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Steep Theatre Expands Ensemble


Laura Alcalá Baker, Debo Balogun, Chris Chmelik, Destini Huston, Omer Abbas Salem, and Joe Schermoly are Steep’s newest Ensemble Members.

Steep Theatre Expands Ensemble

Steep Theatre will welcome several new members to its ensemble of artists. Laura Alcalá Baker, Debo Balogun, Chris Chmelik, Destini Huston, Omer Abbas Salem, and Joe Schermoly are Steep's newest Ensemble Members. All six of these artists have played pivotal roles in Steep's artistic development over the past several years, and the company is honored to have them involved in shaping the organization's future.

Long-time Artistic Associates Catherine Allen, Kristin Leahey, Emily McConnell, Jon Ravenscroft, Dan Stratton, Brandon Wardell, and Chelsea M. Warren have taken on new roles in the company as Ensemble Members. Steep is thrilled to recognize these artists' years of exceptional work with the company and welcome them into the ensemble.

New Ensemble Members

Laura Alcalá Baker
Steep Credits: The Leopard Play, or sad songs for lost boys
Laura Alcalá Baker (she/her/hers) is a Chicago-based director and casting director. She served as the Casting Director/Artistic Programs Manager at Victory Gardens Theater from 2016-2019, leading programs such as The Access Project and Directors' Inclusion Initiative. Laura recently directed The Way She Spoke: A Docu-mythologia (DCASE, Greenhouse Theater Center). She also directed the audio drama BRAVA by Nancy Garcia Loza (Make-Believe Association) which is available on all podcast platforms. Other select works include: The Pillowman (The Gift Theatre); Equivocation, The Giver, 11:11, and Collapse (B Street Theater); There is No Message in the Message and Shamed (The Gift Theatre's TEN), Project Potential (Broken Nose Theatre's Bechdel Fest), and Jets, Sharks, and Beckys (Collaboraction's Peacebook Festival). Laura has continually sought out creative means for accessibility in the theatre through directing programs such as Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium's Access Live, which provides theatre leaders a live example of growing practices integrated with accessibility in mind. She has led new play workshops and readings in institutions such as The New Colony, Paramount Theatre, and The Goodman. Laura is a proud member of the Alliance of Latinx Theatre Artists and was nominated for Best Casting Director at the 2018 ALTA Awards and Best Director for Brava at the 2019 ALTA Awards. She was also Jeff Award-nominated for Best Director for her work on The Leopard Play, or sad songs for lost boys.

Debo Balogun
Steep Credits: Zürich; Red Rex
Debo Balogun (he/him/his) is a Chicago-based artist whose Chicago theatre credits include roles at the Goodman, Lookingglass Theatre, Oak Park Festival Theatre, First Folio Theatre, Nothing Without a Company, and Definition Theatre. He is an Artistic Associate with Oak Park Festival Theatre and proud member of SAG-AFTRA. When not acting, he can be found trying his hand at new recipes, writing poetry, recording music, constructing playlists, and lovingly annoying his dog Rosa.

Chris Chmelik
Steep Credits: The Hollow Lands; Motortown; Lela & Co.; Red Rex
Chris Chmelik (he/him/his) is an actor and performer and was a founding member of The Inconvenience, a multidisciplinary arts group here in Chicago. As an actor and performer Chris has worked at Steppenwolf, Chicago Shakespeare, Jackalope, Lifeline, The Black Ensemble Theatre and many more. He has also appeared on television and film. Chris received his BFA in Acting from The Theatre School at DePaul.

Destini Huston
Steep Credits: Linda; Ellis Island (with Chicago Sinfonietta); First Love is the Revolution
Destini Huston (she/her/hers) was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she attended solely art-based schools. Developing a passion for performing at a young age, Destini practiced dance (modern, jazz, ballet, hip hop), and moved on to memorizing plays, rather than Seinfeld reruns. Since graduating with her BA (Film/ TV Writing and Acting minor) from Columbia College Chicago, Destini has had the pleasure to work with The Onion, Chicago Fire, and a collection of web series. Some of her theatre credits include Disney's High School Musical, (Minneapolis Children's Theatre), and A Midsummer Night's Dream and Cinderella (Stages). Most recently, Destini was proud to work with TimeLine Theatre for Cardboard Piano. Outside of "the biz," Destini can be found shooting short films of her own, dancing, and snacking.

Omer Abbas Salem
Actor, Playwright
Steep Credits: Earthquakes in London; Linda; Ellis Island (with Chicago Sinfonietta)
Omer Abbas Salem (he/him/his) has lived in Chicago since 2011 and loves being a part of this vibrant and thoughtful theater community. [Omer] Abbas is an actor and playwright, and he worked as a bartender at The Boxcar(do you like having that in there?). As an actor, Abbas has worked with The House Theatre, Jackalope Theatre, The New Colony, Silk Road Rising, Bailiwick, Griffin Theatre, Eclipse Theatre, Actors Theatre of Louisville, The Atlantic Theater, and Roundabout Theater. As a playwright, he has been produced by The Actors Theatre of Louisville, The New Colony, Jackalope Theatre, Theatre Viscera, Means of Production, Definition Theatre, and Steppenwolf Theatre. His play Mosque4Mosque is part of Steppenwolf Theatre's SCOUT Program's 20/21 development. He was an Actors Theatre of Louisville acting apprentice (17/18) and is also a proud ensemble member of The New Colony.

Joe Schermoly
Scenic Designer
Steep Credits: Wastwater; Lela & Co.; Birdland; Linda; Red Rex; Pomona
Joe Schermoly (he/him/his) is a scenic designer who has found enormous joy and inspiration working with Steep's ensemble on the challenging and fantastic shows that make up a Steep season. Other Chicago credits include Yasmina's Necklace (Goodman Theatre); Constellations (Steppenwolf Theatre); Hand to God, Samsara (Victory Gardens); Puff: Believe it or Not, Pirandello's Henry IV, Travesties (Remy Bumppo); Naperville, The Watson Intelligence, Mr. Burns, Seven Homeless Mammoths, Completeness (Theatre Wit); Pocatello, Titanic, Spelling Bee, Flare Path, Punk Rock, Port, Constant Wife (Griffin); Stupid Fucking Bird, Idomeneus, The Ugly One (Sideshow); The Seafarer, Lay Me Down Softly (Irish Theatre of Chicago). Joe studied scenic design at Northwestern University, has received two Equity Jeff Awards, two After Dark Awards and five Jeff Nominations.

Artistic Associates Becoming Ensemble Members

Catherine Allen
Production Manager
Steep Credits: The Few; Bobbie Clearly; The Invisible Hand; Hinter; Birdland; Zürich; First Love is the Revolution; Pomona; The Leopard Play, or sad songs for lost boys
Catherine Allen (she/her/hers) is a production manager whose credits include work with Porchlight Music Theatre, Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, About Face Theatre, Sideshow Theatre, Griffin Theatre, Route 66, Congo Square, Haven Theatre, and many circuses with Actors Gymnasium, where she is the staff Production Manager. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where she received a BFA in Acting.

Kristin Leahey
Steep Credits: Moment; Making Noise Quietly; Motortown; A Small Fire
Kristin Leahey (she/her/hers) served as the Director of New Works at Seattle Repertory Theatre, the Resident Dramaturg at Northlight Theatre, and, prior to that post, the Literary Manager at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. She has freelanced as an artist with the O'Neill Theater Center, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Play On Shakespeare!, Arizona Theatre Company, Orlando Shakes, LA's Ammo Theatre Company, Providence's Trinity Repertory Theatre, NY's Primary Stages, NY's Classical Stage Company, Playwrights' Center, Dallas Theater Center, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Guthrie Theater, MN's Jungle Theater, WA's Village Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, The Goodman Theatre, The Lark, The Kennedy Center, The Old Globe, the Indiana Repertory Theatre, Cleveland Play House, Victory Gardens Theater, American Theatre Company, Collaboraction, Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, Redmoon, Boston's New Repertory Theatre, Actors' Shakespeare Project, Ireland's Galway Arts Festival, Teatro Luna, Teatro Vista (artistic associate), and A Red Orchid Theatre, among others. She is an Assistant Professor, Dramatic Literature & Dramaturgy at Boston University and holds a Ph.D. from The University of Texas at Austin, earned her MA in Theatre from Northwestern University, and her BA from Tufts University. She serves as the co-editor of Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas official journal Review. She's presented her scholarship at Performance Studies International, American Society for Theatre Research, Arts Patronage Conference at Oxford University, Association for Theatre in Higher Education, the International Federation of Theatre Research, and American Alliance in Theatre Education (Book Awards Committee Chair). She's served as a scholar/artist-in-residence at Weber State University, Walla Walla University, and the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Festival. Her publications include articles in Theatre Topics, Theatre History, and Theatre Studies, and she has taught at Cornish College, DePaul University, the University of Chicago, Columbia College, Loyola University Chicago, The University of Texas at Austin, and Lake Michigan College. Leahey is a board member at Seattle's Intiman Theatre. She is a Producer with the WP 2020-22 Lab in New York City and is a 2021recipient of a Fulbright.

Emily McConnell
Costume Designer
Steep Credits: In Arabia We'd All Be Kings; The Hollow Lands; Lakeboat; Luther; The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle; The Few; Wastwater; Birdland; Mosquitoes
Emily McConnell (she/her/hers) spends most of her time as Resident Costume Designer for Roosevelt University's Chicago College of the Performing Arts, where she has designed over 70 productions. Recent freelance projects include The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Michigan Shakespeare Festival), Hatfield and McCoy (The House), Mr. Burns and Machinal (Loyola University), Fair Maid of the West (Oak Park Festival Theatre), Interrogation (Artistic Home), and Side Man (American Blues Theatre). She received her MFA from Northwestern University and is a proud member of USA 829.

Jon Ravenscroft
Stage Manager
Steep Credits: Harper Regan; Pornography; Moment; The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle; Earthquakes in London; Birdland; Red Rex; The Leopard Play, or sad songs for lost boys
Jon Ravenscroft ("JR") (he/him/his) joined the Steep family officially as an Artistic Associate in 2017. Since 2010, JR has been a frequent collaborator at Steep - stage managing 10 shows and assisting with numerous other programs, events, and virtual projects. Elsewhere in Chicago, JR has made work with Griffin Theatre, Haven Theatre, Caffeine Theatre, Theater Seven, Lifeline Theatre and Strawdog, among others. Outside of the theatre, you may run into JR in a Chicago Park where he runs the Chicago Park District's Movies in the Parks program and directs the Chicago Onscreen Local Film Showcase. An Indiana native, JR moved to Chicago in 2005 to study at the Theatre School at DePaul University and is now a happy Chicagoan, a proud Rogers Park resident, and thrilled to have an artistic home at Steep.

Dan Stratton
Scenic Designer
Steep Credits: Kill the Old and Torture their Young; Lakeboat; Festen; Love and Money; Moment; The Knowledge; Fallow; Motortown; The Vandal; Brilliant Adventures
Dan Stratton (he/him/his) is a set designer and visual artist who has worked in Chicago, San Francisco, and New York. He studied art at the University of Michigan and received his MFA from Northwestern University. He taught stage design at Columbia College in Chicago and North Central College. He currently teaches art and English in Taipei City, Taiwan. Design credits include Balm in Gilead (Griffin Theatre); Kill Floor (American Theater Company); A Kid Like Jake (About Face Theatre); Othello (The Gift Theatre), The Tennessee Williams Project (The Hypocrites); Paulus, The Lake Effect, and Invasion! (Silk Road Rising); The Beautiful Dark (RedTwist Theatre); The Aliens (A Red Orchid Theatre); Posh (Fool's Fury); Peter Pan: A Play (Lookingglass Theatre); Suicide Inc. (Gift Theatre Company); Abigail's Party (A Red Orchid Theatre); and R.U.R. (Strawdog Theatre Company).

Brandon Wardell
Scenic & Lighting Designer
Steep Credits: The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui; In Arabia We'd All Be Kings; The Hollow Lands; Harper Regan; A Brief History of Helen of Troy; Pornography; Love and Money; strangers, babies; If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet; Brilliant Adventures; The Cheats; Wastwater; Earthquakes in London; Lela & Co.; Birdland; Linda; Pomona; Mosquitoes
Brandon Wardell (he/him/his) is a Lighting and Scenic Designer whose work has been seen at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, TimeLine Theatre Company, Writers Theatre, Remy Bumppo Theatre Company, Windy City Playhouse, Griffin Theatre Company, Adventure Stage Chicago, and American Players Theatre. Brandon is an Associate Professor at Northern Illinois University and is a member of United Scenic Artists.

Chelsea M. Warren
Scenic Designer
Steep Credits: The Hollow Lands; Harper Regan; A Brief History of Helen of Troy; Pornography; Luther; If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet; A Small Fire; Martyr; The Cheats
Chelsea M. Warren (she/her/hers) is a multidisciplinary artist with a focus on scenic design, puppetry, and devised theatre. As a scenic designer she has worked at companies including Steppenwolf Theatre, Jungle Theater, Penumbra Theatre, Victory Gardens Theatre, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Cleveland Playhouse, Studio Theatre, Milwaukee Rep, Adventure Stage Chicago, and Lifeline Theatre. As a puppet designer she has worked at Seep Theatre, Jungle Theater, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Studio Theatre, WaterTower Theatre and Skokie Valley Symphony Orchestra. She was the recipient of the Michael Maggio Emerging Designer Award. Ms. Warren received her MFA at Northwestern University and is an Assistant Professor of Set Design at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. She currently resides in the Twin Cities and can be found walking around lakes (like a true Minnesotan) with her husband Brett and dog Bazil.

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