Thursday's Children
an original musical
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The Cast
Production Team
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Production Team

Co-Authors/Composers/Producers: Brian R. Lynner & Lisa Norris-Lynner
Set Designer:
Casey L. Gradischnig
Costume Designer:
Christy Wilkins
Lighting Designer:
Virgil Kleinhesselink
Stage Managers:
Janet Miller Albanese
Stage Manager:
Adrienne Sullivan
Musical Director/Piano:
Philip E. King
Steve Howard
Rex Howell
(alternate: Joel Gettys)
Brenda McConahay
Electric Bass:
Bill Nelson
Julie Peachey
Wardrobe: Anna Sunstrom, Debra Peek
Advertising Sales/Publicity Assistant: Concetta Morales

Production Company: Unexpected Company

Brian R. LynnerBrian R. Lynner (Co-Author/Composer/Producer): Brian has acted in over 50 productions at some of the nation’s leading theatres, including Actors Theatre of Louisville, The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and the New Jersey Shakespeare Festival, where he also served as Musical Director, composing and directing scores for a number of plays.    As the co-founder and Artistic Director for the Iowa Shakespeare Project, Brian directed productions of Romeo & Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and King Lear. He played the title role in Hamlet, appeared in productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, and Taming of the Shrew, and composed original music for a number of productions. He also toured the state of Iowa, playing the title role in an original one-man show The Adventures of Mark Twain. Brian has also appeared in several independent films, including The Yoofo Club, released in 1999, and will soon be featured in Dylan’s Wake, shot in Des Moines in 2009. From 2001-2003 he served as co-Artistic Director of The Drama Workshop, where he appeared as King Henry II in The Lion in Winter and directed The Taming of the Shrew. Recent roles include Hamm in Endgame for Repertory Theatre of Iowa, and the title role in Unexpected Company’s production of J.B. He is co-author of the company’s original works, Voices of the Civil War and Shakespeare On Love, and Hearts of Freedom for which he also composed original music. Brian is a founding partner of Unexpected Company. E-mail Brian at

Lisa Norris
Lisa Norris-Lynner, (Co-Author/Composer/Producer): Lisa has worked as a director, stage manager, scenic artist and designer for professional theatre companies in New York, California, Florida, Minnesota and Iowa. As co-founder and Producing Director of the Iowa Shakespeare Project, Lisa served as the producer for all of the company’s productions, and directed productions of Twelfth Night and Taming of the Shrew. From 2001-2003, she served as co-Artistic Director of The Drama Workshop, where her tenure included directing The Lion In Winter and designing costumes for The Taming of the Shrew.  She also directed and co-produced the Unexpected Company’s production of J.B. Lisa has written several plays and screenplays and co-written two original musicals, including Ever After Anonymous, which premiered at the Des Moines Civic Center and had its international premiere  in the Bahamas in 2000. Lisa is co-author of the company’s original works Voices of the Civil War, Shakespeare On Love, and Hearts of Freedom. Her original screenplay Timeweaver was a semi-finalist for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Nicholls Fellowship. Lisa also works as a program development consultant and grant writer for non-profit organizations; her client list includes Metro Arts Alliance of Greater Des Moines, the Blank Park Zoo, Historic Valley Junction Foundation, Stagewest, Repertory Theatre of Iowa, the Iowa Historical Foundation, Inmate Art Project, ArtStop, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Iowa.  Lisa is a founding partner of Unexpected Company. E-mail Lisa at

Casey L. Gradischnig, Set Designer: Casey’s set design credits include numerous productions for StageWest, including: Forbidden Broadway, Reefer Madness: The Musical, Jerry Springer: The Opera, Johnny Guitar: The Musical, Race (Die Rassen), The Exonerated, and Beyond the Rainbow; and Joseph and the Amazing Dreamcoat and Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters for the Des Moines Playhouse. Acting credits include Bat Boy: The Musical (Dr. Parker) for StageWest and Jesus Christ Superstar (Annas) for the Drama Workshop.

Casey's Sound Design credits for StageWest include:
Torch Song Trilogy, Almost Maine, Dead Man’s Cell Phone, The History Boys, Angels in America, The Pavilion,and Stop Kiss. Video Design: Race (Die Rassen), Closer, Music from a Sparkling Planet, The Exonerated, Beyond the Rainbow for StageWest, and the Des Moines Playhouse production of Willy Wonka. Casey also served as Assistant Director for the StageWest production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. ACTF award for sound and video production.

A creative director/marketing strategist, Casey serves as the Communication Director for StageWest Theatre Company. More information and examples of Casey’s art and design can be found at:

Christy Wilkins (Costume Designer): Christy Wilkins has more than 20 years of experience as a costume designer in Iowa and Texas. For the past 15 years she has served as the resident costume designer for the Grand View College Theatre Department, designing anywhere from 3 to 5 annual productions. Ms. Wilkins has also designed costumes for local companies including Opera Iowa, The Drama Workshop, Theater for a Change, and Unexpected Company. Ms. Wilkins has been avidly involved in Civil war reenactment groups, and is an expert in designing and building historically accurate 19th century clothing.

Virgil Kleinhesselink (Lighting Designer): Virgil Kleinhesselink began working as a lighting technician for the Des Moines Playhouse in 1979; since then, he has been involved with more than 200 Playhouse productions as designer or actor. Virgil has designed lights for numerous productions of local theatre and dance companies, including the Drama Workshop, Stagewest, Repertory Theatre of Iowa, Unexpected Company, Hurley & Dancers, and Gateway Dance Theatre. He is also the resident technical director and lighting designer at Des Moines’ Hoover High School. Virgil is co-owner of VTEC Productions, a sound company that handles audio and recording needs for local concerts and performances, including the Celtic Music Association’s Annual Concert Series.

Janet Miller Albanese (Production Stage Manager)Janet is currently an Assistant Professor of Theatre at Truman State University where she teaches courses in Stage Management, Theatre History, Playwriting, Performing Arts Management, and Introduction to Theatre as well as directing productions annually. She also teaches a Performing Arts Management course at Drake University. She was the Des Moines stage manager for the hit production Triple Espresso at the Temple for Performing Arts and has worked in the performing arts on both coasts. On the East coast, Janet was the Resident Stage Manager for the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts at Cornell University (Ithaca, NY) and the Assistant Production Manager at the Williamstown Theatre Festival (Williamstown, MA).  On the West coast, Janet stage managed Triple Espresso (San Diego production), and was the Production Manager for Cal Rep (Long Beach, CA), as well as taught stage management at California State University at Long Beach.  

Janet holds an MFA in Stage Management and an MA degree in Theatre History from the University of Illinois @ Urbana-Champaign and BA degrees in Theatre and Religion from St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN.  She enjoys teaching and assisting with production management at the Sondheim Center in Fairfield, IA and here in Des Moines with StageWest.

Adrienne Sullivan(Stage Manager):  is an Iowa native. She attended Truman State University, where she received her degree in Theatre. Adrienne has worked in stage management for StageWest productions including Dead Man’s Cell Phone and Almost Maine, and she worked as a costuming assistant for Central City Opera, and Great River Shakespeare Festival. She lives in West Des Moines with her husband, Nate, and 4-month old son, Aaron.

Philip E. King (Musical Director, Piano) has performed frequently throughout central Iowa as a bass/baritone and pianist. He has appeared on stage in Gianni Schicchi (Simone), Dido and Aeneas (Sorcerer), and Jerry Springer: the Opera (Warm-up Man/Satan), as well as numerous other theatrical productions. Philip has also served as Musical Director for many musical productions including Beyond the Rainbow, Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party, The Last Five Years, and Into the Woods.  As a pianist he has appeared with the Des Moines Metro Opera and the Fort Dodge Choral Society. Philip is the Music Director and Organist at the Waukee Christian Church.


Steve Howard (Guitar) currently plays with the band C.W. Hobbs, which features traditional American music. ( He is also part of a duo, The 42nd Street Irregulars, playing music of the 20's and 30's. Between the years 1965 through 1968 Steve attended Roosevelt High School.  


Rex Howell (Percussion) earned a Bachelor of Music degree with a major in Percussion from the Manhattan School of Music in New York City, and a Master of Music Education degree from Manhattan School of Music. Rex has played the drums for 40+ years. He has played for a number of theatre productions, including Rocky Horror Show, God Spell, South Pacific, West Side Story, Clue:The Musical and Brooklyn: The Musical.  He also played nine seasons with the Des Moines Symphony as a percussionist. Rex currently plays drums with The Reflections.    He is also employed by CDS Global as a programmer. 


Brenda McConahay (Piano) has accompanied musical theatre productions for the past 45 years starting with Stars Over VEISHA at Iowa State’s first production of Camelot.  More recently, she was a regular accompanist for the Ingersoll Dinner Theatre during its last 10 years of operation.  Brenda is the regular pianist for New Hope Methodist Church. She also directs and accompanies the B&B Cabaret Singers, performing primarily Broadway musical numbers.  Her two children are worldly bound, so she is now faithfully guarded by her cat, Marcellus. Brenda retired from the Des Moines Public Schools this year having taught Foods & Nutrition classes at Lincoln High School.


Bill Nelson (Electric Bass) has played guitar and/or bass for several local theatre productions, including Hair, Tommy, Honk, Cabaret, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. When he’s not playing bass for cover bands Cabin Fever and Who’s Your Daddy, you can find him jockeying a cash register at the Uptown Hy-Vee. He can also be found playing the ukelele at

Julie Peachy (Props) recently retired after 33 years as an Educational Audiologist with Heartland  Education Agency. She now spends time at her cabin in North Central Minnesota and her home in Des Moines. She has a 26 year-old daughter in Denver, and visits as schedules permit. Julie is a newbie to the theatre scene. She is to happy to be part of Thursday’s Children company.

About Unexpected Company

Unexpected Company is an Iowa-based company dedicated to providing "unexpected" services and experiences to schools and communities, with the following objectives:


  • To bring to life classic works of drama and literature with creativity, boldness and verve
  • To develop, produce and publish new plays, musicals and performance pieces
  • To develop and implement theatre-based teaching strategies and methods
  • To provide theatre-based outreach programs that build bridges between disparate social groups and promote increased understanding
  • To provide creative services and  development resources to artists, educators, arts organizations, schools and non-profits.

Founded by Brian R. Lynner and Lisa Norris, Unexpected Company employs a revolving group of theatre and multidisciplinary artists who work together on projects ranging from educational workshops and concert pieces to full theatrical productions. The founding partners have developed several original productions, including the full-length musical Hearts of Freedom and original performance pieces including Shakespeare On Love and Voices of the Civil War. Other past projects have included producing the Pulitzer Prize-winning play J.B for the Westminster Fine Arts Series, and sponsoring a new play competition for Iowa playwrights. The company also offers a variety of creative services including educational workshops, scriptwriting and musical composition.  Unexpected Company is listed on the Iowa Arts Council’s Roster of Performing Artists.  

For more information , please visit the Unexpected Company website at


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