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Conservatory Teaching Artists

Hisa Takakuwa

Conservatory and Educational Programs Director

Hisa Takakuwa

Takakuwa  is a classically trained actor, director and educator. She has worked at many theatrical institutions around the country including the Sundance Children’s Theatre, The Music Center on Tour and the Indiana Repertory Theatre. At SCR, she appeared in The Man Who Came to Dinner along with 14 seasons in the cast of A Christmas Carol, and Education Touring Productions. She has directed many past Players productions including most recently Into the Woods, After Juliet, Matilda, Nicholas Nickleby, Peter Pan, Snow Angel and Metamorphoses, and directs SCR's annual production of A Christmas Carol.. While a longtime resident artist at the classical repertory company A Noise Within, she appeared in many productions, including The Triumph of Love, The Comedy of Errors, The Misanthrope, Another Part of the Forest, The Seagull and Our Town. She directed Henry V, Twelfth Night and Shooting Stars at the Actors Co-op theatre in Hollywood. Takakuwa holds a BA from Smith College and an MFA in acting from the California Institute of the Arts. She received an honorable mention by the Tony Award's Excellence in Theatre Education Awards  and the California Educational Theatre Association's Professional Artist Award in 2019.

Joe Alanes

Alanes performed with his first contract from Actors Equity Association at South Coast Repertory more than 20 years ago! He has also been on the resident faculty at SCR for almost 20 years, both as a teaching artist and the Junior Players director. Currently, Joe is the Director of Education & Outreach at Laguna Playhouse, where he has directed many Youth Theatre productions including Peter & the Starcatcher. Joe is Co-Artistic Director of Modjeska Playhouse, where he has directed and acted in a number of plays. He has also taught at the Orange County School of the Arts, where he directed several plays including Spoon River Anthology, a collaboration between OCSA and Modjeska Playhouse. He was formerly Director of Theatre at Mater Dei High School, toured the country with various productions as an actor, ASM, stage manager, and company manager, and was a director and program manager at Kaiser Permanente Educational Theatre. Joe graduated from UCLA with a BA in Theatre and is currently completing his MA in Education and CTE Credential in Performing Arts and Media. He is a proud member of Actors Equity Association.

Donald Amerson

Donald AmersonAmerson earned a BA from Michigan State University and an MPP from the University of Michigan—specializing in managing non-profits. He obtained an MFA in Theatre for the Young from Eastern Michigan University and studied Commedia Dell'Arte in Florence, Italy. As an Adjunct Professor at Santa Ana College, he teaches Theatre Arts Methodologies. At Orange County School of the Arts he has taught a myriad of theatre subjects. His illustrious career at SCR began in 2012. His goal is to teach a high level of skills while keeping the environment fun and light. Amerson serves as an Executive Board Member of the California State Thespians and has assisted many local, state, national, and international programs. His directorial ventures, such as Enemy/Flint produced in London and Sadako and a Thousand Cranes, showcase his commitment to using theater as a vehicle for social change and empowerment. As the President/CEO of Drama In Action, he spearheads initiatives aimed at fostering artistic expression and community engagement.

Greg Atkins

Atkins is an award-winning writer/director of theater and special events. He has worked with for The Walt Disney Company, the Olympics, Blizzard Entertainment, Elton John AIDS Foundation, SenovvA and other major entertainment companies. As an executive coach, he prepares Fortune 500 executives to speak before live audiences and on video. As the president of InterActors, he travels with an international team of improv actors to exotic locals such as Prague, Singapore, Rome, New Delhi and Irvine. The author of the book, IMPROV! A Handbook for the Actor, ​he was a creative consultant on the hit ABC primetime show, "Whose Line is it Anyway?," and has published multiple plays. His most current play is 9/10th, an evening of 10-minute plays. Atkins began his theatrical career at South Coast Repertory as an actor/writer/director. He is proud to be an SCR Theatre Conservatory teaching artist.

Diana Burbano

Burbano is a Colombian immigrant, a playwright, an Equity actor and a teaching artist at South Coast Repertory (SCR). Her written work include Policarpa (Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Brown Swan Lab, Latinx Play Project 2017); Fabulous Monsters (San Diego Repertory Theatre Latinx Festival); Picture me Rollin’ (35th annual William Inge Festival); Silueta (English and Spanish about Cuban artist Ana Mendieta, with Tom and Chris Shelton); Caliban’s Island (winner, 2017 Headwaters New Play Festival at Creede Repertory Theatre); and Enemy|Flint (Rio Hondo 2018 , both published by YouthPLAYS). Libertadoras, Vamping and Linda were written for the 365 Women a Year Project and have been performed around the world, with Linda featured in more that 20 festivals over the last year, including Center Theatre Group’s community library series. Her short plays Rounds Per Second and The Ring are featured in #CodeRed Playwrights Say #NeverAgain to School Shootings. She has written material for Center Theatre Group’s Chisme y Queso series and for Rogue Artists Plummer Park project. Burbano has been a working actor for nearly three decades. She originated the roles of Ama de Casa in the Spanish version of Menopause the Musical, Thumb in Imagine, and Holo-1 in The Labors of Hercules. She played Ana Guerrero in Jose Cruz Gonzales' Long Road Today/El Largo Camino de Hoy Dialogue/Dialogos project at SCR. Burbano's television credits include "The People v. OJ Simpson," "Cold Case" and "Betas." She played punk Praetorian guard Viv in the cult movie musical, The Isle of Lesbos. She manages Sleep Till Noon Productions and The Gourmet Detective. Burbano is one of the original members of the writers circle for Latino Theatre Association/Los Angeles. She is a member of The Dramatists Guild and The Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights.

Julieta Garza

Garza is an actor, creator, and educator who is passionate about using theatre as a tool for connection, healing, and transformation. Her experience includes teaching, directing, and performing with children of all ages in schools and theaters in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Northern California. Garza received an MFA in Ensemble-Based Physical Theatre from Dell’ Arte School of Physical Theatre in June 2021, and a Bachelor's degree in Liberal Arts and a teaching credential from CSU Dominguez Hills. Her theatre roles include: Remains an ensemble theatre piece performed at REDCAT, The Taming of the Shrew performed with the Shakespeare Center LA, Translations, Missed Communications, a Dance/theater piece, at Highways in Santa Monica, and The Journey, which she directed at Highways. Garza is excited and grateful to join the SCR faculty.

H. Adam Harris

Harris is an actor, director, educator, cultural equity consultant, and the Artistic/Audience Engagement Associate at South Coast Repertory. He often works at the intersection of theatre, education, social justice, and community engagement. Recent theatrical credits include directing Redwood by Brittney K. Allen at the Jungle Theater. He’s a frequent performer with the Children’s Theatre Company: Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, The Snowy Day, The Jungle Book, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. He has worked with The Old Globe Theater, Guthrie Theater, Seattle Children’s Theater, the Minnesota Orchestra, and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. He is a proud Penumbra Theatre Company member, credits with Penumbra include The Owl Answers, The Dutchman, The Ballad of Emmett Till, and The Amen Corner. As a teaching artist, H. Adam has taught 40+ classes and workshops at The Guthrie Theater. His highlights include adult acting classes focusing on text analysis and scene study, youth classes through the Hennepin County Libraries, and various corporate development workshops by request. He spent many years as Teaching Artist with the Children’s Theatre Company, Penumbra Theater, and the St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Arts. H. Adam has led numerous masterclasses, workshops, and residencies for Theatre & Dance departments at various colleges and universities, including University of Minnesota, University of Texas-Austin, Augsburg University, Macalester College, Cornish College of the Arts, Louisiana State University, and the University of Cincinnati.

Brenda Kenworthy

Kenworthy is an actor, writer, director and artist. She was a member of the cutting-edge theatre company, Rude Guerilla/Monkey Wrench Collective, performing with them in many West Coast and world premiere productions. She has been in more than a dozen Shakespearean plays, including Macbeth and Much Ado About Nothing, performed in repertory at the New Swan Shakespeare Festival (University of California, Irvine). She believes everyone is an artist and that expressing that artistry need not be a traumatic experience. Kenworthy received her BFA in art from UCLA, her MFA in acting/theatre from CalArts and studied Shakespeare at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London.

Kristina Leach

Leach has been working in the wonderful world of professional theatre for over 25 years. As a teaching artist at SCR, she​ has taught in both the ​Youth and Adult Theatre Conservatory ​programs. Once upon a time, she was a member of SCR's ​Artistic staff, where she served as a Literary Associate for several seasons. A proud alum of Cal State Fullerton, Kristina is an award-winning playwright, actor and director. Her plays have been produced in LA, NY and in the U.K. ​Her other interests include her fantastic son, her adoring husband and their adorable little dog, Charles.

Erin McNally

McNally is an accomplished actor, vocalist and educator. She has been inspiring young actors at SCR for almost twenty years, including musical/co-direction of the last fifteen Summer Players’ shows and the creation of musical theatre classes for the advanced teen students and Summer Acting Workshop. Armed with a BA in acting and musical theatre from California State University, Fullerton, McNally was a guest vocalist at the Hollywood Bowl for 13 years and has sang backup for such greats as Patti LuPone, Kenny Loggins, and Kristen Chenoweth. She has been a guest artist for the LA Musical Theatre Guild, as well as the Humana Theatre Festival in Barcelona, Spain. Aside from her extensive concert and cabaret credits, favorite roles include Little Red in Into the Woods, Amy in Company, and the soloist for Video Games Live. When she is not performing, McNally shares her passion for acting, musical theatre at Disneyland, where she is a teaching artist for the Disney Imagination Campus.

Martin Noyes

Martin Noyes

Noyes is from Irvine, California, where he works as an actor, teacher, and fight director. His most recent Fight Directing work was Oliver Twist, Lie of the Mind, The Mexican Play, Carousel, Dead Man’s Cell Phone, Macbeth, ART, Anon, Fahrenheit 451, IMPROV!, 3 Musketeers, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Julius Caesar, Indian Summer, and Hamlet at Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, GA. At the Chance Theater, in Southern California: Shakespeare’s R and J, Big Love, Cabaret, Never in my Lifetime, Hot n’ Throbbing, and A Christmas Story. Noyes also has worked at South Coast Repertory fight directing such shows as Hitchcock Blonde, The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler, Ridiculous Fraud (with Sharon Ott,) Bach at Leipzig, Nothing Sacred and System Wonderland. At Shakespeare Santa Cruz: King Lear, As You Like It, and Pygmalion. He is a Certified Teacher in the art of Stage Combat through the Society of American Fight Directors and has been fight directing for 32 years. He received his BFA from Southern Oregon University and his MFA from the University of Alabama, both in Theater with an emphasis in performance. Noyes is the founder and CEO of ADVENTURE THEATER LLC, which is an interactive theatrical experience. He is also an avid gamer and Dungeon Master.

Jasmine O'Hea

O’Hea is an alumna of the South Coast Repertory Theatre Conservatory. She has served as production assistant and Assistant Music Director for multiple SCR student productions. As an actor, she has performed in nontraditional settings including correctional facilities and a Smithsonian affiliate, where she was a costumed historical interpreter. O'Shea has taught at Christian Youth Theater, the Young Singers of Orange County and the Newport Mesa Unified School District. She graduated from Wheaton College (Ill.), with a degree in communication and theater.

Tom Shelton

Shelton is an award-winning composer/lyricist as well as an acclaimed vocal coach and professional accompanist. He has appeared on many local Southern California stages, including South Coast Repertory (The Trip To Bountiful, In the Next Room, A Christmas Carol and many more), Pasadena Playhouse, Musical Theatre West (1776), La Mirada Theatre and Laguna Playhouse, as well as off-Broadway at Manhattan Punch Line. He has written on commission half a dozen murder-mystery scripts for The Gourmet Detective over its 19 year history. Shelton's other works, which include musical adaptations, original plays, screen and radio projects, have been produced and seen nationwide, most notably Caddie Woodlawn, the original musical, and The Boy Who Ruled the Moon And Sun for the San Diego Opera. Other original works include The Man Who Shot the Man Who Shot Jesse James, The Disciples Undoing, Darling, You Slay Me! and a long string of classic fairy tales musically adapted for the Barnsdall Theater in Hollywood.

Richard Soto

Soto is a professional actor, teaching artist, fight director and writer, who journeys where the stories need to be told. He has performed in theatres throughout Southern California, including San Diego Rep, The Old Globe, A Noise Within (where he was a Resident Artist for 16 years, performing in over 30 productions) and South Coast Repertory, which has been his creative home as an actor, stage manager and instructor for 30 years. His film and television credits include Believers, Firebirds, “The West Wing,” “Third Degree Burn” and “General ​Hospital.” In addition to being a faculty instructor with SCR’s Theatre Conservatory, Soto is an adjunct professor of stage combat at Vanguard University and a member of Breath of Fire Latina Theater Ensemble (Santa Ana). His acting classes are socially active environments where students of all ages and backgrounds engage their creativity, expression and empathy. As a fight director, he has choreographed stage fights around the SoCal region including SCR, Latino Theater Company, Teatro Meta, Los Angeles Theatre Center, American Coast Theater, and Actors Co-op, where he was recognized for his outstanding fight choreography. Soto's written work includes the Latinx superhero comic book, “The Legend of El Lobo”; and plays including The Black Book and Los Invisibles (The Invisible Ones, which address the inhumane treatment of immigrants) for Protest Plays Project’s #TheatreActionImmigration Initiative, and Freedom to Speak, I Leave You Hope, It Ain’t Perfect, and Something Worth Pursuing (for the We the People Theatre Action Program, Sacred Fools Theater Company). He is currently working on projects for theatre, television and film involving his passions of people, art, history, education, comic books and making the world a better place. He is a member of SAG-AFTRA, and Actors Equity Association.

Christopher Sullivan

Sullivan is an actor, improviser and educator. He has worked in improvisational theatre, street performance, clown theatre, puppetry and traditional stage work. Sullivan is a founding artist of Modjeska Playhouse, where he serves as co-artistic director. He is also the director of Modjeska Unscripted Theater, where he and a resident cast create and perform improvised plays in several genres as part of Modjeska Playhouse's Main Stage season. His numerous film and television credits include Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. He is a former company member of Los Angeles Theatersports and several resident theatre companies. A graduate of The American Academy of Dramatic Arts and SCR’s Acting Intensive Program, Sullivan has been teaching improvisation and acting in SCR’s Theatre Conservatory since 2007, and is currently a teaching artist at Orange County School of the Arts, where he teaches improvisation.

Mercy Vasquez

Vasquez is an actor, playwright and theatre instructor. In 2014, she had the pleasure of being assistant director on SCR's critically acclaimed production of The Long Road Today/El Largo Camino de Hoy. Her directorial work was recognized by the California Educational Theatrical Association in 2013, when her production of Our Town at Newport Harbor High School won the title of Best Play in Orange County. A strong believer in building community through theatre, Vasquez has participated in SCR's community outreach by teaching classes through its Neighborhood Conservatory program. She taught and worked with other community and charitable organizations such as Voices Unheard Educational Outreach, Virginia Avenue Theatre Project, Cornerstone Theatre Company, NOHO Theatre Company, Tayer Theatre Company and the St. Francis Center.

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