Akemi Berry‘s love of circus began when she took her first class at The Actors Gymnasium in 3rd grade. She was a student, camp counselor and performer at The Actors Gymnasium through high school. She recently completed her BA at Oberlin College, where she taught circus classes and co-founded and was president of the Oberlin College Aeralists. She is excited to return to The Actors Gymnasium as part of the faculty.
Taylor Bibat is an interdisciplinary artist with a grounding in performance. Her work as a puppet artist has been seen locally as well as Puppet Playlist in New York City, the National Puppetry Conference in Connecticut, and the National Puppetry Festival 2013 in Pennsylvania. She has a special knack and love for teaching people with special needs. With various roles ranging from performer, director, producer, designer, and educator, she has worked with Red Tape, Redmoon, Silent Theatre, Oracle Productions, Barrel of Monkeys, Noah Ginex Puppet Company, ElvisBride (the band), and many more. For more info check out taylorbibat.com and patron21.com/users/taylorbibat.
Lucy Carapetyan is a graduate of Northwestern University, and began as a student at The Actors Gymnasium in 2003. She has been teaching and performing with The Actors Gymnasium since 2006. As an actor she has worked with over a dozen theatre companies around Chicago, and currently serves as the Director of Education for Two Pence Theatre Company.
Chuck Coyl started teaching stage combat for The Actors Gymnasium in 1997. Recent credits include Fight Direction for: August: Osage County, Superior Donuts, The Crucible (Steppenwolf Theatre), Gas For Less, Magnolia (Goodman Theatre), Private Lives (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre), Porgy and Bess, Carmen, Tosca (Lyric Opera of Chicago). Broadway credits include the Tony Award winning production of August: Osage County. Internationally he has staged fights for productions at the National Theatre, London and the Sydney Theatre Company, Sydney, Australia. Film and Television credits include stunt work on Moments in Time, Murder in Greenwich and Eyeborgs.
Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi is a second generation circus performer who grew up touring with various circuses, including Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus. She also performed at The Circus World Championships in London, England. In 1990 she moved to Chicago and began her career as a circus teacher and choreographer. Sylvia is a co-founder of The Actors Gymnasium and an Artistic Associate of The Lookingglass Theatre Company. Other theater credits include The Lyric Opera of Chicago, Chicago Children’s Theater, Marriott Theater, and The Steppenwolf Theatre, among others. She has been nominated for five Joseph Jefferson Awards for her choreography, winning four.
Amy Dominguez has been a long time student here at The Actors Gymnasium and loves being part of the faculty. She has a strong passion for circus and is a recent graduate of Columbia College with a BA in Theater Design.
Nathan Drackett is an actor, teacher, and musician in Chicago. He has been teaching Circus Arts for the past 8 years, and has taught at The Actors Gymnasium, Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, and The School for Theatre Creators. He is also a member of Filament Theatre Ensemble and has performed with The Actors Gymnasium, The Lyric Opera, Piven, Redmoon, 500 Clown, Mercury Theatre, and Signal Theatre. He also performs and teaches as a freelance musician, clown, and acrobat in and around Chicago.
Topeka Ellis discovered a love of circus at The Actors Gymnasium when she was 9. Growing up in Evanston, she performed as an original member of The Actors Gymnasium Teen Ensemble, Urban Beat Elite Company, and Chicago Ballet Arts Performance Project. Since then, Topeka has graduated from the University of Iowa, where her choreography was selected to be performed on the Department of Dance’s main stage. Topeka earned a BSE in Mechanical Engineering and a minor in Dance.
Jill Heyser must like to keep her head in the clouds… she is a stilt walker, aerial artist, and teacher with over 10 years experience on a variety of apparatus. Affiliations include The Actors Gymnasium, Aerial Storm, MSA, and Voice of the City. She has studied at the Actors Gymnasium, NECCA, and the Aerial Dance Festival. You may have seen her most recently in Dante’s Inferno, Sci-Fi Circus, Circus in Progress, An Explosion of a Winter’s Tale, or Vaudeville Roars.
Kara Karstedt is a performer, choreographer, and teaching artist here in Chicago. She received a BFA in Musical Theatre with a Dance Minor from Clarion University of Pennsylvania. She spent 2011-2012 working with Child’s Play Touring Theatre where she traveled the country performing stories and poems written by children for children. She has been teaching dance for the past 13 years in Illinois, Pennsylvania and in her home state of New York. Kara has worked at The Actors Gymnasium as a dance director, choreographer and teaching artist since 2012.
Mandi Martens (formerly Michalski) has been teaching at The Actors Gymnasium since 2001. That same year, she received her degree in Dance from Northwestern University. Mandi has been seen onstage at The Actors Gymnasium in Neverwhere: A Circus Underground, and The Tangerine Family Circus. Other credits include Galileo Galilei (Goodman) and The Eleven Rooms of Proust (Lookingglass/About Face). Nowadays, Mandi spends most of her evenings at home with her husband and cats.
Chris Mathews is a company member with The House Theatre of Chicago where he performs, writes, and does any little thing in between. With Jake Minton and Nathan Allen, he has written Dave DaVinci Saves the Universe (Jeff Nomination, New Play), The Sparrow (Jeff Award, New Play), and Rose and the Rime. Chris is also an ensemble member with Barrel of Monkeys, an outreach program that teaches creative writing to students in Chicago Public Schools, then performs the stories the kids write as short plays (www.barrelofmonkeys.org). He has also performed with The Actors Gymnasium and Lookingglass. Also pretty cool is when Chris does motion capture work for WB Games within the Mortal Kombat franchise (Johnny Cage, Reptile), and others (Batman). Chris graduated from the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University.
Eric Robinson began sports acrobatics and gymnastics in 2003. He quickly joined Meirmanov’s Chicago Sports Acrobatics Team as a base for the 4-man team that went on to win two Gold Medals in the Regional and National U.S. Sports Acrobatics Competitions. He was later introduced to circus arts with The Acrofabulous Circus and put his talents to work at Acrofabulous’ Circus Summer Camp with The Skokie Park District in 2005. Eric then trained with the Flying Gaonas as a catcher in 2006, while also graduating from Corliss High School; and both attended and worked for the Gallery 37 AAEP Program. Presently, Eric works as a performer and instructor for The Acrofabulous Circus. Eric has also performed with MSA Circus Arts. He graduated from East West University in Chicago earning a BA in Graphic Design and Computer Science.
Britta Rowings graduated with a BA in Theatre and Creative Writing for the Media from Northwestern University. While at NU, she fell in love with circus and The Actors Gymnasium and enjoys teaching students of all ages, both at the gym and around Chicagoland. Outside of circus, she can be seen performing regularly at iO Chicago with the harold team Trolley and around Chicago with the sketch & variety group All of Our Feelings at Once (www.AllofOurFeelingsatOnce.com).
Cole Simon is a professional actor and director of theatre and film as well a photographer in Chicago. Major credits include Measure for Measure (Goodman Theatre, U.S. Cast), and Next Fall as Luke (CATCO). He also helmed the male lead as Josh in the feature film, Chrysalis. You can find out more about Cole’s acting, filmmaking, and photography at these respective sites: www.coleedwardsimon.com, www.glasscityfilms.com, and www.colesimonphotography.com.
Meredith “Tommy” Tomlins started her professional circus career at age 14 as an original member of The Actors Gymnasium’s teen performance group, The Teen Ensemble. Since leaving the Ensemble in 2009, she has taught and performed circus arts throughout the Midwest, including two runs of Lookingglass Theatre Company’s Hephaestus: A Greek Mythology Circus Tale in 2008 and 2010 respectively. In 2013, she graduated from New England Center for Circus Arts’ Professional Track training program, and is excited to continue her circus journey.
Javen Ulambayar graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2012 with a Kinesiology degree and an emphasis on clinical movement and science. During his high school and college years, he attended the circus school “Juventas” in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Here he attained his skills in a variety of performing acts. Some of his performances while in circus school included tumbling, teeterboard, jump rope, Chinese pole, acro and Russian bar. But above all, he worked to specialize in aerial straps and has trained and performed with male and female partners. He has been employed at The Actors Gymnasium since September 2012 and his future plan is to attend a graduate school for physical therapy.
Lindsey Noel Whiting is an actor, educator and acrobat with ten years of professional experience. Locally, she has performed with Lookingglass Theatre, Victory Gardens, and Redmoon Theatre as well as The Actors Gymnasium. Her regional theatre experience includes Actors Theatre of Louisville, Syracuse Stage and the Alliance Theatre. Lindsey received her acrobatic training through The Actors Gymnasium and has collaborated on several of their circus productions. She is a company member of Barrel of Monkeys and performs with the circus-punk marching band Mucca Pazza. She is also a proud member of Actors Equity Association. She is delighted to bring her passion for physical, ensemble driven theatre to the students of The Actors Gymnasium.
Oyunchimeg “Oyuna” Yadamjav “Oyunchimeg “Oyuna” Yadamjav is one of Mongolia’s premier contortionists with over 25 years of experience, performing internationally with the world-renowned Mongolian National Circus. She has won “SILVER CLOWN” at the global circus competition in Monte-Carlo (Presidency of the H.S.H. Prince Ranier III de Monaco) and gold medals at international circus competitions in Germany and Cuba. Oyuna is currently teaching for the Mongolian Children’s Performing Arts.