Exceptional Students of the Season – Fall 2023


As the holiday season begins to kick into high gear, we want to take a moment to recognize some outstanding acting students who embody the TK Studio spirit. Our TKS Faculty has named a select group of students who have shown exceptional passion, commitment, and excellence in their work.

Please extend a warm congratulations to our Fall 2023 Exceptional Students of the Season: Ruben Caballero, Leyla Hadi-K, Kyle Dunn, Jackie DeHart, Yuki a.k.a. Kieu, Chris Cavalier, Quentin Chisholm, Bree Turner, Ash Johnson and Daniel Kim. These students have stood out in their classes with their dedication and hard work, and we’re proud to have them as part of our community!

After notifying these notable students of their nominations, we asked them to share some insights on their time at TK Studio with the following prompts:

How has your training here at TKS supported your understanding and pursuit of artistic excellence?

Describe a moment in your training journey that you recall as having had a clear and lasting impact on you?

What does being a part of the TKS community mean to you?

Let it be known that those recognized continually bring the utmost courage, joy and authenticity to the room day in and day out.  We’re so grateful to honor their hard work and dedicated over their time with us! Help us send them some much-deserved love and congratulations!




Ruben Caballero

Second-Year Conservatory Student

Thinking back on the many moments in my training journey that have had an impact on me, there is a through line in everything I’ve learned: autonomy. I do not need permission to present my whole self, and the work at TKS has started to reveal what I have to offer. In every class I believe that I am challenged to explore and shed light on a different aspect of myself in a fullness that I didn’t experience until I arrived at this studio. Every one of my coaches invites me to be curious about who I am and what I can offer as a human and artist no matter how difficult and terrifying the task. I have met every aspect of this work with resistance, if not consciously, unconsciously. I have shed a lot of tears and lost a lot of sleep fighting to discover “WHAT ELSE?!” And although the journey has been difficult, the outcome is undeniable. I have found a place where I am encouraged to be unapologetic in what I bring to the table, which requires curiosity, courage and ambition. And I can trust my coaches to uphold a standard of excellence that requires strength and grace. I am confident that who I am and who I want to be is worth sharing, and I am beholden to no one else to let that be seen. I don’t take lightly that my decision to be an artist on this planet is a privilege and an honor. And because of this studio I know that I am worthy of that pursuit.



Leyla Hadi-K
Second-Year Conservatory Student

Early in first year, I got really frustrated at myself during a particular feedback. I couldn’t understand why I was having such a difficult time making contact with my partner and responding truthfully, and I just wanted to be able to do it! I remember sitting in that chair, fighting back tears unsuccessfully, feeling like a total loser. And Terry said something to me, that I actually haven’t heard him say to anyone else as yet – he said be ok being pregnant. I had no freaking clue what he was talking about, but he explained that I was only at the start of a journey, and to simply enjoy that process. Having worked as an attorney for a number of years, I was so used to needing to get things done — it didn’t matter how, and all anyone cared about was the end result. And now, there was no fixed result, but up until that point, my brain was in turbo drive trying to get to some outcome. We talked through a lot during that conversation, and every time I think about it, it holds more and more value for me. There has been so much to learn during my time here, about the work, about myself, about human behavior, but this unbelievably transparent conversation is what allowed me to take a step back so that I could really understand and appreciate the experience of learning itself.




Kyle Dunn
Second-Year Conservatory Student

I remember wanting to quit school. Twice. Once at the beginning of the first year of the two-year conservatory. Once again at the beginning of the second year. I had a powerful urge to give up because the work we were doing was so hard, and it would quake like a dormant volcano underneath the rest of my life. I told Terry about this. He listened to me. It’s not an uncommon feeling I was having. It was the feeling of changing and growing, and I was unused to it. He told me to weather the storm, if I could. The spirit of that advice has given me confidence in my work, which is hard, and my life, which is also hard. They’re connected, and meeting the challenge transformed me.



Jackie DeHart

Second-Year Conservatory Student

With the support and guidance of all my teachers at TKS I’ve been able to develop my own unique process that allows me to achieve excellence in my work. I’ve gained an invaluable toolbox that will undoubtedly support me wherever I choose to go.

There was a moment when I was really resisting the work (resisting a scene) and I didn’t know why or how to get through it, I felt very lost. I had been trying to connect or “feel” something for the work I was doing and I had been unsuccessful in my pursuit. Terry began coaching me through it – he could see the block I was hitting. He offered a different perspective of the work that challenged the fears I had surrounding the scene. He asked me to go outside and come back in, to do the scene again. The moment I walked in, it was magic. Terry offered a path, a choice that I wasn’t able to see that allowed me to fall into the work in a way that I hadn’t experienced before. It gave me confidence to know what I am capable of while simultaneously dissolving a lot of fears I have. This experience has now become a tool and will serve as a reminder of my capabilities to help me in times when the fear bubbles up again. It’s an irreplaceable, invaluable experience that will stay with me and has undoubtedly shifted the way I view myself as an artist.


acting students

Yuki a.k.a. Kieu

First-Year Conservatory Student

Before my time at TKS, I thought working hard with precision was excellence. I needed to understand the depths of artistic excellence where a professional artist should strive to create truthfully and commit to staying sharp and consistent. That includes caring for ourselves in every way: mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

The gift that TKS provides is not only a supportive community but also the prosperous endeavor of excellence, and in return, we receive a unique, open-hearted type of excellence from the staff members.

I’ve also learned that excellence is not just being studious but being brave. To “run towards the canons,” as Terry Knickerbocker would say. I will forever look back to my time here in the studio. I feel profoundly grateful and cannot wait to learn and grow more.


Chris Cavalier
First-Year Conservatory Student

Before starting at TKS, I felt lost as an actor. I think it’s easy, in today’s society, with all the social media expectations and the pressure to “be” somebody, to get cynical about the business. However, TKS reignited my love of acting, turning it from a societal obligation into a journey of self-discovery, truth and play.

I’m only one semester in, and I feel like I have had so many “aha” moments already. It’s difficult to pinpoint, but the openness and vulnerability of my classmates teaches me something new every time. I feel so grateful to have them in my class.

Being a part of the TKS community has been such a blessing in my life. The diversity and creativity I encounter daily inspire me to push my boundaries and stay committed to excellence. Every interaction I have shows me a new perspective, both as an actor and as an individual. Man… This place is awesome. Thank you all so much!!!



Quentin Chisholm

Fall Intensive Student

TK Studio’s commitment to the cultivation of each artists’ craft has been a breath a fresh air. By concentrating on building a sturdy foundation upon which an actor’s craft can develop, TK Studio has instilled in me a renewed desire for excellence and growth. Celestine’s unwavering commitment to each individuals’ progress and learning through constructive, insightful notes and encouragement has helped me to greatly increase my capacity for active and attentive listening and responding. To that end, I feel as though my time here at TK Studio has helped me not only becoming a more active and responsive scene partner but also a more present and open human. The work has been challenging emotionally and intellectually, inspiring me to confront parts of myself and my acting work that I had previously been avoiding. By operating with high expectations for students’ diligence and focus, TK Studio has demonstrated a path toward making my goals a reality.




Bree Turner

Fall Intensive Student

Training at TKS has revitalized a piece of my artistic self that was feeling so dim and hopeless. It has reminded me why I love this work so much, and why it is important for me to pursue it as ardently as I can. This work has taught me that, to pursue artistic excellence is to care, to be prepared, to want to be the best actor you can be – but not to be so belabored with the idea of perfectionism that it stifles your creative freedom. I’m grateful that our community has encouraged us to say ‘fuck it’, to be messy and just see what happens. It has given me permission to try things that I might’ve previously talked myself out of due to fear.

I used to use acting as a place to hide – feeling as though I could avoid being myself when I was playing a character. The Meisner approach, though, has taught me that we bring ourselves to this work. It’s important to know ourselves well enough that we can meet a character with our own point of view, that we can connect to and empathize with them by virtue of our own experiences. And because of this, the more I work on Bree, the more I enhance the quality of my acting. Now, rather than burying in the work, I see it as a place for me to embrace myself, which has been incredibly scary but also healing.

I was socially spoiled in college with access to a rich and varied artistic community. Since moving from Florida, I haven’t had a solidified group of fellow actors to confide in. What I’ve found in the community at TKS is a family – fellow artists who get it, who know how difficult, frustrating, rewarding and beautiful this work can be. People who aren’t gonna ask you why you’re brainstorming a ‘living hell struggle’ for your independent activity. I feel so bonded to the people in my intensive class in the few short weeks that we’ve been working together. Whereas other acting classes can feel pressured and competitive, it truly feels like we’re all rooting for each other’s success. I didn’t realize just how much I was missing a community like this and am so grateful to be part of it now.

Ash Johnson
Second-Year Conservatory Student

At the end of first year, I remember telling Celestine about how I approached life before this work. She used the word “dissociative” and there was a light bulb moment. I used to cry and not feel sad. Never really allowed myself to be angry or upset. I would laugh, but it felt surface level. Something kept me from experiencing the fullness of emotion and the depth of relationships. I was dissociative. There was something really powerful about naming it. Then Celestine would ask “What kind of experience do you want to have?” That question excited me and helped me refocus. I wanted to associate, connect, be present. I wanted to feel outrage, pain, betrayal, fear, excitement, love, silliness, and fun. I wanted to make up and break up – smash things and dance. I wanted to practice my ”I love you” speech and my “fuck you” speech and mean every single word. I didn’t want to go through the motions. I wanted to be inside of it and live it out truthfully. That moment of realization changed how I show up in my work, and how I show up in life.


Daniel Kim

Second-Year Conservatory Student

I originally thought ‘artistic excellence’ was a bit of a paradox.  Art is subjective and excellence is an objective standard. How do you achieve ‘artistic excellence’? It must have something to do with accolades and recognition. But, I’ve since learned from working with Celestine that ‘artistic excellence’ is more of a journey than a destination.  It is in the consistency with which you fight resistance, the courage to repeatedly stand in the valley where creativity and failure meet, and your willingness to approach the work like a craftsman daily. It lives and breathes in the mire of grit, discipline, and passion.  The term ‘artistic excellence’ shifted for me, from a perceived merit-based standard that I had to meet for others to a practice-based standard I must be accountable to and place on myself. A standard that I have the opportunity to meet every day.

Join the TKS community and become a confident actor for the rest of your life.