Get to Know Us

Get to know our world-class staff and see why we’re one of the top arts universities in the country.
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Diane Baker

Executive Director of Acting/Executive Producer of AAU Film Production Studio

Diane Baker’s long and illustrious career across TV and film includes working as an actress and producer with such notables as Anthony Hopkins, Jim Carrey and Martin Landau. The recipient of numerous honors and awards, including multiple Emmy and Golden Globe nominations, Diane has appeared in films such as Journey to the Center of the Earth, The Joy Luck Club, The Net, and The Cable Guy and been a voting member of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences for over forty years.

Damon K. Sperber

Associate Director, School of Acting

Damon K. Sperber has worked as an actor for over twenty years. A graduate of UCLA (BA in World Arts and Cultures-Theater) and the American Conservatory Theater (MFA), Damon has appeared in theater, television, film, commercials and on radio. Damon is also a proud member of the Screen Actor's Guild, Actor's Equity Association and AFTRA.

In addition to acting professionally, Damon's experience working with casting directors (he's worked in New York and Los Angeles to develop and cast talent for Broadway, off-Broadway, and regional theater) has informed his techniques for honing the tools required of the working actor.

"The journey of the actor is a rewarding and challenging process. It requires total commitment and focus. Combined with a meticulous attention to detail and technical proficiency, the actor must also bring honesty, integrity and a childlike freedom to utilize and develop their imaginations fully."

Karen Hirst

Karen Hirst, School of Acting

Karen Hirst is a comedian, actor and singer. Karen began her professional career with Second City Improvisational Theater in Chicago as part of their touring company. She appeared on stage with Second City alumni Eugene Levy, George Wendt, John Candy, Jim Belushi, Betty Thomas and many others.

She was a performing/teaching artist with the Wolf Trap Foundation in Washington, D. C., and coordinated their Bay Area program. Karen conducted workshops nationally for them on the use of comedy in the classroom.

Karen has written and continues to perform her own shows in the Bay Area. Locally, Karen has performed at the Magic Theater, The Phoenix, Spreckles Center for The Performing Arts and many other venues.

She holds a degree in acting from MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Illinois and pursued advanced acting studies at Circle in the Square, in New York.

Karen teaches Improvisation, Acting for Actors, Respect for Acting and is the faculty sponsor for the Drama Club. Karen has been with the Academy since 1996 and is a full-time faculty member.