Learn to fly higher

Our Professional Training Program is the clearest expression of our mission to develop well-rounded, physical performers.

Our 9-month program is for artists taking their circus training and performance to the next level. As a marketable performer, its important to have a well rounded skill set to meet the needs of the contemporary arts field whether pursuing professional performance opportunities or entrance into a multi-year circus program. Our graduates create visceral works that push the envelope of physicality.

Play Video
“I came to AG with a very specific goal: acquire and maintain a skill set that would put me on the radar for Lookingglass Theatre. As an actor with movement experience, I wanted to 'up' my skill set.

Pretty much everything I did was equally positive and fright-inducing, and it is this balance of fright and flight that is so important for professional growth.”
– Cassi S.

The curriculum provides 27 hours per week of intense high-caliber training in Circus Arts, Physical Theatre, and Dance.

  • Aerial Arts skills (static/dance trapeze, silks, lyra, straps, Spanish web/corde lisse, Chinese pole and more)
  • Ground skills (hand balancing, tumbling, juggling, partner acro, contortion, tightwire, stilt walking, globe)
  • Physical theatre (ensemble building, physical improvisation, devising, flocking, clown work)
  • Dance (ballet, contemporary-based technique, low flying, improvisation, choreography)
  • Fundamentals (stretching and conditioning, pilates, injury prevention, special topics such as Circus History, Rigging, and Career Management)

Tuition includes all of the above, weekly private lessons, and 2-3 hours of open gym access and practice time daily. A major and a minor specialty are declared after winter break, and students showcase their work in a promoted capstone performance in June.

Our outstanding faculty are drawn from many of Chicago’s best companies including the Tony-award winning Lookingglass Theatre ensemble and the ground-breaking dance-theatre company, Lucky Plush Productions and include luminaries such as Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi, Amanda Crockett, and Adrian Danzig.

What happens during the 9 months?

Training starts off with a “boot camp.” Students undergo intense training for their first four weeks of the program that focuses on increasing strength, flexibility, and technique.

Boot Camp also provides an intensive introduction into Physical Theatre/Ensemble, Dance, Tumbling, and Juggling, and gives students the tools to craft their own workout regiment to serve them as they dive into the final 8-months of training and act development.

After the boot camp, a typical week will include private lessons as well as special topic lectures and workshops. Topics have included: Acroyoga, Pilates, Zumba, Martial Arts, Circus History, Rigging, Hat Juggling, Musicality, Managing Yourself, On Camera Violence, Injury Prevention, Swing Dancing, Knot Tying, Object Manipulation, Cyr Wheel, Hoops, Marketing, and Finding Gigs.

After winter break, each student declares a major and minor specialty. Students will train primarily in those two specialties, continuing on with general classes in dance, physical theatre and contortion, through the midterm in April when exclusive training in the major and minor increases to prepare for the showcase performance in June.


The full cost of the 9-month program is $9500. Financial aid is available.


Beyond direct access to our incredible faculty of experts, the pro training program at Actors Gymnasium will help you to become a stronger, well-balanced, multidisciplinary artist. We’re most interested in helping our students grow as collaborators, story-tellers, and creative professionals who will thrive in a wide range of artistic settings.

Students appreciate us for our strong focus on ensemble building and devising that builds the skills necessary to work in highly collaborative professional environments.

Our professional circus training program is 9 months long, September through June of the following year. We begin the year with four weeks of “bootcamp”, where students are exposed to a wide range of circus skills, rigging instruction, safety training, conditioning, and special topics.

For the next 9 weeks of the program students will be immersed in general circus skills, physical theatre, dance, and contortion as well as one-on-one private lessons in a skill of their choosing. Our program also features open gym time so that students can develop their own pieces and more deeply experiment with the skills that they are learning in class.

After winter break, students declare a major and minor and subsequent private lessons will be geared towards these areas of focus.  At the end of the year, students perform in a showcase where they perform full acts in their major and minor as well as group dance and acro numbers.

Programming is scheduled Monday through Friday, typically from 9am to 4pm. We take a two week winter break as well as a week long break in the fall and spring.

Our intensive curriculum will focus on aerial arts skills, tumbling, partner acrobatics, physical theatre, clown, dance, and fundamentals such as conditioning, rigging, and injury prevention.

Focused study is available in:

  • Trapeze (single point, double point, and duo)
  • Fabric/Silks
  • Rope
  • Tumbling
  • Chinese Pole
  • Hand Balancing
  • Straps
  • Partner Acrobatics
  • Lyra
  • Clown
  • Wire
  • Juggling & Manipulation
  • Sling or Hammock
  • Cloud Swing
  • Invented Apparatus

Our program is designed to meet the needs of artists and performers looking to take their circus training and performance to the next level. Successful applicants typically have some experience in both circus arts and physical theatre, though we take a holistic approach to assessing the skill sets of prospective students and seek to fill the program with focused students of diverse physical and artistic backgrounds.

There is no formal application deadline, since we accept applications on a rolling basis until the program is full. The program typically fills up by early summer.

Around 12 artists are a part of our program each year.

We do not provide housing but we are situated in the heart of Northwestern University’s campus with a large selection of student housing. We are also only a few train stops from Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood, home to Loyola University and a hot spot for artists and affordable student housing options.

We are located in the Noyes Cultural Arts Center (a beautiful Daniel Burnham designed arts complex nestled in a park) at 927 Noyes Street Evanston, IL 60201. We feature a large gymnasium as well as our custom built studio space available to our pro trainers for private lessons, classes, and open gyms throughout the week. Classes will be taught in our 3,000 sq. ft. gymnasium space that features a 1,600 sq. ft. sprung floor and a fully rigged 24 foot ceiling. All equipment is provided.

Classes such as dance, physical theatre, and open workouts take place in our studio space which features a semi-sprung wood floor as well as a rigged ceiling. Padded gymnastics mats and other equipment are also available in the space as needed.

Likely. Actors Gymnasium is committed to training well-rounded circus performers and physical theatre artists alike. In fact we believe these two things to go hand and hand. Our program takes into account the wide range of techniques available to artists creating physical theatre. Our program very well could be right for you!

Our goal is for the students in our program to find work in the artistic community, so we try very hard to accommodate for the schedules of working actors and performers.

Yes! Most of our students have a job outside of the program during early mornings, evenings, and/or weekends.

Payment plans are available for all students. A limited number of scholarships (up to 75%) are available for outstanding students and in some cases those with significant financial need.

Application Process

Once you have submitted your application, you will also need to create and submit your audition video to protraining@actorsgymnasium.org.

Your video should feature not only the required skills below, but also as much performance energy as possible. Please play to the camera. Your video should be no longer than 5 minutes and include the following:
  1. Handstand (free standing or against a wall)
  2. Forward roll
  3. Dive roll
  4. Splits (left, center and right side)
  5. Backbend (from laying on ground)
  6. Cartwheel (right side and left side)
  7. Pull ups (as many as possible)
  8. Trapeze inversion from hanging (move from hanging by your arms to hanging by your knees gracefully. If you do not have access to a trapeze bar, please use a chin-up bar and lift your toes up to the bar while hanging from your hands).
  9. Please also include any of the following you can safely execute: Front walkover, back bend from standing, front handspring, back handspring, standing back tuck.
  10. A portion of a choreographed act of your choosing which demonstrates sequencing and performance abilities
Anything else you would like to include (tumbling, dance, juggling, hand balancing, acting, clowning, aerial work, musical ability, or other special skills)

Prospective Pro-Trainers can expect to hear from us within 2 weeks of their application and video link’s submission. Decisions are made and communicated on a rolling basis and acceptances will continue until the program is full.

Key Dates

March 1, 2020: Priority Application Deadline
September 2020: Professional Circus Training Program begins
June 2021: Final Showcase Performance

All dates and details subject to change.

Not Ready to Apply Yet?

Join thousands of other circus artists & fans who receive occasional updates from us!

“I felt drawn toward the ideas of collaboration and doing more than tricks, but using my skills to tell a story . . . It brings me together with a group of other people who want to train and grow in their chosen disciplines. Being around others inspires me to train harder and more seriously.”
– Joe Y.

We're proud to partner with these organizations:

world-class instructors

our students are going places

About Actors Gym

The Actors Gymnasium has been a pioneer in Chicago’s circus-theatre movement since 1995. We have been celebrated for our longstanding collaboration with Lookingglass Theatre, and have won awards for artistic excellence from 3Arts, the Illinois Theatre Association, The City of Evanston, and the Joseph Jefferson Committee. Multidisciplinary training is a hallmark of The Actors Gym, and applications are encouraged from those who have additional skills in music, acting, design, original work, and other disciplines.

Close Menu