Performance Artists Staff | Natural History Museum of Los Angeles

Our educational theater program creates interactive experiences that inspire wonder and discovery in audiences of all ages.

Dinosaurs on the Loose!

Witness Dinosaur Encounters Saturdays and Sundays in the North American Mammal Hall, Level 2.
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Dinosaur Encounters!

Our puppets aren't just for show. A lot went into the making of NHM's completely unique Dinosaur Encounters Program.
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Look for our Performing Arts Team in the Nature Gardens for Museum Special Events!
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How Do the Puppets Work?

Our T. rex and Triceratops puppets were brought to life by an amazing team of scientists and artists. Learn all about them on a trip behind the scenes. Learn more >


Performing Arts

Our Performing Arts Program currently features NHMLA's Dinosaur Encounters series, and the La Brea Tar Pits Museum's Ice Age Encounters. We create educational interactive experiences that inspire wonder and discovery in audiences of all ages.

Our seasonal programming complements the Museum's exhibits and public programs, be sure to visit several times a year to see new shows with different set of characters.

Performing Arts Staff

Whether operating a marionette, or engaging in full suit puppetry, performers have a unique set of skills that involve rigorous athleticism, movement-based theater performance, and improvisation training, as well as a basic understanding of science and nature.

Operating our large-scale creatures is a form of puppeteering called 'full suit' performing.

Ilana Gustafson


Ilana is a Los Angeles-based performer, writer, and educator. She has toured her original work in the U.S. and Europe as both a solo artist and as a collaborator with such ensembles as ARTEL, City Garage, Theatre Revelation, and others. She is one half of the female clown duo, Duckbits, and a co-founder of commedia dell’Arte troupe, Studio Zanni. She has performed and taught educational theater for the last decade with organizations such as Bluepalm, East L.A. Classic Theater, and the Zoe Barnum Continuation High School, where she directed at-risk teens in the creation of theater performance. She has also taught professional development to teachers of at-risk youth. She is endlessly fascinated by our world and grateful to blend her love of natural history and theater at NHMLA.

Brian Meredith

Supervisor/ T. rex Full Suit Performer and Puppeteer 

Originally from New Jersey (where the famous "Haddy the Hadrosaur" fossil was discovered), Brian received his Liberal Arts Degree from the University of Richmond and his Masters in Fine Arts from the three-year Actor Training Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  He has helped NHMLA's Dinosaur Institute staff excavate a Jurassic "Gnatalie" in Utah, and a Triassic ichthyosaurs in Nevada with German paleontologist Martin Sander.  Brian owns a Thoroughbred/Purcheron horse named Bella.  

Eli Presser

Technical Coordinator/ T. rex Full Suit Performer and Puppeteer 

Eli discovered puppetry in Chicago during the summer of 1996. Since that time, his pursuit of the art form has taken him on a great adventure. He has had the privilege of studying and performing alongside many artists, including Basil Twist, Janie Geiser, Michael Montenegro, and Blair Thomas. Under the mentorship of Janie Geiser, Eli became the first puppetry student accepted to the Cotsen Center for Puppetry Arts at CalArts in 1999. Notable work includes puppetry for Basil Twist's “Arias with a Twist” at REDCAT, Norah Jones’ music video “Sinkin' Soon,” and Jessica Yu's Sundance-nominated documentary "Protagonist.” Eli worked for the City of Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs in arts education and for Redmoon Theater, creating puppet theater for Chicago museums and parks. Through these experiences he has developed a deep respect for the transformative power of arts education and community-centered art making. As a T. rex puppeteer and puppet mechanic for the NHMLA, Eli continues to work towards the creation of performances that fulfill the public’s need for artistry, education, and inspiration.

Jaquita Ta'le

Program Coordinator/ Triceratops Full Suit Performer and Puppeteer

An L.A. native, Jaquita is a graduate of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts (Experimental Theatre Wing), with a double major in Drama and Dramatic Writing. She also has studied poetry and performance in Johannesburg, South Africa at the University of Witwaterstrand, and modern dance with the Ludwig Foundation in Havana, Cuba. Credits include: ER, Criminal Minds, Roswell, Cagney and Lacey: The Movie, and Hanging with Mr. Cooper.

Brittaney Talbot

Saber-Toothed Cat / Triceratops Full Suit Performer and Puppeteer

Brittaney Talbot is an honors graduate from the University of Connecticut where she received a BFA in Acting with a Concentration in Puppetry. While at UConn, she was a member of Connecticut Repartory Theatre. Favorites include Hair (puppet captain/soloist) and the ensemble work, Icarus (assistant puppet builder/ Lead ensemble). She is a member of the international performance company SplitKnuckle and enjoys writing and building her own puppetry work. Since moving to the West Coast, she has been a freelance puppet performer and builder throughout Southern California and currently works in Entertainment and Guest Talent Programs at Disneyland. She is also a fitness instructor, specializing in LesMills BodyComabt and CXWorx, and a triathlon enthusiast. She was a proud member of Team USA in 2009 in the ITU Triathlon World Championships in Australia and 2010 Age Group Champion in the Orange County Triathlon Series.

Jonathan C. K. Williams

Saber-Toothed Cat / Triceratops Full Suit Performer and Puppeteer

Jon has been part of the performing arts team at NHMLA since December 2010. He attended CSU Los Angeles for a degree in Theatre Arts & Dance. There, he was introduced to ensemble/experimental/physical theater. During and since that time, he worked with some outstanding artists at the forefront of the field including Anne Bogart/SITI Company and Mary Overlie, the originator of Viewpoints improvisational technique. Seeing as he is quite a daredevil, he spent some intensive time training with Diavolo Dance Theater and Catch Me Bird. When not at the Museum, you can find him performing with different theater groups like Son of Semele Ensemble and Opera Del Espacio, or in the gym giving people a great workout! Then check the dance floor, local hiking trails, or a nice (comic) bookshop.

Betsy Zajko

Saber-Toothed Cat / Triceratops Full Suit Performer and Puppeteer

Betsy joined the part time staff in April 2010 as a host, puppeteer and content creator, and is known to visitors as “the lady inside the Triceratops and Saber-Toothed Cat.” Betsy’s specialty in voice and movement-based performance has led to a career in theater, film, and television including roles for HBO (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Showtime (Proximity), Sony Pictures (Mothman Prophecies, Assassination Files), Columbia Pictures (Striking Distance, Money for Nothing) and BBC (The Journey). Betsy’s stage work includes Steppenwolf, Geffen, Trap Door, Redmoon, Rogue Machine and the Cleveland Playhouse. Also an award winning narrator, Betsy is the host and co-creator of A Change Of Season heard on National Public Radio. Betsy is a vocalist with Breathing Room Yoga Music which has recorded two albums, and a company member of Rogue Machine Theatre in Los Angeles. She serves on the advisory board of directors for Awassa Children’s Project, aiding children and fighting AIDS via social issues circus theater in Ethiopia.

Betsy Zajko IMDB

Betsy Zajko Stage Bio

Betsy Zajko, Actor – Calendar of Shows

Shannon Fitzpatrick

Saber-Toothed Cat / Triceratops Full Suit Performer and Puppeteer 

Shannon grew up in sunny San Diego, where she found a passion for entertainment. She spent most of her childhood performing with her mother in a children's theatre group as well as other various theatres around the county such as the La Jolla Playhouse and The Old Globe. She also had a love for acrobatics and physical theatre. This lead her to attend the Accademia Del Arte in Arezzo, Italy, where she studied the techiniques of commedia dell arte. She took those lessons, along with her theatre degree from UCSD, and pursued a career up in LA. Shannon is thrilled to be a part of the puppeteer and arts education program here at NHMLA where she can practice many of her passions in one place. You can also currently see her singing in the saloon of Knott's Berry Farm, or flying high as the Gypsy at Pirate's Dinner Adventure.

Mark Whitten

Saber-Toothed Cat / Triceratops Full Suit Performer and Puppeteer 

Mark has recently performed with Disney as a puppeteer in the opening casts of both Finding Nemo: the Musical and Toy Story: the Musical.  He was also in the original cast of Captain Louie, Off-Broadway.  Mark has performed regionally at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, the Arvada Center, and the Bermuda Festival as Ariel in the Tempest.  He is the lead role in the award-winning fan fiction Star Wars: A Light in the Darkness, amongst other indie film credits.  He’s also the creator of the upcoming geek comedy web series, Rolling High.  He is a graduate of University of Michigan’s Musical Theatre Department.

Brett Horn

T. rex Full Suit Performer and Puppeteer

Southern California-born, Brett was raised in the small town of Big Bear City, where he discovered his love for art and creation. Brett is a physical performer with a special affinity for stilt performance and puppetry, as well as the art of costuming. While learning his craft, he has had the opportunity and honor of performing and training with masters and troops from all over the world, strives to perfect new skills, and seeks new growth in technique with each performance. He is trilled to be a part of NHMLA's performing arts department and is constantly blown away by the immense pool of talent within the team.

Tara Spadaro

Saber-Toothed Cat/ Triceratops Full Suit Performer and Puppeteer

Oddly enough, Tara was introduced to puppetry while pursuing her passion for stilt walking. The stilt company with which she performed specialized in costume puppets. There, she learned how to make the puppets speak and move while performing on stilts. She fell in love with the art of animating the creatures that her boss created, thus, when she learned of the puppets at the Museum, she jumped at the chance to audition. Performing at the Museum has greatly expanded her knowledge of body-animation, endurance specific to puppetry, and collaborative puppetry. Thus far, her journey as a live performer has been extremely rewarding and she cannot wait to see what the future has in store!

Carlos Jackson

T. rex Full Suit Performer and Puppeteer

He’s the guy who doesn’t know a stranger; who walks in a room and lights it up with his wit, laughter and charm. But beyond his magnetism, Carlos Jackson has the heart of adventure, discipline and passion for his craft. Breaking the mold of status quo careers in his tiny hometown of Loughman Florida, Carlos has traveled the world as an elite member of the U.S. Marine Corps. In addition to honorably serving his country, Carlos performs as an entertainer. From stilt walking in different costumes, to puppeteering as a T.rex and Transformer, Carlos performs in dinner theatre, stunt fights, stage productions, television and film, capturing and thrilling the imagination of his audiences. Whether live or captured on film, he morphs into character with masks, posture and facial expressions that expose a new persona and delight his many spectators. Carlos Jackson is a disciplined leader, consummate professional, and lifelong learner. Each new role serves as an opportunity to experience and express more life, more adventure, more boldness, more daring, and more unique connections with people. He sees no obstacle as insurmountable. Venturing beyond the safety net of the familiar, Carlos Jackson steps with full-on commitment into each new role.  

Robert George

T. rex Full Suit Performer and Puppeteer​

Robert George is an actor, writer, and dinosaur raised in Los Angeles less than 65 million years ago. He was the first dinosaur ever to graduate from UCLA's school of Theater, Film, and Television and The Groundlings School of improv. Robert has gone on to break more barriers as the first dinosaur to be an active member of the Los Angeles theater community, performing with The Open Fist Theater Company, The Los Angeles Theater Ensemble, and The Los Angeles Theater Inniative at the Los Angeles Theater  Center. Robert also teaches comedy improv and acting technique to little tiny children at the NoHo Actors Studio. He hopes to terrorize and delight you soon. Roar. 

Lisa McNeely

Saber-Toothed Cat/ Triceratops Full Suit Performer and Puppeteer

Lisa McNeely is a working performance artist, musician, and craft artist based in Los Angeles. Lisa grew up in Denver, CO where she studied dance, vocal performance, sculpting, life casting and theater. She recently came from rural Northern California on a quest to continue writing, producing and performing her own music, as well as create and share magical original work. Lisa has a BA from Humboldt State University in Philosophy with a minor in Music. She is also a graduate of Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theater where she trained in acting, commedia, mask, acrobatics, clowning, and ensemble-based original work. Lisa is thrilled to be a part of NHMLA’s performing artists. She has now fulfilled two of her childhood dreams: to work at beautiful museums, and to walk and play as extinct creatures within them. You can also find Lisa singing, running, and playing in music videos, commercials, and always about town, striving… “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics’ – Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Baxley Andresen

Triceratops Full Suit Performer and Puppeteer

Baxley Andresen is an artist, fabricator and puppeteer in Los Angeles.  Andresen utilizes her experience with automatons, fine arts and theatre training in her work and collaborations.  Her fabrication and puppeteering has been featured in various theatre, television and digital media.  She has toured nationally with various shows with Janie Geiser and Robin Walsh. She is proud to have worked on Kevin McTurk's "The Mill at Calder's End," Toben Seymour's "Hail Mary Mallon" music video, Viva La Puppet! with Adult Swim, productions with Cornerstone Theatre, Robin Walsh, Zoochosis, Susan Simpson and collaborations with Erin O'Donnell on interactive art events at Chinatown Summer Nights in Los Angeles. 

Andrew Eldredge

T.rex Full Suit Performer and Puppeteer

Andrew is a writer and performer based in Los Angeles. Originally from Cape Cod he began his performing life with Grotowski-based company Dzieci and the American Mime Theater. He then went on to obtain his MFA from Dell'Arte International School of Physical Theater. He's a big fan of poetry and comedy- at the same time! He is delighted to now be a T.rex. It was inevitable.

Jamie Lozano

T.rex Full Suit Performer​ and Puppeteer

Jamie Lozano is a new addition to the performing arts team at The Natural History Museum as of May 2016. He grew up in Orange County in the City of La Habra where he attended a local church and found a love in performing as a puppeteer. He volunteered his time puppeteering for the Children’s Ministry and has continued puppeteering for over 10 years now. Jamie also works as a puppeteer at the Disneyland Resort in the Disney Jr. Live on Stage show located in California Adventure. Even though he received a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from Cal State Fullerton, he recently attended Santa Ana College where he pursued a new and exciting career path in Fire Technology. He then went on to further his education by completing the part time Santa Ana College Basic Fire Academy. Jamie has been expanding his experience and training by becoming an Ambulance Operator with a very prestigious local Fire Department. But when he isn’t working at Disney or for the Fire Department, Jamie enjoys his time educating people here at the Natural History Museum by performing as the T.rex.