Faculty

David Blixt
Theatre History + Stage Combat

David Blixt is an author and actor. As an Artistic Associate at the Michigan Shakespeare Festival since 2000, he has played such roles as Macbeth, Petruchio, Benedick, Mark Antony, Mercutio, Pistol, Orsino, Oberon, and many more. He received a Wilde Award for Best Actor In A Comedy for his portrayal of Algernon in 2014’s THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST. ​ As a Fight Director, he has choreographed all manner of violence, from comedic to horrific. Davis is also an author of historical fiction. His latest novel, WHAT GIRLS ARE GOOD FOR: A NOVEL OF NELLY BLY, was an Amazon bestseller for six months straight. His series of Star-Cross’d novels starting with THE MASTER OF VERONA (set at the birth of Renaissance Italy) is a critical and reader favorite. ​ In life, David describes himself as an “actor, author, father, husband, in reverse order.”

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 returned to Chicago two years ago 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, rigor 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.
Brandon DiCriscio
Contemporary Modern and Ballet C Theatre (Dance) + Dance II and Dance IV (Theatre)
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.
Jason Ellis
Music Theory Fundamentals Keyboard Skills + Music History

Jason Ellis has played Broadway in Chicago productions including Million Dollar Quartet, Matilda, Beautiful, and School of Rock, as well as additional productions at Drury Lane, Marriott Theatre Lincolnshire, and the Paramount Theatre Aurora. Orchestral performances include Fulcrum Point New Music Project, the Memphis Symphony, and Oistrakh Symphony Chicago. His teaching experience includes the Jacobs School at Indiana University, Interlochen Center for the Arts/ The University of Michigan, Deerfield High School, Highland Park High School, and Harvard-Westlake Los Angeles. Jason has performed with jazz luminaries such as Bobby Watson, James Williams, Aaron Parks, Ira Sullivan, Melvin Rhyne, Derrick Gardner, and Fareed Haque: additional performances highlights include SNL legend Joe Piscopo, The Voice winner Josh Kaufman, the Atlanta Olympic Games, and the Kennedy Center. His primary teachers are Lawrence Hurst, Bruce Bransby, John Clayton, and Rufus Reid, as well as electric bass instructors Victor Wooten and Oteil Burbridge. Jason endorses Lakland basses, Acoustic Image amplifiers, and Genz Benz amplifiers; his upright basses are a 1939 Kay and a 1996 Rumano Solano.

Ricky Harris
Theatre Education
Risha Hill
Voice and Speech I + II + III

Risha Hill is a 2003 graduate of the MFA Acting program at the California Institute of the Arts. Risha taught in and around Los Angeles for seven years and moved to Chicago in 2014. She currently is a theater teaching artist in several organizations in the city and is now in her second year of teaching at ChiArts.

Christopher Richard
Vocal Technique & Repertoire III + Music Theory & Keyboard Fundamentals for Musical Theatre

Christopher Richard, originally from Chesterton, Indiana, holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Vocal Performance from Butler University and a Master’s Degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Southern California. While in the Los Angeles area he performed with the Los Angeles Music Center Opera, as well as a number of regional companies and orchestras. In Chicago, Mr. Richard has performed with DuPage Opera Theatre, Bowen Park Opera, Light Opera Works and Drury Lane Oakbrook. On a broader scope, he has appeared with Sarasota Opera, Indianapolis Opera, the Aspen Music Festival Opera, Brevard Music Center, the Mexico National Chamber Orchestra, the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra and the New World Symphony Orchestra. Among his opera credits, Mr. Richard lists roles in Carmen, Cosi fan tutte, Gianni Schicchi, Romeo et Juliette, A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Britten, L’heuere espangol by Ravel, The Tender Land by Copland, Trouble in Tahiti by Bernstein and four different roles in The Merry Wives of Windsor by Otto Nicolai. Although Mr. Richard has many credits in opera, he is equally at home in the music theatre, cabaret and recital genres. In addition to performing, Mr. Richard teaches voice lessons privately and at Oak Park & River Forest High School and works with their Music Theater class, is Assistant Music Director at Irving Park Lutheran Church and director of their Contemporary Ensemble. In the fall of 2002 he was Music Director for the Youth Opera Program at Sarasota Opera which immerses the participants in every aspect of opera production and had over 120 youths enrolled. Serving as Music Director for the Light Opera Works Summer Music Theatre Workshop since 2007, Mr. Richard works on 5 separate week-long productions specifically tailored for young performers each summer and a 3 week program for the high school level to perform the same show as the main professional company on the same set. In that same vein, Mr. Richard has been the Program Director of Music Theatre at Merit School of Music and taught Music Theater in DePaul University’s Community Music Division. He has enjoyed working as music director for the successful OPRF productions of Once Upon a Mattress and Grease as well as The Fantasticks with Triton College. More recently he has enjoyed being the Music Director for Bowen Park Opera from 2007 to 2011 and co-director of a collaboration between Chicago Opera Theater and After School Matters called Chicago Opera Theater for Teens from 2010 to 2015. Mr. Richard joined the faculty at the Chicago High School for the Arts, teaching Vocal Technique & Repertoire III and started teaching Music Theory & Keyboard Fundamentals for Music Theater majors in the fall of 2019.

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.

Nicole Scatchell
Ballet A + Musical Theatre Dance I + Musical Theatre Dance III

Nicole Scatchell is a Chicago native.  She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Dance from Columbia College Chicago, as well as her certification to teach Dance K-12 from University of Milwaukee, WI.  As a young dancer Nicole trained at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Joffrey Ballet, and Ballet Legere.  Nicole has trained under the direction of Anna Paskevska, Liz Burrit, Jefferson Baum, Eduardo Vilaro, Krenly Guzman, Kathleen Hermsdorf, Darrel Jones to name a few.  She has performed with companies BONEdanse, Zephyr Dance, Get Down/Pick Up Company, David Dorfman, Dropshift Dance and has worked with choreographers such as Peter Carpenter, Reggie Wilson, Jan Bartosek, Tammy Thomas, Sean France, Jeff Hanncock, Jimmy Orrante, Emily Stein, among others.  She performed for audiences in Chicago, Scotland, Italy, France, Germany, New York as well as across the U.S as a soloist with the International Ballet Ensemble.   Nicole has been a dedicated dance educator in CPS, domestically, and internationally for 12+ years.   She is the Artistic Director of Chicago Dance Institute, All City Dance Ensemble Director, and on faculty at Harold Washington College, and Joffrey Academy.  She continues to work with countless non-profits across the U.S. teaching, training, and developing high-level dance programs for specific populations.  She led and directed international programming in Haiti where she worked with local children and trained over 20 local volunteers in pedagogy, in partnership with Worldwide Orphans.  Nicole also choreographs ChiArts’ Musical Theatre main stage productions.  She continues be a guest artist with Chicago choreographers, teach yoga, and perform with her improv comedy group.

Rachel Slavick
Acting II for Musical Theatre + Spolin Games/Movement to Music + Senior Project Musical Theatre

Rachel Slavick has been teaching acting for 24 years. Rachel is also faculty at The Theatre School of DePaul University and acts and directs in the Chicago theatre community. She is currently directing the second of The North Shore Trilogy, Pakalolo Sweet, having directed the first (Not One Batu) last summer and will direct all three next summer of 2020.

Jason Sperling
Acting I for Acting Majors + Acting III for Musical Theatre Majors

Jason Sperling works as an actor, singer, teacher, and director around Chicago, and has taught at ChiArts since 2011. He is an emeritus founding company member of Barrel of Monkeys, a children’s writing and theater program, and worked with them for over twenty years. Mr. Sperling created and taught the drama program at St. Juliana School, as well as directing there for seven years; he taught and directed with the CAST program in Oak Park for ten years; he was a poet/educator with the Chicago Park District/Chicago Humanities Festival’s Words@Play program; and he has also taught or music directed for Beverly Arts Center, Raven Theatre, and Prologue Theatre. Additionally, Mr. Sperling has taught, directed, and music directed with Elmhurst Children’s Theatre since 2009, 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.

Jessica Dean Turner
Acting II + Professional Development for Actors + Diverse Playwrights

Ms. Turner is a native of Chicago’s west side, and is entering her third year here at ChiArts. She received her BFA in Acting from the University of Illinois and her MA in Educational Theatre from New York University. Ms. Turner has toured and taught nationally. She has acted at Illinois Shakespeare Festival, Arkansas Shakespeare Festival, Great River Shakespeare Festival, Victory Gardens, Goodman, Steep Theatre, Congo Square, House Theatre, Griffin Theatre, and Haven Theatre. TV credits include: Chicago PD, Crisis, and short films “You Too” (which she featured alongside ChiArts students!) and “Black Womxn”. She is a member of the Screen Actors Guild.

Scott Westerman
Department Assistant + Senior Project for Acting Majors + Acting IV + Shakespeare & Wilson + Physical Comedy

Scott does, makes, teaches, and directs theatre in Chicago. He is an ensemble member with The Artistic Home, teaches for ChiArts and The Theatre School at DePaul University, and thoroughly enjoys leading acting intensives, playwriting and devising residencies, and theatre retreats for Red Barn Learning Center. (GoToRedBarn.com) Directing credits include shows with The Artistic Home, City Lit, Chimera, Citadel, beyond this point, Barter Theatre, The Shakespeare Theatre Company (Camp Shakespeare), Stage Left (Downstage Left), Northlight Theatre Academy, The Smithsonian Institution, American Theatre Company (Bridge), Impulse Theatre Company, the National High School Institute (Cherubs), ChiArts, and Reverie Theatre Company, of which he was a co-founder and co-Artistic Director. Acting credits include work with Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, The Shakespeare Theatre Company, Ford’s, Everyman, the Warehouse, the Barter, Northlight Theatre, The Artistic Home, Chicago Dramatists, Strawdog, Lifeline, Stage Left, Apple Tree, A Crew of Patches, Mary Arrchie, Festival Theatre of Oak Park, and Reverie. Film credits include Machine Gun Preacher and Prison Break. Scott has an MFA in Classical Acting from The Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Academy for Classical Acting at The George Washington University. www.ScottWesterman.org