Laura Rafaty, Producer and Artistic Director, Board Member, is a Tony-nominated theatrical producer, having produced theatre on and off Broadway and on tours throughout the US and Canada. She was an attorney with two leading California-based law firms and international general counsel and director of business operations for a global nonprofit collaborative research organization based in Palo Alto. She has served on numerous boards in California and New York as a business executive and theater professional, and is a national award-winning columnist and writer. She served as Producing Director of the Napa Valley Performing Arts Center at Lincoln Theater in Yountville, Executive Director of the Friends of the Cameo Cinema, and has her home and law office in St. Helena. She is currently the Director of Partnerships and Outreach for the Napa Valley Opera House, and is the St. Helena representative to the Napa County Arts & Culture Advisory Committee
Philippa Kelly, Dramaturg & Audience Enrichment, currently serves as Resident Dramaturg for the California Shakespeare Theater, and has also worked as production dramaturg for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Word for Word. Dr. Kelly was jointly awarded a Bly Award for Innovation in Dramaturgy from the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of America in 2014. Her work has been supported by the Fulbright and Rockefeller Foundations, the Walter and Eliza Hall Foundation, and the Commonwealth Awards. Besides her work for Cal Shakes, she currently teaches with the UC Berkeley Osher Institute, serves annually in the selection of the Australian Endeavour Awards, and travels to Saudi Arabia to work with women in the Higher Education sector.
Ariel Lise Loraine, Production Manager. With her very name plucked from The Tempest, Ariel has a passion for all things Shakespeare and eagerly joined the team at Napa Shakes. Originally from Canada, she completed her BFA in Theater Design at Concordia University and has worked with many independent theater companies and festivals in Montreal and Toronto. As a designer/woodworker/artist/technician she serves to demonstrate herself as an all around Production Manager, as well as a set designer and painter.
Matthew Cowell, Co-Producer, is an accomplished Technical Director, having worked with Tony, Grammy, and Oscar winning artists. He is also an award winning Sound Designer and Recording Engineer, and an experienced Fight Director. A musician with degrees in Theatre & Performance Studies and in Theology, Matthew is the Technical Director and Adjunct Faculty member at the Napa Valley College and lives in Napa with his wife and two daughters.
Gary Jaffe, Board President. Born in Los Angeles, and educated at UCLA, Gary has led and served numerous 501c3 nonprofits, including as past President of the St. Helena Farmers Market Board of trustees and current Farmers Market board member, current board member Friends of the Cameo Cinema in St. Helena, and former board member of the Napa Symphony, the Napa Museum, and the St. Helena Public Schools Foundation. Gary has been President of Jaffe Insurance for 43 years, and is President of Jaffe Estate Wines, where he also serves as “Galactic Commander” of the only privately-owned research grade observatory in the Napa Valley.
Tamara Traeder, JD, MFT, LPC, Board Treasurer, practiced corporate and intellectual property law for approximately 15 years. During that time, Ms. Traeder also co-founded a book publishing company for which she co-wrote eight books, including a New York Times bestseller. Among other responsibilities with the publishing company, she was responsible for all accounting and legal matters. Ms. Traeder additionally served on the founding Board of Directors of Rianda House, another nonprofit organization located in St. Helena, CA. She is currently a licensed marriage and family therapist and licensed professional counselor with an office in St. Helena.
Wynn Burkett, MBA, CPCC, Board Secretary, has been an Executive Coach for over 12 years after previously working in finance for The First Boston Corporation and the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Ms. Burkett has served on the Boards of the San Francisco Bay Chapter of the Young Presidents Organization and the Lone Mountain Children’s Center. She was the founder and director of the Golden Gate Mothers’ Group.
Sherry Powell, is a highly experienced financial consultant and bookkeeper who has handled the finances of Bay Area nonprofit and for-profit companies for decades. Sherry and her husband Mike reside in Arnold, California.
Bob Almeida, brings decades of experience in finance at organizations including Charles Schwab Corporation, Banker’s Trust Company and KPMG Peat Marwick, as well a long and distinguished history of service to numerous nonprofit boards of directors. He has served on the boards of the Arts Council and American Nonprofits, Inc., and is a Lifetime Trustee Emeritus at the Napa Valley Opera House. He and his wife Debb founded Lagniappe Peak Vineyards and live on Atlas Peak in Napa.
Stephen Meagher is one of the nation’s most successful attorneys representing whistleblowers. He has been profiled in the Wall Street Journal and interviewed on 60 Minutes regarding his practice. A former federal prosecutor, he attended the University of Virginia Law School and Dartmouth College. For ten years he served on the Board of a Washington D.C. based charity dedicated to building schools in Cambodia. A long-time supporter of the expansion of NapaShakes, he brings great enthusiasm as well as diverse experience to the Board.
Laila Aghaie, Education Consultant, has over 25 years experience in education and nonprofit development. As a K-12 writing and arts educator, she has developed language, dance and art programs throughout the Bay Area. She also has extensive background organizing community events, forums, debates and presentations, and fundraisers. In 2010, Laila founded Napa Writes to expand the literary arts in the Napa Valley. She has led efforts to expand and strengthen collaborations with a diverse range of partners, including NVUSD principals, teachers and administrators, city agencies, and community-based organizations.
Olivia Cowell, Education Consultant, is Co-Director of the Cafeteria Kids Theater. a director and teacher who focused her attention on teaching drama to children while obtaining her M.A. in Drama from San Francisco State University. Local directing credits include: A Chorus Line (The Napa Valley Opera House), Private Eyes (Lucky Penny Productions) Late: a Cowboy Song (Sonoma Backstage Theater), Eternity (8×10 Play Festival), Lend Me a Tenor (Napa Valley Playhouse), and Alice in Wonderland (Studio G). Olivia has taught drama to students throughout the Napa Valley at Yountville Elementary School, Pueblo Vista Alternative Elementary School, Blue Oak Lower and Upper Schools, St. Helena Primary, Calistoga Elementary School, Silverado Middle School, Redwood Middle School, Cybermill Technology Inc., Hopper Creek Montessori, and Lincoln Theater. Olivia is a Royal Academy of Dance trained dancer and has choreographed numerous performance pieces throughout her directing career. She is currently the Performing Arts teacher at Napa Christian Campus of Education.
Aimée Guillot, Education Consultant, is Co-Founder of the Cafeteria Kids Theater. A professional actor who discovered a passion for teaching during her pursuit of her MFA in Acting at UC San Diego, she has worked extensively in the theatre nationally as well as internationally. Off Broadway she has appeared at the Brooklyn Academy of Music Next Wave Festival (2001) in the Obie-award winning production of Big Love. Other New York credits include Xtravaganza with the internationally renowned performance and media company, The Builders Association (St. Ann’s Warehouse, Guggenheim Works & Process, and Whitney Performance Space); she is also an original member of the New York based theatre group The Civilians. Regionally she has appeared in productions at The Goodman Theatre, the Long Wharf Theatre, Actor’s Theatre of Louisville, and the La Jolla Playhouse, where she received a Drama-Logue award for her performance as Cecily in The Importance of Being Earnest. In the Bay Area she has performed at Berkeley Rep, Encore Theatre, Shotgun Players and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. She has worked as a teaching artist in classrooms in San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, Palo Alto, San Jose and Napa. She was also a resident teaching artist for TheatreWorks’ Children’s Healing Project at Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto. In Napa she has taught drama to kids at Pueblo Vista Alternative School, Yountville Elementary, Northwood Elementary, Redwood Middle School, Calistoga Elementary, NVLA, Saint Helena Elementary School, and Lincoln Theater. As a director she has staged productions at The Napa Valley Opera House, The Little Theater @ NVC, and Lincoln Theater. She was most recently the drama teacher for Blue Oak School where she taught for seven years.