Barbara Thomas, Chair

Barbara  is an attorney, with a solo practice in Asheville, North Carolina. She moved to Asheville from California in 2015 and discovered Different Strokes Performing Arts Collective through her networking group. After attending one of their shows, Barbara wanted to be a part of such a unique and important theater company. While she is not an actor or directly involved in theater, she lends both her passion for the arts and her legal skills to Different Strokes to help it grow and continue to provide provocative and relevant theater to Western North Carolina.

Trish Hickling Beckman, Vice-Chair

Trish is a nurse midwife and hospital administrator. In her professional capacity she is responsible for all clinical and financial operations of the women’s division of a non-profit community hospital. In her leisure time she enjoys theatre in Asheville and spends most of her free evenings with different local theatre companies. She has long wished for more socially provocative themes on stage and is thrilled to support Different Strokes! as a founding board member. Trish’s socially provocative credentials include being a member of the lesbian community, being in an interracial gay marriage and extensive travel to third-world countries. Trish is bilingual in English and Spanish.

C.J. Breland, Secretary

C.J. has appeared in NC Stage Company’s Catalyst Series shows A Perfect Ganesh, Birth, The American Dream, and The Glass Menagerie. With The Magnetic Field Theatre she appeared in Ruth, and with SART she has acted in productions of To Kill a Mockingbird, Incorruptible, and Steel Magnolias. C.J. directed Julius Caesar, A Christmas Carol, and Comedy of Errors for Montford Park Players. CJ was an actor in A Lesson Before Dying, and directed Incongruence, and The Clean House for Different Strokes! Most of her time is devoted to the roles of Theatre Arts Director at Asheville High School and director of the NC Educational Theatre Association.

Brent Pack, Treasurer

Brent, a WNC native brings the diversity of the area to his community work, serving as Treasurer of many local non-profits (such as BLURP, Loving Food Resources, Land of the Sky UCC and three Metropolitan Community Churches which he also helped found).  In local theatre, he has worked on both sides of the curtain, serving as House Manager, Box Office Manager and Publicity Director for SART over an eight year period, while also performing in various productions, including the Laramie Project, Quilt and the Way Back When series, starring in The Woodcarver’s Christmas. Brent is thrilled to be part of the Different Strokes Board and helping to continue shaping the influence of theatre in the Asheville area.

Andrew Gall

Andrew  is a director, actor, designer, and playwright who worked extensively in  Chicago,  as the Artistic Director of the Wing&Groove Theatre, before coming to Western North Carolina to raise a family.   Chicago Credits include Chekhov’s Three Sisters (Jeff Award); The Taming of the Shrew (Jeff Nomination); Tales of the Last Formicans;  as well as an original adaptation of Moliere’s The Misanthrope.  In WNC, he served as the Artistic Director of Parkway Playhouse for 12 seasons. Andrew has also worked with HART, SART, Barter Theatre, and Asheville Community Theatre.  Later this summer he will direct Troilus and Cressida for Montford Park Players, and the world premiere of Asheville Playwright, Travis Lowe’s production of Six Knots, his first production with The Magnetic Theatre.

Courtney Robinson

Courtney is a lifelong devotee to the theatre, having participated as an actor, director, stage manager, and student of the craft. Her love for acting took her to the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities in 2000 as a theatre major, which she followed by taking a hiatus to study Sociology at Emory University in 2002, all the while continuing to study theatre through Theatre Emory and the Oxford Ensemble of Shakespearean Artists. She discovered Different Strokes! Performing Arts Collective shortly after moving to Asheville from Atlanta in 2011, and found it to be a perfect marriage of her passions for the arts and the furtherance of social equality. When not on stage or behind the scenes, Courtney is an avid knitter, baker, and bookworm.

Cyd Dawson-Smith

Cyd grew up in the shadow of the Great White Way. Hailing from Long Island, New York, an appreciation for theater was meant to be. She spent some time acting as a child, but did not truly develop an appreciation for the art until her high school put on a production of Gigi. A stint as Aunt Alicia, and she was hooked. Content to work behind the scenes, she has worked in a variety of capacities supporting local theater, including a role in Different Strokes’! productions of Neighbors, Sisters, and David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross.

Jeremy Carter

Jeremy brings 19 years of experience in marketing, communications, and public relations to Different Strokes! PAC, having worked in the agency, corporate, and nonprofit sectors. He now teaches youth with significant intellectual and developmental disabilities through Buncombe County Schools’ Progressive Education Program at TC Roberson High School. Jeremy was in our very first production, “Love! Valour! Compassion!”, in 2011.

Sona Merlin

Sona is a Real-Estate Agent, and joined the board as a fan and as someone who has been tremendously affected by many of  Different Strokes’! productions.