Board Members

Our Officers

Gwynneth Rausch

Gwynneth Rausch, President

Gwynneth graduated with Honours from The University of Wales, Aberystwyth in Zoology and Botany, and continued her studies with Graduate work at The University of London, England, and The University of York, Toronto,
Since then she has worked for over 30 years in the field of Communication and Education -as the Head of Livestock at Black Creek Pioneer Village, Toronto, and at the Anheuser-Busch Clydesdale Breeding Farm. Since 2010 Gwynneth has been training and working as a Standardized Patient with St. Louis medical schools, continuing to develop her experience in the role of constructive and actionable advice in Communication.

She has been pursuing her interest in Theatre since 2008, acting and working behind the scenes in productions at many of the St. Louis theatres. She has been on the Board at First Run since 2014, and has been President since January, 2019. She is passionate about the role First Run Theatre plays in providing a venue for local playwrights to see their work move to production.

She has recently recorded two works on YouTube by local author Marella Sands.

David Hawley

David Hawley, Vice President

David was born in the English/Scottish border area, has degrees in Chemical Engineering and Mathematics/IT from the UK.  He started writing and occasionally acting just before moving to the US in 2006. Working mostly in IT, he wrote plays while travelling, and combined his love of theatre with motorcycle track racing as a competitor and official for some years.  Retired from competition, he is now Chief Marshal of the MotoAmerica US Championship.

He joined the St Louis Writers Group and FRT over ten years ago and, has written ten full length plays and about thirty ten-minute plays.

Denise Mandle

Denise Mandle, Treasurer and Secretary

Our Board Members

Shahnaz Ahmed

Shahnaz Ahmed

Shahnaz has been on the board of First Run Theatre for over 5 years.  Building sets is not her thing but she has been found wearing several hats including running concessions and baking cookies.  She has acted and directed a few plays. In her free time, she is a pediatric dentist and a bookish podcaster. Her podcast Living A Life Through Books is available on most major podcasting apps.  She is married to Brad, who is on the board as well.

Robert Ashton

Robert Ashton

Robert retired from a career in manufacturing, primarily in legal and HR functions and has a degree in Law from Sheffield University. He has been a member of several human services and arts boards and is currently on the Board of Trustees for the Saint Louis Art Museum.   For nearly two decades he has been an actor and director in St. Louis theater and has served on the boards of Muddy Waters Theatre, St. Louis Shakespeare and West End Players Guild where he was actively involved in play selection and production management. He has been Artistic Director at FRT since January of 2020.

Jenn Ciavarella

Jenn Ciavarella

Rhonda Cropp

Rhonda Cropp

Rhonda Cropp was born and raised in the Great State of Missouri, Rhonda is a retired Caseworker with the State of Missouri. Rhonda is an Actress, Director, Stage Manager, and works with Performers on Characterization and Development. Rhonda has an extensive Resume in the Arts. as a Performer she has Played in A Raisin in the Sun, Vagina Monologues, and a Woman called Truth as Sojourner Truth and #MeToo her Voice must be heard are a few of her projects. Rhonda has been working with FirstRun Theatre for over 10 years serving in different capacities and is excited for what the future holds for FRT.

Michelle Dillard

Michelle Dillard

Michelle holds a MA in Theatre and a BA in Corporate Communications from Fontbonne University. After an extended career as a Flight attendant/Trainer she decided to pursue her passion as a full-time actress, voice over artist, on-camera talent, a commissioned playwright, and director. She has performed for several theatre companies in St. Louis and is a recent Theatre Circle nominee for Outstanding Actress in a Drama.

 She is a graduate of (CAT) Community Arts Training Institute  through the Regional Arts Commission, board member of 2000 Feet and First Run theatre and is also the proud founder of “Until You’ve Walked in her Shoes,” Inc., an organization dedicated to educating, empowering and honoring women.

Dennis Fisher

Dennis Fisher

Dennis is a board member of St Louis’ First Run Theater. His play THE FRIEND’s TABLE was selected for a staged reading at the Chicago New Works Festival. His play JUDGMENT DAYS was produced and performed at the Morris Illinois Theater Guild. He has had numerous staged readings in both Chicago and St. Louis.

Dennis has done sound design for a dozen play productions. He performed the role of Daddy Catcher in KIN AND KIND for the Something Marvelous Festival in Chicago. He also performed the role of Thrash in Adam Hurst’s MATTHEW THREE HORN, and played Governor Fitzgerald in Amy Crider’s OUR DICK.”

Rob Miller

Rob Miller

Rob Miller is a composer, musician, and theatre advocate.   He holds both a Bachelor of Music degree and a Master of Music degree in Music Composition from Webster University, St. Louis.  He was honored in 1999 to be among the first inductees to the St. Louis Community College at Meramec’s Alumni Walk of Fame as a founding member of the Oldies band, Sh-Boom. 

Rob currently serves on the board of directors for First Run Theatre, the steering committee for the St. Louis Writers’ Group, and performs regularly with Butch Wax and the Hollywoods.  Rob is married to Christine and has four wonderful children.

Brad Slavik

Brad Slavik

Brad is a graduate of Webster University with a BA in Music Education.

He is a retired Federal Employee of 38 years in the fields of photogrammetry, project management, and federal contracting. He is also an actor with over 50 years experiences in St. Louis theater working with several professional, semi-professional, and community theater companies. He is also a composer with music performed by various groups and theatrical productions. He also dabbles in directing and playwriting. In 2005, after the death of First Run’s founder Dr. Don Weiss, Brad became President of First Run until stepping down in 2015.