San Diego Junior Theatre Teaching Artists

Learn more about our teaching artists and their current & upcoming classes.

Ciarlene Coleman

Ciarlene Coleman (she/hers) is a San Diego born-and-raised actor, musician, producer and arts educator. She has performed professionally with La Jolla Playhouse and The Old Globe, as well as many other organizations across Southern California. As an educator and community figure, she advocates for arts communities of color, being a Founding Artistic Director Emeritus of MaArte Theatre Collective, a production company of all-Filipino theatremakers, and a member of the Consortium of Asian American Theaters and Artists (CAATA). She teaches youth theatre and music with The Theatre School at North Coast Rep and San Diego Junior Theatre, and has also worked in K-12 arts education through San Diego Youth Symphony and the La Jolla Playhouse’s annual elementary school touring production, the POP Tour.

Daniel Woods

Daniel Woods was born and raised in San Diego, CA and holds a degree in Theatre from San Diego State University. During his time as an undergrad, Daniel specialized in directing and improv, teaching and directing in various settings. He is also a show performer with SeaWorld San Diego for their Halloween season. Daniel looks forward to continuing to inspire the next generation of artists both on and off stage.


Spring Session: Go with the Flow

David McBean

David McBean has been teaching for Junior Theatre since 2005. He is currently the Vocal Arts Instructor and Music Director for the Coronado School of the Arts. As a member of Actor’s Equity, David is a Resident Actor at Cygnet Theatre, North Coast Repertory Theatre and Diversionary Theatre. He recently appeared in La Cage aux Folles as Albin/Zaza and A Christmas Carol as Marley/Christmas Present/Undertaker at Cygnet Theatre.  He was recognized with a Craig Noel Award for his one-man performance of Fully Committed.

Desha Crownover

Desha Crownover is an award-winning stage director and musical director with over 75 shows to her name, ranging from intimate black-box style plays to fully-staged musicals. She has had the opportunity to direct, teach, and perform across the country for the past twenty-five years where her work has been commended by such theatre notables as Edward Albee, Ming Cho Lee, Patricia Zipprodt, and Timothy Near. She holds a Master’s degree in Theatre from SDSU and a B.A. in Theatre with an emphasis in Performing from UCSD and has served on the teaching faculty of SDSU, Cuyamaca College, and Santa Fe Christian Schools teaching music, acting, theatre history, public speaking, and speech and debate. Her work as a playwright has been produced at UCSD, SDSU, and Santa Fe Christian Schools, as well. Desha currently serves as the Artistic Director of San Diego Junior Theatre where she has taught and directed for the past twenty years.


Summer Camps: Musical Theatre Conservatory Sr.: Xanadu

Donny Gersonde

Donny Gersonde is a local performer and teaching artist! He teaches Tap, Musical Theatre, Jazz and Audition Prep at the Coronado School of the Arts, and is the dance coordinator for the advanced performing arts program at Coronado Middle School. He is also a freelance dance teacher at many places across the county, including Tap Fever Studios in PB.

Elissa Russell

Elissa Russell is thrilled to join San Diego Junior Theatre as Education Director after spending three years teaching, directing, and expanding outreach programming with Theatre Aspen Education in Colorado. Elissa has also worked as a teaching artist and administrator at Midland Community Theatre (where she was once a student!), Austin’s ZACH Theatre, and Virginia Repertory Theatre. She holds a degree from the University of Texas at Austin with a specialization in Shakespeare, and formerly reviewed theatre for the Austin Chronicle. Theatre has always been an essential part of Elissa’s life, and she is grateful to share her passion with the students of San Diego!

Gina Barba

Gina Barba is a proud San Diego Junior Theatre alum who has been with the company since she could walk. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree from UC Santa Cruz in Community Studies and Theater and is elated to share her love of the stage with her students. Gina has taught in public schools around the country from New York City to North Carolina to California and is elated to return to Junior Theatre. Gina has spent the last 8 years working with SDJT as a Teacher’s Aide, Administrative Assistant and now as a Teaching Artist. She is thrilled to return to the Casa del Prado and SDJT.


Spring Session: Act Out!

Spring Session: Magic Carpet Ride

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Hannah Corder

Hannah Corder serves as Education Manager / Camp Director at San Diego Junior Theatre.


Spring Session: Aide-in-Training

Hunter Brown

Hunter Brown is a Teaching Artist and performer based in San Diego. They have been studying acting/stage combat for 14 years, and teaching for the last four. They have taught at San Diego Junior Theatre, the Red Mountain Theatre Company and the Birmingham Children’s Theatre.


Spring Session: Clash of the Titans

Summer Camps: Acting Conservatory: Puffs

Jacob Sampson

Jacob Sampson is a San Diego based theater maker and Junior Theatre alumnus. He received his BFA in Theater Arts from Stephens College where he studied both performance and stage carpentry. After college, Jacob worked in NYC as a prop artisan and spent two summers as the prop carpenter apprentice at the Santa Fe Opera in NM. Currently Jacob is the Prop Shop Foreman at The Old Globe. When not making theater you can find him in the kitchen baking bread or on his bike traversing the city.


Spring Session: Backstage Pass Jr.: Props

Spring Session: Backstage Pass Sr.: Props

Julia Giolzetti

Julia Giolzetti is an actor, teaching artist, mom, San Diego native and proud alumna of San Diego Junior Theatre. She holds a BFA in Theatre from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. For 2 years and almost 400 shows she performed Off-Broadway with the New York Times Critic’s Pick Drunk Shakespeare. Other New York theatre credits include over 15 Shakespeare plays, originating roles in 3 world premieres, and national ad campaigns. She taught theatre workshops in NYC at Gramercy Arts High School, City Lights Youth Theatre, the Manhattan JCC and as a one-on-one monologue coach. In addition, she led classes as supplements to performances with the all-female ensemble the Tempest Ladies in Istanbul, Turkey. Here in San Diego, she has taught at North Coast Rep, in many county classrooms with Playwrights Project, and toured multiple Shakespeare productions in local schools with Intrepid Theatre Company. Last year during lockdown, Julia created Sofa Shakespeare, a global project where anyone can perform 1 minute of a Shakespeare play from home. Her goal is to help students gain confidence, learn the art of performance, and have fun on stage.


Spring Session: Shakespearean Scenes

Kandace Crystal

Kandace Crystal is a multi-hyphenate theatre maker and currently serves as the Artistic Director of American History Theater. Kandace spent 5 years working for Barbizon USA and is the creator of Theatre Alliance’s Roundtable series exploring issues that plague our industry. Additionally, Kandace developed a Podcast/Oral Documentary with Cloudcast Media entitled 8:46-The Catalyst for Change, in response to the disproportionate murder of black and brown people at the hands of police. You can find her performing around San Diego, most notably in the “Get Ross” commercials. Kandace graduated with a BFA in Acting from Florida State University and is a former mime.

Kira Blaskovich

Kira Blaskovich is an actor, teaching artist, director and musical coach, working in San Diego for the last four years. Previous to California, she spent almost twenty years in New York City working as an actor and teacher. When she wasn’t working and playing in the NY Off-Broadway scene, she was able to help create and develop several theatre and music programs in schools from Brooklyn to New Jersey. Kira has worked with major theatre companies and companies no one has heard of – she’s acted with world-famous artists and with amazing hidden, unknown gems. She holds a BFA from The University of California at Berkeley and a Masters in Acting from The American Conservatory Theatre. Kira believes that theatre and music are about honesty of expression and vulnerability of self – two qualities that take confidence and commitment. Working with kids to help them find their confidence and voice is what it’s all about – well, and the fun!


Spring Session: Think Fast!

LaVon Wageman

LaVon Wageman was born and raised in San Diego, California. At a young age, she was immersed in the arts; from dancing ballet, tap, jazz, Irish, salsa and modern, to figure skating and performing plays and musicals at Francis Parker School and San Diego Junior Theatre. She attended New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and graduated with a BFA in Drama. LaVon is a professionally trained voice-over actor, Upright Citizens Brigade improviser, UCLA trained screenwriter, singer and dancer. She has acted in off-Broadway plays in New York City, national commercials, television and film.


Spring Session: Twist & Shout

Spring Session: Disney Screen to Stage

Spring Session: Candyland

Leasa Thernes

Leasa Thernes is a Teaching Artist, award-winning Filmmaker and Choreographer. She has written, directed, and/or produced five short films. Her film: Basket of Sane, won awards for Best Surrealist and Best Experimental at the New York International Independent Film Festivals in New York City and Los Angeles, and was a participant in the Cannes Film Festival’s Short Film Corner in Cannes, France. She has directed and choreographed numerous Ballets and Theatrical Productions. Her choreography won the Gold Medal for Group Dance and the Silver Medal for Solo Dance at the Maccabi Games (Jewish Olympics) in Boston. Leasa can be found teaching, choreographing and directing at Coronado Academy of Dance, San Diego Junior Theatre, the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, and at numerous after school theatre enrichment programs around San Diego county.


Spring Session: Jungle Boogie

Spring Session: Movie Musical Madness

Spring Session: Jitterbugs

Marc Caro-Willcox

Marc Caro-Willcox is a San Diego Junior Theatre alum, currently teaching at SDJT and Helix High School. SDJT choreography credits: Newsies Jr., Tuck Everlasting, Seussical. Other choreography credits include: She Loves Me (Scripps Ranch Theatre), Mamma Mia! (Coronado Playhouse) In The Heights (Patio Playhouse), Little Shop of Horrors (San Diego City College), Smokey Joe’s Cafe (SDCC), Entrances and Exits (SDCC). Performance credits include: Shockheaded Peter and Supers (Cygnet), Hall Pass and Danny’s Story (Blindspot Collective), Avenue Q (OB Playhouse), A Chorus Line (Coronado Playhouse).

Patrick Marion

Patrick Marion is thrilled to be getting back in person for classes and camps! Patrick has been teaching and performing with Junior Theatre since 2006. In addition to running his own private music studio, he has also taught and directed classes and shows for Young Audiences of San Diego, Francis Parker Upper School, and is the current accompanist for the Musical Theatre program at Grossmont College. Patrick frequently performs and directs music for productions at Diversionary, Cygnet and Lamb’s Players Theatres.


Spring Session: Tip Top Techniques: Vocal

Ricardo Valenzuela

Ricardo Valenzuela is a graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, NYC. His experience with children comes from working at San Diego Civic Dance Arts for over a decade. Past Credits at SDJT as director and/or choreographer; Junie B. Jones, Mr. Poppers Penguins, Sleepy Hollow, The Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed, Pippi Long Stocking and the summer intensives Aladdin Jr. and Freckleface Strawberry. He has also choreographed Mt. Carmel High School’s choir’s annual concert, “LEGENDS” since 2017, and their theatre’s productions of Cabaret, West Side Story, The Wizard of Oz and the up-coming production of Little Shop of Horrors. Ricardo won the Blue Ribbon Award for Best Choreography in Coronado Playhouse’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Acting credits include two seasons as the character “Antonio” in the Latin American television show Dos y Dos, and two episodes of Los Jumpitz en Espanol. Ricardo has been lucky to perform with the following theatre companies: the Starlight, Moonlight Amphitheatre, San Diego Musical Theatre, Hispanic Arts Theatre, San Diego Asian Repertory Theatre, Performance Riverside and Coronado Playhouse.


Spring Session: Tip Top Techniques: Dance

Summer Camps: Musical Theatre Conservatory Jr.: How to East Like a Child

Sarah Siegel

Sarah Siegel holds a degree in theatre from San Diego State University. She began her theatre career in the San Francisco area, performing and directing for several years before moving to New York City, where she started two theatre companies and continued her work in both theatre and film. While in New York City, Sarah continued her training, studying under Milan Stitt and Lanford Wilson at the Circle Repertory Company. In addition, she worked as a private audition coach and acting instructor helping her students obtain roles on stage and screen. In San Diego, some of Sarah’s favorite places she has worked have been The Fritz Theatre, Stu Segall Productions, and of course as a teaching artist at JT, teaching acting and directing since 2002, where she has had the joy of watching so many students grow up and shine. When she is not teaching, she works as a certified integrative hypnotherapist and uses these skills to help her students discover their confidence and joy in being themselves.


Spring Session: The ABCs of Directing

Shawn Foote

Shawn Foote comes to Junior Theatre all the way from Illinois. She graduated with a BFA in Theatre from Millikin University and spent most of her time in undergrad directing various plays and musicals. She also worked as the Director of New Works and the Artistic Director for the black box theatre on campus. Her time in undergrad was also spent leading camps and teaching children theatre in her hometown, and eventually teaching children theatre at Lifeline Theatre in Chicago before she graduated. Since graduation, Shawn spent time teaching pre-school and nannying in Chicago before joining us here. Shawn firmly believes in the magic of art and theatre-making, and she is elated to share this with the students of San Diego Junior Theatre!


Spring Session: Monkeyin Around with Curious George

Spring Session: Magic Carpet Ride