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Theatre Arts Faculty Bios

GEORGE KEATING – Director of the Theatre Arts Division

George Keating is a longtime member of Actors’ Equity Association. He holds a B.F.A. in Acting from The Theatre School at DePaul University. He is an Adjunct Professor of Performance at TTS, where he most recently directed The Boys in the Band. George is co-founder of Theatrebam Chicago and co-creator of the award-winning hit show Schoolhouse Rock Live!. He appeared in SRL! in Chicago, on tour and off-Broadway. George was honored to train in kabuki with Shozo Sato, Royal Treasure of Japan, culminating in a performance in the world premiere Kabuki Lady Macbeth at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. George received the inaugural Angela Lansbury Award for Best Supporting Actor at the International Mystery Writers’ Festival. He appears on Chicago’s many stages such as: Paramount, Goodman, Northlight, Chicago Shakespeare and Court. Notable roles: Baptista Minola, The Taming of the Shrew; Felix Ungar, The Odd Couple; George Banks, Mary Poppins; Thenardier, Les Miserables; The Baron, Grand Hotel and Gould in Grey Gardens. At NHSI, he has served as Core Faculty since the year 2000 and has directed numerous productions: The Serpent, The Madwoman of Chaillot, The Other Shore, Strider, Find Hakamadare!, The Scarecrow, The Handmaid’s Tale, A Dream Play, A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings and Animal Farm.

EMILY RITGER – Associate Director

Emily Ritger is a director, playwright, and arts administrator based in Chicago. As a teacher and director developing new work, she has worked for American Theatre Company, Redmoon, Cleveland Public Theatre, Northlight Theatre, ChiArts, The National High School Institute, and Carthage College. Ritger’s training includes ensemble based work, Viola Spolin Theatre Games, Viewpoints, Puppetry, Contact Improv, experimental writing, and various forms of music. She is the founder of The Midwives, an artistic development company serving makers of different disciplines across the country. Her current projects include Behaymas, a collaboration with playwright Aliza Bartfield, three humans and one animal blur the lines of domesticity and societal constructions of family. The Women Like a River Falling From the Sky, a collaboration with Claribel Gross and Mekala Sridhar, inspired by Isabel Allende’s The Stories of Eva Luna, the piece is an irrational response to Allende and her characters. And The WI Collection, a work of poetry celebrating rural America – its voice, land, dialect, and sense of community. Emily received her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College, a BS in Theatre and Philosophy from the University of Evansville, and has trained at La MaMa Umbria in Italy and Paul Sills’ Wisconsin Theatre Game Center.

BRYAN BACK – Production Manager

Bryan Back is happy as a clam to return for his fifteenth year at Cherubs. Spending his first three years perfecting the art of Assistant Master Electricianry, he spent the next nine perfecting the art of normal Master Electricianry. He’s still trying to figure out this Production Manager thing, though. Bryan is also the Lighting Shop Supervisor at The Theatre School at DePaul University, helping to support the students in the lighting program and teach them what it means to be cool. He does some work for various production companies and theaters around town, electricianing at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, The Marriott Theatre, Writers Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, where he once worked on a show with twenty tons of sand and a live horse.

HEATHER BASARAB – Design Instructor

Heather Basarab is a theater educator and the production manager for Northwestern’s Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts. Her 25-year career as a San Francisco-based lighting designer has spanned work with companies including the Joe Goode Performance Group, La Mama (NY), Aurora Theater, Magic Theatre, Marin Theater Company, Cutting Ball Theater, Shotgun Players, Chris Black Dance, Fogbeast Dance, AXIS Dance Company, The New Pickle Circus, Cirque Mechanic (LV), Imagery Dance, the Dorsch Gallery (Miami), LACMA (Los Angeles), and the STOMP Company (NY). Prior to Northwestern, Ms. Basarab was the co-director of Tamalpais High School’s nationally recognized Conservatory Theater Ensemble, where, in addition to teaching acting, directing and design, she created and supervised the student-run production and design department. She has taught design, stagecraft and stage management, as well as mentored students in New Play Development at Sonoma State University; she mentored production and stage management students at UC Berkeley.

Ms. Basarab holds a BA from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television and an MS in Arts Education from Dominican University of California.


Kate Sullivan Coombs is thrilled to join the Cherubs this summer. A Chicago-based playwright, director, songwriter, and performer, Kate is an advocate for the power of representation. Kate spent the last 4 years as the Resident Director of the Chicago production of Drunk Shakespeare, crafting jokes and curating debauchery for a rotating cast. Previous directing projects include Avenue Q (Redhouse Arts Center), LezSing (PrideArts), Spring Awakening (glory|struck productions), and the immersive cabaret send-up A Day at The Beaches in Los Angeles. Kate also produced the Sacramento premier of “8,” which has now been performed in hundreds of cities across the world. Kate is the creator of The Album Project, under which she created stagings of Rumours, Jagged Little Pill, and Ed Sheeran’s +.

Working with screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, Kate co-wrote 8, the Play, which debuted at Broadway’s Eugene O’Neill Theatre in 2011 (dir. Joe Mantello) followed by a Los Angeles benefit. Writing commissions: Snow White (Orphan Girl Children’s Theatre), Family Reunion (Chicago Children’s Theatre), Sat Nam (Dr. Stephanie Torres), Sakura (Pocketwatch Studios).

Kate holds an MFA in Playwriting from UCLA and BA in Acting & Directing from Emerson College. Her work tends to focus on themes of equity, justice, memory, and identity.


Alexandria Crawford (she/her/hers) is excited to be joining the faculty at Cherubs this summer! Originally from Saint Petersburg, Florida, Alexandria is now a Chicago-based actor, teaching artist, and arts activist. Her training includes a B.A. in Theatre Arts (Musical Theatre Emphasis) and English from Rollins College, as well as an M.F.A. in Acting from Northwestern University, where she was a member of the inaugural cohort.

When it comes to Alexandria and her artistry, she loves being part of meaningful stories that allow for audiences to see not only themselves but the rest of the world from a different lens. Some of Alexandria’s most notable roles include Dance Nation (Zuzu), Much Ado About Nothing (Hero), and Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (Martha Loomis Pentecost). Alexandria is also an Equity Membership Candidate in Actor’s Equity.

When she is not working on her artistic practice, you can find Alexandria going on long walks with her dog-son, Shadow Noir, teaching herself how to play the ukulele, and reading as many books as she can physically get her hands on while listening to music from her favorite boy bands.


Jessica Dean Turner is excited to be back at Cherubs for a third time total, the second time as an instructor. Chicago acting credits: Last Night and the Night Before, 1919 (Steppenwolf); Roe, Lottery Day (Goodman Theatre); Tiny Beautiful Things (Victory Gardens Theater); Red Rex (Steep Theatre, Jeff Award Nomination — Best Supporting Actress); United 232, Season on the Line (The House Theatre of Chicago). Regional: Much Ado About Nothing, King Lear, As You Like It, Caesar (Illinois Shakespeare Festival); The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Comedy of Errors (Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre). Television: Paper Girls, CRISIS, Chicago P.D., The Chi. Film: @ben.volio, The Tensile Strength of Air, You Too, Black Womxn. Commercials: Lunchables. Education: BFA, University of Illinois. MA, Educational Theatre, New York University. Jess is a member of Actors Equity and SAG-AFTRA, and teaches at the Acting Studio Chicago and Columbia College. Represented by Paonessa Talent Agency.

CALLIE FABAC – Assistant to the Director

Callie Fabac is so excited to be back at Cherubs in this capacity after occupying a faculty associate position in the year prior. In May 2022, Callie graduated from Elon University with her BFA in Acting and a minor in creative writing. Since then, she’s started her career in theatre and film in New York City. She has also fallen in love with devising and directing; recent projects where Callie had the opportunity to participate in the creation of new work include Heart of Shrapnel (Andres Munar/Elon University) and the anti-war play Shock and Awe (Elon University). Upcoming for her is the short film And We’re Live! which will be making its festival circuit debut this year.


Claribel Gross is a theater maker and teaching artist. She has a passion for new work, works in development and devising work with communities. As a director, teaching artist and arts administrator Claribel currently works with organizations and theaters such as The Midwives Artistic Collective, Lookingglass Theatre Company, Steppenwolf Theatre and Mudlark Theater. Claribel holds a BA from the University of Minnesota and an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. She is currently an adjunct professor at Aurora University.

SARAH HECHT – Core Instructor

Sarah Hecht is a Chicago-based actor, deviser, educator, and theatre maker. She is thrilled to teach at NHSI for her first summer! Sarah is an Associate Artistic Director with Cock and Bull Arts, with whom she has devised, directed, performed, and written several original experimental, immersive, and site-specific theatre productions. She has performed in Chicago with a number of theatres and companies, including Northlight Theatre, Remy Bumppo, Filament Theatre, Citadel, The Arc Theatre, and The Building Stage (Joseph Jefferson Award Nomination, Moby-Dick), among others. Sarah holds an MFA in Acting from DePaul University, where she also teaches performance courses, and recently received the 2021-2022 Excellence in Teaching award for her work with students. You can learn more about her at

ANDERS JACOBSEN – Design & Technology Instructor

Anders Jacobsen hasn’t been a part of Cherubs since 2016, and is excited to be back. He has been the Technical Director and Designer at New Trier Township High School since 2017, where he designs both lights, scenery and manages the stage crew. He has his BFA from SUNY – Purchase College in Scenic Design and a MA from Rosevelt University in Performing Arts Administration.

JULIANNE LANG – Director & Residence Hall Director

Julianne is an actor, comedian, and director based in Los Angeles. After graduating with a theatre degree from Northwestern University, she spent a two years in Chicago where she completed the Second City Conservatory Program and went on to perform in and direct several sketch revues in the Second City Cabaret spaces. After getting tired of wearing a coat for 8 months out of the year, she made the move to Los Angeles where she performs monthly on a UCB house sketch team and recently finished post production on the short film “Tweezers,” a story she wrote about women and their relationship to body and self image. She is passionate about bringing up the voices of women in artistic spaces and hosts a monthly comedy show featuring only femme performers. This is Julianne’s fifth summer working with Cherubs, and she is truly over the moon to be back. This place rocks. If you can’t find her in a creative room, she is probably hiking or camping or backpacking or swimming or biking or really anywhere outside.

RACHEL LAUFER – MT Extension Residence Hall Director

​​Rachel is thrilled to be returning for her second summer as the Assistant Dorm Director for the Cherubs Theatre Arts 5-week Program! Born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, Rachel graduated this past May from Florida State University with a BA in Theatre and a minor in Communications. Her studies and work focus on both stage and film acting as well as all around theatre making. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are at the center of her artistic work to better the industry, leaving the world a kinder and more thoughtful place through the arts. Most recently Rachel appeared in FSU’s School of Theatre’s productions of Eugène Ionesco’s The Lesson in the role of the Student and Shakespeare’s Hamlet in the role of Ophelia. In addition to her time spent on FSU’s Tallahassee campus, Rachel had the opportunity to study theatre in London, England her junior fall as part of FSU’s Theatre Academy of London program. She will be returning to London this upcoming fall to work for FSU International Programs as a Program Assistant. As a 2018 Cherub, Rachel is looking forward to getting back to the Northwestern campus and meeting the next class of theatre makers.


Manna-Symone Middlebroooks is a Chicago-based theatre director and producer. She is so excited be back directing at Cherubs this summer! Before moving to Chicago, she lived in Washington, DC, working as a Casting Associate for The Folger Theatre. Recent Northwestern directing credits include – sandblasted, Precious Little, The Revenger’s Tragedy, and The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World. She also served as an Associate/Assistant Director at Manhattan Theatre Club, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Chicago Shakespeare, The Folger, Arena Stage, Studio Theatre, Woolly Mammoth, and Shakespeare Theatre Company. Manna-Symone is an alum of American Unversity (BA in Theatre and Literature) and The British American Drama Academy.


Jeremy Ohringer is a Chicago-based director and educator. He is a Half-Time Assistant Professor at North Central College and an Adjunct Professor of Theatre Studies at DePaul University. At both institutions, he directs as well as teaches acting, directing, and theatre history. Favorite directing credits include Raymondo (The Cartographers), Tristan and Iseult, Constellations, The Importance of Being Earnest (North Central College), Stupid F**king Bird, Monica (DePaul University), Angels in America: Perestroika, Mother Courage and Her Children (Boston University), Who Walked All Night (Rhino Fest) Sad Songs For Bad People (Rough House Theater), Who Rowed Across Oceans (Edinburgh Fringe Festival), and Spring Awakening (Fearless Theatre). At Steppenwolf Theater Company, he is the Lead Facilitator of Professional Development as well as a Teaching Artist. He is a graduate of Skidmore College and holds an MFA in directing from Boston University.

ELI PAULEY – Core Instructor

Eli is a NYC based actor/teacher. As a teacher she has worked with Interlochen Arts Camp, Rutgers Summer Acting Conservatory, ArtsBridge, The Brimmer School, and the University of Utah. As an actor, she most recently appeared as Hamlet in an American tour of Hamlet with Toronto based Why Not Theatre Company. She has worked with NYC and regional theaters such as Barrington Stage Company, the Apothetae, Theater Breaking Through Barriers, Baltimore Center Stage, Playwright’s Realm, Wild Wind Performance Lab at Texas Tech, Two River Theatre, The Public Theatre, and the O’Neill Center. She coaches for college/grad school auditions with her students having been accepted to such programs as the Yale School of Drama, NYU Grad Acting, Columbia MFA Acting, and Pace University BFA Acting, among others. Eli is an alum of the Interlochen Arts Academy. She received her BFA in Acting from Rutgers and her MFA from the Yale School of Drama.


Alex Benito Rodriguez is thrilled to be returning to Cherubs! Alex is a Chicago based actor, mover, and teaching artist. At the core of Alex’s working practice and teaching methodology are curiosity and collaboration. He believes that questions are at the root of creativity and communal exploration fosters the growth and wellness of an artist. As a teacher, Alex has worked with The University of IL at Chicago, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Mudlark Theater, Steppenwolf Theatre, and Asolo Repertory Theatre. Within the classroom, Alex relies on structures that support creative impulse, compassionate listening, personal inquiry, and ensemble-driven composition building. He holds his BFA from The University of Illinois at Chicago and his MFA from The FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training.

BRENNAN ROACH – Core Instructor

Brennan Roach is a theatre artist and educator currently based in Chicago, IL. He has collaborated with numerous theatre institutions as well as high school and university programs across the United States and Europe as an actor, director, teacher, and movement designer. He has trained with many global artists and theatre companies including SITI Company and The Syndicate. Brennan is the Director of the theatre program at Jones College Prep in the heart of downtown Chicago. He is passionate about helping young people find and give voice to their stories through the creation and performance of original work. He received his BFA from The Boston Conservatory, his MA from Northeastern Illinois University and his MAT from Rockford University, IL.

JENNIFER SMITH – Stage Management Instructor

Jen is happy to officially join the Cherub program after working side by side with them while she was the Production Manager for Northwestern’s Wirtz Center. Since Northwestern, Jen has worked with DePaul’s Theatre School where she graduated a number of years ago as a Stage Manager. Jen has long working relationships at many Chicago theatres including Lookingglass (Production Manager), Chicago Shakespeare (Director of Production) and The Goodman Theatre (Asst. Prod. Mgr.). More recently, she worked with Arizona Theatre Company and Milwaukee Repertory Theatre as General Manager. Jen is currently back in the freelance world and is production managing a Baroque Opera with Haymarket Opera Company. When not a thespian, Jen works with glass. You can follow her at jensmithglass on Instragram.


Kerstin Vaughn (she/her) is a freelance director and teaching artist originally from Ohio. Having completed her MFA in Performance and Pedagogy from Texas Tech University, she has led classes, workshops, and camps for theatre students ranging all the way down to kindergarten and up to the undergraduate and professional level. As a director and teacher, she is committed creating safe and joyful spaces for theatrical collaboration. Recent directing credits include Gwen and Annie (TTU), Hairspray (Moonlight Musicals), Anansi the Spider (Lexington Children’s Theatre), and Julius Caesar (Texas A&M-Commerce). Kerstin is absolutely thrilled to be joining the NHSI/Cherubs team for the first time this summer!

OSKAR WESTBRIDGE – Assistant to the Director

Oskar Westbridge is a Chicago-based director, teaching artist, sound designer, and occasional stage manager. Recent professional credits include: Meet Me on the Corner for the Chicago Writer’s Bloc (Director), Constellations and The Importance of Being Earnest for North Central College (Stage Manager), and House of the Exquisite Corpse for Rough House Theater (Assistant Stage Manager). In June 2022, Oskar graduated from The Theater School at DePaul University with a BFA in Theater Arts and a double major in Psychology. As part of their senior thesis, they co-directed an immersive devised piece of theater called One More for the Road. The show featured short scripted scenes sandwiched between unscripted games that pitted audience members against performers.

Theatre Arts Division  –  Application Information and Deadlines  –  Tuition and Fees  –  Scholarships and Financial Aid