The Conservatory’s instructors are all working actors, directors and playwrights who are actively engaged in the DC-area acting community. It is a requirement for our faculty members to be working regularly onstage or in film or video in order to continue to serve as a Conservatory instructor.
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National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts
Hope Lambert – Education Director Emeritus, Senior Faculty Member.
Hope is an actress and teaching artist in the Washington DC Metro Area. Her stage credits include: The Heidi Chronicles at Arena Stage; MonkeyBoy by Keith Bridges, Chris Stezin and Richard Washer at Charter Theater; Building a Boat by Helen Hayes Award-nominated playwright Peter Coy at Charter; The Early Miracle by Lew Holton at Charter; Fallen from Proust by Helen Hayes award-winning playwright Norman Allen at Signature Theatre; MacBeth at the Folger Shakespeare Library; The Road to Mecca at Olney Theatre; Little Women at the Kennedy Center; Translations at Keegan Theatre; and Twelfth Night, Pericles and Taming of the Shrew at Washington Shakespeare Company, where she is a former company member. A proud member of both Actors Equity Association and the Screen Actors Guild, she has appeared in several government industrial films as well as a recent feature film called Sleeping and Waking that has toured international film festivals. As a founding company member of Educational Theatre Company, she has been teaching theatre arts classes to youth and adults for over 15 years.
Christopher Herring – Faculty Member.
Christopher is from Jackson, Mississippi, and a 2006 graduate of Mississippi State University with a minor in Theatre. He moved to Virginia and interned at Wayside Theatre under Warner Crocker before training at the Conservatory. Since completing the Conservatory, Christopher has performed with: The Washington Stage Guild, NextStop Theatre, Flying V Theatre, Washington Shakespeare Company Avant Bard, the American Century Theatre, Imagination Stage, Theatre Alliance and numerous others. Local credits include: Inventing Van Gogh (Patrick Stone), In Praise of Love (Joey Cruttwell), All Apologies (Jim Morrison), The Ballad of the Red Knight (Red Knight), The Green Bird (Green Bird), Mary Stuart (Count Bellievre), Crave (A), Secret Obscenities (Karl Marx) and On the Waterfront (Charley). Film credits include: The Dirtyard (Kid McConaughey) with Crash of Rhinos, Late-Night Partying (John) with Abracadabra Productions, How Mulch is Made (Keysus) and Denny (Agent Winters) with Conservatory Productions, both winners of “Best in DC” for the 48-Hour Film Festival. He has also appeared in a number of regional and national commercials. Christopher is a production manager and casting director with Gondolin Inc., character actor with Carbone Entertainment, voice-over artist, and musician.
Tia Shearer Bassett – Faculty Member.
Tia Shearer Bassett is a professional actress and produced playwright who landed in the DC area in Summer 2010. Since then, she has performed with Second City, Baltimore Center Stage, Imagination Stage, The Hub Theatre, Taffety Punk's Riot Grrrls, Constellation Theatre, Arts on the Horizon (performing nonverbal theatre for ages 6 and under) and the Kennedy Center TYA (including two national tours of Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical), among others. Non-local credits include Tennessee Rep, Nashville Shakespeare Festival, Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre, Nashville Children's Theatre and New York's East River Theater Company. She is a graduate of NYU's Gallatin School for Individualized Studies and has practiced theatre with the likes of Austin Pendleton and SITI Company's Jeffrey Fracé. Tia is especially adept at highly physical theatre, multi-character tracks and theatre for young audiences.
Doug Wilder – Director of Education, Senior Faculty Member.
Doug Wilder is the education director of the Conservatory and he is also a graduate of the three-year Conservatory program. Doug has acted in more than 60 plays in the Washington area, as well as in 27 states on the National Tour of Tom Sawyer. Doug has directed shows at NEXTSTOP Theater, 1st Stage, Imagination Stage, Actors Repertory Theater, Charter Theater, The Capital Fringe Festival, and Wayside Theater, as well as many different scenes and acts for local cabarets. Doug is also active in the independent film/industrial world, where he has appeared in more than 30 projects and directed over 20 short films. As a part of the 2011 Conservatory team, Doug was a co-winner of “Best Acting” award in the 48-Hour Go Green Film Festival. As a writer, Doug was a co-winner in the 2012 Bethesda Play in a Day Festival. In 2013, Doug directed Disco Jesus and the Apostles of Funk which was named 'Best of Fringe' by broadwayworld.com, and won the Director's Award. In 2014, Doug won best writing, best acting, and best film in the Washington DC 48 Hour film festival, and best musical for You, or Whatever I Can Get, which he co-wrote and co-starred in for the Capital Fringe Festival. In 2015, at the Helen Hayes awards, Doug won the Robert Prosky Award for Best Lead Actor in a Play, presented for his work in One Man Two Gunners. In 2017, Doug was nominated for two more Helen Hayes awards, one for best supporting actor in a Musical, and one for his writing, the Charles MacArthur award for Best New Play or Musical. He has been a member of three local improvisation groups.
David Elias – Faculty Member.
David is an actor, stage manager, and voiceover specialist. Stage appearances include Inspector Hound (The Real Inspector Hound), Greg (Sylvia), Schotter (King of the Jews), Matt Friedman (Talley's Folly), Don Quixote (Man of La Mancha), Ira Stone (Laughter on the 23rd Floor), Uncle Gabe (Sleeping Arrangements), Polpoch (Marat/Sade), Friar Peter (Measure for Measure), Everyman (Everyman), and Frederik Egerman (A Little Night Music) at venues that include Olney Theatre, Bay Theatre, Metrostage, Theater J, Wayside Theatre, Signature Theatre, the Other Opera Company and many others. David was Production Stage Manager for the world premieres of 24, 7, 365, Can’t Scare Me, and Two-Bit Taj Mahal for Theatre of the 1st Amendment. He was PSM for Belle of Amherst at Bay Theatre, as well as shows at The Studio Theatre, Theater J, Totem Pole Playhouse, and Wayside Theatre. More recently David was PSM for The Alliance of New Music-Theatre's productions of The Vaclav Havel Project, and a new version of Kafka's Metamorphosis. He took both productions to the Prague Fringe Festival in the Czech Republic. His voice can be heard on books and magazines for the Library of Congress and in the commercial sector; and his voices and accents are embedded in many industrial-training films. He is a private voice coach, and a member of Actors’ Equity Association (for which he served five years as a member of the DC-Baltimore Liaison Committee) and SAG-AFTRA.
Nan Kyle Ficca – Vice President, CFO, Senior Faculty Member.
Nan has worked in the theater business for more than 20 years in all areas of management and technical theater, and continues to work as a producer (SAG/AFTRA) and casting director – with occasional forays into stage management, lighting design and props. Her resume includes producing dramas, comedies, musical theater and theater for young audiences. At the Conservatory, she teaches the business of acting and the art of self producing. She established the Artist's Project at the Conservatory, which gives free performance space and production mentoring to alumni with a creative vision. Nan has produced shows in the Capital Fringe Festival every year since its inception, as well as in the 48-Hour Film Project and other independent theater and film projects. Nan is co-producer with Lee Liebeskind of the DC Non Equity Auditions, the largest theatre cattle call in the Metro area. She has served as a delegate to the League of Washington Theatres and a board member and board president of the Actors' Center. During her tenure at the Actors’ Center, Nan produced the first Actors Expo; transitioned the Lottery Audition to a twice yearly event and added a piano accompanist for singers; and oversaw the transition to the new website. She shares her life and work with her husband of 20 years, Ray Ficca, who in addition to being president of the Conservatory is a full-time actor and director.
Matt Basset – Faculty Member.
Since relocating to the DC area from his native Tennessee in 2010, Matt has appeared locally with Ford’s Theatre, Bay Theatre, Hub Theatre, Washington Stage Guild and the Kennedy Center’s Theatre for Young Audiences on Tour. He has directed productions for Arts on the Horizon (in collaboration with his wife, fellow faculty member Tia Shearer), Compass Rose Studio Theater, People’s Branch Theatre and Tennessee Tech University, as well as staged readings for Hub Theatre. He has also assistant directed for Hub Theatre and Roundhouse Theatre. Regional performance credits include the Clarence Brown Theatre, Nashville Shakespeare Festival, Lexington Children’s Theatre, Virginia
Shakespeare Festival, People’s Branch Theatre and Tennessee Stage Company. Regional directing credits include a dream once lost (a world premiere collaboration with Tia) at the 2007 Philly Fringe; and Matt and Ben, a Tennessee premiere with People’s Branch Theatre. Matt is a proud member
of Actors Equity Association and a company member with the Hub Theatre in Fairfax. In addition to teaching at the Conservatory, Matt is an adjunct professor at Montgomery College and a teaching artist with Imagination Stage and Compass Rose Studio Theater. He lives in Takoma Park, MD.
Washington's Accredited Actor Training Studio
Ray Ficca – President, Senior Faculty Member.
Ray is a graduate of both Georgetown University and the National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts, and was a founding member of the Conservatory’s Actors Repertory Theater company. Ray has been acting professionally for more than 20 years, appearing in more than 150 productions on regional stages nationwide, including: Wayside Theatre, Totem Pole Playhouse, Olney Theatre, Charter Theater, Theatre on the Hill, Metro Stage, Imagination Stage, Keegan Theatre and the Hanna Theatre. He served as the artistic director of Totem Pole Playhouse, a professional theater located in the Caledonia State Park in Pennsylvania from 2008-2013. He is a proud member of Actor's Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage mangers; and served as co-chair of its Washington, DC, Equity Liaison Committee for seven years. Ray has served as chair of the Theater Departments at Calvert Hall College and Iona Preparatory School.
Michael Harris – Faculty Member.
Michael is the artistic and executive director of the Baltimore Improv Group (BIG). In addition to regular performances in Baltimore and DC, he has been an invited performer at improv festivals in Chicago, NYC, Austin, Philadelphia and elsewhere. Michael has performed locally at Studio Theater, In the Red & Brown Water (O Li Roon & Man from State); Doorway Arts Ensemble, Endgame (Clov); Signature Theater, Dirty Blonde (Charlie & others); Flying V Productions, Batman: The Long Halloween (Boss Maroni & Solomon Grundy). In addition, Michael is a company member of Lean & Hungry Theater and has performed in their productions of Hamlet (title role), As You Like It (Jacques, et.al.), and The Scarlet Letter (Chillingworth). He has written and performed in several shows with the Stoop Storytelling Series (live performances at Center Stage in Baltimore, rebroadcast on NPR). Regional theatre credits include The Miracle Worker, Twelfth Night, I Hate Hamlet, Moon Over Buffalo, The Rose Tattoo, The Water Engine, amongst others. Michael began performing as a member of Haverford College’s Lighted Fools. His wife is named Heidi.
Randy Baker – Faculty Member.
Randy Baker is a playwright, director and the co-artistic director of Rorschach Theatre, which he founded with Jenny McConnell Frederick in the summer of 1999. Plays he has written include Forgotten Kingdoms, The Burning Road, The First Disobedience, The Gate and Dream Sailors. His plays have been produced at Rorschach Theatre, Source Theatre, Forum Theatre (re)acts, Extreme Exchange, Three Leaches Theatre (Colorado), George Washington University and the National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts. He has had readings and workshops with the National New Play Network, Inkwell Theatre, Theater J, the Arts Club of Washington, Wordsmyth Theater, Primary Stages, American University, Theater Alliance and Rorschach Theatre. As a director, for Rorschach Theatre he has directed The Minotaur, After the Quake, 1001, Rhinoceros, JB, Behold!, Fair Ladies at a Game of Poem Cards and Monster. He has also directed for Source Theatre, Inkwell Theatre, Young Playwrights Theatre, the Conservatory’s Actors Repertory Theatre, Wayward Theatre and Cherry Red Productions. Randy is a member of the Dramatists Guild and received his MFA from Goddard College. In addition to teaching at the Conservatory, he is also adjunct faculty at American University and an instructor at the Writer’s Center.
Sasha Olinick – Faculty Member.
Sasha Olinick is a DC-based actor and teaching artist. His local credits include: Arena Stage, the Kennedy Center, Round House Theatre, Studio Theatre, Theater J, Rep Stage, MetroStage, Maryland Shakespeare Festival, Imagination Stage, WSC Avant Bard, Forum Theatre and Spooky Action Theatre. Regional credits include: American Shakespeare Center, Trinity Rep, Vermont Stage and the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse. For his appearance as Mozart in Amadeus at Round House Theatre, he was recognized with the 2011 DC Theatre Scene Audience Choice Award for Favorite Resident Play; and for his role as Mr. Toad in Wind In the Willows at Imagination Stage, he received the 2011 DC Theatre Scene Audience Choice Award for Favorite Actor in a Family Production. Sasha has a BA in American Civilization from Brown University and an MFA in acting from the Trinity Rep Conservatory. He has taught acting to students of all ages through his work with the Educational Theatre Company and as an adjunct faculty member at Montgomery College, were he has also directed a production of The
Tempest, and assistant directed productions of Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night's Dream. Sasha has been a faculty member at the Conservatory since 2009.
James Meerdter - Faculty Member.
James is an award-winning DC filmmaker and teaches the Conservatory's On-Camera program. He has guided students through dozens of productions in which students serve as both cast and crew, writing and directing their own short films and developing the skills to enter the professional world capable of producing their own work. James most recently won Best Director, Best Writing, and Best Film for the 2014 Crash of Rhino's film "MouseDAD!" He was awarded Best Cinematography and Best Song as well as Audience Choice in the 2013 48 Hour Film Festival. His films have shown in LA, premiering at the TCL Chinese Theatre, and on screens along the East Coast.
Mario Baldessari – Faculty Member.
Mario Baldessari is a playwright, actor and acting instructor who has appeared onstage in the DC area for more than 20 years. He has served as an artistic associate with Charter Theater and the original Washington Improvisational Theater (WIT); as a playwright in residence for First Draft at Charter Theater; and has founded both a comedy troupe (Dropping the Cow) and small theater company (Crash of Rhinos). Acting credits include There is a Happiness That Morning Is, Orlando and Caesar & Dada (WSC Avant Bard); Noises Off, Parfumerie, Three Bears and Jack and the Bean-Stalk (1st Stage); The Every Fringe Show You Want To See in One Fringe Show Fringe Show (Capital Fringe Festival); and Fat Gay Jew and Sacred Cows (Charter Theater). The Conservatory has commissioned numerous plays from him for its Actors Repertory Theatre and Alumni Group. Mario regularly teaches classes in acting and improvisation and playwriting for the Actors’ Center; and has been a corporate trainer in creativity for PR firms such as Porter Novelli, GYMR and Devine + Powers.
Rex Daugherty - Faculty Member.
Rex Daugherty is a DC based actor and director. He has performed at The Kennedy Center, The Warner Theater, The Shakespeare Theatre Company, Round House Theatre, Signature Theatre, Folger Shakespeare Theatre, Totem Pole Playhouse, Imagination Stage, Adventure Theatre, Wayside Theatre, Forum Theatre, Rorschach Theatre, Charter Theater, Washington Shakespeare Company, Constellation Theatre Company, and Solas Nua - where he is the Director of the Play Reading Series. He also co-starred Off-Broadway in the NYC premiere of Disco Pigs, which earned a Helen Hayes award for Best Ensemble for the DC production. Rex has been included in two other Helen Hayes Best Ensemble nominated casts, Forum Theatre's The Last Days of Judas Iscariot and Folger Theatre's The Taming of the Shrew, which won the Helen Hayes for Best Production. Directing credits include: Late: a cowboy song at No Rules Theatre Company; Snow Day at Arts on the Horizon; Coriolanus at Reduxion Theatre, Suite Surrender and The Prince & the Troubadour at 1st Stage; Yours, Isabel at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival as well as Black Mountain Center for the Arts, The Beauty Queen of Leenane at The Electric Chair Gallery, The Perfect Ending at The Actors Repertory Theatre. Rex also co-created DC Dead - the only Zombie Survival Experience in Washington. Daugherty earned his BA in Theatre at Oklahoma Baptist University and studied The Michael Chekhov Technique at the Moving Dock Theatre in Chicago. Rex is a proud member of AEA and shares his life with his wife, Lee.
Vaughn Irving – Faculty Member.
Vaughn Irving is an actor, playwright, and musician as well as Artistic Director of Disco Jesus Productions, an organization dedicated to creating new and exciting musical theatre. Originally from Santa Fe, Vaughn holds a BFA in Music Theatre from Illinois Wesleyan University. Before settling in the DC area, Vaughn spent several years travelling the country performing at regional theaters. He has appeared onstage in more than 30 plays and musicals in seven different states. Vaughn has co-written, and co-produced two award winning musicals at the Capital Fringe Festival, Disco Jesus and the Apostles of Funk, and You or Whatever I Can Get. DC acting credits include: The Temperamentals (Rep Stage); Disney’s Mulan, Wind in the Willows, Lulu and the Brontosaurus, 101 Dalmatians (Imagination Stage); Rock Bottom: A Rock Opus (Landless Theatre Co.), and three award winning Capital Fringe Festival productions. Vaughn's regional theater credits include Wayside Theatre (VA), Totem Pole Playhouse (PA), Cumberland Theatre (MA), Drury Lane (IL), the Old Creamery Theatre Company (IA), Circa ’21 Dinner Playhouse (IL), and Post Playhouse (NE). Vaughn is a proud member of the Actors' Equity Association.
Meet Our Faculty
Ricardo Frederick Evans – Faculty Member.
Ricardo joined the faculty in Spring 2010. After graduating from the Conservatory’s advanced acting program, he served as an acting apprentice at the Actors Theatre of Louisville. Theatre credits include: Totem Pole Playhouse (45 Seconds from Broadway, The Complete History of America Abridged); Studio Theatre (In the Red and Brown Water); Imagination Stage (Mulan, Ferdinand the Bull, The Borrowers); Theatre on The Hill (Peter Pan, Rumplestiltskin); Shakespeare Theatre (The Oedipus Plays); African-American Collective Theatre Company (Best Man for the Job, Auld Lang Syne, Heartbeats); and the Capital Fringe Festival (Skywriter, GS14, Nights at St. Januarius, Madwoman in the Attic). Ricardo was a 2012 Helen Hayes Awards nominee for Outstanding Supporting Actor, Resident Musical, for his work in Imagination Stage’s production of Doctor Dolittle. Since 2008, Ricardo has been a teaching artist with the Folger Shakespeare Library's educational outreach program (Bill's Buddies). He is a proud member of the Actors Equity Association and has numerous industrial and short film credits, including Treasure Hunt by Celeste Ward; The Delivery by Anthony Brenneman; and tHERAPY by Kelley Slagle – for which he won an Honorable Mention for Best Actor in the 48-Hour Film Project.