Producing Artistic Director
Julia Rhoads is the founding Artistic Director of Lucky Plush Productions. She has created over 25 works with the company including 11 evening-length productions, several of which have toured extensively throughout the US. Other choreography credits include Lookingglass Theatre's The Great Fire, Walkabout Theater's Mama: A Play for Voices, Redmoon's Project Y, and River North Chicago Dance Company's Oasis and Between Three, among others. She is a former member of the San Francisco Ballet and ensemble member of XSIGHT! Performance Group. Julia is the recipient of the 2013 Alpert Award in Dance, a fellowship from the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography, a Chicago Dancemakers Forum Lab Artist Award, a Cliff Dwellers Choreography Award, two Illinois Arts Council Fellowships for Choreography, a Jacob K. Javits Fellowship, and a 2014 Fractured Atlas Arts Entrepreneurship Award for her work with Creative Partners. Her work for Lucky Plush Productions has been supported by awards from National Endowment for the Arts, NEFA's National Dance Project, and National Performance Network, among others. She received her BA in History from Northwestern University, her MFA in Performance from the School of the Art Institute Chicago, and she has taught in the dance and theater programs of several Chicago-area colleges and universities. She is currently a Lecturer and Dance Advisor at University of Chicago's department of Theater and Performance Studies.
Michel Rodriguez Cintra
Michel was born in Havana, and is a former member of Danza Contemporanea de Cuba and Hedwig Dances. Choreography credits include 3 works for Hedwig, one of which was a finalist in the A.W.A.R.D Show 2010. He has also created a work for Columbia College Chicago's faculty concert, where he is adjunct faculty. Michel was named one of "The Men of 2010” by Time Out Chicago, and he is the recipient of the 2013 3Arts Award in Dance. In addition to being an ensemble member of Lucky Plush Productions, current projects include CDI/Concert Dance and The Nexus Project with Ben Wardell, which was named one of Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch” in 2014.
Michael Caskey, aka Bunny Patootie, (Drummer/the Claudettes, Sound Design) hails from rural Southwestern Michigan. He has performed with artists as diverse as Chuck Mangione, Koko Taylor, Toni Tenille, Danilo Perez, Marvin Hamlisch, John Sinclair, Grazyna Auguscik, oh my god, Goran Ivanovic, the Grammy-nominated Heritage Blues Orchestra, Hood Smoke, Leslie Hunt, Ron Perillo, and Striding Lion Performance Group. As a member of Eastern Blok, a pan-cultural Chicago-based ensemble, Michael has presented concerts and master classes at numerous educational institutions such as Princeton, Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, and University of Michigan among others. A DownBeat jazz magazine award winner and five-time Detroit Music Award recipient, Michael has performed for audiences throughout North America and Europe. He has also created original music and sound design for dance companies Hedwig Dances, Zephyr Dance, Same Planet Different World, Peter Carpenter, and members of Mad Shak.
Marc Macaranas graduated cum laude from the University of California, Irvine. Since 2006, he has performed in Chicago, across the US and abroad with Lucky Plush Productions, Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre, The Seldoms, DanceWorks Chicago, RUBBERBANDance Group, and Luna Negra Dance Theater. He presents his solo work as The Visitor(s) and is resident choreographer with Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre. His choreography has been presented at Harvest Chicago Contemporary Dance Festival, Poonie's Cabaret, THAW, Dance Chance Redux, Dance Chicago and Duets for My Valentine.
Melinda Jean Myers
Melinda Jean Myers is a dance artist and choreographer currently working and residing in Chicago, IL. Along with teaching dance classes and performing with Lucky Plush Productions, she creates interdisciplinary ensemble works and one-woman cabaret performances. Her works have been presented throughout the Midwest, NYC, Germany and South Korea. She received her MFA from University of Iowa (2012) and BFA from New York University (2005). She was honored to perform and tour internationally with the Trisha Brown Dance Company for four years (2006-2010) and currently re-stages their repertory.
Cassandra Porter trained with Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago's Giordano II, and is a former company member of River North Dance Chicago. Other professional credits include Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, where she performed the choreography of Harrison McEldowney, Jeremy Plummer, and Sherry Zunker, and was also a featured aerialist in the first grand scale illusion show at sea. Since 2003, she has danced in Chicago Symphony Orchestra's annual Christmas show, Welcome Yule! In the summer of 2007, Cassandra was one of twelve girls to appear on the CW network TV show "The Pussycat Dolls Presents: Girlicious".
Julia Wollrab studied at the National Ballet School of Canada in Toronto and entered the National Ballet of Canada in 1987, later becoming a soloist. In 1995 she joined the Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève in Switzerland, and performed the works of Amanda Miller, Ohad Naharin, Michel Kelemenis, Nacho Duato, William Forsythe and Maguy Marin, among others. After working with Galili Dance in The Netherlands, and Ballet British Columbia, Wollrab danced with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago from 2002-2006. She is now studying full-time at the University of Chicago.
John Boesche has created scenic and projection designs for the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Goodman Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre, Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre, Royal George Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre and others. Broadway credits include The Glass Menagerie at Roundabout Theatre, directed by Frank Galati. Regionally his work has been seen at Arizona Theatre Company, Asolo Theatre (Sarasota), Denver Center Theatre Company, Geffen Playhouse (Los Angeles), McCarter Theatre (Princeton), Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, New York Shakespeare Festival (NYC), Seattle Repertory Theatre, Shakespeare at the Folger (Washington DC), South Coast Repertory (Costa Mesa), Theater On The Square (San Francisco), Victory Gardens Theatre among others. John received a Joseph Jefferson Special Award for projection design in 2005. His designs for opera have been seen at Austin Lyric Opera, Barbican Theatre Centre (London), Brooklyn Academy of Music, Canadian Opera Company (Toronto), Dallas Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Opera Lyon, Opera Pacifica, Portland Opera, Salt Lake Opera, San Francisco Opera, Theatre de la Monnaie (Brussels), Washington Opera (DC), and Vancouver Opera, among others. John's projection designs for dance include Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, Mordine and Company, and this is his 3rd project with Lucky Plush Productions.
Choreographer | Artistic Directior
Peter Carpenter is an independent choreographer whose physical theater performances have often intersected with political activism and critical theory. Often acclaimed for his choreographic staging of queer theatricality, Carpenter has dedicated the majority of his career to tracking the complex ways in which identity has been shaped in subaltern communities by HIV/AIDS. His independent work has resulted in numerous repertory pieces and four evening-length works including Bareback Into the Sunset (2003), which, since its premier performance at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica, Calif., has been seen in excerpted versions at numerous conferences and performance events commemorating World AIDS Day. The full-version of Bareback Into the Sunset was recently presented by the Dance Center of Columbia College. Carpenter's work as an independent artist has been presented by numerous galleries, museums and theaters including the 29th Street Repertory Theater in New York, the Steppenwolf Theater, Chicago's Links Hall, and the Ackland Art Museum in Chapel Hill, N.C. Carpenter has also received funding to create new work from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and the Illinois Arts Council and has received a Joseph Jefferson Citation for Outstanding Theater Choreography. Carpenter's independent work has been supplemented by affiliations with Chicago's XSIGHT! Performance Group where he served as an artistic associate (1993-2001) and the StreetSigns Center for Literature and Performance in Chicago and Chapel Hill, N.C. where he served as the resident choreographer (1992-2001). As a member of XSIGHT! Carpenter presented worked at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Northwestern University, Wesleyan College, University of Alaska in Anchorage and Fairbanks, Dance Works in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and the MEX experimental theatre in Louisville, Kentucky. Carpenter received his M.F.A. in Dance from UCLA's Department of World Arts and Cultures in 2003 and is currently writing his dissertation for a Ph.D. in Culture and Performance Studies (also from UCLA). He received his B.S. from Northwestern University's Theater Department in 1992. Carpenter is currently a full-time faculty member at the Dance Center of Columbia College in Chicago.
Jeff Hancock is a teacher, choreographer and costume designer. He was a foundingmember of River North Dance Chicago, and danced for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Jan Erkert & Dancers, Dance Kaleidoscope, and Same Planet Different World Dance Theater, where he was a Co-Artistic Director. Recent choreography includes Miss Saigon at the Paramount Theatre and the ACDFA National Gala at the Kennedy Center. Jeff has been designing and constructing costumes for over 20 years. He has created costumes for River North Dance Chicago, Hubbard Street Inside/Out, Gus Giordano Dance Chicago, Danceworks Chicago, Mad Shak, and Lucky Plush Productions, among others. He has been nominated for Ruth Page Awards for his dancing andchoreography, is a McCormick Distinguished Lecturer Award nominee at Northwestern University, and is an Illinois Arts Council grant recipient. He is currently a lecturer at Northwestern University and adjunct faculty at Columbia College Chicago.
Technical Directior | Stage Manager | Lighting Designer
Kevin Rechner is excited to again be working with Lucky Plush Productions. He has recently designed lights and Stage Managed for Peter Carpenter's Bareback into the Sunset, Lucky Plush's Cinderbox 18 and The Sky Hangs Down Too Close, Natya Dance Theatre's Alakshaya, and Mordine and Company's 40th Anniversary. He also designed the set and lights for Trisha Brown's Set and Reset/Reset at the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago. He has been the Production Manager, Technical Director, and Lighting Designer for the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago since 1996. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Theatre from Illinois State University and spent 3 years in Paris, France studying Movement Theatre with Jacques Lecoq and Daniel Stein. He has created 4 solo performance works including, I AM HUGO. Technically, he has worn many hats for many people and served as the LD / TD for the Dance Division of the National High School Institute for 5 years, and can still say "STOP" and "NO" in many languages.
Web Developer - StealThisDance.com
Ian Hatcher is a digital media writer, programmer, and musician. His work has been presented at the 2008 Electronic Literature Organization and Electronic Literature in Europe conferences and published by Counterpath Press and the New Yinzer. He composes for the Moving Architects dance company and performs live from time to time. He is currently a graduate student at Brown University.
Jeremy Blair began training as a gymnast at age three and he discovered dance while at Milikin University where he graduated magna cum laude with a BA in Theatre and a minor in Dance. Before finishing school, he had the opportunity to spend a summer in Paris training and performing with Friches Theatre Urbaine where he learned stilts, trapeze, and other circus arts. Since moving to Chicago he has performed with AMEBA Acrobatic and Aerial Dance, Chicago Moving Company, Khecari Dance Theatre and is currently in his third season with Thodos Dance Chicago. In addition to dancing and choreographing, he is a registered Hatha Yoga instructor. This is Jeremy's first season with Lucky Plush Productions.
Asimina Chremos began her professional career at age 17 with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, and later earned a BFA in Dance, summa cum laude, from Temple University. She continues to be an avid student of new approaches to work with the dancing body including yoga, continuum movement, butoh, contemporary release techniques, meditation and contact improvisation. She has worked in various guises with Links Hall, Lou Conte Dance Studio, Movement Research, the Chicago Dancemakers Forum and dozens of choreographers, musicians, arts organizations and creative projects. Asimina currently maintains a live/work studio, writes for Time Out Chicago magazine, dances with Ayako Kato/Art Union Humanscape and Lucky Plush Productions, and maintains duo projects microgig (with cellist Fred-Lonberg Holm) and Echo Den (with vocalist Carol Genetti).
David Gerber is originally from Minneapolis, MN. David is a recent graduate of Columbia College Chicago, receiving his BA in Dance where he performed in works by Paige Cunningham, Lisa Gonzales, Kirby Reed, Matthew Hollis, and Twyla Tharp. David has danced with The Seldoms and Same Planet Different World Dance and is currently a company member of Mordine and Company Dance Theater. This is David's first season with Lucky Plush Productions.
Kim Larimore Goldman
Kim Goldman has been a collaborating ensemble member with Lucky Plush Productions on seven company works since 2004. She has also danced with Hedwig Dances and Mordine and Company in Chicago, toured Virginia & NY with James Hansen/Assemblage, and danced for numerous independent choreographers in both Chicago and New York. Kim has received Bachelor's degrees in Dance & Psychology from the University of Illinois, and an MFA in Dance Performance & Choreography at New York University where she danced in work by Tere O'Connor, Larry Keigwin and Gerald Casel. Her independent choreography has been presented at The College of William & Mary (VA), Danspace Center, Williamsburg Art nexus, Dance Theater Workshop, and St. Mark's Church. She has been a guest teacher for Luna Negra Dance Theater, and a part-time faculty member of Illinois Wesleyan University and The Dance Center of Columbia College.
Hogan McLaughlin began his dance training at the Academy of Movement and Music in Oak Park, IL. He continued his studies, on scholarship, at the Lou Conte Dance Studio, the school of the Boston Ballet, and under Larry Long at the Ruth Page Foundation. Hogan performed throughout Chicago with the Lyric Opera Ballet and Momenta before joining Hubbard Street 2 in 2007. He was promoted to an apprentice with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in 2008, performing works by Ohad Naharin, Johan Inger, Marguerite Donlon, Daniel Ezralow, and Toru Shimazaki, among others. This is Hogan's first season with Lucky Plush Productions.
Jon Sherman is a performer, director and teacher who has worked in Washington DC, New York, Chicago, and Switzerland. He is the Artistic Director of Sprung Movement Theatre in Chicago and was one of Jacques Lecoq's last students. He is currently a PhD Candidate in Northwestern University's Interdisciplinary PhD in Theatre and Drama where he is writing his dissertation on the experience and ethics of stage presence in contemporary performance.
Nefertiti Thomas received her B.F.A in dance at Marymount Manhattan College under the direction of Katie Langan-Santee. She has performed work by renowned choreographers such as Hans van Manen, Robert Battle, Denise Vale, Twyla Tharp, Doug Varone, Jaquline Buglisi and others. Nefertiti began her professional career at Hubbard Street 2 in 2007. This is Nefertiti's first season with Lucky Plush Productions.
Meghann Wilkinson is in her 10th season as an ensemble member with Lucky Plush Productions. She is a former company member of Mordine and Company, and has performed with Smith/Wymore Disappearing Acts, Cie Felix Ruckert, Raizel Performances, and Peter Carpenter Performance Project. Meghann has been a guest teacher and choreographer for Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival, Cecchetti Council of America, and Evanston Dance Ensemble. She was Assistant Choreographer for Lookingglass Theatre's The Great Fire and movement director for Walkabout Theater's Crow. Meghann has organized for the Chicago Seminar on Dance and Performance and the Society of Dance History Scholars. She has taught at Northwestern University, Dance Center Evanston, and Visceral Dance Chicago, and is currently on faculty in the theater and dance programs at Columbia College Chicago.
Lighting Designer | Media Designer
Julie Ballard is a media artist and lighting designer whose favorite dance designs include 5 Characteristics of Brother (Marquez Dance), Rhapsody (Shapiro & Smith) and Falling on Lobsters in the Dark (Stephanie Carter). She has worked for Hedwig Dance, Mordine and Company Dance Theater, Dance COLEctive, The Seldoms and Same Planet Different World Dance Theater. Julie has been a part of numerous festivals as well as American Dance Festival, and has toured nationally and internationally with David Dorfman Dance. Julie is full time staff and adjunct faculty at the Dance Center of Columbia College. Julie is no stranger to theatre either, working with Signal Ensemble as an Artistic Associate designing both lights and media. She has also worked with Irish Rep Theatre, Grey Zelda and Whitehorse Theatre Company. Some of her favorite theatre designs include Cabaret (University of Florida), 1776 (Signal Ensemble Theatre) and I Sing (Whitehorse Theatre). Julie earned her MFA from the University of Florida. www.overlaplighting.com.
Noé Cuéllar is an artist and curator originally from Laredo, TX. He graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. A variety of his audiovisual work has been performed or exhibited at Millennium Park's Pritzker Pavilion, Third Coast International Audio Festival, New Music at the Green Mill, Looptopia (Chicago); MEXIC-Arte Museum (Austin); Neighborhood Public Radio/Whitney Biennial (NYC); Megapolis Audio Art and Documentary Festival (Boston); Sound Art Space (Laredo, TX); among others. Recent commissions include National Headquarters, Standing Point Films, and Antibody Dance.
Jocelyn Kelvin is a filmmaker, actress, and yoga teacher. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2007 in Theatre and Creative Writing (Poetry), she immersed herself in learning how to create film. Her interest in expressive movement and music in cinematic storytelling led her to Lucky Plush, and she has been thrilled to work with the company on Punk Yankees this past year. Her narrative dance film This Sandy Cube, choreographed by Erin Carlisle Norton, will be premiering in October at Links Hall as part of the Moving Architects' concert, The Tasting Room.
Stefen Robinson makes music under the moniker Yea Big, which is most commonly associated with the post-punk-glitch-hop group Yea Big + Kid Static. Stefen's interests and musical explorations are heavily influenced by questions regarding private and intellectual property, the concept of fair use, and the principles of Social Anarchis.
Adrian Danzig's recent credits include The Seagull at Lake Lucille, and Orlando at The Court Theater, in addition to the development of Lucky Plush's The Better Half over the past year. He regularly performs the shows in the 500 Clown touring repertoire: 500 Clown Macbeth, 500 Clown Frankenstein, 500 Clown Christmas, and 500 Clown Trapped. Adrian has lead workshops in physical theater all around the country, and internationally for the past 10 years. He has performed in shows at The Goodman, The Second City, Steppenwolf Studio, Berkeley Rep, Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Public Theater, and with Shakespeare & Company and Lookingglass. He has performed his solo works at The Kitchen, P.S. 122, The Ontological Hysteric Theater and Soho Rep. He was an early Neo-futurist and a founding member of Redmoon Theater, Hubinspoke Theater and is the founding Producing Artistic Director of 500 Clown. He graduated from NYC's High School of Performing Arts, received his BA from Oberlin College and his MFA from the School of The Art Institute of Chicago. He has studied clown with CtiborTurba, Philippe Gaulier, Ronlin Foreman, Dominique Jando, ElsComediants, David Shiner, Avner the Eccentric and was a clown with Big Apple Circus Clown Care for 7 years. He iscurrently writing a book on physical theater with support from the Raven Foundation.
Tim Heck has been an ensemble member with Lucky Plush Productions for She/Three (2006)and The Sky Hangs Down To Close (2008), and will be part of their upcoming tour of Punk Yankees. Since graduating Hope College in 2004, he has also worked and performed with Molly Shanahan/Mad Shak, Redmoon Theater, Thodos Dance Chicago, Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, and Eisenhower Dance Ensemble. From 2007-2009, he performed as a Blue Man in Blue Man Group at the Briar Street Theater. In 2011 Tim joined the company of 500 Clown for the premier of 500 Clown Trapped!, toured as a part of the performing ensemble with New Belgium Brewery's bicycle celebrating festival Tour de Fat, played percussion with the Brooklyn-based band The Hollows, and continued as cheerleader for Chicago's circus-punk-marching band Mucca Pazza. He has most recently joined the cast of Punchdrunk's Sleep No More in New York City.
Leslie Buxbaum Danzig is co-creator and co-director with Julia Rhoads for Lucky Plush's The Better Half and The Queue. She is co-founder of the physical theater company 500 Clown, and co-created/directed 500 Clown Macbeth, Frankenstein, Elephant Deal, and Christmas. Her work with 500 Clown has played at Chicago venues including Steppenwolf and Lookingglass, and toured extensively throughout the US. Other projects include Wild Sounds with Third Coast Percussion (director); Redmoon’s Hunchback at NYC’s New Victory Theater (director); Pat Kane’s Float with About Face Theatre (director); Redmoon’s The Elephant and the Whale with Chicago Children’s Theater (co-director with Frank Maugeri); touring with NYC’s Elevator Repair Service (actor); playing Masha in The Seagull in Lake Lucille, NY (dir. Brian Mertes); and teaching and directing at numerous Chicago-area colleges and universities. Leslie received her BA from Brown University and PhD from Northwestern University in Performance Studies. She trained in physical theater and clown with Jacques Lecoq and Philippe Gaulier and is currently the curator of The University of Chicago’s Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry, where artists and scholars experiment with forms of collaboration.
Composer | Sound Designer
Mikhail Fiksel is originally from Siberia, and is currently a Chicago based sound designer, composer, musician and a dj and a member of StrawdogTheatre Company and 2nd Story. He is also an Artistic Associate with Teatro Vista, Collaboraction and Redmoon Theatre and on the faculty at Loyola University. Recent Chicago work includes projects with The Goodman Theatre, Writers Theatre, Redmoon, Victory Gardens, Lifeline, Northlight, Albany Park Theatre Project, The Hypocrites, Teatro Vista, About Face and Collaboraction. Regional and Off-Broadway: The Geffen Playhouse, 2nd Stage, St. Louis Repertory and Milwaukee Chamber Theatre. International: TukkersConnexion (Arnhem, Holland) and Festival FILO (Londrina, Brazil). Recent film composition credits include The Wise Kids, In Memoriam and both/and. He has received five Joseph Jefferson Awards, a Lucille Lortel Award, and an After Dark Award for an Original Musical. He had also been nominated for the Henry Hewes Design Award and was recently honored with The Michael Maggio Emerging Designer Award. When he is not busy fighting crime he performs with his band Seeking Wonderland or his Dynamic DJ Duo, The Ordeal. www.mikhailfiksel.com
Heather Gilbert's Chicago credits include: The Detective's Wife, A Streetcar Named Desire, and The Old Settler (Writers' Theatre) Home, Comedy of Errors, and The Mystery of Irma Vep, (Court Theatre), Honus and Me, Esperanza Rising, and The Hundred Dresses, (Chicago Children's Theatre), TheFront Page, Master Harold and the Boys and Not Enough Air (Timeline Theatre), Our Town and Cabaret (Hypocrites) and A Separate Peace (Steppenwolf Theatre Company). Regional credits include A Streetcar Named Desire (Williamstown Theatre Festival), The Farnsworth Invention (Alley Theatre) and Off-Broadway credits include Our Town (Barrow Street Theatre). Upcoming projects include The Caretaker at Writers, Our Town at the Broad Stage in LA and The Better Half for Lucky Plush Productions in Chicago. Heather was a 1999-2001 recipient of the NEA/TCG Development Program Award. She serves as the Head of Lighting Design at Columbia College and received her MFA from The Theatre School at DePaul.
Clare Roche's stage management credits include: 13 Clocks (Lifeline), Macbeth and A Midsummer Night's Dream (Lakeside Shakespeare Theatre), 500 Clown Trapped (Adventure Stage/500 Clown), Sinbad: The Untold Tale (Adventure Stage), Cabaret (Hypocrites), Red Noses (Strawdog), Woody Guthrie's American Song (Blindfaith) and On My Parent's 100th Wedding Anniversary (Side Project) and travels with 500 Clown productions of Frankenstein and Macbeth. Clare also works as Master Electrician at Loyola University Chicago and resident designer at Sacred Heart Academy. She has most recently acted as Assistant Lighting Designer for Cyrano (House Theatre). Clare will next be assisting lights for Death and Harry Houdini (House) and Stage manager for The Giver (Adventure Stage).
Francisco Avina is a collaborating ensemble member with Lucky Plush Productions and a dancer with Ron De JesusDance. A former company member of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, River North Chicago Dance Company, he also performed in Celine Dion's A New Day at Caesars Palace. Film and television dance appearances include Newsies, Batman and Robin, Fame L.A., the World Billboard Music Awards, Janet Jackson's music video Alright, and corporate industrials for Adidas, Canon, Nike, and Nintendo, among others. Choreography includes a Giannai Versace fashion show in Singapore, the 10th Annual American Choreography Awards in Los Angeles, Muscle Musical in Tokyo, TV Azteca Disney's La Seleccion and Yo Mexico in Mexico City, and Nickolodeon's Kid's Choice Awards with Justin Timberlake. He has created works for DanceWorks Chicago, Thodos Dance Chicago, and Ron DeJesus Dance, co-created a work with Stephanie Martinez for Luna Negra Dance Theater, and created three works for Hubbard Street 2, one having been earned by way of HS2's National Choreographic Competition. In 2012, Francisco received Youth America Grant Prix's Outstanding Choreography Award.
Benjamin Wardell began dancing at age ten in Memphis, TN. He is a former company member of the Cincinnati Ballet, where he achieved the rank of soloist, Alonzo King's LINES Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and Azure Barton and Artists. Ben is currently in his 3rd season as an ensemble member with Lucky Plush Productions. He is also a freelance teacher, photographer, videographer, performer, and dancemaker. Most recently, Ben founded The Cambrians, a dance company that most recently produced The Nexus Project - one of Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch" in 2014 - a complex collaborative project performed by himself and fellow Lucky Plush Ensemble member Michel Rodriguez Cintra.
Johnny Iguana has toured internationally and recorded six albums with his cult-favorite rock band oh my god. He has played live or recorded with Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, Koko Taylor, James Cotton, Lil’ Ed, Carey Bell, Billy Boy Arnold, Lurrie Bell, Matthew Skoller, John Primer, Billy Branch, Carlos Johnson, Sugar Blue, Dave Myers, Eddie Shaw and more. He has played on Grammy-nominated albums with Junior Wells and Chicago Blues: A Living History, has performed everywhere from Beirut to Buenos Aires to the Montreux Jazz Festival and has had strange musical encounters with Van Morrison and Jeff Healey that he'd love to tell you about.
Ricardo J Garcia
Ricardo's experience in the field of dance expands for over 20 years. He began his dance training at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, where he earned a BA in Dance. Upon graduating, he joined the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, under the direction of founder Jeraldine Blunden and subsequently Kevin Ward. Currently, Ricardo holds a Master's of Science in Nonprofit Management and Philanthropy from Bay Path College and is the Chicago Administrator of Career Transition For Dancers/Midwest.
Ricardo has worked with such acclaimed choreographers as Bill T. Jones, Doug Verone, Donald McKayle, Ronald K. Brown and Dwight Rhoden, among others. He has also performed with The Joffrey Ballet, Illinois Ballet, Peoria Ballet, Rhythm in Shoes, Walt Disney World and most recently with Luna Negra Dance Theater. He has taught classes throughout the US and Russia and has choreographed for Luna Negra Dance Theater, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company II, South Dayton Dance Theater, Stivers School for the Arts, The Chicago High School for the Arts and Piel Morena Contemporary Dance. Ricado was the recipient of the Josie Award for Outstanding Male Dancer of the Year in 2002.
Daniel is a native of Atlanta, Georgia where he earned a BFA in dance from the University of Georgia. Upon graduating he joined a national tour with 13th Floor Performing Arts and was a featured performer and choreographer. Some of hisformal training came from Gotta Dance Atlanta and the Joel Hall Dance Center where he trained in African, hip-hop, jazz, modern, tap, ballet, and breakdance. Shortly after, Daniel moved to Chicago where he has been fortunate to perform for Culture Shock Chicago, Chicago Dance Crash, the Seldoms, 5 Star Boogie, Elephant Filmworks, the Oprah Winfrey Show, a national campaign forUPS, Johnny Dangerous, and Kid Sister with Kanye West. He was also a featured dancer in the short film, "Wonderland or Humans who talk and dance.” Daniel joined Lucky Plush Productions in 2014.
Elizabeth started dancing at The School of Performing Arts in her hometown of Orlando, Fl. She is a graduate of Indiana University where she pursued her dance education with Violette Verdy, Guoping Wang, and Leslie Peck. Since relocating to Chicago in 2005, Elizabeth has danced with Winifred Haun and Dancers, Nomi Dance Company, Dance in the Parks, and Lyric Opera of Chicago. Her guest appearances include Ballet Quad Cities, Madison Ballet, and Ron de Jesus Dance and she currently works as a guest artist with Emily Stein. Elizabeth has taught for Visceral Dance Center and is on faculty at the Joffrey Academy of Chicago. She is thrilled to be working with the Lucky Plush ensemble!
Cat Wilson is a Chicago-based lighting and projection designer for dance, theatre, opera, and live events. She has recently worked with Chicago Dance Crash, Innervation Dance Cooperative, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Li Chiao-Ping Dance Company, Chicago Children’s Theatre, Opera Theatre Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre, Hiawatha Project, and the Hanger Theatre. She is also the technical manager and resident lighting designer for The Den Theatre. She received her MFA in lighting design from Carnegie Mellon. www.catwilsondesigns.com.
Deidre Huckabay is a grant writing professional, performer, and producer based in Chicago. A skilled grant seeker with at-the-ground-floor experience in a new model of nonprofit fundraising in Creative Partners, Deidre prepares an average 65 grants annually on behalf of three of Chicago’s highest-performing nonprofits: eighth blackbird, Blair Thomas & Co., and Lucky Plush Productions.
A flutist with degrees from the Eastman School of Music and Duquesne University, Huckabay has performed at notable venues in the United States–including Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago–and on stages in Italy, France, Switzerland, and Mexico. Huckabay is co-principal at the contemporary classical cassette tape label Parlour Tapes+.
Interim Development Manager
Asheley Smith received a PhD in Critical Dance Studies from the University of California, Riverside in December 2014. Her dissertation, "Reproducible Dances: Reconstructing the 'Ephemeral' With Funding From the National Endowment for the Arts' 'American Masterpieces: Dance' Program,” takes the NEA's American Masterpieces initiative as a case study through which to investigate the ways in which funding mechanisms conceptualize and make claims about dance and choreography. Prior to completing her degree, Asheley was the Development Director at Working in the Schools (WITS), a literacy nonprofit providing volunteer-powered programming to Chicago Public School students, where she oversaw an 85% year-over-year revenue growth and increased individual giving by 39%. She has also held development positions at Parkways Foundation in Chicago and the Smithsonian Institution's Freer and Sackler Galleries in Washington, D.C.
Asheley served on the Congress on Research in Dance (CORD) Board of Directors from 2010-2012 and was co-chair of the Dance Under Construction conference hosted at UCR in 2010. Asheley received her masters in the Social Sciences from the University of Chicago and double majored in Dance and History at Oberlin College where she is also an active member of the Alumni Council, serving as Alumni Class President, Associate Class Agent, and on the Development Committee.