Meet the Cast – Miles Barrett

[Part of a series of posts introducing the cast of Living Canvas Rx, opening August 1 at the Den Theatre in Chicago]

Living Canvas made my dream of performing movement-based theatre a reality, in the nude no less. I’m passionate about the human form and using my own form express the deepest emotions through movement. Ask anyone who knows me well; I’m constantly advocating the acceptance and indulgence of every individual’s unique form. Playing the role of Orange in Rx provides me with a stage to showcase my often practiced–in the mirror, in my kitchen and any other solitary space—popping, locking, and waving that no one has ever seen me do. As a sophomore acting major at Columbia College Chicago not enough thanks can be given to the wonderful cast and crew that make Rx possible. When the audience [you all reading this] sits to watch our performance unfold they won’t focus on the lack of clothing, but the beautiful movement displayed as we expose our subject. I love you all, thank you.

Meet the cast – Katie Carnes

[Part of a series of posts introducing the cast of Living Canvas Rx, opening August 1 at the Den Theatre in Chicago]

After more than five years in residence, Chicago has really gotten under Katie’s skin. You’ll find her on her bicycle most days commuting to and from rehearsals and developing business for an events company catering to non-profits. She’s into indy video games, comic book art, political commentary, and general nerdery. She can be seen dancing in up to four shows a weekend at Gorilla Tango where she has been a part of the company for more than three years. She also gigs independently around the city as a burlesque choreographer, dancer, singer, and portrait model. Be sure to look for her as Lenore Cravin, stone cold assassin, in a new adventure board game entitled “Forge the Future” coming soon by Ironside Games!

“Living Canvas demands the use of acting and improv muscles I’ve been aching to stretch mentally and physically. It has broadened my capacity to internalize and subsequently portray complex, abstract concepts with my body. This year’s topic speaks to me on a personal level throughout. The actors enter the rehearsal space completely open, ready to live in their most vulnerable moments every time. They, along with co-directors Jack and Lisa, bring quiet confidence and solidarity to this stage and working with them all has been more liberating than being nude in public. I know the audience will feel the ensemble’s chemistry and I can’t wait to show them the spectacle they came for!”

Living Canvas impacts Broadway backstage

Artemis Steakley-Freeman is a member of the Living Canvas Company, and did all the writing for Living Canvas: Eureka in 2012, which played at National Pastime Theater in Chicago and Downstairs Cabaret Theatre in Rochester, NY.

Well, Artemis is in New York, and she recounts a stage-door experience…

I just saw Phantom of the Opera (for the first time) with Norm Lewis as the Phantom. At the stage door, he was signing and taking pictures with literally everyone. When he got to me, this happened:
Norm: Are we taking a selfie? I’m bad at these.
[We take a selfie.]
Norm Lewis: What do you do? You look like you’re in college.
Me: I’m studying theatre.
Norm Lewis: Do you act?
Me: I’m a writer.
Norm Lewis: Whats your name?
Me: Artemis.
Norm Lewis: Artemis? What a great name. You’re destined!
Me: *sputtering awkwardly* wow. Thank you!
And as he was walking away…..
Norm Lewis: wait, Artemis? What’s your last name?
Me: Freeman.
Norm Lewis: We have a quote from you backstage. “If perfect is nothing, you have nothing to worry about, because nothing is nothing worth fighting for.” A couple years ago, a girl in the cast saw.. what was it called… the living poster?
Me: *still sputtering* The Living Canvas
And then I broke down crying and he gave me a hug.

What a great thing to know that our show had such an impact on someone that they tracked down a quote from the text and posted it backstage as inspiration.

Here’s the piece from which the quote came:

Text by Artemis Steakley-Freeman
A: Who was that in the mirror?
I thought I saw myself.
But there was too much light, and not enough truth behind the refection.
Who is the shadow
Leaning against the wall as if it has nothing more to say?

B: I wish I could see myself.
But all I have is a reflection of painted words from glazed eyes and subtle mouths.
A perfect picture of a painted view.
Who was that in the mirror?

A: Why can’t I see myself?
You said I was handsome.
Why can’t I see it?
Make me a mirror that can highlight my skin and hide the rest.

B: Make me a mirror that will not shatter no matter how much insecurity I throw at it.
Make me a mirror from the rhythm and life in my eyes.
A mirror framed with kept promises and unwavering truth.
Make me a mirror worth looking in.

C: I will be your mirror
I will be the reflection leading the way.
I will push past these lies held in place by puzzle pieces of this canvas.
I will be the Marie Curie of beauty.
I will be your mirror, and tell you not to change.

B: I will be your mirror, and remind you everyday that there is no such thing as perfect,
and if perfect is nothing, you have nothing to worry about, because nothing is nothing worth fighting for.
I will point out every flaw, every line every wrinkle, and ignore you when you tell me to point out the rest.

A: I will be your mirror, and I will cling to this frame of skin and connection
to bind all mirages together and outline the one thing insecurity can not take from us.
I will weave my hands between the connections like wind on water
and wash away this ‘perfection’ long ingrained in our memory.

C: I will be your mirror, and despite these outside words forcing themselves through my glass,
I will not stumble.
I will not waver.
I will stand beside you, an image of your body undisturbed.
I will be your mirror, and I will not be broken.

The Living Canvas ensemble tells stories with their bodies in ‘Living Canvas Rx,’ premiering August 1 at the Den Theatre

Chicago — The Living Canvas, known for nude actors telling theatrical stories with their bodies clothed in brilliant projections, has a new production this year looking at our obsession with drug journeys — exploratory and necessary, recreational and compulsory, enlightening and entrapping.

Living Canvas Rx gets its name from the symbol for prescription, which originated as an abbreviation of the Late Latin verb recipe, the imperative form of recipere — “to take.” All of us are drug users in some way. If you watch TV, every commercial break mentions at least once to ask your doctor if some medicine is right for you. The radio yammers about free trials and studies. We get fixes from the local drugstore, from basement gardens, or street corner entrepreneurs. We seek things that make us happy — sex, religion, television, chocolate, marijuana, wine, cocaine. What does it mean that this is such a universal search? And what makes one person’s medicine more socially acceptable than another’s?

Every Living Canvas production naturally promotes body acceptance and the expressive power of the body, utilizing unclothed performers who become the textures projected onto them, or are sculpted with stark light and shadow. The use of movement and sound help tell the stories. The performers are both vulnerable and empowered through their nudity, which led to the ensemble’s idea to tell stories about a similar relationship with drugs.

The cast and production team of Living Canvas Rx includes:

Cast: Hope Barnes, Miles Benjamin Barrett, Katie Carnes, Laura Elleseg, Cassandra Hannan, Nicole Jordan, Isaac Samuelson, Ben Schlotfelt, Sarah Smith, Kelly Steik.

Production team: Lisa Adams and Jack Dugan Carpenter (co-directors), Melissa Schlesinger (sound designer), John Jacobsen (lighting designer), Pete Guither (projections designer), Miona Lee (dance captain), Kit Ryan (stage manager).

Performances of Living Canvas Rx are August 1 through August 17, 2014, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., and Sundays at 6:00 p.m. at the Den Theatre’s Studio 2B, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago. Tickets are $20 each and available at Brown Paper Tickets or at the door. Following each performance is a Q&A with the cast and an optional opportunity for audience members to disrobe and see what it’s like to be a living canvas in the projections.


The Living Canvas celebrates the beauty and expressive power of the human form through performance art and photography, nurturing a sense of body acceptance for performer and audience. It is spectacle and storytelling, utilizing creative lighting, sound, and multi-media imagery that interact with the human canvas.

The Living Canvas is the work of Artistic Director Pete Guither and his associates (The Living Canvas Ensemble). It started with photography of the human form as a canvas for light and projections. In 2001, The Living Canvas branched out to full performance art productions, telling stories by combining the mesmerizing imagery with movement. Though primarily based in Chicago, with 11 unique productions to date since 2001, Living Canvas performances have been seen in such diverse locations as Normal, Illinois and Rochester, New York.

Living Canvas 2014 Auditions

The Living Canvas is holding auditions on Saturday, June 7, 2014 for its 2014 summer production in Chicago. Seeking actors who are strong movers and/or dancers, and singers of all genders, ethnicities, and ages to create a piece about the body and mind’s relationship with drugs. This is a physically demanding show requiring stamina and strength, but all body types will be considered.

The Living Canvas is an ensemble whose mission is a celebration of the beauty of the human body in all its forms. We perform in the nude, lit only by vibrant digital slides photographed and designed by Pete Guither. Auditions and rehearsals are fully clothed with the highest regard for actor comfort and safety.

Email to schedule an audition slot. Please bring H/R, wear clothing suitable for movement, and be prepared to cold read. If you are a singer, please prepare 16 bars to be sung a cappella.

This year’s production is being written by The Living Canvas company and co-directed by Lisa Adams and Jack Dugan Carpenter.

Rehearsals will mostly be on weekends. Performance dates will be Friday-Sunday evenings, August 1-17 at The Den Theatre.

Living Canvas 2014

Yes, there will be a Living Canvas 2014. We’re working on a single-story structure this summer, with a wonderful team of writers and two fabulous co-directors. The theme will be both powerful and psychedelic.

We don’t have exact dates or location yet (currently being arranged), but we expect the show to open in mid-late July and have a limited run.

Keep an eye out here for more information, or follow us on Facebook.


Earlier this spring, two Living Canvas pieces were exhibited as part of the Be-You{tiful} exhibit on body acceptance at University Galleries at Illinois State University.

The first one — Hair — was based on the piece written by Artemis Steakly-Freeman for Living Canvas: Eureka. Check it out:


The other was based on the finale of Eureka:


Celebrating the beauty and expressive power of the human form