Artistic Company

Below is a list of the talented, passionate artistic company members that form the creative backbone of Erasing the Distance. These artists make a meaningful commitment to us through their professional artistry, the volunteering of their time, and their dedication to shaping the vision and direction of the organization.

Angela Alise

Angela Alise has been working with Erasing the Distance since 2009. She auditioned for their inaugural teen show What’s Behind Our Eyes and fell in love with the company. It’s a family of artists, clinicians and volunteers who have a passion to help others and be advocates for mental health issues.

The organization continues to touch more and more lives each year, and Angela is honored to be a company member. Throughout her time at ETD, she has not only performed in the teen shows, but has also served as a facilitator, teaching artist, volunteer usher and leader of the Ambassador Council.

Outside of her work with Erasing the Distance, Angela has performed with Victory Gardens Theatre, Second City and Woolly Mammoth Theatre, Kokandy Productions, Boho Theatre, Drury Lane Oakbrook, Dominican University, and Imagination Theatre. She also previously served as the Artistic Director of Prologue Theatre Company for 5 seasons.

Angela holds a BA in Theatre and Sociology from Loyola University-Chicago.

Brenda Barrie

Inspired by ETD’s mission, Brenda reached out to Executive Artistic Director Brighid O’Shaughnessy in 2012 and was grateful to learn of ways to immediately get involved. Since 2012, she has performed on behalf of ETD in various venues, collected and shaped stories, and has participated in the early devising process of Veteran’s Voices and the Tell Me What You Remember. Brenda is grateful to have joined paths with ETD as a Company Member in 2015.

As a member of AEA and SAG-AFTRA, Brenda’s work spans theatre, film, television and video games. In Chicago, she has performed on the stages of Goodman, Steppenwolf, Chicago Shakespeare, Route 66, BackStage, Gift, Lifeline, Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, Silk Road Rising and Chicago Dramatists. Brenda is also a Company Member with The House Theatre of Chicago, whose mission is to unite Chicago in the spirit of community through amazing feats of storytelling. Brenda received her BFA in theatre from the University of Indianapolis and studied theatre at the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland.

The gift of ETD to the storyteller, audience and actor is transformative. ETD shines a light on those quiet moments where we find our resilience. Bringing people together to give voice to the unspoken ignites compassion and shows how vital it is to see ourselves as a community, not as one.”

Jared Fernley

Jared has been an actor and artistic associate with ETD since 2010, after Brighid spied him playing a mean fiddle in The Grapes of Wrath. He recently conceived and produced the pop-up production, I’ve Never Told This To Anyone. In addition to his work as a performer, Jared has served as a story collector and early deviser for Veteran’s Voices and Tell Me What You Remember. Jared has also worked as an ETD teaching artist and facilitator at the middle school and high school level.

Chicago credits include The Diary of Anne Frank (Writers Theatre), The Arsonists, Old Town (Strawdog Theatre Company), The Killing of Michael X (Jackalope Theatre Company), The Burnt Part Boys (Griffin Theatre), Richard II, As You Like It (Two Pence Shakespeare), Exit, Pursued by a Bear (Theater Seven), and FRAT (The New Colony). He earned his BA at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and is a graduate of The School at Steppenwolf.

“A special gift of ETD high school performances is the chance it provides to converse openly with young people about mental health and well being. We get to spark insightful, honest conversations that most students aren’t having at that age, and, hopefully, shape the way they will continue that conversation in the future, both with themselves and their peers.” 

Gregory Geffrard

Gregory is an educator, actor, poet, producer and activist. After receiving his MFA at the University of Iowa, he moved to Chicago 4 years ago in search of pursuing a professional career in acting but found himself gravitating towards a national conversation that manifests itself in physical form every day in the West and South side of a city he now calls home. Then he met Brighid O’Shaughnessy in 2015 and he found a great foundation for building the necessary bridges between art and community.
Erasing The Distance’s mission to be the creative leader in generating insight and compassion around issues of mental health align quite harmoniously with his own and he is proud to be a member of the ETD family. He believes creating an avenue for all people to express themselves through various media is a skill that he knows will be necessary to continue creating dialogue around eliminating our stigma around mental health and has many organizations that were aiming to empower the citizens of the Chicago such as the LetUsBreathe Collective and BYP 100.
Outside of working with Erasing The Distance, he has worked with Young Chicago Authors, Steppenwolf Theatre, Lookingglass, The Goodman, Steep Theatre, 16th Street, Eclipse Theatre, Windy City Playhouse, American Theatre Company, Chicago Children’s Theatre, Remy Bumppo, The National Museum of Mexican Art and the communities these theatres serve. He is proudly represented by Gray Talent Group and is a proud Sexual Assault Prevention Educator with Catharsis Productions.

Mariana Green

Mariana is honored to be a part of the ETD artistic team and excited at the prospect of providing a community and performance space that destigmatizes mental health. She recently stage managed Amygdala Rest, Through My Daughter’s Eyes and I’ve Never Told This To Anyone, three shows in ETD’s 2016 PopUp Series. In addition to stage and production managing for performance companies that provide access to mental and sexual health like ETD and For Youth Inquiry, she is also a working teaching artist. As an Artistic Associate with Barrel of Monkeys Theatre and teaching artist for the Goodman Theatre, she encourages youth to dive into the creative world of self-expression. A founding member of FEMelanin and proud bi-racial queer person, she also creates theatrical experiences that lift up and spark dialogue between the often-silenced voices of women of color. She last performed in FEMelanin’s Epic Tales from the Land of Melanin, a devised and participatory theater for young audiences piece in the Chicago Kids Fringe Festival 2016.

Millicent Hurley

Millie Hurley is honored to be an Erasing the Distance company member and recently appeared in the world premiere of Amygdala Rest. Millie was introduced to Brighid, who promptly gave her the story of Candice in Finding Peace in This House in 2010. She then had the honor to portray Carol in In Less Than a Day. Millie has worked with many theaters in her almost 30 year Chicago acting history and is a proud member of SAG-AFTRA. What drew her to ETD was that her brother was a paranoid schizophrenic and she knows what it is like to lie to people instead of telling them about his mental disease. What people don’t know about, usually frightens them. Bringing all these issues out in the open is so brave and so powerful and truly healing for the story teller and the story seer.

Maura Kidwell

In March of 2009, Maura found an audition in Performink for a local touring production called What’s Behind Our Eyes? and thus began her beloved kinship with Erasing the Distance. Maura has been fortunate enough to play so many roles in ETD shows over the years that she has lost count. As seems to be the case with many artists when they cross paths with ETD, Maura immediately knew she had fallen in with the right crowd for her goals as an artist. She’s forever grateful for that Performink post, and for the opportunity to spark dialogue and help change lives.

Maura has worked around town with various companies including Court, Steppenwolf, Lookingglass, Cole, The Gift, Eclipse and Redtwist. Maura was also a cast member on the Chicago-based comedy series Sirens on USA, as well as a guest star on Chicago Justice, Chicago Fire and Mind Games. Her favorite role thus far is mother to Seamus Flynn Rains. More about Maura can be found at

“The most rewarding moments with ETD are when an audience member comes up to the actors after a show and says, ‘You could have been me up there. I thought I was the only one going through what I’m going through.’ It happens all of the time. We actors have learned to stick around a few minutes after shows, even after the audience has left, because you just never know.”

Jennifer Mathews

Jen saw ETD’s inaugural production in 2005. She was viscerally struck by the power of both the show and the organization’s mission. Immediately after the performance, she approached her dear friend and mentor Brighid O’Shaughnessy and simply said, “I’m in. Use me however you can.” Jen has been acting with ETD ever since. She also does occasional event management and facilitation with ETD’s touring program, and served as ETD’s Communications Director 2011-2015.

Jen has appeared in several ETD productions, including productions of  Tell Me What You Remember (2014 and 2015), Veterans’ Voices, Good Enough, and Finding Peace in This House, The People I Know, and Stronger Than Silence. A former company member with the (sadly) now-defunct Infamous Commonwealth Theatre, she appeared in many of their productions as well, most notably The Kentucky Cycle (Jeff and After Dark Awards for Production and Ensemble), Betty’s Summer Vacation (Jeff nod, Supporting Actress), My Thing of Love (Chicago Reader Annual Critics’ Pick, Performance), and The Grapes of Wrath (Greatest Hits of the Decade, Newcity Stage). She has also worked with Steppenwolf Theatre, Sideshow Theatre, Chicago Dramatists, Pride Film & Plays, Circle Theatre, Open Eye Productions, Hi-Volt Theatre, and Will Act For Food.

Jen is a proud member of SAG-AFTRA and is represented by NV Talent and Big Mouth Talent. For more, visit

Steve O'Connell

Steve is honored to join ETD as a company member. He has had the privilege of being a part of the Chicago theatre community for nearly a decade and is grateful to have found a home here at Erasing the Distance. Chicago credits include Dead Accounts (Jeff Award Nomination-Actor in a Principal Role, Step Up Productions); Henry V, Shakespeare’s Greatest Hits! (Chicago Shakespeare); Amadeus (Jeff Award Nomination-Actor in a Principal Role, BoHo Theatre); The Killer Angels (Lifeline Theatre); Coriolanus (Jeff Award nomination–Actor in a Principal Role, The Hypocrites); Pygmalion (Stage Left Theatre, BoHo Theatre); Hostage Song (Signal Ensemble Theatre); and The Kid Thing (Chicago Dramatists, About Face Theatre); as well as productions with TimeLine Theatre Company, Red Tape Theatre, Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, Infusion Theatre Company, Theatre Wit and BoHo Theatre, where he is an Artistic Affiliate. Film and television credits include: Chicago Med, Chicago PD and Chicago Fire (NBC); Betrayal (ABC); The Mob Doctor (FOX); Last Man Standing (Lifetime); and Low Winter Sun (AMC). Steve received his MFA in Acting from University of Wisconsin-Madison.

ETD’s work is artistically fulfilling, intellectually challenging and, at times, emotionally draining. It’s active, authentic and messy. It is theatre at it’s best, because it’s goal is not only to engage, but to connect individuals. These connections bring light to our world and help to build and serve our community. What a powerful gift!

Wannapa Pimtong-Eubanks

Wannapa Pimtong-Eubanks has been passionately, intriguingly involved with Erasing the Distance for years as an actor and volunteer. She recently conceived and produced Through My Daughter’s Eyes as part of the 2016 PopUp Series. She is also a Butoh Artist, movement coach, and choreographer. Her venues include Goodman Theatre, Raven Theatre, Chicago Cultural Center, The Athenaeum Theatre, MCA, Links Hall, Ruth Page Center for the Arts, and the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago (Dance/USA showcase 2011). She is also a Thai Dialect Coach (King & I at Stage 773 for Porchlight Music Theatre). Wannapa has recently been part of Laura Crotte’s theatre group to present the “Day of the Death” show for students in Chicago schools. Her previous work also includes experience as a TV Stage Manager and Producer, and Assistant Director in commercial film production. Wannapa received her BA in Journalism and Mass Communication (Radio and Television major) from Thailand and has studied acting at Act I Studios.

“Thank you for your warmly welcoming me as part of the ETD family. I realize how important ETD’s work is to our community, and I’m super excited to be part of this mission.”

Katie Relkin

Katie is delighted and proud to be a company member with Erasing the Distance. She was originally invited in to audition for ETD because she was a quick study with a knack for memorization, but quickly became very interested in and inspired by ETD’s mission. Since 2010 Katie has performed with ETD in various venues and has had the honor of performing many strong women’s stories. She also appeared in ETD’s production of Good Enough. Katie graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University in 2005 with a BFA in Theatre Arts. Since graduating she has been lucky enough to work with New Leaf, The Gift Theatre, Raven, Collaboraction, Chicago Dramatists, Big Picture Group, Metropolis CPA, Tooth & Nail, The Nine, Theatre Seven, Fox Valley Rep, and Signal Ensemble Theatre, where she was a company member.

“I really love performing in educational settings, particularly junior high and high schools. That can be such a challenging and emotional time for kids, and they can be working so hard and balancing so much. It’s amazing how open they can be to our work, often coming to talk with us after the performances to share their own experiences. And you never know what is going to unlock a young person and allow them to start a dialogue about their own well-being and mental health. Sometimes hearing a story about someone else sharing their same experience is just what they need to take the first step towards understanding that they aren’t alone.”

Stacy Stoltz

Stacy is very happy to be a company member with Erasing The Distance. For ETD she has directed I’ve Never Told This To Anyone and performed in Veterans’ Voices. She is currently devising a play about family connection called Walk A Mile for the upcoming SPARKfest 2017. She was last seen in Marjorie Prime at Writers’ Theatre. Previously she was in Stupid Fucking Bird with Sideshow Theatre at Victory Gardens. Stacy has worked with Route 66 Theatre Company, Strawdog Theatre, The Michigan Shakespeare Festival, The Court Theatre, The Hypocrites and The House Theatre of Chicago. She was nominated for Jeff Awards for her work in Assisted Living at Profiles Theatre and for playing Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire at Writers’ Theatre. Stacy performed off-broadway at 59E59 Theatre and she was seen on TV in The Chicago Code and Chicago Fire. She is represented by Paonessa Talent and she is married to Matt Hawkins.

Charles Stransky

Charles is delighted to be a part of the ETD family. He has performed in multiple productions of Veterans’ Voices. He recently appeared as Charles III at Cardinal Stage in King Charles III. A veteran character actor of stage, television, and film, Mr. Stransky worked in Chicago at the beginning of its burgeoning theatre movement before being called to Broadway. On Broadway, he played Lingk in the original production and the National tour of Glengarry Glen Ross in the Goodman Theatre. He was in Lincoln Center Theater’s production of The Front Page at The Vivian Beaumont, playing Wilson, one of the reporters. Off-Broadway, Mr. Stransky played the role of La Poubelle in The Primary English Class, entirely in French. He performed several roles in Death Defying Acts. Recently, Mr. Stransky portrayed James Tyrone in Long Day’s Journey Into Night at Court Theatre in Chicago, IL. He has performed in numerous regional theatres throughout the U.S. from West to East Coast; from New England to the South. On film, he can be seen in The Spanish Prisoner, Homicide, Things Change, all written and directed by David Mamet, besides many others. Mr. Stransky’s numerous appearances on television include all six episodes of Embeds (on, Patriot (Amazon Fire), Chicago P.D., Ed, Third Watch, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Newhart, Murphy Brown, Frank’s Place, My Sister Sam; several characters on episodes of Law and Order and All My Children. Mr. Stransky has narrated numerous audio books of every variety. He is represented by Paonessa Talent in Chicago, IL. He is a proud member of Actors Equity Association (AEA); and SAG/AFTRA.

Nik Zaleski

Nik Zaleski is thrilled to be a company member with Erasing the Distance. She created the first production in the 2016 PopUp Series, Amygdala Rest, as well as directing both productions of Tell Me What You Remember: the world premiere in 2014 and the remount in 2015.

A director, playwright and cultural activist rooted primarily in the reproductive justice movement, Nik holds a Bachelor of Science in Gender Studies and Performance Studies from Northwestern University. She also earned her Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies from DePaul University, where she combined Public Health and Theater Directing coursework in the MFA directing program. Professionally, she is the Arts Justice Director for the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health (ICAH) and a consultant on arts-based strategy for various health-focused organizations. She came to ICAH as a youth organizer with Sisters Empowering Sisters, a reproductive justice and leadership group for young women previously sponsored by the Chicago Girls’ Coalition. Nik is the Founding Artistic Director for FYI Performing Health Collective (now a program of ICAH), which designs participatory theater experiences about sexual health and sexual violence. She is a co-founder of Swarm Artist Residency, an Artistic Associate for Sojourn Theater, as well as a founding member of Ag47 Artist Mentorship Collective for women and girls. Nik has worked in public schools as a teaching artist through Urban Gateways, Communities in Schools of Chicago, and Chicago Youth Services. In addition to Erasing the Distance, she has directed work for FYI, Redmoon Theater, Northwestern University’s Sexual Assault Freshmen Orientation Program and Arizona State University. Because her plays tour to schools, community centers, museums, homes and theaters, they have been seen by tens of thousands of people.

Artistic Company Emeritus

These artists made a meaningful commitment to Erasing the Distance through their professional artistry, their time, and their dedication to shaping the vision and direction of the organization. While they are no longer regularly active members, they shaped who we are today and we are forever grateful. It is because of their continued dedication to our mission that we honor them as Artistic Company Emeritus.

Brighid O'Shaughnessy

Brighid O’Shaughnessy is the Founder and Artistic Director Emeritus of Erasing the Distance. From 2005 to 2016, she acted in, directed, devised, or produced every piece that Erasing the Distance brought to life, reaching over 50,000 people across the country. A sought after speaker and workshop leader, she has presented and taught at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago, Santa Clara University, the Active Minds National Conference, Cathedral Counseling Center and more. Brighid was granted both DePaul University’s prestigious David O. Justice Award as well as their Life Long Learning Award for her use of theatre to educate communities about mental illness in non-traditional and creative ways. She was also chosen by Extra Mile America as one of 200 heroic leaders in the United States making a difference in their communities and received a 3Arts Vision Award to support her artistic work at Erasing the Distance. Her experience as a director, actor and teacher committed to social change has spanned over 20 years, including time co-directing the Thresholds Theatre Arts Project and Redmoon’s Dramagirls, and devising original productions with teens in Chicago Public Schools. She taught acting at Chicago’s Acting Studio (formerly known as the Audition Studio) for 5 years and has acted at such places as Steppenwolf and Victory Gardens. She graduated with a Masters of Arts from DePaul University, a B.A. in Theatre from Santa Clara University, studied extensively with The American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, trained with internationally known activist and artist Michael Rohd, and has done her share of voice-over work and corporate training using theatre. Currently, she utilizes the power of movement to stimulate health and healing in artists, parents, and people in the giving professions. Her Nia classes happen in and around the Chicagoland area and she’d love to see you in a class soon!

Adam Poss

Adam became a company member of Erasing the Distance in 2009. His appeared with the company in I’ve Never Told This To Anyone, part of the 2016 PopUp Series. Chicago credits include: 2666 (World Premiere), Teddy Ferrara (World Premiere), A Christmas Carol, The Magic Play and The Solid Sand Below (New Stages), and dark play or stories for boys (Latino Theatre Festival)-(Goodman Theatre); 1984, Animals Out of Paper– (Steppenwolf Theatre); Oedipus el Rey (Victory Gardens Theater); The Lake Effect (World Premiere), and Scorched (Silk Road Rising); The Beats (16th Street Theater). Regional credits: Macbeth (Actor’s Theatre of Louisville), Lot’s Wife (World Premiere)-(Kansas City Rep.), The North Pool (World Premiere), The Lake Effect (TheatreWorks, Palo Alto), The History Boys (Studio Theatre, DC). Television: Shameless, Chicago Med, Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, Crisis, The Chicago Code and The Mob Doctor. Film: The Middle Distance, The Drunk, The King of URLS and Speed Dating. He holds his BFA from The Theatre School at DePaul University.

Ron E. Rains

Ron E. Rains has been a company member of Erasing the Distance since 2010, initially as an actor and more recently as a director (Coming Home and the Custom Program version of Veterans’ Voices). As a non-combat peace-time veteran of the US Air Force, he has been especially interested in veteran’s issues. Ron has also performed on many area stages including those of Goodman, Steppenwolf, Chicago Shakespeare, TimeLine, Northlight, Writers’, Royal George and Drury Lane theaters. Online, he has a recurring role as The Onion‘s head film critic, “Peter K. Rosenthal.” Ron holds a BFA from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. He is a member of Actors’ Equity Association, the labor union of professional stage actors and stage managers. Ron is represented by Paonessa Talent. His best gig is being dad.

Craig C. Thompson

In 2007, Craig auditioned to perform as an understudy in an ETD show. In preparing for the audition, he was struck by the honesty, depth and bravery of the person whose story he was asked to prepare. Craig felt immediate and undeniable compassion for the storyteller, a real person who faced relentless challenges in his life resulting from a traumatic childhood experience. That honesty is inherent in everything ETD produces, and it is the honesty and compassion bred by the company and its mission that have driven Craig to be an active contributor ever since. He has primarily been an actor for ETD, but has also transcribed and shaped several interviews into monologues.

Originally from Kansas City, MO, Craig is a graduate of Boston University and has been living and performing in Chicago since 1998. He has acted at Dominican University, BackStage, Lifeline, Real Rain, Foreground and Emerald City Theatre, among others. Craig was also a company member of Infamous Commonwealth Theatre for nine years and appeared in multiple productions including The Kentucky Cycle (Jeff and After Dark Awards for Production and Ensemble), The Crucible, Lewis and Clark Reach the Euphrates, My Thing of Love, Big Dreams, and Savage in Limbo.