Rise Up Performing Arts believes helping kids become great performers provides many valuable life lessons. More important though, is helping them become great people. At the heart of our program are seven core principles we incorporate into our instruction to help our young performers become the best they can be: Confidence, Creativity, Character, Leadership, Respect, Integrity, and Perseverance.
We’re developing characters from the inside out!
Rodney Neal - Executive & Artistic Director
Rodney provides both artistic and administrative leadership for Rise Up. He holds a bachelor of science in music vocal performance, a bachelor of arts in business, and a masters in business administration. Rodney has been involved in all aspects of theatre, working with performers of all ages as an actor, musician, director, designer, and producer in both community and professional theatre. Combining his background in business and the arts, his strategic thinking has guided him into creating a vision to help provide a high quality theatrical experience for young artists and audience members. Serving as both Executive and Artistic Director, Rodney is responsible for developing, executing, and enforcing Rise Up’s mission and vision while striving to continuously improve the reach, fundraising, programs, and operations in collaboration with the Rise Up team.
Angie Neal - Director of Program
Angie loves theatre and loves helping kids love theatre! She has directed, costumed, produced, and participated in children’s and community theatre in the greater Cincinnati area for many years. A native of Texas, Angie holds a bachelor of arts in communications and drama, television, and film performance. She is the coordinator of district information for the Fairfield City School District, and mom to two great kids. Angie is the co-founder of Rise Up Performing Arts and serves as the Director of Programming. She ensures that the Rise Up program focuses on positive transformation and self-growth, as well as fostering a lifelong love of the performing arts. Angie plays a leading role in creating an environment for youth that is fun, educational, and driven by the Rise Up core values.
Sam Murray - Teaching Artist - Dance
Samantha comes to the organization with 17 years of competitive dance experience teaching at multiple studios around the Cincinnati area. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Strategic Communication from The Ohio State University, where she also studied tap in the non-major dance program. She was also a member of The Ohio State University All- Girl Cheer Team. Sam has a desire to pass on her knowledge and passion for dance to other young, aspiring dancers. Sam uses dance as a vehicle for developing self-esteem, creative expression, and critical thinking skills. She believes dance is not only important for its creative and physical benefits, but it also teaches valuable life lessons about hard work and dedication.
Sarah Grace McCollough- Teaching Artist - Character Education
Sarah Grace loves working with young actors and helping them to shine on stage and as individuals! She has worked as a classroom teacher, children's director, outreach representative, and production assistant. She currently works full-time in Career Services at UC Blue Ash. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Cincinnati Christian University and a Master of Science in Student Affairs in Higher Education from Miami University. Her theatre experience includes performing, directing, choreographing, producing, and stage management. Sarah Grace is thankful to bring her performance and teaching experience to Rise Up Performing Arts. She ensures that actors will learn from the rehearsal to the production process and grow as individuals along the way.
Molly Wanko - Lead Costumer
Molly's costume design is influenced by her background as an actor, dancer, director, and lifelong sewist. Her design credits include Rise Up's Matilda and Hamilton Rotary's Oliver, as well as helping with costumes in many other productions. She directed musicals at Kings High School for several years, and has performed with Hamilton Rotary, Greater Hamilton Civic Theater, Caroline Scott Players, OxAct, Miami University Summer Theater, Showboat Majestic, Rising Phoenix Theater, several Lansing, MI theater groups, and Children's Ballet Theater of Greater Lansing. Molly holds a B.A. in elementary education from Alma College and loves to help kids experience the magic of theater.
Hallie Thompson - Music Director
Hallie Thompson is a junior at Wright State University where she is studying Choral Music Education. She currently serves at the alto vocal captain in the top choral ensemble, Collegiate Chorale, as well as the secretary for the School of Music’s Ohio Collegiate Music Education Association chapter. Outside of school, Hallie has had the privilege to music direct for Rise Up Performing Arts and STARS Summer Theater since 2019. This has given her the opportunity to work with students ages 6-19. She has been studying voice privately for nine years and began teaching privately in 2021. Her personal studies have put an emphasis on classical training as well as musical theater training. Hallie hopes to help students build a strong foundation in vocal technique as well as music literacy. Through lessons, students will learn a range of repertoire, music theory, and receive audition preparation.
Olivia Jones - Choreographer
Meet Olivia Jones! Oliva has been a choreographer for Rise Up since the beginning! Olivia grew up in Hamilton and attended Ross High School where she kept busy doing competitive show choir and was an active member of the theatre program. After graduating high school in 20016, Olivia attended Miami University and obtained a Bachelors of Science in Nursing degree in 2020. During college Olivia stayed involved with performing all year round! She worked professionally at Kings Island where she was able sing, dance and act in many different roles and shows. She was a part of various community theatre productions and has worked with companies such as Hamilton Rotary Theatre, Greater Hamilton Civic Theatre, Fairfield Summer Theatre, and Encore Youth Theatre. Outside of choreographing for Rise Up, Olivia works full time as a pediatric nurse. You can also find her on a run or playing with her two French bulldogs. Olivia is very excited to be a part of someone’s journey as a dancer and as a person.