How to Become an Actor in Chicago

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Getting your acting career on track requires equal parts passion, training, and community awareness—especially in a city known for its thriving performance scene. Here, you’ll learn how to be an actor in Chicago.


How to start acting in Chicago

Familiarize yourself with the local scene

Fast-track your way to becoming an actor in Chicago by learning about the local scene, including:

  • Theaters like the Chicago Theatre, Cadillac Palace Theatre, and James M. Nederlander Theatre
  • Theatrical festivals such as Chicago Theater Week, the Chicago Fringe Festival, and the International Voices Project
  • Shows and films shot in the city—for example, “The Bear,” “The Chi,” and “Chicago P.D.”
  • Production companies with a branch or home base in Chicago, including Paramount, National Geographic, Sony Pictures, and Richter Studios
  • Resources like those offered by the city’s film office and TV production, and artists and entertainers lists


Acting classes can help you gain valuable skills and make connections with industry insiders. Some top acting classes in Chicago are offered by:

  • Acting Studio Chicago
  • Black Box Acting
  • Chicago Actors Studio
  • Columbia College Chicago
  • DePaul University
  • The Green Room Studio
  • Green Shirt Studio
  • Roosevelt University
  • The Second City
  • University of Illinois Chicago
  • Vagabond School of the Arts

Prepare your materials

Your headshot, acting résumé, and demo reel will help you stand out to casting directors in Chicago. These include:

  • Adam Belcuore: Many submissions pass through Belcuore’s office and the Goodman Theatre, so remember his name if you’re looking to get into Chicago’s theater community!
  • Mickie Paskal and Jennifer Rudnicke: Paskal Rudnicke Casting has been around for decades, and in that time it has worked on big-name projects including “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” and “Shameless,” and with brands such as Nike, AT&T, and General Motors.
  • David and Joan O’Connor: The O’Connor Casting Company has done a ton of print, commercial, and film work, and specializes in background casting in Chi-town.
  • Jeff Finney and Kate McClanaghan: Based in both Chicago and Los Angeles, Big House Casting & Audio specializes in both on- and off-camera voice talent for commercials, radio, television, and indie film projects.

Network with fellow actors

Build a network of performers like yourself in groups such as:

Submit to auditions and casting calls

Behind the scenes of “The Trial of the Chicago 7” Credit: Niko Tavernise/Netflix

Behind the scenes of “The Trial of the Chicago 7” Credit: Niko Tavernise/Netflix

Use our Chicago casting call database to find acting gigs. Continue auditioning—every role is an opportunity to improve your résumé and reel. 

Sign with an agent

Submit to SAG-AFTRA–franchised agencies in Chicago such as:

  • Big Mouth Talent
  • Shirley Hamilton Talent
  • Gray Talent Group
  • Lily’s Talent
  • Stewart Talent
  • BMG Talent

Keep on keepin’ on

Becoming an actor in any city requires a good deal of perseverance, but you’re not alone. Look to actors who made a name for themselves in Chicago—such as Jennifer Hudson, Gina Rodriguez, and Robin Williams—for inspiration, and don’t be afraid to take risks.

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Briana Rodriguez
Briana is the Editor-in-Chief at Backstage. She oversees editorial operations and covers all things film and television. She's interested in stories about the creative process as experienced by women, people of color, and other marginalized communities. You can find her on Twitter @brirodriguez and on Instagram @thebrianarodriguez
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