Artists in Conversation:

Dawn Gray

How Chicago Actors Can Make the Most of a Nurturing Market

Dawn Gray represents many of the city’s most recognizable acting talents, responsible in part for getting Chicago actors into roles in movies such as The Dark Knight, television series like Prison Break and numerous high-profile stage productions at home and abroad. Known for her hands-on, personal approach to representation, we asked Dawn about her career, her take on the local industry, and the common pitfalls of actors looking to move into on-camera work.

Gigi Rosenberg, The Artist’s Guide to Grant Writing

How Artists Can Find Funds

In your book, you write that "A proposal is a creative act like any other." Can you expand upon this comment?

Proposal writing takes time away from all the other things you should be doing like making art, marketing, and grocery shopping. For this reason, I encourage my students to ensure they will benefit from the process of writing a proposal or grant application, even if they don’t win.

Josh Sobel

Nurturing New Work: The Art of Play Development

In many ways, the world of script development is like Gold Rush-era California: thousands of prospectors looking for the best way to identify rich veins and extract theatrical pay dirt. Artists, theatres, arts organizations, and foundations have spent decades and millions of dollars to develop programs that will in turn develop new scripts for the stage, focusing variously on individual playwrights, specific scripts, particular topics, fostering creative teams, and so on.

Ellen Placey Wadey, Poetry Performance Incubator

Tour Guides: An Intersection of Poetry and Theater

Sometimes you come up with a great idea, and sometimes a great idea happens to you. This is a story about the latter. In 2004, I was director of the Guild Complex, and we’d received a National Endowment for the Arts grant to produce a festival of poetry theater. Festival was ambitious.

Kris Vire

Theater and Journalism: Combining My Two Great Loves


In 2009, Kris Vire became only the second Theater Editor of
Time Out Chicago when inaugural editor Christopher Piatt decided to step down. Since its debut in 2005, TOC has become a major source of reviews and news for Chicago's theatre community, quickly earning a reputation on par with much more established publications for its breadth of coverage.

A Sustainable Model for Arts Partnerships

Joanne Vena, Director of School Partnerships, CCAP

How can an artist combine his or her art practice with giving back to the community and, at the same time, make a living? It’s a question many artists face, and it's one answered by few organizations.

Kimberly Senior - Director

Building Bridges

For many aspiring theatre directors, Kimberly Senior's career is a model for success: an East Coast transplant, she moved to Chicago in the mid-’90s with no friends or family nearby and no information about the city other than what she had learned about “this Steppenwolf place” from Broadway press clippings. Fifteen years later, she has become one of the most prolific directors in Chicago.

Kerry Reid - Theatre Critic

Lots and Lots of Shows: The Life of a Freelance Theatre Critic

For many theatre artists, the role of a critic is perpetually bipolar: They’re either the ever-dissatisfied foil or the angel from on high, in either case wielding the power to make or break a show or company in 250 words or less.

Keith Parham

Lessons in Lighting Design

Keith Parham's career has all the hallmarks of the classic Chicago theatre success story: an East Lansing, Michigan, native, he moved to Chicago to attend DePaul's Theatre School, cut his teeth in the city's storefront and regional theatres, rode the wave of a prominent hit (Next Theatre's 2007 musical adaptation of The Adding Machine) to a run in New York and a raft of awards, and is now enjoying the sometimes frenetic life of artist-in-demand. What makes Keith's story unusual is his role: lighting designer.

Judy Natal

Artist Residencies: The Permeable Edges and Moveable Walls of Your Art Practice

Artist-in-Residence (AIR) programs provide unique opportunities for artists to expand their creative practice and broaden their professional networks in ways unimagined while sitting in a studio. And that’s the point: to shake up perspectives and disrupt work habits in pursuit of new inspirations and influences.

Elysabeth Alfano

Elysabeth Alfano - Fear No Art Chicago

Fear No ART Chicago on WTTW: How I Got From There To Here

When I started my first two businesses in the arts, I had no idea what I getting myself into. When I created the TV show "Fear No ART Chicago" and, inadvertently, a production company, I couldn’t have been further from understanding what was involved.

Andrew Hobgood

Crossing Over: Bringing Business to My Art and Art to My Business

In the 19th Century, the dominant form of theatrical production was the actor-manager system: A seasoned actor would form a company, play the leading roles, and take on the financial and organizational responsibilities as the troupe toured the country. The 20th century favored a model where business and art were handled by separate staff. Recently, though, the artist-manager system has experienced a resurgence via the rise of artist-driven “independent” or “storefront” theatre.

Lisa Canning, The Institute for Arts Enterpreneurship

The Artist as Innovator: From “Starving” to Entrepreneurial by Thinking Outside the Box

I am a classical musician: a clarinetist. I’m also a writer, an actress, a visual designer, and an almost 30-year serial arts entrepreneur. If you Google my name or go to any of my websites, it might appear to you that I am more of a business owner than an artist.

Molly Brennan

Learning to Celebrate the Impulse

Molly Brennan is a singular performer—both in her animate, physical presence onstage and in the unique swath of Chicago theater experiences she has amassed. Though many know her name from her much-talked-about (and to some “controversial”) turn as Harpo in the Goodman’s staging of Animal Crackers,

Sarah Mikayla Brown, Chicago Fringe Festival

How and why was the Chicago Fringe Festival conceived?

The first inklings of the Chicago Fringe Festival (CFF) started in the fall of 2008. I had just returned from the Minnesota and NYC Fringes with Tantalus Theatre Group. By November, I was incredibly enthused about starting one in Chicago.

Saya April Hillman

How Does Someone With No Capital and Little Training Become an Artist Who Can Pay the Bills, Not Live at Home with Her Mother, be Debt-Free, and Get an Occasional Pedicure?

It’s my five-year anniversary of self-employment as a documentary filmmaker and digital media artist—a time period during which I’ve worked the hardest I ever have in my professional life—and yet I don’t feel that I’ve worked a day. I excitedly stay in on weekend nights to tinker with a project.

Carolyn Hoerdemann

Finding My Artistic Voice 10 Years After Acting School

Why do we artists
struggle to categorize our work and, by extension, ourselves? Am I an actress
or a theatre artist? For years, I have shamelessly called myself a “theatre
artist.” Perhaps I grew tired of saying “actor” and having to dodge the
question, “You mean ‘actress,’ right?” But what did I really mean?

Scott Aiello

Group 41: Mid-Career Actor Going Back to School

About two years ago, I began to grow restless as a Chicago actor. My career resembled that of many others in the city. I was working regularly at the smaller houses and, on occasion, was invited to play by the bigger Equity companies.  I had an agent, but was only booking about one or two well paying gigs per year.  In other words, I was doing better than some,
but worse than many.

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