Co-Founder / Artistic Director Emeritus
Joyce Hiller Piven was one of the founding members and leading actresses at Playwright’s Theatre, the group that spawned Compass Players and Second City. With Playwright’s Theatre, she played leading roles in Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Seagull, The Dybukk, Round Dance, and Caucasian Chalk Circle and studied extensively with Uta Hagen, Mira Rostova, and Viola Spolin. She and her husband Byrne Piven helped Paul Sills form the Second City Repertory at the Harper Theatre with Bernie Sahlins and Joyce Sloane, as well as the original Story Theatre Company. Ms. Piven is the Co-Founder and Artistic Director Emeritus of the Piven Theatre Workshop and founding director of Piven Theatre Workshop’s famed Young People’s Company. Amongst other directorial credits, Ms. Piven has directed Lili Taylor in the revival of Maria Irene Fornes’ Mud at Victory Gardens and collaborated with Sarah Ruhl for the remounting of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando at the Actor’s Gang in Los Angeles. She has directed countless productions at Piven Theatre, most notably Chekhov plays and stories, including Sarah Ruhl’s adaptation of The Three Sisters. Joyce continues teaching in LA while spending time with her wonderful grandchildren and children, Emmy Award-winning son Jeremy and writer/director daughter Shira. Joyce recently acted in Shira’s second film (Welcome to Me) and directed Ivanov at the Workshop in May 2014, and a staged reading of Noam Friedlander’s The RED. Her new book, In the Studio with Joyce Piven, is an insightful and practical look at a life dedicated to keeping the Story Theatre method and the Piven Theatre Workshop legacy alive and thriving.
Jennifer Green has been a part of the Piven community for almost twenty years. Beginning as a student of Byrne and Joyce Piven, Jennifer became part of the Workshop faculty in 1993 teaching theatre games, improvisation, story theatre and scene study to both young people and adults since 1997, she has also been an adapter and director with Piven's acclaimed Young People's Company. At Piven Theatre, Jennifer's professional directing credits include Never in my Lifetime (named one of the Top 10 Shows of the year by the Chicago Sun-Times), Burn This (Jeff Recommended), Book of Days (Chicago premiere), Mad Forest (After Dark Award: Best Ensemble), Our Country’s Good, Great Expectations (world premiere), Lady Chaplin and Her Tramp (world premiere), Mad Dancers (Chicago premiere), Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me (Jeff Recommended), and Tusk Tusk (U.S. premiere). Other directorial credits include: State and Madison: The Chicago Grid with Theatre 7’s Chicago Landmark Project, Pangs of the Messiah at Silk Road Theatre Project, The End of Civilization as We Know It for the Ripped Project with American Blues Theater, Storybox with the Chicago Improv Festival, For You Were a Stranger at The Hothouse, Orlando (assistant director) at the Actor’s Gang in Los Angeles. She is a Theatre Communications Group's New Generation Fellow, an adjunct faculty member of Northwestern University, and has been a teaching artist with Urban Gateways, the Illinois Arts Council, Marwen, DePaul University, and National-Louis University.
Bernie Beck has been leading theater games classes at the Piven Theatre Workshop for more than thirty years. He was among the first members of the original Workshop on Davis Street in Evanston, and he has studied, taught and performed with the Workshop ever since. His children were students at the Workshop, as well. He began studying theater games more than forty years ago, when he moved to Chicago to become a sociologist at Northwestern University. He was introduced to the games by Paul Sills the pioneer of the form, and he has also studied with Paul’s mother, Viola Spolin, who adapted games to theatrical work, as well as Sheldon Patinkin, and Barbara Harris. He has appeared on stage in Chicago for four decades. He was a member of the first Story Theater ensemble, led by Paul Sills, and he first worked with Joyce and Byrne Piven in that group. He performed in all the early productions of the Workshop, in which Story Theater was developed as a medium for presenting great literature in addition to the folk tales that were the earliest sources. He has also been active in Chicago area theatrical ventures focused on Jewish themes, including many shows at the National Jewish Theater and the Chicago Jewish Theater, and he was a member of the Yiddish Arts Ensemble, which presented adaptations of Jewish stories in collaboration with the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band. He was well known to Chicago area Jewish children as Herschel in the Ensemble’s production of Herschel and the Hanukkah Goblins. He has also appeared in many shows on some of Chicago’s leading stages, including the Organic Theater, Victory Gardens Theater, Wisdom Bridge Theater, St. Nicholas Theater, and Drury Lane. He is particularly pleased with his role as Al Capone’s lawyer on several episodes of the television series, The Untouchables, shot in Chicago. Although he is retired now from Northwestern, he continues to be active in sociological and popular cultural issues as a film and television writer for the journal Multicultural Perspectives and as a frequently quoted source for local journalists.
Liz Bell has studied at Piven Theatre for the last fifteen years where she was a member of both youth performance ensembles, Performance Project and YPC. Since 2007 she has worked with Piven as apprentice and assistant teacher, while pursuing her BFA at Savannah College of Art and Design, and is happy to join the faculty as a co-teacher.
The Workshop’s focus on raw self-expression and relationships, both to individuals as well as an ensemble, not only informs her acting, but inspires all of her work. In addition, Liz is a freelance illustrator and Reiki practitioner based in Evanston. She often volunteers with the Midwest Reiki Community. Just for fun, she is a competitive ballroom dancer.
Sarah Bendix is a local director, performer and designer. She has worked with Manifest Theater, Redmoon, Ravenous Productions, Trap Door Theater, Greasy Joan, The Piven Theater and others. Her work has also been seen at the Around the Coyote Festival, Rhinoceros Festival, Links Hall, the Gwenda Jay/Addington Gallery, Peter Jones Gallery and the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art.
Eva Breneman is a voice, dialect and acting coach in Chicago, where she has lived for the past 16 years. Chicagoland credits include: Brothers/Sisters Plays, Perfect Mendacity, and The Diary of Anne Frank (Steppenwolf); The Farnsworth Invention; When She Danced, History Boys, Fiorello (Timeline); A Life, The Lieutenant of Inishmore and Grey Gardens (Northlight); The Overwhelming (Next Theatre); Fedra, Around the World in 80 Days, Black Diamond, and The Old Curiosity Shop (Lookingglass); Carousel (Court); The Maids and The Puppet Master of Lodz (Writer’s Theatre); The Light in Piazza (Goodman Theatre); The Voysey Inheritance, and Bronte (Remy Bumppo); Nine (Porchlight); Candle to the Sun (Eclipse); Aristocrats (StrawDog); Moby Dick (Milwaukee Rep); Blithe Spirir (Madison Repertory); Denmark (Victory Gardens). Regional and Off-Broadway credits include: Mama Mia! (National Tour) and Mama Mia! (Las Vegas); and Around the World in 80 Days (Centerstage Baltimore and Kansas City Repertory Theatre). Television credits include: Pleading Guilty (pilot, Fox); The Beast (A&E Television); and Caught in the Act (Lifetime Television). Eva is an Associate Artist at Timeline, and a Production Affiliate of Lookingglass Theatre Company. She holds an MA from The Central School of Speech and Drama in London, and a BFA from NYU/Tisch School of the Arts. She is the proud aunt of Ramsey, Leo and little Miss No-name Kattlick Kingham of Hong Kong.
Audre Budrys is a Chicago area actor who has performed with Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Romuva Productions, Theatre at the Center, Mary Arrchie Theatre, Emerald City Productions, Chamber Theatre Productions of Boston, MA. She has performed evenings of poetry in Chicago, Washington DC, and Detroit, as well as in Vilnius and Siauliai, Lithuania. In 2007, her one woman show Une Baye was presented as part of the Rhinoceros Theater Festival. After receiving her undergraduate degree in theatre from Northwestern University, Audre lived in Lithuania, where she performed with the Drama Theatre of Siauliai for a season, appearing in two original Lithuanian works, and toured Lithuania with these productions. She also acted with the Drama Theatre of Kaunas. Audre was the company manager of the first Lithuanian International Theatre Festival, LIFE. Later Audre went back to Northwestern to earn a Master’s degree in education. She has taught drama at Nativity B.V.M. School on Chicago’s southwest side, improvisation for adults at Players Workshop, and in 1999 co-founded a Lithuanian-American community theatre. Audre is very happy to be teaching at Piven Theatre Workshop, a place where students are guided to seek their own wellsprings of creativity, are encouraged to find and share their voices, and are able to discover the joy of making theatre in a supportive environment.
Marcia Cahn has taught at Piven (beginning, advanced, and project class) for over twenty years. She has taught creative drama for Chicagoland Jewish Community Centers pre-school/daycare system for twenty years. She has also taught drama to special populations through The Insitute for Therapy In the Arts. She has a B.S. and M.S. degree.
Robin is an award-winning playwright, stage director, and teaching artist based in Chicago. Her play ROSA LUBLIN (produced by Piven Theatre) won the Joseph Jefferson Award (Equity) for “Best New Adaptation.” Honored for her direction as well (“One of the 10-Best Productions of the Year” - Pioneer Press), she was invited by the College of DuPage to remount ROSA LUBLIN and direct Julia Pascal’s THE DYBBUK. Other favorite Chicago productions include John Patrick Shanley’s THE BIG FUNK (Joseph Jefferson Award-Nominated) for Clock Productions, THE ILLUSION (Joseph Jefferson Award-Recommended) for the Piven Theatre, and the critically acclaimed COOL SHOES for Collaboraction Theatre Company’s Sketchbook Festival. Ms. Chaplik has worked with numerous other theatres in Chicago including Steppenwolf, Redmoon, Strawdog, Raven, Fox Theatricals, Bailiwick, and Babes with Blades. From 2000 to 2007, Ms. Chaplik was a Resident Artist with Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s renowned Steppenwolf For Young Adults program where she specialized in arts integration, professional development, and curriculum design. Her innovative work has been featured on Chicago Educator on CPS-TV and in The National Council of Teachers’ English Journal. She has taught and lectured at the University of Chicago, the Art Institute of Chicago, Northwestern University, the Terra Foundation of American Art, DePaul University, Loyola University,Valparaiso University, Northeastern University’s Chicago Teachers’ Center, and the Chicago Public Schools Best Practices Conference. Ms. Chaplik is a graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts (Experimental Theater Wing) where she studied and performed with Anne Bogart and Mary Overlie, the originators of Viewpoints and Composition. She has designed and taught numerous Viewpoints and Composition workshops and courses for students and performers of all ages.
Fun Fact: Ms. Chaplik was awarded the Manhattan Women in the Arts Gold Medallion “for presenting positive images of women in the popular arts” for her Marvel Comics miniseries SHE-HULK: CEREMONY (reprinted in the 2010 hardcover omnibus WOMEN OF MARVEL: CELEBRATING SEVEN DECADES). She is the author of over a dozen electronic children’s books for Nickelodean, Sesame Street, Hasbro, and Pixar/Disney.
Erica Daniels has been the Director of Casting and Director of the School at Steppenwolf Theatre Company since 2001 where she cast the Broadway productions of August: Osage County and Superior Donuts.. Prior, to returning to Chicago where Erica worked as an agent for Geddes, Arlene Wilson and Shirley Hamilton she spent a year as The Theatre Department Coordinator at William Morris in New York. Working under George Lane, she worked with such writers as John Patrick Shanley, Richard Greenberg, Warren Leight and Kenny Lonergan and directors such as Michael Mayer, Mark Brokaw, James Lapine, Robert Falls and Daniel Sullivan. Erica began her career as a casting assistant at Jane Brody casting. She has freelanced w/ various Chicago companies such as Lookingglass, Collaboraction, About Face and Profiles. Erica teaches Scene Study for adults and teens at The Acting Studio Chicago and has lectured about the "Business of Theatre" and "Audition Techniques" at Colleges and Universities around the Mid-West (among them: UIC, Northwestern University, Brown University, Ball State University, Southern Methodist University, DePaul University, Illinois State University, University of Illinois, Ashland University in Ohio, Columbia College, University of Illinois Chicago, and The Chicago College for the Performing Arts). Erica holds a degree in Performance Studies from Northwestern.
Larry Grimm has been affiliated with Piven as an actor or teacher for over 15 years. He appeared as Edmond in King Lear which starred Byrne Piven and was directed by Shira Piven, toured story theater to Chicago schools with Urban Gateways, and recently appeared in Because They Have No Words at the Workshop (Jeff Nomination: Best Ensemble). Other credits include Steppenwolf (Wolf Lullaby, A Fair Country, I Never Sang for My Father) Lookingglass (1984, The Naked King) Raven Theatre (Death of Salesman, Glass Menagerie). A recipient of the Joseph Jefferson Citation, Larry is a company member of a Red Orchid theater where he has acted and directed in countless shows.
Gillian Hemme is an actor, writer, and theatre teacher in Chicago. She has studied at Grinnell College, the National Theatre Institute, and Piven Theatre Workshop. Gillian has appeared on stage with Piven, Something Marvelous, Prop Thtr, Jubilee Theatre Collective, Prologue, the Chicago Fringe Festival, and the International Theatre Festival in Taiwan. Her on-camera credits include Mind Games and videos for The Onion. At Piven, she teaches PEEP (Piven Empowerment through Enrichment Program) classes for adults with developmental disabilities, directs for Performance Project, and she recently established the Piven Prison Program at Cook County Jail along with fellow Piven teacher Beth Voitik.
Ryan Kitley has worked in Los Angeles and Chicago for nearly 20 years as an actor, an improviser, a director, and an acting teacher. He is a member of SAG, AFTRA, and AEA with his MFA in acting from the Theatre School at DePaul University. Film and television credits include Miss March, San Gabriel, Dream Slashers, Soul Survivors, Barbershop II, Laqueus, The Heart of the Matter, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Turks, and Early Edition, in addition to many commercials, and industrials. Ryan also works as a voice-over artist and has created the voices of several characters for the Lucas Arts video game, Old Republic. Theatre credits include major roles at The Matrix Theater, The Colony Theater, The Organic Theatre, Mercury Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Shattered Globe Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Piven Theatre Workshop, Theatre at the Center, Meadow Brook Theatre, Journeymen, Free Associates, and Talisman Theatre. Ryan received two Jeff Citation nominations for his role as Nick in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Austin in The Big Funk. As an improviser Ryan has studied and performed at ImprovOlympic, The Second City Training Center, The Piven Theater Workshop, and The Westside Eclectic. For the past 10 years he has worked as a teaching artist for various acting schools and programs in Chicago and LA. He was born and raised on the Jersey Shore - exit 109. Ryan and his wife Kelley have three kids, Connor, Maggie, and Murphy who always seem to make life a little more interesting!
Rebecca Kling has worked with The Piven Theatre Workshop, first as a student and now as a teacher, for the last fifteen years. A Chicago-based performance artist, Rebecca is interested in the performance of gender and identity, which she explores through multimedia productions. She graduated from Northwestern University’s Department of Performance Studies with an Adjunct Major in Animate Arts, and is on the Pride Films and Plays board of director. Rebecca has performed with About Face Theatre, Northwestern University, Links Hall, the Chicago Fringe Festival and spoken at Chicago-area high schools and universities on topics relating to gender and sexuality.
Catherine Lynch is a freelance filmmaker based in Chicago. She is an experienced actress, editor, producer and director. Fascinated from an early age by bringing stories to life, Catherine’s career in the arts begain in 1995 at The Piven Theatre Workshop. It was there that her passion for performance and group improvisation was kindled. The Piven Method’s emphasis on finding the balance between self-expression and responsibility to the group has not only been the guiding principle of Catherine’s acting, but inspires all of her work to this day.
Becky is a director, performer, puppeteer, and writer. In Chicago, she has worked with a number of physical performance and devising groups such as Lucid Street Theater, Elefant Foot Theater, Redmoon, and Theater Un-Speak-Able. Her passion for physical, present, truthful, and engaged storytelling is constantly fueled at the Piven Theater Workshop.
Donna Osowski has studied at Piven Theatre for over ten years and has been on the Piven faculty since 2005. She appeared in the production A Festival of Jewish Stories directed by Joyce Piven, directed for Piven’s acclaimed Performance Project Group, and has also worked as a production assistant on several shows at the Workshop. Additionally, she has appeared in staged readings, worked as a stage manager in Chicago, and holds a Bachelor's degree in theatre from Illinois State University.
Susan Payne is equally at home on the opera and theater stage. Susan began her dramatic training at Piven at the age of nine and has never left her theater home. She believes that the foundation she received at Piven is the basis upon which all her artistic endeavors stand. She is an alumnus of the Young People’s Company and has been teaching at Piven for the past ten years. Susan’s opera credits include Fiordiligi in Cosi fan tutte, Violetta in La Traviata and Marenka in The Bartered Bride. She is the winner of the City Opera of the Quad Cities Emerging Professionals Award as well as the Musicians Club of Women Farwell Award among others. Her recital performances of Barber, Strauss and De Falla have been noted for the same dramatic and vocal artistry displayed in her operatic roles. Susan received her M.F.A from DePaul University and continued her studies at the International Institute of Vocal Arts and The Intermezzo Young Artists Training Program. Her most recent theater credits include performances at the 365 Festival, Poonies Cabaret and Around the Coyote Festival. Susan encourages all her students to come find a place and a voice at Piven.
Abby Pierce was most recently in Rolling (Jackalope Theater) and will be in the upcoming play Naperville (Theatre Wit). Other Chicago credits include: With Loveand a Major Organ (Strawdog Theatre Company), Heat Wave (Steppenwolf Garage) and Rapture, Blister, Burn (u/s Goodman Theatre). Other regional credits include: Richard III, Cymbeline (Ricardo Montalban Theatre); Proof, Sideman (Del Rey Theatre); Romeo and Juliet (Geffen Playhouse, OP). Directing credits include: The Pillowman, Rabbit Hole, Coyote and the Origin of Death, Only You, and Man Vs.Suit. Film and TV credits include: Chicago PD, TBS’s Rooftop Stand Up Comedy Hour, Game Day, Blur, The Way To Go, and Silo. Abby is a graduate of The School at Steppenwolf, and is currently a teacher at Piven Theatre, Beacon Academy, and Cook County Jail (with the Prison Project).
Jonathan Pitts is the Co-Founder of the Chicago Improv Festival, as well as the Creator and Founder of the College Comedy Championship, the Teen Comedy Fest and CIF's many education outreach programs. For the past 10 years he’s been a Guest Artist Faculty Member of The Second City Training Center and he has also taught improv, theatre workshops, and Artist-In-Residence programming for After School Matters, Beverly Arts Center, Richards High School Brave New Workshop, Chicago Academy for the Arts, Chicago Park District, DePaul University’s Writing Program, Dirty South Improv Festival, Free Street Theater, Illinois High School Theatre Fest, Magic City, Redmoon Theater, Southwest Theatre Fest, London’s The Spontaneity Shop, and Very Special Arts. As a creator/director of spontaneous theatre, performance art, original productions, and sketch comedy, he has created/directed several shows including Storybox's World Tales; Storybox; Double Play; Viola Spolin: Visionary Woman of Play; The Xprovisation Series; The Silent Movie; The Oracle; Chimes; The Answer; Kidz Writes; Sybil‘s Playhouse; and Phantasmagoria Improvisational Theatre. As an improviser he has performed in over 1,000 improvised shows with several improv ensembles across America including iO’s first ever House Team, Stone Soup. As an actor he has appeared in over 30 productions with numerous Chicago area theatre companies.
Mikalina Rabinsky is a theater artist living in Chicago. A senior teacher at the Piven Theatre since 1998, she has been a student of the workshop since childhood. For many years she has directed for the Young People’s Company and teaches classes in Improvisation, Story Theatre, Scene Study and Commedia dell’Arte to both children and adults. She has been engaged as a performer, a puppet, mask and spectacle creator, assistant director and director for numerous theatres including Piven Theatre, Manifest Theatre, Redmoon, Blair Thomas and Company, Local Infinities, Ravenous Productions, Northlight, Jen Onopa and Company and Ba Boom. She is a co-founder with Sarah Bendix of the visual theatre company The Waters Project where she co-created and co-directed both The Snow Queen in 2005 (in the inaugural Piven Performance Lab) and Le Cat Show in 2007. Her work has been seen at Links Hall, The Ukrainian Institute of Art, Around the Coyote, Chicago’s Her-Ra Festival, Heart of Gold, The Spare Room, Rhythm Night Club and Millennium Park. Her interest lies in pursuing performance projects that challenge the boundaries between artistic genres and academic disciplines and has primarily taken the form of adapted myths, fairytales, ethnographic and personal performances, as well as outdoor spectacle.
Roger Smart has directed extensively in North America and taught at conservatory and university training programs in the UK and USA. Originally educated in England, he has trained with Catherine Fitzmaurice and is a Certified Associate Teacher of Fitzmaurice Voicework®. Roger has taught with Catherine Fitzmaurice on a number of workshops; taught a five-day workshop at Giving Voice 2008 at the Centre for Performance Research in Wales; and as a guest artist at the London Academy of Dramatic Art and the Insitut del Teatre in Barcelona. Roger’s training and practice also includes a number of somatic disciplines including Contact Improv, Suzuki training, Viewpoints, and T'ai Chi. He is also trained in Shiatsu and Reiki.
Joanne Underwood is a senior teacher and artistic associate at the Piven Theatre where she has taught a wide range of classes to both children and adults over the past ten years. She appeared as Cordelia in King Lear starring Byrne Piven and Florina in Mad Forest (2003 After Dark Award: Best Ensemble) and numerous other productions at the Piven Theatre, greasy joan and company, and Raven Theatre and has studied acting with the Moscow Art Theatre, Shakespeare & Company, and the Chicago Shakespeare Company. She has taught acting workshops at many schools and organizations throughout the Chicagoland area such as Apple Tree Theatre, Roosevelt University, and Dance Center of Evanston. In addition, Joanne is a psychotherapist in private practice in Evanston and is affiliated with the C.G. Jung Center’s June Singer Clinic for Depth Psychology.
BETH VOITIK, MSW, LSW
Beth Voitik is an alum of the Young People's Company and received her undergraduate degree in Sociology & Cultural Anthropology from the University of Dayton. After a year of service with Americorps in Denver, she came back to her native Chicago and received a type 3 teaching certificate and taught for 4 years. Beth received her Masters of Social Work from Loyola University Chicago in 2013 and was invited to join the Alpha Sigma Nu Honor Society. During her first year Master’s level internship, Beth provided individual therapy, and art, music and sensory group therapy to adults with developmental disabilities. In her second year internship at Illinois Masonic Hospital’s Cancer Center, she received an American Cancer Society Master’s Level Training Grant in Clinical Oncology Social Work and provided individual and family therapy to adults with cancer and their families. After receiving her MSW, Beth became a License Social Worker and started working for the PACE Program (Professional Assistance Center for Education) at National Louis University. At the PACE Program Beth provides independent living skills training to young adults with multiple learning disabilities. In addition, Beth has trained at Piven Theatre Workshop since junior high and was invited to join their teacher training program after returning to Chicago. Beth began teaching Theatre Games & Story Theatre classes to children & teens in 2008. In 2012, Beth became the lead teacher for Piven’s PEEP class (Piven Empowerment through Enrichment Program) for adults with developmental disabilities. She is a member of Piven’s Improvisation Ensemble, and loves exploring communal creative processes with all ages and abilities.
Emelia is an actor, director and artist living and working in Chicago. She is an alumna of the Young People's Company and has been a student of the Workshop for over ten years. Since 2012 Emelia has been Artistic Director of Forget Me Not Theatre Company which strives to give space to artists hungry to communicate with the larger community. She believes in the power of ensemble, hard work, and embracing the unknown.
Arabella Anderson, Carlo Aparo, Brent Barnes, Emily Broderick, Lucy Carr, Alli Cochrane, Kelly Connolly, Caitlin DeLong, Carrie Graham, Morven Higgins, James Jauss, Kaleigh Jerkatis, Michael Kessler, Laura Lapidus, Jessye Mueller, Angelique Mukandamage, Brennan Roche, Shizue Roche-Adachi, Kate Schultz, Jordan Siegal, Kira Silverstein, Emma Thatcher, Ethan Ucker, Sierra Vaughn-Gabor, Jenny Weiner, Marc Wilson