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Ensemble Member Alexandra Main
Ensemble Member

ALEXANDRA MAIN is my stage name. Catherine is my given name. Suffice it to say that Catherine is more at home backstage while Alexandra finds home onstage. I have been a proud ensemble member of The Gift nearly from the get-go, joining the company during the run of County Fair in the winter of 2003, having made my Gift debut in the fall of 2002 in The Countess.

In 2006, Artistic Director Michael Patrick Thornton directed The Gift’s production of Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Uncut. Unabridged. Unexpurgated. Unrelenting. I played Mary Tyrone. At 3 hours and 45 minutes, the show was never a box office sensation despite its largely favorable reviews. One night, by curtain time, only one older man sat in our 31-seat house. He was asked if he felt comfortable being the sole member of the audience or if he would prefer to come back on a night when we could expect a few more people; unfortunately, it was the only night he could attend, he was returning to his native Ireland the next day, but he understood if we would rather not play to a house of one. He went on to tell us that he had seen numerous productions of O’Neill’s masterpiece all over the world and was curious to see ours. So, we took this man on our long journey into the night and essentially made him a member of the family. When it was all over, this lovely Irish gentleman rose to his feet clapping loudly, tears in his eyes, giving us the gift of a lengthy standing ovation. Gary Wingert, who played James Tyrone, turned to me afterwards, gave me a big hug, and said, “This is what it’s all about. This is why we do this.”

Long Day’s Journey Into Night was a seminal show for me because it viscerally underscored and illuminated what Grotowski was getting at when he wrote, “The actor… is not afraid to go beyond all normally accepted limits… The actor makes a total gift of himself.” And “… the only source of satisfaction left to him is the audience’s reactions.”

In 2008, I played Vivian Bearing in The Gift’s production of W;t directed by fellow Ensemble Member John Gawlik for which I was honored with a Jeff Award nomination. It also garnered nominations for production (play, midsize) as well as lighting design. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Margaret Edson’s Pulitzer Prize winning play, the story revolves around fifty-year-old Dr. Vivian Bearing, a professor of seventeenth-century poetry, specializing in the Holy Sonnets of John Donne, who is dying from stage-four metastatic ovarian cancer. It was a show that did not attract a wide audience, but those who did see it, often lingered in the space afterward with tissues in hand, sniffling and wiping away tears. For my dear friend, LB, two years into living with breast cancer, it was cathartic. She died four years later.

Theatre is personal. Theatre is communal. Theatre is an intimate communion between audience and actor. At its best, theatre is self-revelatory on and off the stage for both performer and spectator.

The Gift credits include: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Nurse Ratched), Northwest Highway (Joyce Brooks), Cloud 9 (Maud/Betty), War of the Worlds (Maude Bennett), The Ruby Sunrise, Absolute Hell, Mine, Good for Otto, The Grapes of Wrath, Unseen, and several plays during The Gift’s TEN festivals.

Initially I wanted to be a writer, then after attending my first live theatre performance of Tennessee Williams’ Summer and Smoke at the University of Minnesota Duluth, I wanted to be a playwright. I was nineteen. It wasn’t until after I had earned my B.A. in theatre arts from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, having only taken a couple of acting courses during my sojourn, that I decided to cast myself into the “real” world of the actor, ostensibly to inform my work as a playwright. To that end, I signed up for many, many auditions – where I would get as far as the sign-in desk, get cold feet, apologize for living, and run away like a spooked rabbit. Then, one day, I was invited by a former classmate turned director to read for the role of Carolyn Cassady in The New Theatre Ensemble’s production of Beat! The Odyssey of Jack. I got cast. And so began my journey as a journeyman actor.

I moved to Chicago in the fall of 1985 and joined Chicago Actors Ensemble as an associate artist, appearing in many critically acclaimed productions including Lunch Hour, Tango, The Elephant and The Tragopan, MacBeth, and Josephine: The Mouse Singer.

At Zebra Crossing Theatre, I originated the role of Mary Pat Lipshinsky in Claudia Allen’s long-running spoof Gays of Our Lives and co-produced and appeared in Crying Woolf, a one-woman show of a Virginia Woolf short story, The New Dress, adapted for the stage and first presented as a graduate recital for the Master of Arts in performance studies at Northwestern University. There, I had the honor and privilege of working with Frank Galati as my instructor and adviser; and in 1994, I earned my M.A. by writing an adaptation for the stage of Juan Rulfo’s novel Pedro Páramo.

OTHER NOTABLE THEATRE CREDITS: Minnesota Shakespeare Company, Apple Tree Theatre, Appetite Theatre, Bailiwick Repertory, Eclipse Theatre Company, First Folio Shakespeare Festival, Light Opera Works, Raven Theatre Company, Stage Left Theatre, The Second City Children’s Theatre, and Theo Ubique Theatre Company, among others.

WRITING: Bier and Whine received a workshop production at Raven Theatre supported in part by a grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events; The Eleventh Situation was first produced at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities and was also seen in a New Plays Development Festival sponsored by the Women’s Theatre Alliance (Chicago). Other plays include An Orlando Thursday, A Nightingale Near, and The Swan as well as poems, short stories, volumes of journals, and works in progress.

DIRECTING & SET DESIGN: Courting Vampires (Clockwise Theatre); The Incandescence, co-directed with fellow Ensemble Member Jay Worthington; 2 of the 7 pieces presented by The Gift during Week 2 of Suzan-Lori Parks’ nationwide festival 365 Days/365 Plays; Barefoot in the Park, a touring production commissioned by ArtCore of Casper, WY; [box], Mary-Arrchie Theatre; and numerous stage readings at Chicago Writers’ Bloc Festivals, Citadel Theatre, The Gift, and others.

FILM: Jeri’s Grill (Produced by Recursive Pictures, Directed by Ensemble Member Ed Flynn); You’re So Talented (web series by Sam Bailey, Directed by Chris Tabor and Sam Bailey); Job{less} the series (web series by Michael Rhea, Directed by Douglas Tyler, Video Lettuce Tomato); Eric’s Haircut (Columbia College, Directed by Evan Allen-Gessesse, Black Harvest Film Festival 2011).

TRAINING: The Second City Training Center (Scholarship Recipient); Jane Brody, Rachael Patterson, Byrne Piven, and Mary Ann Thebus.