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IMPACT: Musical Theatre

Session 2: August 5-9

Stories that Need to be Told

By Maya Meschi

As we advance into the 21st century, the push for diversity and inclusion in the performing arts industry has increased significantly. Numerous thriving performers, directors, and casting directors voice and continue to voice stories crucial to our cultural development. Among them is Patrick Maravilla, a casting director who has cast groundbreaking productions such as The Life of Pi, A Wonderful World, and Chicago. Maravilla has been an essential player in shaping and pivoting our view of diversity in theater. He is genuinely transforming the future of the performing arts industry and life. Maravilla remarked, “Storytelling allows us to access the roots of who we are, and we continue to tell those stories to keep them alive.” 

A Hunger to Make a Difference:

Maravilla started his performing arts occupation by participating in and auditioning for theater in California. However, as Maravilla became increasingly exposed to the industry, he realized he “…had never seen another brown person behind the table.” Shortly after the pandemic, Maravilla discovered he no longer wanted to pursue acting. Regardless, he still wanted to have a career in the performing arts; more specifically, he desired to make a difference in the field. Eventually, this drove him to seek casting as a profession. “I wanted to be a voice for people who look like me.” 

Life of Pi:

Maravilla’s aspiration for diversity goes beyond race; he casts shows to give people of various backgrounds the opportunity to have a voice in the industry. From Real Women Have Curves to The Life of Pi, Maravilla has pushed for refreshing interpretations of well-known works. A representation of how Maravilla supplied a play with a renewed point of view is through The Life of Pi. Similar to most professional productions, Life of Pi debuted in the West End. During the duration of Life of Pi’s premiere, the character Pi, who was originally portrayed as a male, was incapable of attending and performing a particular performance. The understudy, who traditionally played Ronnie, covered the performance of Pi that evening. Leaving the audience, cast, and crew in complete astonishment and marvel, Maravilla stated: “When she went on, we weren’t expecting it, and we were like, ‘Yeah! This works.'” Shortly after Hiran Abeysekera parted from the Broadway cast, “We were like, this is a no-brainer; Uma would be a fabulous actor to illustrate her view of Pi, which allowed a different take on what the show is and what it means, as well as the social standings of Pi as a woman.” The most remarkable and fascinating component of Maravilla’s casting is that it allows a woman of the 21st century to convey her story, especially in a narrative in which the theme is about survival.

Chicago the Musical:

Chicago the Musical is one of the rarest musical phenomenons; it has remained one of the longest-running productions on Broadway and has reached numerous fans. Among these countless successes, Chicago has had multiple interpretations; therefore, “casting can be tricky because everyone has an idea about what it should be.” However, with this, you have the ability to “uphold the integrity of the show while still pushing it into the 21st century.” Classical shows like Chicago allow people to stay true to the theme of the production while still granting space for new, relevant messages. Ultimately, the gift of casting gives opportunities to people of various backgrounds. People like Maravilla have genuinely transformed theater and given individuals equal chances. With Maravilla’s help, Chicago the Musical had Jinx Monsoon become the first-ever drag queen to play Mama Morton. Currently, Mama Morton is portrayed as the first Asian Mama Morton in Chicago’s 27-year run. 

A New Light for Inclusion and Diversity in the 21st Century:

Inclusion can be taught, learned, and experienced in various ways in the 21st century. It is essential to familiarize ourselves with the past so we can positively influence the future, and Maravilla is currently doing that. He is bringing a trailblazer from history to contemporary audiences in A Wonderful World. A Wonderful World is a captivating, delightful, and outstanding piece of art that takes you through Louie Armstrong’s life, told through his four wives. It is set to open on Broadway in the fall. While it is uplifting to know that numerous people like Maravilla exist, it is also refreshing to know everyone can push for even more diversity and inclusion. It all begins with you and your first efforts toward making a difference. As Maravilla has conveyed: 

“I hope people continue to push, have the conversation, and fight for diversity. Theater should be a reflection of society, which is the whole reason why theater was created. We are doing a disservice by not reflecting on the stage. We should be able to have little kids come in the show and see themselves on the stage, which, up until two months ago, if my little sister would watch a show, she wouldn’t see someone like her in the group. However, now, she can, and it’s stuff like that that I hope we keep pushing towards.” 


session 1 • june 10–14, 2024

session 2 • August 5–9, 2024

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James T. Lane / Dance

West End: The Scottsboro Boys, A Chorus Line – Revival (Palladium Theatre). Broadway: Chicago (Billy Flynn and Amos Hart) Kiss Me, Kate (Paul), King Kong the Musical ,The Scottsboro Boys (Ozie Powell/Ruby Bates), Chicago and A Chorus Line (Richie Walters). Tours: Jersey Boys, Cinderella, Fame the Musical. Regional Theatre: Guys and Dolls ( Nicely Nicely) Virginia Stage Company, Mary Poppins (Bert) Aint’t Misbehavin ,Drury Lane Theatre, The Wiz (Tin Man), Broadway at Music Circus,The Old Globe, The Little Mermaid (Sebastian) The Muny, A.C.T and Dallas Theatre Center. Encores/Off Center:Promenade,Grand Hotel, Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope Concerts: Carnegie Hall with The New York Pops, Ottawa Symphony and many more. James is the creator of and the 2023 Audelco Award winner for Best Solo Performance for “Triple Threat” that played Off Broadway to great acclaim at Theatre Row in New York City. Mr. Lane teaches music theatre dance when and wherever anyone will let him! Instagram: @jamestlane

Syndee Winters / Voice

Syndee Winters (@syndeewinters) is an American singer, recording artist, and actress. Best known for her role as “Nala.” Syndee’s other credits include lead roles in Motown the Musical, Pippin, Jesus Christ Superstar on NBC, and Hamilton. In 2020, Syndee founded R.O.A.R., a professional development program helping artists hoan their skills, transform their stage presence and navigate the industry. Inspired by the art of storytelling, Syndee’s tours the world with two magical productions. Disney Princess: The Concert and Lessons From A Lady: A Dedication to Lena Horne. Syndee is also an award- winning recording artist and her latest project with GRAMMY® winning producer Ben Williams entitled, “Butterfly Black” is available everywhere now.

Caitlin Kinnunen / Acting

Caitlin Kinnunen Is a Tony nominated actress for her work in THE PROM on Broadway, having originated the role of Emma Nolan. Most recently you can hear her as Juniper on the podcast The Callisto Protocol: Helix Station starring Gwendolyn Christie. Caitlin was nominated for an Audie Award for narrating the audiobook MaryJane, and was handpicked by Judy Blume to narrate her book Forever. Film/TV credits include The Intern, Sweet Little Lies, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, We Need to Talk About Kevin, “Our Ladies” (pilot for The CW), “Suck Hole” (pilot for FX), “Younger”, “American Vandal”, “The Knick”, and “Law & Order: SVU”.

Peter Van Dam / Casting

Peter is the recipient of four Artios Awards for excellence in casting. He joined Tara Rubin Casting in 2018 as a Casting Director, and previously was an associate at Jim Carnahan Casting / Roundabout Theatre Company.

Broadway: The Heart of Rock & Roll, Six, The Phantom of the Opera, Tootsie, Head Over Heels, Angels in America, Farinelli and the King, The Cherry Orchard. National Tours: Six, The Band’s Visit. Off-Broadway/New York: Dead Outlaw (Audible Theater – World Premiere), Pal Joey (New York City Center), Whisper House (The Civilians), Sing Street (New York Theatre Workshop), Something Clean (Roundabout), The Beast in the Jungle (Vineyard). Regional: Summer Stock (Goodspeed – World Premiere), Sing Street, (The Huntington), 42nd Street (Goodspeed), Kismet (Granada Theatre/Santa Barbara Symphony), Chasing Rainbows (Paper Mill Playhouse), Chess (The Kennedy Center), Wonderful Town (LA Opera). Canada: Beaches, Six, The Louder We Get. West End: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Nice Fish. Benefits: I’m Still Here (New York Public Library for the Performing Arts), Julie Halston’s Broadway Belts for PFF, Thoroughly Modern Millie (The Actors Fund).


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