Faculty & Staff

Kristen Poulakis, Arts Academy Director

Kristen is proud to say she began her journey here at the WHBPAC in 2014 as a teaching artist and has had the great opportunity of directing/music directing several shows for the Arts Academy throughout those years. Kristen has been a vocal coach, piano instructor and song writing advocate here on Long Island for over 14 years. She had also taught all styles of dance at the Dance Centre of the Hamptons for several years. Kristen co-owned/directed two musical theatre companies, ACT Out East as well as East End Children’s Theatre company at the Vail Leavitt Music Hall. Kristen’s formal training in dance and voice began in Boston where she grew up as well as at the Broadway Dance Centre in Manhattan. She attended the prestigious colleges, The Boston Conservatory of Music as well as The Berklee School of Music but ultimately obtained her bachelor’s degree from the buddhist based college, Naropa University, in Boulder Colorado. She has a degree in Vocal Performance and Music Therapy. Kristen loves that she is able to help develop confidence, foster talent and instill the love of the arts to students of all ages.

Justin Harris, Arts Academy Manager

Justin is an East End performer, director, writer, stage manager, et al. He is also a masterful teaching artist working with actors from Manhattan to Montauk and of course the beloved North Fork with organizations such as A Class Act NY and Hamptons Shakespeare Festival. In addition to his extensive performance resume, Justin is a graduate of Brown University in neuroscience as a J. Saunders Redding 1928 Scholar. While attending Brown, Justin also studied acting, directing and technical theatre, music, and various dance styles. Notable performance experiences include mariachi band Mariachi de Brown (trumpet, which he has played for 14 years), a capella group – The Bear Necessities (Visions album currently on music streaming services), and Divine Rhythm step dance team. Justin took a brief hiatus from WHBPAC and served as FAIR program management assistant as well as in the department of audience development in Ashland, Oregon with Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF). At OSF, he performed in several readings including Holly Yasui’s biographical play “Citizen Min” based on the life of her father, Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, Minoru Yasui and the Every 28 Hours play project. OSF granted Justin the opportunity to work alongside numerous theatrical professionals and co-coordinate the 5th National Asian American Theaters and Artists ConFest developed by the Consortium of Asian American Theaters and Artists. Most recently Justin directed in All The World Wide Web’s A Stage’s SPEAK UP Festival and directed and choreographed the Long Island Premiere of Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s musical Bright Star. Justin is dedicated to the art of storytelling in all forms and the healing and inspirational justice that theatre permits for actor, artist, and audience. Some of Justin’s favorite acting credits include Officer Derek Jeter (Welcome To Arroyo’s) at American Repertory Theater, Emcee (Cabaret), Chutes&Ladders (Water By The Spoonful), and several Shakespearean characters – Othello, Brutus, Bottom, and Lucio.

Meaghan Padilla, Teaching Artist

Meaghan Padilla is a NYS K-12 certified music educator who seeks to help musicians find their passion for music through performance. She believes in the power of community in music ensembles, and encourages her students to be the best musicians they can be through practice, commitment, and hard work. Meaghan earned her Bachelor of Music in Music Education from the Westminster Choir College of Rider University, and her Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from SUNY Stony Brook University. She teaches chorus and AP Music theory at Hampton Bays High School, is the music director for the Hampton Bays High School theater program, performs with various ensembles across Long Island including the eVoco Voice Collective and the Choral Society of the Moriches, and serves as a worship leader and children’s music director at Christ Church in Shirley, NY.

Meghan Rafferty, Teaching Artist

Meghan is a casting director and actor who, over the past 17 years has worked with some of the most respected directors, writers and producers in the television and film industry. Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Jim Jarmusch and Damon Lindelof to name a few. Past casting credits: ‘American-ish’, ‘Paterson’, Season 1 of the HBO series ‘The Leftovers’, ‘Falling Water’, the Cannes GoldenLion winner ‘Lily vs Margo’, ‘Saving Grace’ with Ann Dowd and the award winning independent rom-com, ’Lez Bomb’ starring Bruce Dern and Cloris Leachman. She is currently working on two films aimed to shoot this fall: “Grad Night” and ”Make A Marriage Great Again”. Meghan received her BFA in acting from Adelphi University and an MFA degree from the FSU/Asolo Theatre Conservatory. She is currently a partner of The Tape Room, one of Manhattan’s acclaimed self-taping studio. When she is not casting or coaching Meghan continues to pursue her first love, acting. You might have seen her most recently as Ray Romano’s wife in “The Irishman”, Episode 7 of Amazon’s “Modern Love” and the soon to be released “The Trial of the Chicago 7” directed by Aaron Sorkin. This unique career combination has allowed Meghan to share personal experiences from both perspectives -in front of and behind the camera.

Jake Lorefice, Teaching Artist

Jake Lorefice is a full-time NYS certified K-8 music teacher at the Montauk School. In addition to his extensive academic music background, he has also been performing in various rock bands across the east end of Long Island for the past 10+ years. As a professionally trained musician that also deeply understands the inner workings of a rock ensemble, you are sure to leave this course with a deeper understanding of the music than you would have otherwise!

Delaney Hafener, Teaching Artist

Delaney Hafener has been writing and performing original songs since the age of 12, when she began writing with the help and encouragement of her parents. Since then, songwriting has been her way of processing and expressing everything from political movements to personal relationships. She started indie-folk group Pandafan at 16, cutting her teeth playing sometimes 4 gigs a week across Long Island, NYC, New England, and western New York. In 2018, Delaney graduated Suma Cum Laude from SUNY Purchase with a BM in Studio Production and a BA in Arts Management. She now leads eclectic Americana outfit The Belle Curves as songwriter and co-producer, traveling throughout the northeast and always working on new music.

Deb Jackel, Teaching Artist

Deb Jackel has been teaching Meisner-based acting technique, Audition Technique, and Cold Reading at the renowned William Esper Studio since 2000. ​Winner of the 2011 Backstage Readers’ Choice Awards for both “Favorite Audition Technique Teacher” and “Favorite Cold Reading Teacher,” Deb brings extensive experience with the business of acting to her teaching. Prior to going to train as a teacher with William Esper, Deb spent years in the New York talent agency world, representing actors at agencies including Don Buchwald and Associates, Ambrosio/Mortimer and Associates, and Abrams Artists. In her many years working on both sides of the business, Deb observed the most common roadblocks to successful auditions and has since used her knowledge to empower actors. 

Deb is an expert in helping actors cultivate and protect their passion, vulnerability and uniqueness during the often misunderstood, stress-inducing audition process. She coaches actors privately on audition material and technique, and also leverages her experience to serve as a career consultant for emerging actors who wish to better understand the business of acting. At the university level, Deb has worked at Rutgers’ Mason Gross School of the Arts, where she taught audition technique, as well as guiding the graduating actors through their transition into the industry and preparation for their actor presentation. She has also led audition workshops at NYU Tisch School of the Arts’ Meisner Studio. In 2010 Deb co-created “The Empowerment Weekend for Actors” with Alaine Alldaffer (casting director, Playwrights Horizons), an intensive weekend workshop devoted to the psychological and spiritual approach to the art and business of acting and auditioning.

Education: BFA in Acting, Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts; Meisner Teacher Training, William Esper

Jonathan De Mory, Teaching Artist

Jonathan De Mory is a professional trumpet player born and raised in Brentwood, NY. He earned his bachelor’s degree from SUNY Fredonia and his master’s degree from CUNY Queens College in music education. He has performed alongside world class musicians like Bruce Johnstone, Tito Puente Jr, Ray De La Paz, Tom Manuel, Reggie Watkins, Vince DiMartino, Gabriel DiMartino, Chris Tedesco, Yo-Yo Ma, Arturo Sandoval, Cameron Johnson, and many others. He currently performs with the Long Island cover band In The Groove and is a guest performer for That 70’s Band, Latinology, La Elegancia De La Salsa, The Naked Truth Band, The New Inlet Chamber Orchestra, and more. He is also the middle school band director and music teacher in the Hampton Bays school district. Though this is his sixth year at Hampton Bays, Mr. De Mory has directed the vocal and instrumental jazz ensembles at the middle school and high school level.