Producing Artistic Director
“dynamic, creative, team-player”
Paul Whelihan is the producing artistic director of Pushcart Players, and a producer for three decades in New Jersey’s professional theater circuit. While still an undergraduate at Montclair State University, he co-founded Ironbound Theatre in Newark, where Whelihan served as managing director. He was the development director of Forum Theatre Arts Center in Metuchen, and Audience Services coordinator for Premier Stages at Kean University. In 2007, Whelihan co-founded Running Rabbit Theater, a company organized to instill a lifelong appreciation of and support for theater in young audiences and their families. Running Rabbit received unprecedented first-year funding from both the NJ State Council on the Arts and The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. Whelihan is an actor, director, stage manager and playwright as well. He’s written nine plays for family audiences, including the ground-breaking “Treasure Island,” the first professional production of its kind in New Jersey wherein the entire cast used spoken word, singing and American Sign Language to illuminate the story. He has performed, directed and stage-managed off-Broadway (47th Street Theater, 59 East 59 Theatres, NY Fringe Festival, 54 Below) and regionally (Royal Poincianna Playhouse, Broward Center for the Arts, Centenary Stage, The Growing Stage, Luna Stage Company, Bickford Theatre at Morris Museum, Forum Cultural Arts Center, Quillo Arts Center, Dreamcatcher Rep) in musicals, dramas, original works and in locally produced television, film and web series projects (featured in the web series, “The Madness of Art”). As a teaching artist, Paul directs productions for Franklin Middle School (Somerset NJ), Rockaway Valley School (Boonton, NJ), Northeast Elementary School (Upper Montclair, NJ), Breezy Point Summer Theatre Program (NY) and the YMCA of Wayne (NJ).
“versatile, organized, dedicated”
With over 20 years of experience in the entertainment field, she is passionate about the arts. Simpson has been a proud member of The Screen Actors Guild and The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists since 1996, and Actors Equity since 2004. Her experience includes various regional theatre (Bickford Theatre at Morris Museum, McCarter Theater, Surflight Theatre, Judith Anderson, The Forum Theatre, Running Rabbit) television, film, national commercials, and modeling projects. Favorite credits include Guest Starring/Recurring roles on Law & Order: Criminal Intent, As The World Turns and Gossip Girl. As a dance teacher and choreographer, Simpson enjoys developing and executing lesson plans, as well as mentoring children of all ages and skill level. Past choreography credits include Westfield High School, Surflight Theatre, Light Opera of NJ and Plays in The Park. Simpson is a two time Paper Mill Rising Star Award nominee and the recipient of the 2015 Paper Mill Rising Star Award for Outstanding Choreography/Staging of a Musical (Pippin) and the 2015 Broadway World New Jersey Award for Best Production by a Local Theater (Jesus Christ Superstar – Choreographer, Middlesex County Plays-in-the-Park).
Overview of Pushcart Players: PUSHCART PLAYERS (PP) is the award-winning professional touring theater company specializing in arts education for children. Twice nominated for an Emmy©, Pushcart is the recipient of numerous state and private awards for excellence and innovation. A social-profit organization founded in 1974, Pushcart brings substantive musical theater, workshops, and residencies to young people and their families in schools and theaters nationwide. The company has traveled more than 2 million miles nationally and abroad, from the nation’s White House to the rural little red schoolhouse. PP addresses social studies, literature, history, the Autism spectrum, special educational needs, and values clarification for young people, their families and their educators. All performances by professional artists (Actors’ Equity Association) are supported by study guides, post-performance assessments and other supplemental materials, and adapt to any location with innovative scenery, lighting and sound systems.
SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENTS AND AWARDS include: Cultural Access Network of NJ Innovator Award; NJ Governor’s Award for Excellence in Arts Education; NJ Theatre Alliance Applause Award for Excellence in the Arts; commendation of Pushcart Players and entry in Congressional Record; NJTA Arts Access Award for exceptional work in providing accessible programming statewide; 2 performances by invitation at The White House; International invitations to Soviet Union, Ukraine, Czech Republic and Africa.
Services Provided by Pushcart Players: TOURING MUSICAL THEATER PRODUCTIONS that are fully-mounted with state-of-the-art lighting/sound systems, costumes, scenery, masterfully orchestrated, recorded scores and performed by AEA actors. SENSORY FRIENDLY PERFORMANCES of all above, wherein productions are adapted to be accessible to children on the Autism spectrum and with other cognitive disabilities. ARTS EDUCATION/LEARNING is the center of PP’s mission, goals, programs and operations. Touring musical productions are curriculum based (history, literature, social studies) and are designed to educate in other subjects and, most importantly, to support/encourage appreciation of art for art’s sake. Education programs embrace NJ Arts Standards that engage students to create, perform, respond and connect: JFK PLAYERS ONSTAGE-residency in Newark creating theater with children on the Autism spectrum; PASSAIC WORKSHOPS with at-risk youth in the juvenile correctional system; KIDS DO BROADWAY-Student productions directed by PP staff/teaching artists in schools, theaters and community centers; THE INFORMANCE-pre or post performance workshops that offer a hands-on exploration of all elements of musical theater including the Artist, the Medium, and the Career; Q&A/ASSESSMENT SESSIONS with actors and audience following each performance; STUDY GUIDES with resource lists, bibliographies, show summaries, suggested activities; PUSHCART, JR-scripts originally produced by PP are adapted for students to perform in their schools.
What makes PP unique and necessary? “Because theater is a synthesis of all the arts and provides an excellent vehicle for the introduction of music, dance, poetry, prose, visual arts and other artistic expression, it is the centerpiece of many innovative residencies and workshops offered in PP’s programming.
As a professional ensemble of artists and educators (teachers, writers, musicians, actors, designers and directors) PP’s primary goal is to increase the aesthetic world of children by involving them in theater and arts programming. Traveling to schools throughout the nation is a high priority so that all children in a given community have the advantage of arts programming prepared, conducted and presented by outstanding professionals in the field. With arts as an inseparable part of the human journey, PP introduces the live theater experience while underscoring many rich curriculum connections such as history, diversity, positive values, responsible behavior & other social competencies.”