Chair | Associate Professor
Associate Professor of Theatre
B.A., Theatre Arts | University of Nevada-Las Vegas
M.F.A., Arts & Technology | University of Texas-Dallas
Office: Potter Hall 118
Phone: (816) 271-4423
Office Hours: MWF 10-11, T/TH 2-3 and by appointment
Originally from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, Jeff worked as a professional designer both locally and nationally and has received numerous awards for his design work.
He also served as Technical Director for UT-Dallas from 1999-2008. After receiving his MFA, Jeff was promoted to Director of Theatre and Dance in 2008. In his years at UT-Dallas, Jeff turned the performance space into one of the most technologically advanced spaces in the area. Automated lighting, projection and a custom sound system were implemented as well as new lighting and sound control.
Jeff has performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC as part of the KCACTF program. He has worked with Water Tower Theatre, Kitchen Dog Theatre, Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, Plano Repertory Theatre, as well as numerous dance and experimental theatre companies.
Jeff has worked and trained with many industry professionals and has attended classes in Projection, Vectorworks (computer assisted drafting), Studio sound engineering, digital audio work stations and light board programming. Jeff’s’ expertise are sought out for consultation by theatre professionals of various design backgrounds.
Jeff has served productions in many capacities. He has worked as Set, Lighting, Sound, Projection, Properties, Stage Management, and Technical Director for many shows, sometimes in multiple roles. When he is not backstage, you might find him on stage performing
B.A. in Spanish, B.A. in Christian Missions, TESOL Certification | Campbellsville University
M.L.S., Global Studies | Fort Hays State University
Office: Potter Hall 100 F
Phone: (816) 271-5664
Bio: Hannah Herrera serves as the Administrative Assistant for the Department of Theatre, Cinema, and Dance. Hannah is originally from Hartford, Kentucky—a small town with the famous slogan, “home of 2,000 happy people and a few soreheads”. Hannah considers herself to have been one of the 2,000 happy people. She received her B.A. in Spanish, B.A. in Christian Missions, and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Certification from Campbellsville University in 2013. Hannah also holds a Masters of Liberal Studies in Global Studies from Fort Hays State University, which she received in 2018. Hannah has extensive travel experience and has volunteered in orphanages, schools, and homeless shelters in Ukraine, Mongolia, Guatemala, Venezuela, and Mexico. Hannah’s desire is to serve as an advocate for higher education and contribute to international human development through educational opportunities.
Thomas Brecheisen, MFA
Assistant Professor of Cinema
M.F.A., Animation and Visual Effects | The Academy of Art University
Office: Potter Hall 206 B
Phone: (816) 271-4442
Office Hours: M 10-12, T/TH 2-3:30, W 1-3 (Appointment Only), F 11-2 (Appointment Only)
Bio: Thomas Brecheisen, MFA, is an Assistant Professor of Cinema at Missouri Western State University. His background is in Post Production with an emphasis on Visual Effects and Editing. Thomas has been teaching post secondary film and visual effects courses since 2014 and currently works as a freelance visual effects artist. Thomas’s previous experience includes Lead Editor for MTV’s Lingerie Football League, Senior Visual Effects Artist on Dan Perri’s “Sharkskin,” Script Supervisor for American Idol, Visual Effects Artist for several feature films, and Director, Cinematographer, Editor, VFX Artist, Colorist, and Music Composer for numerous short films, commercials, music videos, and other projects.
Originally from Las Vegas, NV, Thomas served as a CounterIntelligence Agent for the US Army with two deployments to Iraq and Kuwait in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Upon returning from his second deployment, Thomas was reassigned as a Special Agent in the PACOM Hawaii Field Office where he served as a SAEDA education specialist. His mission was to educate Battalion and Brigade level organizations on Counter-Terrorism, Counter-Espionage, and Counter-Intelligence operations. This is where Thomas first learned of his passion for teaching.
Upon receiving a Honorable discharge and retiring his Badge & Credentials from the US Army, Thomas began his academic training. His first major was in Music Composition and Theory with a secondary emphasis in Trumpet Performance. This led to a study in Film Composing where Thomas studied Jazz Composition from legendary pianist David Loeb. Thomas would frequently attend FOX Studio orchestral Film Scoring Sessions under the mentorship of David. During these times, Thomas would study Composition from Family Guy composer, Walter Murphy. Finally, Thomas decided to double major in Music and Film and his love for film making helped him earn his Bachelors of Art Degree from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and then his Master’s of Fine Arts Degree in Animation and Visual Effects from The Academy of Art University.
Currently Thomas is pursuing furthering his education with a Ph.D. in Psychology with an emphasis in Learning and Technology, where he intends to participate in the Film Psychology research community focusing on how and why audiences are cognitively and behavioral influenced by Film, as well as how students in the college environment are influenced by upcoming technology. Thomas is excited to be part of the Department of Theatre, Cinema & Dance, and looks forward to being an important influence in the lives of his students. MAKE IT HAPPEN!
Adjunct Faculty of Dance
Phone: (816) 271-5664
Spring 2018 Teaching Schedule
- DAN112 Modern Dance I
- DAN214 Dance History
Marla Heeler the owner and director of The Dance Arts Center, LLC is thrilled to share her passion and love for the art of dance with as many people as possible. Her motto is, “There is more to dance than pointing your toes.” As a choreographer and studio owner she has many award-winning students; including Dance Masters Chapter 28 Teen Miss Dance 2013 and Teen Mr. Dance 2012. Her students have also been award opportunities to study with ABT, Kansas City Ballet, North Carolina School of The Arts, State Street Ballet and Chicago Human Rhythm Project.
Marla’s award-winning choreography has been recognized by Robidoux Resident Theater as a Dobbins Award recipient. She has also been recognized by several dance competitions such as; Bravo, Celebrity, Dance Masters of America, I Love Dance, Dance America and Headliners. She has also had the pleasure of choreographing for both Missouri Western State University and Northwest Missouri State University theater productions.
Marla has taught Master Classes and judged throughout the Midwest. As a certified instructor, she is very involved in continuing to raise the standard for dance professionals. She has served as both President and Vice-President for Chapter 28 Dance Masters and is a member of Chicago National Association of Dance Masters.
As a former performer, Marla began her professional career after winning Miss Dance Heart of America. This award created the opportunity for her to study with the world-renowned Gus Giordano. While in Chicago she performed with Gus Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, The Chicago Opera Theater, The Evanston Dance Ensemble, The Dance Foundation, Dance Explosion, Dancewerks and Indola Int’l Hair Show.
One of her most proud achievements is being the founder of A Chance To Dance. This unique dance benefit was started in 2002 to bring the dance community together to help raise awareness and funding for the prevention of child abuse.
She is thrilled to be an adjunct professor of dance at Missouri Western State University and this year she brought to life the dance production of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. The opportunity to work with such a variety of people in the arts is one of her favorite parts of being a choreographer and dance instructor.
Cassie Kay Hoppas
Cassie Kay Hoppas
Assistant Professor of Theatre
Costume Design & Technology
M.F.A., Costume Design & Production | The University of Alabama
B.F.A., Theatre | Emporia State University
Office: Potter Hall 100 H
Phone: (816) 271-5985
Office Hours: MWF 11-12, T/TH 10-11 and by appointment
Fall 2018 Teaching Schedule:
THR 113 01 Intro to Theatre
THR 113 02 Intro to Theatre
Bio: Cassie Kay Hoppas is very excited to join the team at Missouri Western State University. Cassie holds her Masters of Fine Arts in Costume Design and Production from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, AL and her B.F.A. in Theatre from Emporia State University in Emporia. KS. Cassie is originally from southeast Kansas but has been around various points in the country both in professional theatres as well as university theaters including Missouri, Florida, Maine, Pennsylvania, Iowa, and Colorado. A particular love is historical costuming, the fantasy genre, opera, and improvisational theatre. Some favorite designs include Tartuffe, The Dining Room, The 39 Steps, and “The Yellow River Ballet”. Cassie’s work can be found at www.cassiekayhoppas.org
Toby Lawrence, MFA
Assistant Professor of Cinema
MFA in Film Directing | California Institute of the Arts
Office: Potter Hall 206 C
Phone: (816) 271-4296
Office Hours: M 10-1, T/TH 1-2, W/F 1-3 (Appointment Only)
“I am a 27-year veteran of the entertainment industry; I spent my early career as a signed recording artist on Epic Records (a division of Sony). I also bring an MFA in Film Directing from California Institute of the Arts and more than seven years of teaching experience in Film/Video Arts at the University level.
I am a working filmmaker who wrote and directed an award-winning debut feature film in 2014 (Best Mystery Feature, EIFF 2014). I also directed an award winning short documentary in 2002 and several narrative shorts, industrials, and various commercials. My first feature length narrative film premiered in August of 2014 at the Sacramento Film and Music Festival and was user-rated #1 in its genre on IMDb (Internet Movie Database) at that time. Beyond writing, directing, producing, lighting, and cinematography, I have extensive experience with post- production, including editing, sound design, and color correction.
I am formerly the Chair of Media at the Art Institute of San Antonio, Texas. I oversaw more than 300 students in 5 separate disciplines and 20+ full-time and adjunct faculty members. I have experience in teaching all aspects of pre-production, production, and post-production. My diverse industry background provides me with the expertise to teach a broad range of both upper and lower division courses.
My class sign-up and retention rates are excellent; I take a personal interest in the success of every student. I have a passion for helping a widely diverse student population master the skills necessary to navigate the challenging and evolving professional world of film/video and develop their unique strengths and talents. Former students have gone on to successful careers in the film and TV industries.
I am excited to announce that I am currently employed by Missouri Western State University as an Assistant Professor in Cinema and will begin teaching in fall 2017.
It is my enduring goal to combine my broad personal and professional experience with a compassionate and enthusiastic teaching style to make a positive contribution to the growing field of the Media Arts.”
B.F.A. in Technical Theatre | Valdosta State University
Office: Potter Hall 100 B
Phone: (816) 244-9141
Office Hours: by appointment
Spring 2018 Teaching Schedule
- THR140 Production Participation
Before moving to Missouri, Michael Scroggs was from Conyers Georgia. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Technical Theatre from Valdosta State University in Valdosta Ga. His education was not limited to the classroom as he was employed in the fields of Aviation construction and repair, automotive refinishing, housing construction, and welding fabrication to round out his education. He brings this knowledge base to Missouri Western and an overwhelming love of carpentry to build and tech the various shows.
Founding Dean of SFA | Faculty
Dr. Bob Willenbrink
Founding Dean / Faculty
Office: Potter Hall 107 C
Phone: (816) 271-4515
Office Hours: by appointment
Dr. Bob Willenbrink is the Founding Dean of the School of Fine Arts at Missouri Western State University. He holds the Ph.D. in theatre from Bowling Green (Ohio) State University and a MA from Morehead (KY) State University. He began his academic career at Hazard (Ky.) Community College and for years served as Chair and Director of Theatre at the University of Central Arkansas. He created the Youth Theatre of Central Arkansas, was the national director of the ARC of Arkansas Performing Arts Institute for disabled artists, and founded ACTS, a theatre troupe for disabled performers. He was chair of the Department of Communication and Theatre at Morehead State University and a served for a short time as the Director of the Luckey Honors College. He became the Head of the Department of Theatre and Dance at Missouri State University and Producer and Director for the critically acclaimed Tent Theatre. He has directed over 80 productions of various styles at numerous venues. He has served as chair of Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Region VI, was a member of the Kentucky Humanities Council Board of Directors and served as a director and first vice-president of the Jenny Wiley Theatre. For three summers he was the artistic director for the Kincaid Regional Theatre. He received the Kennedy Center Bronze Medallion for Service, the Outstanding Public Service Award at the University of Central Arkansas and the Distinguished Creative Production Award at Morehead State University.