Artistic Governing Ensemble

The Story Theatre is committed to envisioning the future of what American theatre—and the American theatre institutions—can look like. To that end, we have dissolved the traditional hierarchical role of an artistic director, in favor of an artistic governing ensemble where every voice, and vote, is equal. Our ensemble members govern using a flat management structure based on holacracy, tailored to our own needs, strengths, and styles. By delegating the work of a traditional artistic director into organized "caucuses," then meeting altogether to create a unified vision for the company, we empower our ensemble members to take action without permission and hold stake in the future of our company. The Story Theatre isn't interested in doing theatre as it has always been done; we are interested in the radical imagination that asks, "What can we create when we share power freely?"

Meet the Artists Behind The Story

Ayanna Bria Bakari

Astrological Sign: Gemini

Favorite Animal: Llamas / Alpacas

Pizza Toppings: Pepperoni, Pineapples, Jalapeños

Ayanna Bria is proud to be a governing ensemble member of The Story Theatre. She first encountered The Story Theatre when she was cast as Dr. Love in Paul Michael Thomson’s Leave Me Alone!.

She graduated with a BFA in acting from The Theatre School at DePaul University in 2017. Some of her other theatre credits include Cat in The Originalist at Indiana Repertory Theatre, Izzie Mae/ Clerk Son in Robert O’Hara’s Insurrection: Holding History with Stage Left Theatre (Jeff nominated), Sister Felicity in Suddenly Last Summer at Raven Theatre, Natalie Charles in the world premier of How To Catch Creation by Christina Anderson at Goodman Theatre, Evelyn Brandon in the Midwest premier of Too Heavy For Your Pocket at Timeline Theatre, Zoe in The Niceties at Writers Theatre (BTAA Nominee) and Cheryl in Stickfly also at Writers Theatre.

Ayanna Bria is also very active in voiceover, some of her spots include the voice for Famous Footwear, Sargento Cheese, Head and Shoulders, Xfinity, and Walmart. She also worked with Make- Believe Association, which specializes in audio dramas.

Ayanna Bria’s television credits include Chicago PD, Chicago Fire, Empire and a recurring role on The CHI. She made her film debut last holiday season in Holiday Heist on BET.

In the spring of 2021, Ayanna Bria will be playing the role of Monique in Last Night and the Night Before at Steppenwolf. Ayanna Bria is represented by Stewart Talent.

Brenna DiStasio

Astrological Sign: Libra

Favorite Musician: Joanna Newsom

Dessert Before Dinner: Always

Brenna DiStasio is an actor, teacher, and founding member of The Story Theatre. As an actor she has worked with Northlight Theatre, Remy Bumppo Theatre Company, Rasaka Theatre, and Arizona Theatre Company among others. On-screen credits include NBC’s Chicago Med, The Reception, The Writer, and Dream Fish. Commercial and print work includes AAA, Frigo Cheese, Carmex, Miss Spa, and Ace Hardware. She currently teaches at The Forge and The Joyful Actor. Brenna received her BFA in Acting from the University of Arizona, and is a founding member of The Story Theatre. She is proudly represented by Big Mouth Talent.

Terry Guest

Astrological Sign: Pisces

Favorite Color: Glitter

Britney or Christina: Britney

Terry Guest is a Chicago based playwright, actor and teaching artist. As an actor he has worked with theatre companies across the country including Steppenwolf, The Goodman Theatre and The Story Theatre (Chicago), Alliance Theatre, Actors Express, Aurora Theatre (Atlanta) and Arts Garage (West Palm Beach). His play At The Wake of a Dead Drag Queen had its World Premiere at The Story Theatre (Chicago) and has an upcoming 2021 production scheduled at Urbanite Theatre (Sarasota, FL) Other plays include: Michael Jackson, and the Devil’s Book (Jackalope Theatre Commission ’21), The Madness of Mary Todd (Goodman Theatre Playwrights Unit ’21), Ghost Town (Chicago Children’s Theatre), DEAD GIRLS (Random Acts Chicago), Marie Antionette and the Magical Negros (Workshopped with The Story Theatre).

Paul Michael Thomson

Astrological Sign: Virgo

Favorite Author: Maggie Nelson

Gay?: Yes

Paul Michael Thomson is an actor, playwright, producer, and proud founding member of The Story Theatre. As an actor, he has worked with Steppenwolf Theatre, Urbanite Theatre, Windy City Playhouse, Drury Lane Oakbrook, and Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, among others. On-screen credits include NBC's Chicago Med and Chicago Justice, Drawn Back Home, Blush, and OTV's Kissing Walls. His plays include: Artemis Books & the Well-Meaning Man (Avalanche Theatre); (and i feel fine) (The Impostors Theatre Co.); Same Sects! (North Central College; Other Theatre Company); Fremont Junior High Is NOT Doing Oklahoma! (Urbanite Theatre reading); The G.O.A.T., or Who Is Ximone? (The Story Theatre reading); and Leave Me Alone! (The Story Theatre). He is proudly represented by Gray Talent Group. Paul Michael graduated summa cum laude with a BFA in Acting, a BA in Africana Studies, and minors in Spanish & Art History from The University of Arizona Honors College, and he never shuts up about it.

Lucy Whipp

Astrological Sign: Virgo

Favorite Movie: Mamma Mia!

Favorite Italian Outburst: Mamma Mia!

Lucy (she/her/hers) is a stage manager, production manager, and mirror selfie enthusiast. She has worked in various management and design capacities with Loyola University Chicago (Failure: A Love Story; Violet; Speech & Debate), American Theater Company (Welcome to Jesus), Raven Theatre (Hoodoo Love), First Floor Theatre (Plano), The Sound Theatre (Seagulls), and The Story Theatre (all of the plays). She graduated from Loyola University Chicago in 2019 and received the 2019 Academic Prize for Collaboration and Design at the Michael Merritt Awards for her work in lighting design. She's glad to be a part of the governing ensemble and is excited to continue producing incredible work with them! Many thanks and much love to her family and her friends for their presence in her art and in her life.