ZBS Team

Zak Barnett

(Master Teacher, CEO & Founder)  

For the past fifteen years, Zak has become one of Hollywood’s most renowned acting coaches, helping thousands of actors (aspiring, working, and celebrity) of all ages to artistic success and professional integrity within the industry. His 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 that focuses on artistic experimentation, spirituality and social activism. In other words – the development of the Whole Self.

Currently, Zak has dozens of students working as series regulars on major television shows, as well as hundreds of others working as guest stars, co-stars, and major roles in both studio and independent films. Among his students and clients, past and present, are numerous NAACP, SAG, People’s Choice, Golden Globe, and Emmy winners. He also consults for directors, productions, and networks, to ensure both individual actors and entire casts rise to the occasion of their best performance possible.

Martha Gehman Headshot, Acting Teacher and offers private coaching

Martha Gehman

(ZBS Teacher) 

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.

She is a member of the Actor’s Studio and has worked with and for Lee Strasberg, Elia Kazan, Arthur Penn, Ellen Burstyn, Ann Jackson, Lee Grant, Harvey Keitel, Christopher Walken, John Madden, Garry Marshall, and Michael Blakemore. As a teacher, she apprenticed under Sandra Seacat. Martha is also a director and has been teaching for 25 years. Some of her private clients include Jane Fonda, Beyonce, Common, Rhea Perlman, Alison Sudol, Rami Malek, Justin Chatwin, Joelle Carter, Erin Richards, Saffron Burrows, Grant Show and Katherine LaNasa.

John Lavelle

(ZBS Teacher)

Originally from New York, John spent much of his career appearing on Broadway, Off-Broadway, Regionally, and at The Royal Shakespeare Company. John received a Drama Desk Award for his work in The Royale at The Lincoln Center Theatre and he is a member of IAMA Theatre Company in Los Angeles. He has appeared on TV and Film in numerous roles, most notably portraying Roy Reed in Ava DuVernay’s Academy Award-nominated film Selma. As a voice artist, John has worked for Disney, Netflix, Dreamworks and is the voice of the beloved children’s book series Nate the Great. He is a graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and has studied at The Upright Citizens Brigade where his improv team Some Kinda Monster performed. John is the author of several plays including Inhalation (O’Neill Finalist), Sinner’s Laundry (Ovation recommended), Gertrude (Max Lerner Award) and his work has appeared in the ABC Discovers Talent Showcase. Over the years, he has mentored and taught with education programs such as Young Storytellers, The Usual Suspects, Stella Adler’s Art of Acting Studio, as well as leading Shakespeare workshops.

Kym Priess

(ZBS Teacher)

Kym Priess is an LA-based adventurous, bold multi-media performance and musical artist who is also an actor, acting teacher and coach. Her creations are highly influenced by the Wizard of Oz, the art of drag/disguise, vivid imagery, 80s/90s music videos, fairy tales, old comic books, human interaction and rock ’n roll wizardry.

Kym’s work pushes boundaries, forms and comfort levels yet maintain a whimsical, absurd and curious tone. Her multi-disciplinary projects have been seen in music venues, galleries, theatres, non-traditional locations and federal prisons in New York, LA, Amsterdam, San Francisco, Honolulu and Austin since the 1990s.

Since 2017, her main hybrid musical focus has been STUNTDRIVER, an adventure rock spectacle that straddles the lines of art and rock in a dancy electro-rock way that originally debuted at LA’s Highways Performance Space with a sold-out pair of wild, immersive shows.

Priess has been described as “critical to the existence of the dragon in you” (Come Here Floyd) and earned comparisons to Siouxsie Sioux and Joan Jett (LaBuzz Band’s Kevin Bronson). This discipline bender’s career took root in the NYU experimental theater world sparking theatrical, comedic, vivid works and a rock opera that was awarded “Best of the Fringe” (SF Fringe Festival). As a musician, Priess has written 300 songs, toured extensively, shared stages with Exene Cervenka and Fishbone and sings backup on William Shatner’s Spirit in the Sky.  Priess was born in Austin, Texas, loves roadtrips, tubing down a river and does her own stunts whenever she can.

Michael Connors

(ZBS Teacher)

Michael Connors is a Director, Acting Coach, and Actor who received his BFA from SUNY@Purchase Acting Conservatory. In addition, he trained at The Michael Howard Studios, Judith Weston’s Actor/ Director Lab, DNA Directors Lab, and The Barrow Group in NYC. Acting credits include Ray in a critically acclaimed production of Blackbird at The Met Theater, the West Coast premiere of the play Wake at The Fremont Centre Theatre, and the films Slocum Chandelier and You and Me. Directorial credits include Orphans (which he also acted in) co-starring Beau Mirchoff (Flatliners, Awkward) at The Hudson Mainstage, and the West Coast premiere of Limonade Tous Les Jous, starring Megan Boone (The Blacklist) which was honored with three LA Weekly Theatre Awards. He has taught and coached privately, is on the faculty of NYFA, and has taught for The Michael Woolson Studios. Michael has worked Off-Broadway and regionally, as well as in film & episodic TV.

Susan-Kate Heaney

(ZBS Teacher)

Susan-Kate Heaney is an actor, writer and filmmaker. Originally from New York she now resides in Los Angeles. She’s a graduate of New York University Tisch School of the Arts. She has appeared most recently as Nurse Mackenzie on The Mindy Project (HULU), as Renee in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (HULU), Shirley in Masters of Sex (Showtime), and opposite Bryce Dallas Howard in the comedy Pant Suits. As a filmmaker, her work has appeared in numerous festivals (short The Openers won Best Comedy at the Broad Humor Comedy Festival) and she recently co-created and co-wrote SK & J, a comedic digital series about breaking into Hollywood. She has written and performed in many comedic solo shows, most recently Facebook with Mom (Second City, The People’s Improv Theater, Fringe) and Mop-oholic (UCB, The People’s Improv Theater, iO West).  Susan-Kate also performs regularly in commercials, stand-up comedy, improv, sketch and voiceover (recent audiobook: “Mean Girls” for Scholastic), and hosts a podcast (and live show at the Comedy Central Stage) called “The Quirks”.


Sandi McCree

(ZBS Teacher)

Actress, youth advocate, and acting coach, Sandi McCree, is globally recognized for her edgy, street-tough performance as ‘De’londa Brice’ on HBO’s critically acclaimed television series The Wire. Slate Magazine said, “De’londa was one of the great maternal monsters in screen history. She made Joan Crawford look like mother of the year.” She has also received critical acclaim for her portrayal of Carole Brown, the mother of the legendary performer, Bobby Brown, in two BET Television award-winning mini-series: The New Edition Story and The Bobby Brown Story.

As an accomplished improviser and sketch performer, Sandi has played on several awarding improv teams in Los Angeles and is a proud alumna of The Groundlings Sunday Company and the Upright Citizens Brigade. She has guest starred with The Groundlings Main Company in Cookin’ With Gas and the Crazy Uncle Joe Show as well as UCB’s longest-running show, Tournament of Nerds.

Sandi has also worked with children from all over the country and has been dubbed “Ms Sandi aka The Kid Whisperer” due to her keen understanding of and ability to reach and connect with young people. Notably, Sandi taught acting and improvisation at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA), the number one ranked arts high school in the country. Among her many accomplishments, she produced and directed Remembering August Wilson at San Diego High School of Creative and Performing Arts and BeBop to Hip-Hop, an educational program, with the All-City Jazz Orchestra at the former Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz.

Sandi received a B.A. in Radio, Film and Television from the University of Maryland, and a Master of Fine Arts from Case Western Reserve University. Sandi was also a summer scholar at the National Shakespeare Conservatory in New York, and the British American Drama Academy in Oxford, England.

Jennifer Leigh Mann

(ZBS Teacher)

Jennifer Leigh Mann is an Actress, Director, and Acting Teacher. She received her MFA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro; BA in International Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and a BA in Photography from Hunter College. She has also trained with Joan Rosenfells; the Barrow Group; Upright Citizens Brigade; and Suzanne Shepherd from The Ensemble Group. She is currently practising the Alexander Technique and bringing meditation into her daily life. She loves to create stories and is working on a screenplay for one of them. Acting credits include Off-Broadway; recurring roles on House of Cards and One Life to Live, some other TV and Film credits include Revolution; The Disappointments Room and The Evening Hour (premiered at Sundance 2020).

Shelby Wulfert

(ZBS Teacher)

Shelby Wulfert is an actor, singer, and voice-over artist. She pursued her passion for the arts at an early age – studying acting, singing and dancing, and starring in musicals and stage productions at her high school and local theaters. She broadened her experience off-stage, doing commercial and voiceover work. Shelby landed her career break when she joined the Disney family as one-third of the team of actresses that bring the twin characters to life in the hit series, “Liv and Maddie” (Disney 2013-2017). Other credits include Swiped (TV Movie), Major Crimes (TNT) and Betch: A Sketch Show (2015-2018)


Maxwele D’Angelo

(ZBS Teacher)

Maxwele D’Angelo has been working in theatre, TV, and film in New York and Los Angeles since graduating from The Juilliard School (Group 36).  He acted alongside Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara in last year’s critically acclaimed film Don’t worry he won’t get far on foot under the direction of Gus Van Sant. Max was also on the small screen in Disney Channels KC Undercover opposite Zendaya. His other TV credits include The Goldberg’s, Wicked City, Gracie and Frankie, Goliath, Fifa Forever and Grey’s Anatomy.

While at Juilliard he portrayed George Murchinson in A Raisin in the Sun, Tom Moody in Odets The Golden Boy, and Antiochus in Shakespeare’s Pericles on the main stage.  Other roles include Tybalt, Balthazar and the Nurse in Shakespeare’s R & J.

Shortly after graduating from Juilliard, he was commissioned to write a play for the Eugene O’Neil Theatre in Costa Rica titled MLK: History. While in Costa Rica, Maxwell taught acting workshops at the University of Costa Rica.

While in NYC he became involved with ASTEP, Artist Striving to End Poverty (Astep.org), where he taught drama to middle and high school students in Homestead, Florida, New York City and Shenzhen, China. 

When Maxwele moved to LA he created a Entertainment Company that focuses on creating events Big and Small throughout the country. He also started his clothing company Made in Pangaea (Madeinpangaea.com) in 2018 with the purpose of trying to undo the division that the last election created, by reminding people that we are all one.    Maxwele approaches every challenge and role on his journey with a smile on his face and an open heart. He hopes to one day become the first Brazilian actor to win an Oscar.

Brooke Procida

(ZBS Teacher)

Brooke graduated from USC’s School of Dramatic Arts with a BFA in Acting and went on to get her Master’s degree at Goldsmith’s University of London where she received her MA in Creative Entrepreneurship/ Holistic Arts Education. She has been acting professionally since age 10 and has taught, coached or mentored in some form for over 30 years. She is the owner and operator Studio PCI in New York, a social enterprise dedicated to helping parents and families navigate the maze of the entertainment business whilst helping young artists to develop healthy, sustainable careers. She is a private vocal coach to many young, working actors and specializes in helping artists find their unique, inspired voices.

Barnet Bain

(Oscar and Emmy Nominated Producer, Writer, and Director)  

Barnet Bain’s credits include Oscar-winner What Dreams May Come (producer), Emmy-Award nominee, Outstanding Made for Television Movie, Homeless to Harvard (executive producer), The Celestine Prophecy (writer, producer), Jesus (aka The Jesus Film) (writer), and The Lost and Found Family (director).  Barnet consults and trains business leaders and private clients who are committed to high performance. Through his creativity workshops Barnet guides people of all ages and walks of life to expand their vision of what is possible, and develop their gifts and talents with passion.  Barnet is the author of The Book of Doing and Being: Rediscovering Creativity in Life, Love and Work, Simon & Schuster/Atria, July 2015.  He can be heard as co-host of Cutting Edge Consciousness Radio on KVTA AM Talk Radio in Southern California in conversation with thought leaders, entrepreneurs and visionaries from the worlds of culture, commerce and consciousness.  www.barnetbain.com.

Patricia Cogley

(Education and Human Rights Activist)  

 Patricia Cogley leads strategic partnerships for Adobe’s flagship philanthropy program, Adobe Youth Voices. For the past eight years Patricia has spearheaded Adobe Foundation’s global grants portfolio for organizations committed to the intersection of arts, community, and social change. In addition to leading AYV’s scholarship program and network of grantees, she has designed and managed large-scale international summits, supporting a movement of leaders committed to young people’s creativity. Previous to Adobe Patricia worked as an education consultant, youth media program leader, and exhibition designer. She holds a Masters in International Education and Human Rights from University of San Francisco.

Casting Director who offers private coaching through ZBS

Carol Goldwasser

(Casting Director)

Carol Goldwasser is an independent casting director who has worked for over twenty years in Los Angeles and New York. She’s cast actors who have received Kid’s and Teen Choice Awards, Imagen Awards, Young Artist Awards, and Emmy Award nominations for their roles. Her series work includes Austin & Ally (Kids Choice Awards Favorite TV show), Dog with a BlogI’m in the Band and Hannah Montana (Teen Choice Awards Choice TV Comedy). Other series include Out of Jimmy’s Head and The Hughleys; telefilms include Good Luck Charlie: It’s Christmas! and The Boy Who Cried Werewolf. Carol assembled a rotating cast for Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays. The play won an L.A. Drama Critics Circle Award for Unique Theatrical Event. She has been nominated for eleven 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 (Bio from IMDB).


(Casting Director)

Sara is a casting director based in LA, and has also worked as an agent at Greene & Associates Talent Agency, and as the Manager of Casting and Talent at Lifetime Television. As a Casting Director, she has worked on many shows including Fringe, Bates Motel, The Mentalist, Scream: The TV Series, Midnight, Texas, and Law and Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders. Sara is a proud member of the Casting Society of America, and served on the Board of Directors for two years.



Robin is currently a Co-Executive Producer on Syfy’s The Expanse. She was most recently a Consulting Producer on Cinemax’s Outcast and a Supervising Producer on NBC’s Believ. She started her career on staff of Mad Men, where she wrote five episodes of the show’s first three seasons, with three of her scripts receiving Emmy nominations, and one a Writers Guild nomination. While with Mad Men, she earned three Writers Guild Awards (two for Outstanding Drama Series and one for Outstanding New Series), as well as a Peabody Award. During the off season of Mad Men, she penned the live variety show The Mad Men Live Revue, which enjoyed sold out shows at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles and the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. She went on to be a Producer on Law & Order: SVU and was a Co-Producer on FX’s Lights Out prior to that, writing two episodes of its first season. She also recently completed a rewrite of the film Cripple for Gilbert Films. Her proudest achievement remains her Golden Elephant for Best Boss on Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus 136th tour.



Zach Guggenheim is a retired owner of an Art Restoration business in New York and London. A native of New York City, Mr. Guggenheim holds a PhD in Philosophy from Columbia University, a M.A. from Oxford University and a J.D. From Yale University. Along with his sister, he Co-Founded the Guggenheim Trust, a private Foundation that helps the world with hunger issues, clean water, sexual abuse, children’s health, women’s issues and safety issues. He has also helped raise money for NY Presbyterian hospital, Sloane-Kettering and St Jude’s Hospital. Mr. Guggenheim married and moved from New York to Los Angeles in 1989. He now spends time volunteering at Cedars-Sinai on the Cardiac floor.

Krishn Ghiya

(Operations & Marketing Director)

Krishn comes to ZBS after successfully working globally in the UK and India.  He is a graduate from the UCLA Extension program, and holds an Masters in Marketing from University of Nottingham, and a Bachelors of Business Management with a focus in Marketing from Christ University in India.   He also holds certificates in retail analytics from TCS, Media Literacy from Christ University, ‘SAP 01’, and New Models of Business Society from University of Virginia. Prior to coming to ZBS he was a Membership Coordinator at American Marketing Association, a Marketing Associate at European Union, and an Executive in Client Servicing at Ogilvy & Mather.  He is excited to be jumping into the LA entertainment industry. 

He will be consulting with us regarding our marketing strategies, branding strategies as well as consult on our social media activities (including Facebook & Instagram).

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 Morgan Siegel

Sloane 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 & VinnieModern FamilyBig Time RushThe 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 Elyse

Gabrielle 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 & AllyLiv & MaddieRizzoli & IslesTeen WolfThe 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. Zak’s 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.

Dwayne Calizo

Dwayne 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 passed 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.