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Life Without Parole

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Life Without Parole

By Warren Doody

Directed by Susan K. Berkompas

October 21 through November 5, 2016

Performances Every Friday & Saturday at 8pm


Theater in LA



Dr. Elizabeth Dermody Leonard entered the gates of the California Institution for Women at Chino to interview forty-two women who were serving long-term sentences for killing their abusive partners. Ten years later, Warren Doody transformed this original research into the stage play, Life Without Parole, which tells the story of Helen Broker as she faces a Parole Board Hearing for the first time, and takes the audience on a journey through the tragic underworld of domestic violence with a look into the lives of some of its survivors.  |  Suitable for mature audiences






Maria Mayenzet (Charlotte)

maria-mayenzet-headshotMaria Mayenzet’s career has spanned over twenty-five years working in regional theatre, film and television.  Her film credits include Jagged Edge (with Jeff Bridges), Proud Men (with Charlton Heston), Macbeth (with Piper Laurie) and Messenger of Death (with Charles Bronson).  Her guest starring, recurring and series regular roles in television include, Airwolf, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Tour of Duty, Forever, Santa Barbara, Special Report: Journey to Mars, Mancuso FBI, F.M and Murder She Wrote. She has worked at the Seattle Repertory Theatre: Second Stage, The Globe in San Diego, The Grove Shakespeare Festival, The Edinburgh International Festival, Los Angeles Theatre Center, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Tamara International, California Repertory Theatre, Process Studio Theatre N.Y.C and The Froebel Institute in London.  She is a professional actor, director, playwright (Women of the World), author (Focal Length of Performance) and short film director and producer.  She has been a guest-lecturer at Pepperdine University, Chapman University, Eckerd College and Women in Film in Hollywood. She has a B.A in Drama from University of California, Irvine (2002) and an M.F.A in Acting and Directing from California State University, Long Beach (2005). Maria has been a full-time faculty member of the Cinema, Television and Radio Department at Saddleback College since 2011.  She summited Mount Kilimanjaro this past June.


Mark Piatelli (Frank/Arthur Kraft)

mark-piatelliMark Piatelli has an MFA in Acting and Directing from California State University Long Beach; a BA from Yale University; a Certificate of Training from Circle in the Square’s 2-year acting conservatory in New York.  Over the course of his career he has worn the hat of teacher, actor, director, playwright, producer, singer and songwriter. He served as Resident Playwright and Associate Artistic Director of Little Fish Theatre in San Pedro, CA where in 2003 he created the annual Pick of the Vine – Evening of Shorts.  His full length plays – The View from Anderson Park and Inside My Father’s Apple Tree were produced at Little Fish along with his short plays – Jesus Come Jesus Go; That Look, and A Mall for Eternity. Directing Credits include: Arms and the Man; The Ladies Not For Burning; Blithe Spirit; Desdemona, a play about a Handkerchief (Little Fish); Richard III; Much Ado About Nothing – a 2003 Top Ten winner for the South Bay (Shakespeare by the Sea), The Rose Tattoo (Long Beach Playhouse); The Spitfire Grill at The Nakano Theatre (Torrance Theatre Company); West Side Story (Musical Theatre West); Godspell and Little Shop of Horrors for The Ark Players in Long Beach.  Acting credits include: Marco in A View From the Bridge at International City Theatre, Long Beach; Guido Contini in Nine, Balladeer in Assassins; Jason in Medea; Charles Bukowski in Love, Bukowski; Wally Worthington in Cider House Rules (California Repertory Theatre –2006 LA Drama Critics Circle’s Polly Warfield award for best season in a small to midsize theatre and 3 LDCC nominations including best ensemble for Love, Bukowski);  Hamlet in Hamlet; Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew (Shakespeare by the Sea); Max in The View From Anderson Park (Little Fish), Duke Vincentio in Measure for Measure at Franklin Stage Company in New York.   Other credits: A world tour with the Yale Whiffenpoofs; a European tour with Robert Wilson’s Hamletmachine. Most recently, Mark has been building his Signature Song business, creating custom songs for individuals, events or organizations.


Vivian Vanderwerd (Helen)

vivian-vanderwerd-headshot After a chance encounter with an advertising executive in 1996, Detroit-born actress Vivian Vanderwerd found herself immersed in modeling and acting as she studied under noted coach Gene Bua at his Acting for Life Theater. Vivian has appeared in several independent films as well as commercials. Her stage performances include, “The Vagina Monologues,” “The Old Settler,” “Execution of Justice,” “BAFO (Best and Final Offer)” “The Legacy” and “Walking the Dead,” for which she received the OC Weekly Theater Award for Best Actress Award. She wishes to thank ACTC for the chance to join the talented cast of Life Without Parole in the role of Helen Broker.  Having served as a Detroit Police officer for several years she appreciates the opportunity to give voice to the ‘convicted survivors’ in this contemporary and cutting edge play that will touch people’s emotions and shed light on the serious problem of domestic abuse. Her life experiences as a former police officer allow her to bring a genuine empathy to the role aptly performed during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.


Lola Kelly (Sherie)

lola-kellyLola Kelly has a BA in Theatre from Loyola Marymount University and an MA in Performance Studies from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and King’s College London. Recent Theatre credits include Ophelia in ACTC’s Hamlet and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, the Countess Bathory in the Araca Project’s new work Lady at the American Theatre of Actors off Broadway, Miss Julie at South Coast Rep, the lead in the immersive hit Delusion, comedy Saint Mel at the Hollywood Fringe, and originating a role in Circle Jerk, an absurdist work on the Surrealists, at REDCAT. She has worked with Skylight, Moving Arts, the Ruskin and the Blank. Lola has starred in four feature films in the past year, played a series regular on the sketch show Enchufe, appeared on Fox’s The Grinder, Amazon’s The Next Steps, Lifetime’s My Haunted House and recently played a recurring role on the Fosters on Freeform. She’s humbled by and grateful to ACTC, the cast and crew, and the women who had the strength to commit the radical act of sharing their stories. lolajameskelly.com


Amanda Zarr (Barbara)

amanda-zarrAmanda Zarr is a professional actor and adjunct theatre professor who started on her creative path at Chapman University where she received her BFA.  She worked with Shakespeare Orange County and was a company member for over 10 years.   Notable roles with the company include Juliet, Ophelia, and Lady Anne in Richard III.She attended the University of Washington and acquired her MFA from the prestigious PATP program. Amanda has also been a guest artist with the Pensacola Shakespeare Company, ACTC,  Need Theater of Los Angeles and Santa Fe University of Art and Design where she worked with Jon Jory and Robert Benedetti. She teaches at Chapman University, the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and Vanguard University.



Virginia Brown (Shawfer)

virginia-brownVirginia Brown has been involved with Life Without Parole from its inception as a stage play, including its debut as part of Vanguard University’s Domestic Violence Awareness Seminar in 2003, as well as two performances in the California Institution for Women in Chino in front of the very women whose words inspired its writing. She is a graduate of the South Coast Repertory Acting Intensive Program 2015. Virginia performed most recently as Masha in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, and as Jean in Good People, both at Theatrikos Theatre Company in Flagstaff, Arizona.



Brock Joseph (Kellerman)

brock-josephBrock Joseph has performed for a variety of audiences from Colorado to California, both on the stage and in front of the camera. Brock proudly served in the U.S. Navy, forward deployed in Yokosuka, Japan and in 2010 turned his efforts to obtaining his B.A. in Theater Arts and business upon separation from the military.  Favorite past roles include: Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby, Mr. Cladwell in Urinetown, Stubb in the original stage adaptation and world premiere of Moby Dick, Guildenstern in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, and Macduff in The Scottish Play. Overwhelmed by the talent in this production, he is blessed to take the stage with his courageous cast mates and considers it a privilege to make these women’s stories part of our social consciousness.  Brock wouldn’t be here without the support and prayers of his loving family, both adopted and immediate.  Love will conquer all.


Cyntia Moreno (Grace)

cyntia-morenoCyntia Moreno was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and began acting at age of 17 participating in Argentinian TV as an extra while she was taking theatre classes at the Escuela de Bellas Artes. Later she moved to New Jersey where she continued taking acting/commercial workshops and ballroom classes. In 2006 Cyntia moved to California where she attended the Film Department at Saddleback College for over 3 years where she gain experience in as a Writer/ Director/ Casting Director/Editor/ Producer and grip. She collaborated in several Short films, Webisodes, and Independent films. In 2014 she moved to LA to chase her dream of being in the film industry. Today she is working hard to make her dreams come true.

Susan K. Berkompas, Artistic Producing Director

Susan K. Berkompas is a Professor of Theatre Arts and the Department Chair for the last seventeen years at Vanguard University.  She is the Founder of American Coast Theater Company, based in Orange County, and she received her M.F.A. in acting/directing from the California Repertory Company.  She also studied Shakespeare with Sir John Barton in Oxford at the British American Drama Academy.  She is an associate member of Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers as well as a member of SAG/AFTRA, and she is an alumnus of the Kennedy Center Directors Lab West.  Susan is the recipient of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival “Excellence in Theatre Education” and “The Gold Medallion” Awards.  She has produced and/or directed three shows that have been invited to KCACTF, including Life Without Parole in 2008.  Susan has produced, directed and acted in more than a hundred plays.  Her passion is to produce and direct original plays that tell life changing stories which can move, motivate and enlighten humanity.

Warren Doody, Playwright of Life Without Parole

Warren Doody is a Professor of English and resident playwright at Vanguard University, where he has taught for the last sixteen years.  The writer of numerous plays, screenplays, and short stories, he has won multiple awards for his work.  His most recent work includes the West Coast premieres of Enlightenment.com at American Coast Theatre Company and Development at Vanguard University. His play Life Without Parole was a finalist for the 2009 Kennedy Center American College Regional Theatre Festival, and it has received productions in Canada and the United States, and most recently in New York at Manhattan Repertory Theater. In August 2014, Life Without Parole was one of only 200 plays out of thousands invited to the New York International Fringe Festival where it garnered rave reviews.

Alexis Stary (Asst. Director)

alexis-stary-assistant-directorAlexis Stary is a third year student at Vanguard University of Southern California where she studies theatrical directing and performance. She worked this summer with American Coast Theatre Company as an assistant stage manager and props master on the repertory productions of Hamlet and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. Some of her past directing credits include The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, The Jar, and assistant directing work on The Winter’s Tale, The Jungle Book, and James and the Giant Peach. After graduation, Alexis plans on obtaining her teaching credential in addition to pursuing a career in theatrical directing. Alexis is incredibly grateful to the women of CWAA for being willing to share their stories, Warren Doody for putting their words into writing, and the cast for their constant dedication, hard work, and vulnerability throughout this process.


NOTE FROM THE PLAYWRIGHT-theater show in Los Angeles,

In May 2001, Dr. Elizabeth Dermody Leonard approached me about the possibility of turning her research on battered women who kill into a stage play. It took me a year to do the requisite research and an additional six months to write the play itself. In doing so, I changed the names of the women involved, created characters who are composites, and recontextualized the dialogue and research to fit the parameters of the stage. In March 2003, “Life Without Parole” was staged for the first time as part of Vanguard University’s Domestic Violence Awareness Seminar. Since then, it has been staged all over the country and in Canada; at battered women’s shelters, at conferences, in numerous theatres, and, most importantly, three times at the California Institution for Women at Chino, in front of the very women whose words inspired its creation. The play has also been profiled on NPR, selected as a finalist for the 2009 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, and included in the recent documentary, “Thespians,” produced by Tiger Lily Media. My adaptation of the play received the Gold Medal Award at Worldfest-Houston Film Festival in 2005. The play continues to build momentum, but, ultimately, it has stayed true to my original three-fold goal: to give voice to the “Convicted Survivors” that Dr. Leonard represents in her work; to give voice to those women who do not live through the last violent assault; and to provide a red flag for those currently faced with the silent epidemic of domestic abuse.

 Los Angeles theater.

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