Meet Our Faculty
MEG HEIMSTEAD (Director of Education) has been with American Stage for 7 years, serving as both the Director of Education and working in the community as a teaching artist, specializing in reaching at-risk/underserved populations. She has directed 4 American Stage School Tour productions and launched new educational programming for both children and adults, strengthening the Education Department and expanding its reach throughout the community. Ms. Heimstead is a member of the National Guild for Community Arts Education and serves on the Arts Magnet Advisory Board for Pinellas County Schools. She also serves as an adjudicator for the Florida State Thespian Festival at both the regional and state levels. Her department’s work has been honored by the St. Petersburg Mayor at the Top Apple Awards for the past 4 years and the education department was awarded the 2012 Community Service Award from the Pinellas Association of Retarded Citizens. As an actress, she has worked with the California Shakespeare Festival in Berkley, CA, Summer Repertory Theatre in Santa Rosa, CA, PlayMakers Repertory Theatre in Chapel Hill, NC, The Gorilla Theatre and Jobsite Theater in Tampa, freefall Theatre, and The Backlot Theater in Sarasota. At American Stage, Meg was last seen as Karen in August: Osage County. Ms. Heimstead is the founder and Managing Director for A Simple Theatre, St. Petersburg’s newest professional theatre. She holds a BFA in Theatre Performance from the University of Evansville in Evansville, IN. She also attended the Professional Actor Training Program at University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.
KATIE CASTONGUAY (Teaching Artist) is an Eckerd College graduate with a B.A. in Theatre Arts. She has been a teaching artist at American Stage since 2007 and has performed in three of American Stage's School Tour productions; Sideways Stories from Wayside School, Charlotte's Web, and The Wind in the Willows. Recent acting credits include Fahrenheit 451 and Hay Fever at Jobsite Theatre, Biloxi Blues at Stageworks and Musings of a Postmodern Romantic with Tampa Repertory Theatre.
DEDEE ALECCIA (Lecturer for the Mainstage Lecture Series) Professor Emerita Dedee Aleccia received her Bachelor’s degree in English from Rosary Hill College and her two Masters’ degrees (in English and Art History) from SUNY Binghamton. For her Master’s degree in Art History, Dedee conducted on-site research on the Thomas Becket window cycle at Canterbury Cathedral in England. Dedee has held professorships at Broome Community College and Montgomery College and has served as adjunct professor at SUNY Binghamton, the University of Baltimore, and Eckerd College. Among the many literature subjects she has taught are world literature, British literature, the Bible as Literature, 19th century literature, modern drama, and Shakespeare. In art history she has taught such subjects as world art, Greco-Roman art, medieval art, Renaissance art, and 19th century art. She has served as director of Montgomery College’s Honors Program and has taught several honors courses. Awarded the opportunity to serve as a Smithsonian Fellow, she researched images of labor in 19th century art.
JEAN E. CALANDRA (Teaching Artist) started her professional career on stage as an Equity actor and singer with the St. Louis Municipal Opera Company. She received her BFA in Theatre and Music, and her MA in Theatre and Speech from the University of Nebraska. Her teaching experience includes assignments at the University of Regensburg in Germany; Middlesex University in London, where she taught the Drama Diploma Course offered jointly by Middlesex and the Royal Academy of Music and Drama; adjunct instructor at USF in the Communications Department and the School of Theatre and Dance; and drama/speech instruction in private and public schools in the Tampa Bay area. In addition to a long and diverse career as an Equity actor Jean has participated in professional workshops led by Robert Cole (Michael Chekov Technique), Augusto Boal (Forum Theatre), Peggy Loft (Voice for the Professional Actor), and Marge Barstow (Alexander Technique), which has enhanced her scope and practice as a performance teacher for students of all ages.
GILES DAVIES (Teaching Artist) completed his M.F.A. at The Ohio State University. He has taught workshops, residencies and classes for all ages and experience levels. He was an Ohio Arts Council resident teaching artist for 7 years and adjunct professor at The University of Cincinnati, College Conservatory of Music and Drama for 6 years. He specializes in teaching Shakespeare, movement, and acting. He has had the privilege of studying with Marcel Marceau, The SITI Co., Richard Schechner, The Wooster Group, Kevin Kling, and Danny Hoch, among others. He initiated a High School age actor training program at The Cincinnati Shakespeare Co., where he worked full time as an ensemble member for 9 years (performing in over 45 productions on their stage). In the Tampa area he has taught with The Patel Conservatory, The American Stage summer programs, Hillsborough Community College, workshops at The Gorilla Theatre and independent sessions with various local artists and students. As an actor, Giles has worked throughout the country. Most recent Tampa Bay credits include A Mid Summer Night’s Dream (freeFall Theatre), Death and the Maiden (A Simple Theatre) and November (American Stage.)
THOMAS D. GUTHRIE (Teaching Artist) holds a B.A. in Music Education from Miami University – Oxford, OH and a M.A. in Secondary Education/Behavior Psychology from Xavier University - Cincinnati, OH. Thomas retired to St. Petersburg after a lengthy career teaching music (choral, piano, guitar, band), directing/performing theater as well as serving as a full time church organist for 22 years. He has been recognized by "Who's Who" Among America's Music Teachers 5 times and prior to moving to St. Petersburg in 2009, Thomas taught ‘Music Theatre Voice’ and ‘Songs & Scenes’ at the Preparatory Department of the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. He plays the French horn, pipe organ, keyboard and sings. Thomas spent nearly two years as a freelance Music Director while residing in New York City. He has directed, produced, and musically directed over 100 productions. Thomas has worked with many TV and Theater personalities such as Barry Williams, Gary Sandy, Jennifer Mills, Lorna Luft, Ed Ames, Ann Miller, John Raitt, Pam Dawber, and Joyce Dewitt to name a few. Since moving to St. Petersburg, Thomas has certainly not slowed down. He has directed, accompanied, and/or overseen 16 productions in the past 4 years, accompanied for The Broadway Theatre Project, Three Broadway Tenors, Five Broadway Divas, and several local schools as well as served as an adjudicator for the Florida State Thespian Conference. He coaches and teaches private voice from his home studio.
VIRGINIA HARDT (Teaching Artist) began her career in the entertainment industry working in the Story Department at Creative Artists Agency in Los Angeles. She then worked as a Casting Assistant on such films as Face/Off and Austin Powers International Man of Mystery under Mindy Marin. While living in Los Angeles, Virginia took in a show at the Groundlings Theater and fell head over heels for the art of improvisation. She enrolled in classes at the Groundings School and graduated from the Second City Conservatory Program. She has studied under Dick Schaal (founding member of Second City), David Razowsky, Gary Austin, Karen Maruyama, Holly Wortell and Mike Ross. She is a former member of the Second City LA long form group Gonzalez Arrives. Virginia holds a degree in Sociology from Florida State University as well as Exceptional Student Education from St. Petersburg College. She is currently a Reading Intervention teacher at Gulfport Elementary. She is overjoyed to be joining the teaching staff at American Stage, teaching Improvisation the Young Actors.
GAVIN HAWK (Teaching Artist) may be known to American Stage audiences as one half of Hawk and Wayne, who have performed their long-form improv showsThe Dumb Show and 321 as part of First Sunday Improv in the cabaret space for the past two years. Other acting credits include Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (freeFall Theatre), Hate Mail (The Studio@620),Circumference of a Squirrel (The Studio@620), Love, Bukowski(California Repertory Company), Cider House Rules: Parts I & II (California Repertory Company), Gross Indecency (Huntington Theatre), Over the Tavern II: King O' The Moon (Studio Arena/Pittsburgh Public), and Refuge (Soho Repertory). Recently he formed his own non-profit theatre company called A Simple Theatre, and directed their inaugural production of Death and the Maiden at The Studio@620 in early September. In addition to acting and directing, he is an Assistant Professor of Theatre at Eckerd College. He holds a Diploma in Acting from The Juilliard School Drama Division, and an M.F.A. in Acting/Directing from California State University, Long Beach. He is a proud member of the Actors Equity Association.
MOLLY HEALY (Teaching Artist) is a University of South Florida alumnus with degrees in Theater Performance and History. This is Molly's first year teaching with American Stage where she has run classes in improvisation for children, acting at PARC and assisted in one of the high school playwriting classes. Previously, she worked with Tampa Creative Camps as a teacher, stage manager, and director. As an actress, Molly has appeared in several productions in the Tampa area including Othello, R.U.R and The Waiting Room. She also toured many local elementary schools in this year’s American Stage’s School Tour production of Rembrandt Takes a Walk.
JESSICA ROSE KERNER (Teaching Artist) is thrilled to begin teaching at American Stage as she makes her transition to Florida from New York City. She has served as faculty at Broadway Dance Center, New York Film Academy, Gateway Playhouse, Front and Center for Performing Arts and Applause NYC. As an actress, Jessica has appeared on 30 Rock, One Life to Live, 3 Lbs., Rubicon and Gossip Girl. She has also performed Off-Broadway and in numerous play readings and festivals. Some favorite shows include, The Lunar Academy, Savage in Limbo, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Room Service and Sweet Charity. Jessica has danced in and choreographed musicals, music videos, commercials, live concerts and at Madison Square Garden on the NY Titans Dance Team. As a director/choreographer some of her favorite credits include The Witching Hour, Godspell, and Seussical. Jessica holds her B.A. in Theatre Arts from SUNY New Paltz. She also attended the Professional Performing Arts School, CAP21, and The Actor’s Institute of New York City where she continues to study with master teacher, Allen Schoer. You can find out more about Jessica at jessicarosekerner.com
TIA JEMISON (Teaching Artist) is thrilled to celebrate her second year as a teaching artist with American Stage. She graduated from USF with degrees in Psychology and Theatre Performance. Credits include the Straz Centers ‘S Wonderful and USF’s; 100 Saints You Should Know and Hair, The Amen Corner (HCC Ybor). She directed the 2010 USF Honors production of Animals and Plant, which was also remounted at the Silver Meteor Gallery. She has appeared in The Young Dramatists Project (Gorilla Theatre); Colored Museum, As Bees in Honey Drown, and A Lesson Before Dying (all at Stageworks). Jobsite audiences have seen her in Race, Einstein’s Dreams, and Taming of the Shrew. American Stage credits include Seven Guitars, August: Osage County and A Very Merry Children’s Scientology Pageant. Tia is also a part of Talitha Anyabwele’s Black Girl Speaks. Outside of working as an actress in the Tampa Bay area, Tia is a professional vocalist, having toured with Ted Shumate and many other world class musicians.
THOMAS LIND (Teaching Artist) is currently attending The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, P.A. working towards a B.F.A in Acting. New to the Tampa Bay area, Thomas is thrilled to expand his career and share his knowledge with children and peers alike. Previous acting credits include City of Angels, Anything Goes, and Aida. This is Thomas’ second year teaching with American Stage.
LOGAN MECKLENBURG (Teaching Artist) has over two decades of experience in the arts. In 2002, she earned her BFA from University of the Arts. She has since performed on stage and television, directed theatrical events, and completed an internship with the prestigious Mike Lemon Casting company.
TODD OLSON (Artistic Director/Teaching Artist) is in his 9th season as the Artistic Director at American Stage Theatre Company. He has directed over 120 plays, musicals, and operas, including My Way, A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra, (which he co-created) at the Actor's Theatre of Louisville. For American Stage Todd has directed several plays which have been recognized by Creative Loafing as “Best of the Bay” Awards for “Top-10 Productions of the Year” and “Best Director,” including Stones in His Pockets, A Moon for the Misbegotten, Much Ado About Nothing, and Anna in the Tropics. Other American Stage credits include Suddenly Last Summer, Crowns, Three Days of Rain, The Exonerated, I Am My Own Wife, Coronado, The Pirates of Penzance, Betrayal, Dinner with Friends, This Wonderful Life, and The Seafarer. Recent guest directing credits include Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte for St. Petersburg Opera, The Mystery of Irma Vep at Wellfleet Harbor Actor’s Theatre on Cape Cod, and Dracula for Arkansas Shakespeare Festival. Todd received his M.F.A. from The University of North Carolina, and is a graduate from the Institute for Advanced Theatre Training at Harvard. He was a Teaching Fellow at Harvard, and has taught classes at Vanderbilt, Boston University, University of North Carolina, among others colleges.
BETTY-JANE PARKS (Teaching Artist) has been a teaching artist with American Stage since the Fall of 2006 and in that time she has taught every summer at camp. At camp, her attention focuses on the theatre education of Kindergarten through 2nd grade, exciting kids at an early age about the performing and creative arts. During the school year, Betty-Jane instructs playwriting outreach classes at various middle schools and Shakespeare workshops and drama clubs at middle and elementary schools. Betty-Jane has also been a lead instructor at the American Stage Drama Class at PARC for three and a half years, providing enrichment through theatre performance to developmentally disabled adults. A graduate of Eckerd College in St Petersburg, Betty-Jane is also a professional actor in the Tampa Bay area. She has been seen at American Stage in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Barefoot in the Park, and the SATP Productions of A Wizard of Oz and Blown by the Wind. Other recent area productions include, Much Ado About Nothing (Jobsite Theatre), And Then There Were None (Hat Trick Theatre Productions), Loves Labours Lost (St. Pete Shakespeare). Betty-Jane is also a visual artist, a writer and illustrator of children’s stories, and dabbler in playwriting.
LISA POWERS (Teaching Artist) is a theatre artist and educator, teaching acting and directing at the college and high school levels for many years. In Florida, she has taught at University of South Florida’s School of Theatre and Dance and St. Petersburg College’s new Department of Theatre. While residing in New York City, she taught drama at York Preparatory School in Manhattan. She not only teaches acting and directing, but also works steadily as an actor, appearing recently at American Stage, freeFall Theatre, and Stageworks. She has worked several seasons at The Shakespeare Festival of New Jersey, and holds a M.A. in Drama Therapy from New York University. She is Co-Director of The ACT Project, a drama therapy group for children and teens diagnosed on the autism spectrum, and will be the school Drama Therapist for The Focus Academy, a charter high school for students diagnosed on the spectrum, and other developmental disabilities, opening in August.
SOOLAF RASHEID (Teaching Artist) is a graduate of the University of South Florida holding a B.A. in Theatre Arts. She recently obtained her Education Certification in Florida. Soolaf has worked as a teaching artist for American Stage since 2007. She has also taught acting for other organizations including the Youth Arts Corps, ACT UP, and the Patel Conservatory. Soolaf also works regularly in the theatre as an actor, stage manager, and as a touring artist. She currently works at Montessori Preparatory in Tampa.
JAMES RAYFIELD (Teaching Artist) has been a theatre educator for over thirty years. Most recently he taught at Blake High School for the Arts and at the Straz Center’s Patel Conservatory. He holds an MFA in theatre from the University of Texas in Austin and studied acting in Los Angeles with Viola Spolin. He was selected as Theatre Teacher of the Year by the Florida Association of Theatre Educators in 1992 and Best Local Playwright by Creative Loafing in 1994. He has directed for Gorilla Theatre, Stageworks, Revolve Theatre, The Loft, Playmakers, School of Night, and Blue Scarf Collective. He also directed I Am a Cuban Sandwich which has been frequently seen at The American Stage. As an actor, he most recently appeared in Oliver Parker at the Silver Meteor Gallery and is in Time Keeper, a web series now it is second season.
JERMAINE THORNTON (Teaching Artist) began his dance training and teaching with lyrical jazz & ballet at Port Saint Lucie High School during his senior year of high school. After graduation, Jermaine received a dance scholarship to Indian River Community College (IRCC) in Fort Pierce Fl. While studying at IRCC, Jermaine taught at the Children’s Performing Arts Academy. In addition to teaching, Jermaine also assisted several of the junior musicals performed by academy students. After receiving an Associate in Arts degree from IRCC, Jermaine completed his undergraduate degree at USF. Upon arriving at USF, Jermaine has had the opportunity to perform in numerous modern and ballet performances choreographed by the faculty as well as guest choreographers, such as Bill T. Jones and Doug Varone. During his studies at USF, Jermaine had the privilege of teaching with many schools and organizations, such as Cirque Du Soliel’s, touring company show, Allegeria, Act up! Summer Vocal Arts Camp, and American Stage’s Summer Camp. In addition to teaching, Jermaine has had the privilege of traveling and performing internationally with USF to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland. Most recently, Jermaine has performed with the Sarasota Opera Company in their Production of The Pearl Fishers. Jermaine currently dances and teaches professionally with Florida Dance Theatre, Polk County’s Professional Dance Company and Training Academy.
RICKY WAYNE (Teaching Artist) was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. Ricky trained at American Conservatory Theatre in theatre and acting and at The Groundlings in Los Angeles in improvisation and sketch comedy writing for many years. American Stage audiences might remember him as Carl, the cellist, from Opus. Also at American Stage, he is in his fourth season of performing, as Hawk and Wayne, a long form improv show with Gavin Hawk (The Dumb Show, 321, The Memory). Their new show, News of the Weird, based on Chuck Sheperd’s nationally syndicated column in Creative Loafing, premieres in September, 2012 and will continue the first Sunday of every month through 2013. Other theater credits include A Simple Theatre’s Congratulations, Joe!, Speed-the-Plow, On Tidy Endings, Glengarry Glen Ross, Noises Off!, The Foreigner and Come Blow Your Horn. Some film credits include Barefoot, An Act of God, Free Ride, Sucker, Real Steel, Love and Honor and SWAT: Firefight. Some television credits: Army Wives, Burn Notice, The Glades, Charlie’s Angels and currently in a recurring role in the HBO series, Treme, as defense attorney Paul Murphy. He is a member of SAG-AFTRA and Actors’ Equity Association.
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