Meet Our Faculty
MEG HEIMSTEAD (Director of Education) has been with American Stage for 8 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 5 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. Most recently, her department’s work was honored with the 2014 WEDU Be More Knowledgeable Award. Under Ms. Heimstead's leadership, the Education department has also been honored by the St. Petersburg Mayor at the Top Apple Awards (now the St. Pete's Promise Awards) for the past 5 years and the 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 former 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.
VERONICA MATTHEWS (Education Associate) began acting and volunteering with American Stage at age 11. She immersed herself in all functions of the theatre, both on-stage and off, including technical stage support, volunteer house manager, and liaison with Very Special Arts of Florida: the State Organization on Arts and Disability. Ms. Matthews was awarded the 2001 Bill Shepard Memorial Intern of the Year Award for her dedication to establishing a hearing assistance system in the theater. She went on to earn a B.A. in English Literature and a M.L.A. in English, both at University of South Florida, St. Petersburg. Ms. Matthews received academic merit scholarships, studied Shakespeare at Cambridge College in England, and participated in the Honors College throughout her undergraduate career. She was a nominee for the Anita Cutting Award for Best Honors Thesis for her adaptation of three Shakespeare plays. As a graduate student, she conducted research on thematic connections in Shakespeare and her work was nominated for the 2013 Statewide Research Symposium. Most recently, Ms. Matthews worked with the Music Industry Recording Arts program at St. Petersburg College.
SARAH PULLMAN-ATANACIO (Teaching Artist) is a graduate of the University of Michigan with a BFA in Theatre Performance. While in undergrad, Sarah spent 3 summers working for the university’s Camp Imagination Program as an instructor and director. She also spent 7 years with the groundbreaking Flint Youth Theatre (FYT) under Executive Artistic Director, William P. Ward. Sarah served as an Apprentice Artist, performing in youth-centric shows and assisting in theatre classes for various age groups. FYT original production credits include Spire, Strands: The Legacy of 9/11, My Soul to Take, Visions of Sugarplums and All Hallows Eve. After graduation, Sarah moved to New York City, where she worked as an actress, performing in such productions as Whatever and Delicately, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Casina, Calamity Jane Battles the Horrible Hoop Snakes and Similarities. She always dreamed of returning to youth theatre instruction and began searching for opportunities after moving to Florida in July of 2013. Sarah feels very fortunate to be a part of American Stage Education and to be working with so many wonderful artists.
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, Hay Fever, Crimes of the Heart, and All New People 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.
DANIELLE CALDERONE (Teaching Artist) is a graduate of the University of Tampa with a B.A. in Performing Arts (musical theatre). She also had the privilege studying overseas at the British American Drama Academy in Oxford, England. For the past few years, Danielle has been teaching around the Tampa Bay Area. She has taught with Patel Conservatory, Tampa Creative Camps, and is now excited to be teaching at American Stage. Show credits are The Normal Heart (Freefall), William Shakespeare's Land of the Dead (Hattrick), Behind the Gates (Jobsite), A Marvelous Party, A Doll's House, Wit, Hysteria, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (American Stage), and A Streetcar Named Desire (Tampa Rep). Feel free to check out her website, www.daniellecalderone.com.
SCOTT COOPER (Teaching Artist) is an Associate Professor and the Head of the Theater Department at Saint Petersburg College where he has directed Xanadu, Fools, Godspell, All in the Timing and The Laramie Project. He has also directed for Eckerd College. You may also know him as a guy who designs some scenery here and there (American Stage, Jobsite, Gorilla, Jaeb, Stageworks in the Tampa area). He is thrilled to be directing for the American Stage Teen Summer Institute and the Education department. www.scottcooperdesigns.com
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.)
ELIZABETH FENDRICK (Teaching Artist) has worked as a professional actress for more than 30 years. She is a member of SAG-AFTRA and earned an MA in Performance Studies. Elizabeth has taught around the Tampa Bay area for many years, including at USF, The Patel Conservatory, and Carrollwood Day School (HS). She has also appeared locally on stage at Jobsite Theater, Stageworks, Tampa Players and many others. Elizabeth serves on the Board of Directors for Jobsite Theater and the Gasparilla International Film Festival. Check her out at www.elizabethfendrick.com.
SELENA FREY (Teaching Artist) has studied the art of Ballet and other forms of dance for over 12 years. Her choreography credits include The Wedding Singer (Asst., Ruth Eckerd Hall, "Next Stop Broadway") and Xanadu (Saint Petersburg College). She has studied dance at the Orlando City Ballet and the Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia. Selena is currently studying Theatre Performance at the University of South Florida and with the SITI Company in New York this summer. Acting credits include Godspell, Fool for Love (May), and several devised and original works including Ravens (USF Brit Program, directed by Helen Tennison). She is thrilled to be given the opportunity to work with American Stage Education and the Teen Summer Institute.
THOMAS D. GUTHRIE (Teaching Artist) holds a B.M. in Music Education from Miami University – Oxford, OH and a M.Ed. in Secondary Education/Behavior Psychology from Xavier University - Cincinnati, OH. Thomas retired to St. Petersburg from Cincinnati, Ohio after a lengthy career teaching music (choral, piano, guitar, band), directing/performing theater as well as serving as a full time church organist. He has been recognized by "Who's Who" Among America's Music Teachers and prior to moving to St. Petersburg, Thomas taught ‘Music Theatre Voice’ and ‘Songs & Scenes’ at the Preparatory Department of the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. Early in his career, he spent several years as a freelance Music Director while residing in New York City. He has directed, produced, and musically directed well over 100 productions at theater-schools as well as at community, regional, & professional theatres. Beyond his formal education, Thomas was mentored by the late Ross Allen, Asst. Conductor of Broadway's Les Miz, studied voice with Barbara Eubanks of the NYC Met and sang under the baton of James Levine, Robert Shaw, & John Rutter. Since moving to St. Petersburg, Thomas has directed, produced, accompanied, and/or overseen 19 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 Festival. He also coaches and teaches private voice from his home studio. This is the third summer for Thomas at the Teen Summer Institute.
VIRGINIA HARDT (Teaching Artist) became a teaching artist with American Stage in September, 2013, teaching Improvisation for the Young Actor. She has also taught numerous improvisation workshops in Pinellas and Lee Counties. Virginia began her career in the entertainment industry working in the Story Department at Creative Artists Agency (CAA) in Los Angeles. She has worked as a Casting Assistant on such films as Face/off and Austin Powers International Man of Mystery. She studied at the Groundings School and graduated from the Second City Conservatory Program. Virginia has worked under Dick Schaal, 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.
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 shows It’s a Living, The Dumb Show and 321 as part of First Sunday Improv in the cabaret space for the past several 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 past three productions; Death and the Maiden, Congratulations Joe, and Good Egg. 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 second 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 American Stage’s School Tour production of Rembrandt Takes a Walk.
STEVE GARLAND (Teaching Artist) is a professional actor with a Bachelor’s in English from UC Davis, now in his sixth year as a teaching artist for the American Stage Education Department in the Pinellas County school system as well as the summer sessions. Regional appearances include work with Asolo Rep (Twelve Angry Men, The Life of Galileo), freeFall Theatre (Spring Awakening, A Midsummer Night’s Dream) American Stage (Opus, The Seafarer), and Jobsite Theater (Creative Loafing’s Best of the Bay for his work in The Pillowman). Other credits include The Rover for Circle X in Los Angeles, as well as Waiting for Lefty, Trifles, and Key West, all in San Francisco. His television credits include “Burn Notice” and AMC’s upcoming “Halt and Catch Fire.”
JAIME GIANGRANDE-HOLCOM (Teaching Artist) is a Brooklyn native and a graduate of USF’s School of Theater and Dance. She is a full time high school theatre teacher in Tampa, Fl. where she helps students become life-long learners and reach their full performing potential both on and off the stage. When she is not teaching, you can find her working as a director, actor or stage-manager with local Tampa Bay theatre companies including Jobsite Theater, Hat Trick Theatre, Gorilla Theatre, Patel Conservatory and American Stage. She has also worked in theaters throughout New York and Orlando, including Disney, Sea World, Busch Gardens, Universal Studios, and Gatorland of Orlando. Jaime is also an active member with the sketch comedy troupe Some Sort of Show. She believes that there is an artist in everyone; it just depends on how far you’re willing to go to find it.
KARA GOLDBERG (Teaching Artist) is in her first year as a Teaching Artist for American Stage. In the spring of 2014, she assisted in multiple American Stage classes, teaching drama, improv, playwriting, and creative storytelling. Kara was also seen in American Stage's School Tour production of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. In addition to American Stage, Kara is on Staff at the Patel Conservatory at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, and also works as an actress, stage manager, and director. Kara graduated from Flagler College of St. Augustine, Florida with a Bachelor's Degree in Theatre Arts.
JESSICA K. SCRUGGS (Teaching Artist) is honored to say that American Stage was her first teaching job when she moved to Tampa in 2012. With over ten years of teaching experience, Jessica is currently the Director of Musical Theatre at Blake School of the Arts in Tampa, where in addition to running/teaching the musical theatre program, directing shows and planning close to twenty events a year, Jessica also co-sponsors a Thespian troupe of close to 100 students and has helped lead them to showcase pieces at the Florida State Thespian Festival. Additional teaching experience includes the Patel Conservatory, Broadway Dance Center of New York City, Gateway Playhouse, New York Film Academy, Front and Center for Performing Arts and Steps School of Dance. She also served as a resident director/choreographer for the Nickelodeon live shows on Norwegian Cruise Lines. Throughout New York, Jessica has directed and choreographed numerous shows including countless productions at Gateway Playhouse, the Fringe, and TAI. As an actress, Jessica appeared last year in Of Mice and Men at Stageworks in Tampa and has various Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway credits including Room Service, The Lunar Academy and many original works. She has also had principal roles on “One Life to Live”, “30 Rock”, “3 Lbs.” and AMC’s “Rubicon”. Jessica graduated from the Professional Performing Arts School in New York City and holds her B.A. in Theatre from SUNY New Paltz. She has spent time training at CAP21 and The Actor’s Institute where she began her studies with master teacher, Allen Schoer.
MARISSA NICOLE KOCH (Teaching Artist) is a Florida State University graduate with a B.A. in Theatre and History. This is her fourth year as a Teaching Artist with American Stage in the Summer Programs. Performance credits include Guys and Dolls, Sweet Charity, Once On This Island, Henry V, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Wizard of Oz, Camelot and Kiss Me, Kate. She looks forward to another fantastic summer at American Stage.
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 Steel Magnolias, The Wiz, 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.
PATRICK MCINNIS (Teaching Artist) has been a performer for over 25 years. He has performed locally in plays, musicals and, most recently, in his own one-man show, The Comedy Hypnosis Experience. In addition, Patrick performs with The Third Thought in the area’s longest running weekly improv show. He has completed intensive studies with Piero Proccacini, a Second City and Improv Olympic graduate, and Kevin Mullaney, former instructor at ImprovOlympic and UCB, along with several workshops. Patrick has been teaching long form improvisation since 2011.
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.
MELISSA JOY PETRESCUE (Teaching Artist) is an ambitious musician in pursuit of using her talents to teach, entertain, and inspire. Melissa ventured into teaching music by giving private piano lessons to students of various ages. She further developed her teaching skills working at Winshape Camps in nine cities across the southeast, where her team held week-long day camps for 1st-6th grade students. From a young age, Melissa has enjoyed a multifaceted musical background. Classically trained, she has received consistent superiors through participation in numerous vocal and piano competitions. Upon winning the piano division of Stephen P Brown’s concerto competition, she was the featured pianist in a chamber music concert with members of the Florida Orchestra. While studying towards a Bachelor’s in Management and Organizational Leadership at SPC, Melissa has also taken great delight in accompanying the college’s musicals Xanadu and Godspell, as well as leading and directing a youth worship band at her church. Melissa is grateful for this new opportunity to join the American Stage Education team this summer!
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 earning a Bachelor’s degree in Theatre Arts. She also holds an Education Certification in Florida. Soolaf has been teaching with American Stage since the summer of 2007. She has worked as a teaching artist for other companies, including the Youth Arts Corps, ACT UP, and the Patel Conservatory. Soolaf currently teaches at Montessori Preparatory in Tampa. She continues to work as an actor, stage manager, and a touring artist. Most recently, Soolaf was seen in Ghostlight Theatre’s debut of All in a Day’s Work. Some of her favorite roles include Stranger in The Doors, The Dark Lady in Elizabeth and Edward, Lina and Edith in A Dream Play, Peggy in The Hundred Dresses, Leonora in The Long Christmas Dinner, Zerbinette in Scapin and Angel in When You Comin’ Back Red Ryder.
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.
AMY SWANSON (Teaching Artist) is a graduate of the University of Miami with a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology and Theatre Arts. She has been a teaching artist at American Stage since 2008, taking two years off to live in Los Angeles before returning to her hometown of St. Petersburg. While at the University of Miami, Amy was a member of the University Women’s Chorale, an all-female choral group with a vast repertoire including Renaissance, folk and popular music. Amy is currently a substitute teacher with Pinellas County Schools and is a member of Chorus Angelorum, a St. Petersburg based a capella group focusing on Renaissance and popular music.
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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