Teaching Artists

I'm Ready Foundation

Brad Raymond, Lead Teaching Artist

Brad is so excited to be returning to teaching after serving several years as both an adjudicator and Teaching Artist. Prior to becoming a full time artist; Brad was a full-time educator; serving as lead teacher of the Lindblom College Preparatory High School Music Department, Principal Conductor of the All-city High School Chorus of Chicago and Artistic Director of the Choir Academy Of Chicago School.

Brad has performed as an actor, singer or conductor at some of the art world’s most esteemed institutions including the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Light Opera Works of Chicago, the Ravinia Festival, Arena Stage, The Broad Stage, The Alliance Theatre, Atlanta Opera, Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre, Theater Emory, Horizon Theatre and Spivey Hall. Some of Brad’s favorite roles include: Homer in Lilies of the Field, Fetch in Fetch, Clay Make Man, Ronald in Born For This, Stew in Passing Strange and the Suzi Bass Award winning performance as Blue in Chasin Dem Blues. You can see Brad this Christmas in the much anticipated film adaptation of The Color Purple musical.

Tracey N. Bonner

Tracey N. Bonner is a proud member of the Screen Actor’s Guild & Actor’s Equity Association. Some of her Television/Film credits include Apple TV’s Beanie Bubble starring Zach Galifianakis, TUBI original Girls Getaway Gone Wrong, action film Cop Shop starring Alexis Louder, feature horror film The Georgetown Project starring Russell Crowe, feature film Greenland starring Gerard Butler, new Netflix series’s Sweet Magnolias, Raising Dion, Cobra Kai, Black Lightning (CW), Queen Sugar (OWN), Ozark (Netflix), Being Mary Jane (BET), STAR (FOX), The Quad (BET), Brockmire (IFC), and Miracle Workers (TBS). Her Theatre credits include Toni Stone at the Goodman Theatre, Exit Strategy and Jitney at Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre, Start Down at the Alliance Theatre, April 4th,1968: Before We Forgot How to Dream, What I Learned in Paris and The Mountaintop at the Indiana Repertory Theatre; We Are Proud to Present… at Victory Gardens Theatre; Native Son, Invisible Man, and Home at the Court Theatre ; Bud, Not Buddy and Jackie and Me at Chicago Children’s Theatre; Radio Golf at Virginia Stage Company; Brothers of the Dust, The Talented Tenth, and Joe Turner’s Come and Gone at Congo Square Theatre; and How the Kanye West Was Won and Six Degrees of Reparation at Second City. Tracey grew up in Murfreesboro, TN. She holds a B.S. in Speech Communication and Theatre from Tennessee State University, in Nashville, TN. She also holds an MFA in Acting from The Theatre School at DePaul University, in Chicago, IL. Bonner later went on to study improv at The Second City in Chicago where she was a member of their Brown Co. production ensemble. Bonner’s greatest theatrical accomplishment has been to be a proud Ensemble Member of Chicago’s Congo Square Theatre Company, since 2009. She believes the sustainability of black theatre is vital to the landscape of American theatre and institutions like Congo Square Theatre and True Colors Theatre are important for artists of color to have a home where they can create, thrive, and have complete autonomy to tell their stories.

Cedric Pendleton

Cedric Pendleton, a force to be reckoned with, has reached the pinnacle of his career as an actor, producer, and creative executive. With an unrivaled talent and an undeniable charm, he has spent three decades captivating audiences across live events, the stage, television, and film. This Florence, Alabama native, fueled by his mother’s passion for narratives, emerged as a driving force in Atlanta’s entertainment scene before making his mark in Hollywood, California. Embracing a bi-coastal lifestyle between Atlanta, Georgia, and Los Angeles, California, Cedric has constantly pushed boundaries and achieved remarkable success. His name can be found on the credits of over forty productions, collaborating with entertainment powerhouses such as Lion’s Gate, Fox Searchlight, Warner Brothers, and Tyler Perry Studios. Cedric’s on-screen appearances have graced box-office hits, including the thrilling adaptation of John Grisham’s best-selling novel, “Runaway Jury,” and the delightful romantic comedy, “Summer Catch.” Notably, he has made a significant impact through his roles in groundbreaking Tyler Perry films like “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” and “Madea’s Family Reunion.” His talent shines on television as well, with supporting and recurring roles in hit shows like FX’s “The Shield,” CBS’s “The Guardian,” The CW’s “One Tree Hill,” and Lifetime’s “Strong Medicine,” to name a few. He showcased his versatility in the award-winning Lifetime film, “The Fantasia Barrino Story.” As an Executive Producer in high demand, Cedric is a visionary who brings extraordinary events and stories to life. Notably, he orchestrated the national tour of “High School Battle of the Bands,” captivating an average of 60,000 patrons per show. Prepare to be captivated by Cedric Pendleton- a consummate professional who blazes new trails in entertainment and leaves an indelible mark.

Markell Williams

Markell Williams is an award-winning actor, writer and teaching artist based in Atlanta. He helms from the state of SC where he earned a BS in Chemistry with strooong encouragement from his parents. After 10 plus years of working in Quality Control and R&D he allowed his heart to direct him to his original passion for performance art. He has performed for the Alliance Theater, 7 stages, Horizon Theatre, True Colors, Out Of Hand, Birmingham Children’s Theatre, Found Stages, Weird Sisters, NC Black Repertory Co.,The Object Group, Center for Puppetry Arts, Impulse Rep, and Theatre in the Square. Most notable TV/Film credits include a guest star role on ABC’s hit series Will Trent as well as the Disney Plus series She-Hulk and a guest star role on the FX TV series Atlanta. Follow him on Instagram @Markell.Williams to see what he’s up to next.

Maiesha McQueen

Maiesha McQueen, coming straight off the heels of playing the iconic role of Celie in The Color Purple to sold-out audiences, is a multi-faceted performer and creative, as well as a proud Atlanta native. She also recently completed a highly successful run of AINT MISBEHAVIN’ at Barrington Stage, which was hailed as a New York Times Critic’s Pick in 2022. Before that, she starred on Broadway alongside Sara Bareilles in the hit musical, WAITRESS. Shortly after, she performed to sold-out audiences in a one-woman show, embodying the life and music of Mahalia Jackson. Other notable theatre credits include: Fannie, Until the Flood, The Color Purple, His Eye is on the Sparrow, Ain’t Misbehavin’, ‘Da Kink In My Hair, Sirens of Song, Chasin’ Dem Blues, East Texas Hotlinks.

Maiesha previously traveled the globe as co-founder and musical composer of the touring company Progress Theatre, whose work has been presented at such spaces as The Public Theater, The Kennedy Center, The Apollo Theatre and the World Music Festival in Amsterdam. She has also served as music director for theatrical productions such as FELA!, In the Red and Brown Water, and Crowns.

As a former certified teacher who has worked for over two decades in the educational sector, Maiesha continues to offer workshops and professional development for working actors and arts educators across the country. She is a proud graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and Fordham University’s Graduate School of Education and serves as Creative Director of the arts education program, A Bite Out of Broadway.

Maiesha is also the executive director of The Lucy Project, a production company that seeks to create opportunities for Black women to develop new works. @maieshamcqueen

David Rucker III

I am an Atlanta based Actor, Writer, and Teaching Artist, who has been privileged to work in film, television, and theatre. My performance credits include appearances at the Atlanta, Washington D.C., and National Black Arts Festivals, along with work at Atlanta’s Essential Theatre, Alliance, and Atlanta’s Shakespeare Company. I’ve enjoyed success on film as well, with roles on BET’s The Quad, and the TV One film Downsized.  My recent film credits include The Good Things Devils Do, Homestead, Two Wrongs 2, and Here Comes the Sun, starring Terri J. Vaughn.  These endeavors, while rewarding also provided many rewarding opportunities to work with people who might not have access to the arts. These teaching credits include work with True Colors Theatre, and their August Wilson Monologue and their recent curriculum, the Next Narrative Monologue Competition. Both allowed me to focus on acting instruction and coaching for high school students looking to focus on performing arts. Conversely, as the Artistic Director of Atlanta Theatre To-Go I was grateful to take theatre performances and instruction into senior adult living communities, most recently being the King’s Bridge Retirement Center, where I led the King’s Bridge Characters; a senior group which performed both original and other scripted productions for their friends and family.

Michael Bahsil Cook

Michael Bahsil-Cook is no stranger to black culture, art, & good food. Born and raised in West Metro Atlanta, GA, he fell in love with hip-hop and dancing at the age of 6. By 7, he was writing his own lyrics and learning dance moves from movies such as You Got Served and Step Up 2: The Streets. These new abilities transformed into self-creating action movie scenes in his living room which led to his interest in acting and eventually landed him at Carnegie Mellon University. 

An old soul, Michael loves jazz, blues, gospel, and soul music. He translates this essence in his everyday life whether he’s chilling with the homies, writing, filming an episode of his podcast with his cousin, handling business, feeling romantic, dabbling with fashion, or making music. His work at Carnegie Mellon is unforgettable, playing the energetic yet confined Deandre in Dominique Morriseau’s “Blood at the Root”, and the repellant but romantically passionate Benedick from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. 

Michael Bahsil-Cook is a multi-talented force whose music can be found on all streaming platforms (Apple Music, Spotify, Soundcloud, etc.). He prides himself in his authenticity and desires to become a resource for the youth of tomorrow.

Christopher Hampton

Christopher is an Atlanta based, actor educator, arts administrator, and director.  He has collaborated with many theatre organizations across the country including, The Alliance Theatre, The Mixed Blood theatre, Pasadena Playhouse, and The Center for New Performance at RedCat. Christopher holds a BFA from the California Institute of the Arts and is dedicated to using his work in the theatre as a tool for societal change. Christopher is a board member of Working Title Playwrights, and the co-owner of The Point of Health Wellness Center (www.healthatthepoint.com).

Larsen Kennedy

Larsen Kennedy is an actress, musician, and arts educator based in metro-Atlanta, Georgia. An alumna of the Stella Adler Studio of Acting and a graduate of the University of North Georgia, she was a member of the inaugural cohort of the Four Directions Apprentice Company (Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company, 7 Stages Theatre, Out Front Theatre Company, Art Station) in 2019. She was employed for five years as Assistant Drama Instructor through the Cumming Recreation and Parks Department, teaching students aged five through fourteen. After previously serving as Leadership Assistant and National Coordinator of the 2021 August Wilson Monologue Competition at True Colors, she proudly served as the National Next Narrative Monologue Competition Coordinator in its first and second years. She currently serves as a teaching artist at the Center for Puppetry Arts, as well as for other organizations in the Atlanta area.

Evan Cleaver

Evan Cleaver graduated from Dillard University with a B.A. in Acting and a minor in Creative Writing. After narrowly escaping Hurricane Katrina, he went on to be accepted to 12 graduate school acting programs. Ultimately, he chose to earn his M.F.A. in Acting from California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). Since graduating from CalArts he has appeared in nearly a dozen professional plays. Mr. Cleaver has also appeared in several film & television projects. As a teaching artist, Evan has experience at the University level as well as working with students as young as age 3. He’s taught acting at Dillard University, Delgado Community College, Kennesaw St. as well as for Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theater Company.

Nikki Toombs

NIKKI TOOMBS is a notable American playwright, director, actress, and producer who hails from the “Magic City” of Birmingham, Alabama. She has authored eight plays, has directed 40+ productions, and is a nationally commissioned presenter and curriculum specialist. She is a six-time commissioned playwright, with her most recent work being Let Us March On… for the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. With over 14 years in public education, Toombs is no stranger to the classroom. From teaching Gifted Language Arts to Stage Craft and Advanced Theatre, and more, she has shaped the minds of her students warranting Teacher of the Year honors in two school districts. As an arts educator, Toombs has created original programming such as Act like a Lady and Page to the Stage (Toombstone Productions and True Colors Theatre Company), S.T.A.R. Arts Camps (for East Metro Health) and D.I.M.E. by Design for the (Fred and Mattie Jackson Foundation). She has curated curriculum design work for the National Endowment for the Arts, Educational Theatre Association, and the August Wilson House to mention a few. She has additionally served as an adjunct professor at Emory University, Director of Education at the Aurora Theatre, and Director of Education at Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company, where she was the producer and director of the Annual August Wilson Monologue Competition. Her innovative approach, artistic impact, and undeniable connection with youth in the arts have earned her national recognition and deemed her as one of the most sought-after arts educators in the country.