Mission & Ensemble

Mission & Ensemble

AROT Mission

A Red Orchid Theatre is an ensemble of artists dedicated to the proliferation of live theatre in the modern world. We believe that theatre is the greatest sustenance for the human spirit and approach our work with a palpable sense of social compassion, aesthetic rigor, and honesty. By presenting new plays from all over the world and by reviving insightful works from the past that bear new relevance today, we aim to seek out and build new audiences for the modern stage.


AROT Ensemble Picture 2013 - photo by Chris Zoubris

Brett Neveu


Recent theatre productions include Pilgrim’s Progress with A Red Orchid Theatre (Chicago), Red Bud with Signal Ensemble (Chicago), Detective Partner Hero Villain with SkyPilot Theatre Company (LA) and Strawdog Theatre Company (Chicago) as well as The Opponent with A Red Orchid/Bisno Productions/59e59 (New York).

Film productions include the short Convo with Breakwall Pictures and the feature The Earl with Intermission Productions. Past theatre work includes productions with The Royal Court Theatre and The Royal Shakespeare Company in London; The Goodman Theatre, Writers Theatre, The House Theatre, The Inconvenience, The Side Project, TimeLine Theatre Company, A Red Orchid Theatre and American Theatre Company in Chicago.

A Sundance Institute Ucross Fellow, Brett is also a recipient of the Marquee Award from Chicago Dramatists, the Ofner Prize for New Work, the Emerging Artist Award from The League of Chicago Theatres, an After Dark Award for Outstanding Musical (Old Town) and has developed plays with companies including The Atlantic Theatre Company and The New Group in New York and The Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre and Victory Gardens Theatre in Chicago.

He is a resident-alum of Chicago Dramatists, a proud ensemble member of A Red Orchid Theatre, a current member of TimeLine Theatre Company’s Writers Collective and an alumni member of the Center Theatre Group’s Playwrights’ Workshop in Los Angeles. Brett has been commissioned by The Royal Court Theatre, Manhattan Theatre Club, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, The Goodman Theatre, TimeLine Theatre Company, Writers’ Theatre, Strawdog Theatre, Northlight Theatre and has several of his plays published through Broadway Play Publishing, Dramatic Publishing and Nick Hern Publishing. Brett has taught writing at DePaul University, Second City Training Center and currently teaches writing for the screen and stage at Northwestern University.


DADO croppedDado enjoys finding scripts with cakes in them and then convincing A Red Orchid to produce them. Past shows with cakes at A Red Orchid include The Hothouse, The Fastest Clock in the Universe, and The Sea Horse (oh no wait, that wasn’t a cake – it was a wedding dress). She has also directed The Grey Zone, Simpatico and The Mutilated for A Red Orchid.

Around town she has directed Alice In Bed by Susan Sontag at Trap Door Theatre. She also received an After Dark Award for Outstanding Direction for the critically acclaimed U.S. premiere of Huddersfield by Ugliesa Sajtinac, which was produced by TUTA at Victory Gardens. She is the recipient of The Goodman Theatre’s Michael Maggio Directing Fellowship, where she assistant directed A Life In The Theater with Robert Falls. Her work has been seen at Shattered Globe, Emerald City, Steppenwolf, Prop, Famous Door, as well as many others. Her production of A Red Orchid’s Simpatico recently opened the McCarter Theatre Center’s season to much critical acclaim.

Dado is the Director of Education for Emerald City Theatre Company.

Danny McCarthy

Danny McCarthy has appeared in A Red Orchid’s productions of Megacosm, Abigail’s Party, The Unseen, and Mr. Bundy. Other Chicago credits include: The Minutes,The Flick, Middletown, The Pillowman, Take Me out, and The Water Engine) with Steppenwolf, A Street Car Named Desire with Writer’s Theatre, Take Me Out with About Face Theatre, American Dead with American Theater Company, Early and OFtne, Hell Cab, Ghetto with Famous door, and Serenading Louie with RoadworksOff-Broadway credits include: Kill Floor with Lincoln Center and The Opera House with Signature Theatre/ Regional credits include: Circle Mirror Transformation with The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis.

TV credits include: Elementary, Blue Bloods, Boardwalk Empire, Killing Kennedy, Chicago Fire, Underemployed, Boss, Detroit 187, Chicago Code, Prison Break, ER, What About Joan, and Early Edition.

Danny can be seen in the Elvis and Nixon movie starring Kevin Spacey and fellow AROT ensemble member Michael Shannon. He also appears in the feature film Stronger alongside Jake Gyllenhaal. 


Doug Vickers

doug vickers headshot-smiling

Doug is a proud ensemble member at A Red Orchid Theatre, where some of his favorite roles have been in three plays by ensemble member Brett Neveu: Four MurdersEric La Rue,  and The Meek,  the absurd Hunger and Thirst by Ionesco, the Holocaust drama The Grey Zone, Sam Shepard’s Simpatico, and Grant Varjas’s Accidentally Like a Martyr. He has appeared in 18 shows at A Red Orchid Theatre.  Doug looks forward to more rewarding work ahead at his home base. Over the years at Red Orchid, he has also worked in administrative capacities in the areas of grant writing and production.

Doug has appeared at many other theatres around town, including Chicago Shakespeare Theatre (Comedy of Errors), Next Theatre (U.N. Inspector, Turcaret the Financier) Remy Bumppo Theatre (Jeff Award for Cameo Performance-“The Best Man” -2006-2007 season), Court Theatre, Trap Door Theatre  (Alice in Bed, People Annihilation), Hell in a Handbag, and Famous Door Theatre.  Regional: Illinois Shakespeare Festival

TV: Underemployed (MTV)  Film: One Rainy Day (MPG Productions) in which he appeared as a red beanbag chair ; Hope’s Happy Birthday (Perry Productions).

Doug holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Northwestern University-School of Continuing Studies and has done graduate level work in English at NU as well.

Guy Van Swearingen

Guy is a founding member of A Red Orchid Theatre and a native to Chicago. He received his elementary and high school education though the Chicago Public School system, and he has attended Truman College, Northeastern Illinois University, and Loyola University Chicago. Guy is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association, Screen Actors Guild, AFTRA, and IAFF.

Guy was the founding Artistic Director of A Red Orchid and has participated in every production in some capacity. Directing credits for A Red Orchid include The Physicists and Brett Neveu’s 4 Murders. He has appeared in The Connection, Cops, Victims of Duty, Seven Stories, The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, The Questioning of Nick, Canus Loonis Balloonis, Tis’ Pity She’s a Whore, The Removalists, The Killer, The Cut, Bug, Gagarin Way, The Sea Horse, and The Nether.

Elsewhere, Guy has appeared at American Contemporary Theatre (ACT), Goodman Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre, Mary-Arrchie Theatre, Plasticene, Seattle Repertory, and Steppenwolf Theatre.

Guy has a full time career as a Firefighter for the City of Chicago on Truck 26 proudly serving the West Garfield Park Neighborhood.

Jennifer Engstrom

Jen lived the first ten years of her life on a hog farm in Huxley, Iowa. Eschewing both the rural life and her grandpa’s fervent wish to see her wed a republican, Jen set her sights on the big city, and when she turned 18, she moved to Chicago with stars in her eyes.

An ensemble member since 2003, Jen has appeared in over a dozen AROT productions, culminating in a much coveted 2008 Orgie Award for her delicate portrayal of Fudgie in John Clancy’s Fatboy. She last appeared on A Red Orchid’s stage as Celeste in Tennessee William’s The Mutilated. Other AROT appearances include The Fastest Clock in the Universe, Erice LaRue, Kimberly Akimbo, and The Hothouse, among others

Ms Engstrom was the Angel Of America in David Cromer’s soaring production of Angels in America (both parts) at Kansas City Rep. Other regional credits include Eunice in A Streetcar Named Desire (directed by David Cromer) at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, Lady MacD in MacBeth at Notre Dame Shakespeare, and Zelda in Lisa Dillman’s Ground at the 2009 Humana Festival.  Her work at Northlight Theatre was rewarded with the Jack Springer Award for Best Actress in Sky Girls by Jenny Laird. Other Chicago credits include April Green in Hot l Baltimore at Mary-Arrchie (directed by David Cromer), Shirl in Defiant Theatre’s The Flaming Guns of the Purple Sage, as well as both The Incident and Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been… at Next Theatre which garnered Jeff Awards for Best Ensemble.

In 2001, Jen traveled to London with Steppenwolf Theatre’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest starring Gary Sinise. Ms Engstrom proudly made her NYC theatre debut in 2014 with Excuse My Dust, a Dorothy Parker Portfolio. With Famous Door Theatre she earned critical praise in The Great Society with the Chicago Sun-Times dubbing her performance “the shrewdest, most darkly comic performance you may see all season.”

Jen’s long and often unfortunate affinity for Dorothy Parker led her to compose a “live literature” series, bringing to life a series of Mrs. Parker’s most beloved monologues. Rick Kogan of WGN Radio called her performance at Davenport Cabaret Bar, “a revelation” and deemed its viewing “essential for those with a soul.” Jen is inspired by A Red Orchid Theatre and is honored to be a part of it.

Joseph Fosco

head-josephJoseph Fosco is a Chicago-based sound designer and composer. He has been the Sound Designer for numerous A Red Orchid productions since 1996 and was nominated for Jeff Awards for his work on A Red Orchid’s productions of Bug and The Cut.

Joseph’s other Chicago design credits include The Vagina MonologuesThe Bombity Of ErrorsPageantJoseph And The Amazing Technicolor DreamcoatThe Cider House RulesThe MikadoThe UnderpantsThe Quick Change RoomRuthless: The Musical, and Machinal.

Beyond A Red Orchid, Joseph has designed sound and music in Chicagoland at Royal George Theatre, Apollo Theatre, Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre, Light Opera Works, Noble Fool Theatricals, Famous Door Theatre, The Hypocrites, greasy joan and company, Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company, Bailiwick Repertory Theatre, Redmoon Theatre, Shakespeare’s Motley Crew, and Piven Theatre. Joseph has also designed sound for productions in New York, Seattle, Madison, Milwaukee, London, Edinburgh, Brighton, and Manchester.

Joseph has been awarded a Jeff Award for Original Music, two Jeff Citations for Sound Design, and an After Dark Award for Sound Design. Additionally, Joseph has created music and sound for dance, film, and multimedia projects. He has performed his own solo monologues with sound in Chicago, New York, and Cleveland.

Joseph received a Bachelor of Music in Music Composition from DePaul University in Chicago and a Masters of Music in Music Composition from the University of Miami in Florida.

Kamal Angelo Bolden


Kamal Angelo Bolden has worked with A Red Orchid Theatre (The Opponent *Jeff/BTAA Nomination—Principal Actor*), Victory Gardens Theatre (The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, We Are Proud to Present…), Court Theatre (The Misanthrope, Home, Jitney *Jeff Nomination-Best Ensemble*), Chicago Shakespeare Theater (Short Shakes: Romeo and Juliet), Remy Bumppo (The Island *BTAA Award–Leading Actor*), Chicago Children’s Theatre (Bud, Not Buddy, Jackie and Me), About Face (Immediate Family), Northlight Theatre (Detroit 67), Actors Theatre of Louisville (The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity), Nashville Shakespeare Festival (Coriolanus), Tennessee Rep (Glengarry Glen Ross), Nashville Children’s Theatre (four shows), and is an artistic associate of Erasing the Distance. In addition to acting in independent films and national commercials, Kamal has guest-starred on Low Winter Sun, Betrayal, Chicago Fire, Boss, Lights Out, and The Row.  He has appeared in the feature films Elvis & Nixon and The Night Before.

Karen Kawa

Karen Kawa is pleased to be joining A Red Orchid Theatre’s ensemble. Past costume designs with A Red Orchid include The MutilatedThe MeekBlastedThe Hothouse and The Sea Horse.

Other favorite productions around Chicago include Alice in Bed (Trap Door), Haymarket Eight(Steppenwolf Arts Exchange), Julius Caesar(Strawdog), Highlife (Victory Gardens/Shattered Globe), Who’s Afraid of Virginia WoolfInvitation to a MarchReal Classy Affair, and Frozen Assets(Shattered Globe).

Karen’s costume design for Lower Depths at Shattered Globe won a Jeff Citation, and her design for Warhawks and Lindberghs at Shattered Globe was nominated for a Jeff Award.

Karen Kessler


Karen Kessler is a proud ensemble member of Chicago’s iconoclastic, cutting-edge A Red Orchid Theatre where she directed the world premiere of Brett Neveu’s The Opponent in 2012 and then moved with the show to New York City’s 59E59 Theatres in the late summer of 2014.   Other Red Orchid credits include the Chicago premiere of Jennifer Haley’s The Nether, the Chicago premiere of Zinnie Harris’s Solstice, the Chicago premiere of Paul Mullin’s Louis Slotin Sonata, the Chicago premiere of Blasted by Sarah Kane, the Chicago premiere of Mr. Kolpert by German playwright David Gieselmann and the US premiere of Gagarin’s Way by Scottish playwright Gregory Burke.

Her other Chicago area work includes a production of A Number at Backstage Theatre Company, the US premier of Roddy Doyle’s War at Seanachai Theatre Company, the Midwest premier of Sam Shepard’s The God of Hell at the Next Theatre in Evanston and a staged reading of Susan Nussbaum’s Crippled Sisters for world renowned Goodman Theatre’s New Play Series. Karen is past artistic director of the gone but not forgotten Famous Door Theatre where she directed the world premiere of Early and Often, the world premiere of a Mislaid Heaven, (a play that won a Jeff Award for Best New Work), the US premier of A Going ConcernThis Lime Tree Brower and Remembrance. Other Chicago credits include: Alias GraceWrens (a play that won a Jeff Award for Best New Work), The Trestle at Pope Lick CreekHamlet and Cyrano de Bergerac for Rivendell Theatre Ensemble-a company which Karen co-founded; and the Midwest premier of Steve Martin’s The Underpants for Noble Fool Productions.

Credits outside of Chicago include: Hank Williams: Lost Highway at the Clarence Brown Theatre in Knoxville, TN; Glengarry Glen Ross for the Northern Stage Ensemble in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England; Measure for Measure for Connecticut Repertory Theatre; The Three MusketeersScapin, MacbethA Midsummer Night’s DreamThe Taming of the Shrew, and All’s Well That Ends Well at the Illinois Shakespeare Festival; and the Merry Wives of Windsor and The Complete History of American (Abridged) for Idaho Repertory Theatre.

University directing credits include: Alias Grace, Oklahoma, Music Man, Guys and Dolls, The Last Days of Judas IscariotFrozenHairCamino Real, Love’s Labor’s LostPolaroid StoriesAntigoneBat Boy! The MusicalOur TownLysistrata, and You Can’t Take It with You at Ball State University; A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the University of Illinois Chicago, The Rivals at Virginia Commonwealth University; Les Liaisons Dangereuses at Illinois State University; and The Miss Firecracker Contest at Denison University.

Kirsten Fitzgerald

Kirsten Fkf2itzgerald was first seen on stage at A Red Orchid in The Removalists in 1997.  She was invited to join the Artistic Ensemble in 2000 and stepped in as Artistic Director in 2008.  She has been seen here at home in Pilgrim’s Progress, Strandline, Mud Blue Sky, Butcher of Baraboo, Solstice, The New Electric Ballroom, Abigail’s Party, Pumpgirl, Weapon of Mass Impact, Mr. Bundy, Four Murders, and The Sea Horse (for which she was honored to receive a 2006 Jeff Award).

Kirsten has also been on stage recently at Steppenwolf Theatre in the world premieres of Mary Page Marlow by Tracy Letts and The Qualms by Bruce Norris and at Victory Gardens in the world premiere of Appropriate.  In 1999 Kirsten received an After Dark award for her performance in A Moon for the Misbegotten at Circle Theatre and was honored to understudy Cherry Jones in the same role later that year.

She has acted with The Utah Shakespeare Festival, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Steppenwolf, Apple Tree, Next, Goodman, Shattered Globe, Remy Bumppo, Plasticene, Prop, National Pastime, the much missed Defiant Theatre and more.  Her Television credits include Sirens, Chicago Fire, Underemployed and ER.

An MFA graduate of the University of Iowa and a BA graduate of the University of Kansas, Kirsten grew up in Chicago and its north suburbs.  Being the oldest of seven prepared her well for her role as Artistic Director of this passionate ensemble.  Kirsten also teaches acting at Columbia College and DePaul University.


Lance Baker


Lance Baker Head 3-4-16 cropped

Lance Baker has been an ensemble member since the turn of the century. He directed the world premiere of Brett Neveu’s The Earl, co-directed the midwest premiere of A Very Merry Children’s Scientology Pageant, and directed, designed and performed the Chicago premiere of Mike Daisey’s The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs. He has also been seen in Evening At The Talk House,The Mutilated, The Grey Zone, Hunger and Thirst, The Mandrake, and Becky Shaw. More at lancebakeractor.com.

Larry Grimm

GrimmLawrence Grimm is proud to be a founding ensemble member of A Red Orchid Theatre.

As an actor at A Red Orchid he has appeared in 3C, Trevor, Solstice, Megacosm, Abigail’s Party, Pumpgirl, The Meek, Mr. Kolpert, A Caine Mutiny Court Martial, The Physicists, In the Solitude of the Cotton Fields, and Born Guilty. As a director, he helmed the remount of Mierka Girten’s With or Without Wings, The Cut and various AROT youth ensemble projects for Collaboraction’s Sketchbook and Theatre 7’s Landmark Project. He served as producer of  the A Red Orchid  project created for the citywide Now is The Time Project  on youth violence and bullying.

Around town, Larry has performed with Chicago Shakespeare Theater (The Tempest), The Goodman (2666), Victory Gardens (In the Next Room or The Play about The Vibrator), Next Theatre (Maple and Vine, Welcome Home Jenny Sutter), Court Theatre (Orlando), Lookingglass Theatre (The Naked King, 1984, The Brothers Karamazov), Steppenwolf (A Fair Country, Wolf Lullaby, I Never Sang for My Father), Famous Door ( Hellcab, Ghetto), Raven Theatre (The Glass Menagerie, Death of a Salesman), Collaboraction ( Sketchbook, Apocalyptic Butterflies),  and Piven Theatre (Late: A Cowboy Song, Two by Pinter, King Lear).

As an avid arts educator and teacher, he has worked at Stevenson High School, Lincoln Center Institute, Steppenwolf for Young Audiences, CAPE, Lookingglass, Writer’s Theater, the Illinois Arts Council, Piven Theater Workshop, and the Acting Studio. He has a Masters in Education from DePaul University and taught for 4 years at Chi-Arts, Chicago’s first public high school for the arts. Check out www.grimmactor.com


Michael Shannon

Michael Shannon is a founding member of A Red Orchid Theatre. He has been a part of A Red Orchid since The Connection in 1993, for which he designed the poster and wrote the director’s note in the program.

His most recent performance here was in Brett Neveu’s world premiere of Pilgrim’s Progress.  Other AROT performances include Simpatico (Jeff Award), Mistakes Were Made, Gagarin Way, Mr. Kolpert, BUG, ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore, The Killer, The Persecution of Arnold Petch, Canus Lunis Balloonis, Victims of Duty, and Drinking in America. He also made his directorial debut at A Red Orchid with Hunger and Thirst.

Elsewhere around Chicago, he has worked at Steppenwolf, Lookingglass, Northlight, Famous Door (RIP), and the Next Lab, birthplace of Killer Joe, in which he originated the role of Chris Smith and performed it a gillion times all over God’s green earth. Mike currently lives in NYC where he was recently nominated for a Tony Award for his appearance on Broadway in A Long Day’s Journey Into Night, alongside Jessica Lange and Gabriel Byrne. He also appeared in Ionesco’s The Killer with Theatre for a New Audience and made his Broadway debut in Grace at the Cort Theatre. He also played Astrov in Annie Baker’s adaptation of Uncle Vanya at Soho Rep, directed by Sam Gold.

Film credits include Groundhog Day, Chicago Cab, The Ride, Jesus’ Son, Cecil B. Demented, Tigerland, Pearl Harbor, 8 Mile, Bad Boys II, Kangaroo Jack, Grand Theft Parsons, The Missing Person, Zamboni Man, Revolutionary Road (Oscar Nomination), My Son My Son What Have Ye Done?, Shotgun Stories, Take Shelter, Mud, Machine Gun Preacher, Premium Rush, The Iceman, Man of Steel, 99 Homes and Free Held, Elvis & Nixon, Loving, Nocturnal Animals (Oscar Nomination), 12 Strong, & The Shape of Water. On TV, he played Nelson Van Alden on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire.

For A Red Orchid’s 25th Anniversary Season, Michael will direct Brett Neveu’s world premiere adaptation, Traitor, this winter. He will also appear in the remount of Ionesco’s Victim’s of Duty in Summer 2018.


Mierka Girten