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Artists' Bios

It Dont Just.... Shake Off

Michael Anthony Neely

Michael decided he wanted to become an actor at an early age.  At the age of four his favorite movie “A Leap of Faith”, Michael would go through the house pretending he was Jonas the miracle healer played by Steve Martin.  He knew everyone’s line verbatim.  From that point forward, in 1994 Michael was selected to be an extra in the remake of the TV show Miracle on 34th Street.

During his high school days, Michael performed in various school and church plays.  He became a member of the praise dance troupe known as “Complete Praise” for over 10 years and occasionally still performs today.


Michael was an extra in the TV series Empire and a graduate of Second City Theatre Company in Chicago, IL. He will be attending The Academy For Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles, California to further his study's in the arts. His passion is to bring joy and laughter to any audience.  

ETHAN KWAS (Assistant TD) is employed full time outside the theater but theater is where he likes to spend his time. He started his hi-tech career in high school and has been at it

ever since. With a background in electrical, stage rigging and construction, he has worked on various municipal festivals, rigging light sand sound and has been Open Door's Technical 'Wizard' for the past 12 years.


(Light Board Op) This is Paul’s 12th season with Open Door. He came to the company to do the lighting for Just So and has stayed to do nearly 22 shows since then, doing lighting design and rigging, set construction, painting and working Front Of House. Paul is a computer specialist at Triton College during the day.

Marc Rodgers

Marc is very excited to work with Open Door Theatre. Marc has appeared in numerous plays, commercials,  print ads, and independent films. Some of his past credits include; "The Little Flower Of East Orange" (Eclipse Theatre)"Sins of The Father" (eta Creative Arts), "Upstate" (MPACCT Theatre), "King Hedley the II" (Congo Square Theatre), and "Once On this Island" (Fleetwood Jourdan Theatre). Marc also performs in the children's musical," When Good Broccoli Goes Bad". He thanks God for his gifts and opportunities as well as support from family and friends.




(Company Technical Director) is a founding member of Open Door.   As Company Technical Director (along with Paul, Ethan and Josh) he over-sees sound, lights, set design and construction and is the facility manager.  His theater experience began in 1989 acting in Bye-Bye Birdie, Peter Pan, The Music Man, Into The  Woods, Romeo and Juliet, and West Side Story, with the CAST program, then To Kill a Mockingbird, the first CAST/Open Door production.  His favorite musical performances were the Doo-Wop quartet in Smokey Joe’s Café and various numbers in three Open Door musical reviews.  Favorite sets include: The Memory of Water, Spinning Into Butter, A View From The Bridge, The Sisters Rosensweig, Bleacher Bums, Crowns and Daddy’s Home!  Thanks are extended to his Open Door family and, most importantly, to his wife and family for all the years of support 


(Playwright/Director) McKinley is a Playwright

in Residence at Open Door as well as an Artistic Associate. His recent credits include: The Black Nativity written for Congo Square Theatre, 2011 production at The

Goodman Theatre; a commission from Steppenwolf Theatre as a composer for

Harriet Jacobs for The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC and as the Music Director for its Chicago production. He is a Jeff Award nominee for Being Beautiful

(outstanding new work). His play Georgia Tom at the Bailiwick Theater received a Jeff Recommendation. He has received Black Theater Alliance Awards for Train Is Comin’(Best Musical, Best Director), and Being Beautiful(Best Performance and Best Play). Both were produced at The Chicago Theatre Company. He is the recipient of an After

Dark Award for Best Performance in a Musical for his performance in Being Beautiful and he was a playwright-in-residence at Chicago Dramatist for many years.  He directed both Smokey Joe’s Café and Train Is Comin’for Open Door during the 2011 – 2012 Season and wrote and directed Clara for the 2012 - 2013 Season.  His play Eye of the Storm, first produced at Open Door in 2009, will be part of ETA's 2017 - 2018 Season.  He is full-time faculty at Dominican University.

Sonita L. Surratt

(Stage Manager)

 is a Chicago and New York award winning classically trained vocalist, playwright, actor, director, and sound designer. She is an Artist in Residence at Purdue University Black Culture Center, and Producing Artistic Director of the Redd Opera Co.  For the summer, she hoped for an opportunity to expand her artistic community in a fun and fulfilling way.  Working with the Open Door Theatre and McKinley on It Just Don’t Shake Off is just what she hoped for; it’s been excitingly delightful to work with this team of artists. 


(Lighting Design) is pleased to be working again with Open Door Rep. Past credits with Open Door include No Witness, Go, Dog, Go!, The Game of Love and Chance, Superior Donuts, Small, Train Is Comin, and Crowns. After graduating he wanted to pursue his combined passions of theater and film and landed his first gig as the sound engineer for a small film called "Love, Blood, Kryptonite" and recently was the light board technician for the ABC network series "Betrayal".  In his theater life he has designed for Chicago Folks Operetta: credits include Girl on the Train, Peter Paul and the Land of Nod, Pinocchio, Snow White, and Babes in Toyland; for Proud Kate Theater Project, The Dumbwaiter,  and a  for few local high schools. At the end of the day he always returns to what he calls home - the CAST program at Julian Middle School as their Technical Director. 

Eric Troy, Sr.

(Music Director/Keyboards) has been playing the piano since he was 6 years old, at which time he picked out the melody of "The Drummer Boy," by ear. Eventually his love for music inspired him to pursue a musical career. While being educated in Jazz and Classical pedagogy at Roosevelt University, he helped form the 1st Gospel Chorus in their 100+ year history. Eric has toured throughout the U.S. with The Black Ensemble Theater and Seven Shades of Man, and has traveled internationally with various artists such as: Mavis Staples, Sue Conway, The Brethren, and The Gay Family Singers. He has recorded with and/or accompanied some of the most famous Gospel artists in the world, such as: Rev.Maceo Woods, Choral Thunder, Chicago Mass Choir, Mark Hubbard, Albertina Walker, Richard Smallwood, Tramaine Hawkins, Vicki Winans, and Daryl Coley. In 2013, Eric won the Black Theater Alliance Award for Best Music Director for his work in Mckinley Johnson's "Clara." Currently he is the Music Director of Bands for Trinity United Church of Christ, where he was given the privilege of co-producing their latest CD, entitled, "Stay Connected." Eric continues to use his God-given musical gift at churches and other venues throughout Chicagoland. 

(Producer) is a founding member of Open Door and the company’s Artistic and Managing Director. She has directed 17 productions for Open Door. Among her favorites are: Superior Donuts, Good, The Laramie Project, Of Thee I Sing, A View From The Bridge and Daddy’s Home! She loves working with the amazing people she meets through Open Door and would liketo thank her wonderful family, especially Bill, for always being there.

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