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Madison Smith (Artistic Director)


A graduate of the University of Nebraska - Lincoln, Madison got her degree in Directing and Management from the Johnny Carson School of Theatre & Film. Madison's credits with Death & Pretzels include directing and producing The Dybbuk, Gruoch, or Lady Macbeth, Anatomy of Gray, very still & hard to see, Musical Therapy, Helmut's Big Day, The Basement Company, The Book of Maggie and I, Cockroach. Other Chicago credits include The Graduate for the Beverly Theater Guild, Sex AKA Wieners and Boobs for Team StaKid's Summer Season 2014 and collaborated to direct and produce the Chicago premiere of Women for their 2016 Summer Season, and Footloose the Musical for the Summer Place Theatre. Madison has also directed staged readings of Halfway by Molly Campbell and A Short History of the Mob in America by Joe Weintraub with Three Cat Productions and has assistant directed under Matt Hawkins for RedTwist and The House Theatre of Chicago. Madison will be soon assistant directing for Hell in a Handbag Productions. 

Nick Strauss (Managing Director)


A graduate of the University of Michigan where he studied theatre, his Chicago credits include Starkid's Holy Musical B@tman!, A Very Potter Senior Year, and Airport for Birds, Three Cat Production's Joint Attention, Redmoon Theatre's Bellboys, Bears, and Baggage, Rough House's Ubu the King, The Plagerists' Ubu II and Dear Stone Theater's production of Art. Nick's credits with Death and Pretzels include performing in The DybbukGruoch, or Lady Macbeth, Anatomy of Grayvery still & hard to see, The Basement Company and The Book of Maggie as well as producing Musical Therapy, Helmut's Big Day and I, Cockroach.  He wishes to express his gratitude for every person that still believes in the power and beauty of the live stage. Thank you all. Much love.

Charles Blunt (Resident Lighting Designer)

Charles Blunt is a graduate of Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance, where he got his undergraduate degree in Lighting Design. He has lit shows across London and Oxford, England. After moving to Chicago, he has worked on many storefront productions and is incredibly thrilled to be joining Death & Pretzels as resident Lighting Designer. His first show with D&P was their production of very still & hard to see. Charles' favorite quote when speaking with directors is that "darkness is equally as important as light."

Matt Orenstein (Resident Sound Designer) 


A Minneapolis-raised, LA-based composer, songwriter, bassist and sound designer. He contributed original music and sounds to Death & Pretzels productions, The Dybbuk, Gruoch, or Lady Macbeth, Anatomy of Grayvery still & hard to see, The Basement Company and The Book of Maggie. His score for Gruoch saw a limited cassette release on Chicago's EyeVybe records in Summer of 2015. In addition to his work with D & P, Matt has released six albums under the Lionel O moniker, was a three-time participant in the Chicago Home Theatre Festival, and has played bass in countless groups around the Midwest and LA areas. He is currently scoring the feature film Silicon Beach

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Lili Bjorklund (Resident Stage Manager and Technician)

Lili Bjorklund is delighted to join Death & Pretzels as the Resident Stage Manager and Technician. Lili graduated from Cornell College in Mount Vernon, IA with a degree in Theatre For Social Change. She has stage managed the Death & Pretzels productions of The Book of Maggie and The Basement Company, as well as Nox Arca: An Evening of One Acts. Other Chicago credits include stage managing Musical Therapy at the Chicago Musical Theatre Festival and assistant stage managing Fun Harmless Warmachine with The New Colony and Hershel and The Hanukkah Goblins with Strawdog Theatre Company. In Colorado she assistant stage managed An Iliad and Silent Sky at Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company. Lili loves new works and weird stories and could not be more excited for what’s to come with Death & Pretzels!

Emma Palizza (Public Relations Manager / Artistic Associate)

Emma is a graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, TX (as unique as it sounds).  After completing her BFA she spent a year at Rose Bruford College in Sidcup, England studying European Theatre Arts and meeting her husband, Charlie. Since moving to Chicago she has studied at Second City, Vagabond School of the Arts and is a proud graduate of the School at Steppenwolf. Emma has acted around town in several store front productions which is where she stumbled upon Death & Pretzels. Her work with Death & Pretzels includes Tiny Wingfield in Anatomy of Gray, Beth in Chiara Atik’s Women, Liz in Musical Therapy and was a Production Assistant on very still & hard to see. She is a proud artistic associate member and is looking forward to all of the work we will produce in the future. 

Bridget Vacha (Resident Graphic Designer)

Bridget is a graduate of the University of Nebraska - Lincoln, where she studied Film & New Media from the Johnny Carson School of Theatre & Film. She is currently working at the Walt Disney World Resort as a Photopass Photographer. Her past graphic design credits come from UNL's student run Theatrix company and University Theatre, as well as Death & Pretzels; working with the company since Grouch; or Lady Macbeth in 2015. Most recently, she designed publicity materials for Minneapolis-based Really Spicy Opera's Orlando Fringe performances of The Last Five Years. She is excited join the team and continue working with Death & Pretzels as their Resident Graphic Designer.

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Stephen Bryant (Resident Photographer and Archivist)

Stephen J. Bryant is an actor, photographer, cinematographer, and potato chip enthusiast. He studied Cinema and Photography at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. while attending, he worked both behind and in front of the camera on several award winning short films. He has performed in productions throughout all of the Chicagoland area and continues to find roles that both excite and challenge him creatively. He looks forward to capturing all the beautiful and weird moments that happen in a Death & Pretzels production.

Theron Seckington (Former Resident Technical Director)

Theron began working with Death & Pretzels in their first season on 2015's Anatomy of Gray and built scenic elements for very still and hard to seeMusical Therapy, Helmut't Big Day and The Basement Company. Theron received his graduate degree from UNL's Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film and has worked all over the nation as a theatrical carpenter since 2005.


In 2018, Theron moved from the Chicago area with his girlfriend while she attends a Master's Program. We hope to trick Theron into returning and working with us again soon. 

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