (Alumni Performer)
is a singer, songwriter, pianist and musical theatre/screen actress who attended Garden Players for eight years before graduating in 2023. Her favorite roles include Little Kid Spy in Switch It Off 2018 and Squirt in Your Turn 2022. She currently attends Talent Unlimited High School as a sophomore, majoring in musical theatre.
Carina Kahane (Alumni Performer)
got her start in the theatre in The Garden Players and grew up performing and taking lessons with Betina and Denver. As a kid, she remembers looking forward to Friday evenings all week, where she could let loose, sing, act, and feel the most like herself. After graduating from the GP, she went to LaGuardia High School, where she discovered her passion for opera and classical voice. She went on to get a Bachelor’s of Music in Vocal Performance from SUNY Binghamton and a Masters of Music from the San Francisco of Music. She currently lives in SF, where she performs and teaches singing to students of all ages. She is thrilled to be able to return to the GP stage for this special reunion and reminisce on where it all began.
Gabriel Kahane (Alumni Performer)
treasured his time with the Garden Players, proudly playing the Grunch in “The Grunch Who Stole the Show” in 2012. Since the Garden Players, he has continued his career in the performing arts, both as an actor and filmmaker, and recently world premiered his debut feature film (which he wrote, directed, and produced), in competition at the Calgary International Film Festival.
Caitlin Burke (Alumni Performer)
Is a proud Garden Players alumni since 2019. After joining in 2014, she spent five wonderful years discovering her love for acting and the theatre at GP. She is a graduate of LaGuardia HS (Drama), and is currently studying for a BFA in Acting at The Theatre School at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. She is excited to come back to the first place she ever got to act in and once again become all part of the magic.
Cheryl Cuddeback  (Alumni Performer)
was honored to appear as Mrs. Darling with Betina Hershey as Peter Pan (2001) in the Community House. Being a Forest Hills Gardens Resident she has participated in many community theatrical productions such as those hosted by The Forest Hills Women’s Club. Other Community venues include being a part of the chorus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum performed at The Seuffert Bandshell in Forest Park and also appearing in the musical Fiorello presented by Free Synagogue Of Flushing Community Theatre Group  by playing the part of a showgirl named Mitzi.  Not to mention being a lifetime member of The Church-In-The-Gardens who over various years has sung with their magnificent Choir.
Gianny Alyssa Diaz (Alumni Performer)
performed in What If?, Your Turn, and Switch It Off with Garden Players. She is a new graduate of Repertory Company High School for theater arts, where she studied playwriting, set design, directing, dance, voice and acting. Gianny’s senior project was writing, directing and producing a play or musical. She won with the National Children's Chorus for best chorale performance. Their first album released in December, a holiday album, was number 3 on the billboard classical crossover albums and has nearly 1 million streams. She sings on every song on the album. She loves performing impressions.
Isabella Perkins (Alumni Performer)
was a passionate Garden Player who made her Community House debut with Mrs Fischoff in 2003’s Disney Spectacular. She then continued to perform under the direction of Betina Hershey from 2004 until she graduated from the Garden Players program in 2010. Her shows included: Lemontales (Sally), Finding Home (chipmunk), The Big Leap, Musicville (Forte), Space Pirates (Taylor), Behind the Scenes, America’s Top Ensemble (Diana Moonbeam), and We Are Monsters (corpse bride). She continued to participate in theater at The Mary Louis Academy in 42nd Street, Sounds of Music, and Legally Blonde. She recently returned to the Community House stage for The Women’s Club performance of Midwestern Beef! She currently resides in Brooklyn and is a media agency director. She thanks Betina and Denver for all the music lessons and teaching her the skills needed to succeed in business (without really trying) such as projecting, body language, and commanding a room.
Jack Yasharian (Alumni Performer)
started Garden Players in 2013 as a Rising Star where he promptly fell in love with theater and the arts as a whole. He continued to perform in Space Pirates, Lemontales, What If, Your Turn, Switch It Off and Magic It Up. Jack, despite no longer performing in musicals specifically, still holds a deep rooted love for storytelling and performing. He is currently studying Animation at Rochester Institute of Technology where his background in acting helps him bring his artwork to life. Garden Players will always be a home away from home to Jack and he hopes that the stars will align and let him participate in more Garden Players activities despite his busy schedule.
Jake (Current GP Student)
is an inspiring musician and actor new to Garden Players. He was part of the summer musical theatre program at Queens Theatre the past 2 years, creating and performing original pocket-sized musical plays. It was there he discovered his love of the arts and being part of the process of creating a musical play from auditions to writing, rehearsing, and performing on stage. Jake is looking forward to working with the Garden players next year and is beyond excited and grateful to work with Betina! Her talent and expertise is eminent working with this wonderful group of actors and musicians. She makes everyone shine!
Liren Zhao (Alumni Performer)
attended Garden Players 2015 to 2021. Those years in Garden Players taught him the joy and thrill of acting. His first ever musical was in 2016 with Garden Players. He’s currently in LaGuardia High School majoring in Drama. He gives many thanks to Betina for coaching him through his audition and the good memories in Garden Players. He’s excited to be part of celebrating Garden Player’s 20th anniversary under the direction of Betina.
Luke Kuniya (Alumni Performer)
is thrilled to be performing in Betina’s 20th Anniversary Concert. A recent graduate, Luke spent the last eight years as a Garden Player participating in acting & monologue classes, voice lessons, Nick Russo’s band classes and as a member of the church choir. This summer, he will be attending the Summer Arts Institute for Musical Theater and he will enter LaGuardia High School's vocal program in the fall. Congratulations Betina!
Michaela Pascuzzi (Alumni Performer)
I’m so excited to be back at my first theatrical home with Betina and Denver! From the time I was 6 to 13, Garden Players acting classes were my life. After majoring in Musical Theatre at Talent Unlimited High School, I got my BFA in Theatre at SUNY Buffalo. Now I work Off-Broadway ushering at The Public Theater, and still love to perform.
Nicholas Bompart (Alumni Performer)
is an actor, director, writer, and musician from Forest Hills, New York. He began acting at the age of five in the Garden Players. He wrote and acted in his own short films which were screened at multiple national and international film festivals and won extensive laurels including awards for Best Horror Film, Best Direction, Best Screenplay and Best Actor. Nicholas has authored and directed theatrical plays and starred in many Off-Broadway productions, his plays received accolades and were selected for the Rogue Theater Festival, CHAIN Theater Festival, Strawberry Theater Festival and others. He also sings opera and has performed at Carnegie Hall. He is happy to return to the Garden Players and be involved in this amazing show under the direction of his mentor, Betina Hershey.
Scarlett Razzo (Current GP Student)
has been a Garden Player since she was in first grade! She still remembers her very first show with Ms. Betina - Magic it Up as a Rising Star. Other favorite shows she has performed with the Garden Players are Your Turn, Switch it Off and Creature Mountain in the role of “Terri.” Another favorite role she recently played outside of the Garden Players was “Les” in Newsies Junior. She thanks Ms. Betina for all of the opportunities she has offered her, and she looks forward to continuing to perform with the Garden Players next year.
Tatiana Skinner, (Alumni Performer)
formerly known as Tatiana Lizcano joined the Garden Players in 2005 as Madeline in “The Big Leap”. After graduating from Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, Tatiana received her Bachelors in Psychology at The City College of New York. She is currently working at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts as the Principal’s Secretary/House and Box Office Manager running the Student Ushering Program. Tatiana is married to her high school sweetheart and became a mom in 2019 to an extremely bright and hilarious little boy. In the fall, Tatiana will be pursuing her Masters in School Counseling. I am so excited to be back on stage with everyone! Thank you to Betina and Denver for all your encouragement and nurturing! To my family, I love you all so much!
Toby (Alumni Performer)
has been a Garden Player for 4 years and is a student assistant. Toby is excited to become an official Garden Players assistant this fall, graduated and become an alum. He was in his first musical in 2019, and after that, he took a break, but in 2022, he did another musical and loved the program so much he assisted all of the classes. He is an aspiring actor and hopes to continue to do theater and improv for a long time.
Alumni Performers (Songs & Improv Sections)
2004-20014: Carina Kahane, Michelle Garcia, Gabriel Kahane, Isabella Perkins, Mark Perkins, Michaela Pascuzzi, Nicholas Bompart, Nicollette Barsamian, Ash Rasputnis, Tatiana Skinner (Lizcano) // 2010-2018: Elliot Nieva, Jack Yasharian, Caitlin Burke, Gianny Diaz // 2016-2024: Alyssa Lin, Autumn Clarke, Luke Kuniya, Benny Wilkinson, Brandon Razzo, Caroline Itskov, Jane Brooks, Seriana Russo, Toby Yoneta, Liren Zhao
Current Garden Players Kids (Creature Mountain Songs)
Aveline, Avery, Gia, Helena, Hypatia, Ilayda, Jake, Jiuxi, Julia, Kaden, Lyndon, Mercena, Mia, Scarlett, Simone B, Valentina & Recent alumni Benny, Brandon, Luke, Toby
CITG Choir (I Won't Grow Up chorus)
The CITG is led by musical director Sunny Knable. Choir and church members of all ages performed in Peter Pan in 2001 and previous Garden Players shows through the years. Cheryl Cuddeback played Mrs. Darling in the 2001 production. Betina Hershey was the alto section leader for many years, and still sings with the choir when she can.
Harvey Wirht (Drums)
has performed alongside Grammy Award artist Angelique Kidjo, appeared on The Jay Leno Show, The Late Show with David Letterman, the NAACP Awards, Good Morning America, and the Peace Ball for President Obama’s inauguration. He has also performed at the Kora Awards with Best East African Artist Winner Eric Wainaina and Lionel Loueke. He tours internationally with renowned world music artists and with his own musical projects. He plays with Betina in her band The Scooches.
Javier Reyes (Guitarist)
plays guitar with KGM. He has helped out backstage with the GP kids, performed Here Comes The Sun with Betina, Nick, and GP kids, and helped out with the kids backstage for many years. He was already helping out with Garden Players when Betina arrived in 2001 to play Peter Pan, and is delighted to be here to celebrate Betina's 20th year writing new musicals for Garden Players.
Lowell Hershey (Trumpet)
a Juilliard graduate with a BM and a MM in trumpet performance, performed extensively in the New York City metropolitan area since 1967. The Little Orchestra Society’s principal trumpet since 1981, he has performed with the New York Philharmonic, the Westchester Philharmonic, the American Composers Orchestra, the American Symphony Orchestra, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, St. Luke's Chamber Ensemble, the New York City Opera, visiting orchestras as an extra (Berlin Philharmonic, La Scala Opera Orchestra, London Philharmonia), ballet orchestras (New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theater, Royal Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet, the Joffrey ballet, Paul Taylor, Martha Graham, Alvin Aley), City Center’s Encore series, and over 41 Broadway shows since 1971, finishing with 35 years as principal trumpet in The Phantom of the Opera). Mr. Hershey has recorded for the Little Orchestra Society, the American Composer's Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, the Westchester Philharmonic, the American Symphony Orchestra, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the Gregg Smith Singers, Broadway show cast albums, PBS, ABC, NBC, CBS, films, records and radio and TV commercials.
Shawn Hershey (Trumpet)
graduated from LaGuardia HS and Eastman School of Music (trumpet). He has a band called The Fried Bananas, teaches partner dancing around the world, and is a software engineer at Google Research. He plays on Betina's album Wish I Could Stay and played trumpet or Garden Players' show Your Turn alongside his Dad, Lowell Hershey.
Jeff Edmond (Alumni Director)
was born and raised in the Pelham Parkway area of New York City's borough of the Bronx. He attended Lehman College, where he earned a Bachelor's Degree in Theatre Education At the age of five he watched the movies of Fred Astaire with his Mom. He bugged his parents for two years to take him for tap dance lessons. Finally his dad, an ex-marine, allowed him to study dance. At the Jules Faber Dance Studio in the Bronx, he excelled in tap. It was there that he met his manager, who sent him on commercial and movie auditions. At the age of eighteen, Jeff Edmond started choreographing for community theatre productions. He went on to choreograph and produce shows for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the Waldorf Astoria and the New York Plaza Hotel. He performed his signature tap solo "Tappin To Mozart" at Lincoln Center for National Tap Dance Day. Jeff has choreographed hundreds of shows over the years for both children and adults. Visit: for more.
Denver Casado (Composer, Piano)
is thrilled to be back in Forest Hills with the Garden Players! Denver is an award-winning musical theatre composer & lyricist. His 23 musicals have received over 6,500 productions in 75 countries around the globe (6 he wrote with Betina and premiered with the Garden Players!) Denver founded Beat by Beat Press, a children’s musical theatre publishing/licensing company, after working with the Garden Players with the goal of creating a refreshing new catalogue of musicals for kids to perform. He’s incredibly grateful to Betina, the Garden Players students, and the entire Forest Hills community for helping to shape so much of what he loves doing today. Denver is an alumnae of the Tony award-winning BMI Musical Theatre Workshop and holds a degree in Music Technology and Composition from New York University.
Sunny Knable (Composer, Pianist)
is an award-winning composer, a multi-instrumental performer, an educator, and an author of multiple essays and books. Knable’s music has been described as "genius" (Anchorage Press), "great!" (TheWholeNote), “well-crafted” (NY Concert Review), "entertaining" (Audiophile Audition), "witty, romantic and lilting" (, offering up "sparks of color and inventiveness" (Sacramento Bee), and possessing a "wealth of thematic invention" ( His prolific output is widely performed, including works for solos, chamber music, orchestra, theatre, and opera. Dr. Knable serves as Music Director of The Church-in-the-Gardens and as an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Queens College and LaGuardia Community College. He holds a PhD from Stony Brook University, a Master of Arts from Queens College, and a Bachelor of Music degree from CSU Sacramento. His discography includes his debut album, American Variations on Centaur Records, his second composition album, Song of the Redwood Tree on MSR Classics, and his third composition album, Keys on Trouvère Records. His bassoon works are published by TrevCo-Varner Music. All other works are published by Trouvère Music Publishing. He is the editor of the book Looking Within: The Music of John Palmer and the author of The Quarantine Chronicle of a Composer on Vision Edition, UK. He resides in Forest Hills, NY, with his wife, son, and cat.
Betina Hershey (Director, Composer, Lyricist)
is an award-winning performer, writer, musician, and educator who loves encouraging others to express themselves and discover bravery through music, song, dance, writing, and theater. Betina has been involved with Garden Players Musical Theater Program for Kids (Awarded Best Of Queens 2020) in Forest Hills, NYC, since 2001, when she played Peter Pan, taking over the direction of GP in September of 2003, with her first original musical performed 20 years ago, in 2004. Five of her Garden Players musicals have been published by Beat by Beat Press, with over 2,000 performances in 65 countries. She is an alumna of the of the Tony award-winning BMI Musical Theatre Workshop, where she met collaborators Denver Casado and Gwynne Watkins. She has written five GP musicals with composer Sunny Knable, and this year's GP musical, Creature Mountain, was a collaboration with Sunny Knable, Melinda Faylor, and 7 Garden Players students. Betina’s songwriting career includes co-leading various bands as a vocalist/guitarist/songwriter. Her own original music can be heard in The Scooches album Lift You Up - #1 FAI July Folk Charts, and Get Us Out Of Fearland - #2 under John Prine on the FAI Folk Charts. Her 1920s band Hot Jazz Jumpers received rave reviews in Downbeat Magazine and London Times for the album Very Next Thing. Her debut album, entitled I Wish I Could Stay, was played on college radio and brought her to perform at the legendary Bottom Line in NYC. Betina has had a long and varied career as a dancer/actor/singer, performing as Meg in the National Broadway tour of Phantom of the Opera, Anybodys in West Side Story, and appearing as principal dancer in feature films: Julia Roberts' Mona Lisa Smile and in Disney's Enchanted. She is delighted to create new works and see her students grow, create, and thrive. Her twins are heading to high school next year: LaGuardia HS for Music and Art & Design HS for Animation. Betina was a dance major at LaGuardia HS, receiving a Young Arts Award in Dance (Tap) and the Helen Tamaris Award (most likely to succeed at anything she chooses), and is thrilled for what’s next! And wow, it's so exciting to revisit these songs, see alumni, and celebrate 20 years or original musicals!