Youth StARTS 

The artist in residence program is a collaborative effort involving the Ross Ragland Theater, traveling artists, teachers and both school districts in the Basin. The goal of The Youth STARTS Program is to integrate performing arts into the traditional classroom setting. Application of artistic concepts engages students more physically and personally in the learning environment, enriching and improving overall academic performance. Artists instruct in three eight week blocks throughout the schoolyear, grades K-5. Rotating artists and subjects through the schools means that each elementary-aged student in Klamath County and Klamath City Schools will receive at least one session each of drama, movement and music each school year.  This collaboration program, which started as a pilot with just four rural schools has proved to be a cost effective, public-private partnership; so much so that it has become a state-wide model! 

Benefits of Arts Integration

Children thrive on the study of the arts. The arts open doors to creativity. They nourish critical thinking and innovation. Integrating the arts with other disciplines (core content areas) through instruction and assessment supports the development of these skills and processes.  Arts integration uses teaching practices that have been shown in brain-based research to improve comprehension and long-term retention.  Youth StARTS and Arts integration:

  • Instill greater self-confidence and life-long learning skills
  • Increase socialization among peers
  • Improve overall academic achievement
  • Positively correlate to attendance 
  • Increase classroom engagement
  • Give children a more thorough understanding of their bodies and emotions
  • Help students to imbed and retain information they learn in all subjects, including those not traditionally associated with the Arts such as math and science.
  • Allow kids to integrate new information into their own cultural, social, emotional and intellectual needs, increasing their understanding and ownership of new subjects and skills


Meet our Artists










Sam Burris


Sarah Ekstrom


Tori Lancaster
(drama & movement)


Sia Lewis


Sam has been teaching dance for the past 20 years. Sam’s background and training is in tap but she also teaches, ballet, jazz and contemporary dance. She has choreographed many high profile community productions like Cabaret and Legally Blonde as well as the RRT’s youth summer camp shows.  


Sarah is a local dancer who has been involved in many community musicals as well as local dance productions. After high school, she trained and performed in Eugene under director John Grensback, former dancer with the Joffrey and Houston+ Ballets. She studied Early Childhood Education at Lane Community College and dance at University of Oregon.  From 2010-2012, Sarah trained with Ballet Magnificent! 


Tori has work in theater and dance for many years as a performer and choreographer. She has worked at the Ross Ragland Youth Theater Camp for multiple years as Assistant Choreographer and a children’s Counselor. She has personally studied theater and dance for over ten years locally.   At Southern Oregon University, Tori emphasized in dance studying both theory and movement, as well as how to apply concepts when teaching young students.  


Sia Lewis relocated to Klamath Falls this June from Michigan. She worked as a RRT summer camp counselor and also performed the role of Munkastrap in this summer’s community production of CATS.  Sia has a BA in Musical Theater from Oakland University in Rochester Michigan. Before moving to Klamath Falls she was the high school drama teacher and director at The Leelanau School in Glen Arbor Michigan.  She is so excited to work with The Ross Ragland Theater! 


















Sarah Pearlstein


Amber Petersen


Jeff Press


Amanda Squibb


Sarah is an Oregon licensed teacher who has substituted in the county for several years.  She has voluntarily taught music in and out of the classroom.  Sarah plays the piano and guitar.   


Amber has 11 years of theater experience both on stage and off. Working as a technician and production team member, as well as a performer, has given her a well-rounded knowledge of the theater.  Amber has worked with the Ross Ragland Youth Theater Day Camp over the last nine summers, sharing with children her knowledge and passion. 


Jeff is a director/ actor who has worked globally.  Before coming to Klamath he received his Master of Fine Arts in Theatre Directing in London at East 15 Acting School. Previously, Jeff received his Bachelor’s degree in Theatre Arts from Eastern Oregon University and has also studied in Moscow, Bali, and Sydney.


A theater/ communication graduate from Greenville College, Amanda toured for a year with Missoula Children’s theater and taught youth theater classes at Chicago’s Beverly Arts Center for two years.  She is now the RRT’s Education Director, though you will occasionally find her subbing for other artists.