All-New Chicago Cast Set for Regional Debut of MEN ON BOATS at ATC

By: Oct. 05, 2016
American Theater Company (ATC) announces casting for its regional premiere of Men on Boats by Jaclyn Backhaus, Jan. 6-Feb. 12, 2017, immediately following the production's acclaimed Off Broadway run directed by ATC Artistic Director Will Davis at Playwrights Horizons. Davis also helms the ATC production, with an all new Chicago cast.

Telling the tale of ten explorers who set out on four boats to map the raging rapids of the Green and Colorado Rivers on the government's first sanctioned expedition in the American West, Men on Boats is performed by a genderfluid cast of women and folks otherwise defined. Casting for ATC's regional premiere includes ATC Ensemble Member Kelly O'Sullivan (WilLiam Dunn) and ATC Youth Ensemble alumna Lawren Carter (Hall), with Erin Barlow (Frank Goodman), Arti Ishak (John Colton Sumner), Brittney Love Smith (Bradley), Deanna Myers (Seneca Howland), Avi Roque (O.G. Howland), Stephanie Shum (Hawkins), Kelli Simpkins (John Wesley Powell) and Lauren Sivak (Old Shady).

Single tickets for Men on Boats range from $20-$38 and are available by calling the ATC box office at 773-409-4125, or visiting Season subscriptions are also on sale now and range from $40-$112.50, with special pricing available for members under the age of 35.

"Men on Boats speaks to the heart of ATC's new chapter with its ambitious theatricality," says ATC Artistic Director Will Davis. "Set on four boats in the middle of the Grand Canyon, the production uses the handmade power of the theater to invoke the wild Colorado river and the 1869 expedition of John Wesley Powell. ATC's commitment to inclusive casting means this story of American masculinity and bravado will be brought to life by a gender fluid cast exploring the legacy of manifest destiny."


Erin Barlow (Frank Goodman) returns to ATC. Chicago credits include The Secretaries (About Face Theatre); Fulfillment (American Theater Company); All Our Tragic (2015 Equity Jeff Winner - Best Ensemble), Three Sisters, Sophocles: Seven Sicknesses, No Exit and Woyzeck (The Hypocrites); Entry, or You Think You Know Me (Goodman Theatre's Playwright's Unit); Red Angelsi, Soldiers: The Desert Stand, and The Love of the Nightingale (LiveWire Chicago). Regional credits: All Our Tragic (Getty Villa), Mad Beat Hip & Gone and Harvey (Zach Scott Theatre), It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play (Penfold Theatre Company), The Church of the Passionate Cat (Underbelly Theatre), and The Cataract (University of Texas at Austin - Guest Artist). Erin is represented by Actors Talent Group.

Lawren Carter (Hall) is a graduate of Senn Arts. As an alumna of ATC's Youth Ensemble her credits include This Beautiful City and Greensboro: A Requiem. Other credits include Milk Like Sugar with The Yard (where she is a company member) and Raven Theatre; Metamorphoses and Our America: Ghetto Life 101/Remorse at Senn Arts. Lawren received the Senn Arts Junior of the Year Award and won the 2015 Chicago August Wilson Monologue Competition, representing Chicago at the National Competition on Broadway at the August Wilson Theater. She has also performed with The Yard at Steppenwolf's 1700 Theatre.

Arti Ishak (John Colton Sumner) hails from Detroit and is stoked to be making her ATC debut! She is a recent graduate of Western Michigan University's Department of Theatre and is a company member with Something Marvelous, an annual magical realism festival. Previous Chicago credits include productions with Silk Road Rising, Chicago Dramatists, Babes with Blades, International Voices Project, Rasaka, The Jades, Broken Nose, Prologue and Whiskey Wry Productions. Upcoming credits include the world premiere of Johnny 10 Beers' Daughter, a co-production between Chicago Dramatists & Something Marvelous. Arti is represented by Lily's Talent.

Brittney Love Smith (Bradley) is glad to be back at ATC. BrittneyLove most recently played Jane Eyre in the Hypocrites production of You on the Moors Now. She also appeared in The Secretaries (About Face Theatre) and the four time Jeff nominated production of Charm (Northlight Theatre) over at the Steppenwolf garage. BrittneyLove played Salima in the critically acclaimed and Jeff nominated production of Ruined (Eclipse Theatre company) earning her a BTAA nomination for Best Supporting Actor. She recently appeared in the new Nash Edgerton feature Film. You can hear her voice if you tune into the WBEZ podcast series Pleasure Town where she is a series regular.

Deanna Myers (Seneca Howland) is a Chicago-based theatre artist, educator and deviser, and is thrilled to be making her debut with American Theater Company. Previous credits include: You on the Moors Now (The Hypocrites), The Hammer Trinity (The House Theatre), King of the Yees (New Stages: The Goodman), Sideshow (Porchlight), The Three Musketeers (Lifeline), and The Golden Dragon (Sideshow Theatre). Deanna is also a proud company member of Barrel of Monkeys and a student at Actors Gymnasium.

Kelly O'Sullivan (WilLiam Dunn) loves ATC, where she is a proud ensemble member. Theatre credits: Bruise Easy, The Humans, Columbinus and The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (American Theater Company); This is Modern Art, The Internationalist, Hoenst, Good Boys and True, The Crucible and 100 Saints you Should Know (Steppenwolf Theatre); The Seagull (Goodman Theatre); Bad Jews (Theatre Wit); Hesperia (Writers Theatre); My Wonderful Day - Barrymore Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Play (The Wilma Theatre); The Lieutenant of Inishmore (Northlight Theatre); Jon and Sketchbook 7 (Collaboraction); The Glory of Living (Profiles Theatre); and Mr. Marmalade (Joseph Jefferson Nomination for Principal Actress in a Play; Dog & Pony Theatre). She has acted at the Pacific Playwrights Festival and the Ojai Playwrights Conference. TV: The Mob Doctor, Battleground, the character "Voodoo" on Sirens, and The History of Us pilot for CBS. Film: In Memoriam, Jessica, Sleep with Me, and Henry Gamble's Birthday Party. Kelly is an artistic mentor with Adventure Stage Chicago's Trailblazer program and an instructor at Black Box Acting Studio. She is a graduate of Northwestern University, The School at Steppenwolf, and a recipient of a Princess Grace Fellowship.

Avi Roque (O.G. Howland) is a multi-disciplinary artist and a proud Latinx and Gender Non-Conforming/Trans individual, who is constantly exploring transformation and discovery of self through devising new works whilst also breathing life into the words of other's on the stages of Chicago. As an actor they have worked with theatre's such as Lookingglass, Goodman, Chicago Dramatists, First Floor Theater & Collaboraction, where they also happen to be a company member. As a new up and coming solo performer they have performed at open mics hosted by Pride Films & Plays, Salonathon and Sappho's Salon. Avi grew up in San Francisco, CA, received their B.A. in Theatre from California State University, Fullerton and is represented by Paonessa Talent Agency.

Stephanie Shum (Hawkins) makes her American Theater Company debut with Men on Boats! Past credits include Kin Folk, reWILDing Genius, and Kate and Sam are not Breaking Up (The New Colony), The Realization of Emily Linder (Redtwist), Circle-Machine (Oracle), Mnemonic (Red Tape), Alice (Nothing Without a Company) and understudying at Victory Gardens and Silk Road Rising. She is an ensemble member and the managing director with The New Colony where she may currently be seen this fall in Merge. She is also an ensemble member with Red Tape Theatre and an artistic associate with Nothing Without a Company. Stephanie is a graduate of the School at Steppenwolf and is represented by Actors Talent Group.

Kelli Simpkins (John Wesley Powell) is a company member of Tectonic Theater Project and is one of the original creator/performers of The Laramie Project directed by Moises Kaufman (Off-Broadway, Denver Center, Berkeley Rep., LaJolla Playhouse). Theater credits: The Secretaries, Execution of Justice, The Kid Thing (Jeff nomination - Principle Actor) and Pony (About Face Theater); Cocked (Victory Gardens); Spill (dramaturge/performer; Jeff nomination - Ensemble; Timeline Theater and Swine Palace in Louisiana); Teddy Ferrara (Goodman Theatre); In Darfur (Timeline); Late: A Cowboy Song (Piven); The Laramie Tour: TLP & TLP Epilogue; Celebrity Row (American Theater Company); Fair Use, Good Boys and True and One Arm (Steppenwolf Theatre); The People's Temple (The Guthrie, Perseverance and Berkeley Rep.); I Think I Like Girls (LaJolla and Cherry Lane). Directing: Good Death, an original play that she directed and co-wrote with students at Western Michigan University. Film/TV: Kingfisher, Chicago Fire, Patriot, Betrayal, A League of Their Own, Chasing Amy, Law & Order: C.I. and HBO's The Laramie Project (Emmy nomination: Ensemble Writing). Kelli is a proud recipient of a 2013 Chicago 3Arts Award.

Lauren Sivak (Old Shady) is making her American Theater Company debut. She was last seen in About Face Theatre's The Secretaries, and has previously worked with Cor Theatre, The New Colony, Abraham Werewolf, and Walkabout Theater Company, among others. Lauren is the proud Managing Director of 2nd Story.

Jaclyn Backhaus (Playwright) is an Indian-American playwright and co-founder of Fresh Ground Pepper. Recent New York productions include Men On Boats (NYT Critics' Pick, Clubbed Thumb's Summerworks, The Kilroys' 2015 List), People Doing Math Live! (Under The Radar Festival's INCOMING! Series at The Public Theater), The Incredible Fox Sisters (Live Source, The New Ohio), and You On the Moors Now (Theater Reconstruction Ensemble, upcoming with The Hypocrites in Fall 2016). She has received commissions from Playwrights Horizons and Ars Nova and is the 2016 Tow Foundation Playwright-in-Residence at Clubbed Thumb. Her work has been developed and showcased with the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, Playwrights Horizons, The Public and Joe's Pub, The Ice Factory Festival, (not just) 3 New Plays, The Civilians R&D Group, SPACE on Ryder Farm, Ars Nova's ANTFest, and The Falcons. She hails from Phoenix, Arizona.

Will Davis (Director) is a director and choreographer focused on physically adventurous new work. He is also the newly appointed artistic director of American Theater Company (ATC). Recent projects include: Duat by Daniel Alexander Jones for Soho Rep; a reimagined Evita for the Olney Theatre Center; Men on Boats by Jaclyn Backhaus for Playwrights Horizons and Clubbed Thumb's Summerworks; Orange Julius by Basil Kreimendahl; Mike Iveson's Sorry Robot for PS122's COIL Festival; and two productions of Colossal by Andrew Hinderaker for Mixed Blood Theater and the Olney Theatre Center, for which he won a Helen Hayes award for outstanding direction. Davis has developed, directed and performed his work with Soho Rep, New York Theatre Workshop, Clubbed Thumb, the New Museum, the ALLIANCE THEATRE, the Playwright's Realm, the Fusebox Festival, New Harmony Project, the Orchard Project, the Ground Floor Residency at Berkeley Rep, Performance Studies International at Stanford University, and the Kennedy Center. He is an alum of the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab, the NYTW 2050 Directing Fellowship and the BAX (Brooklyn Art Exchange) artist in residence program. He holds a BFA in Theatre Studies from DePaul University and an MFA in Directing from UT Austin.

American Theater Company (ATC) challenges and inspires its community by exploring stories that ask the question, "What does it mean to be an American?" ATC's Ensemble includes Patrick Andrews, Kareem Bandealy, Jaime Castañeda, Kelly O'Sullivan, Tyler Ravelson, and Sadieh Rifai.

American Theater Company is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, and CityArts grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, Polk Bros. Foundation, the MacArthur Fund for Arts and Culture at Prince, and the Shubert Foundation.

Pictured: The company of the Clubbed Thumb/Playwrights Horizons production of Men on Boats, directed by American Theater Company's Artistic Director Will Davis. Photo by Elke Young.

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