10012525_10202217455410080_445015428_nZak Barnett

(Owner, Director, Master Acting Teacher: Master, Core)  

Zak Barnett is uniquely qualified to spearhead an organization that works at the intersection of entertainment industry success, spirituality and social activism. For the past 10 years he has become one of Hollywood’s most renown acting coaches, helping thousands of actors (aspiring, working, and celebrity) of all ages to artistic success and professional integrity within the industry. He has developed both a trusted name within the industry as well as a loyal following. This background is supported by an equally impressive seven years of developing and co-chairing the first BA, MA, and MFA performing arts program in the country focused on artistic experimentation, spirituality and social activism. His own studies and work as an actor, writer, and director have resulted in BA and MFA degrees in Acting, Playwriting and Directing as well as an award-winning theater company, a feature-length independent film, and professional acting work in both film and tv. Currently Zak has a dozen of his students working as series regulars on major television shows, as well as hundreds of others working as guest stars, costars, major roles in both studio and independent films, and on and off-Broadway.

Some of his current and recent students include Sloane Siegel (star of Amazon’s Gortimer Gibbons and the Life on Normal Street), Johnny Ortiz (star of ABC’s American Crime), Jake Brennan (star of Netflix’s Richie Rich), Gabryelle Elyse (series regular on Nickelodeon’s Nicki, Ricki, Dickie, and Dawn), Madalyn Horcher (series regular on Fox’s Gracepoint), Casey Moss (series regular on Days of Our Lives), Raeven Lee Hanan (series regular on FX’s Married), Cody Saigntnue (Brett) and Khylin Rambo (Mason) from MTV’s Teen Wolf, Kayla Maisonet on Disney’s Dog with a Blog, Danielle MacDonald  (The East starring Ellen Page and Alexander Skarsgard and star of Every Secret Thing with Dakota Fanning and Diane Lane), Austin Abrams from Warner Herzog’s film Vernon God Little with Russel Brand and The Greens are Gone with Maya Rudolph and Catherine Keener, River Alexander from The Way Way Back with Steve Carell and Toni Collette and Boychoir with Dustin Hoffman and Kathy Bates, Olivia Rose Keegan from Amnesiac with Kate Bosworth and Wes Bentley, Kayla Servi from Comet starring Justin Long and Emmy Rossum and Storm Reid from Twelve Years a Slave and Opium War.



Anne Hawthorne

(Partner, Acting Teacher, and Head of ZBS Calgary)

Anne is originally from North Carolina and graduated from East Carolina University (Cum laude).  After graduation she moved to NYC where she performed on Broadway in Fosse with Ben Vereen, Ann Reinking, and Bebe Newirth, Pajama Game, The Merry Widow with Placido Domingo, A Christmas Carol with Tim Curry and was a Radio City Rockette.  She performed on the road in CATS National Touring Company, Animal Crackers at Arena Stage, DC  where she was Asst. Choreographer to Baayork Lee, Street Scene with Wolff Trapp Opera Co., as well as other regional theaters. Her film credits include A Miracle on Christmas Lake, Dark Hearts, Flirting with Forty, Heart of the Country as actor/producer, Mutant World, Picking Up and Dropping Off, The Other Woman, Undercover Christmas, Hollywood Wives, Simple Revenge.

While in NYC, Anne studied Meisner technique, film studies with Roz Colman and The School for Film and Television. She continued her studies after moving to Calgary with various acting workshops in LA, which is where she met Zak Barnett. After many years of developing friendship and having him as her coach they decided to start Zak Barnett Studios in Los Angeles.   She is so proud to be a part of such a unique and special family at ZBS where entertainment, spirituality and activism are the focus of the school.

Anne currently lives in Calgary, Canada with her husband and three children. 


MarthawebMartha Gehman

(Master Acting Teacher: Scene Study, Core) 

Martha is an extraordinary acting teacher who has had rare and extensive experience in a multitude of theatrical-formats, including film and television. She comes from one of the great American theatrical lineages having grown up in theaters around the world with her mother Academy Award winning actress, Estelle Parsons. Exposure to acclaimed playwrights, actors, lyricists, choreographers in the stage arts and crafts has provided her with a teaching ability rarely found in one human being. She is also a member of the Actors Studio having worked with such artists as Ellen Burstyn, Ann Jackson, Arthur Penn, Lee Grant, Harvey Keitel and Christopher Walken.  As a teacher she apprenticed under acting coach Sandra Seacat.

For the past 15 years Gehman has been an independent teacher, conducting both classes and private sessions for professionals and all levels of actors at her studio in Hollywood. She frequently works on set with her clients.  Martha’s clients have included: Jane Fonda, Joelle Carter, Beyonce, Common, Katherine LaNasa, Grant Show, Erin Richards, Justin Chatwin, and Agyness Deyn.

Alexweb3Alex Burkart

(Administrative Director, Teacher: Core, Craft)

Alex is a graduate from the MFA Performance Pedagogy program at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he studied techniques of teaching acting and directing. During his studies he taught regularly for TheatreVCU including full curriculum development of the Directing I and II sequence, as well as the creation of classes for Voice-Over and Radio Drama and Acting for Web Content.   He currently teaches the intermediate CRAFT class and co-teaches CORE for Kids/Tweens. In 2011, Alex (alongside his twin brother Nate) founded the award-winning Los Angeles New Court Theatre, which is now in its sixth season. Performance-wise, Alex’s work has been seen across the country. His credits include the American premiere of Tom Stoppard’s Pirandello’s Henry IV at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Artie Goldberg in the Mid-Atlantic premiere of Yank!, Eugene Morris Jerome in Biloxi Blues and Broadway Bound, and Adam Sandler’s Jack and Jill. He was also hand selected by Edward Albee to participate in a reading of the play Me, Myself, & I with legends Elizabeth Ashley and Brian Murray at Playwrights Horizons in NYC. In addition to performance, Alex is the author of the full-length play Atlas Pit, which received its world premiere in Los Angeles Fall 2016.  His newest play El Cíclope received a reading at Samuel French Bookshop in June 2017. He also holds a BFA in Musical Theatre from Webster University’s Conservatory of Theatre Arts.

Rushing,-JohnJohn Rushing

(Director of Development, Teacher: Craft)

John is an actor, acting coach, and producer. John’s training is deeply rooted in Meisner’s method and Viewpoints–although he draws from several different approaches when teaching depending on student needs. John worked professionally as a stage actor in Chicago and Los Angeles. John has worked in theaters large and small, including the Tony Award winning houses of Victory Gardens (Chicago) and The Geffen Playhouse (Los Angeles). Selected credits include: Pulitzer-Prize Finalist The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, as well as Equus, Amadeus, Love of the Nightingale, and Belfry. John is a proud member of Actor’s Equity. In addition to theater, John works professional in film and television. He has several national commercials to his credit including Union Pacific, Lynn Waldock, Fischer Investments, Long John Silvers, and Funyuns. His recent television work includes guest appearances on Rizzoli & Isles and See Dad Run. John works regularly in independent film and has appeared with Steven Seagal, Alan Arkin, Ving Rhames, and Clea Duval. John is a member of SAG-AFTRA. John started acting at age 5 and focused on theater until age 15 when he made a shift into film and television. John worked professionally as a child actor and transitioned to adult productions after college. John’s earned degrees from Calvin College, Oxford University, and the University of Texas. He completed a two-year Meisner training program in Chicago and has studied with the prestigious SITI Company of New York, Brad Garrett, and Margie Haber. John taught acting at The Margie Haber Studio for over two years and has traveled the world coaching privately on set. When he is not working as an actor, John works as a film and television producer. He has co-produced two films and is currently developing both film and television projects for sale. John believes that connection and spirituality are key components in an artist’s life. His spiritual connection is with the ocean, and he partakes in this spirituality by sailing. John is an competitive off-shore sailor. Sponsored by GILL sailing gear, he has competed in several well known long distance ocean races, including The Transpac (LA-Hawaii), The Cabo (NewportCabo), and The Ensenada (Newport-Ensenada trophy winner 3 years in a row). When he is not acting or sailing, John hangs out with his wife and son and roots for his beloved Chicago Cubs.

Kym_ShowcaseKym Priess

(Teacher: Dramatic Improv)

Also known as Tomahawk, Kym Priess is a multi-media performance artist, actor, singer, musician, and fitness instructor.  A rock ’n roll firecracker, down-to-earth Texan native and NYU graduate, Kym’s candid, fearless, and adventurous approach to art, teaching, and life has led her to creating one-woman shows, fronting and playing in bands, writing rock operas, and acting in film/tv projects.  Kym has been a collaborator with Zak for over twenty years. She truly believes that one can access their greatest potential by diving into the unknown and seeing how much already exists inside of them. This is the never-ending exploration in life. Most recent credits include being a Co-host/Travel Expert on a new series by the Travel Channel, writing songs for Vanderpump Rules, and regular episodes of her rock ’n roll fitness web series Tomahawk Training. Her rock art solo project Stunt Driver will make its debut in 2017. The project is named as such due to Kym’s secret desire to be a real stunt driver. Stay tuned….

Danielle_ShowcaseDanielle Macdonald

(Teacher: Dramatic Improv)

Danielle Macdonald was born and raised in Sydney Australia. She did drama classes at the Australian Institute of Performing Arts while she was in High School. Through this school she did tours to the states where she did casting director workshops to learn more about the US market. At the age of 18 she had her first ever audition for the role of Becca on Huge (ABC family) and booked it. Due to VISA issues, she was unable to accept the role, but moved to Los Angeles shortly thereafter. Her first role in the states was a short film The Thief directed by Rachel Weisz for Glamour Reel Moments, staring Joel Edgerton and Rosemarie Dewitt.

She made her feature film debut in The East, also starring Ellen Page, Brit Marling and Alexander Skarsgard. Shortly after she appeared in the film Trust Me directed by Clark Gregg, before booking a lead role in Every Secret Thing, which premiered at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival, where her costars include Diane Lane, Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Banks.

She has had several guest appearances on shows such as Glee, Pretty Little Liars, 2 Broke Girls, The Middle, and most recently American Horror Story: Roanoke.

She is also the star of the feature film Patti Cake$, which received a premiere at Sundance Film Festival 2017- where she was labeled as one of the festival’s biggest breakout stars.

She currently has a number of films in production including The Three Rachels and Extracurricular Activities.

Carol-GoldwasserCarol Goldwasser

(Audition Coach)

Carol Goldwasser is an independent casting director and audition coach who has worked for over twenty years in Los Angeles and New York, specializing in youth and teen programming for the last ten years. She has cast actors who’ve received Kid’s and Teen Choice Awards, Imagen Awards, Young Artist Awards, and Emmy Award nominations for their roles in her projects. Series work includes Austin & Ally (Kids Choice Awards Favorite TV show), Dog with a Blog (multiple Emmy nominations), I’m in the Band (multiple Young Artist Awards) and Hannah Montana (Teen Choice Awards Choice TV Comedy & multiple Emmy nominations). She has been nominated for twelve Casting Society of America Artios Awards for excellence in casting, winning the honor twice, and was a Heller Award nominee for Television Casting Director of the year. Carol is a member of the Television Academy and the Casting Society of America.

IvyIvy Ross Ricci

(Guest Instructor)

Ivy is a nationally recognized yoga teacher, musician, and youth development activist who creatively incorporates philosophy, poetry, humor, storytelling, and a radical understanding of human potential into accessible yoga practices, songs, and social service. She believes in the power of everyday life lessons to draw us all into the heart of Yoga and Music.

She is currently in the process of building an army of artists who will fight via creative critical thought and profound self-love to alter standards of beauty in this country. In the words of Bill Coperthwaite, “Beauty is not what something looks like, it is what it is made of.” Ivy imagines a world in which young people can find refuge from harmful images in mainstream media within a culture of vibrant and caring adults who embody self-love and acceptance.

She is also co-founder of a national movement called the Keepers of Wonder in which youth of all ages work hard to keep the world magical.

photoDwayne Calizo

(In Spirit and Memoriam: Co-Founder, Master Voice Teacher)

Dwayne Calizo was a visionary activist, artist, teacher and friend, without which, there would be no ZBS.  He passéd away a couple of weeks prior to us opening our doors.  The social programs he designed are named in his honor.

Dwayne Patrick Calizo (Boobie/Kekoa/Mama) was the truest of Bohemians. A devotee to the transcendent power of art, activism, teaching, friendship, family, the underdog, irreverence, diversity, laughter, forgiveness and above all, LOVE. As his mother said, Dwayne had no black book where he wrote down the people he would not forgive, and when he did feign writing in one (purely for dramatic affect), he did so with disappearing ink. He had a voice unlike any of us had ever heard, and an unrelenting belief that everyone could sing. EVERYONE had a voice that needed to be heard. In retrospect, it may have been because it was lonely singing from the next world; somehow still, he managed to pull many of us halfway there

Dwayne frequently told the story of when all the neighborhood kids would gather outside his bathroom window in the plantation town he grew up on the North Shore of Hawaii, shouting requests as he sang in the shower. They called the game “Radio”; Dwayne took a lot of showers.   He went on to attend the University of Hawaii where he won numerous national awards for classical singing. He then moved to Los Angeles and created “The Space”, a community art and music venue, which served as a safe space for rival gangs to interact/create art with one another.  Following that, he was a hospice nurse during the early days of the AIDS crisis, putting his own life on the line to help others pass with dignity and grace.
Dwayne then moved to San Francisco, meeting up with his new partner Zak where he formed ghosttown experimental theater, followed by the Experimental Performance Institute, the first BA, MA and MFA Program in Queer and Activist Performance in the world with a group of SF-based artists, as well as Mama Calizo’s Voice Factory, dedicated to Queer Artists of Color, Trans Artists and Artists living with HIV/AIDS. As an individual artist, he originated 7 Rock Musicals, 10 original dance theater pieces and 5 solo albums, and collectively was awarded some of the most prestigious artistic grants and awards in the country.

His life both in Hawaii and San Francisco was a beautifully composed song, filled with countless verses of relationships with family and friends.  Dwayne’s teaching, producing and artistic work has impacted innumerable artists and activists across the globe, and at the time of his death, he was gearing up to launch a Zak Barnett Studios in Los Angeles. He died committed to the things he loved: his beliefs, his partner, his art, his family and his friends.

Dwayne struggled with many things: mental illness, AIDS, poverty and Addiction. I say this because Dwayne taught us to stand up for ALL of who we are, and to use humility, commitment and love to navigate through. He died a hero.  His ohana also included 16 nieces and nephews, 27 grandnieces and nephews and more true friends, and dedicated students then one could count.

 ZBS Staff

Austin Heemstra

Austin Heemstra

(Head of Media and Graphics)

Austin Heemstra is an Actor/Director with a BS in Digital Cinema from DePaul University. Austin started acting at the age of eight in his home state of Maryland. He focused on musical theatre and has been in a estimated 40 different shows. After high school Austin moved to Chicago to attend college to study film production. There he worked at DePaul’s equipment rental facility, where he learned and worked all aspects of the film production world. At DePaul, Austin directed, wrote, and produced his first independent short film “Samson,” which is now being submitted to festivals around Chicago and Los Angeles. Austin now lives in Los Angeles where he has worked internships at The Mission (Production Company) and AEFH (Talent Agency) and works as a freelance videographer, editor, sound mixer, director, and actor.



Student Mentors

ZBS brings in student mentors to work regularly in class.  These mentors are individuals who have found success both artistically and professionally- and they are there to help guide and advise students on their own artistic and professional journeys.  Student Mentors are assigned to one age bracket below their own, ensuring a big brother/big sister program for our community of artists.


Sloane_ShowcaseSloane Morgan Siegel

(Kids/Tween Master)

Sloane is an award winning  actor with more than 50 films and 45 national and international commercials, 16 TV Pilots, 40+ television appearances, 20 voiceovers, 3 plays, and multiple music videos and print model work in his credits. He has been trained on screen combat, works out weekly with a professional trainer, and performs most all of his own stunts. Sloane is best known for his titular leading role as Gortimer in Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street, which is an award-winning original TV Series developed by Amazon Studios. On March, 15, 2015, he won the Best Actor Award as the Lead in a TV Series presented by the 36th annual Young Artists Awards, and he won it again in 2016. He was the first person in 37 years to repeat as the winner of the top TV Award. He’s been a lead more than 20 times and while every one of his films has won awards, one has won 16 Film Festival awards. Sloane just completed a major guest starring role (Evan) on the new hit series, Pure Genius on CBS, where half of the one-hour drama is dedicated to his character. Sloane completed a recurring co-star role on the CBS sitcom, Partners, and guest spots on popular shows such as Wendell & Vinnie, Modern Family, Big Time Rush, The Neighbors, and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He’s won an IAWTV Award as the lead in the variety series Kids React which also won a daytime Emmy and garners more than 2 million views a week.  He has worked with and trained with Zak Barnett for the last six years. He is very proud to be a Student Mentor at ZBS.

Gabrielle ElyseGabrielle Elyse

(Teen Master)

Gabrielle is a Texas born actress. Since her acting journey began, she has booked multiple guest stars on various TV shows like Austin & Ally, Liv & Maddie, Rizzoli & Isles, Teen Wolf, The Catch, and Black-ish. She has also has multiple series leads under her belt. (Season 1 of Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn on Nickelodeon, A new series on Hulu, and a new project for Warner Brothers that is set to premiere this year. This project also apart of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.)
Gabrielle has worked with Zak Barnett for over 6 years. In those 6 years, she has learned to hone in what a unique voice and skills she has not only as an actress but as an artist. She now brings her own originality to each of her characters. Through audition coaching and on going scene study classes, Zak has helped her to become self aware and how she relates to the world around her as an creative being. Zaks desire for an artist is to not only develop an actors own creativity but to also make the artist be aware and connect to the world around them.