Debbie Dance - Chair of Trustees

Debbie is well-known to many people in Oxford and was the Director of Oxford Preservation Trust (OPT) until December 2024 developing skills in membership, fundraising, and finance and management along the way. Debbie built OPT into a leading Oxford influencer and institution. As a chartered surveyor with an established career in heritage, she was awarded an OBE in 2013. She likes to make things happen and has been involved in a number of award-winning projects including restoring and opening up Oxford Castle, and dreaming up Oxford Open Doors, the annual festival which now attracts over 35,000 people to celebrate Oxford’s built and natural environment across all walks of the City’s life, town and gown. Debbie has an interest in church buildings and is a member of the Church of England’s Church Buildings Council and is Chair of the Christ Church Cathedral Fabric Committee. She is also an Architectural History DPhil student at St Catz.

Whilst at Oxford Preservation Trust, Debbie opened the Painted Room, the place where William Shakespeare stayed on his trips from London to Stratford-upon-Avon, and developed an annual Oxford Shakespeare Birthday celebration. This fits with her lifelong interest in theatre which began when she first came to the Playhouse in the 1970s on ‘two for the price of one’ Monday nights. Her interest continues as Chair of the board.

Joe Pillman - Vice Chair & Chair of Governance & Nominations Committee

Joe Pillman was a partner in WilmerHale, a premier 1000 lawyer International Law Firm, focusing on clients in the Tech and Life Science sectors until his retirement at the end of 2015. He served on the Firm’s management and compensation Committees for 8 years and was responsible for its 6 European offices. He was then Chair of the Vale Academy Trust, a multi-Academy Trust of 8 schools in Wantage and Abingdon, from 2016 to 2020 and is a Non Executive Director of various UK companies.

While an undergraduate at Cambridge he toured Europe with a production of Hamlet as stage manager. He has lived in Oxfordshire since 1980.

Alessandra Buonfino - Trustee & Chair of Development Committee

Dr Alessandra Buonfino is the Managing Director of Lama Consulting, an advisory firm working with NGOs, private foundations and governments in emerging markets. She has worked with businesses and investors across the FTSE 100, NGOs and governments for more than 15 years, helping them to be a force for good through strategic communications, programmes and partnerships. Alessandra started her career as an academic in International Relations, and has since worked in think tanks, in the private sector, in 10 Downing Street/Cabinet Office, and in the Department for International Trade (DIT) where she started and ran a joint DIT/ FCDO unit to cultivate investment and philanthropy into the UK from family businesses across 20 countries. She is on the board of an organisation working in water and sanitation in Africa; is a judge for the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Africa Prize for innovation and until recently she was on the board of the think tank Demos. Today, she lives in Oxford with her family, and is a dual Italian/British citizen.

Sos Eltis - Trustee

Dr Sos Eltis is a Fellow and Tutor in English at Brasenose College, Oxford, and an Associate Professor in the English Faculty of Oxford University. She is a University representative on the Playhouse Board.

Specialising in Victorian, modern, and contemporary theatre, it was productions at the Oxford Playhouse which she was as a child that sparked her life-long love of the plays of Oscar Wilde and Bernard Shaw. Her publications include Revising Wilde: Society and Subversion in the Plays of Oscar Wilde and Acts of Desire: Women and Sex on Stage, 1800-1930, and articles on Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter, Noel Coward and wide range of other playwrights and writers. She was the Senior Member for the Oxford University Drama Society (OUDS) from 1998 till 2018 and is deeply committed to the central role of theatre in the cultural life of Oxford.

Gillian Rose - Trustee

Gillian Rose is Professor of Human Geography at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of St John's College. Gillian moved to Oxford five years ago and has a particular interest in the visual as well as performing arts, especially photography and film.

Among other books, she is the author of Doing Family Photography (Ashgate, 2010); in 2023, the fifth edition of her textbook Visual Methodologies (Sage) was published as well as The New Urban Aesthetic: Digital Experiences of Urban Change, co-authored with Monica Degen (Bloomsbury). She has written many papers on images, visualising technologies and ways of seeing in urban, domestic and archival spaces.

She has been the Associate Dean of Research in the Social Sciences Faculty at The Open University and Head of the School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford, and is a Fellow of the British Academy and of the Academy of Social Sciences.

Katherine Wilkes - Trustee & Chair of Finance & Risk Committee

Katherine is a Chartered Accountant and is an Audit Partner at a local firm of accountants, Critchleys, where her focus is on charities, academies and corporate clients. Katherine trained with a firm in Tunbridge Wells before spending time in industry and returned to practice in 2003 to spend a large portion of her career with a big four firm before venturing back to a regional practice to focus on charities. Katherine is also Chair of Cold Ash Brass, where she also enjoys performing, is a Scouting volunteer and has previously spent 5 years as a governor of a local special school.

Gill Aitken - Trustee

Gill Aitken was appointed as Registrar to the University of Oxford in September 2018 following a career in Whitehall where she led the legal teams of several large Ministries, latterly as General Counsel to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. In Whitehall she also ran professional services teams for a number of Ministries and at HMRC was the Social Mobility Champion.

She is Founder Chair of Governors of the London Academy of Excellence, Tottenham, an academy aiming to provide a rounded 6th form education to talented students from the area with the aspiration of transforming admissions to good Universities.

She has a long standing interest in ethics since studying the subject at Oxford and, subsequently, advising on medical research and clinical trials as a City lawyer.

In the 2019 New Year Honours, she was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB), "for services to taxpayers and to social mobility".

Eleanor Claughton - Trustee

Ellie is the Executive Director for Improbable Theatre. She was previously Executive Director (Maternity Cover) at Boundless Theatre and Interim Executive Producer at Paines Plough where she managed the team working on Paine's Plough's Roundabout and annual Small-Scale Touring Network. Ellie has worked at the forefront of developing award-winning, touring organisations and was Co-Director at Barrel Organ, Senior Producer for LUNG Theatre and Breach Theatre. She began her career at Headlong and trained at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in MA Creative Producing. She is the Chair of the Board of Trustees for Zoo Co. She is also a faculty member of the CGO Institute and enjoys freelance consultancy as a side hustle.

Ellie is originally from Yorkshire, but currently lives in London and enjoys spending time in Oxford and the surrounding area with her family who live locally.

Adam Knight - Trustee

Adam is Chief Executive of Frank Matcham’s Grade II* listed Blackpool Grand Theatre: an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation and winner of the UK Theatre Award for Excellence in Arts Education. Previously, he held senior positions at Crewe Lyceum for HQ Theatres/Trafalgar Entertainment, ICC Belfast Waterfront & Ulster Hall, Sherman Theatre Cardiff, Edinburgh Playhouse, Grand Opera House Belfast, and, for the Ambassador Theatre Group the Savoy Theatre and Trafalgar Studios in the West End, winning London Theatre Manager of the Year.

He began his career at Worthing’s Connaught Theatre and as Education Trainee at Chichester Festival Theatre, before training as an actor at the National Youth Music Theatre, National Youth Theatre and at Webber Douglas. He has appeared in London, on Broadway and in the UK Tour of Blood Brothers for Bill Kenwright. As producer, his production of Samuel Adamson’s Some Kind of Bliss with Lucy Briers (Trafalgar Studios and 59E59 New York) was nominated for a Whatsonstage Award.

A graduate of Ulster University he also holds an MSc from the University of Manchester’s Alliance Business School. Other trusteeships include Gary Clarke Company and Waverley Care, Scotland’s leading HIV charity. He was a member of Crewe Town Board, securing £22.5m Government Towns Funding for regeneration (including development of a new live music venue), and currently chairs Blackpool’s Cultural Strategy Steering Group.

His first visit to Oxford Playhouse was to see the 2002 Oxford Greek Play The Medea and now, with family in the area, is excited to champion the Playhouse for future generations to enjoy. When not at the theatre, you’ll likely find him travelling the country or cheering on Ulster Rugby.

Albert Ray - Trustee

Albie is the Home Bursar and a Fellow at Magdalen College, Oxford, and previously held a similar role at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. He is also the Senior Treasurer of the Combined Clubs Fund, which supports extra curricula activity at Magdalen. Prior to working in education, Albie ran the hospitality at the Royal Opera House, and also had a key role at the Barbican Arts Centre. He was also very much involved in the London restaurant scene, working at such landmark restaurants as St John, Alistair Little, Rules and the “original” Ivy in Covent Garden, which was seen as the place to go in Theatreland. Albie studied Fine Art in Liverpool and at the University of Reading.

Deborah Richards - Trustee

Debbie is co-founder of Baker Richards - a leading international provider of consulting services and software for the cultural sector. Clients include English Heritage, LA Phil, Metropolitan Opera, National Theatre, Royal Opera House, RSC, Shakespeare’s Globe and Sydney Opera House.

Debbie led the evolution of Baker Richards, establishing a US sister company and overseeing the company’s transition to employee ownership. Her enthusiasm for theatre began as a producer and marketing manager of student shows on The Playhouse stages while studying at the University of Oxford. Prior to her consulting career, she worked as an arts marketer and theatre producer, including for Oxford’s Creation Theatre.

Debbie has spoken at conferences in the USA, Australia, New Zealand and across Europe. She serves on boards spanning theatre, media and live cinema and is Chair of Northern Broadsides Theatre Company and Vice Chair of Live Cinema UK.

Micaela Tuckwell - Trustee

Micaela is the Executive Director on The Ultimate Picture Palace, Oxford’s only independent cinema established in 1911. Under her leadership the cinema successfully met the challenges of pandemic securing a nomination for UK Cinema of the Year in 2021, as well as facilitating a £385k community share raise to bring the business into community-ownership. She is a BAFTA Connect Member and previously served on the Film Hub South East Advisory Board, part of the BFI Film Audience Network, which works to support cinemas, film festivals, film societies and community groups across the region.

She started her career at Jacari, a local educational charity that supports children with English as a second language from disadvantaged backgrounds and founded the charity’s first branch in a new location (Bristol) which is still going strong today. In fact, one of her most memorable trips to Oxford Playhouse was bringing a group of Jacari students and their tutors to the pantomime, many of whom hadn’t stepped foot in a theatre before. Subsequent roles have deepened her understanding of Oxford, it’s diverse communities and the power of art to transform lives — these include over a decade of leadership and fundraising experience at local cultural organisations including The Story Museum, The Ark-T Centre, and Cowley Road Works. As a disabled person she is especially committed to accessibility and has led on access strategy across a number of organisations.

Jaskiran Kaur Bhogal - Trustee

Dr Jaskiran (Kiran) Kaur Bhogal is an anthropologist with a focus on the Anthropology of Britain, lived religion, and the intersection of religion and politics. Kiran’s expertise lies in exploring the complexities of identity, culture, and spirituality within contemporary British society. Kiran has a wide range of experience in both the education and public sector including the development, initiation, and the reporting of findings at the forefront of research including diversity and inclusion. In addition to academia, Kiran also works as a Consultant, providing expertise tailored to suit various industries including academia, public and private sector organisations.

Beyond her professional pursuits, Kiran has a passion for the arts and in particular the theatre. She is enthusiastic about making the theatre more inviting and accessible to those from diverse backgrounds.

Governance & Nominations Committee

Joe Pillman (Chair)

Katherine Wilkes

Debbie Dance

Finance & Risk Committee

Katherine Wilkes (Chair)

Debbie Dance

Programme & Productions Committee

Debbie Dance

Sos Eltis

Development Committee

Alessandra Buonfino (Chair)

Debbie Dance

Joe Pillman