We are proud to work in creative collaboration with these artists from the UK and across the Globe.
Simon Pollard Theatre Director
Simon is a bit of a theatrical jack-of-all-trades based in London. Mainly he’s a director. But he does other things too. Like dramaturging and facilitating. He’s spent the past few years working on Billy Elliot The Musical, first as Resident Director of the West End production, currently as Associate Director of the UK and Ireland Tour, and soon to be International Associate Director of two new productions in Japan and South Korea in 2017. Other projects include co-directing Throwback with Paulette Randall for circus company Silver Lining at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
In 2012 he was the runner-up for the JMK Award, with his proposal for a revival of John Cameron Mitchell’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch. He occasionally runs a theatre company called Rebel Theatre, and is also a proud Associate Director of the brilliant young people’s theatre company Playbox Theatre.
He doesn’t like to be pigeon-holed as a director, and has experience of working through a variety of genres, including new writing, devised work and circus, but he really, really likes musical theatre, and if he was forced to pick one, that would probably be it.
Dancer & Choreographer
Heather Habens Dancer & Choreographer
Heather trained at the Laban Centre, gaining a B.A (Hons) in Dance Theatre and was a member of its postgraduate performance company, ‘Transitions’.
From 1994- 2006 she was a member of Matthew Bourne’s dance company Adventures in Motion Pictures / New Adventures, performing in Nutcracker!, Swan Lake, Highland Fling, Cinderella, The Car Man & Edward Scissorhands in the West End, on Broadway and on UK and International tours. She was Rehearsal Director for the Swan Lake company 2002-03.
As a freelance dancer she performed in numerous commercial, TV and film projects and worked on opera productions at Earl’s Court London, Birmingham NEC, and with English National Opera and English Touring Opera.
Work as Choreographer includes; At Theatre Royal, Bath, Play Strindberg (2015). At Theatre by the Lake, Keswick; Dancing at Lughnasa, (2014), A Doll’s House (2012).
At The Royal Shakespeare Company; Merry Wives the Musical – Assistant Choreographer (2006), Hecuba (2005), Dog in the Manger (2004),
Beauty and the Beast – Assistant Choreographer (2003/4).
At English National Opera / Barcelona Liceu; A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Revival Choreographer (2004/5).
Heather has taught Contemporary Dance extensively, for professional theatre and dance companies and for educational and community settings including The Laban Centre, London Contemporary Dance School (The Place), Rambert Evening School, and English National Ballet School. Currently she teaches at Birmingham Conservatoire and Elmhurst School for Dance.
Heather works as a freelance Dance and Movement teacher at Playbox Theatre, and choreographed for their recent production of As You Like It.
Calum Finlay Actor
Since graduating from LAMDA (July 2012) Calum has performed with The National Theatre (Prince of Denmark); RSC (Jubilee, Macbeth, Merry Wives of Windsor, The Mouse and His Child); Manchester Royal Exchange (Too Clever By Half, The Ghost Train); Birmingham REP (Tartuffe); National Theatre of Scotland (Dunsinane International Tour); and on BBC’s Holby City. He has also worked with Told By An Idiot, a company whose physical approach to theatre draws on variety of sources including Commedia dell’Arte and Jacque Le Coq.
Calum has most recently appeared in The West End (Switzerland); Almeida Theatre (Mary Stuart; Hamlet); then go back to all of the stuff on his biog that begins with National Theatre etc.
Calum’s recent screen credits include the title role in film Bates Of The Amazon, as well as playing Lysander for CBeebies’ A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and numerous appearances on Holby City.
Calum is a regular guest director at Playbox Theatre and specialises in theatre and screen acting.
Sam Young Musical Director
Sam became a Licentiate of the Royal Schools of Music at the age of 16 and has worked extensively in musical theatre since, wielding the baton for numerous local productions of Les Miserables, West Side Story, Grease and Into The Woods to name just a few. After six years of study at the Junior Royal Academy of Music, in 2018 he became the youngest person ever to hold an Associate Music Directorship at the prestigious Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London where he continues to work as a visiting lecturer. Also a keen composer/arranger, his works have been recognised by Judith Weir – Master of the Queen’s Music – as ‘witty and innovative’ and they have been performed by renowned artists such as Ria Jones (Sunset Boulevard, English National Opera). Sam is thrilled to be shaping the musical development of so many promising young performers at Playbox.
Sam Lees-Manning 'Professor Mascote'
Sam Lees-Manning 'Professor Mascote' Capoeira Artist
Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian community-orientated martial art, performed to live music and song. It involves many physical, musical and philosophical elements of improvised and semi-structured performance of movement, music & martial art. Mascote has had over 15 years practising the art, since 2001, and over 10 years of professional experience teaching and performing Capoeira, since 2006. Mascote has directed, conducted workshops, and performed in numerous international festivals and arts events worldwide, to great acclaim, and is internationally recognised, having taught and performed all over Europe, and as far away as Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia and, of course, Brazil.
In 2008 Mascote moved to Birmingham and founded his own branch of the Cordao de Ouro Capoeira School, which he called CDOB. He also founded the first International Capoeira Festival Birmingham, in 2010, which aims annually to engage public participation of up to 150 Capoeiristas from across the globe, & has hosted world famous guest master artists such as: Mestre Jogo de Dentro, Mestre Acordeon & Grande Mestre Suassuna.
In 2014/5, Mascote opened the first “Cordao De Ouro” Capoeira studio/academy in Birmingham, the first of its kind in England, which is dedicated solely to the promotion, distribution, education and performance of Capoeira, the Brazilian music, movement, martial art.
Silver Linings Circus Arts
Silver Lining is an emerging circus company featuring some of the UK’s finest young circus artists. Blending friendship, stunning skills and their infectious energy, they create pieces of charming, funny and impressive circus.
With an array of shows under their belt, Silver Lining endeavour to continue creating work that is honest, fun and accessible to all types of audiences.
Based in Japan, the goal of the MLS Drama Method® is to develop communication skills in any language, using Drama.
The Drama Method® is based on three pillars:
i. Truth of Self (speaking and acting honestly from one’s self)
ii. Purposeful Action (having a reason for acting and speaking)
ii. Talk & Listen* （carefully listening to what the other person is saying and giving a reply）
*also referred to as “Pinch & Ouch” (the harder the pinch, the bigger the ouch – developing ones ability to react to what is being communicated in a natural way)
Santa Monica Playhouse
International Tour Partners
Santa Monica Playhouse International Tour Partners
Santa Monica Playhouse, a not-for-profit, professional intimate theatre and educational conservatory, concentrates its efforts in three areas:
The creation of exciting, unique and unusual theatre from classical and contemporary sources, especially those not usually seen on the Los Angeles stage, to create art of social relevance, to expand the language of theatre as a means of expression, and to originate consequential theatrical experiences that are essential to the health and evolution of our local, national, and global communities.
The mentoring of new artists, offering the highest quality creative-educational training and career development, kindling motivation, renewed self-esteem and respect for others, offering presentations to the socio-economically disadvantaged and scholarships to the under-served and opportunities for artists to grow and flourish, re-introducing today’s mass-media oriented society to the potential of the living stage as an enriching tool for sensitivity, creativity, and personal exploration.
A dedication to community and cultural exchange, utilizing the power of theatre to connect people of all ages and areas of society, allowing them to honor and embrace diverse and shared cultures and traditions through experiences that provide dynamic tools to resolve conflicts, a passion for self-expression, and a sense of purpose in using the creative process to meet both the daily and the exceptional challenges inherent in our shared humanity.
Sceno Plus Building Design
Scéno Plus is an internationally renowned performing arts and entertainment design firm providing a complete range of integrated specialized services. With an innovative and passionate approach to each project, we develop unique facilities, meeting the highest expectations from performing artists, facility managers and the public.
That passion for architecture and the world of entertainment has earned Scéno Plus many international awards.
Turtle Key Arts
Turtle Key Arts Arts Development
Turtle Key Arts unlocks creative potential in individuals, companies and communities, producing and devising original, ground-breaking, inclusive art to entertain and inspire.
Actress & Educator
Evelyn Rudie Actress & Educator
Evelyn began her career at age 3 and won an Emmy nomination at 5 for her portrayal of Eloise on TV’s Playhouse 90, starred in more than 70 motion pictures and television shows (“The greatest child tragedienne of our time,” London Daily Express), and is the owner of a star in Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame. As “arguably the most talented and prolific producer-director-lyricist-composer-musician-actress in theatre” (L.A. Times) and together with her partner/husband Chris DeCarlo, Ms. Rudie has been involved with more than 600 productions to date, including 250 World, American and West Coast premieres and 50 international tours. Career highlights include Dear Gabby, the confessions of an over-achiever, the longest-running teen dramedy in L.A. history – 15 years in its initial run (author), the Shakespeare-inspired Love In Bloom – Critics’ Pick of the Year – American Press Network (co-author/performer), the East Meets West International Theatre Festival (co-author/director) and Actors’ Repertory Theatre and International Cultural Exchange (co-founder). Together with composer Ben Weisman (57 gold records), Rudie began a major work, the Sholom Aleichem Quintilogy. The first play in this series of five productions was the award-winning Author! Author! – an evening with Sholom Aleichem, the musical that played Los Angeles for an unprecedented 4½ years, breaking all box office records, and has since toured Southern California and returned to the Playhouse for several encore engagements as the single most-requested of all Santa Monica Playhouse productions.
In addition to writing, directing and teaching, Evelyn has never let her performing go by the wayside. She maintains that it is the constant challenge of live performance that renews her creative energies and inspires her pen each season. As one of L.A.’s most versatile performers, she has created an incredible range of characters and personas, from Tom Sawyer to Queen Elizabeth (the first), and from Cinderella to the bizarre Mrs. Smith in Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano, (a performance which the famed playwright himself saw and called “Une excellente representation!”)
Ms. Rudie is considered an expert in the field of musical theatre and Family Theatre productions, and has written and crafted more than 100 specially designed joint theatre projects to date with artists’ communities all over the world. Her original musicals Cinderella, Alice and the Wonderful Tea Party and Dorothy’s Adventures in Oz have performed globally for more than a quarter of a million people. To date, she has written more than four dozen Main Stage musicals, comedies and dramas, two dozen acclaimed Family Theatre musicals, and over 200 theatre-for-youth educational productions. In March of 2002, she received commendations from the City of Santa Monica, the City and County of Los Angeles, and the California State Senate, for completing 50 years of uninterrupted participation in theatre, film, television and arts education. In an interview with Evelyn, J. Lee Kavanau wrote in the Evening Outlook: “As she sits at her roll top desk, wisps of stray hair peeking untidily from tied-up braids, surrounded by encyclopedia, thesaurus, Yiddish-English dictionary, piles of yellowed letters and wadded-up pieces of paper, author Evelyn Rudie looks more like a 10-year-old cramming for finals than a widely recognized contemporary playwright and authority on famous author Sholom Aleichem. Nevertheless she is both.”
Actor & Educator
Chris Decarlo Actor & Educator
Chris DeCarlo has been directing, writing and acting in Los Angeles for over fifty years. As Co-Artistic Director of Santa Monica Playhouse and Actors Repertory Theatre since 1973 and together with his partner and fellow Artistic Director Evelyn Rudie, he has been responsible for bringing over 600 productions to the boards and for ushering the Playhouse into its fifty-fifth year.
As a performer, Chris has created more than three hundred roles, with over ten thousand on-stage performances on three continents, from the Henry Street Settlement Theatre in New York to the Dream Factory in Warwickshire and the gargantuan Hitomi Memorial Hall in Tokyo. He is especially recognized for his portrayals historical figures Mark Twain, Chekhov and Moliere. Over a quarter of a million people have been touched by his award-winning characterization of Yiddish humorist Sholom Aleichem, a role he has assayed over five thousand times in the past twenty-eight years. His versatile performance style has garnered him such raves as “Magnetic!” (Drama-Logue) and “A tour-de-force performance!” (B’nai B’rith Messenger). Always the explorer, his diverse choices run the gamut from the blithely serio-comic Hero in the House to the dangerously dramatic answers to unmailed letters, a collaborative theatre odyssey (Peter Manning Robinson, Bill Gough, Stephen Rothman and Evelyn Rudie) based on his personal experiences in Vietnam.
Chris combines performing with an active career as director and educator. Chris has directed countless World Premieres, including the Los Angeles Times Critic’s Choice Made Me Nuclear, the Critics Pick of the Year musical tribute to Shakespeare Love in Bloom, the critically acclaimed stage adaptation of Dostoevsky’s Notes From Underground, the award-winning Hard Laughs starring Sammy Shore and Ron Palillo, four of playwright Jerry Mayer’s comedies including the award-winning Aspirin & ELEPHANTS, and Arnold Schulman’s Sleeping Ugly, received “Critics’ Pick” from American Radio Network. As Co-Artistic Director of Santa Monica Playhouse, he has been directly responsible for more than 250 American and World Premieres, including Michel Garneau’s Quatre a Quatre, Stephen King and Robert B. Parker’s RAGE, and the long-running hit musical Funny, You Don’t Look Like A Grandmother by Lois Wyse, Sheilah Rae and Robert Waldman. Chris and his wife and partner, Evelyn Rudie, have personally collaborated to create more than five-hundred critically acclaimed original productions. AUDITION! THE MUSICAL, a production he directed (“Impeccable direction!” Los Angeles Times) and co-wrote with Ms. Rudie, previewed at the prestigious Studio Theatre in Covent Garden, returned to rave reviews in its Los Angeles world premiere, and toured England, Ireland and the Netherlands in the summer of 2007.
President, MLS, Japan
Masakazu Ota President, MLS, Japan
Masakazu Ota started to learn English in junior high school as part of the standard curriculum that is taught to all students, but was especially enlightened by the English conversation skills he acquired through Via’s Drama Method when in university.
After founding MLS, Ota devoted himself to developing it as a business while improving the Drama Method®. His efforts were focused on the international scene with ETD as the theme. He has established ties with drama companies from English speaking countries including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, The United Kingdom and The United States for the purposes of education and international exchange. His work includes organizing overseas performances of English plays by MLS students and arranging for theatrical groups from foreign countries to participate in tours of schools around Japan. Ota has also produced and directed joint International Productions where MLS students are given the opportunity to practice, collaborate and perform with professional actors from foreign countries. Ota’s original composition, Stories for You and Me (music by Yukihide Takekawa), based on the Drama Method®, won an award for excellence from the Kanto Teaching Staff Association and numerous other awards from the High School English Educational Play Competition.
His recently published work, MLS English Script Set Collection, which has been approved by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office as a Creative Work (東京都中小企業創造的事業活動認定＃1118号), has also won awards for excellence from the Tokyo English Educational Association and other English Educational Organizations. Ota has developed ETD on a more Educational level with the techniques of Super-STAGE. His newest publications, written with Claudia O Peretti (MLS vice-president), include Playing English with 25 Games and 15 Dialogues (an outline of the essence of the Drama Method®) and the Japan Times published The English Teaching Manual for Elementary School Teachers (a manual for English Teachers in Japanese public schools).
Director of Digital
Kris Vankay Director of Digital
Kris is a professional Director of Photography and Colourist with 20 years experience in the film industry. He has worked across most facets of the film and television world including 10 years in feature film production. Kris was part of the team that bought us three Harry Potter movies, Christopher Nolan’s Inception and Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood to name but a few.
Kris is a Royal Television Society Award winner and was one of the founders of the acclaimed Playbox Theatre Film Course.
Guest Workshop Director
Barney Mcelholm Guest Workshop Director
Barney trained as an actor and LAMDA and a Director at Birkbeck.
He is currently Resident Assistant Director at The Globe Theatre.
He is working on Henry VI & Richard III for winter 2019
For Playbox Theatre he is a visiting director and works across a wide range of ages, leading many of the company’s theatre programmes.
Barney’s Directing credits include:
Wildlife (Old Red Lion) Richard II (Willow Globe) SOFT (Wellcome Trust/Exeter Bike Shed) SIX (Playbox Theatre) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Playbox Theatre) Invisible Friends (Playbox Theatre) and BOYS (Playbox Theatre)
He has worked as an assistant director and has lead workshops at Arts Educational Schools
Barney believes that there should be no boundary between community and professional work, his work at Playbox allows him to continue to train actors to a professional standard whilst informing his own craft. His work with young people is directly related to his wider work and his wider work is directly influenced by the young people he works with.
Barney swears he will continue to work with Playbox until the day that he dies!
Guest Circus Trainer
Tom Ball Guest Circus Trainer
Tom was 3 years old when he joined our Early Stagers programme in Kenilworth. He grew to shine across our many departments, excelling as an actor, musical theatre performer and circus artist. Tom led many Playbox companies in the UK and USA, memorable performances include Treasure Island, Monkey, Wizard of Oz, Hair, The Fallen, Princess of Mars and Realms.
Tom could have followed many paths but when offered a place at National Centre for Circus Arts, the Circus and Physical Theatre route won! Whilst training Tom and a small group of fellow students created the ground-breaking circus troupe Silver Linings. Through Silver Linings Tom is able to enjoy using his extensive skills, not just circus but also singing, acting and music. So far Silver Linings have performed a highly acclaimed sell out debut show at Jacksons Lane, performances in the Bowler Hat as part of the City of London Festival, a sell-out run at CircusFest 2014 and performed in the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome as part of Out There Festival. We are delighted to be a regular host venue for their work and pleased that Tom remains an Associate Artist of the company, frequently leading circus masterclasses and holiday courses.