With more than 200 companies presenting plays in our region, many people contribute to the power, engagement, humor, pathos, joy, and fun of Chicago theatre. Whether they are writing a play produced in a storefront house, lighting a production for a Tony Award-winning downtown stage, or seeing hundreds of shows a year, the people involved in Chicago theatre bring talents and passions as varied as the shows of which they’re a part.
Theatre is so important to this city that the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events has named 2019 the “Year of Chicago Theatre” in order to celebrate everything from Steppenwolf Theatre to the Albany Park Theater Project, the Goodman Theatre to the Den Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre to the Black Ensemble Theater. Here are a few of our city's stage players, actors, architects, playwrights, choreographers, ushers, stage managers, patrons, and more who make Chicago’s theatre scene one of the most thrilling and vibrant in the country.
Derrick Sanders is the founder of the Chicago chapter of the August Wilson Monologue Competition, which whittles down 1000 high school students to the top two, who then fly to New York City to compete for scholarship money. Sanders teaches at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Theatre & Music.
Emjoy Gavino is an actor and the executive director of the Chicago Inclusion Project, as well as the casting director at The Gift Theatre. A native of Seattle, she has appeared at Steppenwolf Theatre, the Goodman Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre, Court Theatre, Victory Gardens Theater, and once upon a time, PlayMakers Laboratory Theatre.
Tarell Alvin McCraney is a member of Steppenwolf Theatre’s Ensemble, a graduate of The Theatre School at DePaul University, the chair of the playwriting program at Yale School of Drama, and an Oscar-winning screenwriter for his work on the 2016 film “Moonlight.”
Coya Paz believes theater has to earn its “liveness” to gain her respect and the attention of the audience. She is the Chair of Theatre Studies at The Theatre School at DePaul University.
Heidi Kettenring is equally at home performing in musicals, Shakespearean comedies, and adaptations of classical literature, and appears on stages around the Chicago region as well as on national tours.
Michael Brosilow was a commercial photographer shooting for catalogs in the mid-1980s when he stumbled into a career as one of the city’s go-to theater stills photographers. He never looked back.
Henry Godinez has taught acting at Columbia College Chicago, DePaul University and now Northwestern University, and founded Teatro Vista with Eddie Torres in 1990 to create opportunities for Latinx artists.
Cathy Taylor’s first job in Chicago was as Publicity and Communications Director at Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Since 2007 she has run Cathy Taylor Public Relations, where all her clients are theatre companies she sincerely loves.
Amy Peter is a Wisconsin native who worked around the country as a prop master before returning to the Midwest to pursue her craft at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, then landing a full-time gig at DePaul University, where she supports up to 30 productions a year.
Rebecca Gilman won a playwriting competition as a teenager, leading her to fly to New York City from Alabama to hear her play “Open All Night” read at The Public Theater. Her subsequent plays have been performed around the country.
Regina Victor adapted the idea of Radical Hospitality after working with Anna Deavere Smith on “Notes from the Field” in 2015, believing that if the theater is not equally welcome to everyone it is open to no one.
Blair Thomas took a $100-a-week internship under artistic director Robert Falls at Wisdom Bridge in the 1980s, stayed to help found Redmoon Theater, left to start Blair Thomas & Company, and began the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival.
Collette Pollard is a company member of The House Theatre of Chicago and an artistic associate at TimeLine Theatre Company.
Samantha Kaufman grew up loving sports as a kid in Wyoming and came to Chicago to study at the Actors Gymnasium in Evanston. She is a member of the Society of American Fight Directors.
Jonathan Abarbanel has been a part of the Chicago theatre scene since the 1960s, working as an actor, dramaturg, critic, and teacher.
Samantha C. Jones came to Chicago from Portland to realize her teenage dream of being a costume designer, and has worked at dozens of theater companies.
David Turrentine finds joy standing by for the call to go on when an actor falls ill, is stuck in traffic, or has a family emergency. He can also do your taxes.
Sharon Jones is a professional musician, playing the French horn in orchestra pits for musicals and operas everywhere from Drury Lane Theatre to national touring productions of Tony Award-winning shows.
Sydney Charles is a critically-acclaimed Chicago-born actress.
Christine Binder is a professor at The Theatre School at DePaul University and a lighting designer who has worked in opera and theater, both around the country and all across Chicago.
Malcolm Ewen was the first stage manager at Steppenwolf Theatre Company to become an ensemble member, having successfully brought productions including “The Grapes of Wrath,” “Buried Child,” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” from Halsted Street to Broadway. He passed away on May 20, 2019.
Tom Lembo is a member of The Saints, a not-for-profit organization of volunteers who support the performing arts as ushers, coat checkers, hosts to visiting artists, and grant makers for small theater companies.
Ron OJ Parson was born in Buffalo, New York, started acting as a grade schooler, directing as a high schooler, discovered Chicago as an adult, created the Onyx Theatre Ensemble, directed all over town, and is now a Resident Artist at Court Theatre.
Chay Yew became the Artistic Director of Victory Gardens in 2011, taking over the Tony-award winning company of playwrights and working to make it more inclusive by emphasizing young, diverse artists telling stories of often under represented communities.
Sandra Delgado spent her childhood singing with her family, but it wasn’t until being a pre-med student left her unsatisfied that she realized she should be a performer, leading to a career with Collaboraction Theatre Company, Teatro Vista, Victory Gardens Theater, the Goodman Theatre, and Steppenwolf Theatre.
Michael and Mona Heath are Chicago theatre “super-fans” who dug deep into their love for theatre when they retired from their careers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a love they now share at their website www.heathfund.org
Lili-Anne Brown is a director and former artistic director of Bailiwick Chicago whose work in musical theater and drama has been seen on stages including the Goodman Theatre, Chicago Children’s Theatre, 16th Street Theater, American Theatre Company and Kokandy Productions.
Isaac Gomez is a Chicago-based playwright, faculty member at The Theatre School at DePaul University, former literary manager at Victory Gardens Theatre, and co-creative director of the Alliance of Latinx Theatre Artists. His plays have been produced at dozens of theaters around the city.
Stephanie Paul is a choreographer, director, body percussionist, and educator who has worked with a variety of Chicago theater companies, including Albany Park Theater Project, Court Theatre, and Chicago Children’s Theatre.
John Morris worked in the scene shops of the Goodman Theatre and St. Nicholas Theatre before studying architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago, thinking that would get him out of the world of the theatre. He went on to design dozens of theaters in Chicago and around the country.
Major funding for Stage Players is provided by:
The Grainger Foundation
Lake Forest, Illinois