Verve Studios

Verve Studios is proud to be made up of working, degreed, professional coaches. Our coaches don't just teach, they do. They are active actors, directors, producers, filmmakers.


Head Coach (Acting, Cello) and Owner

Amanda Melby has worked as a professional actress for over 30 years, is a proud member of SAG-AFTRA and AEA and has lived and worked in Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Cleveland and Minnesota before coming to Phoenix in 2004.
Amanda can be seen in the feature films RAISING BUCHANAN with Rene Auberjonois and M. Emmet Walsh, LOCKER 13 with Ricky Schroeder, Jason Spisak and Jon Gries, JAKE’S CORNER with Richard Tyson, Danny Trejo and BJ Thomas, NETHERBEAST INCORPORATED with Darrell Hammond, Steve Burns, Dave Foley and Jason Mewes, THE MAJESTIC with Martin Landau and Jim Carrey, among others.  Her short film credits are numerous.  Her television credits include CANDID CAMERA (TV Land), S.I.S. (Spike TV), BOSTON PUBLIC (Fox), and SCREEN WARS (AZTV). 
Her Los Angeles theatrical credits include understudying for Peri Gilpin as Gwendolyn in FRASIER GONE WILDE: THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST at the Mark Taper Forum, starring as Sonia in the LA premiere of LIFE x 3, as Doris in SAME TIME, NEXT YEAR at the Long Beach Playhouse, and as Amy in the premiere of CHENILLE STEMS AND COCO MIDRIB.   Regional theatrical credits include the Cleveland Play House, Porthouse Theatre, Dobama Theatre and Cleveland Shakespeare Festival, Actors Theatre of Phoenix, Arizona Theatre Company, Phoenix Theatre, Theater Works and Theatre Artists Studio. 
She also works in commercials, industrials, voice over and print, having shot her 25th commercial, a national spot for Courtyard by Marriott, and appearing on the cover of a Pier One ad.
In addition to acting and teaching, Amanda also works as a producer, director and spokeswoman.  She was the Executive Director of IFP Phoenix 2005-2011.  She is a three-time Emmy® nominee for her work as Producer and Host of the television show SCREEN WARS and was nominated for the 2011 Governor’s Arts Award.
She has studied with Howard Fine in his Master Class in LA.  Amanda is an accomplished cellist and holds a BA in theatre and English from Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota.  She is repped by the Leighton Agency (Arizona) The Talent Shop (LA) and Artist Management Agency (California).


Breathing In The Physical Character/Voice/Shakespeare/Scene Study

Laura Winstin, a native Chicagoan, has been involved in the theatre for more than 35 years. Starting out as a dancer, Laura moved into the realm of acting when she began her college career.  She pursued her passion leading her to New York to study with the National Shakespeare Conservatory.  Her love of Shakespeare and the classics has been a mainstay for her.  While in New York, Laura performed with the Conservatory Theatre, exploring new works, both as an actress and director.  She appeared in multiple MTV videos, several films and a variety of voice overs. Returning to Chicago, she completed a Master's in Fine Arts for the Theatre School at DePaul and began working in the Chicago theatre scene and teaching Voice and Speech at The Center Theatre and The Organic Theatre.  She has appeared in Love' Labour's Lost, The Maids, And Miss Reardon Drinks A Little, Another Part of the Forest to name a few.  She co- wrote and directed The Unripe Fruit which was mounted throughout the Chicago Public School system.  She has trained with the Royal Shakespeare Company as well as The Moscow Art Theatre. Laura's passion embraces developing new talent, directing, writing and being on stage in a collaborative setting.  During her free time she is the mother to 3 teenage girls and loves hiking and horseback riding.


Voice Over, Commercials

Gene is an award-winning actor, producer and sound designer in the Phoenix market. 

In addition to having hundreds of TV/radio commercials, films and industrial projects to his credit,  he has been a member of AEA for over 20 years, represented by Dani's agency for over 25 years and has over 28 years of professional onstage experience. He has won 7 AriZoni awards, and teaches Acting for the Camera  and Film Production at Arizona State University.

Will Hightower

Youth Classes, The Core (Technique/Intro to Scene Study)

Will Hightower is a graduate of both the Phoenix College (AA) and Arizona State University (BA) theatre programs. As a stage actor, Will has performed with Actors Theatre, Phoenix Theatre, Childsplay, Stray Cat Theatre, Arizona Jewish Theatre, and American Stage Theatre located in St. Petersburg, Florida. On camera, Will has appeared in national commercials, television shows, and numerous industrial projects. He is also the voice behind several international eLearning brands in the areas of project management and marketing. As a teaching artist, Will has worked with Childsplay, Phoenix Theatre, Arizona Jewish Theatre, The Boys and Girls Club, numerous private studios and public schools, and Valley Youth Theatre. Will signed with Dani's Agency in 2008 and has worked professionally as an actor and teaching artist for over 10 years including becoming an Equity Member Candidate in 2012.  Will is also the 2017-2019 Board President of Stray Cat Theatre.

Ashley Faulkner

Youth, Studio Admin

Ashley Faulkner is an Arizona native with a strong passion for acting and music. Working in many mediums, she will always find her way to a film set or stage. She graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in Theatre and Film Studies. Recently, Ashley has had the opportunity to act in Steel Magnolias (Zoni nomination), Crimes of the Heart as Babe, The Heiress, and Baby With the Bathwater. She is currently playing Izzie in Rabbit Hole at Theatre Artists Studio. Ashley has had the privilege of studying with Amanda Melby, Elayne Stein, Barbara Acker, and Susan K. Brigham. She has been working professionally since 2009 and is signed with the Leighton Agency.


Accents and Dialects, Voice Over

Diane Senffner has been working in theater for over 40 years and honed her craft at the venerable University of Cincinnati CCM and the famed Piven Theatre Workshop in Evanston, IL and with KTS Speechwork. Over the years, she has professionally dialect coached over 100 companies and hundreds of actors in practically every type of accent and dialect you can name!  She coaches here in the Valley, all over the U.S. and in the U.K. via Zoom Video. She was recently nominated for an AriZoni Award for dialect coaching the Stray Cat/Phoenix Theatre production of Hand to God. 

In addition, Diane prides herself in coaching actors and non-actors alike to speak professionally and with confidence. She teaches workshops on vocal techniques for voice-over production and is a member of VASTA - Voice and Speech Trainers Association and a 30 year member of Screen Actor's Guild.  She is also an award winning video director. 

Diane also coaches accents for Hollywood actors and has had clients such as Emmy-nominated actors Ron Livingston, Lizzie Caplan and Matt Walsh.


Honest Improv

Chris Redish is a director, actor and writer from England, now living in Arizona. His short comedy films have played at festivals around the world, winning accolades including Best Student Short Film at the Orlando Film Festival. His 35mm short, The Blacksmith and the Carpenter, was selected by the Phoenix Film Festival as one of their Top Ten Arizona shorts of all time.

Chris Redish joined the Oxymoron'z improv troupe in Scottsdale 21 years ago, where he studied with Louis Anthony Russo for 5 years, performing and directing weekly shows. From there, he continued with the Jester'z, then Beyond the Red Couch and now performs with Zenprov in Sedona.

Chris is also a film director who has directed such notable actors as Tony Curtis (Some Like It Hot), Robert Picardo (Star Trek:Voyager), Charles Baker (Breaking Bad), Krista Allen (Significant Mother), Liz Sheridan (Seinfeld) and Christopher Atkins (Blue Lagoon).


Movement for Performance Capture

Julene Renee began her career as a dancer with the Academy Awards and many films, most notably as Kate Winslet’s ‘Feet’ in, “Titanic”. She transitioned into acting as series regular on the Nickelodeon variety show, “Roundhouse”  followed by an improv gameshow hosted by David Alan Grier, “Random Acts of Comedy” . Julene appeared as a guest star on many network sitcoms including “Two Guys and a Girl” with Ryan Reynolds. In 2003, she was chosen by Robert Zemeckis to perform in the first Motion Capture feature film, “Polar Express” starring Tom Hanks. Over the next 15 years, Julene developed Performance Capture technology alongside many great minds with the films, ‘Beowulf”, “Disney’s A Christmas Carol”, “Mars Needs Moms”... 12 of those years were spent with James Cameron on “Avatar”. Julene is the Spiritual Movement Designer and performer for the Na’vi people. Her job required training the Actors and Stunt performers for the upcoming Avatar 2,3,4,5 film sequels. With the expansion of Avatar, Julene trained 40 acrobatic artists for Cirque Du Soleil's world wide arena show, “Toruk. The First Flight”. She also designed movement for Disney’s Imagineering and performed motion expression for a 9’ Shaman Robot at "Pandora Land”, part of Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida. Julene is the Director & Co-creator of the theatrical stage show “Opera Fusion” starring Soprano, Cherie Valaray.  Currently, she is Visionary Designer for her own company, Sparkle Bubble, inc. Julene's IMDB


Slaying the Monologue Monster

Petey Swartz has been an entertainer for most of her adult life; and was a professional singer for 25 years; performing on both coasts. Originally from New York, she attended the University of Maine, with a major in English and a minor in Theater Arts. Petey then spent 10 years in L.A. pursuing the elusive dream. Now a long-time Phoenix resident, she focuses her talent and passion on theater. She has performed, directed, and created design elements for more than 80 productions at venues throughout the valley, garnering accolades and awards along the way. She has also appeared in film and television projects, including cable’s Discovery ID, and was the commercial voice of AJ’s Fine Foods for 12 years! You can still hear her on radio and TV during he holidays, and in the AJs stores.

As a passionate teaching artist and acting coach, Petey truly enjoys sharing her extensive knowledge and experience with her students, who have ranged from 8 to 75. Each one of her classes is personally written and customized and include “What a Character!”  Make a Scene!” and “Slaying the Monologue Monster!” all of which she taught for several years at the Conservatory of Performing Arts in Cave Creek. Petey is currently in the process of getting them published.
Petey’s students’ glowing testimonials show that they come away from her classes feeling much more confident and prepared; ready to face the many challenges of getting that acting job!