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About Us

Who we are.

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.

Our Values

Hard Work


Basic Kindness

Aiming for Greatness

Long-term Community Investment

Our Founders

Empire Arts Collective was founded in 2015 by Emily Perez and Jessilee Windhaus

Jessilee Windhaus is a proud Sacramento native and twenty-year theatre and improv veteran who has performed in cities all across the country. Jessilee holds a BA in Theatre and Dance from Sacramento State University and founded That Plus Chips live sketch and improv comedy ensemble. She has toured with the world-renowned Missoula Children’s Theatre and was a mainstage performer at Sacramento Comedy Spot and ComedySportz Sacramento where she served as the Director of the High School League program.

Emily Perez is a local creative with seventeen years of experience in marketing in the private, public and nonprofit sectors, and an M.A. in Spanish from Sacramento State. She trained as a music teacher at Sacramento City College Vocal/Choral Program and the Sara Harris Piano Studio. She is passionate about supporting adults in developing their musical skills and does so as a vocal coach and piano teacher through her private music studio Macondo Music.

Our Leadership

Jessilee Windhaus


Co-founder, Improv Program Director

Lily Tanner


Interim Executive Director, Interim Treasurer, Theatre Program Director

Bernie Baktashian


Board President

JR Yancher


Board Member, Nonprofit Theatre Advisor

Alana Pinsler


Board Member, Nonprofit Management Adviser

Tresa Edmunds


Board Member, Accessibility Advocate

Maria Crowell


Board Member, Technical Advisor

DEIA Public Statement

Our commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) is part of our core principles. Our organization recognizes the reality that cultural biases and systemic racism impact communities of color in the Sacramento area, and beyond, and it is part of our ongoing goals to dismantle those systems through racially-equitable practices.

We look for creative ways to rethink systems and policies to better serve and support communities of color whenever possible and are in an ongoing process of examining and questioning the practices that have been traditionally deemed “professional,” which have been part of the oppression of marginalized communities, including Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC).

As we create our events, programs, and collective projects, we continuously strive to provide an inclusive, accessible environment with a low barrier to entry for anyone interested in experiencing the beauty and joy of the performing arts.

We hope to continue and expand our focus on creating works that are open and welcoming to adults of every age, ethnicity, race, color, religious background, nationality, ability, gender identity, and sexual identity.

Let’s get creative.

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