Deb Aquila began her career after graduating from NYU’s Tisch School of Arts and the Stella Adler Conservatory, where she spent six years studying script analysis with Ms. Adler and advanced scene study techniques, in addition to her academic studies in history and psychology at NYU. Before moving to Los Angeles to cast “The Shawshank Redemption”, Ms. Aquila had completed casting for over 18 films in New York, most notably, “sex, lies and videotape”, “The Last Exit to Brooklyn” and “Zebrahead”. In 1993, she became the Senior Vice President of Features Casting for Paramount Pictures. Ms. Aquila has been recognized 15 times by the Casting Society of America, winning three Artios Awards for her work in “Red”, “My Week With Marilyn”, and “La La Land”.
After departing Paramount in 1999, Ms. Aquila returned to the independent casting world and began to resume her teaching career. She started “Adler in LA” with Ron Burrus, the master teacher who was her mentor at the Adler Conservatory. When that program was firmly established, Ms. Aquila taught Script Analysis for Larry Moss until forming the Aquila Morong Studio in 2011 with her partner, Donna Morong. In addition to her casting work, Ms. Aquila enjoys a full schedule of teaching and private coaching.
Donna Morong is a respected casting director with over 25 years in the business. She spent 15 years at The Walt Disney Company ultimately becoming Senior Vice President of Motion Picture Casting in the feature film division, where she cast films such as “PRINCESS DIARIES”, “SHANGHAI KNIGHTS”, “10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU”, “DEUCE BIGOLO”, “ANNAPOLIS”, “CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE DRAMA QUEEN”. In 2008, she won an Artios Award for casting Ben Affleck’s “GONE BABY GONE” for Miramax which garnered an Academy Award Nomination for Amy Ryan.
Her ability to spot talent helped launch many successful careers including Heath Ledger, Jennifer Garner, Chris Pine, Rachel McAdams, Anne Hathaway, and Joseph Gordon Levitt.
Ms. Morong began her career in casting in New York City working on some of the most prestigious, original Broadway productions including “HURLY BURLY”, “BILOXI BLUES” and “BRIGHTON BEACH MEMOIRS”. She cast for Yale Repertory and Second Stage while concurrently running a successful studio for young actors on Theatre Row. Prior to casting Ms. Morong trained with Bill Esper in the Meisner Technique and taught acting at Rutgers University.
After a career as a top executive at the Walt Disney Company film division, Ms. Morong decided to launch her own casting company where she has been working on independent and studio films in Europe and the U.S. More importantly, she has returned to her first love: teaching. Her dream as a teenager of building a studio of like-minded artists is being realized with the opening of the Aquila Morong Studio in Hollywood. She is passionate about nurturing actors’ talent and uses her years as a casting director, as well as her training, to aid the actor in realizing their talents through technique and training.
Marjorie Ballentine was a protégé of the late great Stella Adler. As a sought-after coach and critically acclaimed theater director, Marjorie Ballentine trained extensively as an actor and apprenticed as a teacher directly under the tutelage of the legendary Stella Adler at the Stella Adler Conservatory (NYC), where she taught Technique, Scene Study, and Script Interpretation from 1988 to 1991.
In 1992, she founded her own acting studio in NYC, and since moving to Los Angeles in the fall of 2003, Marjorie has coached and continues to work with such great talents as Krysten Ritter, Nelsan Ellis, Owain Yeoman, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Gary Oldman. As a founder of her own theater company in New York she directed off-Broadway productions of Clifford Odets’ Rocket to the Moon, Sam Shepard’s Curse of the Starving Class, and Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie.
Marjorie is proud to join Deborah Aquila and the talented faculty at Aquila Morong Studio for Actors.
Troy Ruptash has been an actor for over twenty five years and has appeared in dozens of television shows like West Wing, Desperate Housewives, Prison Break, and Justified, to name but a few. He has been recognized for his work on both the New York and Los Angeles stage having starred in productions such as Macbeth, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Orpheus Descending, and recently Blackbird at the Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts directed by Wilson Milam. He has worked with Signature Theater at The Public Theater in NYC as well as Classic Stage Company and New York Stage and Film. Troy has been with the Aquila Morong Studio since 2012.
As a director and writer, Damon Santostefano is currently developing a one-hour drama for Warner Bros. television that he is co-producing with director Peter Jackson and producer Adam Fratto. He is also developing a comedy for FBC. In features, Santostefano is writing and directing an independent drama produced by Sandy Stern and Michael Benaroya, and a thriller that he wrote and will direct that he is co-producing with Akiva Goldsman at Warner Bros. Recently, he received a DGA award nomination for his direction on the television movie Best Player. Also, Santostefano completed his second and third feature films for Warner Bros, the Cinderella Story franchise, starring Jane Lynch, Selena Gomez, Lucy Hale and Missy Pyle. Branching into animation, he wrote and directed a comedy pilot starring Samuel L. Jackson, Nick Offerman and Aaron Paul. His critically acclaimed independent feature Last Man Running was selected by the Sundance Film Festival and won the Audience Award at the L.A. Film Festival. He also directed the Warner Bros. comedy, Three To Tango starring Matthew Perry, Neve Campbell and Dylan McDermott.
Bruce Eckstut is the creator of the Primal Sound Voice Method, one of the most effective and profound techniques for freeing the authentic voice. His approach works just as effectively for the speaking voice as it does for singing. A graduate of The Juilliard School, Bruce has been privileged to teach students ranging from Oscar, Emmy, and Tony Award winning actors and singers to those who are just beginning to explore the possibility of singing. His partial list includes Sally Field, Jason Alexander, Neal Patrick Harris, Sherie Rene Scott, Jean Smart, Faye Dunaway and more.
Sarah McCarron holds an MFA in Movement Based Physical Theatre from the London International School of the Performing Arts, in the pedagogy of Jacques Lecoq. She has been commissioned to develop new plays in both Europe and the United States, including with Obie Award winning Pig Iron Theatre Company. She was a writer for the HBO drama Luck. As an educator, she is dedicated to interdisciplinary embodied learning. She teaches movement at Aquila Morong Studio, as well as in schools and universities, including CalArts and University of the Arts. She was a 2014 Artist Fellow for the Dalai Lama’s Mind & Life Institute, which researches the intersection of the humanities, the sciences, and contemplative studies, and researches the relationship between the physical body and psychological states of mind. She is a member of Ensemble Studio Theatre Los Angeles.
Paul Vaillancourt is the co-founder (with Charna Halpern) of the iO West and has been teaching and performing improv for close to 30 years. In that time he has appeared all over the country including such notable venues as HBO’s Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Chicago’s iO (where he studied with the immortal Del Close), New York’s UCB Theater, and Austin’s Out of Bounds Festival to name a few. Paul has also had success as a writer and producer, co-creating and serving as supervising writer for the MTV hit “The Blame Game” as well as lending his writing and producing talents to a score of other shows for MTV, VH1, USA, Oxygen, Bravo and AMC. Recently, he published a book about improv called “The Triangle of the Scene” (available on iBooks and Amazon Kindle) and started producing a weekly series of videos called “Improv Tips” available on his YouTube channel PVImprov.
Brett Simon recently directed Monumental, a road movie starring Jeremy Irons, Analeigh Tipton and Alex Sharp, and Playdates, a pilot starring Paul Scheer and Carla Gallo that played at this year’s Sundance.
His first feature Assassination of a High School President starring Bruce Willis and Mischa Barton, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to rave reviews. MTV called it one of the “truly great films” of the festival, likening it to “Rushmore meets The Usual Suspects.”
Brett studied creative writing, photography and comparative literature at Princeton University, writing a novel for his thesis under Joyce Carol Oates. He went on to graduate school at UC Berkeley where he later taught film history and filmmaking.
Brett has also directed award-winning music videos for such bands as The Killers, Snow Patrol, and Queens of the Stone Age.