Department of Theatre Faculty

Click on any faculty member's name to see a list of achievements.

Dr. Elissa Sartwell (2014), Chair and Professor of TheatreElisa Sartwell
B.A. George Fox University
M.A.T. George Fox University
Ph.D. Louisiana State University

Dr. Elissa Sartwell is a director, acting coach, dramaturg, and theatre historian. She is drawn to plays that reflect the power of forgiveness and reconciliation. Both as a director and an acting coach, Dr. Sartwell embraces Stanislavksi’s later action-based approach to acting, specifically as articulated by Declan Donnellan in The Actor in the Target. In classes and rehearsals, she also emphasizes integration of body, breath, and voice. Dr. Sartwell has been recognized by the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival for direction, ensemble devising,

Dr. Sartwell enjoys working professionally as a production dramaturg. At New Stage Theatre (Jackson, MS), she served as production dramaturg for Silent Sky, The Diary of Anne Frank, Sweat, and Morningside. While in her graduate program, Dr. Sartwell was a resident dramaturg at Swine Palace where she worked with directors John Dennis, Leon Ingulsrud, and Jane Drake Brody.

As a theatre historian, Dr. Sartwell’s research explores the ways in which history is written and codified through performance. Her specific research focus is the performance of ethnicity on the 19th-century American stage. She has presented papers and articles at the Association for Theatre in Higher Education, Mid-American Theatre Conference, and the Interdisciplinary Nineteenth-Century Studies Conference.

Dr. Sartwell teaches courses in acting, directing, script analysis, theatre history, and dramaturgy. She also directs in the department’s theatre

Dr. Sartwell is happiest when she is in the mountains. She also enjoys reading novels and visiting museums. If she were not a theatre professor, she would like to work in an enormous archive of historic artifacts. Or she would be a professional dog-walker.


Jake Yenish (2020), Assistant Professor of TheatreJake Yenish
B.A., Bethany Lutheran College
M.F.A., Minnesota State University, Mankato

Jake Yenish is Stage Designer and Technical Director. He has designed sets and lights for close to 100 productions, including 13 world premieres, and 18 annual productions of the vaudeville review Theatre Physics. Some of his favorite designs have included: Metamorphoses by Mary Zimmerman, Hamlet by William Shakespeare, and Blood Wedding by Fredrico Garcia Lorca.

Jake received his MFA in Theatre Arts from Minnesota State University, Mankato in 2012. During his graduate work Jake participated in 24 productions, served as the Graduate Representative to the faculty, and completed two internships with the Pacific Conservatory Theatre in Santa Maria California.

Jake has taught for 2 years at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee Oklahoma as Assistant Professor of Theatre Design, Technical Director, and served as Kennedy Center American College Theatre State Chair for Oklahoma. Prior to OBU Jake served 11 years as an Adjunct Professor of Theatre at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato Minnesota. It is his commitment to continue to train future generations of theatre artists, helping to equip them as theatre practitioners with a Christian Worldview.

When not found in the theatre Jake can be found in the woods camping with his family, cooking gourmet meals at home, reading novels prodigiously, and playing a variety of board and video games. Jake’s favorite books can range between Jane Austen and Anthony Trollop to Tolkien and David Webber. Jake’s favorite Muppets are Statler and Waldorf.


Ruth Dentel (2020), Assistant Professor of Theatre
Ruth DentelB.A, Liberty University
M.F.A., University of Virginia

Ruth Dentel is a costume designer and technician. She has developed a broad technical skill set that includes creating patterns, soft sculpture work, millinery work, and wardrobe organization. She is a costume historian, with particular interest in traditional ethnic clothing.

Miss Dentel teaches courses in design, costume construction and makeup. She also serves as the faculty costume designer and shop manager.

Her scope of work includes several shows designed in the Houston area. She has serves as a technician for various theatres including Shakespeare Festivals, Opera Companies, Musical Theatre Companies and Dance. Of note, she traveled 3 years with the National Broadway tour of Phantom of the Opera and spent several years with Houston Ballet.

When not working on theatrical productions, Miss Dentel is an avid traveler. To date, she has traveled to 6 of 7 continents and over 40 US states, visiting ethnographic museums and learning the nuances of varying cultures. She always takes her camera with her to capture the moments. If she has any time left over, she enjoys baking cookies, drawing and painting.

While in Graduate school, 3 of Miss Dentel’s costume designs were nominated for competition in the American College Theatre Festival. In 1999, she won the silver scissors award form Houston’s Museum of Fine arts for outstanding costume design. She has also published a book entitled “Europe In America” that explores small American towns with European roots.