PEP | Performers Exchange Project

About PEP

PEP is Martha Mendenhall, Sian Richards, Kara McLane Burke, Doreen Bechtol, and Jennifer Hoyt Tidwell. We are a collective of theatre artists with a two-fold mission:

  • To develop and perform original works in and for our own communities.
  • To host like-minded performers from around the U.S. and the world for residencies of performance, workshops, and exchange.

PEP believes that theatre is never NOT a community event.

We embrace the clichés “there is nothing new under the sun” and “two heads are better than one.”

We embrace the disparate points of view that collaborators, with their differing backgrounds, bodies, and sensibilities, bring.

We embrace the mystery and beauty of a half-formed idea or image that is insistent.

We embrace the strong and stubborn information a site-specific performance space offers the process.

We gleefully expect the product of our work to be a hodgepodge, a collage, a crazy quilt of all the individuals involved, including anyone who offered an idea for our use or from whom we flagrantly stole.

These beliefs shape our rehearsal process, our development of text and design elements, and, we hope, the experience of the performance itself.


Martha Mendenhall

Martha Mendenhall has been creating original performance for over 20 years.  As a founding member of the Charlottesville theatre company Foolery, Martha assisted in the development of and performed in the BBC “Most Innovative” award winning Cyrano; created, directed and performed in Cesario; and performed in the short film The Winemaker.

With Performers Exchange Project, Martha spearheaded an exchange with and presentation of the internationally acclaimed DAH Theatre, created and produced A Charlottesville Wunderkammer, and directed Shentai — two arts carnivals that celebrated Charlottesville area artists/performers and their work.  Martha wrote and directed the short play Zelda and Lucia’s Loony Bin Tragedy and worked with PEP members to develop Dido Versus the Squid Monster for these carnivals. She instigated and directed collaborative creation of PEP’s full-length Our American Ann Sisters and directed the first iteration of The Convolution of Pip and Twig, an original work developed and performed by fellow PEP company members Sian Richards and Kara McLane Burke.

Martha trained with The Atlantic Theatre Company, DAH Theatre and at The San Francisco Butoh Festival.  She also trained extensively with B. Stanley (a former assistant to Ingemar Lindh) of Theatre Du Jour in Washington, DC, performing in three TDJ projects. Always eager to expand her artistic horizons, Martha recently earned an MFA in Professional Screenwriting. In the near future, she plans to develop TV and film projects. Martha lives in North Carolina and earns her bread and butter as a freelance writer, director and teacher.


Kara McLane Burke

Kara is a native of Westfield, NJ and graduate of James Madison University. Theatre experience includes a stint with Shenandoah Shakespeare Express as actor/road manager/director (1993, 95-96); Outproud Theatre, Atlanta Open Season (1994); Foolery founding member/performer (1997-2002) – Second Shepherd’s Play, Cyrano, Cesario, Something Wanting, Life’s A Dream, Vassilisa the Brave (director); Live ArtsThe Seagull, Boston Marriage, and Our Lady of 121st Street; Walker Stage, NYC – sky/no sky by Savitri Durkee (2003); American Shakespeare Center‘s Much Ado about Nothing, King Lear, Knight of the Burning Pestle (2003). She is a founding member of PEP, organizing and appearing in A Charlottesville Wunderkammer (2006) and Shentai (2007) as Greta, and as Anna in Dido vs The Squid Monster. She was stage manager for the creation and premiere of Our American Ann Sisters and later performer, stepping into Kay Ferguson’s roles. In 2012, she performed in Kay’s The Madwoman Project, (The Madwoman of Chaillot), along with Martha and Siân. She and Siân co-created and perform in PEP’s latest production, The Convolution of Pip and Twig, which debuted December 2014. She resides in Charlottesville with her husband Chris and daughters Haley and Erin.


Siân Richards

Siân was born in Swansea, Wales and raised in rural Virginia. She has been a performer, creator, and producer of original work for over ten years.

After studying theatre performance at Virginia Commonwealth University, Sian began performing in the Charlottesville area with Live Arts and Offstage Theatre. In 2002 Sian joined Washington D.C.- based Theatre du Jour. Under the direction of B. Stanley (former assistant to Ingemar Lindh), Sian studied the company’s training and performed in several productions along with PEP member Martha Mendenhall (The Shadow, Last Minute, Ritual Play). When Sian returned to Charlottesville, she carried her training forward and continued her collaboration with Martha. In 2005 PEP was born.

As a founding member of Performers Exchange Project, Sian organized The Dah Theatre residency, organized and performed in PEP’s two arts carnivals A Charlottesville Wunderkammer (as Cookie and as Lucia in Zelda & Lucia’s Loony Bin Tragedy), and Shentai (as Cookie and as Dido in Dido Vs. The Squid Monster). Sian (with Jennifer Tidwell), organized and hosted Assembly, a monthly artists salon that ran for two years in collaboration with The Bridge PAI. She co-created and performed in Our American Ann Sisters and, along with Kara McLane Burke, The Convolution of Pip and Twig.

Sian has been a member of, and MC for, CLAW (Charlottesville Lady Arm wrestlers) since it’s inception in 2008, and performs with Sarah White as one half of The (All New) Acorn Sisters.

Jennifer Hoyt Tidwell

Jennifer emerged from the shallow backwaters of the Chesapeake Bay to study theatre at Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and The Neighborhood Playhouse (NYC). In 1993 she transferred to University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA, and graduated with a degree in English Literature. She proceeded to worm her way into the physical theatre company Foolery in 1998 (Something Wanting, The Winter’s Tale, Cesario, Life’s a Dream, Vassilisa the Brave).  In 2005, she became a founding member of PEP. She performed in Zelda & Lucia’s Loony Bin Tragedy as part of A Charlottesville Wunderkammer, acted as Artistic Director and emcee of Shentai and wrote Dido vs The Squid Monster for Shentai.

Jennifer has performed over the years with local theaters Live Arts (The Visit, Marriage of Bette and Boo, A Bright Room Called Day, Angels in America Part I, Our Lady of 121st Street, Mother Courage) and Offstage Theater. She has also studied with Mariana Sadowska, DAH Theatar’s Maja Mitic, and Butoh artist Maureen Fleming.

She is the instigator behind CLAW (Charlottesville Lady Arm Wrestlers) and a founding partner of Category 4, a web development company.

Jennifer lives in Charlottesville, VA, with her daughter Harper June.


Doreen Bechtol

Doreen hails from Taylor, MI, and is a graduate of Western Michigan University. Theatre experience includes: Atlantic Center for the Arts – performer in The Disability Project, with Joseph Chaikin (1995); HERE Theatre – director of Suicide in B flat, (1997); Live Arts – performer in Mrs. Warren’s Profession (1998); Foolery – performer/asst. director in Something Wanting, Cesario, Life’s A Dream (1998-2002); Cape Fear Regional Theatre – Viola, Twelfth Night (2000); American Shakespeare Center – performer in Twelfth Night, Richard III, Much Ado About Nothing, The Knight of the Burning Pestle, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merchant of Venice, King Lear, The Taming of the Shrew, A Tamer Tamed, King and No King, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Tartuffe (2002-2007); Black Dog Theatre – performer in Cowboy Mouth, The River (original) (2005-06).

She is a founding member of PEP and resides in Staunton, VA with her husband John Paul and daughter Olive.