Lucky Plush Productions is an ensemble dance-theater company based in Chicago, led by founder and Artistic Director Julia Rhoads. The company is committed to provoking and supporting an immediacy of presence—a palpable live-ness—shared by performers in real time with audiences. A unique hybrid of high-level dance and theater, Lucky Plush’s work is recognized for its layered choreography, nuanced dialogue, surprising humor, and socially relevant content.
Since its founding in 2000, Lucky Plush has created 30 original dance-theater works including 12 evening-length productions. In addition to regularly performing in Chicago, the company has presented work in over 40 US cities from Maine to Hawaii, and its international partners span from New Zealand to Cuba. Commissioners of the company’s work include the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, Krannert Center at the University of Illinois, Flynn Center for the Performing Arts (VT), Links Hall Chicago, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center (MD), and Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Lucky Plush has also collaborated with Lookingglass Theatre, Redmoon, Walkabout Theater, and M5.
Lucky Plush Productions is the first and only dance company to receive the prestigious MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions, a recognition of the company’s exceptional creativity and impact. Other awards include creation, residency, and touring awards from National Endowment for the Arts, National Dance Project, and National Performance Network; exchange awards from the MacArthur Foundation International Connections Fund; a presentation award from MetLife Foundation; and an achievement award from the Lester and Hope Abelson Fund for the Performing Arts at The Chicago Community Trust.
JULIA is the founding Artistic Director of Lucky Plush Productions, a dance-theater company recognized for its layered choreography, nuanced dialogue, surprising humor, and socially relevant storytelling. Her work with Lucky Plush has been presented in over 40 US cities from Maine to Hawaii, and international partners span from New Zealand to Cuba. Her independent choreography credits include Steppenwolf Theatre’s Love Kills, Lookingglass Theatre’s The Great Fire, Walkabout Theater’s Mama: A Play for Voices, Redmoon’s Project Y, River North Chicago Dance Company’s Oasis and Between Three, among others, and she will create a new work for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in 2017.
Under Rhoads’s leadership, Lucky Plush received the prestigious MacArthur Award in 2016, recognizing the company’s exceptional creativity and impact. Her independent and collaborative work for the company has also been supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, National Dance Project, National Performance Network, and MetLife Foundation, among others, and commissioning presenters include Harris Theater (IL), Krannert Center for the Performing Arts (IL), Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (IL), Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center (MD), Flynn Center for the Performing Arts (VT), and Links Hall (IL).
Rhoads is the recipient of the 2013 Alpert Award in Dance, a fellowship from the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography, a Chicago Dancemakers Forum Lab Artist Award, a Cliff Dwellers Choreography Award, two Illinois Arts Council Fellowships for Choreography, a Jacob K. Javits Fellowship, and a 2014 Fractured Atlas Arts Entrepreneurship Award for spearheading a shared fundraising model between Lucky Plush, Grammy-winning Eighth Blackbird, and puppet theater company Blair Thomas & Co. She was named as one of Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch” in 2010, and has three times been named in Newcity’s “Players: The 50 People Who Really Perform for Chicago.”
Rhoads is a former member of the San Francisco Ballet and ensemble member of XSIGHT! Performance Group. She received her BA in History from Northwestern University, her MFA in Performance from the School of the Art Institute Chicago, and she has taught in the dance and theater programs of several Chicago-area colleges and universities. She is currently a Part-time Lecturer and Dance Advisor in Theater and Performance Studies at The University of Chicago.
Leslie Buxbaum Danzig
LESLIE is a collaborating director with Julia Rhoads/Lucky Plush Productions, where she co-created The Better Half, and The Queue. For over a decade, Leslie was resident director of the Chicago-based nationally touring physical theater company 500 Clown, whose shows (Macbeth, Frankenstein, Christmas and Elephant Deal) performed in Chicago at venues including Steppenwolf Theatre Company and Lookingglass Theatre. Other credits include stage directing Wild Sound, composed by Wilco’s Glenn Kotche for Third Coast Percussion, with performances at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, and with upcoming tours in the US and Europe; directing Damon Kiely’s The Revel (House Theatre), Redmoon’s Hunchback, and About Face Theater’s Float; co-directing Redmoon’s The Elephant and the Whale; and touring nationally and internationally as an actor with NYC’s Elevator Repair Service. Leslie has taught for University of Chicago’s Theater & Performance Studies and Northwestern’s MFA Directing program. She received her PhD in Performance Studies at Northwestern University and trained in physical theater at Écoles Jacques Lecoq and Philippe Gaulier. She is the curator of the University of Chicago’s Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry, a laboratory for experimental collaborations between artists and scholars.
MICHAEL composed music for Lucky Plush Productions’ Cinderbox 2.0, Trip the Light Fantastic: The Making of Superstrip, and created the sound design and performed live with The Claudettes for The Queue. He creates music under the moniker Bunny Patootie, and has performed with Chuck Mangione, Koko Taylor, Toni Tenille, Danilo Perez, Marvin Hamlisch, John Sinclair, Grazyna Auguscik, oh my god, Goran Ivanovic, Hood Smoke, Leslie Hunt, Ron Perillo, and the Grammy-nominated Heritage Blues Orchestra. As a member of Eastern Blok, a pan-cultural Chicago-based ensemble, Michael has presented concerts and master classes at educational institutions such as Princeton, Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, and University of Michigan, among others. A DownBeat jazz magazine award winner and five-time Detroit Music Award recipient, Michael has performed for audiences throughout North America and Europe. He has also created original music and sound design for Hedwig Dances, Zephyr Dance, Same Planet Different World, Peter Carpenter, and members of Mad Shak.
BRADFORD is a sound designer and engineer from Grayslake, Illinois. Chicago sound design credits include Pocatello (Griffin Theatre Company) Cymbeline (The Waking Theatre), Your Problem with Men (Teatro Luna), Seven Doors (Premiere Theatre), and Arrangements (Pavement Group). He has worked as a sound engineer for American Players Theatre, California Shakespeare Theater, Theatreworks, Utah Shakespearean Festival, and Krannert Center for the Performing Arts where he helped create A History (Bebe Miller Company), Stardust (David Rousseve/REALITY), and WOLF (Deke Weaver). Bradford holds an MFA in Sound Design and Technology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
MIKHAIL was the sound designer for Lucky Plush Productions’ Trip the Light Fantastic: The Making of SuperStrip and The Better Half. Based in Chicago and New York, Mikhail is a sound designer, composer, musician and DJ. Mikhail is a resident artist with Albany Park Theatre Project, a member of Strawdog Theatre Company and 2nd Story, and an artistic associate with Timeline Theatre and Teatro Vista. Recent Chicago credits include projects with the Goodman Theatre, Writers Theatre, The Seldoms, Redmoon, Victory Gardens, The Inconvenience, Lifeline, Northlight, and The Hypocrites. New York and regional credits: Manhattan Theatre Club, The Pearl, The Flea, Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Dallas Theatre Center, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, The Geffen Playhouse, 2nd Stage and The Playwright’s Realm. International credits: TukkersConnexion (Arnhem, Holland) and Festival FILO (Londrina, Brazil). Mikhail recently composed film scores for Glitch, The Wise Kids, In Memoriam, and both/and. He has received eight Joseph Jefferson Awards, the Michael Maggio Emerging Designer Award, a Lucille Lortel Award, and an After Dark Award for Original Musical. He performs under the moniker “DJ White Russian” with his band Seeking Wonderland and with the DJ duo The Ordeal. Mikhail is an instructor at Loyola University and University of Chicago.
JEFF designed costumes for Lucky Plush Productions’ Trip the Light Fantastic: The Making of SuperStrip, Cinderbox 18, Punk Yankees, The Better Half, and The Queue. His company -ish design was formed in 2007, for which he designs and constructs costumes. Recent designs include Parson’s Train by Robert Battle, River North Dance Chicago’s In the End, Khecari’s Cronus Land, and Colin Dunne’s Listen for Trinity Irish Dancers. Jeff was a founding member of River North Dance Chicago, and has danced for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Dance Kaleidoscope, and Same Planet Different World Dance Theater, where he was a co-artistic director. He has appeared in many productions with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and has toured nationally and internationally with productions of West Side Story, Song and Dance, Oklahoma, and Romeo and Juliet. Recent choreography includes And We Shall Be Rid of Them with Molly Shanahan, Impolite Society at The Kennedy Center, and Miss Saigon at the Paramount Theatre. Jeff has created work for River North Dance Chicago, Hubbard Street 2, Columbia College, Northwestern University, the Edinburgh Festival, Same Planet Different World, The Dance COLEctive, Pegasus Players, and Ohio Northern University, among others. He was nominated for a McCormick Distinguished Lecturer Award, Ruth Page Awards for his dancing and choreography, and is an Illinois Arts Council grant recipient.
Production Stage Manager
SCOTT joined the touring company of Lucky Plush Productions’ The Queue in 2015. He is a lighting designer, production manager, and stage manager based in NYC. Scott has toured across the US, Australia, New Zealand, Bosnia, UK, and almost all of Western Europe with carolyndorfmandance, Quantum Theater, the Andy Warhol Museum, and The Bang Group. During the summers, he is the production manager at The Yard on Martha’s Vineyard, producing with over thirty contemporary dance and movement theater companies each season. Scott is a member of the Actors’ Equity Association and a graduate of Point Park University.
LIVIU is excited to work with Lucky Plush Productions for the first time. He has a Chicago-based practice creating works and visual experiences using new media and technology. He works as a video designer, cinematographer, editor, animator, and has produced, directed and performed for live multimedia experiences. He has been affiliated with theaters and artists such as Luftwerk, Collaboraction, Redmoon, Manual Cinema, Blue Man Group, The Seldoms, Claudia Hart, Maria Marshall, Takao Kawaguchi.
KEVIN has worked with Lucky Plush Productions on Trip the Light Fantastic: The Making of SuperStrip, Cinderbox 18, Cinderbox 2.0, The Sky Hangs Down Too Close, and Punk Yankees. Other designs include Natya Dance Theatre’s Alakshaya, and Mordine and Company’s 40th Anniversary. Kevin has been the production manager, technical director, and lighting designer for the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago since 1996 where he has collaborated with many visiting artists, including designing the set and lights for Trisha Brown’s Set and Reset/Reset. He has also served as the LD / TD for the Dance Division of the National High School Institute for five years. Kevin has a Bachelor’s Degree in Theatre from Illinois State University and spent three years in Paris studying movement theatre with Jacques Lecoq and Daniel Stein. He has created four solo performance works including I AM HUGO.
KIM works in tandem with Artistic Director Julia Rhoads to carry out the mission of Lucky Plush. Kim handles general office administration, scheduling, assists in budget creation and bookkeeping. She manages touring, residencies, rehearsals and performances, and supports the booking manager. Kim is the Project Director for Creative Partners (a shared development staff for three Chicago nonprofits: Blair Thomas & Co., Eighth Blackbird and Lucky Plush), she partners with the board of directors, interns, and volunteers to plan fundraising events, and assists in grant proposals. Kim oversees marketing and social media content, designs marketing materials and merchandise, and managed the creation of our latest website. Before her role as Managing Director, Kim was a Lucky Plush collaborating ensemble member for five years at which time she performed in eight works at venues like the the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Jacob’s Pillow, Hancher Auditorium, Dance Center of Columbia College, Steppenwolf Garage, Spring to Dance (St. Louis), and Links Hall. Her professional dance career also includes performances at Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, Joyce SoHo, and St. Marks Church. Kim has been a part time faculty member of The Dance Center of Columbia College and Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington. She received an MFA in Dance Performance and Choreography from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, a BFA in Dance and a BS in Psychology from the University of Illinois at Champaign Urbana.
Director of Development, Creative Partners
ANNE joined Creative Partners in August 2015. Most recently Anne helped to complete a $25 million capital campaign in partnership with the Menomonee Valley Partners and Urban Ecology Center in Milwaukee. Prior to that, she spent five seasons as Individual Giving Manager at Milwaukee Repertory Theater. Previous arts administration experience includes work at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the Kennedy Center and Berkshire Theatre Festival. Anne earned a degree in Arts Administration from Butler University. In her spare time, Anne acts as the Executive Director for Chicago Fringe Festival.
MEGGIE joined Creative Partners in October 2016. Originally from Cincinnati, OH, Meggie moved to Chicago in May 2016 to work for Ravinia Festival for their summer season in the Development department. She recently graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a BA in English – Creative Writing. Meggie served on multiple committees for her sorority, and was an active member in the National Society for Leadership and Success.
Grants Manager & Finance Manager
LAURA manages the financial framework of Lucky Plush, overseeing accounting processes and grant opportunities. Her passion for volunteerism has led her to extensive professional development in the nonprofit sector and she serves on a number of other local nonprofit boards. Before her role with Lucky Plush, she was CFO of 2 small businesses and a wealth advisor. She received her degree from Columbia College and is a member of the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, a certified Quickbooks ProAdvisor and CFP® professional.