Brian Stuart: Founder and Guy in Charge.
David Brian Stuart is the Founder and Executive Producer of Improv Playhouse, the suburban based theater and training center (est. 2000; Libertyville/Highland Park) where several hundred adult/youth students engage in improvisation/comedy studies, musical theater and film making. David is a proud member of SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television Radio Actors). Additional association memberships include NATAS (National Association of Television Arts and Sciences) and IFP (Independent Feature Project). He has been involved in producing and casting independent films most recently holding the title Associate Producer-Casting Director of the Emeritus Production, festival winning feature, "Killing Poe" (Matt Bush, Julianna Guill, Cyrina Fiallo, Sunkrish Bala). Voiceover and on-camera credits include Sears, American Homes, Oscar Meyer, and R. C. Johnson (A Family Company). BFA Directing degree from SIU-Carbondale School of Communications. Mentored in improvisation by Players Workshop of the Second City founder Josephine Forsberg, who nurtured the talents of IO’s Charna Halpern, Bob Oldenkirk, Harold Ramis, Bill Murray, Dan Castellaneta (Homer Simpson), George Wendt and Shelly Long. Second City Conservatory graduate and additional training from the legendary, late Martin DeMaat, Mike Gellman and Norm Holly. David and his staff members have personally coached and led leadership and team building workshops for a plethora of Fortune 500 companies and their head honchos. Co-taught adult
improv workshops with David Murphy (O’Connor Casting
and The Green Room) during Players Workshop years. Movement studies with Plasticene’s
Dexter Bullard. Musical Improv with Nancy Howland
Walker. Regular improviser with IP Touring teams.
Favorite performance roles ( behind a microphone)
include the voice of David Hassid in the NY Times Bestselling
radio drama series, Left Behind Literature. Regular ensemble
member of Unshackled, longest running radio drama in airwave
history, directed by Tim Gregory, produced by
the Pacific Garden Mission-Chicago, allows David to pull
off a Robin Williamesque pallete of voices. Recently played George Bailey in IP's "It's a Wonderful Life". Sam Spade in "Maltese Falcon". Directed Joesphine Forsberg's "The Gathering". Coached IP House Teams "Therapeutic Funtillectuals" and "Lost Not Stolen". He is also an active acting coach in the Chicago region.
Colby Adams: Music Director
Colby Adams, a musician from the time he was eight, was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Ethnomusicology from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, IL. During his time at Moody, he directed the Voices of Praise Gospel Choir and was the Event Pianist for Kenmare Catering and Events. Prior to Moody, he had studied Music Direction for Musical Theater at Columbia College Chicago, collaborating with notable music directors such as Roberta Duchak, Phillip Caldwell, and Andra Velis Simon. He has traveled the world engaging the musical arts of various cultures within Scandinavia, China, Brazil, Tanzania, Kenya, and Canada, ultimately hoping to use various musical genres as a gateway to reach the hearts of people all over the world. Colby credits his music teachers from Junior High and High School for inspiring his passion for music today. Therefore, he is eager to work with the youth at Improv Playhouse so that they may discover the wonderful gift of music in new and exciting ways!
Jayson Acevedo: Touring Team, Stand Up Comedy Kids Instructor
Improv Camp Assoc. Director
Jayson Acevedo is a native of the beautiful city of Chicago and a gifted performer /instructor in the art of comedy. He has performed throughout Chicagoland in many sketch, improvisation and stand up comedy shows. Jayson has even been blessed to appear in a few straight plays and musicals throughout the region. Acevedo has received training from Columbia College Chicago
with an Interdisciplinary Major in Radio & Advertising. He has performed at The Second City, McKay Arts, and with One Group Mind. Represented by Paonessa Talent Agency, Jayson does not consider himself to be an actor, but is well-respected in the art of acting and loves to be in front of a camera or an audience. Acevedo was also a cast member of the critically acclaimed musical comedy *Jesus Camp* at the Conservatory Theater in River North. Acevedo's dream is to one day become a cast member on The Second City's main stage and, for the time being, "settles" for performing with IP-Corporate and touring teams and stand-up shows on their mainstage. Jayson has been fortunate enough to have been a part of six short films and recently finished his first role in a Feature. Adults and kids alike marvel at his intuitive and nurturing instructional style.
Little Known Fact: Jayson does a great Adele vocal impersonation.
Stephani Bakus: Fashion & Modeling Instructor
Chicago-based model Stephani Bakus was scouted at age fifteen by an international modeling scout, and is currently the face of Mixxi G. Accessories. She has also worked for Redken NYC, L'Anza Healing Haircare, and Ulta Cosmetics, as well as having walked the runway for countless designers during Chicago Fashion Week. Stephani was recently featured as Tiara Magazine Supermodel of the Year and nominated for Chicago Model of the Year in 2014. Stephani is also a spokesperson for Live Out Loud Charity for suicide prevention. In addition to her modeling career, Stephani is a recording artist, dancer, journalist, fashion contributor, and actress. She has attended Columbia College Chicago with an emphases on vocal performance and will be transferring to Lake Forest College majoring in Communications and Music.
Shannon Baucus: Improv and Leadership Instructor
Chicago-based improviser and performer Shannon Baucus grew up at Improv Playhouse, went on to graduate from the College of Charleston with a Communications degree and a degree in Spanish Language and Literature from Universidad Anonio de Nebrija. Now that's a combo any performer would envy! One of Shannon's deepest passions is being an advocate for mental health awareness in the state of Illinois. Promote healthy living and platform through humor therapy programs that involve education on mental health and improv skills and techniques to integrate joy and laughter into the lives of those who need it most. Her dedication The Miss America Organization has nurtured some of her greatest skills: Public communication, working with special needs students, mentoring and exemplifying ideals that serve as an example to younger women. Additional training occurred most recently under the splendors of The Second City Training Center-Chicago.
"Freddie" Beckley: Improv Coach/ Film Camp Director/Performer
Ishita Bhama: Improv Coach
Ishita grew up singing, dancing, and acting! She is currently at Loyola University Chicago getting her B.A. in Theatre and even had the opportunity to train at the London Dramatic Academy for a semester. She loves it all, but improv has a special place in her heart! She first started improvising when she was a sophomore in high school when she joined Adlai E. Stevenson High School’s Failed Presidential Candidates. She is now a three year member and the Co-President of Loyola’s improv team, Loyola Latchkey Kid with whom she performs with at the pH Comedy Theatre every Thursday night! She also loves improvising on her three-lady improv team The Third Wheel Gone M.I.A. Ishita continues her improv training at the Annoyance Theatre and is absolutely loving every single silly second of it. At the Improv Playhouse, Ishita played on the college team Alma Mudder and often played with Battlefield Smurf. She has Teacher Assisted Youth Theatre classes and Musical Theatre camps at Citadel Theatre as well taught and Directed the Improv Camp at the Improv Playhouse. Ishita loves teaching so much that after graduating with her Theatre degree, she is on to get her Master’s in Elementary Education!
Little Known Fact: Ishita has lived in 8 different places while growing up! She is a woman of the world!
Justin Callis: Musical Theater Director/ Music Director/ Vocal Coach
Justin has been truly excited to join the Improv Playhouse faculty where he most recently helmed the Improv Playhouse Broadway Bound program in Highland Park. He has a special gift in performing arts education and vocal coaching. Justin is a composer and teaching artist in and around Chicago. As founder and Artistic Director of Artists Giving Back, he helmed their inaugural production of "Rent" in honor of World AIDS Day 2015, and oversees their continuing cabaret series, "AGB Sings!". With Storycatchers Theatre, he worked for many years with incarcerated youth creating original musicals. He has performed with Chicago Opera Playhouse, and toured the country with Child's Play Touring Theatre. He is the Music Director at Community Christian Church in Lincolnshire, and a frequent soloist at Temple Chai in Long Grove and K.A.M. Isaiah Israel in Hyde Park and has coached students at The Stage School in Park Ridge.
Diane Christiansen: Acting Coach
Diane Christiansen began coaching actors in 1992. This year, CHILDREN IN FILM lists her as the “#1 Top Rated Acting Coach in Hollywood” for
kids and teens. She was also named “One of the Top 3 Acting Coaches in Hollywood” by the YOUNG PRESIDENTS ORGANIZATION in NYC. The last
three years, Diane was voted “One of the Top 10 most effective Coaches in Hollywood” by Actors Access . Recently selected to appear as Acting
Coach on Hit Reality TV shows, “FAKING IT” and Danny Bonaduce’s “MY KID’S A STAR” ON VH1.
A graduate of the Strasberg Institute, she was mentored by Academy Award Nominee, Sally Kirkland and the late Joseph Bernard. She has
appeared with the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall in NYC; danced with Siegfried & Roy in Las Vegas and on NBC TV specials, she has been
featured on the Merv Griffin Show and hit series "Vegas". As a TV & Film actress she has worked with Angelina Jolie, Corey Feldman, Adam West,
Orson Welles, Stacy Keach, Pia Zadora, Ann Margaret, Jon Voight, Dom DeLouise, Joan Rivers, Robert Urich, Billy Zane & Fred Durst. .2011 - 2014 WINNER - Backstage West's Readers Choice Award - voted - BEST ACTING CLASSES FOR KIDS & TEENS!!
Little Known Fact: When Diane turned 18 she began a world tour with the Rockets!
David Cocks (aka David Doane): Performer/ Improv Coach
Nicole Frier: Improviser, Actor, Coach
Pittsburgh native Nicole Frier draws on her study of the human condition for her character work. After earning a BA in Psychology (MCL) from the University of Notre Dame, she completed an MA in Social Science at the University of Chicago. She specialized in the Anthropology of Food, particularly how we brand ourselves and mark celebrations through comestibles. She's a lyrical pro, and is skilled at rap and music improvisation. A graduate of both the iO & ComedySportz training centers, Nicole has performed at the Chicago Improv Festival and Sketchfest. Favorite improv and sketch teams include Funny Bones Improv, Happy Karaoke Fun Time, and ComedySportz's BattleProv. Nicole’s corporate work has focused on customer service and training. Improvisation is indispensable there, as well as with her busy young boys at home. At the Improv Playhouse, you can find Nicole on the travel team and onstage. She is represented by Ambassador Talent in Chicago.
Little Known Fact: Nicole sang in a cover band in Illinois, danced hula in Indiana, was drum major of a marching band in Pennsylvania, and sat on a killer whale in Ohio.
Skylar Grieco: Director and Creative Director TYA
Skylar Grieco has taken the helm as Creative Director for the Improv Playhouse Theater for Young Audiences. His first experience with Improv Playhouse engaged Skylar's immense directing talents in our youth production workshops of Beauty and The Beast and Acting Workshops for Teens. Skylar received his B.S. in Theatre with a focus in Directing from Middle Tennessee State University. He has worked for theatre and live entertainment companies across the United States including Writers Theatre, Underscore Theatre Company, Florida Repertory Theatre, French Woods Performing Arts Festival, Cedar Point Live Entertainment, The Theatre Bug and the Olney Theatre Center. His primary area of expertise lies in directing, but he never fails to find himself immersed in other areas of theatre. He is thrilled to join this fantastic team of artists with Improv Playhouse!
Becky Keeshin: Director and Choreographer
She is represented by Grossman and Jack Talent
Rachel Kwiecinski: Administrative Manger/ Performing Artist/ Teaching Artist
Rachel Kwiecinski received her BA in theatre from Saint Mary's University of Minnesota and her MA in Shakespeare from the University of Kent in Canterbury, UK. Upon returning to Chicago, she worked with Adventure Stage Chicago, as the Production Script Assistant for the world premiere musical Hazel at the Drury Lane Theater, as an educator with the WIP Training Center, and with the Bingham Camp Theatre Retreat in Connecticut as an arts admin and print designer. Currently, she is the Administrative Manager for the Improv Playhouse and the Design and Marketing Associate for Bingham Camp Theatre Retreat. Rachel is also a trained artist, drawing and painting in her spare time! Check out her stuff here. She recently gave her dissertation presentation at BroadwayCon in New York City!
Little Known Fact: Rachel once sang happy birthday to Stephen Sondheim in London
Ashley Lanyon: Youth Director, Choreography
ASHLEY LANYON is a proud graduate with a BFA in Acting and Dance from the Boston Conservatory. Ashley has been a wonderful addition to the Improv Playhouse faculty having help choreo and assistant directing in several youth productions. As a performing artitst Ahsley recently played several roles in the Mercury Theatre production of Mary Poppins
(Katie/Nanna/Ensemble). Here are a few more: Crazy For You (Drury Lane Oakbrook); Nice Work if You Can Get It (Theatre at the Center). Regional credits include: South Pacific (Westchester Broadway Theatre, NY);Le Cabaret Grimm (NY Musical Theatre Festival); Our Town (Green-Wood, Brooklyn, NY); and two
seasons with Peninsula Players in Door County, WI. Go see her during the summer...you'll see her strutting her stuff under the pines and between the birch trees!
Seth Lilley: TYA Creative Director, Actor
Seth Lilley holds a B.A. in theatre from the University of Hawaii at Mānoa. Spending his formative years in the islands, he has been educated in a both the eastern and western theatrical traditions. While in Honolulu, he also performed with 'Ōhi'a Productions in their island-wide school tour of Superhero Smarts, an educational production focusing on the STEM initiative. Since moving to the city of Chicago, he has become a company member at The Cuckoo's Theater Project and performed at a number of regional venues. Show credits include The Pillowman (TAG, Hawaii), Spring Awakening, (MVT, Hawaii), and Mr. Marmalade (Cuckoo's Theater Project, Illinois). Seth is ecstatic to be serving the Chicagoland area with Improv Playhouse in their upcoming season!
Little Known Fact: Seth has a Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do.
Danielle Lopez: Director and Choreographer
Danielle Lopez is originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Danielle obtained a B.F.A. in Theatre from The University of Oklahoma and a B.F.A. in Dance from The University of Central Oklahoma. For Improv Playhouse, Danielle directs and choreographs productions in Highland Park and Libertyville. She is a teaching artist, director, choreographer and scenic painter for Metropolis Performing Arts Centre. She directs a dance program for JCYS in Buffalo Grove. In Chicago, she served as a ballet and tap instructor for ARCC Ballet & Dance for 4 years. In Oklahoma, Danielle performed professionally with The Pollard Theatre, The Lyric Theatre, Carpenter Square Theatre, The Jewel Box Theatre and The Oklahoma City Theatre Company. Favorite roles include Ti Moune in the Oklahoma premiere of Once On This Island; Evelyn Nesbit, Ragtime; Alice Sycamore, You Can't Take It With You; Little Red Ridinghood, Into The Woods; Belinda/Flavia, Noises Off!; Peggy, Godspell. Danielle served as a Resident Actor/Choreographer for The Pollard Theatre, as the Theatre Director for J. Rogers Performing Arts Studio, as a modern dance instructor for Cynthia Poteet Little Theatre and Sacred Heart Catholic School. As a dancer, Danielle performed with the Kaleidoscope Dance Company and performed professionally with Perpetual Motion: Modern Dance Oklahoma, Inc. Danielle has been with Improv Playhouse since 2011.
Adam Mizner: Film Instructor
Adam Mizner is a production/post-production audio specialist and filmmaker based in Chicago, IL. Adam was born in Rockford, Illinois and obtained his Associate of Arts with Honors at the local community college Rock Valley College. He also earned a Media Specialist Certificate from the school before transferring to Columbia College Chicago in 2011. It was there Adam graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Audio Arts and Acoustics while focusing on Audio for Visual Media. While attending school, Adam worked as a production and post-production sound mixer on numerous student, independent, and commercial film projects. Since graduating, he has worked on Columbia College Chicago's "Shoot Your Spot Shot", feature length films "HUNTER" and "Dearest Jane", a promotional live event for the French clothing company Hermes, as well as work on multiple independent short films. Adam has taught multiple Improv Playhouse Film Intensives and Film Camps for Improv Playhouse in Libertyville and Highland Park.
Jessye Grace Mueller: Improv Coach
Jessye Grace Mueller is an Improv Playhouse Touring Company member, a Director of the IP Improv and Theater Games Day Camps in Libertyville, and has had the pleasure of directing the Improv Playhouse Junior, Teen, and College Ensembles as well as instructing many of our students. A graduate of Indiana University, Jessye has a BA in Theatre and Drama, and has been improvising for over 13 years. Jessye is a graduate of the Conservatory at the Second City Training Center in Chicago, a company member of Improvised Jane Austen (Bughouse Theatre) in Chicago, and a member of the improv ensemble The Dewey Decimals. She is an alumnus of the Second City Youth and Teen Ensembles, the Improv Playhouse Teen Performance Ensemble, and the Piven Young People's Company. She has also studied with New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, Experimental Theatre Wing. Recent credits also include Call Me Never as a contributing writer and cast member for the Annoyance Theatre Triple Feature.
Little Known Fact: Jessye was featured on the fashion blog CollegeFashion.net, wherein she described her style as “Eclectic, Put-together, Grandma!”
Jillian Elizabeth Mueller: Improv Coach
Jillian E. Mueller is a Chicago-based director, writer, performer, and lyricist. She worked as a teaching artist, performer, and workshop facilitator with Improv Playhouse since 2007, and is an alumn of the Teen and Youth Program! Mueller also currently works at The Annoyance Theatre where she is a Resident Director, instructor for AP 1 classes, and performer in the long-running improv show Trigger Happy (Directed by Mick Napier). She has directed, co-written, and provided lyrics for three original musicals at The Annoyance; Ask Your Doctor: A Pharmaceutical Musical, Slamazons!, and Angela of Death. Past performances and original works at Annoyance also include the sketch shows Loose Cannons and Gravitational Pull. Recent projects around Chicago include serving as the Assistant to the Director for Second City’s 106th Mainstage Revue: Dream Freaks Fall From Space, Director for Engage! A Choose Your Own Sci-Fight Adventure at Theatre Wit, and Performer and Workshop Facilitator with the Improv Playhouse touring team. Mueller holds a BFA in Theater from the University of Illinois, and is a graduate of the Second City Directing Program, Second City Conservatory, the Annoyance Program, Tisch School of the Arts ETW Summer Program at NYU, and is an alum of the iO Harold team Sonis. She currently works as a freelance director, teaching artist and performer.
Little Known Fact: Jillian loves to freestyle rap, and has been known to break it down both on and offstage, yo.
Abby Pajakowski: Improv Coach
Abby Pajakowski is a multidisciplinary performance artist based in Chicago. She has performed with her improv team, Get Quick, at various theaters including The Annoyance, iO, and The Playground. She is also a working clown, studying under Dean Evans and Adrian Danzig and has performed her two-person clown show, The King, all around Chicago, recently at The Neo-Futurarium. Abby loves creating communities for new, risk-taking work and is a founder, producer, and performer in Potluck, a monthly variety hour at The Frontier. Abby has taught acting, improvisation, and devising at NHSI Theater Cherubs program and Mudlark Theater Company. She is a graduate of Northwestern University with a B.A. in Theater with a concentration in Adaptation and Devising.
Corliss Preston: Teaching Artist/ Voice Over/ Acting Coach
CORLISS PRESTON was trained at Indiana University by the wonderful Howard Jensen under the leadership of R. Keith Michael and the BRISTOL OLD VIC Theatre School in England where she studied with two British renown acting teachers – Rudi Shelly and Nat Brenner. Corliss has joined the Improv Playhouse faculty through our voice-over workshops and as an acting coach. She has worked as a professional actress in NYC (Acting and VO Talent) as well as Regionally for the last 30 years and is currently in Chicago. She has taught at Harvard summer school, New York University (10 years at Playwrights Horizons Theatre School), various camps during her seasons with Shakespeare Festivals and continues to coach privately. * Since she has been in Chicago, her interests have expanded to Playwriting, Directing and Sound Design. She has created theatre pieces for Visual Artist’s Openings in River North in order to invite the audience into their paintings. She has also gotten her feet wet Producing and wants to continue to expand her knowledge of all aspects of Live Theatre. Her greatest desire is to continue to grow and do what she loves in order to pass on what she has learned to the next generation.
Robert Salazar: Director/Film Camps/Teaching Artist
Robert Salazar is a Peruvian-American from Scranton, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Oberlin College with a double major in Theater and Comparative American Studies. Robert is a superb acting coach for young performers and gives terrific guidance for technique and content to young film makers.Robert recently wrapped the principal role of Ryan Page for the upcoming series Convergence. Robert’s other film credits include O.K. (A Scrapbook in Words and Pictures), Golden Smiles, and The Living End. In 2013, he wrote and directed the feature film White Walls, Dark Rooms.Stage credits include work with several Chicago theatres including Jackalope, Halcyon, Citadel, Eclectic, and Piven. He’ll appear in the lead role of Dexter for Jackalope Theater’s production of Four at Theater on the Lake 2015. Robert is also part of the central cast of ¡Qué Gente, Mi Gente!, a radio novela broadcasting over 600 radio stations internationally including a station in his Papa’s home of Arequipa, Peru. In addition to acting, Robert writes/records guitar in the band Boo Baby and plays drums in a Neil Young cover band. For more video and music visit SalazarRobert.com.
Little Known Fact: What food can’t you live without?: “Guacamole. ”Special talent: “Making guacamole.”
Schaefer: Improv Coach
Jeremy Schaefer is a tall, curly haired explosive device and when he steps up to a mic it is like lighting a match. His cutting observations and sarcastic witticisms fly like shrapnel. Sounds dangerous? Maybe. Exciting and hilarious? Absolutely. If you haven't guessed, Jeremy is one talented dude, having graduated from Illinois
Wesleyan University with a BFA in Theatre. In addition
to his undergraduate training, he has trained at Improv
Olympic and The Annoyance with Susan Messing and is a founder of the Blind
Mice Trio, an improv comedy group. He presently
tours with Storybox, an improv comedy educational ensemble
through Urban Gateways. He improvises regularly with Storybox Theater, pH Productions, The Improv Playhouse, Laugh Out Loud and The Blind Mice Trio. He’s also worked with First Folio Shakespeare Festival in Comedy of Errors, Janus Theatre’s Laramie Project, and multiple projects with The Big Picture Group. for his "day job" Jeremy is the Marketing Director at Imagination Theater. Jeremy has also performed his stand up comedy act in venues around Illinois and London.
Little Known Fact: In addition to his Theatre degree, Jeremy has a B.A in Religion (and he still is a hysterically funny guy!)
Britta Schlicht: Director and Choreographer
Britta Schlicht is thrilled to work with the Improv Playhouse team as a youth musical theatre director and choreographer! Britta recently concluded the 2014-2015 school year at Carmel High School in Carmel, IN where she had the pleasure to serve as theatre educator and director for the last year and a half. Britta earned her Bachelor of Science degrees from Indiana University-Bloomington in secondary theatre and English education, graduating with highest honors in May of 2013. There, she was awarded the distinction of University Founder's Scholar, reflecting her passion for and drive in education. Outside of school, Britta has worked as choreographer, dance instructor, and theatre teaching artist at the Children's Theatre of Madison for the last six years in her hometown of Madison, WI. Having danced for 21 years and acted for 18. Britta has been sharing her love for arts education through her 7 years of teaching at various schools and companies in the Midwest. Other theater education credentials include Education Director/Youth Director and Choreographer – Improv Playhouse Theatre (Libertyville, IL), Director of Theatre – Carmel High School (Carmel, IN), Youth Theatre Director – Children’s Theatre of Madison (Madison, WI), and Drama Teaching Artist – Bloomington High School North (Bloomington, IN). Britta has also choreographed professionally for the Jedlicka Performing Arts Center, Middleton Players Theatre, Children’s Theatre of Madison, and several public middle schools and high schools. Additionally a performer, Britta has most recently been seen on stage with the Chicago Kids Company, Prop Theatre, MadKap Productions, and Middleton Players Theatre. Britta could not imagine a life without the arts and performing arts education, and is beyond elated to be pursuing this important craft with the Improv Playhouse Theatre.
Aaron Sjoholm: Programming and Development Director
Aaron Sjoholm has been involved in comedy for a long time, in every possible role. On the creative side as a director, writer and performer, and behind the scenes as a teacher, stage manager, and general Errand Boy. Aaron spent over fifteen years in different roles at The Second City, including Comedy Writing Instructor and Operations Manager. He comes to Improv Playhouse by way of Under the Gun Theater in Chicago. Aaron has a BFA in Theater and Education with additional areas of focus in Clown, Exceptional Education, Philosophy and ATV Safety.