Actors’ Conservatory

The East West Players Actors’ Conservatory Program offers a comprehensive theatre arts curriculum for those who are honing their craft as professional actors as well as those seeking personal expression. Students have ranged in age from 17 to 65, are of diverse ethnic and economic backgrounds, and possess skill levels that stretch from beginning to advanced. What brings everyone together is a dedication to learning and sharing a unique theatrical experience. The minimum age of participation is 17 with the consent of a parent or guardian. Enrolling and completing studies with East West Players Actors Conservatory does not guarantee you will be cast in an EWP mainstage production.


Learn more about our instructors.

Jennifer ChangJennifer Chang received her BFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and her MFA from the UCSD/ La Jolla Playhouse program.  As an actor, she has been on stages across the US, from our local EWP and South Coast Rep to theatres in New York City, Minneapolis, Philadelphia etc.  She has appeared in numerous national commercials, Indie Films, and TV shows like Two and a Half Men, Parenthood, NCIS: LA, Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles, amongst others.  As a director, her recent work includes LA Times’ Critic’s Choice Animals Out of Paper at East West Players,  Lady Windermere’s Fan (LA Weekly Pick of the Week), Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them (Ovation Nomination: Best Ensemble), and Fortinbras by Lee Blessing at the USC School of Dramatic Arts.  She is a founding member and Co-Artistic Director for Chalk Repertory Theatre.

Christian_DursoChristian Durso is a classically trained actor, playwright, and screenwriter. He has performed Shakespeare professionally in regional theaters across the country including Shakespeare Santa Cruz, The Old Globe, Great Lakes Theatre, Idaho Shakespeare Festival, The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, among others. He has taught workshops and intensives on Shakespeare and Voice and Speech at The Old Globe and La Jolla Playhouse. A proud member of Actor’s Equity and the Los Angeles based IAMA Theatre Company, Christian has trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and holds an MFA in classical theatre from the University of San Diego and a BFA in drama from NYU. 

100x151_prince_gomolvilasPrince Gomolvilas’s plays include Big Hunk o’ Burnin’ Love, a groundbreaking Thai-American comedy; The Theory of Everything, which won the PEN Center USA Literary Award for Drama; and Mysterious Skin, the critically acclaimed stage adaptation of the Scott Heim novel. His work has been produced around the United States, as well as in Canada, England, Ireland, Scotland, and Singapore. Companies and venues include The Drill Hall, East West Players, Impact Theatre, Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, New Conservatory Theatre Center, Pork Filled Players, Singapore Repertory Theatre, SIS Productions, and Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre, as well as the National Asian American Theatre Festival. His shows for young audiences, The Oskar Plays, which were launched by the nationally celebrated TheatreWorks Silicon Valley and the Tony Award-winning Alley Theatre, have been touring continuously for the past ten years, reaching hundreds of thousands of children in California, Texas, and Pennsylvania. His TEDx talk, “Mind the Gap,” was presented at Chapman University.

Leslie IshiiLeslie Ishii is proud to be a conservatory faculty member for the better part of her 21 year association with East West Players (EWP).  She brings her commitment to develop liberation and alliance building curriculums in combination with acting and voice work to EWP and Center Theatre Group, where she is also a project faculty member for their Young Audiences Programming.  She has performed on Broadway, in regional theatre, was seen on LOST, Desperate Housewives, HawthoRNe, The New Generation FAME, to name a few, and can be seen in the upcoming pilot, Murder In The First.  Leslie directed EWP’s main stage critically acclaimed, Crimes Of The Heart and their educational-tour shows, Taking Flight; The Story Of Katherine Cheung and Dawn’s Light: The Gordon Hirabayashi Story.  She has been a FAIR Participant at Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) for the 2012 and 2013 seasons.  She also co-organized and co-directed the 1st and 2nd Freedom and Focus International Fitzmaurice Voicework® Conferences in Barcelona, Spain, Vancouver, Canada, and is a co-organizer for the Bogotá, Colombia conference in 2014.  Leslie is also a co-facilitator for Theatre Communication Group’s Diversity/Inclusion Institute and has been a diversity/inclusion facilitator trainer for OSF.  She has been a keynote and featured presenter at voice and qualitative research conferences in Mexico City, Mexico, Barcelona, Spain, and Vienna, Austria.

Training:  American Conservatory Theatre, MFA; U of Washington, BA, B of Music, w/dance minor. SAG-AFTRA, AEA.

Dom MagwiliDom Magwili currently teaches Asian American Film and Video at Cal State Fullerton. He has also taught at UCLA, Cal State Long Beach and taught acting workshops at Amherst, MIT and Harvard. This summer he taught and directed EWP’s Student Lab Project Romeo and Juliet on the East West Players mainstage.  He has guest starred on such TV shows as Close To Home, King Of Queens, and ER and was also seen in the HBO show, How To Make It In America and appeared in the film 50 First Dates. Dom also directed the webseries, The Ho’s On 7th Street and is currently  in post production on his own written, directed, and produced webseries, Samurai Mon Amour.
200x200_Alec MapaEllen Degeneres has called him “smart, hilarious and funny.” Variety has said, “Alec Mapa is a freak. No one should be this talented.” With uproarious live performances and groundbreaking television roles, actor and comedian Alec Mapa has entertained audiences worldwide in every imaginable medium.

Currently that medium is television. Alec’s latest comedy special Alec Mapa: Baby Daddy premieres on Showtime June 12, 2015. Based on his award-winning solo show, Alec Mapa: Baby Daddy hilariously, irreverently chronicles Alec’s journey to fatherhood via foster adoption. TV audiences currently enjoy Alec in his recurring roles on ABC Family’s Switched At Birth and Lifetime’s Devious Maids.

Audiences first discovered Alec on Broadway in the Tony Award-winning production of M. Butterfly. He guest starred on over 40 television series, including Alias, Friends, Roseanne, Seinfeld, and NYPD Blue. Alec played network television’s very first gay Asian series regular role on the CBS sitcom Some Of My Best Friends. He then starred in four seasons of the UPN sitcom Half & Half. Alec went on to appear in the ABC hit Ugly Betty and was a frequent guest star on Desperate Housewives. Film audiences howled at Alec as “N’Cream” in the wildly popular drag queen musical Connie and Carla. Other films include Playing By Heart, Marley & Me, and You Don’t Mess with the Zohan.

An accomplished stand-up comedian, Alec’s Wisecrack comedy special premiered on LOGO in 2005 and has since become a cult favorite. His follow-up comedy specials America’s Gaysian Sweetheart and No Fats, Femmes or Asians aired on the Here! And LOGO networks respectively.

Alec was awarded the prestigious Davidson Valentini GLAAD Award for promoting equal rights for the LGBT community. A tireless fundraiser, Alec has toured the country on behalf of The Human Rights Campaign and The Matthew Shepard Foundation earning him the unofficial title of “America’s Gaysian Sweetheart.”

Alec lives in Los Angeles with his husband Jamie and his son Zion.

Wesley-MannWesley Mann has performed in productions of seventeen of Shakespeare’s plays to date and has a great love of the works of the greatest playwright in the English language. He has appeared on many stages across the country including The American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, The Arena Stage in Washington D.C., Portland Center Stage and has spent ten seasons with the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, both performing and teaching. He has taught most recently with the Inner Circle Theatre in North Hollywood and has taught with East West Players off and on for years. Besides his conservatory training at Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts (PCPA) Theatrefest, he has continued his own training in Shakespeare with Andrew Wade and Rob Claire both of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC).

Deborah ShulmanDeborah Shulman is a jazz singer, recording artist, musical theater artist, and vocal coach with an eclectic, international resume. She has played clubs in London, Sydney, Manila, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, and has often opened for stars such as Johnny Ray, Robert Goulet and Carol Lawrence. Among her musical theater roles, she portrayed Jellylorum in the second National Company of CATS at the Schubert Theater in Los Angeles. She is also a librettist, writing four childrens operas, and co-producer of the critically acclaimed L.A. production and National Tour of All Night Strut. Deborah has recorded three CD’s, 2 For The RoadMy Heart’s In The Wind, and her most recent, Lost In The Stars, with some of the top musicians on the scene today.

Aaron Takashi

Aaron Takashi

Aaron Takahashi is actor, improviser, sketch writer & performer, and teacher.  He has been in over 45 national commercials, including campaigns for Esurance, Snapple, and the popular commercial for Amp’d Mobile in which he raps to himself in a public restroom before getting caught.  His latest commercial is a spot for Kmart.

Aaron’s television credits include Community, The Mentalist, Ben and KateSullivan & SonMr. Robot.  He is also featured on Conan in comedic sketches and pre-taped segments.  Aaron has appeared in films such as Better Luck Tomorrow, and Yes Man. On stage, he was last seen in the world premiere of Slice at the Fremont Centre Theatre in South Pasadena.

Aaron is an instructor and core performing member of the improv group Cold Tofu.  He has written and performed sketch at ACME Comedy Theatre.  He also teaches an on-camera commercial audition workshop.

Laura Woodward - East West Players

Laura Woodward

Laura Woodward is an actor, director, and coach who has worked both regionally and Off-Broadway.  Some of her favorite experiences include time spent at The Guthrie, Yale Repertory Theater, Triad Stage, Mixed Blood, and TheaterWorks in Hartford.  She is delighted to have played Juliet in The Acting Company and Guthrie Theater’s touring production of Romeo and Juliet, and is the recipient of two Connecticut Critics Circle Awards.  Laura is a proud member of Actors’ Equity and SAG-AFTRA, and has appeared in a myriad of features, indie films and commercials.  Over the years, Laura has also flexed her muscles as a set designer, costume designer, and producer.  She holds a BFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, an MFA from The Yale School of Drama, and is a KRI certified Kundalini Yoga instructor.

Matt Yang King - East West Players

Matt Yang King

Matt Yang King is the winner of the CAPE/Hollywood Foreign Press Young Screenwriters Award and the creator, writer, and director of The World of Steam, a Twilight Zone-like webseries set in a Steampunk universe. Matt has appeared on numerous TV shows, as a series regular on the shows Washington Field and GI Joe: Renegades, and guest starring on everything from Friends, BonesFrasier to 24. He is most noted for his long-running roles on Strong Medicine as Dr. Matt Lin, and on Numb3rs as Agent Matt Li. Matt is also widely known for voice work in many movies, television shows, and video games. Currently he can be seen on Nickelodeon’s Supah Ninjas and heard on World of  Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria, and many others. Matt lives and works in Los Angeles with his wife and three children.

Our Classes

You can find the current schedule of classes offered by the EWP Actor’s Conservatory Program below.


Introduction to Stage Combat – Unarmed

Dates: August 3rd-4th, 2019

Location: David Henry Hwang Theatre – 120 Judge John Aiso St., 90012

Course Description:Learn how to throw down a convincing stage fight using nothing but your own body! This hand-to-hand stage combat course will introduce you to the safety and mechanics of slaps, punches, kicks, falls, throws, and more. Its intention is to give the student a solid fundamental basis upon which all other stage combat, (including sword fighting), is rooted. Participants will receive 14 hours of instruction, and will cover safety, partnering, and technique, culminating in utilizing and reinforcing these newly acquired skills in a choreographed fight fit for the stage. At the completion for the course, students will be asked to perform the fight in the context of a scene. Participants will be given the option of submitting the test for certification in Level One Beginning Unarmed Combat from one of the largest Stage Combat organizations in the U.S., Dueling Arts International.


Day 1: August 3rd – 10am-6pm with a one hour lunch break

Day 2: August 4th – 10am-6pm with a one hour lunch break

Proper Attire:

Please dress comfortably enough for wide movements such as lunges, falls, grabs, and punches.
No jeans, or any clothing that may be restricting to breathing or movement.
No shorts or skirts. Please wear long pants such as workout pants.
Closed toed shoes only.
Please wear “grabbable” shirts, such as t-shirts. Because of this, please do not wear any spaghetti straps, or lowcut shirts.
Maximum of 12 students.

Instructor Bios:

Thomas Isao Morinaka is an actor, writer, stunt performer, and an award-winning stage combat/fight choreographer. He has been teaching, performing, and choreographing violence for stage and film for over 15 years and is trained in various weapons and disciplines by the Society of American Fight Directors (SAFD), Dueling Arts International (DAI), and the United Stuntmen’s Association (USA), with training in various forms of martial arts from the Chozen-Ji International Zen Dojo. During his career, Morinaka has choreographed violence for more than 30 plays in 4 states and most recently led the Fight Choreography Team for Jennifer Chang’s production of Vietgone at East West Players, which received a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle (LADCC) Award for Fight Choreography. Morinaka earned a BA with Honors in Theatre from the University of Hawai’i, with an emphasis in stage combat and Japanese theatre, history, and classical literature. He is a proud member of SAG/AFTRA and Equity.

Thomas McCurdy is an actor, fight performer, Associate Instructor of Stage Combat, and award-winning fight choreographer.  McCurdy began his Stage Combat career at the University of Hawai’i in 2003 and quickly rose through the ranks of Dueling Arts International, receiving his Associate Instructor certification in 2008.  During his 10+ years of teaching McCurdy has taught at the high school and university levels as well as choreographed fights professionally for theatre groups in Hawai’i and California. In 2018, McCurdy was part of the Fight Choreography Team for Vietgone at East West Players, which received the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for Fight Choreography. In addition to teaching, McCurdy is a member of SAG/AFTRA and has performed stunts for both TV and film, appearing in LOST, Hawai’i Five-0 and Battleship. McCurdy is also a member of the International Order of the Sword and Pen, which is made up of Fight Masters, Stunt Coordinators, and Martial Artists from around the globe.

Please direct all questions to Arts Education and Professional Enrichment Programs Manager, Jade Cagalawan at or (213) 625-7000 x11


Students who have completed at least one year of study with the East West Players Actor’s Conservatory are eligible to participate in the Studio Lab Project, a workshop that provides an opportunity to apply theatrical skills in an environment that simulates the professional theatre process. The Actor’s Conservatory provides a limited number of scholarships through the Beulah Quo Endowment for Theatre Education.

For more information about the application process and scholarship work requirements, go here. East West Players encourages all those interested in pursuing the arts to apply. For more information, contact Arts Education and Professional Enrichment Programs Manager Jade Cagalawan at or (213) 625-7000.