White Pines awarded grant to work with refugee children

White Pines Productions has been awarded $3,500 by the Employees Community Fund of Boeing to design and implement creative programming for refugee children at The Spruance School in Northeast Philadelphia. This award supports a partnership between White Pines and HIAS, the program leader. 

Valeri Harteg, the HIAS Refugee Education Coordinator, says "The HIAS PA Refugee Education Team is delighted to continue its partnership with White Pines Productions. Together, we look forward to encouraging language development and creativity in refugee youth in Northeast Philadelphia!"

White Pines Executive Director Benjamin Lloyd said "We are deeply grateful to the Philadelphia-area employees of Boeing Corporation for their support of this wonderful program. Boeing is an innovation leader, and it makes sense that they would support this innovative partnership between White Pines and HIAS." 

Tina Budnik of White Pines works with kids at the HIAS program at Spruance Elementary in Northeast Philly. 

Tina Budnik of White Pines works with kids at the HIAS program at Spruance Elementary in Northeast Philly. 

Since January, White Pines Education Director Dani Bryant and White Pines animation teacher Klemintina Budnik of KXB Studios have been working with the kids at Spruance, delighting and stimulating them with theater and animation projects. "We are so excited to expand this work beginning in the fall, and continue to assist these kids and their families adjust to their new lives in America." says Dani. To learn more about this partnership click here. 

This work falls under a suite of programs White Pines offers off-site, away from its Elkins Park home base. These are the White Pines ACCESS programs, and you can learn more about them on the front page of our site! 

Thanks Boeing! 


Bright Invention 4.0

Back row L - R: Eric Walker, Alee Spadoni, Benjamin Lloyd, Bob Stineman, Brian Anthony Wilson, Joshua Boden. Middle row L - R: Suzanne Anderson, Kiersten Adams, Leah Holleran. Front row L - R: Gavin Whitt, Aaron Roberge, Aimee Goldstein, Michelle Pauls (picture), Shea Sonsky. 

Back row L - R: Eric Walker, Alee Spadoni, Benjamin Lloyd, Bob Stineman, Brian Anthony Wilson, Joshua Boden. Middle row L - R: Suzanne Anderson, Kiersten Adams, Leah Holleran. Front row L - R: Gavin Whitt, Aaron Roberge, Aimee Goldstein, Michelle Pauls (picture), Shea Sonsky. 

"I think of this new group as Bright Invention 4.0" says Artistic Director Benjamin Lloyd. "Jennifer Macmillan and I put together 1.0 in 2013, then through departures and arrivals in the years since, it feels like this is fourth group of improvisors called Bright Invention."

Anchored by founding members from "BI 1.0" Lloyd, Michelle Pauls and Bob Stineman, Bright Invention now includes new arrivals Alee Spadoni, Aaron Roberge, Kiersten Adams, Eric Walker and Suzanne Anderson. Joshua Boden joined the group last month. "He's BI 3.5 all by himself," says Lloyd with smile. Boden and Lloyd just created and performed their new two-person improv show called, wait for it, Boden & Lloyd. 

The new members were chosen from a pool that auditioned earlier in June. "We had really good groups at both initial auditions," says Lloyd, "it was a really tough choice after callbacks." New Inventors bring with them experience in professional acting, improv of all kinds, social work, spoken word poetry and wide life experience. You can read more about them by clicking here. 

Departures from Bright Invention "3.0" made these auditions necessary. "When you have an ensemble of performing artists, each with their own various dreams and aspirations, it is inevitable that there will be turnover," says Lloyd. "Some beloved Inventors moved on recently, and we cannot replace them. But we can invite others to invent in their places."

Departing this spring were founding members Katherine Perry and Jerry Perna, along with John Schultz, Dan Ison and Kelly McCaughan. Perna will stay on at White Pines as their director of Senior Programs. "Your heart always breaks a little when people you improvise with depart," says Lloyd, "the connection is so deep. But in each case, these remarkable artists have other compelling projects and events in their own lives that demand their time and energy. Life happens and we wish them well." Many in the White Pines community will remember Katherine Perry, who was Director of Education for a year and half, and teacher to many young White Pines students. 

This summer, the ensemble will be in "boot camp" as Lloyd calls it. "It's back to basics, drills, exercises and ensemble-building." The first performance for the new group is currently scheduled for October, "but who knows?" says Lloyd. "It's improv. Anything can happen."

So stay tuned . . . 

A Hero's Journey: An After School Residency at Spruance Elementary

This Spring White Pines Productions embarked on an amazing 7 week residency in partnership with HIAS.

HIAS is a Philadelphia based organization which works to "protect the most vulnerable refugees, helping them build new lives and reuniting them with their families in safety and freedom."

HIAS "brings the lessons of HIAS’ history and Jewish ethics and experience" to their "commitment to serve refugees and other displaced persons of concern around the world through the following values: Welcoming, Dignity and Respect, Empowerment, Excellence and Innovation, Collaboration and Teamwork, and Accountability."

Val Harteg of HIAS explains that "The HIAS PA after-school program at the Gilbert Spruance School aims to support refugee youth who have been in the United States or three years or less. The three main goals of the program are to provide academic support through homework help, support English language development through interactive language activities, and encourage social development through peer socialization and community building activities."

We were lucky enough to be connected to HIAS's After School Program via Klementina Budnik of KXB Studio. 

Klementina is a long time WPP teaching artist and has taught animation class at White Pines for several years. 

KXB Studio offers "group & individual classes to people of all ages and abilities" Klementina's "curriculum is designed to provide a complete understanding of how to manipulate creative materials to tell animated stories." 

Klementina and myself set off to create a fun and engaging after school residency which would honor the goals and outcomes of the after school program. Over the course of our residency we led students through storytelling activities (both written and theatrical) which helped create a narrative that we turned into super hero puppet making project. After the students made their unique puppet, each with it's own personality and characteristics, we walked them through the mechanics of animation and voice over recordings. 

This final product "combines animation and literacy in order to author a short story as a class. As you'll hear in the video, several different students wrote and narrated sections of the story, and all 18 students contributed to the sound effects and designed a superhero and/or super villain paper puppet."

Val Harteg articulates the value of our programming as "arts enrichment activities support personal identity exploration and social development. Additionally art-based activities provide a platform for supporting language development. Students learn new vocabulary based on the content of the art projects and discover how to explain their artistic products to others. Linguistically, students are better able to express themselves through the practice of creating and talking about their art. Furthermore, art-based activities importantly encourage critical thinking, a learning goal that spans across school day and after school curricula. Because art projects are unique to the individual and what the individual wants to express, art-based workshops provide a space for even beginner level learners to completely be themselves and to have a voice that is distinctly their own. The hope is that this will develop a level of confidence that will transfer to the classroom and other activities in which the students participate."

We had a wonderful experience working with HIAS and the students and volunteers at Spruance and we look forward to next year!


New: The White Pines Young Actor's Studio!

Yale School of Drama graduate Benjamin Lloyd leads a rehearsal with young actors at White Pines

Yale School of Drama graduate Benjamin Lloyd leads a rehearsal with young actors at White Pines

We a thrilled to announce a new beginning for our theater training for young people! "For too long, the actual life of the working actor has been misrepresented in the training offered to the young actor," says White Pines' Executive Director Benjamin Lloyd. "The White Pines Young Actor's Workshops will change all that." 

Scene work

Scene work

At the White Pines Young Actor’s Studio it is the passion for the work that matters, not the experience level.  In our ensemble environment, young actors will have a unique opportunity to get a head start in understanding the foundations of professional acting training.  White Pines Young Actor’s Studio will prepare young artists for future work at a collegiate level, and for the professional field of performance.

White Pines Young Actor’s Studio is for the inquisitive and driven young actor ready to challenge themselves creatively! Together we will explore their dramatic/comedic potential, free up physical expression, tap into emotional depth and find power in their ability to create their own work as well as connect to contemporary text by great playwrights.

Director of Education Dani Bryant says “I’m thrilled to be offering professional training for the total artist. Young actors need innovative training which pushes them artistically and provides space to develop their authentic voice. White Pines Young Actor’s Studio fuses the mission of our organization with a forward thinking approach to professional high-level training.”

Practical skills taught:

  • Audition technique
  • Cold readings
  • Improvising
  • On-camera auditions, slating, ad copy
  • Scene rehearsal, preparation and performance
  • Headshot and resume preparation 
Scene work

Scene work

Each semester, students will meet casting directors, producers, and theater professionals from the thriving and dynamic Philadelphia theater and film communities. But we don't stop there.  Collaboration is a 21st century art. Whether a young person chooses to pursue a career as an actor or not, we believe that there are many life skills to be learned in an artistic environment like White Pines Young  Actor’s Studio

  • Working as an ensemble

  • Practicing empathy both onstage and off

  • Developing technical discipline

  • Building personal and artistic confidence

Through the White Pines Young Actor’s Studio young people will become a more skilled in working with others and sharing their authentic voice. Thus, they will be ready for whatever job they choose to pursue in the future as well ase work better with those who come into their lives in the future. Lead teacher Alexandra Spadoni says, "I am thrilled about the launch of our young professional studio. My aim is to give students a cohesive foundation that they can build upon with confidence as they grow. I am reminded that I was once in my student’s shoes starting out as a teen in the Philadelphia area hungry to understand how the actors I was seeing in movies and plays were doing what they were doing. It’s an honor to pass down to my students some valuable lessons in American acting technique from the mentors who have inspired me. I can’t wait to get started this Fall!"

Announcing Bright Invention auditions

White Pines Productions is looking for some special people to join our ensemble Bright Invention. 


improv Invasion perfromance

improv Invasion perfromance

Bright Invention is the White Pines ensemble, and works within the programs and mission of White Pines Productions. We are a long-form improv ensemble that seeks to transform people’s lives through improvising, collaborating and performing. In so doing, we affirm the essential value of the artist to any community.


Bright Invention is a unique group of individuals willing to rehearse and create in an atmosphere of acceptance, growth, professionalism, dedication and creativity. We are not bound to Bright Invention exclusively, but we share the rights and responsibilities of ensemble membership.  For instance, ensemble members have the right to be supported in all their artistic endeavors by White Pines, and the responsibility to attend weekly ensemble rehearsals or performances. Bright Invention is dedicated to the deliciousness our work together. We have fun rehearsing and performing, and we offer each other ongoing emotional and creative support through the ups and downs of our lives as citizen artists. 



For our audiences, Bright Invention extends the gift of personalized improvised performance which, in the best moments, feels scripted and leaves audiences stunned, moved to tears and laughter, and unified in their humanity. Bright Invention believes that (y)our stories, relationships, and personal truths are connective tissues that, when crafted and shared, bring seemingly disparate people together.

Our approach to improv is grounded in theatrical training and dramatic technique. We think of ourselves as actors. We approach each other onstage with the same intensity and preparation that any script-based actor brings to her work. And - while our work is not exclusively comic - we are champions for comedy, believing is that laughter is the first doorway to transformation. 

dinner theater show

dinner theater show

Bright Invention does not wish to simply create more improvised theater, but rather, to expand the boundaries of the form through experimentation, incorporation of varied artistic mediums, and new ways of interacting with, and soliciting information from audience members. We are a long-form improv ensemble expanding the genre, and dedicated to deepening the connection between actors and audience in all we do. You can see our current membership here. 

Bright Invention Basics 

Expectations of membership:

dinner theater show

dinner theater show

  • You are available to rehearse every Monday night from 7 – 9:30 pm. Rehearsals will be both in Elkins Park and downtown at a location TBD. Special circumstances allow for excusal from rehearsals. However, persistent absence from rehearsal will result in excusal from the ensemble.
  • You will be available to participate in at least one of the White Pines Access programs over the course of a year. This can be anything from a single event, to ongoing teaching and facilitating, depending on availability and interest. Training and mentoring in the professional skill sets for these programs is provided.
  • You will be available to perform in Bright Invention shows in Elkins Park and downtown. Performance schedule to be designed this summer for 2017 - 2018, generally one show per month which replaces rehearsal, beginning in October.


  • Generally, ensemble members take an equal share of box office income for any show they perform in, after White Pines takes a 10% administrative fee.
  • Travel to and from Bright Invention rehearsal is reimbursed.
  • Participation in White Pines programs is compensated by an hourly fee, $25 - $100 per hour depending on the program. Fee schedule available upon request.

Time commitment: on average, Bright Inventors spend about five hours per week on Bright Invention and White Pines travel, rehearsing and performing. 

Your Bright Invention audition is an open rehearsal. 

dinner theater show

dinner theater show

Please arrive promptly and dressed in comfortable clothes you like to move in. You will be in a rehearsal with established members of Bright Invention as well as others auditioning. The rehearsal will be led by Bright Invention Artistic Director Benjamin Lloyd. We will start with a warm up, then games, then improvised scenes coached by Ben performed with Bright Invention actors. You will be released in time to make the 9 pm train back to Philly. Select actors will be invited to a call back Monday June 19th at the White Pines Place from 7 - 9 pm.  We are especially interested performers of color.