• Study With the Best in Our Adult Acting Classes

     | Oct 23, 2020
    Tom Shelton Class
    Teacher Tom Shelton, top row second from left, works with his Musical Theatre students.

    All year round, South Coast Repertory’s Theatre Conservatory offers acting classes for adults (as well as kids and teens!). Our online instruction offers a safe and welcoming  environment for students to ​learn and deepen their understanding of the craft of acting, all while developing important life skills. Students may select from various classes including basic and intermediate acting, musical theatre, playwriting, acting for the camera, ​improv and more. All these classes are taught by professional teaching artists who are experts in their craft and in the business of professional theatre. Interested in taking an acting class? Find out more about what we offer. Read all about our stellar faculty below.


    Diana Burbano
    She is a Colombian immigrant, a playwright, an Equity actor and a teaching artist at South Coast Repertory and Breath of Fire Latina Theatre Ensemble. Her plays include Sapience (Latinx Play Festival, San Diego Repertory Theatre, 2020), Ghosts of Bogota (Rella Lossy Award-winner, 2019, under commission with Alter Theatre), Policarpa (Living Room Series, The Blank Theatre, 2018; Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Black Swan Lab, 2017), Fabulous Monsters (Latinx Play Festival, San Diego Repertory Theatre, 2017), Caliban’s Island (Headwaters New Play Festival, 2017) and Linda (English and Spanish), which has been performed around the globe. She is part of Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Latinx Play Project cohort and is in Center Theatre Group’s Writers’ Workshop. She is a member and ambassador of the Dramatists Guild. As an actor, she was most recently seen at SCR as Amalia Morales/ Doña Lola in José Cruz González’s American Mariachi (2019), originated the roles of Holo-1 in of Labors of Hercules (Laguna Playhouse) and Thumb in Imagine and was Ana Guerrero in José Cruz González’s Long Road Today/El Largo Camino de Hoy (SCR). She portrayed Viv the punk in the cult musical film The Isle of Lesbos .  Learn more about Burbano in this SCR blog story

    Jenna Cole

    Jan Cole
    Fundamentals of Acting
    Intermediate Acting
    She is an actor, educator and director who has taught in SCR’s Theatre Conservatory since 2006. Cole appeared most recently at SCR in Christopher Durand’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike and in the Theatre for Young Audiences family series show, The Wind in the Willows . She currently teaches acting at Orange County School of the Arts and has also taught at Geva Theatre Center, Pomona College, Chapman University, Point Park University and West Virginia University; her teaching expertise includes voice and speech, beginning and intermediate acting, text analysis, playwriting, acting Shakespeare, acting style, scene study, acting for the camera and advanced directing. As a director, she has helmed productions of 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 Youth Acting, Summer With Shakespeare and Acting Internship programs; she also performed in numerous plays including 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 and Tartuffe , as well as A Midsummer Night’s Dream with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. She has performed at the Pasadena Playhouse, Mark Taper Forum, Ahmanson Theatre, Shakespeare Orange County, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Sacramento Theatre Company, Geva Theatre Center, Arizona Theatre Company, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, 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” and “Her Last Chance,” along with 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.

    Michael Matthys

    Michael Matthys
    Advanced Scene Study and Characterization
    He has been teaching acting for the past 12 years at institutions including San Diego State University, the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, the Stella Adler Academy and the Actor's Studio of Orange County. He specializes in a hybrid approach of Stanislavski and Meisner, known as Seven Pillars, as well as being a Viewpoints expert and Designated Linklater Teacher. He began his professional career as a member of the Guthrie Theater (Minneapolis, Minn.), straight out of graduate school, and has never looked back. Among the his leading roles on stage are Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, Treplev in The Sea Gull, Treves in The Elephant Man, Lopakhin in The Cherry Orchard, Alan in Equus, Levin in Anna Karenina and, most recently, Mike Dillon in Good People. On TV, he is most famous for portraying Dr. Kent on "Grey's Anatomy." Other TV appearances include "Buffy," "Save by the Bell: The New Class" and "Profiler."  He has appeared in several feature films including Full Blast, Destiny Turns on the Radio, BASEketball, and Nightwatch and the House of Deadly Secrets (both on Netflix). His latest feature film endeavor, Stan the Man, is slated to be released in 2020; in it, he plays a Russian mob henchman named Dimitri. Check out michaelmatthys.com for more.

    Jay Scully

    Jay Scully
    Acting for the Camera
    He spent three months in 2018 coaching the main cast of the feature film SuperFly for Sony Pictures, Joel Silver and Director X in Atlanta. Scully has cast more than 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 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. Learn more about Scully in this SCR blog story


    Tom Shelton
    Musical Theatre
    He is an award-winning composer/lyricist as well as an acclaimed vocal coach and professional accompanist. Shelton 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 others), 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. His 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’s working on the musical Highpockets, with Gary Davis, about World War II heroine Claire Phillips.


    Richard Soto
    Basic Acting Skills
    He is a professional actor, teaching artist, fight director and writer, who journeys where the stories need to be told. Soto 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 more than 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. His 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 currently is 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.

    Winter acting classes for adults get underway beginning Jan. 25, 2021 and run through March 17, 2021. Learn more.

  • The Story Behind the Photo: "Gem of the Ocean"

    Tania Thompson
     | Oct 22, 2020
    Gem of the Ocean
    L. Scott Caldwell, Shinelle Azoroh, Matt Orduña and Preston Butler III in​ August Wilson's Gem of the Ocean. Photo by Jordan Kubat.

    About Gem of the Ocean

    It’s 1904. Many former slaves and descendants venturing north find themselves at Aunt Ester’s door in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. A renowned cleanser of souls claiming to be 285 years old, Ester provides solace, advice and healing. Citizen Barlow, racked with guilt over letting another man take the rap for of his crimes, desperately wants to be pure again. And Aunt Ester may be his only hope. A mystical story of freedom, justice and redemption from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Fences.

    Preston Butler III was among seven actors who brought August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean to life on the Segerstrom Stage in 2017. The play was special to him on many levels. He selected the photo above as an important moment from the play.

    What moment does this depict?

    Preston Butler III: This moment depicts Aunt Ester describing in detail the "City of Bones" to an amazed Citizen Barlow using a quilt as an abstract map.

    How did you work to make this moment happen?

    PB: Truthfully, this was one of the few moments in the play where all I actually did was, literally, sit and listen! I think that we tried me standing at one point, but it just felt right to center both the illustrations of the quilt and the force of Aunt Ester's evocation.

    What’s the power about this moment?

    PB: L. Scott Caldwell as Aunt Ester IS the power of this moment. I can't begin to tell you how incredible she is as a performer and how much I was in awe each night at this particular moment! Everything about this moment is heightened because Aunt Ester is educating Citizen Barlow about his African ancestry, the Middle Passage, and power of those who died in transport. It is a rollercoaster of intensity, passion and spirituality. The interesting duality of the moment is that, just as Citizen Barlow was forced to reflect on the treacherous voyage of enslaved African peoples, I, too, as Preston was forced to confront this complex and chilling history of our country. I think therein lies the genius and power of August Wilson's work: to put characters onstage from times past in order to gain new perspectives of the present.

    Tell us about Citizen Barlow, the character you portrayed.

    PB: The journey of Citizen Barlow is one of purpose and discovery. Playwright August Wilson has him grapple with the complexity of being an American—What is freedom? What does it mean to be a citizen? Oddly enough,​ it's more than a century later [than the story is set] and I often find myself engaging similar questions. Citizen chooses to become a liberator for the people. Likewise, I believe I chose the same path when I decided to become an artist. These are defining times for America. Much like the characters in the play, we have an opportunity and responsibility to progress the ideas of citizenship and freedom for generations to come.

    Anything else you’d like to say about the production?

    PB: Fun fact: this production was my first professional gig! I am eternally grateful to Director Kent Gash, Casting Director Jo​anne DeNaut and the SCR team for trusting me with such a precious part in a stellar cast that included not one but TWO Tony Award-winners [L. Scott Caldwell and Cleavant Derricks]!

  • The Story Behind the Photo: "A Doll’s House, Part 2"

    Tania Thompson
     | Oct 16, 2020
    A Doll's House
    Caption: Shannon Cochran in A Doll’s House, Part 2 by Lucas Hnath (2017). Photo by Debora Robinson.

    About A Doll’s House, Part 2

    The story follows Nora, who in the final scene of Ibsen’s classic A Doll’s House makes the shocking decision to leave her husband and children. A door slams. The curtain falls on a stunned audience. Playwright Lucas Hnath continues Nora’s story in this intriguing play with a decidedly modern perspective. Fifteen years have passed when there’s a knock on that same door. Why is Nora back—and what will her return mean to those she left behind?

    Director Shelley Butler is a veteran of nearly a dozen productions at South Coast Repertory—both in the main play series and in the Theatre for Young Audiences family series. In 2017, she helmed the world premiere of the SCR-commissioned A Doll’s House, Part 2 by Lucas Hnath. The Los Angeles Times lauded the show as a “quietly gripping production." Butler selected the photo above as an important moment from the play.

    What moment does this depict?

    Shelley Butler: This is the moment Nora [portrayed by Shannon Cochran] first returns and walks back through the door she slammed so famously all those years ago. There’s perhaps a wave of nostalgia and yet distance from a life she can no longer imagine herself inhabiting. Stronger than she was, having more trust and belief in herself but Nora still lacks power in society. She needs something from her husband, not love, not closure, but something legal that only he can give her—even though she made her way on her own—she cannot circumvent the law without her husband’s signature… and so she must return.

    How did you work to make this moment happen?

    SB: We wanted to amplify all that the brilliant Shannon Cochran was able to bring to this moment and pull the audience even closer—allowing them to share the breadth of her anticipation, apprehension, hopes and desires—so it felt like they were inside her mind or breathing with her. We accomplished this quite simply by irising in on Nora, dimming down on the room with its impossibly tall walls and casting it largely into silhouette and letting the bright white backdrop symbolize the larger world beyond. That contrast between outside and in became a true liminal space with Nora literally at the threshold between what was and what may come next.

    What’s the power about this moment?

    SB: This moment was only a flash, but there was a true synergy between Shannon, this extraordinary design team and myself. Sara Ryung Clement’s striking clothing clearly shows Nora as a woman who has now traveled beyond this home and has returned with her own armor. Takeshi Kata & Se Hyun Oh’s room design created a forum for ideas and space for a series of boxing matches to unfold. Tom Ontiveros' lighting carved out the flash itself. And while you can’t hear it, Cricket S Myers’ sound design here, a literal breath, almost a gasp, proved both arresting and poignant.

  • The Story Behind the Photo: "Venus in Fur"

     | Oct 09, 2020
    Venus in Fur
    Graham Hamilton and Jaimi Paige in​ SCR's production of Venus in Fur (2014). Photo by Debora Robinson.

    About Venus in Fur

    Auditions are over for the day, and Thomas still hasn’t found the perfect actress for his adaptation of a 19th-century erotic novel. Vanda stumbles into the bare rehearsal studio, soaking wet and hours late. Before he can stop her, she strips down to lingerie, wiggles into a white period dress and mysteriously becomes his elusive leading lady. But will the power play for sexual dominance be limited to the stage?

    Director Casey Stangl helmed South Coast Repertory’s production of David Ives’ Venus in Fur in 2014—a two-actor show. The Los Angeles Times said “the most delicious pleasure … comes from watching [the] actors dazzle us in a psycho-sexual pas de deux expertly choreographed for the dramatic stage.” Stangl selected the photo above as an important moment from the play

    What does this moment depict?

    Casey Stangl: In this moment, Thomas still thinks he is in control of the audition and is simply playing along with Vanda's role playing. Little does he know what Vanda has in store for him. Inch by inch, she uses his own hubris to trap him.

    How did you work to make this moment happen?

    CS: The actors, Graham Hamilton (as Thomas) and Jaimi Paige (Vanda) had previously worked together and had an incredible amount of trust and willingness to be vulnerable with each other. They were game to try anything. We did a lot of experimenting to both illustrate and obfuscate the power dynamics. In this photo, Graham is in the classic power position—standing above her, taking the action of kissing her hand, while Jaimi is prone and allowing the action to happen. So visually, he is in charge; but, in fact, she is about to turn the tables on him.

    Anything else you’d like to say about the photo or the production

    CS: YES! The shadows on the wall behind the actors. That show was my first time working with lighting designer Elizabeth Harper and she has become one of my go-to designers. The idea of using a lot of shadows was key to our visual plan, which culminated near the end in a literal giant shadow of Vanda on the walls when she stood on the table.

  • It Can't Happen Here

    John Glore
     | Oct 05, 2020
    It Can't Happen Here

    Beginning on Oct. 13, South Coast Repertory community members will have the opportunity to hear a radio play based on Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel, It Can’t Happen Here, adapted by Tony Taccone and Bennett S. Cohen, directed by Lisa Peterson and starring Academy Award nominee David Strathairn. The project, made possible through a partnership with Berkeley Repertory Theatre, ;and more than 75 other theatres nationwide, will air in four segments via YouTube. All four half-hour segments of the radio drama (as well as a post-performance Q&A with the creative team) will begin airing on Oct. 13 and will be available for listening until Nov. 8.

    From Berkeley Rep’s publicity for the production: “Written in 1935 during the rise of fascism in Europe, writer Sinclair Lewis’ darkly satirical novel, It Can’t Happen Here follows the ascent of a demagogue who becomes president of the United States by promising to return the country to greatness.

    In 2016, Berkeley Rep unveiled a new stage adaptation of Lewis’s prescient novel; one week after that production ended, the presidential election roiled our nation. Now, Berkeley Repertory Theatre reprises that production with the same director and much of the original cast, but this time as a radio play in four episodes​, just in time for the 2020 presidential election. The audio drama is being offered free to organizations across the country. Berkeley Rep intends for the project to encourage dialogue and motivate citizens to exercise their civic power and vote.”

    Sinclair Lewis
    Sinclair Lewis in 1944.

    Sinclair Lewis established himself as one of the preeminent American writers of the first half of the 20th century when Main Street, a realistic novel about small-town life, took the country by storm in 1920. The novel’s phenomenal success (more than 2 million copies sold in the first few years after its publication) propelled Lewis to literary stardom and made him a rich man. Over the next 10 years he went on to write such enduring novels as Babbitt, Arrowsmith (Pulitzer Prize, 1925), Elmer Gantry and Dodsworth, leading to his being awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1930.

    Lewis’s writing generally offers a critical view of capitalism, materialism and unbridled ambition as exemplified in the lives of men from various strata of Middle American society—from a middle-class businessman (Babbitt) to a doctor and medical scientist (Arrowsmith) to a hypocritical evangelist (Elmer Gantry) to a prosperous automotive tycoon (Dodsworth).

    While his novels typically adopt a satirical tone, they feature nuanced portrayals of flawed men who live lives of privilege but succumb to the temptations their privilege inevitably brings with it.

    With It Can’t Happen Here, Lewis turned his focus to matters of state, and specifically to currents of fascism and demagoguery in American politics during the 1930s, when the Great Depression and political volatility in Europe and the U.S. weighed heavily on the minds of Americans. Critics and historians often cite the career of Huey P. Long as a likely inspiration for Lewis’s story of “Buzz” Windrip, a power-hungry Senator who sets out to ride a populist program and his own personal charisma to the presidency. Long (known as “The Kingfish”) was a fixture of Louisiana politics, a Democratic governor and then senator who exploited economic and class divisions to gain and consolidate power. Although his stance was generally progressive, Long became an outspoken critic of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal policies and, with his populist “Share Our Wealth” platform, he was beginning a campaign against FDR for the 1936 election when he was assassinated—just before It Can’t Happen Here was published.

    SCR’s ties to Berkeley Rep go back many years and remain strong. In fact, Tony Taccone, co-adaptor of the radio play and Berkeley Rep’s artistic director until last year, is currently working with SCR artistic director David Ivers on a new-play project that will appear soon at SCR, either on stage or on SCR’s virtual platform. And Lisa Peterson, director of It Can’t Happen Here, has been a frequent SCR collaborator; most recently Peterson staged Julia Cho’s Aubergine on the Segerstrom Stage​ (2019) and, the year before, directed Culture Clash Still in America in the Julianne Argyros Stage.