​​Theatre Conservatory Instructors

NOTE: Faculty member teaching schedules vary from year to year.​


Hisa Takakuwa

Hisa Takakuwa (Conservatory and Educational Programs Director) 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 and in ​14 seasons of A Christmas Carol and Education Touring Productions. She has directed past Players* productions of Metamorphoses, Hard Times, Cinderella, Mansfield Park, two productions of Into the Woods, Snow Angel, Seussical, Annie, Bliss, Peter Pan, David Copperfield and Mary Poppins. 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. She holds a BA from Smith College and an MFA in acting from the California Institute of the Arts. She was given an honorable mention by the Tony 's Excellence in Theatre Education Awards in 2019.

*ABOUT THE PLAYERS: Junior, Teen and Summer Players are performance ensembles comprised of Conservatory students who are selected through audition to join ensembles that rehearse and produce shows in either the Nicholas Studio or​—in the case of the Summer Players​—on the Julianne Argyros Stage.


Joe Alanes

Joe Alanes has been involved in South Coast Repertory for 15 years as instructor in the Kids and Teen Programs; director of the Junior Players (The Jungle Book, Riding the Wind: Story Plays from Old China and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court); and as an actor (Educational Touring Shows My Mom’s Dad, Badwater Blues and Power Play and Theatre for Young Audiences production of The Emperor’s New Clothes). He currently is ​director of theatre arts at Mater Dei High School, where ​he has been involved in productions, competitions and festivals and directed plays including Little Shop of Horrors and All Shook Up. He is co-artistic director of Modjeska Playhouse in Lake Forest, where he has directed The 39 Steps, First Night, The Odd Couple, and the young audiences shows Blue the Book-Loving Buccaneer and The Frog Prince. Alanes directed and acted in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged along with his fellow co-artistic directors, Josh Stecker and Chris Sullivan. Previously, he was a director and program supervisor for Kaiser Permanente Educational Theatre, where ​ he managed and directed the Drummin’ Up Peace program​ and the middle school program, Someone Like Me, among others. ​Alanes has toured the country with children’s theatre as an actor with Magic School Bus Live and as a stage manager and company manager for Wimzie’s House Live. He has appeared in productions from San Diego to New York City, with his favorite role being Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet. He is a member of the California Educational Theatre Association and a graduate of UCLA with a BA in ​theatre.


Donald Amerson

​Donald Amerson has an MFA in Drama and Theatre for Young Audiences from Eastern Michigan University. His career has spanned Los Angeles to New York where he began his career as an actor, writer and director. Currently he teaches at South Coast Repertory and Orange County School of the Arts. At OCSA he leadsThespian Troupes 6826/88726 (the theatre honor society) and teaches subjects including acting, improvisation and experimental theatre. In addition, to television appearances he is also proud of having a play produced in London, creating theatre curricula for several school and private coaching many successful students.


Matthew Arkin Matthew Arkin's Broadway credits include the revival of Neil Simon's;The Sunshine Boys with Jack Klugman and Tony Randall, as well as Mr. Simon's Laughter on the 23rd Floor (also national tour). He has numerous Off-Broadway and regional credits including his Drama Desk-nominated performance as Gabe in Donald Margulies’ Pulitzer Prize-winning Dinner with Friends, and he received acclaim for his portrayal of the 600-pound Charlie in the West Coast premiere of Samuel D. Hunter's The Whale, one of his many appearances at SCR. Films include indies Second Best, and Raising Flagg, as well as Death to Smoochy, Liar, Liar, North, and An Unmarried Woman. Television appearances include recurring roles on "Rescue Me," "100 Centre Street," "Third Watch" and "All My Children," and guest spots on "Aquarius," "NCIS," and "Switched at Birth," among many others. He is an adjunct professor at Dodge College of Film and Media Arts at Chapman University, has taught Technique and Scene Study at New York's world-renowned HB Studio, and now teaches privately in Los Angeles. He studied technique, scene study and Shakespeare with Uta Hagen, and studied as well with Austin Pendleton and Sheldon Patinkin.


Atkins Greg Atkins has written and/or created shows for DreamWorks Studios, Buena Vista, Sony, Fox, Universal Studios, Sea World, the Torch Ceremonies for the Atlanta and Salt Lake City Olympics, Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon, the Walt Disney Co., numerous corporate clients and was a consultant on "Whose Line is it Anyway." His book IMPROV! is in its 19th printing and his many published plays are produced around the world (see samuelfrench.com, bakersplays.com, and hitplays.com). As a director/performer, Atkins travels with an international team of improv actors to such exotic locals as Prague, Singapore, New Delhi and Irvine. Atkins has worked at South Coast Repertory as a playwright, director, actor or teacher for more than 30 years.


BurbanoDiana 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. She 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. Her 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. Learn more about her.


Jenna ColeJenna (Jan) Cole is an actor, educator and director who has taught in the SCR Conservatory since 2006, and appeared in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike and The Wind in the Willows. She has also taught at Geva Theatre Center, Pomona College, Chapman University, Point Park University and West Virginia University, teaching such courses as ​voice and​ speech, ​beginning and ​intermediate ​acting, ​text ​analysis, ​playwriting, ​acting Shakespeare, ​acting ​style, ​scene ​study, ​acting for the ​camera and ​advanced ​directing. She has directed As You Like It, Under Milkwood, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, La Ronde, The Beard of Avon, Blithe Spirit, Old Times and The Shape of Things. As a longtime ​resident ​artist at A Noise Within, Cole taught in the Youth Acting, Summer with Shakespeare, and Acting Internship Programs, and performed in such plays as The Way of the World, Hamlet, Twelfth Night, Hay Fever, The Three Sisters, The Seagull, King Lear, The Winter’s Tale, Much Ado About Nothing, Design for Living, A Flea in Her Ear, Tartuffe, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. She has also performed at the Pasadena Playhouse, the Mark Taper Forum, the Ahmanson Theatre, Shakespeare Orange County, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Sacramento Theatre Company, Geva Theatre Center, Arizona Theatre Company, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, the Pittsburgh Playhouse and PlayMakers Repertory Company, among others. On television, she has been seen in shows such as Picket Fences, The George Carlin Show, Pros and Cons, Her Last Chance, as well as in numerous commercials, voiceovers and DVD narration. ​Cole holds an MFA in ​acting from the American Conservatory Theater and is a certified ​associate ​teacher of Fitzmaurice Voicework.


Estella Garcia

Estela Garcia is a multi-disciplinary artist ​who specializes in physical performance styles such as mask, movement and puppetry, whether she is acting, writing and/or directing. She received her BA from UCLA in Chicana/o ​studies and her MFA for ensemble-based physical theatre from Dell'Arte International School of Physical Theatre. She also has studied mask, movement and sculpture in Mexico with El Laboratorio de las Mascaras. She has collaborated with Rogue Artists Ensemble on many of its award-winning shows as creator, act​or, assistant director, movement coach and teacher including Hyperbole: Origins, which was nominated for Production of the Year by the LA Weekly Awards. She has been a teaching artist for South Coast Repertory's Theatre Conservatory since 2013 and worked on SCR's Dialogue/Diálogos project​. She currently teaches for VoxBox Arts Collective’s Spanish Immersion Arts program, Center Theatre Group and Pasadena Playhouse. She has been a guest teacher at UCI, Cal State LA, Cal State Northridge, Cal State San Bernardino, Chapman University and the University of LaVerne; she was a lead teaching artist for Cirque at the Playhouse, a circus arts program for kids and adults at The Pasadena Playhouse. Garcia is in development for her play Remedios Varo: La Alquimista, which she wrote as part of L.A.’s Latino Theatre Alliance’s eight-month Writers Circle that had a reading at the Los Angeles Theatre Center. She is the community liaison for the “Community as Creators” program hosted by Center Theatre Group in collaboration with El Teatro Campesino, working with the community of Boyle Heights.


Sara Guerrero

Sara Guerrero is the founding artistic director of the award-winning, Santa Ana-based Breath of Fire Latina Theater Ensemble (breathoffire.org). She has been recognized by American Theatre Magazine in its "People to Watch" profile and by OC Weekly as “Best [Artistic] Director" and “Person of Interest.” A CalArts theatre alumna, Guerrero is a professional, versatile theatre artist whose mission is to model, share and create theatre-making opportunities for and with her community. She holds an extensive list of work and credits with many major institutes, organizations, universities, schools and communities. OC Weekly said, “Guerrero's theatrical vision isn't just a collaboration of artists; it's about collaborating with the community. American Theatre Magazine said, “Deeply feeling and deeply compassionate, Sara can’t help but make theatre that matters to her community. She is as smart as she is fierce. She reminds us of what is possible and why we must keep fighting.” Previously, she served as the community engagement director for SCR’s Dialogue/Diálogos Project (a two-year community theatre-making project) and was producing associate to the project’s production, El Largo Camino de Hoy / The Long Road Today by José Cruz González.


Emily Heebner was an understudy on Broadway in Noises Off and then played the role of Brooke on the play's first national tour with Carole Shelley. She has worked extensively with such regional theatres as SCR, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Huntington Theatre Company, Arizona Theatre Co., Virginia Stage Co., Capital Repertory, Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival and was a resident artist at A Noise Within for seven seasons. Her television guest spots include "Chicago Hope," "Picket Fences" and "The Equalizer," as well as many commercials. She holds an MFA from the American Conservatory Theatre and has earned several Drama-Logue Awards. Her directing work includes The Diviners and The Odd Duckling at Antelope Valley Performing Arts Theatre and Our Town and Wilde Tales for Isis Theatre Company in Idyllwild. She also teaches acting at Chapman University. Learn more about Heebner.


Kristina Leach

Kristina Leach has been working professionally in the theatre for more than 15 years. As an instructor at SCR, she has taught in the kids, teens and adult Theatre Conservatory programs. Once upon a time, she was a member of SCR's artistic team were she served as a ​literary ​associate for 7 seasons. An alumna of California State University, Fullerton, she is a playwright, actor and director. Her award-winning plays have been produced in New York and Los Angeles and in the U.K. Her other interests include her kid, her husband and their grumpy dog, Murray.
 


Brenda Kenworthy

Brenda 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. She 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.


Erin McNally

Erin McNally is an accomplished actor, vocalist and educator. She has been inspiring young actors at SCR for more than ​12 years including musical direction for the last nine 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 form CSU​-Fullerton, ​McNally has been a guest artist at the Hollywood Bowl for 13 years and has performed with such greats as Patti LuPone and Kristen Chenoweth. She has worked at the Pasadena Playhouse, Segerstrom Center for the Arts and the Honda Center and was the headliner for many Concert Under the Stars for CSUF. Her favorite roles have included Little Red in Into the Woods, Amy in Company and Rona in Spelling Bee. Her concert and cabaret credits are extensive, including two sold​-out solo concerts at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts. When she is not performing, ​McNally also shares her passion for acting and voice with students at Tri-School Theatre, St. Juliana School and Disneyland, where she is a teaching artist for Disney Performing Arts. Learn more about her.


Jasmine O'HeaJasmine 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. Jasmine has taught at Christian Youth Theater, the Young Singers of Orange County, and the Newport Mesa Unified School District. She graduated from Wheaton College, IL with a degree in Communication and Theater.


Jay Scully​Jay Scully spent three months in 2018 coaching the main cast of the feature film SuperFly for Sony Pictures, Joel Silver and Director X in Atlanta. He has cast over 50 feature films and television shows, and worked extensively on set as an acting teacher and coach. Recent coaching work includes Paradise Pictures, a pilot for USA Network, The Fosters (Freeform), as well as features for directors J.J. Abrams (Super 8), Judd Apatow (This Is 40), and James Wan (Furious 7). He has coached a number of Hollywood's top actors privately, including Frieda Pinto, Moran Atias, and the late Paul Walker, as well as NBC Sports Color Commentators. As a writer/director he most recently co-created and directed the pilot presentation Big & $ave. His feature script The Overview Effect is in development at Bad Robot. Jay received his M.F.A. in Acting from Brandeis University and was a founding cast member of Expanded Arts, a theatre company in New York.


SheltonTom 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. His 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. He is working on a new musical with Gary Davis about World War II heroine Claire Phillips, Highpockets.


SotoRichard Soto is an actor, teaching artist, writer and fight choreographer, whose varied career includes theatre, film, television, stunts, and comic books. He has performed at theatres throughout Southern California including South Coast Repertory, San Diego Repertory, The Old Globe and for 16 years as a resident artist at A Noise Within. His film, television and web credits include Believers, Third Degree Burn, Firebirds, “The West Wing” and “General Hospital,” as well as numerous commercials. Soto is an adjunct professor of stage combat at Vanguard University and has choreographed fights for theatres across southern California including Teatro Meta, American Coast Theater, Los Angeles Theatre Center and South Coast Repertory. He's the author of The Legend of El Lobo, about a Latino comic book artist with the power to become a shape-shifting Aztec warrior who battles the gangs of East L.A. for the salvation of the barrio, also to be produced as a web series/feature film. Soto believes being a constant student of life to be the basis of a good artist and teacher, so he's eagerly working on many other projects involving his passions of theatre, art, film, education and people. He is a member of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Actors and of Actors Equity Association. Learn more about him. Follow him on Facebook.


SullivanChristopher 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 theater companies. A graduate of The American Academy of Dramatic Arts and SCR’s Acting Intensive Program, he has taught 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. Learn more about him.


Mercy Vasquez

Mercy 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 theat​re, she 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.