about us

Wonderland Stage & Screen is a primer for a new media that integrates the real (live theater production) with the virtual (film and animation) in our student-driven, project-based format. Within the framework of the program, participants delve into imagination to create characters, locations, scenes and stories. Children are encouraged and guided to create their stories into production.

We also develop and create curriculum that provides hands-on exploration of STEM and literature through interactive animation and online collaboration. This visual approach to learning supports the multiple intelligences (the bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, the linguistic intelligence, the interpersonal intelligence, the spatial intelligence, and the logical-mathematical intelligence) students use to learn. 

Along with this in-depth exploration, our programs add valuable hands-on training in technical aspects of theater and film. This active participation and hands-on technical experience will equip participants to step into the future of technology and entertainment. 


Erica and Mari met because their children quickly became fast friends. Consequently, they forged a friendship on the playground and during after school activities. Sharing a passion for their children, the creative process and both theater and film, a natural partnership was formed. With Mari’s background and experience in filmmaking and Erica’s in stagecraft, they began to explore opportunities to not simply work together, but to do it in a way that allowed quality time with their children while also passing their craft on to another generation in a dynamic and meaningful way. They are both especially fond of the writing process, and the ways in which it can open up young people’s imaginations.

our staff
Erica S. Connell artistic director /  theatre and writing tutor

Erica S. Connell received a B.A. in Dramatic Arts with an emphasis in Directing from UC Santa Barbara in 1994. She first appeared onstage at age 5, and yearly thereafter until first pursuing Directing in high school. She regularly directed original material such as Shards in college, collaborating with a student composer for an original score.


She finds the Art of theater compounded and expanded through the collaboration process, and prefers to work in that dynamic creative environment. After college, she met and began working with Slightly Askew Players, and was drawn to the collaborative and physically based work. She enjoys a kinesthetic approach; a deeper exploration and development of character through movement and the depth and breadth of non-verbal communication.


Erica facilitated and participated in many workshops with Slightly Askew Players, but largely exercised her Stage Management skills, continuing to develop her sharp powers of observation and perfect timing. Erica has also worked with Dramatic Women and Lit Moon Theater Company as well as New Bard Productions, all based in Santa Barbara, both in stage management and directing capacities. In 1999, Erica co-founded DramaDogs, A Theater Company, and has actively participated in the development of original and scripted works. She co-wrote and directed Infinite Notion, produced by DramaDogs at Center Stage Theater, and has appeared onstage with DramaDogs as well, most recently as “Donna” in Defying Gravity. Erica loves to create, and to teach and assist others in finding, developing and expressing their creative voice. To that end, she has worked as an Artist in Residence at the Ventura Charter School of Arts and Global Education, directing young people onstage in formal production as well as staged readings as part of DramaDogs’ Educational Outreach Program. For the last 5 years she has directed and produced full-length summer productions at South Coast Fellowship in Ventura, coincident with their Youth Discipleship Program. Erica most recently directed an after school student production at Blanche Reynolds Elementary School, where the development of Stage and Screen began.


Marianela Maldonado artistic director / film and screenwriting tutor

Marianela Maldonado graduated from the National Film & Television School in the UK with an MA in Screenwriting and Film Directing. She has written and directed four short films, which have been screened at film festivals around the world, among them The Look of Happiness and Breaking Out which both premiered at the official selection of Cannes Film Festival.


As a screenwriter, Marianela has worked in a variety of projects, from animation to indie films. In 2008, Peter and the Wolf, a film she co-wrote won the Oscar for best animation short. She also co-wrote ‘Unmade Beds’ (Sundance, Berlin, Rotterdam 2009), ‘The Flying Machine’ (Toronto & 3D LA Films Festival 2012/2013) and ‘Magic Piano’ (New York Children Film Festival, 2011 and pre-selected for the Academy Awards in 2012).


Thanks to her successful short films and screenwriting, she won a scholarship to study screenwriting craft in the prestigious Binger Film Institute in Holland. Thereafter she was also selected to take part in the Writing Residence of the Cannes Film Festival where she lived in Paris for six months and wrote two feature films, In the Shadow of the Moon and The Other Girl. As documentary director, she has worked for BBC World and co-directed a documentary tv series Bio-patents and ancestral Knowledge for Latin American broadcasters. She is editing her documentary feature film “Children of Las Brisas” a story that follows several children from Venezuelan poor neighborhoods as they try to become musicians and developing her feature fiction film “The Belly of the Whale”. While living in the UK Marianela lectured at the National Film and Television School in the UK and for four years she taught Narrative and Documentary Film Studies at The Tower Hamlets College in London. She has also taught within the British Arts Program Creative Partnerships where she taught filmmaking in primary schools around the UK. http://marianelamaldonado.com/sitio/inicio/
Agent: Casarotto Ramsay & Associates. Elinor Burns elinor@casarotto.co.uk

Robin Todd camera and editing tutor

Robin Todd -Currently based in California, Robin studied at the London Film School (LFS). He has extensive experience in a variety of technical and creative positions as a director, writer, cinematographer, editor and animator, in fiction, documentary and animation.

He co-wrote The Magic Piano which was a 2012 Oscars final shortlist. His recent films include the science fiction short film, Sk8rz which participated in festivals around the world including Pifan in Korea and Fantastic Fest in Austin. While living in Venezuela he directed and shot an 8 part TV documentary series: Biopiracy and Ancestral Knowledge. He also shot the documentary short film The Barrel which was premiered in DocHot 2013 and was a festival favorite. He just finished his documentary short film The Apricots of Forcefield which will soon be sent to film festivals. He is currently developing a feature documentary.


Contact us now to register:

(805) 455-4338 - (805) 443-3182


Ventura, California