Meet the Artists


(click image to see artist bio)

RING OF FIRE Creative Team

RICHARD MALTBY, JR. (Creator) Conceived/directed two Tony Award-winning musicals: Ain't Misbehavin' (1978 Tony, NY Drama Critics, Outer Critics, and Drama Desk Awards; Tony Award for Best Director); Fosse (1999 Tony, Outer Critics, and Drama Desk Awards); as well as Ring of Fire (2006). With composer David Shire: director/lyricist: Baby, (1983, book by Sybille Pearson; seven Tony nominations); Lyricist: Big (1996, book by John Weidman; Tony nomination: Best Score); lyricist/conceiver: Take Flight (2010, book by John Weidman); with Alain Boublil and Claude­Michael Schonberg, co-lyricist: Miss Saigon (Evening Standard Award 1990; Tony nomination: Best Score 1991); book writer/lyricist: The Pirate Queen, 2007; director: The Story of My Life, 2009; director/co-lyricist: Song & Dance (1986, Tony Award for star Bernadette Peters). Off-Broadway credits include: director/lyricist for Starting Here, Starting Now (1977, Grammy nomination) and Closer than Ever (1989, two Outer Critics Circle Awards: Best Musical, Best Score), both written with composer David Shire. Regional theatre credits include director, Mask (2008, Pasadena Playhouse) and director, The 60's Project (2006, Goodspeed). Film credits include: Screenplay for Miss Potter (2007, Christopher Award, Best Screenplay). He contributes crossword puzzles to Harper's magazine. Richard is the son of a well-known orchestra leader and has five children: Nicholas, David, Jordan, Emily, and Charlotte.

JEFF LISENBY (Orchestrations) performed in Ring of Fire, and with the touring shows of Wicked and Jersey Boys. He has toured with Boots Randolph and Brenda Lee, and has accompanied Pavarotti, Blake Shelton, Dolly Parton, Lee Greenwood, and Donna Summer. Lisenby twice won silver medals in international accordion championships. iTunes carries his jazz accordion CD A spy in Tortuga. Jeff instructs singers for cruise ship shows, and he is happy to get to travel the world. Lisenby plays on many recordings, including the Grammy-winning “Songs from the Neighborhood: The Music of Mister Rogers”.

BRIAN RUSSELL (Director/Associate Producer) is thrilled to return to the Mercury Theater Chicago, where he directed Samuel Beckett’s Act Without Words 1, many, many years ago. Other recent credits include Always…Patsy Cline at Peninsula Players and both Always… Patsy Cline and Ring of Fire at Theatre at the Center. Brian was producing artistic director of American Theater Company from 1997 to 2002. There, he directed more than a dozen shows including Working, Scapin, A Lie Of The Mind, Medea, American Buffalo, and The Threepenny Opera. Other credits include My Old Lady, Three Tall Women, The Winning Streak and The Gin Game, all at Apple Tree Theatre; Always . . . Patsy Cline, A Perfect Ganesh, and All In The Timing, among others at Northlight Theatre; and the operas Carmen at Sarasota Opera; The Barber Of Seville, Amistad, Romeo Et Juliette, The Elixir Of Love, and La Boheme, all at the Ryan Opera Center of Chicago’s Lyric Opera. He holds an MFA in Writing from Spalding University and is the author of Meeting Dad: A Memoir.

ANN N. DAVIS (Production Manager/Technical Director) In Chicago she has worked as a Production Manager, Technical Director, Designer, and Scenic Painter at many theatres and for films shot in the area. Painting and mural work is one of her specialties. She has had the special opportunity to be able to teach at UIC and work with children and community groups in Chicago and Indiana. She has also done decorative as well as ordinary masonry and paint restoration on historic homes in Chicago and Oak Park. She holds a BS in Road and Building Construction (Industrial Technology) with a Minor in Fine Art and an MFA in Scenic Design. She has recently been invited to join the National Association of Women in Construction (local chapter in Indiana) and is looking forward to being involved in Habitat for Humanity. Thanks to David, my family, and to Theatre at the Center for being such a special place to work.

REBECCA GREEN* (Stage Manager) Chicago credits include: Murder for Two, The Emperor's New Clothes, The Wizard of Oz, Shakespeare's R & J, and Pericles (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre); Jacob and Jack, Love Person, Jest A Second (Victory Gardens Theater); Menopause the Musical (Apollo Theatre); The Guys (Lakeshore Theatre); Over the Tavern (Mercury Theater Chicago); Ovations! Concert Series (Auditorium Theater); How I Learned To Drive, Master Class, Cowgirls (Northlight Theater); Warp!, E.R.! Emergency Room, Bleacher Bums (Stuart Gordon's Organic Theater); Love Letters, Other People's Money, I Hate Hamlet (Royal George Theatre). New York credits include: Eric Bogosian's Drinking In America, A Girl's Guide to Chaos, Abingdon Square, Stanley I Love You (American Place Theatre).

ANGELA MILLER (Scenic Design) is an Artistic Associate at First Folio Theatre, where she has designed scenery since 2005. She also designs regularly at Theatre at the Center and is thrilled that this production of Ring of Fire will receive a bigger audience. She has designed at several other Chicago area theatres and been a guest artist at a number of colleges and universities. Angie also puts a lot of creative energy into her family life and her garden.

SHELLEY STRASSER HOLLAND (Lighting Design) is a freelance lighting designer and educator based in the Chicago area. Shelley is thrilled to back together with the cast and crew of Ring of Fire after designing it in 2014 with Brian Russell at Theatre at the Center. Shelley has collaborated with many Chicago theaters including Salvage at First Folio, The Whaleship Essex at Shattered Globe Theatre, Kimberly Akimbo at Governors State University, and On Golden Pond at TATC. Shelley has spent the past 23 years as the Resident Lighting Designer and Ensemble Member for Shattered Globe Theatre where she received a Jeff nomination for lighting The Glass Menagerie. Shelley is an Artistic Associate with First Folio Theatre and the Resident Lighting Designer for Theatre at the Center. She is an Adjunct Professor and Designer in Theatre and Performance Studies at Governors State. Favorite collaborations include Judgment at Nuremburg (Shattered Globe), Raisin in the Sun (GSU), Women on the Verge (TATC) and Women in Black (First Folio). Shelley attended Eureka College receiving a BS in Mathematics/Theatre and Northwestern University where she holds an MFA in Theatre Design.

KEVIN BARTHEL (Wig Design) has been involved with the wig design of shows at TATC since 1999 when he came in to maintain Steel Magnolias. He created the many diverse wigs for our productions of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, What a Glorious Feeling, The Fox on the Fairway, 42nd Street, Little Shop of Horrors, Making God Laugh, The Wiz, Nunset Boulevard, Sleuth, It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Jesus Christ Superstar; I Do! I Do!, Noises Off, The Christmas Schooner, Crazy for You, Leading Ladies, A Wonderful Life, The Producers, Phantom, La Cage aux Follies, and Cats. Kevin started his training in college on a whim when there was no one else to do the job. Other area theatres he has designed for include Drury Lane Oakbrook, Drury Lane Water Tower, The Fireside Playhouse, and Marriott Theatre. He is also the proud owner of a condo that he calls 'The house that hair built."

BARRY G. FUNDERBURG (Sound Design) is excited to design at the Mercury, and to be working with the Ring of Fire gang again. Chicago credits include Fake, Carter’s Way (2008 Jeff Award for Sound Design), Mother Courage, and Mizlansky/Zilinsky at Steppenwolf, in addition to Writers Theatre, Next Theatre, Oak Park Festival Theatre, Lookingglass, and Theatre at the Center. Off-Broadway, Barry designed the New York premiere of Wittenberg at The Pearl Theatre. Regional credits include over twenty productions at Utah Shakespeare Festival, over seventy productions at Milwaukee Rep, in addition to Actors Theatre of Louisville, Arizona Theatre Company, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Kansas City Rep, City Theatre Company (Pittsburgh), Centerstage (Baltimore), Resident Ensemble Players (Delaware), Alabama Shakespeare Festival, American Players Theatre, Peninsula Players, L.A. Theatre Works, and Indiana Rep. Barry has received four Jeff Award nominations, two Jeff Awards, a 2015 St. Louis Theater Circle Award, and an MFA in sound design from Purdue University.

BRENDA WINSTEAD (Costume Design) Chicago area design credits include Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Little Shop of Horrors, Making God Laugh, Guys and Dolls, The Wiz, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Man of La Mancha, Crazy for You, Leading Ladies, The Producers, Hello Dolly, Fiddler on the Roof (Theatre at the Center); Annie Get Your Gun and Oliver! (Light Opera Works); Rabbit (Stage Left); The Price (Shattered Globe); The Chicago Landmark Project, Principal Principle, and The Water Engine (Theatre Seven). Regional Credits include Born Yesterday, Rumors, and Mousetrap (Peninsula Players); All Shook Up and High School Musical (Forestburgh Playhouse); Mother Courage and her Children and Waiting for Godot (Connecticut Repertory Theatre); Three Musketeers (Black Hills Playhouse) and Carousel (Sierra Repertory Theatre). Brenda is an ensemble member of Stage Left Theatre and has a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Connecticut.

MELISSA GEEL (Property Design) is excited to be working at the Mercury. She attended Illinois State University and has been with Theater at the Center since 2007. Some of her favorite shows there have been Cats, 42nd Street, Guys and Dolls, and Little Shop of Horrors where she helped rebuild Jim Henson's original puppets. She has also worked at Shattered Globe, First Folio, DePaul University Opera, Governors State University, Indiana University Northwest, Olivet Nazarene, Gary Westside High School and Morton High School where she loves getting youth involved in theater. While there are too many people to thank individually you all know who you are I would not be here without you.

WILLIAM PULLINSI (Artistic Director, TATC) has won 18 Jeff Awards for Best Production and Direction. TATC directing credits include: 42nd Street, Making God Laugh, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Man of La Mancha, Crazy for You, Leading Ladies, The Sound of Music, La Cage aux Folles, Phantom, and The Producers. Bill was the founder of Candlelight Playhouse and Forum Theatre in Chicago. He has produced and/or directed some 400 shows including: MacBird, Boss, Fiddler on the Roof (a two-year run), and Follies, which the Chicago Tribune's Richard Christiansen named one of the top ten productions in his 40 years of reviewing theatre. Bill received a special Jeff Award for "many years of innovation and quality, bringing the joys of live theater to hundreds of thousands of Chicago area patrons." He directed Follies for the San Diego Light Opera, Phantom and Singin' in the Rain at Westchester Broadway Theatre in New York, Into the Woods at Marriott Theatre, and Over the Tavern at Northlight Theatre and Mercury Theater Chicago.

RICHARD FRIEDMAN (Co-Producer) has held leadership positions at many arts organizations, including a nine-year tenure at Northlight Theatre, and positions at the Organic Theater and The Institute for the Arts in Boston. During his time at Northlight Theatre, subscriptions increased from 3,000 to 9,000 and the company established its first permanent home. He has produced more than 50 shows, including commercial runs of Always, Patsy Cline at the Apollo Theater; The Guys (with Piven Theater Workshop); and Jim Post’s The Heart of Christmas at the Lakeshore Theater. The Guys featured performers in rotating repertory, including Jeremy Piven, Joan Cusack, and Daniel J. Travanti. Mr. Friedman is the author of two books of poetry, a founder of the Illinois Arts Alliance and former Board President of CAN TV, Chicago’s cable access corporation. He was awarded a distinguished service award from the Illinois Theater Association for his work at Northlight Theatre. Thanks to Walter, Eugene and Allison from the Mercury for making this partnership a pleasure, TATC’s staff and Board in Indiana, the Community Foundation of Northwest Indiana, our investment team, and as always, Darlene, Howard and Bryce.

L. WALTER STEARNS (Co-Producer/Executive Director Mercury Theater Chicago) As Executive Director of Mercury Theater Chicago, Walter is a champion for Chicago artists and productions and has overseen the physical and cultural revival of a beautiful theatre. He has directed over 30 musicals including his Jeff Award nominated productions of Avenue Q, The Color Purple, Barnum-The Circus Musical, The Christmas Schooner, Nine the Musical, Ragtime, Gypsy, The Secret Garden, Sweeney Todd, Company, A New Brain, Into the Woods, Merrily We Roll Along and Falsettos. Walter has received the Jeff Award, After Dark Awards, the BroadwayWorld Award, the Larry Sloan Advocate Award (for his support of Season of Concern), the first Guy Adkins award for his contributions to the art of musical theatre and the Franny Award as a distinguished alumnus of the University of Illinois at Chicago.

PRAHLAD FRIEDMAN (Associate Producer) is a musician and a world class poker player who has won numerous tournaments and appeared on television many times. He attended the University of California at Berkeley. He is dedicated to a healthy vegan lifestyle and has a deep love of animals, helping people, and diverse world cultures.