Our incredible line up of instructors this year in Portugal is a mix of film celebrities, rock-star level acting teachers, industry insiders, and icons in their own areas.

Yvonne Landry – A veteran of stage and screen, Yvonne runs the Superhero Training Center in Atlanta, Ga. 

Bill Chott – Bill is from St. Louis, Missouri. An alumnus of Chicago’s Second City. Toured the country with the traveling Second City troupe in the 90s. Although he’s known for his comedic work with the Farrelly Bros. and his characters on the cult hit The Dana Carvey Show, he gained much recognition for his small but powerful role as “The Mailman” in This Is Us.

Also a musical comedy performer, he appeared in I Love Lucy Live on Stage, the musical in which he played an award-wining role as Fred Mertz. Bill is also the official Fred Mertz of Jamestown, NY home of the National Comedy Center.

Erin O’Connor – Originally from Reno, NV, Erin has been a theatre practitioner since she was 15 years old. Starting out practicing gymnastics and martial arts before ever setting foot on stage has given her a corporeal discipline that she continues to perfect & shape- and to instill in others in her teaching. 
 
Studying at Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO, she was fortunate enough to train under two guest directors, who became her mentors and guide her work to this day. Meeting the first- Kari Margolis- helped to curate a taste for the more avant garde theatre movements- from practitioners like Jacques Lecoq to Robert Wilson. It also helped shape an understanding of devising theatre, and deconstructing traditional power structures in rehearsal rooms. 
 
The second mentor, Melissa Firlit, showcased that an eclectic actor tool kit (and director tool kit for that matter) can make for a delightfully American theatre- a new tradition. 
 
Speaking of tool kits- it was also at Fort Lewis College that she began training in The Expressive Actor/Laban. It was in learning this technique that the world of complex movement began to feel approachable, doable & necessary. ‘To be able to build the giant worlds we can show onstage, we need to understand the building blocks’- that is Erin’s mission in teaching Laban technique to actors. To empower actors to take hold of their body and use it as the ultimate story telling tool.
 
Erin lives in Atlanta, Georgia, where she produces theatre, teaches acting & eats as many tacos as she can get her hands on. 
Todd Stashwick – Todd is an actor and writer based in Los Angeles. A Chicago native, he is an alumnus of the famed Second City Comedy Theater. Following productions at The Second City Detroit and The Second City Northwest, he moved to New York. In New York he formed a company of improvisers and began staging the underground critically acclaimed Burn Manhattan. After moving to Los Angeles he co-founded the organic improv school The Hothouse and co-created the macabre improvised cabaret The Doubful Guests. In the UK he collaborated with the  Liverpool based theater companies Spike and the Rejects Revenge and directed their improvised show Hoof! He’s performed his show Mayfly: a late night improvised clusterfunk at improv festivals across the country.
 
As an actor he’s known for the role of Deacon on Syfy’s hit show 12 Monkeys and Dale Malloy on the critically acclaimed FX drama The Riches. His work in television work includes notable roles on the shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Heroes, Supernatural, The Originals and Gotham. He can also be seen in the live action Kim Possible film as the villain Dr. Drakken on Disney+.
 
As a writer Todd is the co-creator of the web-comic Devil Inside with collaborator comic artist Dennis Calero. Todd co-wrote Clandestine, an original space adventure pilot for the Syfy Channel. Todd  co-wrote a Star Wars video game for Electronic Arts and Lucasfilm, with Uncharted creator Amy Hennig. He co-wrote a draft of  Suicide Squad 2, the sequel to the hit DC comics film from Warner Brothers with writer/director Gavin O’Connor. He recently completed writing a video game script forSquare Ennix and is currently working with a group of writers for an upcoming Marvel game with Skydance New Media. Todd continues to develop Television, Film and comic book properties.

Sam Ross – A member of both Actors’ Equity Association and Screen Actor’s Guild, Sam has over forty years of experience in theatre including Off Broadway, Regional Theater and other professional theaters from New York to Los Angeles. Sam has been seen in over 110 productions including world and regional premieres and has received such recognitions as: Ovation Best Actor nominee, Stagescenela.com best dramatic actor, Backstage Garland and LAWeekly Best Actor winner, Atlanta Journal Constitution Best Male Performance and several Creative Loafing awards.  Sam has also appeared in over a dozen film and TV shows. As a playwright his adaptations and co-adaptations with VanguardRep have been seen across the country. Sam is also an award-winning director and lighting designer.  

As artistic director, Sam has been integral in the foundation of multiple successful companies including Down Right Theatre in Atlanta, GA, Kudzu Productions and Vanguard Repertory Company – both in Los Angeles, CA. 

Sam has a B.S. from the college of Charleston and an M.P.A. from Georgia State University and has done graduate work in acting at the prestigious Trinity Repertory Conservatory in Rhode Island

Derek Miller –  After a 20 year career in L.A.  starring in five TV series, appearing in over eighty commercials and teaching and performing improvisation. Derek has moved to the United Kingdom, where he has worked on the upcoming series “The Man Who Fell to Earth” – worked on Guy Richie’s “Wrath of Man” and appears weekly on Channel 4’s daytime show, “Steph’s Packed Lunch.” He is a writer for the Nickelodeon animated series “It’s Pony.” In Hollywood, he served as a consulting writer on three series and acted as writer/performer for NBC’s prime-time sketch show. Behind the camera, Derek cut his teeth directing casting sessions for thousands of commercials. A favourite of directors, he became an on-set consultant for A list Directors. He segued into directing branded content and animated series. Derek has taught, directed and coached thousands of actors, which made him invaluable in casting. From conceptualising to final delivery, he has had the unique privilege to experience every part of the creative process.

Charna Halpern – The only living creator of long form improvisation, Charna and her late partner, Del Close, changed the face of improvisational comedy when creating the iO Theater in 1981. Their creation called, THE HAROLD, became a sensation after improvisers had been playing short form games since the inception of improvisation.  Instead of swords and shields, iO was creating nuclear weapons.  After writing her first book, TRUTH IN COMEDY, which became the bible for improvisation-word spread across the world about The Harold. Suddenly, improvisers were inspired to learn that the fact that they weren’t the 6 people on the Second City stage needn’t stop them from performing.  Troupes starting forming everywhere and Charna and her minions travelled the world teaching this new form of improvisation as well as the correct basic skills to get there. After a number of years, improvisers became more and more savvy and Charna  began to not only teach other forms but to inspire the students to use the skills we know to create their own forms. Long form improvisation showed performers that long form is the most responsible acting job one could have – as they were all in charge of  everything that happens on stage-as one unified team. Del and Charna’s ideal of agreement, and taking care of each other to make each other look good are the ideals that make the work great today.

iO has long been thought of as not only the best training center but the place that has spawned most of the greatest talent in the entertainment industry. Television shows , including SNL, made yearly treks to iO for special auditions to see and hire the next future star. Charna’s alumni include Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Matt Walsh, David Koechner, Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, Mike Myers, Thomas Middleditch, Cecily Strong (as well as most SNL players over the years) and many more including, Directors and writer performers Adam McKay, Kay Cannon and Jon Favreau and Ike Barenholtz. In fact, even the UCB began at the iO Theater, until the four creators decided they wanted to try their hand at creating a television show as well as teaching the iO method in New York with Charna and Dels’ blessing.

Kay Cannon is in the process of writing and Producing a movie about Charna and Del and their important work together. Meanwhile, after teaching for almost 40 years, Charna is eager to share and inspire the festival goers in Portugal and to continue the traditions of iO.