Acting + Directing

“Acting is the ability to live truthfully under given imaginary circumstances” — Sanford Meisner

Stepping into the theater can feel like stepping into another life. The stage places our humanity under the lights and allows us to see ourselves reflected anew in characters and circumstances that can mirror and expand our understanding. This course will explore the artistic partnership between actors and directors in the creation of this world. Begin by developing technique in movement, voice-work, and dynamic character performances. Analyze and interpret a variety of scripts, breaking each scene and dialogue sequence into beats. In small director and actor groups, direct and perform selected scenes with focused attention on intent, line delivery, story, and action while preparing for a final, on-campus performance. While rehearsing, learn the business of acting including the audition process, navigating casting calls, and booking through participating in masterclasses and speaking with visiting industry insiders. Explore how different directors’ perspectives can alter the meaning of a script, and how an actor’s performance can bring a script to life on stage.

EXPLO offers a variety of trips that include professional theater productions in the Chicago Theatre District, Second City, and Steppenwolf Theater. Previous performances have included Wicked, Dear Evan Hansen, Waitress, and Kinky Boots.

All students will be required to bring a laptop.

Who Should Take This Course?

Do you dream of taking center stage or sitting in the director’s chair? This course is for students who are eager to explore the methods, training, and processes used by professional actors and directors, gain confidence and experience in both preparation and performance, and seek advice from professionals in the field. No previous experience in acting or directing required.

Advisors + Past Speakers

  • Woodrow Travers, Assistant Director + Producer
  • Jessica Hecht, Broadway/Film/TV Actress + Singer
  • Cassie Okenka, Broadway Actress + Performing Artist
  • Jonathan London, Director, Screenwriter + Producer
  • Daryn Carp, Producer, Director + Media Personality, Bravo TV
  • Jody Prusan, Founder, Connecting Talent Agency
  • Rachel Cole + Nick Weiss-Richmond, Filmmakers + Directors
  • David Peck, Actor + Former Chair of Performing Arts, Milton Academy
  • Stokley Towles, Performance Artist, Storyteller + Anthropologist
  • Marion Bradford, Producer
  • Alexander Libby, Founder + President, ProductionPro

Plan your summer


Course Highlights

  • Visit a Film Set or Production Studio

    Chicago is home to a thriving theater scene and a multi-million dollar film industry of actors and directors. Visit local studios and productions to see how working actors and directors operate on set.

  • Sessions in Professional Skills

    Chicago has a vibrant production scene including famous Improv comedy groups like Second City, the innovative ensemble performances at Steppenwolf Theatre, and many popular television shows like Empire and Gotham. Engage with experts in topics such as auditions and casting, improv skills, or ensemble work.

  • Professional Theatre Productions

    Attend a professional production in Chicago, and then meet with members of the cast, directors and producers, technical crew, or theatre critics to dissect the show and production process.

With acting, you have to absorb the notes the director gives you during rehearsals; with directing, you give the notes and you have to put things in the right place and in the right way to bring the image you have in your head onto the stage.

Advisors + Past Speakers

Woodrow Travers

Assistant Director + Producer

Woodrow is an Assistant Director and Producer, known for The Dark Knight Rises, John Wick and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. Woodrow is also known for his work on The Girl on the Train, St. Vincent, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Jack Ryan: the Shadow Recruit, R.I.P.D., The Amazing Spider-Man.

Jessica Hecht

Broadway/Film/TV Actress + Singer

Jessica Hecht is an actress and singer with a tremendous resume of experiences on television, in film, and in theater. A graduate of the NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Hecht has appeared on television in Breaking Bad, ER, Law + Order, Seinfeld, Friends, The Good Wife, Desperate Housewives, and Red Oaks. Her film credits include Sideways, Anarchy TV, and Kicking and Screaming. Hecht was nominated for a Tony Award for her role in A View from the Bridge, and she recently performed on Broadway in a revival of Fiddler on the Roof.

Cassie Okenka

Broadway Actress + Performing Artist

Cassie Okenka is a Broadway actress and performing artist currently appearing on Broadway in School of Rock. Okenka made her Broadway debut in Bonnie and Clyde and has performed in national tours of Wicked and The Wizard of Oz. She shares her passion for performing arts through teaching master classes and voice lessons.

Jonathan London

Director, Screenwriter + Producer

Jonathan London is the owner and host of the podcast and news network Geekscape, a multimedia entertainment platform (and an EXPLO Alum). London offers reviews and analysis in the realms of gaming, television, and film. A writer and director of both short films and music videos, London graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and the Film School at Columbia University.

Daryn Carp

Producer, Director + Media Personality, Bravo TV

Daryn Carp is a former NBC page turned assistant to pop icon Andy Cohen of Bravo (and an EXPLO Alum). Carp’s education and interest in PR and Marketing led her to media and entertainment. Together, Cohen and Carp started a new production company, Most Talkative. Carp currently serves as Cohen’s Chief of Staff and hosts a web series she created called Ask Andy.

Rachel Cole + Nick Weiss-Richmond

Filmmakers + Directors

Rachel Cole and Nick Weiss-Richmond are film directors and producers who co-directed the film “The Big Cheat,” a short film about high school students running a cheating ring that was featured at the Sedona Film Festival. Weiss-Richmond has written and directed many other notable films and serves as a film editor and adjunct professor of cinematography at Adelphi University. Cole is an interdisciplinary artist who works primarily in performance and video and hosts a monthly film and video open mic night in Brooklyn.

David Peck

Actor + Former Chair of Performing Arts, Milton Academy

David Peck is an actor, director, and theater teacher who has performed widely in the United States and abroad in his 40-year career. A veteran of both stage and screen, Peck is a sought-after director. As the former Performing Arts Chair at Milton Academy, Peck has coached scores of young actors who have gone on to have noteworthy careers in acting, directing, producing, and writing for stage and screen.

Marion Bradford


Marion Bradford is a producer with Amanpour & Company a new global affairs program which airs weeknights across the nation on PBS and internationally on CNN. Previous to this role, she was a producer with acclaimed journalist Tina Brown. Before working in news media, Bradford got her start in film working most notably with award-winning directors Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig. Originally from Maine and a graduate of Bowdoin College, Marion cares deeply about storytelling and social change.

Alexander Libby

Founder + President, ProductionPro

Alexander Libby is the founder and CEO of ProductionPro, an entertainment technology company focused on improving creative collaboration in Film, TV, and Theatre production. He began his showbiz career by knocking on stage doors looking for work, becoming one of the youngest stage managers on Broadway. Alex went on to developed the concept for ProductionPro while working closely with director Stephen Daldry during production of Warner Bros.’ “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”. Other favorite credits include: Wicked, Billy Elliot The Musical, 13 The Musical, La Cage Aux Folles, High Fidelity the Musical and The London Olympic Ceremonies.