Our Teachers

Darren Pitura - Creative Director & Improv Program Instructor

Darren Pitura has been working throughout North America as a comedic and physical theatre actor for over twenty years. A former member of the famed Second City in Las Vegas, he currently performs as a Lead Clown in Cirque du Soleils' Mystere and Zumanity. Darren was a lead writer and performer for Cirque du Soleils' premier One Night for One Drop show at the Bellagio's O Theatre and most recently played a recurring role on SpiegelworldTV's The Gazillionaire web series.

 

Darren was a member of Canada's famed sketch and improv troupe, The Spleen Jockeys. The Spleens shared the stage with ABC’s Whose Line Is It Anyway? improviser Greg Proops and opened for David Steinburg, Long John Baldry, and Kim Mitchell, to name a few. They received critical acclaim for their live performances and were featured in CBC National Radio’s Madly Off In All Directions, Canada Eh?, and Manitoba Eh?, CBC’s Winnipeg Comedy Festival, and The Brent Butt Show on ZeD TV.

Darren has an honours degree in Theatre from the University of Winnipeg. He studied improvisation with Vancouver TheatreSports and The Second City, and refined his clown skills with Leaky Heaven Circus. In addition to performing, Darren is also a renowned instructor for mime, improvisation, and acting for The Second City, Cirque du Soleil, University of Nevada Las Vegas, Crazy Horse, Vancouver TheatreSports, University of Winnipeg, University of Manitoba, and various high schools and community centers.

Natalie Shipman - Improv Program Director & Instructor

Originally from sunny Florida, Natalie spent 11 years in snowy Chicago as a student, performer, and teacher of improvisation. After training at The Second City Conservatory, ComedySportz, and iO Chicago, she performed with all three theatres, most notably traveling the country with The Second City’s Touring Company.

 

Natalie spent four years as an improv coach, director, and teacher for ComedySportz and The Second City Training Centers, as well as many independent teams and performers. She wrote and performed in several sketch revues in addition to her own one-woman show, and acted as a permanent understudy for The Second City e.t.c. stage.

 

She now lives in Vegas with her super-cool husband and even cooler daughters (sorry, Derek). Ask her about Harry Potter.

Ryan Neufeld - Managing Director & Improv Program Instructor

Ryan Neufeld is our very first instructor and staff member to get his start right here at the Vegas Theatre Hub. After graduating our Improv program, he dove in head first and started performing regularly with our house teams, We Hot Bingo, and Uncle Crimson.

He continued his education by taking master classes with Liz Allen, Matt Donnelly, and spent a month in L.A. taking an intensive at iO West. He also quickly learned how to run tech at our shows and can often be seen providing lights and music back in the blue corner. From time to time, he can even be seen on the piano, and was also part of the team that produces the Fishbowl.

He also has an extensive background in running a small business and enjoys exploring ways that improv can apply off stage, such as in business environments, and how the skills can help people in all areas of life, from anxiety to public speaking.

Faustino Solis - Musical Director & Music Improv Instructor

Faustino Solis is Musical Director for Vegas Theatre Hub, where he accompanies the mainstage and jam shows, as well as offers musical improv classes and workshops. He has studied with Stephanie McCullough, Dave Asher, Scott Passarella, Hughie Stone Fish, and Ayaka Kinugawa. He has taken improv classes through Vegas Theatre Hub, Second City Chicago, and the Groundlings. Faustino has played for improv teams at theaters and festivals throughout the country, including the Kick Comedy Theater (Kansas City), iO, ImprovBoston, Unexpected Productions (Seattle), and the Annoyance Theater. Recent credits include Las Vegas Improvisation Players, Trudy Carmichael, Stacey Smith, T.J. Mannix, Four First Names, After Party, Xplōd, The A-Team, Hot Mess!, The Wild, Magic The Gathering, Murder Fairy and Arson Leprechaun, Rhyme and Punishment, and Here! The Musical. Faustino is also the Musical Director for ComedySportz Las Vegas and Las Vegas troupes Bleach and One Take.

When not playing for improv, Faustino is the Choir Director of Cashman Middle School and University United Methodist Church in Las Vegas. Faustino has a background in orchestral and choral conducting, music composition, and classical voice, having collaborated with organizations as far as Fairbanks, Alaska, and Graz, Austria. He has received national distinctions through the American Choral Directors Association and the National Opera Association. Local affiliations have included UNLV Choirs and Symphony Orchestra, UNLV Opera, UNLV Dance, Sin City Opera, Opera Las Vegas, Las Vegas Master Singers, Southern Nevada Musical Arts Society, Battle Bork Chorale, and the Henderson Symphony Orchestra. Faustino is a graduate of UNLV and is currently a candidate of Dalcroze Eurythmics Certification at Carnegie Mellon University.

Philip Faiss - Improv Program Instructor

Phil Faiss grew up in Las Vegas, NV.  He was first introduced to improv locally at Bonanza High School. Yet, it wasn’t until a move to LA when he discovered both The Groundlings and Second City.  When studying at their respective training centers, he learned improv basics and also how to write comedy. 
 

Lured back home by the siren call of the Second City Training Center in Las Vegas, he was thrilled to be taught by the talented players of the long-running Second City mainstage show at The Flamingo.  Also, at this time, Phil met and was coached by Liz Allen in many troupes and workshops.  Her teachings really resonated and continue to inspire his appreciation of improv as an art form. 
 

Phil has taught improv off and on for several years in Las Vegas, recently joining Vegas Theatre Hub as an instructor.  Most recently, he was happy to check off his bucket list the completion of a one-man show titled Philoween, a multi-media celebration of his love of horror movies.  He looks forward to doing more projects with the Hub and enjoys inspiring minds about how improv can be LIFE-CHANGING!!!

Derek Shipman - Improv Instructor & Sketch Instructor/Director

Derek Shipman is a graduate of Northern Kentucky University and The Second City in Chicago. He has been performing and teaching improv, and writing sketch, since 2006.

 

Derek toured by land with Second City Red Co., and by sea on Norwegian Cruise Lines with Second CIty at Sea. He also understudied for their stages in Chicago. Finally, he has also been seen as a cast member of Baby Wants Candy, The Improvised Musical. You can find some of his greatest work at www.lilistavenger.tumblr.com.

 

He has taught improv for adults and children and run workshops in improv and sketch writing.  Derek is thrilled to be part of Vegas Theatre Hub and would like to thank the Inedibles, Black Bear, Second City, Red Co, BWC, Uhlir, Shandog, his parents, and most importantly, the members of Secret Tent. Bright Light City!!

Liz Allen - Improv Workshop Instructor

For the past 23 years, Liz Allen has been immersed in improv. It all started innocently enough when she took a class at The Second City in Chicago in 1992. Liz then studied with Del Close at the ioChicago (formerly Improv Olympic) and never looked back, performing with Frank Booth, The Armando Diaz Experience, and touring with the ioRoadshow.

 

Liz directed numerous shows including The Two Horsemen (with Jim Carlson and John Lutz) and Devolution at The NeoFuturarium. Liz was ioChicago's Training Center Director for 3 years, and coached the teams Valhalla, Fatty Four Eyes, and Mission Improvable, owners of the Westside Comedy Theater in Santa Monica.

Liz is proud to have won the Del Close Coach of the Year Award at the ioChicago in 1999, 2000 and 2001... which is now called The Liz Allen Coach of the Year Award. In 2006, Liz and Jimmy Carrane co-wrote the book, Improvising Better, A Guide for the Working Improviser (Heinemann, 2006).

In Las Vegas, Liz directed Scriptless, the first-ever fully improvised show on the Strip, for The Second City in residence at The Flamingo. Liz recently moved back to Chicago where she is writing her second book and continues to teach.

Jim Taylor - Sketch Writing Instructor

Jim is a professional television, radio, and web writer, and a comedic performer who currently lives in Chicago. He is originally from Winnipeg Manitoba where he was a founding member of the Spleen Jockeys comedy troupe. He’s an alumnus of the Second City National Touring Company, and a long-time animation and children's television writer whose Gemini Award-winning work can still be seen in the nationally-televised preschool block on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

 

Jim is also the recipient of a Canadian comedy award for his play, Plan Live from Outer Space, and has provided comedic material for various programs for CBC radio, which are broadcast across the country. As a life-long creative collaborator, Jim enjoys the variety and unique challenges involved in comedic writing and performing.

Paul Mattingly - Improv Program Instructor

Paul Mattingly teaches a weekly drop in improv class and hosts several improv comedy shows each week. Paul was a Mainstage player for The Second City in Las Vegas and taught for the Second City Training Center. He has toured extensively teaching and performing improv on Norwegian Cruise Line and as far away as China.

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