New professors join Cal U’s Department of Theatre & Dance


Sabrina Hykes-Davis

This year, four new faculty members have joined the Department of Theatre and Dance at California University of Pennsylvania.

Sabrina Hykes-Davis, Brian Eisiminger, Deborra Peelor, and John “JP” Staszel (pictured clockwise) are new additions to the department under Dr. Michele A. Pagen, chairperson of the Department of Theatre and Dance.

“My immediate goal for the department was to a: fill needs and b: segue into teaching,” said Pagen.

Pagen recruited two new faculty members with experience in the technical aspects of theatre and two who have extensive performance experience to fill positions left vacant by retiring professors. Above all, she selected faculty members who have a passion for teaching.

Sabrina Hykes-Davis instructs students about the technical aspects of theatre. She studied theatre at West Virginia University and Point Park University. Hykes-Davis interned at Circuit Playhouse where she studied set design. She’s worked as a scene shop supervisor at West Virginia University and as a set designer at Mountain Playhouse.


Brian Eisiminger

Brian Eisiminger specializes in voice training and is a master certified teacher in Estill, a refined vocal method that trains performers on how to “control the various structural components of the voice.” Eisiminger is also the department’s music director and helps prep students for auditions. He began teaching at Cal U last spring.

Deborra Peelor has over 20 years of extensive experience in stage lighting and set design. She’s worked with the Pittsburgh Opera House, Quantum Theatre, City Theatre and Civic Light Opera House at the Cabaret. She also dabbles in scenic and projection design. Additionally, she’s served as a guest designer/instructor for Chatham College, Point Park Dance, The University of Pittsburgh Dance Ensemble, Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center and Seton Hill University.

Deborra Peelor

Deborra Peelor

“I am very excited about joining California University and being a part of all of the great plans and energy we have here,” said Peelor. “I love working with students and helping them develop as technicians, designers and performers.”

John “JP” Staszel was brought on board to help train budding actors. He “has the creative arts qualification to assist in acting sequences,” said Pagen.

Staszel is trained in the Cohen method of acting, but has a background in a variety of other styles. With a Masters in Theatre from Bowling Green State University in Ohio, he caught the acting bug after taking an Intro to Theatre class at Cal U, and switched majors from finance to theatre. He’s worked in the Pittsburgh and Erie areas.

“My approach is more of a focus on body than text when it comes to acting,” said Staszel. “My students ask me why I mess with them with these different ideas and methods, [but] I’m not messing with them. My methods are meant to challenge my students. I tell them ‘You don’t know what something means until you read into it, and that makes them go…whoa, wow I didn’t see it like that.’”


John “JP” Staszel

Peelor and Hykes-Davis will serve as technical consultants for all department shows. Staszel will work with students on the first-year shows, and Eisiminger will be the music director for the department’s December 4-6 performance of Miracle on 34th Street.

“It’s exciting to have a fresh perspective on the department,” said Pagen. “They’re forcing me to step-up my game.”

As the great bard opined, “all the world’s a stage,” with roles changing.
Story by Aaron Dalzell for Pennsylvania Bridges