School Director Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi is a second-generation circus performer, a Master Teacher, a pioneering theater artist, and an award-winning choreographer. The Actors Gymnasium faculty hold degrees including Theatre, Dance, Musical Theatre, Kinesiology, Early Childhood Development, Design, Computer Science, and Engineering. Their circus credentials stem from training at The Actors Gymnasium, New England Center for Circus Arts, Circus Juventas, and National École de Cirque. They have performed with esteemed circus and theatre companies across the world.
Our teachers have brought their talents to the screen with movie stunts and motion capture work for video games, and include members of Actors Equity Association, SAG AFTRA, and the Society of American Fight Directors. They have worked on Tony-award winning shows, earned multiple Jeff Awards, and won silver and gold medals from international circus competitions in Monte Carlo, Germany and Cuba.
Flora Bare is a performance artist and has been living and performing in New York and London for the better part of the last decade, but has now made Chicago home. She is a former USA National Champion collegiate gymnast and nine time All-American from University of California, Davis. Flora graduated with an MFA in Lecoq-based physical theater from the ‘London International School of Performing Arts’ (LISPA). She has also received extensive training in: Commedia, from the ‘Accademia dell’Arte’ in Arezzo, Italy; Viewpoints and Suzuki with Anne Bogart and the ‘SITI Company’ and Tango in Montevideo, Uruguay. Flora has also trained and taught at ‘The Circus Space’ in London. Flora is currently a member and artistic consultant for Theater Unspeakable and is performing with Silent Theatre. When not devising and performing in theater, Flora spends her time singing and songwriting.
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.
David Catlin is a founding ensemble member of the Lookingglass Theatre Company, the recipient of the 2011 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre. Catlin is a theatre-maker who acts, writes, directs, and teaches. His work has appeared in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Syracuse, Louisville, and Princeton, New Jersey. Catlin has appeared in, directed, or written & directed over thirty-three productions for Lookingglass. Recent Lookingglass acting credits include Arabian Nights, directed by Mary Zimmerman, and Our Town, directed by Anna Shapiro and Jessica Thebus. Recent directing credits include Black Diamond (co-direction) and Metamorphosis. Recent writing & directing credits include Icarus, Lookingglass Alice, The Little Prince and Moby Dick. Catlin helped found Dark Harbor Stories, a film development company. He was a producer for (and appeared in) the independent film Humanoid. David can also be seen in Since You’ve Been Gone (Miramax/Film Colony/Lookingglass). He also teaches acting at Northwestern University, and is a frequent director of productions at the School of Communication’s Theatre and Interpretation Center. David Catlin is a founding ensemble member of the Lookingglass Theatre Company, the recipient of the 2011 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre. Catlin is a theatre-maker who acts, writes, directs, and teaches. His work has appeared in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Syracuse, Louisville, and Princeton, New Jersey. Catlin has appeared in, directed, or written & directed over thirty-three productions for Lookingglass.Recent Lookingglass acting credits include Arabian Nights, directed by Mary Zimmerman, and Our Town, directed byE Anna Shapiro and Jessica Thebus. Recent directing credits include Black Diamond (co-direction) and Metamorphosis. Recent writing & directing credits include Icarus, Lookingglass Alice, The Little Prince and Moby Dick. Catlin helped found Dark Harbor Stories, a film development company. He was a producer for (and appeared in) the independent film Humanoid. David can also be seen in Since You’ve Been Gone (Miramax/Film Colony/Lookingglass). He also teaches acting at Northwestern University, and is a frequent director of productions at the School of Communication’s Theatre and Interpretation Center.
David Chervony (@DavidDrops) is a juggler and performer from Chicago. He has performed nationally with the Masters of Gravity, the Amazing Acrobats of Shanghai, Cirque Us, and locally with the Midnight Circus and the Actors Gymnasium, among others. When he isn’t juggling, he is either playing a board game, running around with his dog, or thinking about juggling. www.daviddrops.com
Michel Rodriguez Cintra is a Cuban born dancer, choreographer, and tumbler based in Chicago. He started training in gymnastics at the age of 6, later competing nationally and internationally as part of the Youth National Cuba Team. Rodriguez Cintra has a degree in Cuban Modern Dance and Afro-Cuban dances from the Escuela Nacional de Arte in Havana. He was a Member of Danza Contemporanea de Cuba where he achieved the rank of Principal Dancer. After moving to Chicago he danced, choregraphed, taught and rehearsal directed for multiple companies including Hedwig Dances Khecari, Chicago Dance Crash, and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. His choreography has been performed in multiple festivals and abroad. In 2010 he was featured as one of the “Men of 2010” by TimeOut Chicago. Rodriguez Cintra was featured as a “25 to Watch” in Dance Magazine, and was awarded a “3Arts” Award for outstanding accomplishment in his field in 2014. Michel served as an adjunct faculty member at Columbia College Chicago, and has taught master classes at the collegiate level nationally. Currently, Rodriguez Cintra is serving in his seventh season as an ensemble member with Lucky Plush Productions, and has been on faculty at The Actor’s Gymnasium for the past five years. In early 2020, he was cast as The White Rabbit in Lookingglass Theatre’s “Alice Through the Lookingglass”, and will appear in the role at a yet to be determined date in the future.
Jean Claudio is a circus and physical theater performer from Puerto Rico established in Chicago since 2016. In 2013 he traveled to Argentina to train and learn more about the circus world. Co-founded his own circus and physical theater company along his spouse, Raquel Torre. In 2016 decided to move to Chicago to start the Actors Gymnasium Circus Program. Since then he has been working and collaborating with companies like, Emerald City Theater, Theater Oobleck, Actors Gymnasium, Cabinet of Curiosities, Barrel of Monkeys, La Vuelta Ensemble and many more. In 2018 entered the Cirque du Soleil Data Base as a clown and Physical Performer. He loves pistachio ice cream and green plantains.
David Corlew is an aerialist, actor, musician, and always looking for opportunities to smush those three worlds together. At the Gym he has performed in QUEST under Leslie Danzig (2017) and ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD under Kerry Catlin (2019). His choreography has been featured in many a youth circus, including THE FINAL SPACE ADVENTURE OF HAM AND WILEY (2019), ALMOST WONDERLAND (2018), THE ODYSSEY (2018), and THE MAGNIFICENT WONDER (2017). He enjoys working with the pro-trainers, recreational adults, and Actors Gym’s incredible youth community year-round in the classroom. He holds a B.S. in Theatre from Northwestern, where he first began in the Voice and Opera Studies program, studying under Kurt Hansen, and is a graduate of the professional training program at the New England Center for Circus Arts, where he studied duo trapeze under Aimée Hancock. As an actor, he has worked with Writers Theatre, the House Theatre, Skylight Music Theatre, and the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
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.
Amanda Crockett has been passionate about laughter since she started clowning alongside her father at age 9. She created and performed a principal character and hat juggling role for Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson ONE, won an Audience Choice Award at the Krystallpalast in Germany and has been called a “virtuoso” by clown luminary Avner the Eccentric. After training at Circus Smirkus and the Celebration Barn Theater, Crockett graduated from the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theater and went on to study circus in Australia, Chicago and San Francisco. After 25 of years of experience onstage, she is most well-known for her uniquely skilled and hilarious fusions of comedy, trapeze, mime and hat juggling that have made audiences around the world fall in love with her. In addition to performing, Crockett has coached circus and physical theater around the US and South America since 1999, and has taught locally at Second City, Actors Gymnasium, Aloft, CircEsteem, and as an artist in residence at Kendall Elementary. In 2015, she was Program Director of Aloft’s Full Time Training Program and became Creative Consultant for Circus Flora in St. Louis. She is a NASM certified personal trainer and Performance Enhancement Specialist and is constantly seeking to learn more to enhance her own training and that of her students. Most recently, Crockett was a headlining performer at the 2016 IJA Festival, was a principal performer in Circus Flora’s 30th Anniversary show, Pastime, and was featured in the Actors Gymnasium’s Quest.
For 15 years, Adrian Danzig was Producing Artistic Director of 500 Clown, a Chicago-based Clown Theater ensemble that toured nationally. He performed the shows in the 500 Clown touring repertoire: 500 Clown Macbeth, 500 Clown Frankenstein, 500 Clown Christmas, and 500 Clown Trapped. More recently he performed as a Dancer / Actor / Clown with Lucky Plush Productions The Better Half and in The House Theatre’s A Comedical History for Mr. Punch, he payed both Antipholi, in California Shakespeare Festival’s production of A Comedy of Errors, Caliban in The Feast : an Intimate Tempest at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Medvedenko in The Seagull at Lake Lucille Chekov, Orlando at The Court Theater. In addition he has performed in shows at The Goodman theatre, The Second City, Steppenwolf Studio, Berkeley Rep, Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Public Theater, and with Shakespeare & Company and Lookingglass Theatre Company. He has performed his solo works at The Kitchen, P.S. 122, The Ontological Hysteric Theater and Soho Rep. He was an early Neo-futurist and a founding member of Redmoon Theater. He has studied clown with Ctibor Turba, Philippe Gaulier, Ronlin Foreman, Dominique Jando, Els Comediants, David Shiner, Avner the Eccentric and was a clown with Big Apple Circus Clown Care for 7 years.
As a teacher, in addition to hundreds of workshops and master classes around the country and internationally, he was on faculty at The Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University for 7 years where he taught Movement, Acting, Comedy, Circus Arts, and directed devised works. He has created 500 Clown based workshops for doctors, business schools, hotel employees, division 2 athletes, incarcerated youth and Chicago-based performers, social workers, and other interested types.
Jim Domenick has been performing and coaching in the circus arts for 22 years and has a background in theatre and dance. Jim started at FSU Flying High Circus. He helped to grow Xelias Aerial Arts in Minneapolis, MN as associate director and recently moved to Chicago from Washington, DC where he worked as a main aerial coach, flying trapeze coach, and rigger at TSNY DC. He loves running, reading, languages and plants!
Madie Doppelt is a theater and circus artist based in Chicago. She’s a recent graduate of The Theatre School at DePaul University, as well as an alum of Actors Gym’s beloved Teen Ensemble.
Aerial Emery was born into a circus family and started performing when she was 7. For nine years she trained at Xelias Aerial Arts in Minnesota and performed all over the United States. Aerial also trained and competed as a rhythmic gymnast, always most passionate about the hoop. She toured three summers with Circus Smirkus, the international award winning youth circus. Aerial graduated in June 2013 from École de Cirque de Québec, specializing in hula hoops and cyr wheel. Since graduation she has toured with the Midnight Circus, worked with the GOP Varieté Theater in Germany and just got of tour with the Tony Award winning Broadway Musical “Pippin” with Les 7 Doigts de la Main. When she’s not hula hooping, you can find her knitting sweaters or laughing loudly.
Dahlia Fatale (she/her) is an internationally traveling, award winning contortionist and burlesque performer. A dancer her whole life, Dahlia fell in love with the bizarre, super human art of contortion about a decade ago, and has been hooked ever since. As an instructor, Dahlia brings together a unique perspective built on years of movement study, as well as circus training and anatomy education (yes, she’s touched muscles from the inside too!). She believes that movement is for all humans and loves watching students have aha moments when all their hard work pays off! To find out more, please visit her website: www.dahliafatale.com
Molly Hernandez (She/Her/Hers) is an actress, circus performer, and a teaching artist. As an actress she has worked with Writer’s Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Remy Bumppo, American Blues Theater, Timeline Theatre, and more. She can also be seen on Chicago PD and APB. As a circus performer she specializes in Partner Acro, Spanish Web, and Juggling. She has been teaching and directing students of all ages for seven years and is passionate about youth education. In addition to circus, Molly teaches theatre, musical theatre, acting for the camera, and audition workshops. A recent graduate of the Professional Training Program, her longterm goals are to blend the lines between theatre and circus and introduce circus to as many people as she can.
Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi is Artistic Director of The Actors Gymnasium. She also serves as master teacher and director of The Professional Circus Training Program and is a faculty member at Northwestern University’s Department of Theatre. Sylvia is a second generation circus performer who grew up touring with various circuses, including Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey. In 2019, she and her family, The Hernandez Troupe, were inducted into the Circus Ring of Fame for their monumental contributions to the world of circus. Sylvia is an ensemble member of the Tony Award-winning Lookingglass Theatre Company, where she has worked on over 20 productions. She has received 4 Joseph Jefferson Awards for her work with Lookingglass (Lookingglass Alice, Hard Times, Baron in the Trees) and Marriott Theatre (All Night Strut), and a total of 5 Joseph Jefferson nominations. In 2018, she won a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award and a Robby Award, both for designing the acrobatic/aerial choreography of the South Coast Repertory staging of Moby Dick. Other theater credits include The Lyric Opera, Writer’s Theatre, Steppenwolf, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Chicago Children’s Theater and The Goodman. Sylvia is the recipient of The 3Arts Award for Design (2014), and also received an Award of Honor for Outstanding Contributions by The Illinois Theater Association.
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.
Hayley Larson (she/her) is a multidisciplinary circus performer specializing in aerial arts, as well as Cyr wheel, and hand balancing. With a degree in Dance from Oberlin College, Hayley uses her background as a dancer to bring a crisp, complex style to her choreography that underscores the commanding stage presence so often found in her performances. As a coach Hayley strives to create self-sufficient, intelligent movers and thinkers through a focus on apparatus theory and healthy movement mechanics. Her recent performance credits include, The Ghost In Gadsden’s Garden (2020) with The Actors Gymnasium, and Brave Space (2018 —) with Aloft Circus Arts. When not flying through the air herself, she can be found playing collaborative board games with friends or snuggling a cat on the couch.
Megan Mallouk holds a BA in theater from Lake Forest College in Illinois. She has spent the last decade teaching and performing circus and theater in Chicago and across the US, appearing on stage, in the air, and in commercials and film. Megan is a former rhythmic gymnast who competed nationally and internationally, and spent several years coaching at the competitive level. She is a graduate of the Full Time Training Program at AirCraft Circus in London and NECCA’s 2 year Professional Training Programs. When she is not land based, you can find Megan working at sea, training aerialist for Royal Caribbean productions. Her focus of expertise is in lyra, static cloud swing, invented apparatus, flexibility, dance movement, choreography, and theatrical character work.
Nourbol Meirmanov is a professional acrobat who has performed and coached circus arts for over 20 years. He graduated from the world famous Moscow Circus School with a Master of Sport in several disciplines. He came to the United States to perform with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus, performing extensively with both the Red and Blue units. The founder of MSA & Circus Arts, Nourbol has been a leading Sports Acrobatics & Circus Arts trainer throughout the Chicago area, working with many local circus groups including The Actors Gymnasium and the Midnight Circus.Nourbol Meirmanov is a professional acrobat who has performed and coached circus arts for over 20 years. He graduated from the world famous Moscow Circus School with a Master of Sport in several disciplines. He came to the United States to perform with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus, performing extensively with both the Red and Blue units. The founder of MSA & Circus Arts, Nourbol has been a leading Sports Acrobatics & Circus Arts trainer throughout the Chicago area, working with many local circus groups including The Actors Gymnasium and the Midnight Circus.
Jack Olin is an actor and circus artist who made it to Chicago by way of Colorado and North Dakota. He graduated from Northwestern University in 2016, where he studied theatre and economics (both at the home campus and in Qatar). Jack has previously worked with Griffin Theatre Co. (Letters Home, The Harvest), Interrobang Theatre Project (Foxfinder), Next Theatre (The Exonerated) and in workshops with Lookingglass Theatre Company and the American Myth Center. He has also trained with iO Chicago and One Group Mind in long-form improv. In 2018, he was named a “Hot New Face of Chicago Theater” (Chris Jones, The Chicago Tribune).
Dan Plehal is a director, actor, acrobat, and teacher in Chicago. He specializes in blending acrobatics with theatre, and creating stylized movement inspired by his training in mime, contact improvisation, and partner acrobatics. Dan has created and directed movement/circus for Steppenwolf, LifeLine, and Boho Theatres, and performed at Steppenwolf, Chicago Shakespeare, and Lookingglass, to name a few. He also creates and performs with Aura CuriAtlas Physical Theatre, where he is a founder, performer, and Co-Artistic Director.
Tommy Rapley is a proud Company Member with The House Theatre of Chicago where he has choreographed over 20 world-premiere productions including The Sparrow (Jeff Award), Cave With Man (Jeff Award), The Terrible Tragedy of Peter Pan, The Valentine Trilogy, and Death and Harry Houdini. Directing credits for The House include: The Great and Terrible Wizard of Oz, All the Fame of Lofty Deeds, DORIAN and their critically acclaimed productions of The Nutcracker.Other notable Chicago credits: Detroit (Steppenwolf), A Christmas Carol (The GoodmanTheatre), 100 Dresses (Chicago Children’s Theatre), Days Like Today (Writer’s Theatre), The King and I ,and City of Angels (Marriott Theatre). Much Love to Scott.
Brittany Royce has come to the Chicago from her hometown Springfield, MO. She got her start in acrobatics early in life as a competitive artistic gymnast. After retiring from the sport, Brittany returned to the gym to teach. She became a recreational/competitive artistic gymnastics instructor, coaching children of all ages for 7 years. In 2014, Brittany stepped into the circus world for the first time and fell in love with aerial arts. She has spent the last 3 years teaching aerial silks, trapeze, lyra, handstands, pole fitness, and tumbling at Springfield Aerial Fitness.
Symphony Sanders graduated from Bradley University with a degree in Theatre Performance and has been a professional actor in Chicago since 2003. As a dancer and gymnast she always loved to express herself through movement; creating a narrative instead of just executing tricks.She began her circus journey in 2010 taking a aerial arts class at The Actors Gymnasium and found that she could both express herself creatively and do challenging stunts in a perfect marriage of her skills. Since then she has gone on to teach and perform and most recently graduated from the inaugural class of the Professional Circus Training Program. She also continues to perform professionally regionally at theaters such as Chicago Shakespeare, The Goodman,and Raven Theatre and worldwide with the critically acclaimed podcast Welcome To Nightvale!
Michele Stine (She/Her) has been a theatre artist in Chicago for over six years performing, directing, puppeteering. and teaching. She has worked with Chicago companies: Lifeline Theatre, Filament Theatre, Emerald City Theatre, Theatre Unspeakable, and Red Theatre Chicago. Michele has been a teaching artist for almost ten years working with Emerald City Theatre, Writers Theatre, Mudlark Theatre, and many many others. She loves working with young people on building their confidence on and off stage. www.michelejoystine.com
Ayana Strutz is an island girl from Honolulu, Hawaii who resides in Chicago as a dancer and circus artist. Regionally she has worked with the First National Tour of The SpongeBob Musical, Goodman Theatre, Porchlight Music Theatre, Arden Theatre Company, Skylight Music Theatre, Short North Stage, Music Theater Works, Cocodaco Dance Company, and Diamond Head Theatre. She is a graduate of the 2018 Actors Gymnasium Protraining Program with a major in lyra and a minor in contortion and tumbling. She holds a BA in Sociology from the Ohio State University and is currently on track to start physical therapy school.
Alejandro Tey is a Chicago-based actor, director, and teaching artist. Alex is the founding Artistic Director of Thirteen O’Clock Theatre, and an instructor here in Evanston with Actors Gymnasium and Mudlark Theatre Company. He has worked nationally with Sojourn Theatre, most recently as a performer/facilitator in the professional premiere of HOW TO END POVERTY in collaboration with Portland Playhouse.He is also very proud of the work he does with the performing health collective, For Youth Inquiry. Oh, and don’t tell anyone, but he’s also Spider-Man.
Javen Ulambayar graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2012 earning a degree in Kinesiology with emphasis on clinical movement and science. During his high school and college years, he attended the circus school Juventas in Saint Paul, Minnesota. There he attained his skills in a variety of performing acts including tumbling, teeterboard, jump rope, acro and Russian bar.Above all, he specializes in aerial straps and Chinese pole, performing with male and female partners. Recently, he was in the cast of the Jeff award winning production of Moby Dick at Lookingglass Theatre Company.
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.
David Yip (they/them or he/him) is an ADAPT-certified parkour instructor who works also with Parkour Ways / Art du Déplacement Chicago, a Chicago-area parkour training and teaching organization. David has worked with groups across the country and abroad, including members of the Yamakasi, a French group widely acknowledged as the modern founders of parkour. David believes that parkour is primarily an exercise in introspection, and to that end enjoys learning, applying, and teaching different methods for improving control over the mind to let the body operate at its maximum potential.