#NCCAF Staff

Zach Ward

Zach Ward Founder and Executive Producer

Chapel Hill native and proud Carolina graduate, Zach Ward has been performing and directing comedy professionally for 20 years. Zach owns DSI COMEDY THEATER in Carrboro, NC where he serves as Executive Producer for the theater and #NCCAF.

In the world of comedy, Zach has been employed as Managing Director of IMPROVBOSTON, a 501(c)(3) non-profit Comedy Theater in Cambridge, MA, by the Chicago Improv Festival (Associate Producer), Toronto Improv Festival (Producer), Richmond Improv Festival (Producer) and ComedySportz Chicago (Director of Education).

Zach has received critical acclaim from the Chicago Reader and the Chicago Tribune for his performance with DUAL EXHAUST (Critic's Choice, Top 10 "Most Influential Comedy Duos of the Past Decade") and THE BEATBOX (Critic's Choice, Best Bet, "Top 5 Latenight Shows in Chicago"). Zach can currently be seen performing and teaching at theaters and festivals around the country.

Zach has studied the art of improvisation with Todd Stashwick (Burn Mahattan), Mick Napier and Susan Messing (Annoyance), Craig Cackowski and TJ Jagodowski (ImprovOlympic), Matt Besser (Upright Citizens Brigade), Amy Poehler (SNL), Michael Gelman (Second City), and with every student he teaches. Zach translates success both in business and on stage to Professional Speaking, Business and Brand Consulting, Leadership Development and Team Building for clients including GSK, Biogen, Cisco, Motorola Latin America, Old Navy, P&G and the YMCA. He might enjoy making suits do comedy most of all.


Ashley Melzer

Ashley Melzer Associate Producer, Programming

Born in North Florida, Ashley is a freelance media professional with a Bachelors in Cinematic Arts from the University of Southern California and Masters in Folklore from UNC-Chapel Hill. She has been a credited author, photographer, producer and editor of print, film and digital media. Ashley spent the last three years on staff organizing the Hopscotch Music Festival in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Ashley has worked with the Center for the Study of the American South at UNC, the Independent Weekly, Thornapple Films, eMusic, Paste Magazine, NPR Member Station WUNC, and the Southern Foodways Alliance. Ashley believes the best work comes out of impeccable preparation in advance and cool-headed flexibility in the moment — no surprise, she's also an improviser.


Paula Pazderka

Paula Pazderka Associate Producer, Education

Artistic Director of DSI Comedy Theater, Paula has been performing and teaching comedy for over a decade. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from the Art Institute of Chicago, is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and has a Masters Certificate in Project Management from the George Washington School of Business.

A veteran of ImprovOlympic, The Playground Theatre and ComedySportz Chicago, Paula studied the art of improvisation with Mick Napier, Charna Halpern, Noah Gregoropoulos, Susan Messing, and Joe Bill. She has been recognized for her work with THE PLACEBO EFFECT, The SPEAKEASY PLAYERS, and CHEETARAH as well as with the sketch troupe ASTERISKS (CHICAGO SKETCHFEST 2004-2006). Paula can currently be seen performing with MISTER DIPLOMAT at DSI and around the country.

Paula has conducted improv workshops for professional growth for years; most recently she has worked with Motorola, Duke University, Durham County Health Department, Town of Chapel Hill, SUN (Southern University Newspapers) Conference and Leadership Triangle. Needless to say, Paula takes comedy seriously and believes in serious applications of comedy.


Carrie Gorn

Carrie Gorn Festival Publicist

Carrie Gorn has more than 15 years experience in the field of media and public relations. She began her career in sports journalism, where she focused on ideas and stories from unique angles and perspectives. She took that mindset into the Public Relations arena, and has built a reputation for increasing media exposure for people and organizations, who have seen increased attendance, sales, accolades and membership from her efforts.

Her business, Perpetual Motion PR, has worked with DSI Comedy Theater and the North Carolina Comedy Arts Festival for more than three years. Carrie has helped the festival and theater expand its reach in the Triangle. Elsewhere, Carrie has recently started working with ImprovBoston and the Boston Improv Festival. She has also worked with the Philadelphia Improv Festival and Philadelphia Comedy Month for the four years, as well as handling PR and Marketing for the 2010 ComedySportz World Tournament in Philadelphia.

Based in the City of Brotherly Love, Carrie works with some of the Philadelphia’s top up-and-coming theatres. She has been the in-house PR person for The Wilma Theater and Walnut Street Theatre. She continues to get strong results with her tenacious and thoughtful PR strategies. As a publicist, she has generated feature or news coverage in most of the media outlets in the Delaware Valley. Organizations who have worked with Carrie have been placed in Variety, The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Magazine, and many others.