The Actors Gymnasium
For more information, photos, or video, contact:

Kiana Harris Simon
Director of Marketing & Event Entertainment
The Actors Gymnasium Announces
2014/15 Season 
EVANSTON, IL - Amoebae, tribes of circus faeries, and showcases of daring new work are featured in the 2014-15 season from The Actors Gymnasium. Larry DiStasi, Artistic Director of Programming, calls it "a thrilling acrobatic ride into worlds of mystery"

A new work directed by Vanessa Stalling and starring Dean Evans examines the microscopic battlefield in the as-yet-untitled Winter Circus; House Theatre's Chris Mathews conjures a forest of faeries in A Circus Night's Dream, and three showcases of new work cement Chicago's reputation as the epicenter of contemporary circus.


"The Actors Gymnasium develops multidisciplinary artists who are able to engage their bodies, voices, and performance training to attain new levels of theatrical expression," DiStasi states, "The process for creating our shows usually begins with creative brainstorming, and embraces the strengths of each unique cast member or designer.  We try to develop an atmosphere where artists can do their most remarkable work.  The key, of course, is to start with very imaginative and talented people. This year, with folks like Chris Mathews, Dean Evans and Vanessa Stalling, it should be an extremely exciting season of circus-theatre exploration."

Circus in Progress - An Evening of Daring New Work 

Directed by Larry DiStasi

Saturday, October 11, 2014 

View the trailer here.


Theatre and circus lovers of all ages delight in this popular sneak peek at some of Chicago's most exciting new works of circus art: Striding Lion dance theatre appears for the first time; one of few women nationwide to practice straps, Leah Leor is featured, as is the invented-apparatus aerial display of Lindsey Noel Whiting on the Tireswing, and the extraordinary Camille Swift on solo trapeze. Actors Gym teacher Akemi Berry debuts a new silks act, and the exciting young artists of the AG Teen Ensemble display a wide range of their skills. Further performer announcements will continue throughout the fall.

Tickets are $15 and available now for the 4:30pm matinee and the 7:30pm evening performances. Two Performances Only.


A Circus Night's Dream

Written/Directed by Chris Mathews 

Circus Choreography by Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi 

Dance Choreography by Topeka Ellis 

Assistant Directed by Alex Tey 

Assistant Circus Choreography by Akemi Berry

November 8, 9, 15, 16, 2014 

A marriage, a circus, and Nature itself,
All hang in thrall to love's suspended health,
While the King and Queen of forces unseen 
Do quarrel as mortals through a midnight dream.

Chris Mathews (House Theatre, Barrel of Monkeys), a creative team from Chicago's professional theatre community, and the outstanding young performers from The Actors Gymnasium add their own fantastic spins and twirls in an original, acrobatic adaptation of Shakespeare's most imaginative comedy.

Winter Circus 

Directed by Vanessa Stalling 

Featuring Dean Evans

February 14 - March 22, 2015 

Press Night February 14, 2015, 7:30 pm


No matter your size or shape...survival is a part of life. This winter the Actors Gymnasium will explore a world of microscopic daring and survival through chance, fight, or flight. The Actors Gymnasium Winter Circus, directed by spectacle-theatre veteran Vanessa Stalling, will feature acclaimed Chicago clown Dean Evans and surprising turns of acrobatics, mime, live music and single-celled adventure.


The Actors Gymnasium Winter Circus will participate for a third year in the League of Chicago Theatres' Chicago Theatre Week February 12-22. 


Spring Youth Circus 

Written/Directed by Chris Mathews 

Circus Choreography by Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi 

May 16, 17, 23, 24, 2015 


The Youth Circus is a performance-based training program that culminates in a fully-produced, original show. This intensive experience includes high-quality training in drama, dance and circus arts - not to mention invaluable personal and interpersonal skills. The Youth Circus is one of The Actors Gymnasium's most popular events each year. 


Circus in Progress - An Evening of Daring New Work 

Directed by Larry DiStasi

Saturday, May 30, 2015 


Get a sneak peek at some of Chicago's most exciting new works of circus art. The spring installation of our new work performance series will showcase new acts in development from across the Chicagoland circus and physical theatre spectrum. Two Performances Only.


Summer Circus Intensive Showcase 

Directed by Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi

July 25 & 26, 2015 


Thirty artists debut new acts that they have developed throughout six weeks of intensive training in high-level physical performance and circus skills. One weekend only. The Summer Circus Intensive is an innovative six-week workshop, dedicated to the development of emerging professional artists. 


Collaborative productions

For nearly twenty years, The Actors Gymnasium has collaborated with Lookingglass Theatre. Bringing physical expression to narrative stories is the hallmark of both companies, and the collaborative relationship between the two goes back nearly twenty years. Combining Lookingglass's profile with Actors Gym's creative development expertise, the symbiosis has successfully produced many outstanding shows over the years, most notably the award-winning Lookingglass Alice. In the Fall, Lookingglass Alice will return to the Water Tower "produced in association with The Actors Gymnasium". The pathway from concept to full production through development at The Actors Gymnasium has successfully developed a number of extraordinary shows, and, in the Spring, Moby Dick will be in workshop and rehearsal for a summer opening downtown. Adapted and directed by acclaimed Lookingglass ensemble member David Catlin, Herman Melville's classic novel of adventure, obsession and fate questions what it is that drives us to pursue the impossible and how that ambition ultimately consumes us. For both shows Actors Gym will be providing creative consultation, performer training, safety design, workshop and rehearsal space, specialized equipment and circus arts choreography.


About Larry DiStasi, Artistic Director of Programming 

Larry DiStasi is Co-Artistic Director and Co-Founder of The Actors Gymnasium as well as a co-founder and ensemble member of Lookingglass Theatre Company. For Lookingglass, Larry has served as actor, director, administrator and designer over the past 25 years. He has performed in over 30 productions, among them the Tony Award winning production, Metamorphoses, and the Jeff Award winning productions Lookingglass Alice, The Arabian Nights and Hard Times. He received a Jeff Nomination for his direction and adaptation of The Baron in the Trees. Larry directed and co-created The Actors Gymnasium circuses Dream, Science Fiction, Lost and Found, Skooled, and The Magical Exploding Boy and The Invisible Circus. He has appeared on television and film and in a Philip Glass Opera called Galileo Galilei. He received his B.A. in Theatre from Northwestern University. 


About Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi, Artistic Director of Circus Arts/Circus Choreographer

Sylvia is a second generation circus performer, a Master Teacher, and an award-winning choreographer. She grew up touring with various circuses, including the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus and also performed at The Circus World Championships in London, England. Sylvia is a co-founder of The Actors Gymnasium and an Artistic Associate of The Lookingglass Theatre Company. Sylvia has won four Joseph Jefferson Awards, including a Special Achievement Award for her circus choreography of Lookingglass Alice which has toured nationally and been seen by over 100,000 people. Other theater credits include The Lyric Opera of Chicago, Chicago Children's Theater, Marriott Theater, and Steppenwolf.

About Chris Matthews, Youth Circus Director 
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. He has also performed with The Actors Gymnasium and Lookingglass. Chris also 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.

About Vanessa Stalling, Winter Circus Director
Vanessa Stalling is a director, performer and instructor located in Chicago, IL. In the spring, she'll be directing The America Play at Oracle Theatre. Prior to that, her most recent work as a director includes The Normal Heart, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Maids, Mud, and Pullman W.A. Vanessa served as Associate Artistic Director at Redmoon, where she worked for a decade directing and devising several productions including a remount of The Cabinet, Last of My Species, Winter Pageant 08' & 09', Princess Club, and Twilight Orchard.


About The Actors Gymnasium

The Actors Gymnasium is dedicated to bringing a new physicality to the American Theatre. Encouraging ground-breaking theatrical exploration, The Actors Gymnasium teaches circus arts, physical theatre and multi-disciplinary performance to children and adults; produces original, daring works of circus-theatre; and serves as a talent resource, providing performance opportunities to our students and innovative professional event entertainment for a wider audience. At The Actors Gymnasium, people Learn To Fly - physically, emotionally, and creatively.


Performance Information

Tickets can be purchased at For group reservations and general questions call 847-328-2795. The on-location box office opens 1.5 hours prior to the start of each performance.

Friday performances begin at 7:30 pm; Saturday matinee performances begin at 4:30 pm and evening performances begin at 7:30 pm; matinees on Sunday begin at 3:00 pm.

The Actors Gymnasium venue is located at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center, 927 Noyes Street, Evanston, Illinois - just off of the Noyes purple line 'L' stop. Parking in the Noyes Cultural Center lot (permit & metered spots) is free after 6 pm Monday-Saturday and all day Sunday. There is additional free parking on Ridge Street and at the Civic Center around the corner, as well as metered parking on Noyes Street. 

Fall 2014 Circus in Progress Trailer - The Actors Gymnasium
Fall 2014 Circus in Progress Trailer - The Actors Gymnasium