Directors & Teachers
Debra E. Leopard, Education Director
Debra Leopard is a graduate of USC with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Theatre with an Acting Specialty and a Master of Arts Degree with a Directing Specialty. She is a 38-year Theatre veteran. Her acting background is extensive, including over 100 stage roles, voice-over work, films and commercials. She is also a seasoned director, having directed over 70 productions. Debra also has many years of experience as a lighting designer, set designer and playwright. Her Special Needs acting program (Carolina Actors with Special Talents) won a national Parks and Recreation Award. She has been teaching Acting and Public Speaking to all ages for over 30 years at various places in the Columbia area, including Workshop Theatre, USC, Irmo-Chapin Recreation Commission, DeAbreau Modeling Agency, Millie Lewis Talent Agency, Lander University, Newberry College and Richland County Recreation Commission. Her goal is to introduce Theatre Arts to as many people as possible, and she has worked hard to build a strong Theatre Education Program at Village Square Theatre. She believes that Theatre is a wonderful thing for people of all ages and abilities. Working with young performers is her greatest passion. Her “real job” is at the South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs where she is a Fiscal Analyst.
Mark DiNovo, Teacher
Mark has many years of acting experience, including stage and film roles. Some of his most recent shows include: Leaving Iowa, The Diary of Anne Frank, Curious Savage, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and Annie. He has many years of experience as an acting coach and teacher. Mark is also the co-director of a historically based drama group called Divine Drama Ministries. In addition to acting, he also writes screenplays and short stories. Mark is a writer for Golden Fluke Productions and will be shooting a film in Sicily in June of 2019.
Ara-Viktoria Mckinney-Bookman, Teacher
Columbia native with over 23 years of singing experience, solo and ensemble. Twelve years of professional vocal coaching, ten years of musical theatre experience and three years of autistic and non-verbal musical therapy lessons. BA of Arts in Music from Columbia College (2012), Master of Arts in Teaching: Secondary Education, University of Phoenix (2016). Soloist, recording artist, has held many lead ensemble roles in community theatre, acting and directorial. Specializing in vocal health, audition prep for state, local and college. Instruments include voice: all ages and vocal ranges, beginner piano, beginner guitar, beginner ukulele. All genres. Ara-Viktoria is an educator for Richland County School District One and the owner of Bella Desire Creative Conservatory, LLC.
Candice Pipkin, Teacher
Growing up in Irmo, SC, Candice has worked in the theater industry since the age of 3. She grew up dancing competitively with The Southern Strutt, trained in the voice department of Columbia College, and performed in numerous productions across the state. She began performing professionally at the age of 12 in New York and in local and regional commercials. Candice graduated in 2003 with a BM in Musical Theater from The Florida State University. Since then she has performed in productions all over the Southeast, Los Angeles, New York and was a singer/dancer for Holland America Cruise Lines. Currently she enjoys teaching and directing with Village Square and The Southern Strutt, singing with Mama’s Home Cookin Band, teaching private voice lessons, and spending time with her fantastic husband and 3 year old! She’s excited to now be part of the Village Square family!
Merritt Vann, Teacher
Merritt Vann is a SAG-eligible actor and is making his mark in the entertainment industry including film and television. Film credits include HARVEST SEASON, BOUND, TEST, TRIGGERED, BOTTLED UP, CURTAIN CALL, MISTER ACADEMY, CRACKS, BLUE CROSSING and DOWN IN THE DARK. He recently had a guest-starring role on the CBS show THE INSPECTORS and co-starring roles in episodes of HOMICIDE HUNTER, MURDER CALLS, KILLER COUPLES and AMERICAN NIGHTMARE on the ID Network and three co-starring roles in the following national commercials HOODZ, CONTINENTAL TIRE and NASCAR. He’s also appeared in the national TV series REVOLUTION, SLEEPY HOLLOW, BANSHEE and SINGLE LADIES.
vicky Jackson, Teacher
Vicky Jackson is a graduate of USC with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre and Speech and a Masters of Arts in Teaching Theatre and Speech. She has taught Theatre and English at Pelion Middle and Pelion High School for 27 years. Vicky began performing on the LCAA stage at the age of 5 when her family moved to Lexington in 1972. Through the years her whole family performed in LCAA productions, especially Vicky and her mother, Dolores Gatch, who was instrumental in forming the Junior Arts program in the early 1980s. Over her time with LCAA and VST Vicky has performed, choreographed, directed, designed lighting, worked backstage, costumed, worked front of house, and served on the Board of Directors. She believes that education in theatre arts is an excellent way to instill communication and cooperative skills in children to help them become well-rounded individuals and achieve success in all areas of their education and extra-curricular lives. She is excited to join the team of teachers this year!