Acting Instructor / Artistic Director
Estes Tarver is an award-winning actor, director, writer, and producer based in Raleigh, NC. He has acted in film, tv and theatre in NYC, LA, NC, and regionally. Some television credits include Outer Banks (OBX3), Mr. Mercedes, Swamp Thing, Black Lightning, House of Cards, Teenage Bounty Hunters, and Burden. You might also have seen him as a recurring guest star in season two of Under The Dome on CBS as Tom Tilden. On stage and camera, Estes has worked with Oscar/Emmy winning actors and directors. He has written and produced a multiple award- winning feature film, Changeover on Amazon Prime, in addition to writing/producing/directing national brand commercials (Walgreens, Alli, Hasbro…etc). Estes founded Moonlight Stage Company/Moonlight Arts and Entertainment, an arts training center and media production company. Estes coaches actors at the professional level, taught acting at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and also the North Carolina Theatre Conservatory. He has an MFA in acting from UNC-Chapel Hill and has students regularly acting in stage, film, and television, including booking major roles on countless shows and films such as Disney’s The Lone Ranger, Stranger Things, Outer Banks, AMC’s Preacher, The Walking Dead, Halt and Catch Fire Turn, Insatiable, Tropical Cop Tales, Sleepy Hollow, Barely Lethal, Triple Nine, Last Vegas, HBO's Eastbound and Down, Hunger Games, and many more on such networks as Disney TV, Nickelodeon, Disney XD, CBS, HBO, L & O, etc. Other students have booked Broadway shows, the National tour of Peter Pan as well as being accepted and receiving scholarships into top college programs (Tisch, UNCSA, Elon).
Estes Tarver and his company Moonlight are some of the most professional coaches and audition taping resources I’ve had the good fortune to have clients utilize. Tapes coming from Estes are perfectly lit, framed, and edited and compete with the best self-tapes I see from a variety of markets. Making them even more competitive is the coaching Estes provides. Clients of mine who have worked with Estes have been flown to LA to screen test for everything from studio features to independent film to network tv to the latest streaming shows and several have gone on to book significant, career building opportunities.
Estes is a true gem and it thrills me that the artists I work with regionally have Estes in their corner. He provides a tremendous support to the actor and their families, while navigating projects. He also has great insight on the appropriate direction needed for flawless execution. His tapes and coaching are spot on and better than most I have seen coming out of Los Angeles.
Singer/Songwriter of the Year 2010
NC Songwriter Co-Op Competition
Carrie’s award-winning voice and original music can be heard on Spotify and iTunes. Named one of North Carolina’s Top Charlotte Vocalists by the Carolina Entertainment Network, seasoned vocalist Carrie Marshall is actively performing across a variety of stages in the Carolinas and east coast, including such notable events as the Democratic National Convention. In 2017 she was nominated for Best Musical Score for the movie, “Changeover” by both the Idylwild International Film Festival and the Love International Film Festival. Carrie was a Top 10 finalist twice in the UK International Songwriting Competition and also won Songwriter of the Year for NC Songwriter’s Co-Op Singer/Songwriter of the year. Carrie is very involved as a professional performing artist, studio session singer, composer, producer, pianist, vocal coach, music director and actress. She holds a B.A. in Music and an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction, and has had several years of private study in both piano and voice under reputable teachers such as Mark Baxter in Boston, MA and Dr. John Hugo. As a teacher, she has worked at the prestigious Middlesex School in Concord, MA., Concord Youth Theater, Carlisle Public Schools and Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. Carrie specializes in mentoring students in the study of voice, composition, and performance. As a songwriting and vocal coach, she empowers students to find their own, unique artistic voice and writing style. Her submersion in the music and entertainment business allows her to uniquely address the multifaceted aspects of a lifestyle as a performing artist.
2008 BBC Songwriter Competition
Top Charlotte Vocalist
Carolina Entertainment Network
Ray Dooley has been a professional actor for 45 years, appearing in productions on and off-Broadway, across the United States, and internationally. At CSC Repertory in New York, Ray received a Village Voice Obie Award for Distinguished Performance in Peer Gynt, and at Vienna’s English Theatre played Father Flynn in the European premiere of Doubt. As an actor with PlayMakers Repertory Company he appeared in more than 100 productions, including the title role in Cyrano de Bergerac, Antonio Salieri in Amadeus (with the North Carolina Symphony), George in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and solo presentations of A Christmas Carol and An Iliad, a one-person retelling of the Trojan War. On camera Ray recently played Dr. Art Van Zee in the Hulu original series Dopesick. He appeared in the daytime dramas One Life to Live, Guiding Light, Loving, and Search for Tomorrow and in the films The Trial of Standing Bear, Stonebrook, Changeover, and the upcoming Trainhopper. Ray taught Acting at UNC Chapel Hill from1990 to 2022; and from 2005 to 2018 he was head of UNC’s Professional Actor Training Program, ranked by the Hollywood Reporter as one of the top-ten MFA Acting programs in the country. At Moonlight Ray teaches the Shakespeare Sessions and Professional Scene Study, and he is available by request for coaching, scene work, and small-group workshops.
Sean McCracken is an actor, singer, and improvisor who has over 20 years experience on stage, as well as in film, television, commercials, web series, and industrials. He has most recently been seen on television in Stranger Things (Netflix), Outcast (Cinemax) and AMC’s TURN: Washington’s Spies, and on stage in North Carolina Theatre's West Side Story, Moonlight’s Seascape with Sharks and Dancer, Theatre Raleigh’s Junk, Where Words Once Were, The Secret Garden, Rock of Ages, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Broadway Series South’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer at the Duke Energy Center. He was also in the 2012 LA Weekly Award nominated production of Turbo Tartuffe at Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre in North Hollywood. Sean has studied acting from Emmy Award-Winning director Joan Darling, and has improv training from The Upright Citizen’s Brigade and The Second City in Los Angeles. Sean’s students have booked major roles on Stage, Film, and Television, including The King and I (Broadway), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Theatre Raleigh), Once (Theatre Raleigh), Office Christmas Party, Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2, House of Cards, Good Behavior, Daytime Divas, Misfits and Monsters, Black Lightning, The Resident, Swamp Thing, Uncle Frank, Champaign ILL, Reprisal, Beyond The Walking Dead, Stargirl (recurring), Dopesick (recurring), and many more, as well as many local plays, shorts, commercials, and industrials. He has a BA in Dramatic Art from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Paul Paliyenko is a professional actor with over twenty years of experience performing on stage, screen, television, radio, and audiotape as an actor and improviser in Boston and Raleigh. His Triangle professional stage credits include August: Osage County and Barefoot in the Park for Theatre Raleigh as well as Burning Coal Theatre Company’s highly-acclaimed productions of To Kill a Mockingbird, Way to Heaven/Camino al Cielo and David Edgar’s The Prisoner’s Dilemma. Paul performed improv in Boston for many years with the U.S. Improvisational Theatre League. He trained in acting with Michael Shurtleff, Jeannie Lindheim and Bill Young as well as locally with Estes Tarver; in improvisation with Keith Johnstone and Adam Felber as well as locally with Jeris Livengood, and in voice, speech & movement with Leigh Smiley (Linklater), and Annie Thompson. Paul is also an award-winning producer, director, cinematographer and sound designer with hundreds of film, video and audio producing and directing credits from his fifteen-year career in Boston. His students have booked major roles for stage, motion pictures, television and national commercials including The Best of Enemies, Embattled, (Future) Cult Classic, Mr. Mercedes, and many more, as well as many shorts films, industrials, regional commercials and local plays. Paul has also taught at the North Carolina Theatre Conservatory and has held appointments teaching film production at Boston University and Emerson College. Some of his former film production students include film and television directors, Gary Fleder and Chris Koch and screenwriter Peter Filardi.
Matt White, is just a small town guy with a huge personality! Which comes out every time he steps onstage with his brand of observational humor, mixed with improv/theatre training leaves audiences engaged and ready for more. He is an award winning comedian, winner of 2012 Port City Top Comic (Wilmington NC) and 2013 Carolina's Funniest Comic (Carrboro NC). Its clear Matt likes to be onstage, he also likes to be behind the scenes. He founded the Seriously Clowning Comedy Org at East Carolina University in 2005, which branched off campus to become the current comedy scene in Greenville NC. Matt White has performed in The Red Clay Comedy Festival (Atlanta GA), Scruffy City Comedy Festival (Knoxville TN), New South Comedy Festival (Greenville SC), Norfolk Comedy Festival( Norfolk, VA), Glida' Laughfest (Grand Rapids, MI), The Boston Comedy Arts Festival (Cambridge MA), The Ventura Comedy Festival (Ventura CA). The Cape Fear Comedy Festival (Wilmington, NC), North Carolina Comedy Festival (Chapel Hill, NC), and Laugh Your Asheville Off (Asheville NC) White has worked with; Ben Kronberg, Tim Meadows, Jon Reep, Orlando Jones, Michael Malone, Mia Jackson, Alonzo Bodden, Nephew Tommy, Joe Clair, Tony Woods, Landry, Eddie Brill, Tig Notaro, Sam Morril, Chris Fairbanks, Louis Katz, Kimberly Clark, Ben Roy, Rory Scovel, Nick Vatterott, Sean Patton, Jamie Lissow, Bret Ernst, Nick Turner, JF Harris, Tom Simmons, Dave Stone, & Tim Northern
Megan O’Neill has been improvising since high school (shout out to Chapel Hill public schools for being ahead of the curve having improv groups in the 90’s). She attended UNC, where she received A BA in Dramatic Art and performed with CHiPs (UNC’s original improv comedy troupe). Megan spent fifteen years performing improv and sketch comedy in Chicago before relocating back to Raleigh in 2017. She trained at The iO Theater (formerly Improv Olympic), where she performed with several Harold Teams as well as with Whirled News Tonight, Chicago’s longest running independent improv show. Whirled News has performed at the Piccolo Spoleto comedy festival in South Carolina, headlined The Del Close comedy festival in New York, as well as headlining at numerous festivals across the country. She helped create the show “TAG”, which ran as part of The Second City’s Summer Series. Megan also served as a writer and performer on several sketch productions including, the live late night comedy series “The Late Night Late Show” at the iO Theater, “The Midnight Hellhouse” at The Playground Theater, and she was creator and star of “The Sarah Palin Show” at The iO Theater. Megan loves the teamwork associated with improv and sketch comedy, and thinks the sense of play and confidence you gain from improv are invaluable life skills
Lucy Moore is an actress, singer, and stand-up comedian from Durham, North Carolina. She began singing and acting when she was a tween and looks forward to sharing her passion for performing while teaching the same age! Lucy has a bachelor’s degree in theater from Bryan College and has trained and worked as an actor for both stage and screen. She has trained at Moonlight Stage Company with Estes Tarver for more than 5 years. When she isn’t writing jokes or memorizing lines she works as a nanny where she spends her time pretending to be a gymnast, tiger, princess, or whatever role she’s given that day. Lucy is thrilled to be teaching at Moonlight and hopes to give each student the courage and freedom to play make-believe.
Kenneth is an actor who can be seen on Episodic Television as well as Web Series and frequently on the stage at Moonlight! Kenny has appeared on major Episodic Television shows such as Ozark (Netflix) starring Jason Bateman, and the new Showtime Series American Rust starring Jeff Daniels and Maura Tierney. Kenneth's audition taping clients have booked major episodic TV for streaming services like Amazon and also had callbacks to national TV commercials et al.. He is also Puerto Rican and can offer Spanish speaking for auditions as both a reader and coach. Kenneth has been a student of Estes' for over 5 years and has had intense training in both on camera and scene study work so he has a lot to offer as a reader and coach.
Mark Cornell is a playwright, director, screenwriter, and filmmaker. Over 80 of his plays have been produced in theatres around the world, including Sprucehaven B with Rising Sun Performance Company in NYC; Two Turtle Doves (Common Ground Theatre); On Pine Knoll Street (Dayton Playhouse FutureFest; O’Neill semi-finalist; Garry Marshall Theatre New Works Festival finalist; Austin Playhouse Festival of New Plays finalist) won the AACT NewWorksFest 2020 and will premiere at The Sauk in Michigan in February of 2020; Carolyn Adamswill premiere in the fall of 2019 at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro; The Other Half won the 2019 Charlies Getchell Award. His short plays have won numerous awards, including the LW Thomas Award for Bad Thing, Best Playwright at Pittsburgh New Works Festival and Best Script at the City Theatre of Independence for Story Road; and the Short and Sweet Award in Brisbane, Australia for The Rental Company. Mark has had many of his short plays and skits appear on the Moonlight stage. Mark has written, produced, and directed numerous short films, including The Camera, which won Best Script at the Carrboro Film Festival. He also directed Mr. Moonlight (with Estes Tarver and Joan Darling), which was written by Estes Tarver. He is partner with Mark Jantzen with Marked Men Films and co-creator of Full Nelson Theater with Paul Newell. He has an MFA in playwriting and a BA in English and Creative Writing from UCLA.
Acting and Playwriting
Hayley hails from Durham, NC and was a student of Estes' LONG AGO! She is currently a company member in UNC’s Professional Actor Training Program. She attended NYU Tisch's prestigious theatre program as both an actor and playwright. She has also worked professionally as an actor and director. A Durham native, Hayley is thrilled to be back in the area and working with Moonlight! You can read more about Hayley at HayleyCartee.com
Tori McCracken is a recent transplant from Greensboro, NC. She's an actor, singer, dancer, and improvisor who has worked professionally in North Carolina, Florida, Oregon, and NYC. She has worked with Theatre Raleigh in the Triangle, as well as with Shared Radiance in the Triad, Enchanted Forest Theme Park, SeaWorld, performed in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and will be appearing in a film that is an official selection of the Toronto Film Festival. She has worked in commercials, school tours, musicals, Shakespeare, ballet, theme parks, and improv shows. She also wrote, directed, and starred in an award winning interactive children's sketch comedy, The Anna & Jamie Series, which ran for 7 years.Tori has been teaching improv, dance, voice, and acting for the past 10 years, starting at the Drama Center of City Arts in Greensboro and continuing through public, private, and charter schools, as well as several theatres in the Triad area. She has directed award winning competition teams at NCTC and International Thespian Society Festival, as well as teaching masterclasses and adjudicating the ITS One Act Festival. She has also directed, music directed, and choreographed over 40 shows with various companies in North Carolina. She attended the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York.
Lisa Jolley is an Adjunct Professor of Voice and Acting at William Peace University in Raleigh. She has also taught/coached at Moonlight and NCT Conservatory, as well as privately. An actor, singer, and improviser for over twenty-five years, her New York/Regional credits include: Hairspray (Broadway), The King Stag, (Yale Rep) Sweeney Todd (Paper Mill, PlayMakers Rep), Disaster (NCC Summer Theater), among others. Since relocating to North Carolina, she has appeared in Into the Woods, Les Miserables, Hairspray, and The Producers (North Carolina Theatre), Spamalot (Cape Fear Regional Theatre), Next to Normal (Deep Dish), Souvenir, The Great American Trailer Park Musical, and Sylvia (Theatre Raleigh). She is also a featured soloist with the North Carolina Symphony. Television appearances include Law & Order: SVU, Sex and the City, Hope and Faith, and Banshee. As an improviser, she has been a cast member/team player with Amsterdam's Boom Chicago, in NYC at UCB, The Magnet Theater, The PIT, and at DSI Comedy in Chapel Hill. Her solo musical improv show, Jolley On the Spot, played to critical acclaim in New York, LA, and at the Chicago Improv Festival, Del Close Marathon, and the New York Musical Improv Festival. Lisa is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music, Musical Theater program.
Jennifer is a professional actor, educator, writer, and coach who joins Moonlight Studios via New York, San Francisco, and Boston. Jennifer has performed in New York, most recently in State of the Union and A Marriage Contract at the Metropolitan Playhouse and regionally at the American Conservatory Theater in A Christmas Carol and Ah,Wilderness! Other favorite theatrical credits include A Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Big Meal, The Cherry Orchard, Hamlet, and Church. Jennifer has coached students of all ages in acting, dialect training, Shakespeare technique, physical theater and clowning, audition technique, and improv at the prestigious Young Conservatory and Studio A.C.T. in San Francisco. Jennifer has trained with the Carter Thor Studios in Boston and was a student at the Circle in the Square Theater in New York. She received her BA from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and her MFA from the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. Jennifer is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association.
Katie Paxton is an actress, writer, teacher and coach. Her film and television credits include The Long Road Home (National Geographic, series regular), Billy and Billie (DirecTV written and directed by Neil LaBute, recurring), The Good Wife (CBS, recurring), Forever (ABC, guest star), The Black List (NBC, guest star), How He Fell in Love (dir. Marc Meyers) and The Heart Machine (dir. Zach Wigon). Recent theatre includes The Way of the World by Theresa Rebeck (world premiere at Dorset Theatre Festival), Bedroom Farce (Huntington Theatre Company), Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, In the Next Room, The Imaginary Invalid and Noises Off (PlayMakers Repertory Company). She has booked multiple commercials including a Crest national network spot and has years of experience working and auditioning in the top casting offices in New York.Katie’s students have booked major roles on film and television, including The Blacklist, Quantico, The Deuce, Mr. Robot and Bloodline. Katie holds a BA and MFA in Acting from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has taught at the college and professional level for the past six years in NYC.
Liam Yates has been acting in North Carolina for over a decade and has been acting professionally since 2012. He has appeared in numerous productions at North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre, and has acted professionally at NCT, Pittsboro Youth Theatre, Shared Radiance Theatre, and Theatre Raleigh. He was recently on tour with Theatre Raleigh in their production of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' as Bottom. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2016 where he spent most of his time working in the Theatre for Young People department. He also spent a semester overseas at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David where he trained in film acting, radio acting, educational theatre, and Shakespearean performance. He also earned his certificate to teach and choreograph Stage Combat while overseas, having studied under Phil Croskin. He has taught classes at North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre that span a variety of ages starting from preschoolers (Imagination Theatre and Superheroes) to teenagers (Acting for the Camera and Improv). He has also taught workshops for Commedia Dell'Arte and Stage Combat. Last year he taught kids ages 6-10 at the Pittsboro Youth Theatre and directed them in a production of 'Rapunzel'. He also taught a workshop in stage combat over the summer with that same theatre and choreographed their production of 'Peter Pan'. His film credits include several Centerline IBM Industrials, motion capture work with Epic! Games, and a featured role in BrainJuice Productions' "The Witching Hour."
Vinny has been an improv comedian since 2008. Originally from Long Island, Vinny started taking classes at the ComedyWorx Theater shortly after seeing his first improv show. After a couple of years of being a stage performer his journey continued in 2010 to Chapel Hill where he became a full time company member and in 2012, Associate Producer at the DSI Comedy Theater. Vinny has been on multiple long form improvisational teams and toured the country performing in NYC, Atlanta, Charleston, Virginia and Washington D.C. Since 2011 he has been teaching improv and focuses on team mates being honest with their emotions, using one’s environment and performing in a way that not only surprises the performer but the audience watching as well.When not performing he loves to play the drums and watch reruns of Mr. Show, The State and Kids in the Hall. Vinny is dedicated to the art of improvisation and the positive influence it has on those who not only perform to their highest potential but also the audience who walk away from shows wanting to see more or perform just like he did a decade previous.
Joan Darling has been nominated four times for an Emmy (the first woman to be nominated) and twice for a Director’s Guild of America Award, winning one Emmy and one DGA award. Also winning an Emmy for her performance as Dorothy Parker in Woven in a Crazy Plaid… [read more]
Special Guest Instructor
Ray Dooley’s career as a professional actor has spanned forty years on stage, television, and film. Since 1989 he has been an actor with PlayMakers Repertory Company, and since 1992 he has been a member of the faculty of the Department of Dramatic Art at UNC Chapel Hill. He currently serves as Head of the MFA Acting program. Ray received an OBIE award for Distinguished Performance in Peer Gynt at CSC Repertory Company in New York, and played Father Flynn in the European premiere of Doubt at Vienna’s English Theatre. His students have appeared on and off Broadway, in major regional theaters across the country, at the National Theater of Great Britain, and on numerous popular television programs. [read more]
Special Guest Instructor
Rachel Kanakanui is an actress and singer from Raleigh, NC. A graduate of UNC-Greensboro’s BFA Acting program, And a student of Estes' at Moonlight for many years Rachel studied techniques of Stanislavski, Meisner, Adler, and specialized in acting for the camera. She has done numerous regional commercials and plays. Outside of theatre, she loves to hang out with her cats. After TA-ing and training at Moonlight for several years and falling in love with the community, she decided to take up the torch and teach as well. She hopes she can help her students find the same love for acting and theatre as she has.
Meagan Mackenzie, currently on hiatus from the National Tour of Waitress, the Musical (Dance Captain, Swing, Dawn US), is a Raleigh transplant-turned-native who has been seen on stages across the region, including Theatre Raleigh, North Carolina Theatre, Temple Theatre, Cape Fear Regional Theatre and Broadway Series South. She’s also appeared in over 20 regional and national commercials and is a regular company member of the Moonlight Sketch Series. Meagan has taught dance and acting for Moonlight Stage Company and the North Carolina Theatre Conservatory, and also had the pleasure of teaching master classes and workshops in dance and performance across the country. She is excited to get to know your student, help them find their passion, and make them feel confident in their work, all while having a ton of fun!