To share stories that realize the human experience through organic collaboration.  


The Saltbox Theatre Collective is a non-profit arts producer established in 2014 with the purpose of improving the quality of life for residents of Chicago and other areas in the State of Illinois by creating quality theater experiences that realize and enhance the human experience and provide theatrical artists opportunities to improve and demonstrate skills through training and education as well as participation in productions.


Theatre is meant to be shared with society; it is meant to be unselfish and, above all, life-changing. To me, the best storytellers are the ones who have seen it all. They have seen the good and the bad; the beautiful and the ugly. They have been rich and poor both tangibly and metaphorically. They have seen success and failure, they have known what it is to be chosen and left behind. Coming from several broken homes myself, I understand the power of healing and unification in theatre; I have found my safety and my home there.

Our theatre is a place of community and acceptance of ideas and values open to all. There is much power in theatre, as Hamlet says, it is a way to hold a mirror up to society and ask the questions: Who are you? What are we? What do we want to be? Where are we heading? When will we understand? When will we change? Are we able to change? If theatre should be accessible to everyone, why do we (as an audience) need to pay attention? 

The Saltbox Theatre Collective realizes that all people have a voice and can have impact within the theatre world. If we are producing a play about the life of a policeman…bring in a policeman. If we are producting a play about a government official…bring in a government official. If we are producing a play about people dying of cancer…find a way to visit the nearest oncology ward. If we are producing a play about a woman who misses her child in prison…seek out a way to understand these human-beings by partnering up with a local missions group, meet them and listen to their stories. We strive to be ears as much as we are a voice.

—Brian Fruits

Saltbox Theatre boarD


Brian Fruits


David Burke


April Hunsucker

Other Members:

Matthew Adams

Andrea Gustafson 

Barbara Krause

Andrea Lebeau 

Jeramie Simmons

Mario Treto





Brian Fruits holds an M.F.A. in Theatre from the University of Memphis and hails from Chicago, Illinois. He has a B.A. in Secondary Education from Concordia University of Chicago, as well. Recent directing credits include Red, 4:48 Psychosis, Wit, Race, Sarafina!, Euripides' Medea, and the Chicago Shakespeare Company’s world premiere of The Adventures of Pinocchio in which he served as Assistant Director to 2010 Chicago Director of the Year, Rachel Rockwell. He is a proud member of the Illinois Theatre Association (ITA), The Still Point Theatre Collective and an Associate Member of the Stage Director & Choreographers Union (SDC). Brian also serves as the Alumni Board President of Hephzibah Children’s Association in Oak Park, Illinois. 



Company Member

Mark Bernstein has been teaching and performing in the theatre for thirty-four years. He is a graduate of the Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University and the Second City Training Center.  He has taught theatre skills at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington, the Chicago Park District and Leyden High Schools.  Mark has directed over twenty high school plays and musicals including Godspell, Side Man,  Bullshot Crummond and Working.  His acting credits include Mickey Marcus in The Normal Heart, King Herod in Jesus Christ Superstar and Lonesome Louie in "Can You Hear Me Mr. Szczepanski?" Mark has proudly performed with his entire family in productions of Fiddler on the Roof for the Just Passing By Theatre Company and Hercules for the Illinois Center on Deafness and the Arts.






Lauren Demerath is a graduate from the University of Illinois at Chicago where she earned her bachelor of fine arts in theatre performance.  Her professional credits include: TUTA’s production of The Jewels (Ensemble and Maiden), TUTA’s The Anyway Cabaret (Ensemble), First Folio Theatre’s production of Cymbeline (ensemble), The Towle Theatre’s A Fabulous 50’s Christmas (ensemble), and Just Passing By Theatre Company’s productions of The Glass Menagerie (Laura), Cabaret (Sally), and Yellow Light (Gina).  Lauren would like to dedicate her work to Patrick Demerath. 






Marie Goodkin is long time Chicago-area actress and singer. Recent seasons have found Marie on stage at Lincoln Square Theatre, Stage 773, Theatre-Hikes, Chicago Fringe Fest, Prop Theater, Chicago Dramatists, Open Door Rep, and The Center on Halsted, as well as at several local colleges. In May, 2014 she collaborated with The William Ferris Chorale, reading poetry selections as part of the Chorale’s The Secret Language of Flowers program. Some of her favorite stage roles are: Clairee in Steel Magnolias,  Edna in The Oldest Profession, Ethel in On Golden Pond, and Fraulein Schneider in Cabaret. Marie also uses her acting skills in her work as a standardized patient at several medical schools in metropolitan Chicago. 





Andy’s plays have been produced in Chicago, Atlanta, Memphis, and Vermont. His full-length plays include Yellow Light, June First, and The Tenacity of Just Seeming. A play he co-wrote with Jayme McGhan, In The Soundless Awe, will be given its world premiere by the New Light Theatre Project in New York City. Andy has also written several plays for young audiences that include Chivalry Me Timbers!, Dougly the Uckling, and The Emperor’s Disappearing Pants. Andy is a member of the Dramatists’ Guild and an alumnus of the Kennedy Center Playwriting Intensive. He holds an MFA in Playwriting from Goddard College. Andy teaches in the English and Creative Writing Program at Concordia University Chicago and lives with his wife and three small, energetic children.





Katie Zisson holds a B.F.A in Theatre Performance from the University of Memphis. Her recent theatrical credits include Cabaret, Wit (Ostrander Winner – Best Actress in a Dramatic Production), Picnic, and Line. She has also performed in two short films: Toward and Yellow Light, adapted from the play written by Saltbox Theatre's resident playwright  Andy Pederson. Katie has also participated in writing and performance training courses with the Neo-Futurists and Second City. 





David Burke

Associate Company Member

David Burke originates from Lombard, IL. David has a Bachelor’s of Science in Music Business from Elmhurst College, and he is finishing his MBA from Northern Illinois University.  Theatrical acting credits include Jim O’Connor in The Glass Menagerie, Ernst in Cabaret, Lewis in Pippin, and Young Man in Shooting Gallery.  For over a decade David has been an active participant and supporter of the Chicago music and theater arts scene.  As a musician, he has performed all over the United States as well as in the Czech Republic in his band She Likes Todd.  As someone who believes in practicality, professionalism, and passion, David is proud to be a part of the Saltbox Theatre Collective, and its continuation of Chicago’s grass roots fine arts tradition.  David is in love with and married to Jill Aparo, his best friend, and the two of them live in Naperville with a pair of cats named Calvin and Hobbes.




Charles Howard's theatrical credits include Godspell (Judas), Topdog/Underdog (Lincoln), Les Miserables (Javert), The Fantasticks, The Tenacity of Just Seeming, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Cabaret. Charles appreciates the love and support he receives from his family and would like to dedicate his work to them.




Christopher Joel Onken

Associate Company Member


Christopher Joel Onken hails from California by way of South Carolina. A Clemson University graduate, with a B.A. in Theatre, Christopher has worked regionally with Playhouse on the Square, Orlando Shakespeare Theater, The Warehouse Theatre, The Stephen Sondheim Center, and Thin Air Theatre Company. Professional credits include The Merry Wives of Windsor (Fenton), 4,000 Miles (Leo), 39 Steps (Hannay), My Fair Lady (Higgins), Grace (Steve), title characters in Romeo and Juliet and The Elephant Man, as well as Red (Ken) with the one and only Brian Fruits. He lives on make believe, cardigans, coffee, puns, and the love of his wonderful parents and sis. 


JareD Williams

Associate Company Member 

Jared Williams's theatrical credits include The Diviners, Topdog/UnderDog, Godspell, Les Miserables, A Midsummer Night's Dream and Yellow Light. When he is not working on and off-stage, Jared can be seen climbing, running, sliding, and hugging his beautiful baby girl, Lyla. He dedicates his continued work to her for she is his true inspiration. 







Alexandria Rust holds a B.A. in Theatre (Acting Concentration) & English from Muhlenberg College. She is proud to have studied overseas with the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts and the Accademia dell'Arte in Tuscany. Her recent credits with Saltbox include The Bacchae (Greek Chorus), Talking With... (Twirler), and The Lounge (Carrie). Mostly a Chicago based actor, Alexandria dabbles in writing, directing, and singing as well. When she is not playing around on the Chicago stage, she can be found teaching group fitnesses classes and indoor cycling. 



Artists in Support:

Andrea Gustafson

Stephen Hancock

April Hunsucker

Chuck Lewis

Amy Moore

Jeramie Simmons

Danielle Swanson

Mario Treto, Jr.

Lisa Weber

John Yorke