The Actors Gymnasium has been lucky enough to work with an impressive group of Chicago artists in theatre, dance, circus and has created this program to acknowledge the artists who have demonstrated their commitment to Actors Gymnasium’s core values of creativity, courage, community, and confidence.
They prize collaboration, and help others push beyond their fears into expanded versions of themselves. Whether it is through teaching, directing, performing, or making us look good on stage, they understand our work, and have demonstrated that commitment to our mission of developing multidisciplinary performers. They inspire us, amaze us, grace our stage, and are an invaluable resource in developing our work. We consider ourselves lucky to have them in our corner.
Justine Brock, Lighting Designer
Justine Brock freelances as a designer and technician throughout Chicago, and most recently worked as a Lighting Designer for The Actors Gymnasium this past summer. Nationally she has worked for Shakespeare Festival St Louis, Stages St Louis, Maine State Music Theatre, Fulton Opera House, North Shore Music Theatre, and many others. Proud graduate of Wayne State University.
“The Actors Gymnasium to me means a wonderful place to collaborate on original, creative, and unique pieces of active vibrant theatre. AG is a place where everyone is encouraged to explore and thrive. I am thrilled every time I work at the Actors Gymnasium.”
David Catlin, Director, Performer, Teacher
Dean Evans, Director, Writer, Clown, Teacher
Dean Evans is a multidisciplinary performance artist and creator. He was named a Top 50 “Player” in Chicago by New City Magazine. He co-created Skooled, Magical Exploding Boy, and Circuscope at the Actors Gymnasium. He is a critically acclaimed solo performer and has also worked professionally with with The Neo-futurists, the Goodman, iO, Second City, 500 Clown, Just For Laughs, and many others. He performs as the entity known simply as Honeybuns who has appeared at the Skirball in NYC and in Moscow.
“To me the Actors Gymnasium is about disciplined artistic advancement to create positive youth development. I’m honored to have co-created three winter circuses with the Actors Gym. I found the experience of creating theatrical circuses to be challenging and artistically fulfilling. I’ve formed relationships with Actors Gym Artists, the Youth and Teen Ensembles, and their families, that are lifelong.”
Chris Mathews, Director, Writer, Performer
Chris Mathews is a company member with The House Theatre of Chicago, where he regularly writes and performs. With Nathan Allen and Jake Minton, he has co-written Dave Davinci Saves the Universe (Jeff Nomination – New Work), The Sparrow (Jeff Award – New Work), and Rose and the Rime. With Allen, he co-wrote The Hammer Trinity (The Iron Stag King, The Crownless King, The Excelsior King), a 7-hour trilogy of awesome fantasy-adventure plays examining American mythology and identity. With The Actors Gymnasium he has written and directed original circus theatre plays for family-friendly audiences both with their youth ensemble (A’Musing Myths, The Last Voyage of Captain Blackheart, A Midsummer Night’s Circus) and for their mainstage (Marnie & Phil: A Circus Love Letter). As an actor he has performed with The House, Lookingglass Theatre, and the Actors Gymnasium, among others. Chris provides motion capture performance for Chicago-based video game maker Netherrealm Studios, having been featured in the Mortal Kombat franchise titles (Johnny Cage) and Injustice: Gods Among Us (Batman). Chris holds a BFA in Acting from the Meadows School of Arts at Southern Methodist University.
“Throughout my career in Chicago, The Actors Gym has been a very special place for me, continually pushing me out of my comfort zone to realize meaningful rewards of personal and artistic growth. Taking classes at the Gym gave me a lab to re-connect to my body and develop it as an instrument, as well as learn some wonderful performance skills. Later, Sylvia would give me the encouragement and opportunities I needed to develop as a leader and writer, entrusting me to helm the creation of several productions for their stage. I revere the work that the family of staff and instructors do to build confidence and positivity within the community they serve.”
Isaac Schoepp, Rigging Designer, Safety Specialist,Teacher Performer
Isaac grew up in a juggling missionary troupe, spent time on a tall ship conducting oceanographic research, and is a multitalented theatre artist, specializing in the safe rigging of performers and objects. He is often seen working on projects around the Gym, or rigging for their shows and offsite special events. Isaac won a Jeff Award in 2015 for his rigging design for Moby Dick, which was a co-production between Lookingglass and Actors Gym. He was assistant rigging designer for Lookingglass’ Peter Pan: A Play, Cascabel, The Little Prince, and Lookingglass Alice. He has also appeared on stage with Lookingglass, Actors Gymnasium, and the Back Room Shakespeare Project, among others. Each fall he coordinates the Freshman Drama Workshop at Valparaiso University, where he received his B.A. in Theatre and Humanities. www.valpo.edu/christcollege/ac
“The Actors Gym is a place that exemplifies the importance of practice, but also of joy. It is a safe space to do dangerous things. I am grateful that I get to work and play with this curious family of artists, students, teachers, performers, and clowns.”
Lindsey Noel Whiting, Performer, Composer, Director
Lindsey is trilled to be an Associate Artist with The Actors Gymnasium. Her association with the gym began in 2004 as an adult student. Since then, she has performed in seven winter circuses, worked as a teaching artist, and assistant directed a show that involved pirates and 90’s boy-band choreography. She regularly works with Lookingglass Theater – where she is an Artistic Associate – and can be seen this winter in Mr. and Mrs. Pennyworth. Additionally, she has performed with Victory Gardens, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Syracuse Stage, The Alliance Theatre, Redmoon Theatre, and Mucca Pazza. She is married to a very nice man named Samuel Taylor and they have a very nice cat.
“Art isn’t created in a vacuum.” Which is why we rely on our Advisory Board to connect us to broader ideas and elements within and beyond the arts community. Their insights and perspectives provide new inspiration on how we can use circus to tell the universal stories that connect us.
Tony Adler – Writer, Arts Journalist, Critic. Co-Founder of The Actors Gymnasium, Culture Editor for the Chicago Reader.
Ana Belaval – Reporter. WGN Morning News “Around Town” feature reporter. Host of WTTW’s “Chicago Stand Up Project.” Three-time Emmy Award Winner.
Lawrence E. DiStasi – Advising Artistic Director and Co-Founder of The Actors Gymnasium. Ensemble member and founder of the Lookingglass Theatre Company. For Lookingglass, Larry has served as actor, director, administrator and designer over the past 25 years. Larry’s physical theatre background and artistic vision of circus as a multi-dimensional performing art form became a core part of The Gym. That vision is key to what makes The Actors Gymnasium unique. Larry directed The Actors Gymnasium circuses Dream, Science Fiction, Lost and Found, Skooled, and The Magical Exploding Boy and The Invisible Circus. He has appeared on television and film and in a Philip Glass Opera called Galileo Galilei. He received his B.A. in Theatre from Northwestern University.
David Figlio – Professor. Orrington Lunt Professor of Education and Social Policy, Director of the Institute for Policy Research, and Professor of Human Development and Social Policy, and Economics (by courtesy) at Northwestern University, as well as Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and Associate of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Cindy Gold – Actress, Director, Educator. Associate Professor and Head of Acting at Northwestern University. Recipient of Chicago’s 2006 Joseph Jefferson Best Actress Award for Loving Repeating.
Tim Kazurinsky – Actor, Comedian, Writer for Television and Film. Saturday Night Live Writer and Cast Member 1981 – 84. Starred in all three Police Academy movies. Wrote the 2001 film My Beautiful Son and co-wrote the 1986 film About Last Night.
Lorraine Morton – Politician, Educator. Mayor of Evanston, Illinois from 1993 – 2009. Evanston 5th Ward Alderman 1984 – 93. Principal of Haven Middle School 1977 – 89.
Bello Nock – Daredevil, Clown. “America’s Best Clown” – Time Magazine 2001. Headliner for both Big Apple Circus and Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus (including 2008’s Ringling show “Bellobration”).
David Schwimmer – Actor, Director for Television, Stage and Film. Founding Ensemble Member of the Lookingglass Theatre Company.
Mark Stevens – Marketing Executive. President of BlueH2O. Board Member of The Actors Gymnasium 2003 – 2009. Co-Creator of the “Spuds McKenzie” ad campaign.
Mary Zimmerman – Director, Playwright, Educator. Ensemble Member of the Lookingglass Theatre Company, Artistic Associate at the Goodman Theatre, 2002 Tony Award Winner for Best Direction of her original play “Metamorphoses.” Professor, Jaharis Family Foundation Chair in Performance Studies at Northwestern University.