#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 and Artistic Director for both 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

Born in North Florida, Ashley is the Associate Artistic Director of the DSI Comedy Theater and 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.

Vinny Valdivia

Vinny Valdivia Associate Producer

Vinny has been studying and performing improv in the Triangle since 2008. Besides performing, Vinny also coaches and teaches at DSI Comedy Theater.

On his days off, Vinny loves to make music by playing drums and pretending he's good at guitar. From 1997 to 2003, Vinny played drums and toured with several bands including Bayside and The Prizefighter. To sum up his feelings on improv comedy: it's all about doing. There is no point in thinking about what you could have done and if you're busy thinking about what you're going to do then you're missing out on now. Instead of worrying about what's going to happen, make something happen.

Bianca Casusol

Bianca Casusol Sponsors & Partnerships

Bianca Casusol is a writer and improviser who has performed on house teams at DSI Comedy Theater and at the Magnet Theater, including The Armando Diaz Experience as well as co-founding The Magnet's pre-eminent poetry-meets-improv show, :KISS.PUNCH.POEM.

A touring member of the acclaimed Story Pirates she has written and performed in improv and sketch shows throughout the tri-state area and taught workshops in writing and improv. When she's not improvising or writing fake news for Reductress.com, she can be found tirelessly working toward her goal of turning into a British old lady detective named Hazel Plumpington, and using her improv skills to help solve crimes.

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.