By Barry Reszel
They’ve been around for about 2-1/2 years now, anchoring their enterprise on the fifth floor of an artsy loft building (Shalimar Photography, Right Brain Theatre, etc.) at 4001 N Ravenswood, Chicago.
Their work was first inspired by often-asked questions from their clients. An talent agent/casting director duo realizing the need for continuing education among Chicagoland’s actors and setting out to provide it. But beneath the surface questions of where to take the next acting class or look for on-camera work, they identified a greater yearning—for a place embodying the philosophy of community.
And so the Vagabond School of the Arts was birthed by Becca (formerly of Simon Casting) and Michael McCracken (formerly of Grossman & Jack). It is the clubhouse for a host of actors working on a variety of projects, and its parents are now setting their sights on expansion.
“What makes us different is that we try to approach acting from a holistic point of view,” Michael said in a recent IndyBuild article (link here) “It’s a lifestyle. Our four pillars address the whole person. The first pillar is education; I want working professionals teaching our classes. The second one is our gym; we offer free yoga and meditation. It doesn’t make us any money, but we believe actors should be doing it.
“Our third pillar is volunteerism. It’s for your soul. The best thing I think an actor can do is not think about themselves for a moment. Part of being an artist comes from empathy. The last pillar is community programming. We try to create chances for people to come together.”
To further put these philosophies in practice, Vagabond is in the midst an ambitious fundraising campaign, beginning their efforts with a drive on crowdfunding site Indiegogo. The McCrackens are aiming for $20,000 to build three new studios (Movement, Camera 2, and Voiceover) with an additional $5,000 for “creature comforts” to facilitate “one of our most important goals…to make Vagabond feel like a home-away-from-home for our students: a place where people come together to work and play.”
These additions will complement the already accomplished contributions of classes, coaching, seminars and community Vagabond offers. (See details on the Vagabond website here.
Chicago musical theatre actor Emily Berman (check out her website here) is one of Vagabond’s vocal supporters. “As an actor, I’m excited about Vagabond because the resources they’re providing to the Chicago acting community are really top notch,” Berman said. “Classes, audition taping, beautiful (and cheap) work space are uniquely concentrated in one welcoming place.
“As a person, I’m inspired by Becca and Michael’s warmth, generosity and vision for Chicago actors’ new artistic home.”
And “home” is really the thing all vagabonds desire. “We are incredibly passionate about Chicago actors,” Becca said. “And we are excited for the opportunity to continue to build something lasting together.
“With your help, we can strengthen our present and embrace our dream of being a home where Chicago’s best artists come together to work, study, create and play for years to come.”