Happy Thanksgiving – we're thankful for everyone in our community! Please note that we will be closed W-F this week. Classes will run normally this weekend.

Since 1995, The Actors Gymnasium has been guided by the vision of a revitalized American theatre: one with performances as thrilling as a rock concert, and as mesmerizing as the circus. To that end, we have dedicated ourselves to the education and development of multi-skilled, physical-theatre artists.

Best known for our circus and aerial classes, The Actors Gymnasium is really much more. We produce original works of physical theatre, offer special workshops and provide event entertainment.

At The Actors Gymnasium people Learn To Fly – physically, emotionally and creatively.

2015

  • The Winter Circus production Circuscope is directed by Vanessa Stalling and co-created with Dean Evans, earning three and a half stars form the Chicago Tribune. “3.5 out of 4 stars” “glorious…thrilling…breathtaking…all the parts of this show move together in harmony …living organisms are capable of astounding feats.” – Chicago Tribune
  • Actors Gymnasium choreographs Pippin productions by Illinois State High School Association and Evanston Township High School.
  • Master Classes include Silks Drops & Rolls, and Aerial Choreography Lab, both taught by Destiny Vinley, Chinese Pole with Javen Ulamabyar, and Flexibility and Contortion with Olga Karmansky.
  • The Spring Youth Circus: The Great Superhero Exposition written by Alejandro Tey and directed by Alejandro Tey and Sara Sawicki
  • The Spring Circus in Progress features performances by artists from NECCA, Foster Dance Studios, Theatre Zarko, Gamma Phi Circus, Aloft Loft, advanced Actors Gym students, AG faculty, and independent artists.
  • Teen Ensemble community engagement includes the opening of The 606, and a performance at the One State Arts Conference.
  • Moby Dick, produced by Lookingglass Theatre in Association with the Actors Gymnasium, opens to four-star reviews and sells out an extended ten week run at the Water Tower Water Works. The show is directed by David Catlin, features choreography by Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi, and has two AG faculty in the cast- Javen Ulambayar and Emma Cadd. Moby Dick goes on to earn four Joseph Jefferson Awards including Best Production, Best Theatrical Specialization (Isaac Schoepp), Best Sound Design (Rick Kubes) and Best Supporting Actor (Anthony Fleming III).
  • The Second Chicago Contemporary Circus Festival includes three workshops at Actors Gymnasium, a Teen Ensemble performance in the American Youth Circus Organization Showcase, and leadership engagement in two panels – Artistic Director of Programming Larry DiStasi participates in the Circus Creators Discussion, and Executive Director Virginia Nugent proposes and speaks on the panel: Circus as a Business Model.
  • Lookingglass Alice tours to Miami, FL (Adrienne Arsht Performing Arts Center) and to Denver, CO (the Denver Center for the Performing Arts).
  • Summer Circus Intensive guest teachers include Dean Evans (mime/physical theatre), Tommy Tomlins (Circus Skills), Tommy Rapley (dance), Javen Ulambayar (circus) and Oyunchimeg “Oyuna” Yadamjav (contortion).
  • Co-Founder and Artistic Director of Programming Larry DiStasi becomes Advising Artistic Director in order to focus on his performance career and other creative pursuits. Artistic Director of Circus Arts Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi becomes sole Artistic Director of the company.
  • Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi receives the Illinois Theatre Association Award of Honor, Non ITA Member.
  • Studio 108 opens – the first time that the Gym has a second permanent training studio in the Noyes Cultural Arts Center. The studio has a hardwood sprung dance floor, aerial rigging, mirrors, and a dressing room.
  • The Professional Circus Training Program launches – 11 students embark upon a new nine-month, full-time training program for multidisciplinary performers to take their skills to the next level and beyond.
  • Special events include Temperance Beer Co.’s Circus Night, Circus Under the Stars, and the Canal Shores Campout.
  • New classes launch for Students With Special Needs. Inspired by passionate parents who form a Special Needs Task Force, certified teachers along with specialized assistants and peer mentors create inclusive classes for 10-14 year-old with Autism and Adults with Disabilities.
  • The Fall Circus in Progress, directed by Dean Evans, features performances by artists from CocoDaCo Dance Project, Silent Theatre Ensemble, Aloft Loft, Silly Goobs, Actors Gymnasium Teen Ensemble, Actors Gym Faculty and independent artists.
  • The Fall Youth Circus Production: Secrets, Lies and Super Spies is written and directed by Alejandro Tey and Sara Sawicki.
  • Special Events Entertainment clients included Snap-On Inc, CSSI Marketing + Culinary, Illinois Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, Giordano’s, Horseshoe Casino, Barracuda Networks, About.com

2014

  • The Winter Circus production The Magical Exploding Boy and the Invisible Circus, directed by Co-Artistic Director Larry DiStasi and co-created with Dean Evans and Lindsey Noel Whiting, runs for five weeks. “This is, without a doubt, one of the most charming, inventive, surprising-at-every-turn, captivating theatrical events you’re likely to see in Chicago for a long time.” “spellbinding performance that is incredibly uplifting.” “extraordinary theatrical experience” “Will Howard . . . muscled his way right into my heart.” – Splash Magazines
  • The NACE ISES Chicago Excellence (NICE) Award for Best Interactive Entertainment, The N.I.C.E. Awards recognize Chicago area members of NACE (National Association for Catering and Events) and ISES (International Special Events Society) for their accomplishments within the special events industry.
  • The Spring Circus in Progress features performances by artists from Aerial Dance Chicago, Aloft Loft, ETC Music Ensemble, MSA Circus Arts, and The Nexus Project, alongside advanced Actors Gym Students, performances from AG faculty, and independent artists.
  • A workshop production of Moby Dick directed by David Catlin and choreographed by Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi is presented at Northwestern University as a collaboration with The Actors Gymnasium.
  • The Spring Youth Circus: The Last Voyage of Pirate Blackheart written and directed by Chris Mathews (House Theatre).
  • Teen Ensemble community engagement includes a fundraiser for The Cradle Foundation, The Mayor’s Holiday Tree Lighting, Custer Street Fair and Streets Alive.
  • The inaugural Chicago Contemporary Circus festival occurs. Actors Gym Teen Ensemble members Justin Durham and Hannah Fishkin perform a duo straps routine, as part of the American Youth Circus Showcase, and Co-Artistic Director Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi speaks on the panel Chicago Circus: a Case Study in Developing Circus Thought and Practice.
  • Special events include Temperance Beer Co.’s Circus Night, Circus Under the Stars at the home of artist Joe and Patt Taylor, and Skyscraper Live – a viewing party for Nik Wallenda’s historic high-wire walk across the Chicago river.
  • Summer Circus Intensive guest teachers include David Catlin (ensemble building/physical theatre), Dean Evans (mime/physical theatre), Melinda Myers (dance), Javen Ulambayar (circus) and Oyunchimeg “Oyuna” Yadamjav (contortion).
  • Master Classes include Chinese Pole and Advanced Straps with Javen Ulambayar, Flexibility and Contortion with Olga Karmansky, and Static Trapeze with Camille Swift.
  • The Fall Circus in Progress features performances by artists from Aloft Loft, MSA Circus Arts, and The Nexus Project, as well as The Ruffians, Striding Lion Performance Group, Theatre Zarko, The Actors Gymnasium Teen Ensemble, AG faculty, and independent artists.
  • The Fall Youth Circus: Circus Night’s Dream, written and directed by Chris Mathews
  • Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi receives the 3Arts Designer Award. “an expression of gratitude for her art, and a demonstration of how deeply she is valued in Chicago”.
  • Workshop for Students with Special Needs at ETHS.
  • Lookingglass Alice opens in Downtown Chicago reprised by Lookingglass Theatre in Association with the Actors Gymnasium. Directed by David Catlin, rehearsed and developed in the Gym and choreographed by Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi, the show enjoys an extended sellout run.
  • Special Events Entertainment clients included Aspire of Illinois, Kovler Diabetes Center, The Cradle, Field’s Jeep, Friends of Chicago River, Goodman Theatre, Art Institute of Chicago, JCFS, Designer Events Chicago

2013

  • Justin Durham and Alison Tye of the Teen Ensemble are invited by the show’s producers to audition for “America’s Got Talent” at McCormick Place.
  • The Winter Circus show, Skooled: A Study in Circus, opens. The Chicago Reader says, “a fascinating theatrical experiment…highly entertaining…Skooled crackles with energy” ** Recommended**
  • The Mercury Theatre opens its production of Barnum, choreographed by Sylvia Herndandez-DiStasi and performed by The Actors Gymnasiums’s Nathan Drackett.
  • The Spring Circus in Progress: An Evening of Daring New Work, takes place for two sold out houses.
  • The first ever Spring Youth Circus titled A Misguided Fairy Tale presents three sold out performances.
  • Summer Circus Intensive guest teachers include David Catlin (physical theatre), Dean Evans (mime/physical theatre), Willem McGowan (juggling), Joey Stone (dance), Javen Ulambayar (circus) and Oyunchimeg “Oyuna” Yadamjav (contortion).
  • The Benefit Gala, Shipwrecked! is hosted at the Unitarian Church of Evanston.
  • Executive Director Virginia Nugent joins the staff.
  • The Fall Circus In Progress includes appearances by artists from Aerial Dance Chicago, Midnight Circus, NECCA, Actors Gym Teen Ensemble, Teen Ensemble Alumni, AG Faculty and independent artists.
  • Master Class in Hand-Balancing with Joel Herzfeld attracts 13 students.
  • Workshops for students with special needs at Rush Day School.
  • The Fall Youth circus: A’Musing Myths written and directed by Chris Mathews, is a hit, and is later included in an anthology of youth theatre work inspired by Greek myths.
  • Teen Ensemble community appearances include Backstage Evanston, Mayor’s Holiday tree Lighting, and Custer Street Fair.
  • The Little Prince opens at Lookingglass Theatre in Downtown Chicago produced by Lookingglass Theatre in association with The Actors Gymnasium. The show, directed by David Catlin, rehearsed and developed in the Gym and choreographed by Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi. enjoys an extended 13-week run Dec 5, 2013 through March 16, 2014.
  • Special Events Entertainment clients included Aga Kahn Foundation, Les Clefs d’Or, The V Foundation, National Bridal Market Chicago, Kehoe Designs, JDRF.

2012

  • Lost and Found: A Recycled Circus – Remount opens. “The caliber of their circus arts is truly top notch. This colorful extravaganza combines all of our favorite elements…We were quite impressed with the cast…”- says ChilL Live Shows
  • The Little Prince, a collaboration between Northwestern University and The Actors Gymnasium, is performed at Northwestern University. This production was directed by David Catlin and choreographed by Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi.
  • Larry and Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi are awarded The Evanston Chamber of Commerce’s Public Service/Nonprofit Person of the Year Award.
  • The Spring Circus in Progress: An Evening of Daring New Work takes place.
  • Summer Circus Intensive guest teachers include Thom Cox (drama/physical theatre) of Lookingglass Theatre and Joey Stone (dance).
  • The Salon Circus Under the Stars is hosted at the Evanston home of Joe and Pat Taylor.
  • The Fall Circus in Progress: An Evening of Daring New Work takes place.
  • The Fall Youth Circus: Troupe takes place.

2011

  • Lost and Found: A Recycled Circus opens. “This production will charm, warm and wow you…sly and nuanced clowning…wordless, impressive poetry” says Chicago Theatre Blog
  • ESPN video with straps artist Andrew Adams is filmed at The Actors Gymnasium and features Chicago Bull’s super-star Derrick Rose.
  • Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi choreographs an aerial component featuring Teen Ensemble member Alison Tye for Glenbrook North High School’s production of Chicago.
  • Andrew Adams, veteran circus performer and star of Lost and Found: A Recycled Circus teaches a Aerial Straps Workshop.
  • The Spring Circus in Progress: An Evening of Daring New Work is held. In addition to professionals from the Chicagoland circus community and advanced students; Circus in Progress invites fellow Noyes Building residents the Evanston Children’s Choir for the first time.
  • Summer Circus Intensive guest teachers include Thom Cox (physical theater) of Lookingglass Theatre and Joey Stone (dance).
  • The Fall Circus in Progress: An Evening of Daring New Work is held.
  • The Fall Youth Circus: The Hearttree takes place.
  • Elisabeth Gifford aka Dizzy Lizzy teaches a Hula Hoop Workshop.

2010 – Fifteenth Year Anniversary

  • A Rigging Workshop is taught by Mark Witteveen of Chicago Flyhouse.
  • The Actors Gymnasium receives the 2009 Mayor’s Arts Organization Award from Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl.
  • Science Fiction: An Experiment in Circus. opens. Called “a funny and kinetic show the whole family can enjoy” by the Evanston Roundtable.
  • Teeterboard Workshop taught by veteran teeterboard flyer, Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi.
  • The spring Circus in Progress: A Renovation Benefit Performance is held.
  • The Actors Gymnasium offers kids classes along with the Circus and Performing Arts Summer Camp for the first time.
  • Lookingglass Alice opens its tenth remount in Chicago.
  • Summer Circus Intensive guest teachers include Tommy Rapley of House Theatre (dance and drama) and one of Mongolia’s premier contortionists, O.Yadamjav (contortion).
  • Elisabeth Gifford aka Dizzy Lizzy teaches a Hula Hoop Workshop.
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes: A Teen Ensemble Halloween Circus Spectaculartakes place.
  • The Fall Circus in Progress: An Evening of Daring New Work showcase of Chicago circus talent takes place.

2009

  • DePaul University grad students begin five week circus workshop at The Actors Gymnasium.
  • Steppenwolf Theatre begins rehearsing Tempest at The Actors Gymnasium, for which Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi is the aerial designer.
  • The Teen Ensemble is invited by the show’s producers to audition for “America’s Got Talent” at McCormick Place.
  • Teen Ensemble and their chaperone fly to Los Angeles for the next stage of “America’s Got Talent.”
  • Dream, A Circus in One Act opens. This family-friendly, circus show was created and directed by Larry DiStasi, and choreographed by Sylvia Hernandez DiStasi. Original music by Greg Hirte. Chicago Reader writes: “Who doesn’t love a circus – especially one this charming?”
  • Summer Circus Intensive guest teachers included Tommy Rapley of House Theatre (dance and drama) and Paul Lopez, a Chicago clown to served as assistant to lead Circus Arts teacher Sylvia Hernandez DiStasi.
  • The first Circus Salon is held at Joe and Patt Taylor’s historic Evanston house for friends of The Actors Gymnasium.
  • Lookingglass Alice, the wildly successful Lookingglass production in association with The Actors Gymnasium, tours to Syracuse, Louisville, and Atlanta. Nearly 40,000 people saw the show over a 12 week period.
  • First installment of Circus in Progress: An Evening of Daring New Work. This performance series showcases new works of circus art. Professionals from the Chicagoland circus community are featured as well as advanced students from The Actors Gymnasium’s own classes.
  • Nightmare: A Teen Ensemble Halloween Circus Spectacular takes place.
  • Icarus opens downtown at the Water Tower Water Works. This co-production with Lookingglass Theatre was seen by 8,500. Icarus featured Larry DiStasi as Daedalus with choreography by Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi.
  • The first Winter Camp is offered by The Actors Gymnasium and is attended by 23 campers.

2008

  • Northwestern University Movement Class begins. The Actors Gymnasium begins teaching this required course for all NU undergraduate Theatre Majors in 2008.
  • Members of Teen Ensemble perform in Lookingglass Theatre’s remount of Hephaestus, A Greek Mythology Circus Tale.
  • Chicago Waldorf School in Rogers Park begins a Circus Club instucted by The Actors Gymnasium faculty.
  • The fifth show in the Advanced Student Series, Neverwhere, A Circus Underground, opens at The Actors Gymnasium and is written and directed by faculty member Nathan Drackett, as a circus-enhanced adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s story set in London’s Underground.
  • Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi and Larry DiStasi travel with Lookingglass Icaruswhich runs for four performances at The Getty Villa Theater, Malibu, CA.
  • Summer Circus Intensive teachers include: Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi (circus arts); Tommy Rapley of House Theatre, (dance and drama); Lauren Vitz, also of House Theatre (gymnastics) and one of Mongolia’s premier contortionists, O.Yadamjav (contortion).
  • Lookingglass Aliceopens for its summer run at Water Tower Place.
  • Circus Day Foundation/St Louis Arches brings the Galilee Circus from Israel to visit The Actors Gymnasium.
  • The Dynamics of Nature, An Introduction to the stylistic teachings of Jacques Lecoq, taught by Alden Moore, a graduate of the Lecoq School.
  • A Master Clowning Workshop is held with former Ringling Bros. Boss Clown Kelly Ballagh, offered free-of-charge at The Gym.
  • Fly! Gym Renovation Benefit Performance at The Actors Gymnasium. Professional performers include aerialist Jill Heyser, magician Sean Masterson, puppeteer Michael Montenegro, hula hoop artist Dizzy Lizzy, and double trapeze artists Lijana Hernandez and Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi.
  • The Clowns Without Borders fundraiser is hosted at The Actors Gymnasium.
  • Renovation to The Actors Gymnasium teaching space begin, the design of which was created and executed by Andrei Onegin.

2007

  • Lookingglass Alice’s East Coast Tour opens at the McCarter Theate in Princeton, NJ, then travels to the New Victory Theater in New York City and the Arden Theater in Philadelphia, PA.
  • Clown Without A Circus, Ottavio Canestrelli’s one-man show opens at The Actors Gymnasium and is featured on WGN-TV’s morning news.
  • Lookingglass Alice opens at New Victory, New York City.
  • Residency at Chicago Waldorf School begins.
  • Compliments of Chicago Flyhouse – Gym’s rigging capability expanded.
  • The fourth show in the Advanced Student Series, The Truest Tale of Robin Hood, opens at The Actors Gymnasium.
  • Lookingglass Alice opens at Arden Theatre in Philadelphia.
  • Summer Circus Intensive guest faculty and specialities are: Adrian Danzig of 500 Clown (physical theatre); Tommy Rapley of House Theatre (dance); Lauren Vitz of House Theatre (gymnastics); and Oyunchimeg Yadamjav (contortion).
  • The Actors Gymnasium performs on WTTW’s Arts Across Illinois – CenterStage, an exciting live one-hour entertainment special from the Grainger Studio, showcasing a wide variety of talented musicians, dancers and storytellers from throughout the state of Illinois.
  • Lookinglass Alice returns to Chicago and is sold out until closing on September 8, 2007. 84,000 people saw Alice during its 2007 run on the East Coast and in Chicago.
  • Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi, Marc Robin, Beverly Durand, Mark Stuart Eckstein, and Sasha Vargas are awarded a Jeff for Choreography – The All Night Strut at Marriott Theatre.
  • Sean Masterson’s Vaudeville Magic Workshop and Matinee is held at The Actors Gymnasium. This show returns each fall until 2012.
  • Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi hosts a Teeterboard Workshop.
  • Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi is a member of a panel on Physical Theater. Talk sponsored by Chicago Shakespeare in conjunction with James Thierree’s Farewell, Umbrella tour.

2006

  • Hard Times, a co-production between Lookingglass and The Actors Gymnaisum workshops for Maine South.
  • Second show of Advanced Student Series, Circus Crashers, opens. Show features the first Teen Ensemble who share in creative and production responsibilities. Highly Recommended in the Reader. Reviewer Jack Helbig describes the Teen Ensemble as “fearless, powerful” ensemble members who “execute amazing, sometimes terrifying tricks without seeming to raise a sweat.”
  • Life in Progress Productions tapes an adult Circus Arts class for Showtime Cable.
  • Summer Circus Intensive faculty includes David Catlin (physical theatre) of Lookingglass Theatre, Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi (circus arts), Tommy Rapely (acting, dance) and Nourbol Meirmanov (acrobatics).
  • The third show of Advanced Student Series, The Tempest, A Magical Circus opens. Victoria Scott in the Evanston RoundTable wrote :”Even the smallest audience members respond to lovers who swing on the trapeze, clowns who fall and somersault, nymphs who frolic high overhead on silks and ropes, and over-sized spirits who glide on stilts.”
  • Larry DiStasi is a panelist on Physical Theatre sponsored by Chicago’s Cultural Affairs.

2005 – Tenth Year Anniversary

  • Students and faculty perform at Clown Around Town at the Cultural Center.
  • Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi provides circus choreography for Manuscript Found At Saragossa at Northwestern University. The production moved to Lookingglass Theatre for their 2005 – 2006 season.
  • Lookingglass Alice at Lookingglass Theatre produced in association with The Actors Gymnasium. Circus choreography by Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi; five-person cast includes co-founder Lawrence E. DiStasi and student Lauren Hirte. Plays to sold out houses, rave reviews and a six-week extension.
  • Bumblinni Brothers perform Arrivederci, Bumbilinnis.
  • Carnival! at Cahn Auditorium, produced by Light Opera Works in association with The Actors Gymnasium. Receives rave reviews and is “Highly Recommended” in the Chicago Sun-Times.
  • First show of Advanced Student Series, Tangerine Family Circus opens. Production is cited in Windy City Times for its “dazzling skills and exuberant sparkle of the company.”
  • Inaugural camp session at First Congregational Church of Evanston.
  • Jeff Award is awarded to Co-Artistic Director, Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi for Special Achievement in Circus Choreography for Lookingglass Alice.
  • Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi serves as aerial consultant for Piven Theatre’s Jewish Stories.

2004

  • Magician Sean Masterson performs his highly acclaimed, original production, Seek Wonder, and a magic workshop.
  • The Teen Ensemble performs at Evanston Arts Week.
  • City of Chicago sponsors Hallowed Halls at the Cultural Center where The Actors Gymnasium Teen Ensemble, advanced students and co-founder Lawrence E. DiStasi perform.
  • First Gemini Twins Aerial Workshop with Elsie Smith, formerly of Ringling Bros., Farfan Productions, and Cirque du Soleil. These workshops are held annually through 2010.

2003

  • Flying Griffin Circus: All the Time in the World enlightens and educates sold-out audiences with its creative interpretations of time and physics. Highly Recommended in the Chicago Reader.
  • Co-Produced Blair Thomas’s Buster Keaton’s Stroll & Other Stories: A collection of Solo Puppet Theater by master puppeteer, Blair Thomas.
  • Bumblinni Brothers’ New and Improved Show.
  • Pilobolus Dance Theatre Workshops: Five days of dance-making classes taught by this company celebrated for its combination of athleticism, humor, and startling imagery.
  • Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi choreographs the partner stunts for Tri-Arts Theatre’s Hfob-n-tales.
  • The group that will later become known as The Teen Ensemble including Meredith “Tommy” Tomlins, Akemi Berry, Hannah Jarvis, Kate Hartgering, Eva Helman, Meghan Falvey, Simone Lazar, Natalie Cook, Topeka Ellis, Sylvia Friedman, Carolina Gwynn, Eva Hellman, and Meredith Taylor, begins taking classes together.

2002

  • Bumblinni Brothers’ first production. Highly Recommended in the Chicago Reader. (Act evolved from the first Flying Griffin Circus)
  • MacArthur Fellow Michael Moschen gives a juggling workshop and performance.
  • La Luna Muda, inspired by an I. Calvino short story, produced in association with Lookingglass Theatre, plays to sold out houses.

2001

  • Museum of Science & Industry “Under the Big Top” exhibit. Nine months in residence at the museum, conducting classes, running a summer camp and publicly demonstrating circus skills.
  • Iktu Blas Production: The Actors Gymnasium produces this original puppet play by local master Michael Montenegro for Chicago’s Puppetropolis Festival.
  • Hard Times, produced in association with Lookingglass Theatre, featuring circus choreography by Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi, opens in Spring 2001, reopens in Fall 2002, and again in Philadelphia the summer of 2004. Receives five Jeff awards including Best Production and Best Choreography.
  • Gulliver’s Circus, the second production of the Flying Griffin Circus is a world premiere adaptation of the Jonathan Swift novel.

2000 – Fifth Year Anniversary

  • The Actors Gymnasium’s resident professional troupe debuts in the highly original Flying Griffin Circus, described as “down home magic” by Lawrence Bommer of the Chicago Reader.

1999

  • World premiere of Baron in the Trees, adapted from I. Calvino’s novel and directed by The Actors Gymnasium founder, Larry DiStasi. Produced in association with Lookingglass Theatre. It won the Jeff Award for Choreography and was nominated for Best Adaptation. “Highly recommended” by Hedy Weiss of the Chicago Sun-Times.
  • With a Trapezoid Heart, was created and directed by puppeteer Michael Montenegro and produced at The Actors Gymnasium. Characters from this original piece of circus-theater were developed even further in the first Flying Griffin Circus in 2000.
  • First year of The Actors Gymnasium Circus and Performing Arts Summer Camp.
  • Faculty continues to teach the circus component of Evanston’s Arts Camp through 2000.

1998

  • Under the guidance of Lookingglass Theatre ensemble member, Thom Cox, ten adolescent circus students adapt and stage a Siberian folktale, The Sun Maiden and the Crescent Moon.
  • Leonard Eto, recognized master of Japanese taiko drumming gives a workshop and performance.
  • Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi choreographs Piven Theatre’s production of Orlando, by Virginia Woolf (adapted by Sarah Ruhl).

1997

  • Marcel Marceau taught the language of pantomime in a three-day, master class series.
  • Faculty teaches the new circus component of the Evanston Arts Camp.
  • Chicago Reader selects school’s Faculty Performance as Critics Choice; featuring original work by Donna Blue Lachman, playwright, actress and Actors Gymnasium instructor.

1996

  • Workshop with Avner Eisenberg, Avner the Eccentric. Participants receive a firm grounding in physical comedy techniques. (Avner the Eccentric was inducted into the Clown Hall of Fame in 2002.)
  • The Actors Gymnasium faculty and students are featured on WTTW’s Wild Chicago!

1995

  • The Actors Gymnasium is founded by Tony Adler, Carlyle Coash, Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi and Larry DiStasi to develop, among theater professionals the skills, and tools needed to create more exciting and unique theater.
  • One hundred and thirty students enroll in the first class session.
  • Fox Thing in the Morning segment features The Actors Gymnasium.
  • The Actors Gymnasium, together with the Lookingglass Theatre, creates the Lookingglass World Circus, an adaptation of world folk tales using circus arts; an outreach show for schools and Chicago Park District’s mini-festivals.
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