SABRINA SELMA MANDELL
Artistic Co-Director/Executive Director
Costume Designer/Visual Artist
Sabrina Mandell grew up in Nova Scotia beside 40 foot tides. Her family moved to Montreal where she began devising theatre with Children's Creations under the direction of Clare Schapiro. Sabrina spent much of her twenties working on traditionally rigged schooners. She stopped for a spell to study Art History and created the solo street performance VentDeLaMer in which she dressed in 18th century costume and recited original poetry, sang songs and performed classical monologues. She studied the Lecoq pedagogy with Dody Disanto at the Centre for Movement Theatre. Then in 2006 she founded Happenstance Theater. As the company's Artistic Co-Director and Visionary Tornado she has written, produced and performed prolifically since the company was established. She was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Actress in 2017. As the company's Executive Director she has created and maintained a sustainable structure for operating the organization, and as the costume designer she has won two Helen Hayes Awards for Outstanding Costume Design. Sabrina performed for 10 years with the Big Apple Circus’ Clown Care Program in DC and Baltimore. She has also taught Theatrical Clown and Physical Comedy in a variety of places including at the Shakespeare Theatre, Everyman Theatre in Baltimore, Round House Theatre, Duke Ellington School of the Arts, and the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. She is also a visual artist, graphic designer and poet.
MARK LINDEN JASTER
Structure and Ground
The Washington Post called Mark Jaster a “clown extraordinaire and one of the most graceful performers you will ever see on a stage.” The Baltimore Sun called him “immensely gifted.” In 2009 he received The Montgomery County Maryland Executive’s Outstanding Artist Award, and in 2016 Mark was honored by Washington Theatre’s Helen Hayes Awards with The Robert Prosky Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Play for his performance in Happenstance Theater’s IMPOSSIBLE! A Happenstance Circus. The show was also awarded for Outstanding Ensemble and Costume Design. With Sabrina Mandell, in 2007, he created The Seven Ages of Mime, for an extended, sold-out run at the Round House Theatre in Silver Spring. The Washington Post’s review said, “Jaster’s sturdy body, like Chaplin’s and like Marcel Marceau’s…is a jeweler’s tool, adroit and precise…each athletic movement is exquisitely controlled…”
Mark trained with 20th-century masters of mime Etienne Decroux and Marcel Marceau, along with careful observation of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harpo Marx. Jaster served as teaching assistant to Mr. Marceau in a series of seminars in Michigan, and he teaches frequently in Artist residencies, theatres, and academic programs. He was a presenter at the 2014 Mime & Movement Theatre Symposium at Ohio State University. He often serves as mime and movement consultant for DC area theatres, including Ford’s, Round House, Theatre J, Olney, Constellation, Adventure Theatre, and Center Stage in Baltimore.
In addition to frequent performances with the Washington and the Cambridge Revels, and over 30 years as a featured stage act at The Maryland Renaissance Festival (A Fool named ‘O’), he has enjoyed numerous collaborations with world-class musicians like Piffaro, Celtic Harper Sue Richards, Hesperus, and the late, great jazz bassist, Keter Betts. For 20 years Mark was a proud member of The Big Apple Circus’ Clown Care Program, performing as “Dr. Baldy” at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC.
Mark’s long career of solo performances continues along side his work with Happenstance….
Social Media Maven
Gwen Grastorf is an actor and performer in the DC metro area. She has collaborated with Happenstance Theater since 2007 and is a proud company member, as well as the official Social Media Maven. Gwen has worked with many companies in the DC metro area, including Constellation Theatre, Faction of Fools, The Hub Theatre, Source Theatre, Taffety Punk, Rorschach Theatre, Forum Theatre, and Washington Revels. Gwen grew up in Frederick MD, and got her theatre degree from the University of Maryland, College Park.
SARAH OLMSTED THOMAS
Sarah Olmsted Thomas is a fifth generation artist. She has been with Happenstance Theater since 2012. Other collaborations include The Kennedy Center, Center Stage, and Bread and Puppet Theater. Sarah is one half of the puppetry duo Alex & Olmsted which was awarded a 2017 Jim Henson Foundation Workshop Grant. Alex & Olmsted has played The Puppeteers of America Festival, Black Cherry Puppet Theatre, La MaMa NYC, among others. Sarah trained with the Pig Iron Theatre Company in Philadelphia and Le Samovar, Ecole de Clowns, in Paris.
Alex Vernon is an actor, puppeteer, and builder who has been with Happenstance since 2012. Other area credits include Imagination Stage, Adventure Theatre, and Submersive Productions. Additionally, he makes original puppet shows with his wife Sarah (see above), under the name Alex and Olmsted. They received a grant from The Henson Foundation to create their full length puppet show, Milo the Magnificent.