It's "Body Awareness" week on a Vermont college campus and Phyllis, the organizer, and her partner, Joyce, are hosting one of the guest artists in their home, Frank, a photographer famous for his female nude portraits. Both his presence in the home and his chosen subject instigate tension from the start. Phyllis is furious at his depictions, but Joyce is actually rather intrigued by the whole thing, even going so far as to contemplate posing for him. As Joyce and Phyllis bicker, Joyce's adult son, struggles to express himself physically with heartbreaking results.
Body Awareness received its lauded World Premiere at the Atlantic Theater Company in May 2008. It received a Drama Desk Nomination and Outer Critics Circle Nomination for Outstanding Play. Annie Baker is currently a member of the Ensemble Studio Theater's Youngblood Playwrights Group and she was one of only seven playwrights selected to participate in the 2008 Sundance Institute Theatre Lab.
The cast of Body Awareness features Profiles’ ensemble members Eric Burgher (Graceland, Men of Tortuga) as Jared and Joe Jahraus (The Wonderful World of Dissocia, Things We Said Today) as Frank. The cast also includes Cheryl Graeff (The Mercy Seat, Graceland) as Phyllis and Barb Stasiw (The Wonderful World of Dissocia) as Joyce.
“Body Awareness is one of the most honest, funny and heartbreaking plays that I’ve read,” says director Benjamin Thiem. “It’s a perfect match for the always provocative Profiles Theatre as it pulls no punches exploring our hidden insecurities, desires and fears. Annie Baker is one of the hottest young playwrights in New York right now, and we can’t wait to introduce her work to Chicago audiences, who will no doubt be drawn to her unique voice and emotionally truthful storytelling.”
ANNIE BAKER grew up in Amherst, Massachusetts and graduated from the Department of Dramatic Writing at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. She made her off Broadway debut with BODY AWARENESS, staged by the Atlantic Theater Company in May 2008. The play featured actress JoBeth Williams and was nominated for a Drama Desk Award and an Outer Critics Circle Award. Her play CIRCLE MIRROR TRANSFORMATION has its world premiere at Playwrights Horizons in October 2009 and was voted one of the top ten plays of 2009 by the New York Times, the New Yorker, and Time Out New York. Her most recent play, THE ALIENS, received its world premiere at Rattlestick Playwights Theater in April 2010 and she was commissioned by Soho rep for THE END OF THE MIDDLE AGES. Her work has also been developed and produced at New York Theatre Workshop, MCC, Manhattan Theatre Club, Soho Rep, the Orchard Project, Ars Nova, the Magic Theater, the Cape Cod Theatre Project, the Bay Area Playwrights Festival and the Sundance Institute Theatre Lab in Utah and Ucross, Wyoming. Annie is a member of MCC’s Playwrights Coalition and EST, and she is an alumna of Youngblood and the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab. Recent honors include a Susan Smith Blackburn Prize nomination, a Time Warner Storytelling Fellowship, a MacDowell Fellowship and commissions from Center Theatre Group and Playwrights Horizons.
Benjamin Thiem is the director of BODY AWARENESS. He is returning to Profiles after directing "Land of the Dead" for THINGS WE SAID TODAY, and assistant directing for SOME GIRL(S) and FAT PIG by Neil LaBute. Ben is a company member and literary manager of TimeLine Theatre Company. His work at TimeLine includes producer for LILLIAN, TRUMBO and the TimePieces New Play Reading Series, assistant director for WIDOWERS’ HOUSES, MARTIN FUREY’S SHOT and the remount of HANNAH AND MARTIN. Other Chicago credits include assistant director for THE LAST DAYS OF JUDAS ISCARIOT at The Gift Theatre, and dramaturg for the new play CITRUS with the New Theatre Collective. He is a graduate of The Theatre School at DePaul University with a bachelor of fine arts degree in theatre studies.
The designers are Thad Hallstein (set), Jessica Harpenau (lights), Melissa Ng (costumes), and Kevin O’Donnell (sound and original music). The assistant director is Darcy McGill and the stage manager is Stephanie M. Neilitz.
Eric is an ensemble member of Profiles Theatre. He was most recently seen as Sam in Profiles’ world premiere of GRACELAND and various roles in Profiles’ American premiere of THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF DISSOCIA and as Fletcher in Profiles' first full Chicago production of MEN OF TORUGA. Prior to that, he appeared in THIS IS HOW IT GOES by Neil LaBute and "Land of the Dead" as part of Profiles' Midwest Premiere of LaBute shorts, THINGS WE SAID TODAY. Eric also appeared as Carter in the Midwest Premiere of FAT PIG by Neil LaBute. Eric received an After Dark Award for Outstanding Ensemble in "Bench Seat" as part of Profiles' Midwest Premiere of AUTOBAHN. He was also seen as Steve in THE GLORY OF LIVING, Steve Enloe in THE RADIANT ABYSS, and as Dan in NOISE. Eric is a graduate of Columbia College, where he is now on the adjunct faculty.
Joe is an ensemble member of Profiles and was most recently seen in the American premiere of THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF DISSOCIA. Prior to that, he appeared in the Midwest premieres of THINGS WE SAID TODAY and AUTOBAHN by Neil LaBute, which received an After Dark Award for Outstanding Ensemble. Other recent roles at Profiles include Carl in THE GLORY OF LIVING, Berman in REPARATION and Matt in NOISE. Joe received a 1999 Jeff Citation Nomination for Ensemble for his performance as Wells in STRAY DOGS. He has previously been seen in Profiles' productions of WONDER OF THE WORLD, SNAKEBIT, JUMP TO COW HEAVEN, SOME VOICES, DOGS BARKING, POPCORN, EYE OF GOD and THE BABY DANCE.
Cheryl Graeff and Barb Stasiw are also featured in BODY AWARENESS.
Cheryl was most recently seen in the Midwest Premiere of THE MERCY SEAT and the World Premiere of GRACELAND at Profiles Theatre as well as LOVE PERSON at Victory Gardens. She is an ensemble member with American Blues Theater Company where she has appeared in THE PEOPLE’S TEMPLE, HALF OF PLENTY and DARK AT THE TOP OF THE STAIRS. Cheryl has worked at many Regional and Chicago theatres including Court Theatre, Missouri Repertory, Piven Theater, Mary-Arrchie, Folio Theatre, Nebraska Repertory, Trap Door, Kansas City Repertory, Oregon Stage Company, Spokane Interplayers, Idaho Theater for Youth, Oregon Stage Company, Milwaukee Repertory, Madison Repertory, Chicago Dramatists, Public Trust, Strawdog, Famous Door, New American Theatre Company, and Steppenwolf Theatre Company. She has also performed at the Kennedy Center and toured throughout the U.K. She has also appeared in the films ALLEYBALL, WHIRLYBIRD, STRANGER THAN FICTION and TINSEL.
Barb is returning to Profiles where she was last seen in the American Premiere of THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF DISSOCIA and the Midwest Premiere of WONDER OF THE WORLD. She most recently appeared as Wanda in Attic Playhouse's production of COLD, COLD FEET. She is originally from St. Catherines, Canada where she appeared as Phyllis in DRINKING ALONE at the Georgetown Theatre. Other favorite roles include Lillian in I HATE HAMLET at Attic Playhouse and Anfisa in THREE SISTERS at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.
“In rising playwright Annie Baker’s BODY AWARENESS, you can surely see the seeds of compassionate humanism and warm comedy that have helped make her such a rapid success. Joyce is played with understated dignity by Barb Stasiw, who was well-cast by director Benjamin Thiem, and Eric Burgher forges a very credible picture of a super-smart but desperately insecure young man!”
-Chris Jones, CHICAGO TRIBUNE
“You must catch director Ben Thiem’s expertly limned Chicago premiere of BODY AWARENESS, now at Profiles Theatre — the latest airtight production from this seemingly fail-safe company. Cheryl Graeff and Barb Stasiw bring an enormous wealth of understanding, truth and vulnerability to their portrayals, creating a superb match along with Eric Burgher in a tightly coiled turn and an appealingly understated Joe Jahraus. Altogether riveting!”
-Hedy Weiss, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES
“Highly Recommended! What distinguishes BODY AWARENESS is Annie Baker’s wealth of empathy for her troubled, fallible characters. Throughout, Baker’s touch remains both daring and marvelously subtle, suggesting layers of personal history in a few deft strokes. Profiles gives the play a characteristically athletic production. Barb Stasiw is a perfectly wonderful Joyce, torn and possessed of a mysterious strength!"
-John Beer, TIMEOUT CHICAGO
“Highly Recommended! Profiles Theatre is in the midst of a hot streak with terrific recent productions and there is no more sympathetic theater to introduce Annie Baker to local audiences. The ensemble, under Benjamin Thiem’s sensitive and unobtrusive directing, delivers four spot-on performances. BODY AWARENESS is the real deal as engrossing theater!”
-Dan Zeff, COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
“Highly Recommended! Annie Baker set out to write a play about issues that wasn't an 'issue play,' and this compelling dramedy is proof that she succeeded! As Jared, Eric Burgher deftly transitions from deadpan proclamations to heart-wrenching confusion. Director Benjamin Thiem's production inspires both hearty laughter and serious reflection!”
-Marissa Oberlander, CHICAGO READER
"Highly Recommeded! In Profiles Theatre’s latest, Annie Baker’s BODY AWARENESS examines the theory that our tolerance is only an extension of our comfort levels. The ensemble captures the folly of reasoning and knowledge in the face of a craving for connection. Each character is brittle, lonely and searching for a way into themselves. The show’s standout is Eric Burgher, who careens between monotone Rain Man and raging threat at the drop of a hat!”
-Lisa Buscani, NEW CITY
“Highly Recommended! BODY AWARENESS makes us care about four fascinating, flawed people while letting us see the minute ways they sabotage their own happiness. It's moving and absorbing, particularly in Benjamin Thiem's sensitively acted production. The ensemble is simply wonderful, effortlessly inhabiting the characters and relationships and keeping the audience enthralled, with Barb Stasiw's performance particularly heartbreaking!”
-Zev Valancy, CENTERSTAGE
"Highly Recommended! Annie Baker’s BODY AWARENESS is as complex as it is hilarious and ironic. Directed by Benjamin Thiem for Profiles Theatre, this is the theatrical equivalent of a page-turner: The story is ultra-compelling and the vivid characters are people you care about and recognize. It’s a seamless merger of a terrific text and an equally deft ensemble!"
-Catey Sullivan, EXAMINER
"Profiles Theatre brings us a very special Midwest Premiere in Annie Baker's BODY AWARENESS. Joyce is played with great passion by Barb Stasiw and her partner Phyllis is stunningly portrayed by Cheryl Graeff. Eric Burgher does a wonderful job of portraying a very troubled young man. This is a fine production with a solid cast and a story that can bring about some great discussions!"
-Al Bresloff, STEADSTYLE CHICAGO
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