Chekhov Studio Ensemble

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Doug Agnew

Doug’s Los Angeles theater credits include: Sex is Good For You, The Beard of AvonOthelloEavesdropperThe Wind-Up Puppet Show, and Dirty Suitcase.  Doug has performed stand-up comedy in Los Angeles and New York at The Comedy Store, The Laugh Factory, Broadway Comedy Club, The New York Improv, New York Comedy Club, and Stand-Up NY.  He has studied acting at Chekhov Studio International, Playhouse West, and Margie Haber Studio.  His improv comedy training is from iO West and UCB.

Rena Andrews

After graduating from Brown University, Rena deferred Med School to follow her passion for acting and to study with Richard Pinter through the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York. As fate had it, her neighbor was Joanna Merlin, a first generation student of Michael Chekhov, as well as a teacher. Joanna invited her to a Michael Chekhov Association’s NYU Intensive featuring herself and other well-known Chekhov instructors such as Mala Powers and Jack Colvin. It was her first introduction to Chekhov and she finished the intensive longing to do more. Rena soon moved to Los Angeles where she booked several commercials, print, dance, voice-over and acting work in addition to producing a documentary. After recently rediscovering Chekhov through his 5-hour master class CD, Rena stumbled upon the Chekhov Studio International. Chekhov’s words had instantly inspired her again. She found his exercises and technique to fuse so many integral parts of her life from acting to dance, movement, yoga, and meditation which all have the same goals of invoking presence and an open heart. Rena looks forward to integrating more and more of herself and the technique into her work and her life as an inspired actor.

Jody Barton

In October 2009, Jody left his life as a Civil Rights Attorney in Austin Texas to pursue the craft of acting.  In his brief time as an actor he has starred in 19 student/independent short films.  Many of his films have been featured in short film festivals throughout the country. Under the guidance of Marjo-Riikka Makela and the instructors at Chekhov Studios International, he continues to expand his knowledge and range, and strives for truth in his characters.  Jody will be starring in his first feature in February. 
Click here to visit Jody’s website.

Ben Bela Boehm

Ben has always been interested in Michael Chekov and is so happy to finally learn more about that technique. With a B.A. from the acting conservatory in Berne, Switzerland, he was a series regular on three German TV shows for a few years. Theatre credits include: Mozart in AMADEUS, John in BASH, the prince in EMILIA GALOTTI etc. Commercials currently airing are a tonic water one in which he plays a shy reporter interviewing Uma Thurman and a Carl’s Jr ad. He loves voiceover work, his reps Fran Blain, BBR, Affinity, Vox, and FFM, the Chekov Studio International, and his family. Click here to visit Ben’s website.

Ellen Burr

Ellen Burr has been enamored with acting ever since she was little. As a musician, she’s played in Albee’s Sandbox, written and played in Aristophone’s The Frogs, wrote the scores for numerous shows of the “Zeta Collective”, an experimental mime troupe in L.A., the Women’s Shakespeare’s production of King Lear. However, this is the first time she’s been on stage as a speaking character. She has previous training in Suzuki and Viewpoints. It is with heartfelt thanks to the Chekov technique and the teachers that she is able to realize a life long desire an experience the joy of bringing a new character into being.

Edward Gusts

Edward Gusts is thrilled to perform with an entire ensemble that uses the Michael Chekhov technique. When he isn’t acting, he is fighting with swords.

Billy Harvey

Over the years, Billy Harvey has been playing his own brand of Post Modern Pop, working not only as an artist, but also as a producer (Charlie Mars, Bob Schneider, Slaid Cleaves, and Steve Poltz are among his credits). A prolific writer, he has been the recipient of the International Songwriters Award for Best Rock Song “Frozen Through”, and broke into the Top 100 on the CMJ Charts with his 2007 release “Bearsick”. His latest release, “The Everlasting War”, teems with raw emotion and heartfelt sentiment so succinct that it is impossible not to be affected by it. Its standout tracks include “The Greatest Escape”, “Heading for the Hills” (featured in ABC’s Private Practice), and “Let This Be The Day”. The caffeine-addled do-it-yourselfer that he is, he has also been quietly directing, animating, and editing the accompanying music videos to his records culminating in his 2008 documentary film “Everywhere Now”. Filmed entirely on his laptop camera, Harvey intimately chronicled a 7000-mile-plus tour in a car powered by waste vegetable oil. Given the diversity of his interests, it is not much of a surprise to learn that he is pursuing acting as yet another form of expression. 2011 marked the festival release of “Strings” in which Harvey gained a leading role. Over the course of that festival season “Strings” won multiple awards including ‘Best Ensemble Cast’ ‘Best Song (for Harvey’s own song “The Greatest Escape”)’ ‘Best Director’ and ‘Best Cinematography’. His second Role in a feature film follows his character ‘Simon’ on a fantastical journey of self-discovery and comes by way of the indie film “The Taiwan Oyster”. Shot on location across the island of Taiwan, “The Taiwan Oyster” is a beautifully poignant and darkly humorous road story (currently in post-production). Billy’s website has won various media and internet awards including the Interactive Design Award at South By Southwest and the Flash Forward award in NYC.
Click here to visit Billy’s website.

Franz Klainsek

Franz Klainsek was born in Miami, Florida. His first love was tennis. When his aspirations to play professionally fell short, he traveled the world looking for his next great love affair. His travels took him to Boston, where he found his passion for acting. He then moved to Los Angeles, studying at the Meisner Studio and more recently under the tutelage of Marjo-Riikka Makela and Kim Lane at Chekhov Studio International. He feels very fortunate and thankful that life has brought him to such a wonderful place. Much love to all.

Maegan McConnell

A native Californian, Maegan McConnell has a BA in Music – Vocal Performance from California Lutheran University and MM in Opera and Music Theatre from Southern Illinois University. Immediately after graduation, she began performing in summer stock and touring companies and as a result, has been seen across the U.S. in many venues: opera, musical theatre, classical and contemporary theatre. Maegan recently was seen in the role of Antonia alongside Julia Migenes, Brent Spiner and Lee Wilkof in Man of La Mancha with Reprise!, one of Los Angeles’ most prominant theatre companies. She also twice reprised the role of Maria in West Side Story, first in the acclaimed 50th Anniversary production at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle, followed by the Fullerton Civic Light Opera’s production at historic Plummer Auditorium. Additionally, she was seen in the role of Catherine for East/West Players Anime/Hip Hop adaptation of Pippin in Los Angeles and Maria Elena in Buddy: the Buddy Holly Story at the Arvada Theatre Center in Denver. Her opera and operetta productions include Adah in the Off-Broadway production of Naughty Marietta, Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance starring Rex Smith, Ana Gomez in The Consul and Nathalie in The Merry Widow.In addition to numerous concerts and guest soloist appearances, Maegan has performed in the world premieres of Andak Stage Company’s A Magic Christmas and Don Juan the Trickster of Seville, both by Dakin Mathews. Maegan currently studies voice with Virginia D’Auria, Rene Sousa and distinguished opera coach William Vendice.
Click here to visit Maegan’s website.

Wes McGee

Wes is filled with excitement to be working with Chekhov Studio International! He has appeared on stage with CSI as Konstantin Gavrilovich Treplyov in Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull” and his most recent appearance on stage was with the The Loft Ensembles production of “What Happened in Mayville?” as Deputy Mitchell that closed in October. His TV credits include TNT’s “Southland”, Nick’s “iCarly”, and just wrapped filming the upcoming USA show “Common Law” as FBI Agent Vincent Conrad. He is also currently involved in producing the short film “Calling for Liberty” and the police drama pilot “The Blue Line”. You also catch him on the current Nationally running commercials for Coor’s Light and Fisher Investments. Love and Light to you all!

“Enthusiasm is the most important thing in life.” ~ Tennessee Williams

Masha Mendieta

Masha is a young actress of Russian and Ecuadorian descent that grew up in New York. She studied acting and film at the University of Miami, Cambridge University (UK), and the University of Copenhagen (Denmark). At 20 years old, Masha graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s in International Relations, Theater Arts, and Modern Languages. In NYC, she starred in a variety of independent films, including the thriller feature Siodmak that premiered in NYC this past December, a spanish-language TV pilot, and the martial arts film The Nice Guy, an official selection of the 2010 New York International Film Festival. She also frequently performed theatre Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway; her favorite portrayal as Frida Kahlo in a role she originated in My Night with Frida. Masha is also the reigning Queen of Europe and Asia Latina 2011, having represented Russia at the Miss Latin America of the World competition. Recently transplanted to Los Angeles, Masha has found deep inspiration at Chekhov Studio International. In her spare time, Masha loves to debate politics, dance, and read literature.

Olga O’Farrell

Olga O’Farrell is once again awakening her senses to the challenges of Michael Chekhov. She is grateful to the Chekhov Studio International for giving her a platform to learn, grow and perform. Oh yeah, and to play and have fun! Olga will be producing and starring in her play, Pedestrian in Hollywood next spring.

Thomas Owen

Thomas Owen is excited to be studying the Checkhov technique. Thomas has been seen on such programs as NCIS, Las Vegas, and Beverly Hills 90210 as well as appearances on Young and the Restless and Days of Our Lives. In NYC, he studied at HB Studios in NYC and became a member of the Workhouse Theatre Company. He has performed at the Edinburgh International Theatre Festival (FRINGE), the Portland Center Stage Theatre in Portland Oregon, and the Tygres Heart Shakespeare Company. Thomas is continuing his pursuits and the love affair he has with the craft of acting in Los Angeles. Thanks to outstanding internationally known instructors Marjo-Riikka Makela and Kim Lane, practicing the Chekhov Technique has opened up new methods for creating characters and practical applications in the world of TV and film for auditions, performance, and life.

Jennifer Polansky

Jennifer Polansky is a Canadian actress who recently moved to LA in order to push further with her acting career.  An experienced performer with many credits under her belt, all of her material (demo reels, photos, resumes and video links) can be found here.

Avila Reese

Avila Reese received her Master of Fine Arts in Acting from the University of California, Davis and her B.A. from the University of California Berkeley. She has worked with Tony award winning theatre director Dominique Serrand in his debut of “Come Hell and High Water” playing the lead role, Woman in Tree, and with legendary performance artist and activist Guillermo Gómez-Peña on numerous projects including his notorious “Corpo Ilicito.” A northern California native, Avila’s past theatre credits include; Elly Dunn in Heartbreak House, Viola in Twelfth Night, Gwendolyn in The Importance of Being Ernest, Rosie Pye in Humble Boy, and Titania in A Mid Summer’s Night’s Dream.

Leah Yananton

Leah is grateful to work with Marjo-Riikka Makela, Kim Lane, and Chekhov Studio who bring to life the playful poetic technique of Michael Chekhov. Background: After earning a B.F.A. from Columbia University in Literature & Creative Writing, Yananton pursued acting at The Neighborhood Playhouse with historic Meisner mentee James Brill. She performed in numerous off-off Broadway plays while living in New York City. Now in love with Los Angeles, she is finishing her first feature film as writer-director and actor in SURVIVING ME, also in which Marjo-Riikka Makela appears as a deeply sympathetic and loving mother.

Sean Topps

Sean Topps holds a BFA in Acting from the University of Windsor. He has performed in various international productions and projects in Vancouver, Toronto, Tel Aviv, and, now, Los Angeles. An attentive student of Michael Chekhov Technique, he looks forward to continued study with Chekhov Studio International.


Marjo-Riikka Makela

Marjo-Riikka Makela is a director, master teacher, acting coach, and a professional actress. She has specialized in a variety of different acting techniques, is a long-standing member of the Michael Chekhov Association, and has worked extensively with the M. Chekhov Technique both as an actress and director. Ms. Makela received her training at the Russian Academy of Dramatic Arts (GITIS) and holds an MFA in Acting from CSULB. She was a company member of the groundbreaking theatre group The Actors’ Gang, and has extensive stage credits from Europe. Here in USA some of Marjo-Riikka’s favorite roles include Medea in direction of David Bridel, Yelena in Uncle Vanya at the Classic Stage Company in NYC,  and her work with Sarah Kane and Andrei Malaev-Babel at the Stanislavsky Theatre Studio in Washington DC. Her directing credits include Shakespeare, Chekhov, Schiller, and devised work. Recently, Ms. Makela has taught at the Stanislavsky Institute, California State University LB, Acting Corps Studios, ActorFest, Chapman University, Loyola Marymount University, The Insurgo Theater Movement, The Actor’s Movement Studio (NYC), the INTAR Theater (NYC), The Actors’ Gang, University of Southern California, and CalArts MFA programs.  Marjo-Riikka does weekly private coaching for many successful TV and film actors and actresses. She has clients around the world, and she has been featured in Back Stage, the Los Angeles Times, American Theater Magazine and several major European publications.

“Being allowed to teach, learn, share, play, discover, and create each day, is a true blessing. THANK YOU all my students, clients and friends. YOU are highly appreciated!” ~ Marjo-Riikka

Kim Lane

Actress and Director, graduated from The Ohio State University.  She has appeared in Independent films OUTTASYNC, In Dreams, and Night of a Thousand Faces. Stage Appearances include Fiddler on the Roof, Taming of the Shrew, Picasso at the Lapin Agile, and the premiere of Keeping Clean Amind the Messy, as well as the world premiere of Aeschylus Unbound, in Pasadena, Hermione, Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale which she also directed, and The Laramie Project at The Ohio State University as guest artist and director. Kim’s most recent project has been her 5 month old son, Donald. Kim studied the Michael Chekhov Technique extensively with Mala Powers as well as other 1st generation teachers, and currently teaches ongoing classes on the Technique in Los Angeles as well as guest artist at various universities around the U.S.  Kim would like to thank her husband, Scott, for introducing her to Mala. She is grateful to the Chekhov Studio International and Marjo-Riikka Makela for the opportunity to share her love of theater and Michael Chekhov with such talented actors.