Faculty

Annie Calhoun
Theatre Department Head

Annie Calhoun believes in the power of equity in arts education. The passion behind this belief led her to become a founding ChiArts teacher in 2009 and then took her all the way to South Los Angeles where she co-founded Kipp Scholar Academy and created their theatre program. She holds a teaching degree from Taylor University in Theatre and English and is IL certified for grades 6-12. Ms. Calhoun also received her MFA in Acting from DePaul’s Theatre School. She returns to Chicago after five years of teaching, directing and performing in Los Angeles. In LA, Ms. Calhoun taught and directed at the Professional (Adlerimprov), Collegiate (USC), and High School (LA County HS for the Arts) levels; she also founded an inner city theatre program in South LA (Kipp Scholar). She is a novelist and playwright whose pieces have been performed on stages all over Los Angeles and an actor whose work ranges from theater and film, to improv and stand up comedy.

A Chicago native, she is rooted in the values of play, ensemble, high standards and creative new work. While in Chicago she completed iO’s training and then performed there regularly, as well as The Annoyance. One of her favorite experiences was being included as the first improvised play Steppenwolf allowed in their Garage space with a group she founded called ALMOST ATLANTA. The breadth and depth of her expertise in education and theatre offer a vast array of skills from classroom management and facilitating diversity, equity & inclusion to building ensemble among students and staff, and measuring student growth outcomes. She’s thrilled to be back.

Scott Westerman
Department Admin. Assistant, Acting, Voice & Speech + Senior Project

Scott Westerman is a Chicago-based actor, director, and teacher. As an actor, he has worked with numerous theatre companies in the Chicago area, including Chicago Shakespeare, Northlight, Apple Tree, Chicago Dramatists, Strawdog, Lifeline, Stage Left, A Crew of Patches, Mary Arrchie, Festival Theatre of Oak Park, Pegasis Players, Incognito, Borealis, Reverie Theatre Company, and The Artistic Home, with whom he is an ensemble member and managing director. Nationally, he has worked with the Shakespeare Theatre Company and Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.; with Everyman Theatre in Baltimore; with the Warehouse Theatre in Greenville, South Carolina; and with the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia. Scott has done several commercials, has appeared in the television show Prison Break on FOX, as well as a pilot for HBO’s The Washingtonienne, and was seen on the big screen getting beat up by Gerard Butler in the film Machine Gun Preacher. Scott’s directing career has run the gamut from professional productions to students’ devised works. Up next, he is directing a new play called Interrogation for The Artsitic Home. Scott received his MFA from The Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Academy for Classical Acting at the George Washington University.

David Blixt
Stage Combat
Janyce Caraballo
Acting for Musical Theatre TA
Julian Chin
Vocal Technique & Repertoire IV + Music Theory Fundamentals + Keyboard Skills

Julian Chin joined the ChiArts faculty in 2012. He has served as an instructor and accompanist for many organizations in the Chicago area, including After School Matters, Merit School of Music, and the Pro Musica Youth Chorus. He has worked as a a music director and pit musician for Light Opera Works, Porchlight Theater, and the Journeyman, among others, and is proud to have been the music director for all of ChiArts’ main stage musical productions. In addition to his work in theater and education, Julian can be seen performing around the city with bands in a wide variety of genres, from jazz to rock to hip hop and everything in between. In 2011, he toured the US and Europe with the avant-garde rock group Capillary Action, including performances at Willisau Jazz Festival and the Rumor Festival in Utrecht. Currently, he can be seen performing with rock/soul singer Elle Casazza, and as a guest artist with a wide variety of local acts. Julian is a native Chicagoan, and graduated in 2008 from Oberlin Conservatory with a B.M. in Piano Performance, with a focus in Jazz Studies.

Cheryl Coons
Playwriting and Songwriting

Cheryl Coons is a Resident Playwright at Chicago Dramatists, and has designed and taught professional musical theatre writing courses there since 2009. She also teaches at Porchlight Music Theatre and Columbia College, and is a mentor for the Northwestern University musical theatre writers, and an animateur with the Chicago Voices Project of Lyric Opera of Chicago. She wrote book and lyrics for the award-winning musicals River’s End (ASCAP Foundation Harold Arlen Musical Theatre Award, Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award, Theatre for the American Musical Award), At Wit’s End (Carbonell Award), and lyrics for Sylvia’s Real Good Advice (Joseph Jefferson Award), Female Problems  (After Dark Award), and Phantom of the Country Opera, published by Music Theatre International. She spends many of her evenings with the kids at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center, where she is a program manager and teaching artist for Storycatchers Theatre.

Brandon DiCriscio
Contemporary Jazz + Pro Focus Contemporary + Musical Theatre Dance II and IV
Mr. DiCriscio, of Wilmington, DE, received his initial training from Anne Marie and Sonny Leo. He then went on to pursue a B.A. in Dance at Point Park University. While in school, he apprenticed with River North Dance Chicago and then became a company member in 2007, dancing with the company for four seasons. Brandon has worked with choreographers including Robert Battle, Sidra Bell, Frank Chaves, Ron De Jesus, Shannon Gillen, Gustavo Ramierz Zanzano, Lauri Stallings, Doug Varone, Edgar Zendejas, and Sherry Zunker. While at Springboard Danse Montreal, he worked with BJM Danse Montreal under the direction of Louis Robitaille. Brandon also has apprenticed with Luna Negra Dance Theater. His true passion is for dance-making. In 2011, he won the Dance Chance Redux competition sponsored by DanceWorks Chicago and the Ruth Page Center for the Arts. In 2012, he created two new works on the Big Muddy Dance Company of St. Louis. Additional Chicago Concert dance commissions include Nomi Dance Company, DanceWorks Chicago, Inside Chicago Dance, and LEVELdance. Brandon is currently Associate Artistic Director of LEVELdance. He enjoys training aspiring dance professionals at ChiArts, as well as Joffrey Academy, and the North Shore School of Dance. He also is the resident choreographer for ChiArts’ Musical Theatre Main Stage productions.
Evelyn Gaynor

Evelyn Gaynor teaches Voice and Speech 1A and 1B for freshmen and sophomore actors, Voice and Speech II for junior actors, and Acting for junior and senior vocalists. She is an actress and teaching artist who began her work in NYC, teaching arts residencies in the public school system for nearly 5 years with a program called Periwinkle Theater for Youth. In NYC she also worked with Broadway Classroom, Inside Broadway, and The Story Pirates. In Chicago, she is a company member with Barrel of Monkeys, teaches and directs with Chicago Youth Shakespeare, and teaches with The Viola Project. Theatrically, she has worked with Jackalope Theatre Company, Victory Gardens Theater, Theatre at the Center, Syracuse Stage, The Hangar Theatre, Alhambra Theatre and Dining, Cape Cod Repertory Theater, and Indiana Festival Theatre, among others. She has also appeared on Chicago P.D. She has her BFA in Acting from Syracuse University and her MFA in Acting from Indiana University, where she taught undergraduate courses in Voice and Speech and served as the vocal coach for University Players.

Christian Helem
Advanced Stage Production TA
Bekki Lambrecht
Stagecraft and Scene Design + Advanced Production
Josie McCanse
Theatre History & Literature

Josie is a local teacher and improviser. After receiving her B.A. in Theatre from the University of Iowa, she moved to Chicago to pursue her love of acting. She is a graduate of IO and the Second City Conservatory program and an original member of the improv group HHDM, which can be seen performing in venues around Chicago. In 2007 she went back to school at Loyola University where she earned her Master’s of Education in Secondary Education with endorsements in English and Theatre. Ms. McCanse has taught English in public and private schools and is thrilled to be combining her love of theatre and literature at ChiArts.

Rebecca Prescott

Chicago-based actress Rebecca Prescott was born and raised a rancher’s daughter in South Central Idaho. At a very young age she discovered she was a much better actress than a cowgirl, and saved up all her steer money to put herself through undergrad at Boise State University. At BSU she was torn between the acting and singing degrees, so she decided to just do both. Upon completion of her two degrees, she followed her brother out to Chicago, where he was dancing with the Joffrey Ballet. Shortly upon her Chicago arrival, she was accepted to the Chicago Conservatory of the Performing Arts at Roosevelt University where she earned a Master of Music in Vocal Performance and studied with International Opera Bass-Baritone star, Richard Stilwell. While at Roosevelt she met her husband, composer and saxophone player Amos Gillespie. Rebecca is a company member of Eclipse Theatre and VOX3, and an Artistic Associate with Chicago Opera Vanguard. Her regional credits include Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Idaho Theatre for Youth, Sierra Repertory Theatre, Chicago Children’s Theatre, Eclipse Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Drury Lane, Goodman Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, and Utah Shakespeare Festival. For two holiday seasons she performed as Grandma Who in the National Broadway Tour of the musical How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Rebecca was in the cast of the I Love Lucy Show, a Broadway in Chicago production, where she performed Ethel, Dinah Beach, Gertie, and Fern, and understudied the role of Lucy. Winter of 2014 Rebecca will be performing Trixie Who/understudy Mama Who in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, to be performed at the Chicago Theatre in Chicago and Madison Square Garden in New York City. Rebecca is a member of National Association of Teachers of Singing and Actors Equity Association.

Kathy Scambiatterra
Acting + Directing

Kathy Scambiatterra is Artistic Director and co-founder of The Artistic Home. Chicago acting credits include: Beaten, The American Plan, Sweet Bird of Youth, The Skin of Our Teeth, Look Homeward Angel, Juno and the Paycock, Natural Affection, Orpheus Descending (The Artistic Home); The Glass Menagerie, Nelson Algren Live, The Diary of Anne Frank (Steppenwolf); Broadway Bound (Drury Lane Oakbrook); A Flea in her Ear (Chicago Shakespeare); Romeo and Juliet (Goodman Theatre), among others. Regional credits: The Quick Change Room (Pacific Resident Theatre). TV/Film credits: Chicago PD, The Appointment, Draggage, Sin Collector, Into the Wake. She has received 4 leading role Jeff nominations for work in Sweet Bird of Youth, Natural Affection, Abundance, The School for Wives. As a director, she has helmed acclaimed, Jeff nominated and After Dark Award winning productions for The Artistic Home including: Waiting for Lefty, In the Boom Boom Room, Angel City, After the Fall, Street Scene, Peer Gynt, The Madwoman of Chaillot, The Petrified Forest, Modigliani, Days to Come, The Touch of the Poet, The Night of the Iguana. Other directing credits: The Copperhead (City Lit) Angel City, Welcome to the Moon and Other Plays (LA Dramalogue Award), A Christmas Carol (Pacific Resident Theater (LA). Ms. Scambiatterra is the director of the actor training program at The Artistic Home Studio. In addition, she has taught at The Steppenwolf School, Columbia College, Center Theater’s The Training Center, Chicago, IL; Carolyn Berry Studio, The Pacific Resident Theatre LA, CA; Director’s Symposium, US Army, Heidelberg, Germany; Screen Training Ireland, Dublin, Ireland; and currently at The Chicago High School for the Arts.

Rachel Slavick
Acting I for Musical Theatre Majors + Professional Development for Acting Majors + Senior Project for Musical Theatre Majors

Rachel Slavick is a founding teacher in the theatre program at Chiarts. She is in her 19th year of teaching acting at The Theatre School of DePaul University. She has most recently been in The Time of Your Life at the Artistic Home and in Crumble: Lay Me Down Justin Timberlake at Jackalope Theatre where she is also a board member. She has an MFA in Acting from The Theatre School of DePaul University.

Jason Sperling
Acting

Jason Sperling works as an actor, singer, teacher, and director around Chicago. He is an original company member of Barrel of Monkeys, a children’s writing and theater program, and has worked with them for over eighteen years. Mr. Sperling created and taught the drama program at St. Juliana School, and directed there there for seven years; he has taught and directed with the CAST program in Oak Park for seven years; he was a poet/educator with the Chicago Park District/Chicago Humanities Festival’s Words@Play program; he has also taught or music directed for Beverly Arts Center, Raven Theatre, and Prolougue Theatre. Additionally, Mr. Sperling has taught, directed, and music directed with Elmhurst Chilcren’s Theatre, and directed the student-authored sketch comedy show at Chicago Improv Festival’s Summer Theatre Camp in 2009. He has worked as a performer at theatres including Marriott, Drury Lane, Apple Tree, Northlight, Theatre at the Center, Noble Fool, and Ravinia, and can often be seen in BOM’s hit show That’s Weird, Grandma, now in its fourteenth year at the Neo-Futurist Theatre.

Lindsey Thornton

Lindsey Barlag Thornton is a Chicago-based theatre director and performance artist whose recent work has been seen at Archer Ballroom, Copernicus Center, Defibrillator Gallery, Links Hall, Hyde Park Art Center, Mana Contemporary, Sullivan Galleries, Tritriangle Gallery, and Whitebox Studio Gallery. She has performed original work in abandoned storefronts in Chicago and the Divaldo Disk Theatre in Prague. She has taught for American Theatre Company, Auditorium Theatre, The School of The Art Institute, Steppenwolf Theatre, and Writers’ Theatre. She is currently a Teaching Artist for The Museum of Contemporary Art, directs the Education Program for The Gift Theatre, and is a member of Genesis Ensemble. Lindsey received her MFA in Performance from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Jessica Dean Turner
Acting II

Jessica Dean Turner is a teaching artist, writer, and actor from Chicago’s west side. She recieved her BFA in Acting from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, and her MA in Education Theatre in Colleges and Communities from NYU. She is a member of SAG-AFTRA and has performed with the House Theatre of Chicago, About Face Theatre, Congo Square Theatre, Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre, and the Great River Shakespeare Festival. She loves the color purple (color, book, and film).

AJ Wester
Vocal Technique Repertoire I and II
James Whittington
Playwriting and Sketch