Meet our Company of Artists

Cast of "And Then What?"

Bena..........Hannah Antman 

Khanah......Kelly Levander

Avrum....... Howard Raik

Dinah.........Heidi Katz

Kutsya........Matthew Schufreider

Esther.........Rachel Silvert

Leib............Alex Ireys

Polina.........Maggie Cain

Cast of "How Many Bushels Am I Worth?"

Bena............Hannah Antman

Alex.............Alex Ireys

Marissa Geocaris, Lighting Designer

Tess Naval, Assistant Director and Stage Manager

Kevin Olson, Playwright and Director

Bena Shklyanoy, Playwright and Inspiration

Clara Tomaz, Animations Designer


HANNAH ANTMAN (Bena) is originally from Wilmette and is so excited to be performing with First Hand Theatrical. This May, she graduated from Boston University's School of Theatre with a BFA in Acting. Around Boston, she has performed with Open Theatre Project and at the Boston Children's Museum with City Stage Co. She is an alumnus of the Young People's Company at Piven Theatre Workshop. Hannah is also an improviser and stand-up comedian. Having recently moved back to Chicago, she plans to pursue theatre, comedy, and deep-dish pizza.

MAGGIE CAIN (Polina) - appeared as Amanda in Mary-Arrchie’s The Glass Menagerie and

in three seasons as Mrs. Claus in Barney the Elf. Other credits include Men Should Weep 

(Jeff Award for Best Play), Kin and Stage Door with Griffin Theatre, Pornography and Moment 

with Steep Theatre, Good Boys and TrueStop Kiss and Book of Days at Raven and 

The Arab-Israeli Cookbook at Theatre Mir. She has appeared on Chicago Fire and in 

Watching Game of Thrones with Your Mom, and is represented by Big Mouth Talent.

MARISSA GEOCARIS (Lighting Designer) is thrilled to be working with such a talented group of people on The Apple Does Not Fall. She also works around Chicago and the surrounding suburbs as a freelance lighting designer. Previous shows include: The Wild Party for Music for Theatre Chicago, The Wizard of Oz for Big Noise Theatre and Mary Poppins Jr. for Thin Ice Ensemble Theatre.

ALEX IREYS (Leib, Alex) is thrilled to be a part of such a moving piece of theater. He graduated with a BFA in theater performance from Virginia Commonwealth University and completed The Second City Conservatory. Alex is currently a resident artist with Filament Theater Company. He was last seen in Ghostlight Ensemble’s An Ideal Husband as Lord Goring. Alex is repped by the wonderful Big Mouth Talent Agency. He would like to thank everyone who made him coffee before rehearsals.

HEIDI KATZ (Dinah) has appeared in Piven Theatre Workshop’s Ivanov and The Good Doctor, and as part of the Martin family in Interrobang Theatre Project’s 2017 production of Deanna Jents’ play Falling.  She has also worked Oil Lamp Theater (The Girl in the Freudian Slip), Halcyon Theatre (The Wild Duck), and with Northlight Theatre, Polarity Ensemble Theatre, and Silk Road Rising.  Off stage, she practices law representing public schools and colleges, libraries, and park districts.  Gratitude to Kevin and Bena for the chance to be part of this project, and to honor the courage and contributions of the many who came from other countries to contribute so much to this one.


KELLY LEVANDER (Khanah) has been acting in theater and film for over fifteen years. The diverse theater and film community brought Kelly and her husband to Chicago in 2010 where she has since had the opportunity to work with many different theaters including Emergent Theatre, Metropolis Performing Arts Center, Provision Theater, Spartan Theatre and Muse of Fire. Prior to relocating to Chicago, Kelly worked around the country with Virginia Stage Company (LORT), Theater of the American South, and A. D. Players to name a few. Kelly received her MFA in Acting from Regent University in 2009.

TESS NAVAL (Assistant Director and Stage Manager) is a Stage Manager recently relocated to Chicago. Recent Stage Management work: The Pirates of Penzance and Peter Pan with Music Theater Works, Cendrillon with North Park University, As You Like It with Eclectic Full Contact Theatre, Story + Sketch with Piven Theatre Workshop, The Trojan Women with Three Crows Theatre, The Jason Bishop ShowSeaWorld San AntonioMary Poppins and Thoreau with Berkshire Theatre Group. BFA, Stage Management from Boston University.  Visit for more!

KEVIN OLSON & FIRST HAND THEATRICAL (Co-Playwright and Director) established

First Hand Theatrical in 2013 and has created five original scripts for the company – "How Many Bushels Am I Worth?" created with Bena Shklyanoy and premiering here at the Piven, "And Then What?" created with Bena Shklyanoy (presented here at the Piven as well as at AS220 Black Box in Providence, RI in July 2017), “Lifepoems in Motion” (presented at the Providence Fringe Festival in July 2016), "Interrupting The Sermon" (presented at the Indianapolis Fringe Festival in 2015) and "This Is My Story: Mayses, 1938-1948" (presented at URI Feinstein Campus Arts and Culture in 2016). First Hand Theatrical creates original theater productions using primary source material drawn mainly from diverse personal, cultural and social histories.

Kevin holds a M.F.A. in Theatre Directing from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities and a    B.S. in Speech and Theatre from SUNY Oneonta. He has directed many productions in a variety of settings. He received a Twin Cities Drama Critics Circle KUDOS Award for his production of Brian Friel’s Translations at University of Minnesota Theatre. 


HOWARD A. RAIK (Avrum) is honored to portray Avrum Averbukh in And Then What?, a story with many parallels in the lives of Howard’s own family’s past in Tsarist Russia, the Soviet Union, and the United States. Earlier this year Howard was seen in Heartbleed (Rhino Fest) and Ivanov (One Year Chekhov). He has played the title role in Tuesdays With Morrie in two productions (MadKap and Gallery); Nunzio in Over the River and Through the Woods, also two productions (Gallery and James Downing); Skelly Mannor in The Rimers of Eldritch (GreenMan); and Martin in Ashes and Acceptance (Gorilla Tango). Center Stage – NEIU). Howard has also appeared in productions at StageLeft Leapfest, Polarity Ensemble, Center Stage – NEIU, Tabula Rasa, Forget Me Not, Strangeloop, Wackadoo, Goat Song Theatre, St. Sebastian Players, Revolution Theatre, and Unity Players, as well as in several student short films and independent short films.


MATTHEW W. SCHUFREIDER (Kutsya ) -  is honored to be part of this wonderful production. Having been from Grayslake, he took a chance on theatre and has been performing all around Illinois for the last five years. Credits include Ben Banks in Father of the Bride (Brightside Theatre), Buck in The Creator (Three Brothers Theatre) and George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life(Woodstock Musical Theatre Company). He has also been in several musicals including A Christmas Story, Legally Blonde, and The Addams Family. Matthew goes to school at Columbia College Chicago where he studies Acting and Education. Much thanks to Kevin and Bena for coming together and making this beautiful show. Enjoy the show.

BENA SHKLYANOY (Co-Playwright and Creator of the website that inspires these plays -- was born in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, when it was part of the Soviet Union. After finishing the Kiev State University with a graduate degree in Russian Language she worked as a technical translator and editor.


In 1976, she immigrated to the United States with her husband and two young daughters. Her family was featured on the cover of the Chicago Tribune when her parents arrived one year later, as the 1000th Soviet Jews to arrive to Chicago, their new home. A career change landed her in Information Technology in the US. In 2004, her family story project began.  It spanned over 150 years and took eleven years to complete -- and is now documented along with ongoing insights into Soviet culture and culture clash on She is a wise and witty story teller, with deep insights into the impact of government and history and how they shape, influence and drive personal decisions that last for generations.


RACHEL SILVERT (Esther) is a Chicagoland native and an avid story-lover (be them onstage, in a book, or that crazy thing that happened last week).  Rachel has been fortunate to work with such companies as Oil Lamp Theater, Silk Road Rising, Towle Theater and Skokie Theater, with favorite credits including Par for the Corpse (Andy), Perfect Wedding (Judy), Beau Jest (Sarah Goldman) and Steel Magnolias (Annelle). Rachel is a proud founding company member of Bring Your Own Theatre Productions, a nomadic theater company in Chicago specializing in 24-hour theater festivals and with which she has directed, acted, stage managed and produced for over three years. She received her BA in musical theater performance from American University. Many thanks to Kevin and Bena, as well as her ever-supportive friends and family.  Enjoy the show!

CLARA TOMAZ (Visuals & Motion Graphic Designer) is an Italian-American film/video artist and director, author of several short documentaries, among which "The Sun Inside" (2017), an autobiographical story of cancer and disability, funded with a 2016 ‘Upside Down Grant’ from OneRevolution Foundation. Beyond her documentarian production, Clara Tomaz specializes in stop-motion animation, an ancient and traditional technique that implies the use of still photos to create the basic cinematic motion. She works with paper cutouts, prints, as well as drawing, painting and physical objects. She has been teaching stop-motion animation in Wilmette District 39 for the last 5 years, inspiring hundreds of elementary age children to the magic of cinema. Clara Tomaz is the author of a show, "Linear and Aerial Perspective" (2011), video performance for improvising ensemble, that was presented at the Cell Theatre in New York, the EMPAC Theatre in Troy, NY, ‘Sonorities Festival’ in Belfast, Ireland, and ‘Music, Mind and invention’ at the College of New Jersey. Clara Tomaz is the founder of Media 4 Community NFP, video contributor to the webzine ‘Chicago4Community’, and owner of her video production studio Make Your Movie inc. ( located in Wilmette, north of Chicago.

CONTACT US    401-400-2517

© 2018 by First Hand Theatrical.