Director and 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.

Becky Croft, Teacher

Becky Croft has been playing the guitar for 41 years. She has taught private guitar lessons for 10 years and teaches music and drama for a private pre-school company, traveling throughout the state.

Becky has participated in over 40 productions with the Lexington County Arts Association including both writing a directing several productions.

Becky loves that we are now able to expand our arts at the theatre and offer different levels of guitar, tap, piano, drama and musical theatre.

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-Goins, Teacher

Columbia Native with over 20 years of singing experience solo and ensemble.10 Years of Professional Vocal Coaching. 8 years of Musical Theatre experience. 3 years of Autistic and non-verbal Musical therapy lessons. BA of Arts in Music from Columbia College 2012, Masters of Arts in Teaching: Secondary Education University of Phoenix 2016. Soloist, recording artist, and has held many lead and ensemble roles in community theatres. My Vocal range Contralto to Mezzo Soprano. Specializing in Vocal Health, Audition Prep for State, Local and College. Instruments include Voice: all ages and voice parts, beginner Piano, beginner guitar, beginner ukulele. Genres: Classical, Jazz, Christian/Gospel, Contemporary, Country, musical theatre, singer/ songwriter and Choral. Ara-Viktoria Is an Educator for Richland County School District one, Worship Leader at Capital City Church, Band Leader of The Ara-V Collective, and an Avid Learner of all the arts.

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.