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Who (Was) Who at Polarity Ensemble Theatre

Board and Staff

Richard Engling Co-Founder and Artistic Director Richard Engling is an actor, director, playwright, novelist and musician. His books have been published by Penguin/Putnam, Headline House, and Polarity Ensemble Theatre Press. He played drums with a jazz quartet for ten years. With Polarity, he directed Absolute Macbeth and The Good Harvest and adapted and appeared in Antigone. He wrote and directed Ghost Watch and appeared in Hamlet, The Rivals, Peer Gynt and Tom Jones. He has degrees in Theatre and Creative Writing, works as a freelance writer, and has performed with Keyhole Theatre, ShakespeareInc, Chicago Actors Ensemble, the IO and others. You can keep up with his latest work at RichardEngling.com.

Mark Mathyer Chairman of the Board Mark Mathyer is the Director of Donor Services at the Greater Chicago Food Depository. He is involved in Database Management, Project Management, Software Support, Training, and Research. Mark has a B.A. in English from Texas Lutheran University, and an M.S. in Communication Systems from Northwestern University. Involvement in community theater during high school and college led Mark to understand that his theatrical contributions should be made in supporting roles, and not on stage.

Ann Keen Co-Founder and board member Ann Keen received her B.A. from Saint Mary's University and her M.F.A. in acting from Arizona State University. Her favorite roles include Clytemnestra in The Oresteia, Emilia in Othello, Lucetta in Two Gentleman of Verona and Lady Macbeth. She has directed Polarity's productions of Antigone, Hamlet and A Streetcar Named Desire. She is especially brilliant at working with playwrights on developing new scripts. She has also directed and acted in short films. She assists Polarity in administration and fundraising. She makes her living in the banking industry.

Irv Gorman
Co-Founder and Publisher Irv Gorman brought Polarity's first book into print. Irv is a published author and holds degrees in American Literature and Film from the University of Texas. He has acted on stage and in television and film and is a former artistic director of the inner city Los Angeles H.O.L.A. Youth Theatre Company. He was awarded a Mayor's Certificate of Commendation for his work with H.O.L.A.

Chuck Palia Board Member and Resident Technical Director Charles C. Palia brings a host of technical theatre and educational expertise to Polarity. He is a retired high school teacher who has designed and built dozens of shows. In retirement, he is designing professionally around town, as well as writing plays, and now serving on the board of Polarity. He also sings and plays guitar in the classic rock bank, Union Jack.

Hazel McCabe Managing Director Hazel Marie Flowers-McCabe proudly joined the ranks of the Chicago theatre community in 2002, and has been working as a Stage Manager since 2003. She stage managed Polarity's A Midsummer Night's Dream and joined the company shortly after. She has been a regular at City Lit Theater, stage managing more shows there than she can count. She has also had the pleasure of working with Raven, Commedia Beauregard, A Red Orchid Theatre, Hell in a Handbag, A Crew of Patches, Red Hen/Chicago Jewish Theater, ARFTCo, Arts/Lane, and Magic Chicago.

Sam Stelmack Business Manager Sam Stelmack joined Polarity shortly after graduating college with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Business Management from Ripon College. She studied theater in London while in college and quickly discovered that theater was more than just a passion. After graduating she started volunteering at a not for profit summer stock theater, Tommy O's Northern Stars Playhouse, in Northern Wisconsin, where she created a whole new marketing platform and established long term contacts for community involvement and development. Sam is now delighted to return to her hometown of Chicago.

Elayne LeTraunik Grant Writer Elayne LeTraunik has been part of the Chicago theatre community since the 1960s and has worked extensively as an actress, producer, director and administrator. Currently the Associate Artistic Director of Genesis Theatrical Productions, she also does freelance PR and grant writing for small arts organizations including Polarity Ensemble Theatre, National Pastime Theatre, Pride Films and Plays, Writers in the Heartland and Wilmette Theatre. Elayne is a member of the Donors Forum, Chicago Women in Philanthropy and the League of Professional Theatre Women. She has pursued training in grant writing from the Foundation Center and the Fundraising Authority.

John Olson Marketing Manager John Olson is an ad agency veteran, freelance arts writer and theater marketer who joined the Polarity Ensemble Theatre staff in July 2011. He's written for the quarterly magazine The Sondheim Review and TalkinBroadway.com, and has developed marketing programs for Bailiwick Chicago's productions of Joe DiPietro's F**king Men and the US premiere of the British musical, Departure Lounge.

Ensemble Members

Kim Boler Kim Boler joined Polarity after debuting with the company in its production of A Streetcar Named Desire as the Nurse and then wowed us in Ephemera and Tom Jones. Other Chicago credits include Decadence with Abraham Werewolf and Messiah on the Frigidaire with Hubris Productions. Some of her favorite roles include Rosalind in As You Like It, Julia in A Delicate Balance, and the Duck in Peter and the Wolf. She holds a BFA in Theatre Performance from the University of Southern Mississippi, loves to read, save kites with bullwhips, and still found time to find her soul mate Kevin.  

Lauren Cerkiewicz Lauren Cerkiewicz joined Polarity Ensemble Theatre after performing in its production of Hamlet. Her other Chicago credits include T'is Pity She's a Whore with Red Tape Theatre and Slide, a staged reading of a new musical. Outside of Chicago she has appeared in Sweeney Todd, The Cherry Orchard, The Marriage of Bette and Boo, On The Town, and Rumors. She holds a B.F.A. in Musical Theatre from SUNY Fredonia.

David Chrzanowski David Chrzanowski played Captain Jack Absolute in The Rivals. He has worked with Chicago Shakespeare (Macbeth - Short Shakespeare), Victory Gardens (The Wrong War), The Court Theatre (Ma Rainey's Black Bottom), The Goodman, Chicago Children's Theatre, Lifeline, Silk Road Theatre Project, and First Folio Shakespeare. Regional work includes stops at Montana Shakespeare in the Parks, Kentucky Shakespeare, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, and the Performance Network in his home town of Ann Arbor, Michigan. David is the Lead Teaching Artist for Silk Road Theatre Project and is represented by Shirley Hamilton.

Jason Epperson Jason Epperson is a freelance designer, production manager, and producer. For Polarity, Jason designed the lighting for Ghost Watch and the scenery and video for Hamlet. Jason has worked as production manager for numerous commercial theater productions and formerly served as technical director and then general manager of the Mercury Theater. In 2008, he founded the Chicagoland Theater and Dance Foundation, whose mission is to create a performing arts museum in Chicago. Jason studied lighting at Columbia College Chicago, where he now serves as production coordinator and teaches lighting technology. He now travels the country with his wife, Abigail Trabue, and their three children and can be followed at Our Wandering Family.

Jonas David Grey Jonas David Grey first performed with Polarity as Christopher Sly in the 2009 production of The Rivals, and joined the company after appearing in last season's production of Ephemera. He began his acting career as an intern at New Stage Theater in Jackson, Mississippi, and later worked under John Astin at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Regional Credits include Oklahoma Shakespearean Festival, Center Stage Baltimore, Metro Stage DC, Metropolis Performing Arts and Renaissance Theatre Workshop. For more, check out his web site.

Mason Hill Born and raised in Wisconsin, Mason Hill has performed on stages across the country. He is an actor, film maker, bocce enthusiast, and coordinator of violence for stage and screen. He has been with Polarity since its first production, Absolute Macbeth. He applied his talents as Fight Director in Polarity's productions of Antigone, OTHELLO in mask (also playing Iago), Ghost Watch and Hamlet, in which he also played the title role. His love is constant for his beautiful wife Kelly and their daughter Lilah.

Charley Jordan Charley Jordan received his degree in theatre from St. Mary's University. He has played Oliver in As You Like It, Brick in Cat on A Hot Tin Roof, and Mark in The Benchmark. For Polarity he has played Ross in Absolute Macbeth, Lord Polonius in Hamlet, a certain monkey-man in Ephemera and Squire Western in Tom Jones.  Charley has been a member of Polarity since 2004. He has organized educational theatre for the St. Ignatius Higher Achievement Program and for the Marketing Research Association Chicago Chapter.

Devorah Richards Devorah Eizikovic Richards joined Polarity as an Artistic Associate after playing Mrs. Malaprop in The Rivals. She is currently developing an original work with American Blues Theater. Her recent appearances include: staged readings with Silk Road Theatre Company and Theatre Or's Israeli Play Festival at Victory Gardens, The Glass Menagerie (Oakton Community College), Yerma (Halcyon Theatre), Orpheus Descending (American Theatre Company), Tom Stoppard one-act plays (Piccolo Theatre), The Dresser, (understudy, Steppenwolf). Devorah has also appeared in independent films, commercials, industrials and television.

Eric Damon Smith Eric Damon Smith joined Polarity after playing Jamie in Long Day's Journey into Night. Recent acting credits include Mosca in Volpone (City Lit), directed by Sheldon Patinkin; Flaminio Scala (non-Equity Jeff nomination, Actor in a Principal Role—Musical) in the regional premiere of The Glorious Ones (Boho); and other work with the likes of Remy Bumppo, Signal Ensemble, Boho, Piccolo Theatre, Muse of Fire, and Milwaukee Repertory Theatre. As a director his work has been scene at the American College Theatre Festival, in San Francisco, at Hofstra University, and soon Chicago. He is currently working with his creative partner Denise Dickens to produce works in Chicago and NYC.

Laura Sturm Laura Sturm teaches at Act One Studios and has acted in Chicago since 1994 with theatres such as Bailiwick Repertory, Provision Theater, Signal Ensemble Theatre, Remy Bumppo, Raven Theatre, Illinois Theatre Center, Apple Tree TYA, Breadline Theatre and Mary Arrchie, as well as with the Texas Shakespeare Festival. She appeared in Polarity's Hamlet as Gertrude. Other favorite roles include Imogen in Cymbeline, the title role in Evita, and Mrs. Hardcastle in She Stoops to Conquer. Laura also directs in Chicago, including the world premiere of the musical Tuxedo Love for Theatre 5.2.1 where she is an Artistic Associate. Laura received her M.F.A. from Northern Illinois University. She also serves as an acting and movement coach.

Abigail Trabue Abigail Trabue spent seven years as an actor/choreographer in Kansas City, MO before attending Columbia College Chicago. She received the Betty Garrett Scholarship for Musical Theatre excellence and graduated with a B.A. in Musical Theatre in 2004. She joined Polarity in 2005 and performed in Absolute Macbeth (1st Witch), Antigone (Antigone), OTHELLO in mask (Amelia) and Hamlet (Ophelia), and also directed, choreographed, musical directed and produced. Abigail has also worked with Porchlight Music Theatre, Provision Theatre Company, Hell in a Handbag Productions, Emerald City Theatre, Bruised Orange Theatre Company and others. She now travels the country with her husband, Jason Epperson, and their three children and can be followed at Our Wandering Family.

Associate Members

Jamie Bragg Jamie Bragg joined Polarity Ensemble Theatre after performing in its production of The Rivals. Chicago performance credits include Cant in The Castle (Oracle Theatre); Susannah in A Murder of Crows (GroundUp Theatre); and understudying Kimberly/Doreen in JON (Collaboraction, Jeff-nominated 2008). Other favorite roles include Catherine in Proof and A in Three Tall Women. Also a dramaturg, she was a 2005-2006 literary intern at Actors Theatre of Louisville, home of the Humana Festival of New American Plays. She holds BAs in Drama and English from the University of Georgia.

Bryan Breau Bryan Breau joined Polarity Ensemble Theatre after performing as Jonathan in the premiere of Lisa Rosenthal's The Good Harvest. He will also be appearing as Edmund in Polarity's upcoming production of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night. Chicago credits include: Decadence with Abraham Werewolf, All My Love with Diamante Productions, Lewis and Clark Reach the Euphrates with Infamous Commonwealth Theatre, and the Disturbed series with Oracle Theatre. Bryan graduated with a double major in Theatre Arts and English from Virginia Tech University in 2006.  

Darren Callahan Darren Callahan has written drama for the BBC, The Sci Fi Channel, National Public Radio, and Radio Pacifica New York. He is winner of NPR's Nation Radio Drama award. His play Horror Academy debuted in Chicago in 2007. Polarity produced his surrealist mystery, The White Airplane, in 2009 and published both plays the same year. Other works for stage include Water Pressure (published by Smith & Kraus), The Double Negative, Sources, Mass Grave, and Sub-Genre. He has released over fifty CDs of original music and several novels, available at darrencallahan.com.

Andrew Dallas Andrew Dallas provided sound design for Polarity's productions of Tom Jones, Kabulitis, Peer Gynt and Never the Bridesmaid. Andrew's other sound designs include The First and Last Musical on Mars, Macbeth, Swordswomen of San Gimignano, Predator: The Musical and Point Break Live! He is a graduate of the Audio Art & Acoustics department at Columbia College Chicago with a degree in Live Sound Reinforcement. When he is not working in the theatre, Andrew also freelances as a roadie and live sound engineer as well as a recording engineer.

Travis Gauchay A transplant actor hailing from Utah, Travis Gauchay* has been with Polarity Ensemble Theater since May 2006. He appeared in Polarity productions of Antigone, OTHELLO in mask and Hamlet. He does sketch comedy with the group, 4 Days Late, which performed at SketchFest in January 2008. Travis has been a sportswriter, a mascot for two professional baseball teams and an all-around nerd full of pop-culture minutiae. He enjoys listening to music of all kinds, reading the daily papers and dissecting his next way to crack up the world.

Catherine Hermes Catherine Hermes made her Polarity Ensemble debut as Jenny/Mrs Waters in Tom Jones. As an actor in Chicago, she has worked with First Folio Shakespeare Festival, PRIDE Films and Plays, Chicago Mammals Theatre, A Reasonable Facsimile Theatre Company, the Women's Theatre Alliance of Chicago, Citadel Theatre, Clockwise Theatre, Azusa Productions and Idle Muse Theatre Company. Catherine has studied acting at Piven Theatre Workshop and Shakespeare folio technique with Jeffrey Carlson and Susan Hart. She is a member of the Women's Theatre Alliance and a teaching artist with Li'l Buds Theatre.

Hilary Holbrook Hilary Holbrook joined Polarity after contributing her talents as a musician and actress in A Streetcar Named Desire.  Previous credits include The Robber Bridegroom (Griffin Theatre).  Hilary has had the pleasure of playing her violin for such events as Second Story (Serendipity Theatre), Old Town (Strawdog Theatre), as well as collaborating with several wonderful Chicagoland musicians on a wide variety of projects (The Denizens, The Bandwagon, and The Eli Story, to name a few).  She holds a BA in theatre from Loyola University Chicago.

Andréa Morales Andréa Morales was delighted to join the Polarity family after appearing in A Streetcar Named Desire. A native of Phoenix, Arizona, she returned to Chicago after performing in the National Tour of Tomas and the Library Lady produced by the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles and Childsplay Arizona. Chicago credits include Not Your Generic Latina (Teatro Luna), It's a Wonderful Life (American Theatre Company), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (NightBlue), Yerma (Halcyon Theatre), Tartuffe (Remy Bumppo), and Jeffrey (Hubris Productions). Regional credits include As You Like It, Sexual Perversity in Chicago, and the West Coast premiere of Cardenio. Mi familia es mi vida!  

Alex Reimers Alex Crow Reimers joined Polarity after playing Rosencrantz in Hamlet. He received his B.A. in acting at California State University and has work on stage and in film. Some of his favorite roles include Prince John in Robin Hood, Dexter in Philadelphia Story, Virgil in Bus Stop, and the Great Dondevon in an original Commedia dell'Arte piece with Cirque de Commedia. His love for acting is paralleled only by his love for music. Alex, a skilled musician, believes in living his life as a series of fantastic cinematic events. Visit him on his website: www.alexcrowreimers.com.

Nicole Smith Nicole Smith is an Artistic Associate with Polarity Ensemble Theatre and has stage managed many shows with the company, including The White Airplane (2008), The Good Harvest (2010), Long Day's Journey Into Night (2010), Ephemera (2011), Peer Gynt (at the DCA Storefront Theater downtown, 2011), and Macbeth (2014). Nicole graduated from Columbia College with a BA in technical theatre. Chicago/regional credits includes Court Theatre, Theatre Seven, Vitalist Theatre, and New Century Theatre (Northhampton, MA).

Maggie Speer Maggie Speer is a seasoned, battle-scarred, bloodied, but never daunted veteran of Chicagoland's theatre scene. She directed Absolution in the Dionysos Cup Festival, appeared in Polarity's Peer Gynt and directed Tom Jones and the world premiere of David Alex's Adrift. Maggie is the Artistic Director of Azusa Productions, where her directing credits include Michael Alessandro's adaptation of Pulp Fiction, Sam Shepard's Chicago and Icarus's Mother (co-director); Fool For Love; Killer's Head; La Turista; The Unseen Hand (co-director); A Lie Of The Mind and Reservoir Dogs (co-director); and Jesse & The Bandit Queen, (co-director). She was also Artistic Director of Waukegan's Bowen Park Theatre Company from 2000 to 2005.
Michael Welles Michael Welles is pleased to join the ultra-talented crew at Polarity. Some of Michael's favorite roles have been Exeter in Henry VAnnie (Daddy Warbucks), Oliver (Fagin), West Side StoryRomeo & Juliet (Tybalt), As You Like It (Orlando) Peter Pan (Captain Hook), Robin Hood, and pulling double duty as the Doctor and Steve in A Streetcar Named Desire in his first show with Polarity. 

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