ATC's Season 26 designs are by Designscout. For more info, see

design team

Dexter Bullard (Director) is an award-winning director dedicated to directing new plays and creating original improvisational and experimental theater for Chicago and beyond. Recent directing credits include Odradek at HOUSE Theatre, Mistakes Were Made at Barrow Street Theater Off-Broadway and at A Red Orchid Theatre, Reverie with Second City at The Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal, Lady at Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre Off-Broadway and Brett Neveu's Gas for Less at the Goodman Theatre. Upcoming is Annie Baker's Circle Mirror Transformation at Victory Gardens. In 2004, Dexter was awarded the Lucille Lortel Award for Tracy Letts' Bug at The Barrow Street Theater, as well as a Drama Desk Nomination. In 1995 Dexter co-founded Plasticene Physical Theater, whose critically-acclaimed experimental works have been featured at The Steppenwolf Studio, The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, The Storefront Theatre, Performing Arts Chicago, MCA and in New York City. With the Plasticene company, he has directed and collaboratively created fourteen original works including The Palmer Raids (2003) and From A Fading Light (2010). Since 1996, Dexter has also directed with The Second City, leading a National Touring Company and developing revues at E.T.C. and at Second City Detroit. Back in 1990, Dexter founded The Next Lab at The Next Theatre where he directed Bouncers, for which he received a Jefferson Citation and an After Dark award for his direction. He has also directed projects for Famous Door Theatre, Northlight, Steppenwolf, Hartford Stage Company, Links Hall and several times for A Red Orchid Theatre. Dexter is the Head of Graduate Acting at The Theatre School at DePaul University. He did his undergrad at Northwestern's Theater Program and received his MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in Performance.

Jason W. Gerace (Associate Director) is Artistic Associate of American Theater Company and thrilled to be back working on another world premiere. At ATC Jason directed the most recent production of It's a Wonderful Life: The Radio Play, which was broadcast on WBEZ Chicago Public Radio' assistant directed Yeast Nation and Speech & Debate under the direction of PJ Paparelli; Associate Directed the World Premiere of Welcome to Arroyo's by Kristoffer Diaz; produced the first 10X10 Festival and curated The Silver Project, a festival of new plays by national and Chicago playwrights celebrating ATC's 25th season, presented during the 2010 TCG National Conference. Other Chicago credits include assistant directing Awake & Sing! at Northlight, under the direction of Amy Morton, The Overwhelming at Next Theater and The North Plan at Steppenwolf under the direction of Kimberly Senior and Sex with Strangers under the direction of Jessica Thebus at Steppenwolf. Regional directing credits include Hamlet (Oklahoma Summer Shakespeare), A Christmas Carol (Oklahoma City Theatre Co.), The Miracle Worker (Theatikos), Love Letters (TheatreWorks), Antigone and A Midsummer Night's Dream (Theatre for Young People). Jason originally hails from Anchorage, Alaska and holds an MFA in Directing from The University of Oklahoma. He is married to a truly amazing woman, who makes everything her does possible to begin with. They are expecting their first child in May. He is an associate member of SDC.

Brian Sidney Bembridge (Scenic and Lighting Designer) returns to ATC where he designed Tin Types and Living Out. His work has been seen at the Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, The Second City, Lookingglass Theatre Company (production affiliate), Court Theatre, The Chicago Theater, Ravinia Festival, Drury Lan Theaters, Luna Negra Dance Theatre, Northlight Theater, Victory Gardens Theater, Teatro Vista and TimeLine Theatre (artistic associate), Teatro Vista (Artistic Associate) among others. Off-Broadway credits include Second Stage (2Hewes Nominations), The Public Theater, Jean Cocteau Repertory, Kids With Guns and Theatre at St. Clement's. Regional credits include Guthrie Theater, The Children's Theatre Company, Actors Theater of Louisville, Alliance Theatre, Arden Theatre, California Shakespeare, Round House Theater, Virginia Opera, Opera Omaha, Milwaukee Repertory, Madison Repertory and Circle X Theatre Company (Company Member), among others. Film production design credits include Wallace Shawn's Marie and Bruce, Holding Out, Stray Dogs and he designed the scenery for Muppets From Space. Mr. Bembridge has been honored with five Joseph Jefferson Awards, two LA Drama Critics Circle Awards, two Garland Awards, an Ovation Award and a LA Weekly Award and was named one of the Five Most Prolific Theater Artists of the Decade by Time Out Chicago.

Tif Bullard (Costume Designer) has costume designed internationally (Reverie for The Second City at Montreal's Juste Pour Rire), Off-Broadway (Mistakes Were Made at Barrow Street Theatre and Lady at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater), regionally (Gas For Less at Goodman Theatre, Grace at Northlight Theatre), and Off-Loop in Chicago (Mistakes Were Made, Hunger & Thirst, and In the Solitude of Cotton Fields at A Red Orchid Theatre, Killers for Mary-Arrchie, Will He Bop? Will He Drop? at National Pastime, Florida Styx for Hypatia, Savage/Love for Moving Dock and Psyche for New Theatre Collective). She has costumed numerous independent films, including the feature film, Oh My Soul that has appeared at Echo Park Film Center in Los Angeles, Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago and at the Rotterdam International Film Festival in the Netherlands. She is also a freelance stylist and has a client list including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Momix Dance Company, Ward and Ames Events for Kohler, Three Arts Club and DePaul University's The Theatre School's Graduate Showcase. This winter, Tif has also designed costumes for Odradek for The House Theatre at the Chopin and Circle Mirror Transformation at Victory Gardens. Her costume design for Mistakes Were Made, starring Michael Shannon, is currently running Off-Broadway at the Barrow Street Theatre. Tif also designs and constructs costumes for her own solo and collaborative performance work. Visit her at

Kevin O'Donnell (Sound Designer) is happy to be back at ATC, where his previous credits are The Mamet Rep, The People's Temple and Orpheus Descending. In Chicago he has also worked with Steppenwolf, Lookingglass, Chicago Shakespeare, Northlight, The Next, Redmoon, The Hypocrites (Artistic Associate) and The House (Company Member) amongst many others. As a composer and sound designer he has received six Jeff Awards (fifteen nominations) and received two consecutive "Outstanding Season" After Dark Awards. Outside of Chicago his work has been heard at A.C.T. (San Francisco), The Stages Rep (Houston), The Kansas City Rep, CenterStage (Baltimore) and in New York at St. Anne's Warehouse, 59E59, The Cherry Lane and at The Public (on a workshop of Dan LeFranc's Origin Story). As a musician he has recorded and toured extensively with Andrew Bird and has recorded and/or performed with Jon Rauhouse, Eliza Rickman, David Berkeley, Nickel Creek, Jon Wesley Harding, Kelly Hogan, Rachel Ries, Emily Loizeau and many others.

Joel William Lambie (Properties Designer) comes from Paso Robles, California. He received his theatrical education at The Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts. He has worked as a prop master and instructor at SRT of Santa Rosa, California where he worked on Mame, The Full Monty and Peter Pan. Before arriving in Chicago, he was with PCPA Theaterfest where he worked on Les Miserables, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Since arriving in November 2009, he has been the prop designer for TUTA's The Wedding and Baal (Chopin Theatre), Drury Lane Oakbrook's assistant props designer for Ragtime and prop designed for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Spamalot. He did What Once We Felt and Sweet Tea with About Face and he was the prop master for Lookingglass Theatre Company's Haphaestus (Goodman). He was also recently the prop designer for the Mamet Rep with ATC, Redtwist Theatre's production of Lobby Hero, a remount of The Wedding with TUTA (Chopin Theatre) and Don't Let Pigeon Drive the Bus with Emerald City (Apollo).

Dana M. Nestrick (Production Stage Manager) American Theater Company - Welcome to Arroyo's, Speech & Debate, I Do! I Do!, The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, (sub) Celebrity Row; Theatre Wit - The Santaland Diaries (‘09 &'10); Writers' Theatre - A Minister's Wife (Workshops & Sub SM), Teatro Vista - Our Lady of the Underpass; Buffalo Theatre Ensemble - Sleuth; The Goodman Theatre - Assistant Stage Manager Romance, Stage Manager Binky Rudich or the Revenge of the Space Pandas; Provincetown Repertory - Production Stage manager The Mystery of Irma Vep; Hartford Stage - Assistant Stage Manager Topdog/Underdog, A Christmas Carol (‘02-'05), Metamorphoses, The Mystery of Irma Vep, Christmas Carol, Tennessee William's Eight by Tenn, Trip to Bountiful, Much Ado About Nothing, Tazwell Thompson's Constant Star, World Premier of Tea at Five starring Kate Mulgrew, Tennessee William's Letters from Tennessee - A Distant Country Called Youth; Arizona Repertory Theatre - Stage Manager Steel Magnolias, A Flea in Her Ear; Music Theatre Arizona - Production Stage Manager Side by Side by Sondheim. Proud AEA member. Dana is also a professional Costume Craft artisan. Dana is a proud member of the Core Production Company at American Players Theatre where she has been the Painter/Dyer for the past ten seasons.


the ensemble

Andrew Goetten makes his American Theater Company debut. Other Chicago credits include She Loves Me at Writers' Theatre and understudying for Dog & Pony Theatre Company's production of Dead Letter Office. He is a recent graduate of The Theatre School at DePaul University. Special thanks to friends and family for their unconditional support.

Philip Earl Johnson is very pleased to be making his ATC debut and to again be working on a new play. National credits include work in Los Angeles at The Laguna Playhouse, The Stella Adler Theater and the national tour of Angels in America by Tony Kushner playing Joe Pitt. He has recently played locally at The Writer's Theater in Old Glory, a world premiere by Brett Neveu, and The Goodman Theatre in Talking Pictures and The Actor by Horton Foote. Past credits include work at Steppenwolf playing Picasso in Picasso at the Lapin Agile, Jesus in The Mystery Cycle at the Court, as well as work at the Chicago Shakespeare, Famous Door, Bailiwick and Oak Park Festival Theaters. Phil has spent eleven summers at The Illinois Shakespeare Festival playing such roles as Cyrano, Macbeth, Coriolanus and Henry VIII. He has numerous television and film credits. He is a veteran of over 4500 performances and spends most of his year traveling the country as MooNiE the MagnifiCent: JUGGLER, ROPEWALKER, FOOLISH MORTAL!, a solo classical clown act that has been seen at The Bristol Renaissance Faire for the last 20 years. He is ever grateful for his time in the theater.

Emily Leahy is delighted to be making her first appearance at ATC. She made her professional stage debut at four years old, as Macy in Dollhouse at The Goodman Theatre.Some of her other credits include Zuzu in It's A Wonderful Life - A Live Radio Play at Fox Valley Repertory, Molly in Annie at St. James Theatre, Tootie in Meet Me in St. Louis, at Drury Lane Water Tower, and Kirsti in Number the Stars at Apple Tree Theatre. Emily has also been in several commercials including Bob Evans and Luna Carpet. She is in 4th grade and loves math. In her spare time, she takes hip-hop, jazz, tap and tumbling classes. She wants to thank Paonessa Talent, along with her family and friends for all their support. A special thanks goes to her sister, Sami, for always encouraging her and being her biggest fan!

Lindsay Leopold is honored to be working with American Theater Company again, having last appeared in ATC's Silver Project. Recent Chicago credits include The Hypocrites' Cabaret (Sally), Lifeline Theatre's Wuthering Heights and The Castle of Otranto at First Folio Theatre. Originally from Cape Cod, Lindsay has worked with Provincetown Theatre Company and Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theatre. She holds an MFA from DePaul's Theatre School. Lindsay would like to thank PJ, Dexter and Dan for the opportunity to tell this beautiful story, and Malachi, for sitting next to me at the table. Please visit

Lia D. Mortensen is making her American Theater Company debut in The Big Meal. Other Chicago credits include A Doll's House, Macbeth and The Illusion (Next Theatre); Rabbit Hole (Goodman); Fighting Words (Rivendell); Lady Windemere's Fan, SkyGirls and Talley's Folly (Northlight); All's Well That Ends Well and Measure for Measure (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre); Closer and Faith Healer (for which she received a Jeff Nomination and the Sarah Siddons - Actress of the Year Award) at Steppenwolf; Night and Day (RemyBumppo); Aristocrats (Organic Theatre); Voice of the Turtle (Classic American Theatre); and Serious Money and Ghosts (Court Theatre). Film credits include Blink. Television credits include Early Edition, Missing Persons, the TV Pilot of Family Practice and the upcoming series Chicago Code.

Peggy Roeder makes her ATC debut in The Big Meal. She just finished Float at About Face Theatre. Other Chicago credits include Capote's Holiday Stories at Provision Theatre, Busy World is Hushed at Next, The Dresser at Steppenwolf, Barefoot in the Park at Drury Lane Oakbrook, Uncle Vanya at Court, How Can You Run With a Shell? and Kabuki Lady Macbeth at Chicago Shakespeare, Trip to Bountiful at Goodman, and Indian Ink at Apple Tree. Her work in Chicago theatre has garnered her four Jeff Awards, three Artisan Awards and two After Dark Awards. Other theatre credits include Cabaret, A Little Night Music, and Over the Tavern at Peninsula Players, Cider House Rules at Atlantic Theatre Company and Mark Taper Forum and Clean House at Milwaukee Rep. Her film work includes Road to Perdition, Stranger Than Fiction, Groundhog Day, Were The World Mine, Eagle Eye, The Lakehouse, Baby on Board and In Memoriam. On television she has been seen on Law & Order, E.R., Star Trek:DS9, Pennsylvania Miners Movie, Prison Break, and All My Children. Peggy has sung in concert at Ravinia and the Chicago Humanities Festival and can be heard on both Second City Divas CDs. Peggy is a proud member of Actors' Equity Association.

Noah Jerome Schwartz was educated at the Walford School, which brought out his creativity and he would often perform for his family in such gear as a cape, cowboy boots and star-shaped sunglasses. In 2007 he landed a starring role in the Apple Tree Theatre summer camp production of The Pirates of Lake Michigan. He has since played Fleance in Macbeth (Chicago Shakespeare Theater) and roles in the films The Dilemma starring Vince Vaughn and Kevin James and Polish Bar starring Judd Hirsch and Richard Belzer and the National Tour of The Wizard of Oz (Chicago Theatre). Last season he made his ATC debut as Jesse in Distracted. Commerical work includes Filbert's Soda, The Big Ten and voiceover. This is his second production with ATC and he is happy to return.

Will Zahrn is pleased to return to ATC, where he was last seen in Rick Cleveland's Tom and Jerry, also directed by Dexter Bullard. As a member of the Remains Theatre Ensemble, Will appeared in American Buffalo, Puntila and his Hired Man, Lloyd's Prayer, White Biting Dog, Baby with the Bathwater and many others. At Steppenwolf Theatre: The North Plan, Tracers, As I Lay Dying, Side Man, Slaughterhouse Five, El Salvador, Myzlansky/Zilinsky and The Infidel. Other Chicago credits include Heartbreak House at the Goodman, West Side Story at Marriott Lincolnshire and at Next Theatre: The War with the Newts and When You Comin' Back, Red Ryder?, for which he received a Jefferson Citation for Performance. Regional Theatres include Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Utah Shakespeare Festival, Weston (VT) Playhouse, Madison Rep, TheatreWorks Hartford (CT) and most recently Yankee Tavern at Milwaukee Rep. Mr. Zahrn's film work includes The Dark Knight, L.A. Confidential, The Client, Ironweed, The Untouchables and the soon to be released What's Wrong with Virginia?


Letter from PJ

Dear Friends,

Welcome to American Theater Company and the World Premiere of The Big Meal written by Dan LeFranc and directed by Dexter Bullard.

On one of many cold winter evenings during my tenure at Alaska's Perseverance Theatre, I was curled up on my sofa reading a group of plays that my good friend Bonnie Metzger sent from her students at Brown University. One of the plays, Sixty Miles to Silver Lake, explored hundreds of moments between a father and a son on a typical ride home from soccer practice. What stood out – and continues to stand out in all of Dan LeFranc's poetic and imaginative plays – is the rare combination of unprecedented form and striking dialogue that perfectly captures the fractured relationships in the modern American family. Two years later, Sixty Miles to Silver Lake appeared on the reading list for ATC's Literary Circle. The entire Circle loved the play and wanted more. I reached out to Bonnie (who was now my neighbor) who said, "I think Dan wrote some play about family dinners." Dan sent me what was then a 40-minute sketch and, for the last two years, (under the nurturing hand of Dexter Bullard) we worked on developing The Big Meal. I couldn't be a prouder parent to be sharing this premiere with all of you.

Whether family is everything to you or simply just frustrating-dysfunction, The Big Meal is undeniably recognizable. Dan's quintessential family reminds us that each of our families can trace their genesis to a conversation between two people. This roller-coaster through life's dinner moments provides a rare perspective on our own family's lifespan. From a theatre perspective, there has been no greater fodder for playwrights than family. The greatest plays of American dramatic literature center on the ties that bind or break us: O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night; Miller's Death of a Salesman; Shepard's Buried Child; Wilson's The Piano Lesson; and even August: Osage County by Mr. Tracy Letts. Dan joins an impressive list of writers who have not only captured those ridiculous and devastating family moments so beautifully but have also provided us a unique perspective to view the proceedings.

The Big Meal exemplifies ATC's commitment to developing nationally-recognized new work. Season 25's Welcome to Arroyo's by 2010 Pulitzer Nominee Kristoffer Diaz played last September at The Old Globe in San Diego marking ATC's first world premiere to land a second production at a major American theater. While the economy is challenging, I have to acknowledge the commitment of our supporters, board of directors, and you, for taking the risk in supporting new work. Thank you for allowing ATC to contribute new offerings to the American theatre landscape in launching groundbreaking new work right here in Chicago.

Meanwhile, we are about to take another risk in reinventing an American icon. In three short months, ATC will premiere a never-before-seen version of the world's most popular movie musical, Grease, set in Chicago's Northwest side. I encourage you to purchase your tickets now, as performances are already sold out. I wish we could run it forever, but this baby has a cast of 26 (I'm actually not sure where we are putting everyone!) and we only have 100 seats. It'll be gone before you know it - so seriously - buy now!

Sit back and enjoy this all-American family. We are so glad that you are a part of ours.

Your Artistic Director,



the big meal deal

$25 prix fixe at
Sola Restaurant:  
Thursdays to Sundays (after 5pm)
Call Sola - 773.327.3868 for reservations

Just say "I want The Big Meal Deal."
Offer begins Feb 4 and ends on Mar 6.