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B i o g r a p h y





As a member of Actors Equity Association and SAG/AFTRA for 40 years, Paula acted in theatre, film and television and directed critically well-received theater in Los Angeles at The Cast, The Ensemble Studio Theatre, Actors Playhouse and independent venues and at Long Center Rollins and other venues in TX and WA.


On staff at The Zach Scott Performinfg Arrts School and at The State Theatre School of Acting thru Austin Community College as a teacher of acting for film, acting for stage, audttion workshops and showcase directing.


Paula  has been teaching and directing non-stop for over 40 years, offering workshop intensives, classes, private coaching and production coaching for both professionals and community groups. (See Classes for booking information). After a 20-year hiatus from acting, Paula’s most recent professional work as an actor includes three SAG commercials and the title role in “Always, Patsy Cline” under an Equity contract.


•   Interned by invitation as director-in-training on “Taxi”, “Cheers,” “WKRP” and “Newhart” under James Brooks, James Burroughs, Will McKenzie, Joan Darling and others.


•   Attended San Francisco State University, College of Marin, LACC, The American National Theatre and Academy.  Additional training includes David Craig’s Musical Theater (for professionals only by recommendation), Off the Wall Improvisation Co., Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum Shakespeare Company, Sherman Marks Master Class and more. See Training for extensive description.


•   Taught acting and directing professionally for 15 years in association with the Directors Guild and Emmy Award-winner, Joan Darling.  Certified by the state of California to teach Private Post-Secondary Education in acting.


•   Created, organized and taught weekend Actor/Director Intensive Seminars titled “You Can Never Get It Neat” at UCSB Extension, Monterey City College, Orcas Center Theater, Actors Theatre of Orcas Island, Alleywood Studios, Austin, Old Pueblo Players, Tucson, and privately at venues in Santa Barbara, CA, Tucson, AZ and Austin, TX.


  Created and taught acting & on-camera commercial classes at SAG franchised La Belle Agency in Santa Barbara for 3 years and at Dance Warehouse for one year. Taught two-year ongoing weekly class for Orcas Center Theatre. Taught annual Six-Week Scene Performance Workshop at Actors Theatre (in 5th year). Taught directing and acting intensives for Orcas Conservatory. Teach and coach privately.


•   Created syllabus and taught Conflict Resolution Through Theatre Games at elementary schools, grades 3-6, and to faculties through the Santa Barbara Peace Resource Center. This was a highly successful program in schools throughout Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties.


•   Taught Theater to grades 9-12 at Orcas Island High School.


•   Facilitated the training of law enforcement officers in domestic dispute mediation through filmed improvisation. Burbank, California Police Department.


•    Coached political candidates, diplomats, mayors, lawyers & public speakers


•    Audio-Video Editor and Critic: NAPRA Review [National monthly publication]


•   Lead singer in 5 piece Country-Rock and Jazz bands in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. Professional recording experience. Currently performing with The Paula Russell Band in Austin, TX. with a 9 year residency at the legendary Broken Spoke.


•   A founding parent of the first original Charter School in the state of California. Wrote the Vision Statement, created curriculum and policy and hired teachers. The school is still going strong.



With the encouragement and support of Joan Darling, Samantha Harper and Judy Kerr, Paula began teaching acting and directing theatre in Hollywood forty years ago.


Paula has been on stage or back-stage since the age of two.  She studied acting with Paul Rebillot, at San Francisco State University, where she had her own radio show, and at The College of Marin before moving to Los Angeles. Her first mentor/teacher there was the late, great Francis Lederer who trained with Eva Le Gallienne and founded the American National Theatre and Academy. Along with intense character study, Francis encouraged actors to memorize as many scenes as possible from his extensive files. Every week actors leapt to the stage, not knowing who might be their scene partner or if they would be acting Shakespeare or Tennessee Williams. No scene was ever the same twice! It was thrilling and risky. Francis also had actors following people around the streets of LA copying their walks and other behaviors. It was a good beginning.


For several years, Paula studied and did plays with Stella Adler and Sandy Meisner teacher, Mary Carver from whom she learned a solid working craft. Next she was admitted to Sherman Marks’ advanced scene-work master class. Other fine influences include working-out at Off-the-Wall improvisation group, several years of performing Shakespeare at Ellen & Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum, working on Tennessee Williams with Brando’s “Streetcar Named Desire” understudy, actor/coach, Clark Gordon and acting under the direction of his wife, Eve McVeagh, voice with Robert Edwards,Tae Kwon Do with Jun Chong, and Alexander Technique with Pam Hartman.


The fierce, brilliant musical performance teacher, David Craig’s unparalleled work with precision, focus, timing and back-story still influences Paula’s work as a teacher, director, actor and singer.


Commercial workshops with the wonderful Carolyne Barry still influence Paula’s teaching, especially in camera and cold-reading/audition technique. Paula taught both on-camera commercial and basic acting and scene study at the SAG-franchised La Belle Modeling and Talent Agency for three years.


Paula worked-out every week, often twice a week, for over 5 years with Joan Darling, before joining Judy Kerr and Samantha Harper, as one of “Joani’s teacher/associates.” All three teachers generously invited Paula to follow them around, joined-at-the-hip, for months, observing them as they taught. Paula has been teaching non-stop ever since.

Whether one has years of experience or is a novice, there is an astonishing gift that Joan Darling offers to artists through a unique combination of deep and playful exercises, analysis, sensory work and philosophy. It is Paula’s privilege to pass this gift on to those who seek a joyful place of disciplined, passionate purpose in which to work, experiment and grow.




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