Shana Merlin

The Founder of Merlin Works, Shana Merlin is one of the most experienced and effective improv teachers in Central Texas. The former Dean of The Heroes School of Improvisational Theatre, Shana has been an internationally touring performer and award winning teacher since 1995. Shana has trained with some of the top teachers in the field of improvisation including Keith Johnstone, and members of Second City, The Annoyance, IO, The Groundlings and more.

Aden Kirschner

Aden has been on stage since she was 8 years old and teaching improv since she was a teenager.  Her comedy credits include Esther’s Follies, Girls Girls Girls Improvised Musicals Spitting Nonsense, The Starter Kit, Start Trekkin’, Apocalypse!, The Andersons, Battle Axe and cable-access sensation: The Late Night Lunch Show.  Aden teaches singing and regular old improv at Merlin Works.

Michael Joplin

Michael attended the University of Texas at Austin and received his Bachelors degree in Theatre and Dance. He is a founding member of the nationally touring Available Cupholders, performs regularly with the Knuckleball Now, and most recently has joined Gnap! Theatre Projects. Michael has coached several troupes, directed improv shows, and has taught improv to adults as well as children.

Michael Ferstenfeld

Ferstenfeld Head Shot 2013 web 150x150

Michael has produced, directed, and performed improv, scripted theater, films, and variety shows for over 12 years. The artistic director of DYSTHEATRE, a member of the internationally touring, two-time B. Iden Payne award-winning Best Improv Troupe in Austin, “Confidence Men: Improvised David Mamet,” creator & host of “Not This American Life,” director of “The Professor: Improv Inspired by Doctor Who,” part-time e-learning developer, and improv teacher to kids small and big alike.

Ted Rutherford

With more than 20 years of performing and teaching experience, Ted Rutherford is a theatrical heavyweight. In the past, Ted has taught improvisation with the We Could Be Heroes School of Improvisation and has trained various corporate clients. For the last 7 years, Ted has performed with the Heroes of Comedy, Foolish Mortals, Vertigo Ramp and currently with Junk. Ted has a B.F.A. in Theatre from the University of Mississippi and a M.Ed. from the University of Montevallo.

Kevin Miller

Kevin Miller has performed, coached, and taught improv in Austin, Texas for over 14 years. He is the dean of the Merlin Works Institute of Improvisation at the ZACH Theatre in downtown Austin. He has teaching experience around the US and as far afield as Tampere, Finland. Kevin owns one dog, two cats, and four chickens.

Jason Finkelman

jason-01Jason has been performing improv and sketch comedy for over 12 years, beginning with Theater Strike Force at the University of Florida, and thereafter with Just The Funny in Miami and South Beach’s first and only improv/sketch comedy troupe, Model Citizens.  He has performed in numerous improv productions in Austin for the Hideout Theatre, Gnap! Theater Projects and ColdTowne Theater, and continues to perform throughout the city.

Lacy Alana

Lacy2Lacy first attended formal improv classes through Merlin Works School of Improvisation.  Since then, she has performed in a variety of improv shows and troupes for Gnap! Theatre Projects, the Hideout Theatre, ColdTowne Theatre, and The Institution Theatre.  Lacy has traveled to Vancouver, Hawaii and New York City to perform improv, has directed shows within the Austin improv community, and has taught improv to both children and adults.

Jillian Summar

Jill_5Jillian has been a musical performer since she can remember, as a member of an international children’s choir, vocal groups, and in adulthood, several singer-songwriter groups, as well as indie-rock bands. She discovered improv in 2011 and has since performed in various improv productions around Austin, including local festivals, and building a name for herself as a singing improviser. Jillian has a masters of Education and believes that improv is one of the greatest educational gifts a person can give his or herself.


Susan Pickover

Susan was first introduced to long form improv at The Upright Citizen’s Brigade in New York City over ten years ago.  She went on to train and perform at the UCB, The Magnet Theater and the P.I.T. as well as various other theaters. She quickly fell in love with musical improv and was happy to use her 4 years of high school choir for something other than singing in the shower. Susan went on to co-create and performed in NY’s first musical Harold team VEAL as well as perform on multiple musical house teams. After moving to Austin she was thrilled to be embraced into the AIC with open arms. Susan thanks Shana Merlin for giving her a chance at teaching, something she loves “almost” as much as performing.

Marissa Wahkuna

Marissa Wahkuna Campbell got her start as an actress, improviser, dancer, singer, and songwriter as a child.  With a BFA in Theatre Education and an M.Ed, she spent 12 years as an all-age public school drama, improv, and music teacher.  Marissa trained at Improv Asylum in Boston, and performed long form music improv with Boston’s Unscripted Musical Project for 2 years. This past year in Austin, Marissa was a TA at Merlin Works while teaching Music Improv with Austin Improv Connection.  She performs rap improv with MC Harold and talkie improv with Public Access.  During the day, Marissa is a CLI Instructional Coach for AISD, helping the teachers at Campbell Media and Performing Arts Institute bring the Arts into the core curriculum.

Sarah Marie Curry

SarahMarieCurrySarah Marie Curry has been an actor for 16 years and an improvisation actor and teacher for 8 years. On stage she has been called “hilarious” “fierce” “truly exceptional” and is a B. Iden Payne Awards winner for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical for her role as “Jaime” in The Last Five Years this past season.She was a proud member of the B. Iden Payne Award Winning Troupe: Girls Girls Girls Improvised Musicals for 7.5 years and currently stars as one half of dramatic improv duo Cascade also nominated for a B. Iden Payne Award for Outstanding Improv Troupe.  Off stage, she is a passionate coach, director, teacher and producer of improvisational theater and is currently teaching advanced improv in three of the five dedicated improv schools in Austin: The Hideout Theatre, The Institution Theater and Merlin Works School of Improvisation.

Ammon Taylor

AmmonAmmon Taylor is a pianist, composer, and musical director with a Bachelor of Music in Composition from UT Austin. He is currently the assistant choir director and musical theatre teacher at McCallum Fine Arts Academy. He has been the musical for various educational programs, camps, and productions at ZACH Theatre and the Paramount Theatre. Ammon is actively involved in Austin’s improvised theatre community, and has taught musical improv with Merlin Works since 2011. He has provided music for scripted and improvised theatre in countless productions all over Austin and loves collaborating with talented people.

Ryan Fechter

RJF Stage HeadshotMusician and composer, Ryan Fechter was raised in a musical family where some type of sound making device was never far out of reach. He studied Jazz Performance on Bass and Piano at the University of Colorado at Denver. Since then he’s toured professionally with original rock bands, and has performed live and in studio across many genres. His work in musical theater began at Denver’s Voodoo Playhouse, where he was music director for their weekly variety show, and accompanist with ‘Hit and Run’ musicals. Ryan currently lives in Austin, TX, where he works in improvised and scripted musical theater – show runs include ‘Sondheim for One’, ‘Girls Girls Girls!’ and The Hideout Theater’s ‘Big Bash’ – and as a teacher and private instructor.

Natalie Wright

nataliewrightNatalie has recently become involved in the Austin improv community as a musical improviser, and has played for shows and classes at Merlin Works, The Hideout, and for various troupes. She has been playing piano for 18 years, and has been playing for singers, choirs, and musical theater since high school. She is thankful to be a part of such a welcoming community, and has enjoyed every second of musical improv.