Serious Actors. No Director. One Rehearsal. In a Bar.

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The project started as a terrible but thrilling idea between Kelley Ristow and Samuel Taylor in 2011. today it is run chaotically by a large group of people: Partners for the big stuff, stakeholders for the fun stuff.


Kelley Ristow

Founder, partner

After a decade in Chicago, Kelley lives in DC now, where she works on burning down the patriarchy, bit by agonizing bit, designing anti-rape programs for the National Guard. She’s dope as fuck.


Samuel Taylor

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Founder, partner, chicago stakeholder

Samuel is an artistic associate at Lookingglass Theatre Company, and is owner & operator of Long Table Pancakes, a small company that makes pancakes out of popcorn. That is not a joke; they will blow your fucking mind.

He’s been seen on stage at Lookingglass, The Actors Gymnasium, Chicago Shakespeare, Steppenwolf, Redmoon (RIP), American Players Theatre, the Guthrie, Actors’ Theatre of Louisville, Syracuse Stage, & Albuquerque Little Theatre (505 what).

He also wrote My Life With the Shakespeare Cult, a book about the Project.

Amanda Drinkall

Partner, Chicago Stakeholder

Amanda has been in one professional Shakespeare production in the state of Illinois, in which she said zero lines but was absolutely topless.  She has played in more than 20 shows with BRSP, spanning Illinois, Wisconsin, and New York (where she played Prospero with 3 days notice, book-in-hand). 

Chicago has seen her at the Goodman, Steppenwolf, Northlight, Victory Gardens, the one on the pier, Strawdog, Lifeline, and Red Tape (where she is an ensemble member).  She once won a Jeff award for being in love and riding a train.  The Project is staggering and sweat-inducing and satisfying beyond belief. 


Nicholas Harazin

Partner, Chicago Stakeholder

Nicholas Harazin is a big walking heart. He acts for a living, hustles all the time, and makes good furniture out of wood that you would be so fortunate to have in your nice home. He is a hurricane of good ideas.

Katy Collins

Partner, Chicago Stakeholder

Katy Collins has been a stakeholder in the Project since the beginning and she loves it. She is also an ensemble member with Sideshow Theater Company and has preformed with Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Steppenwolf, Second City, The Goodman and The Vintage Theater Collective.

She works her days as a doula and has a web series called: The Doula is IN. By nights she preforms with the band Mucca Pazza, started and runs Chicago Movieoke, and arm wrestles in the Chicago League of Lady Arm Wrestling (CLLAW).

Matthew Sherbach


Partner, Chicago Stakeholder

Matthew Sherbach is your gentlest, best uncle. He has been seen on stages all over Chicago, flashing his trademark wry conspiratorial headnods all over. He was extremely active in the Salonathon community, may it rest in glory forever. He is a real grownup in the best sense, and you can always count on him for sound advice.

Caitlin Costello


Partner, New York Stakeholder

Caitlin Costello (LAMDA and DePaul University) moved to NYC after 15 years in Chicago. She’s thrilled the Back Room Shakespeare Project has taken so well to the bars of Brooklyn. In less than two years BRSP NYC has done 8 jam packed shows!

She is a veteran of Second City Theatricals, a Moth Grand Slam winner, and emceed Chicago Youth Shakespeare (CYS) and Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s (CST) Battle of the Bard. Teaching credits include workshops at NYU Tisch, Hope College, and Northwestern University, Mosaic with American Theater Company, improv coaching, and facilitating theater classes on Norwegian Cruise Lines. 

Emily Shain


Partner, New York Stakeholder

Emily has lived a lot of different places but now calls Brooklyn home. She is an actor and teacher near and far.

She’s done the trifecta: helped run the project in Chicago, LA, and now New York. Here’s hoping that this much sweating keeps you forever young.




Chicago Stakeholder

Jasmine Bracey does plays... in theatres... regionally. She is also teaches shakespeare and journals incessantly. She's a wanna be life coach. Degrees have been acquired from Florida State University and the University of Delaware. 

Mary Williamson



Mary thinks that Sexiness should be one of the Project’s values. She does all sorts of weird shit on Chicago stages, and is basically a boss. Art is dead. Go bears.




Micheal (Mi-KY-el) is the sort of person you hope you’ll be one day, when you have figured out how to be kind and willing, and also good at everything you try. He is a blue man sometimes.



Lee Stark was one of Chicago’s leading actors before saying wait a minute… this is a suckers game. Now she studies law at U Chicago, working in social justice.



Victor does not want to hurt you. He does not want to use any of his highly specialized knowledge in modern or historical fighting to mangle your helpless flesh at lightning speed. He is a really nice guy. He is exactly the sort of person you want to not hurt you. Which is great, because he really does not want to hurt you. Can’t stress that enough.

Victor is the silent V in R&D Choreography, which is good because Rick is really good at doing all the talking. Together they are eager to support the project’s thirst for blood and grit.



Rick came to Chicago in 1995 to "work for a couple years before heading back to the East Coast."  He is still here.  He isn't going anywhere.  It took less than six months back then to realize that Chicago was where he wanted to make art, and he has never seriously considered moving anywhere since.  (Though, someday, Tuscany does appeal...) 

Rick was a co-founder of R&D Choreography, and has designed violence and/or intimacy for over 300 shows since then.  He is a theater-dork, and is currently writing his doctoral dissertation on how representations of violence tell stories.  

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Hannah eats bullies for breakfast, is friends with snakes, and will Shakespeare Nerd talk you under the table. She usually directs theatre, but for some reason has joined up with an outfit that has No Directors in its slogan. She is a company member with We Happy Few in DC.

Alex Weisman

Stakeholder at-large

Alex Weisman is a volcano that wears shoes. His love will burn your whole shit down. He is a tv paramedic and a broadway wizard. Elmo is his spirit animal.

Audrey Flegel

Stakeholder at large

Audrey is OG stakeholder from Chicago, and ran the joint for a few years in LA. She will organize the demons out of your life, and she creates lasting shockwaves of secret delight wherever she goes.




Michael is a tower of power. He is what you dream of when you dream of big, good men. Held it down in Chicago for a long time, then married a baller scientist and peaced to Cali.




KEVIN BARRY CROWLEY would like to have all three of his names acknowledged whenever he is addressed.  He did do Shakespeare with Back Room in Chicago and Los Angeles and will find his way back to the mayhem some way and somehow.

He was at the first ever Back Room, so in your face.  

One day he will fly.