About Us

New company on the block

Guest House Theatre seeks to create more local opportunities
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About Guest House Theatre

Who are we?

In late 2018, we got together to talk about forming a new professional theatre company in Madison.


One year later, we had a name, a mission and a plan for bringing intimate, powerful theatre to the community and more opportunities for theatre artists.


Our name comes from a Jalaluddin Rumi poem, The Guest House, written more than 800 years ago. This piece represents our goal as a theatre ensemble in how we share stories with you.


We are Guest House Theatre and we can’t wait to meet you.


We support Black Lives Matter

Guest House Theatre supports the protests demanding justice for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony Robinson, and countless others. The Black community has been disproportionately arrested, jailed, and killed without provocation in this country. They have not fallen through the cracks; they have been systemically pushed down. We all must do our part to put an end to systemic racism.


Many in the theatre community have long supported the Pride Celebrations that take place in June. Many are also unaware that these celebrations actually mark the anniversary of a series of violent riots sparked by a police raid of the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City. Just like the protests taking place today, the Stonewall Riots are the reaction of a group of people declaring that they are through being targeted by police brutality. The gay community and their supporters were pushed to a breaking point, and today’s turmoil mirrors that struggle.


We are asking you now to support our Black community. Listen to their struggle and stand with them for justice. Locally, you can make contributions to Urban Triage and Freedom Inc. – these two organizations are working on the front lines in Madison. Please donate to them.


Other organizations in desperate need of your help are the Minnesota Freedom Fund and We Love Lake Street.


Nationally, you can contact Black Lives Matter here, make a donation, and find more steps of action you can take.


We recognize you, hear you, and support you. We believe in the power of representation, in using your own voice to tell your story, and we are committed to using our stage to amplify Black voices and engage Black artists. Black Voices Matter, Black Arts Matter and Black Lives Matter.


Meet the Company

Whitney Derendinger

Whitney Derendinger


General Manager, Actor, Fight Choreographer


Whitney earned his BA in Theatre (2002) from Truman State University and his MFA in Acting (2012) from UW-Madison. In 20+ years of professional work, Whitney has appeared onstage in more than 50 productions, taught at the university level, performed in repertory in a national tour, has worked professionally as a director, dialect coach, voiceover artist, and fight choreographer, and has achieved the rank of Actor Combatant as recognized by SAFD. Favorite roles include Caleb in The Whipping Man, Oberon/Theseus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Uncle John in The Grapes of Wrath, Whitney in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [revised], and all of the characters in Pounding Nails in the Floor with my Forehead.

Deborah Hearst

Deborah Hearst


Artistic Director, Actor


Deborah has been a professional actor, theatre collaborator, writer, and storyteller for two decades. She earned her BA in Theatre and Drama from Dickinson College and received a certificate for acting from the British American Drama Academy. After college, Deb worked in Chicago, where she received a Jeff Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Helen in Neil Labute’s Fat Pig (Profiles Theatre Midwest premiere). In Madison, she’s worked with Forward Theater, Children’s Theater of Madison, TheatreLila, Are We Delicious?, Strollers, Madison Theatre Guild, Mercury Players, Bricks Theater, and UW-Madison’s Theater Department. Favorite local roles include Ivy from August: Osage County, Catherine from Rapture Blister Burn, and Kelly from The Pain and the Itch.

David Pausch

David Pausch


Production Director, Actor


Dave is a Madison-based theatre artist. He has worked has held artistic and administrative roles for theatres in Madison and on the east coast for 20+ years. He holds a MA-Business in Arts Administration from the Wisconsin School of Business. In 2009, he founded The Bricks Theatre, with George Gonzalez and Ric Lantz, where he produced and directed shows around the Madison area. His acting credits include Mr. Webb in Our Town with University Theatre, Mr. Gilmer in To Kill a Mockingbird with Children’s Theater of Madison, and The Doctor in The Velveteen Rabbit, Children’s Theater of Madison. Directing credits include The Best Man (Madison Theatre Guild), The Drawer Boy (Strollers Theater), August: Osage County (Mercury Players Theatre), Laughter on the 23rd Floor (Strollers Theater), Coyote Moon (Mercury Players Theater) and Out of the Fire–The Banned Books Monologues (Forward Theater Company).

Karen Saari

Karen Saari


Playwright, Actor


Karen’s play In a Clearing celebrated its world premiere via Magnetic Theatre Company in Asheville, NC and was a 2018 semi-finalist for the O’Neill Conference, a 2015 Wisconsin Wrights New Play Festival winner, received a PlayLab at the 2017 Last Frontier Theatre Conference and was a finalist for the 2017 ATHE Award for Excellence in Playwriting. Her ‘Rain on Fire was awarded the 2019 Br!nk Residency Award by Milwaukee’s Renaissance Theaterworks. In 2018 Music Theatre of Madison commissioned her to co-write Ten Days in a Madhouse. Bad in Bed (A Fairy Tale) had its developmental premiere in 2018 at Acadiana Rep of Lafayette, LA. Her one-acts have been performed around the country. Her latest, Gun Story, was accepted into the 2020 William Inge Festival. Karen belongs to Dramatists Guild, Playwrights Center, and is earning her MFA in playwriting.She’s also an actor, director, costume designer and mother of two.

Nina Kenefick

Nina Kenefick


Production Stage Manager, Administration team


Nina has spent several years working with area theater companies (Fireside Dinner Theater, Children’s Theater of Madison, Forward) on various shows and is excited to share her new home at Guest House Theatre with you! She can’t wait until we have offices so she can bring her dogs to work.

Gina Gomez

Gina M. Gómez


Administration Committee, Actor


Gina is a Wisconsin based performer, artist, and playwright with 20+ years of theatrical experience. She has performed in Minneapolis, working with Freshwater Theatre, Little Lifeboats Theatre, The Playwrights Center and various other projects. She moved back to Madison in 2016 and dove right into the theatre arts scene. She has worked and played with various other professional and non-professional theatre companies throughout Madison, including Whoopensocker, Theatre Lila, Music Theatre of Madison, Madison Theatre Guild, Stage Q, Mercury Players Theatre, and Broom Street Theater. Her first written piece, Best Friends Stab You (In The Front), premiered in April of 2019 at Broom Street Theatre, which is also host to her second play The Guest Book.

Autumn Shiley

Autumn Shiley


Artistic Committee, Actor, Director


Autumn has worked as an actor, director and playwright throughout her 20+ years as a theatre artist. Her commitment to teaching theatre began at the University of Virginia and has continued in Wisconsin at Madison College, CTM, and with Whoopensocker. She has trained and collaborated with local companies such as “Are We Delicious” and Theatre LILA as well as nationally with SITI company in New York and Sideshow Theatre Company in Chicago. She received her MFA from UVA and trained with the BADA in Oxford. Past directing credits include The Empty Table a devised theatrical endeavor to promote awareness of food insecurity on campus, Gertrude Stein and A Companion, House, and her original work On the Corner of Clark and Vine. Favorite Roles include: Sarah in Time Stands Still, Joan in Small Mouth Sounds, Helen in Helen and Casandra in Women of Troy, Women of War.