Our Mission:
To build financial literacy skills through the creative arts.

Our History


Origin Story

Brain Surgeon Theater began as a small theatre camp in Arlington, Massachusetts when the first Brain Surgeon devised rock musical was born. The following summer, it happened again, this time resulting in a musical called "CAVES!" about spelunkers, scientists, and gigantic insects.

Co-Casting Magic

Gwen Tulin (Founder and Artistic Director) revived "CAVES!" as her thesis at Brandeis University, this time co-casting kids and MFA actors in equally-sized roles. The results were magic. Surrounded by loud, expressive grownup actors, the kids rose to the occasion spectacularly, blowing the roof off of the Spingold Theater and flooring the audience with their rock solid stage work.

Chicago, City of the Big Shoulders

Brain Surgeon Theater, newly arrived in Chicago, IL produced its first show in the city at Gorilla Tango Bucktown, again co-casting local kids and professional actors. A four-piece band was added, and the show was a hit! Brain Surgeon went on to devise and produce many other intergenerational projects over the next three years, including "Zombie Project: The Sad World," "Johnny Ten Bones," "Post-Christmas Spectacular 1976," "1512 West Studebaker Place," and "Johnny Ten Bones: Rhinofest Redux."
2009 - 2013

Brain Arts Camp Sets Up Shop

Brain Arts Camp made its Chicago debut. Over the one-week Chicago Public School's spring break in 2009, 15 campers devised and performed the original rock musical, "The Secret of Pompaloo Island." Over the next five years, hundreds of Brain Arts campers collaborated on more rock musicals, including "The Flight of the Blue Lizard," "Just an Ordinary Day," "The Secret Underground Society for the Protection of the Waffle People," "The Plot of Professor Pladdick," and "The Ends of the Universe." In 2012, Brain Surgeon added Movie-Making camps, and in 2013 began offering advanced acting and Improvisation camps for older students. Movie-Making and theatre birthday parties began, by popular demand, in 2012.

Parties for Everyone!

Brain Surgeon Theater moves to be in residence at the Prop Thtr in Chicago. This 2 theater venue is one of Chicago's longest-running blackbox venues and home of the famous Rhinofest Fringe Festival. Most birthday parties are now offered in-home.

Brain Arts Productions - Chicago and Beyond

Brain Surgeon Theater becomes Brain Arts Productions, recognizing that our programming expands far beyond traditional theater. We also begin to offer programming in Louisville at the Kentucky Center for the Arts, a major venue for performing arts in downtown Louisville.

Our Leadership

Gwen Tulin

Founder and Artistic Director
Gwen is the founder and current Artistic Director of Brain Arts Productions. Originally from Lexington, Massachusetts, she has been working in the performing arts for over fifteen years. Gwen's favorite teachable moment is when Peter's lyric idea was "Sauna, pizza, sauna, pizza, sauna," he looked around in trepidation, and was met with thunderous applause.

Victoria Golden

Program Director
Victoria is a teaching artist, stage manager, and all-around experience maker. Originally from Louisville, Kentucky, she is spearheading the new Louisville programming. Victoria joined Brain Arts Productions in 2014 and loves mixing learning and creativity. Her favorite teachable moment is "Kobe Wan Kenobi is George Washington's real father."

Mary Kruse

Director of Grants and Individual Giving
Mary works as a professional fundraiser for a wonderful children’s advocacy organization in the beautiful western suburbs of Chicago. She is a Chicago native, and a proud graduate of Loyola University Chicago, with a degree in Political Science and Peaces Studies. She loves people, and working with others to make a difference. At the end of a day, she hopes to have made someone feel special in this crazy world we live in!

Now Hiring

Director of Marketing
We are currently seeking a Director of Marketing. If interested, please submit materials to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Teaching Team

Jess Benson

Jess is an improv comedian and teaching artist who resides in Chicago. She joined Brain Arts Productions in 2016 and loves creating a positively encouraging atmosphere where kids and adults are free to explore the far-reaching corners of their imaginations! Her favorite teaching moment was when Lily said "I most relate to Ron Weasley because I like to eat a lot!"

Lauren Bidwell

Lauren is a native of Louisville, Kentucky and joined Brain Surgeon Theatre in 2017. She enjoys directing, stage managing, and all aspects of theatre.

Simone Dowdell

Simone is a recent graduate from Roosevelt University and a Chicago native. She spends most of her time behind the camera whether she's recording or taking pictures. She loves channeling her creativity to help children and adults realize the importance of all forms of art and finding joy in everything around them.

Linsey Gessner

Linsey is a private acting coach as well as a teaching artist for Louisville's StageOne Family Theatre. She has over 15 years of experience in the performing arts and currently performs as an acrobat and flow artist. Her most memorable moment in the classroom was when she successfully mastered the art of speaking to preschoolers without her voice! PURE MAGIC!

Joe Giovannetti

Joe is a teaching artist as well as a writer and director of stage and film work. He's been living and working in Chicago for over a decade. Joe's favorite teachable moment is Giulio murmuring, "The cat is shining, the legend is true," which you should repeat at least 30 times to get the full effect.

Cas Hanney

Cas is a teaching artist and video editor. They hail from the Philadelphia region in Pennslyvania but currently live in Chicago with their gang of cats after graduating from Columbia College with a Bachelor of Arts in Television. Cas's favorite teachable moment is when they helped create the plot of the next Harry Potter movie at Mia's birthday party.

Jessie Oliver

Jessie is a teacher, choreographer, and costumer extraordinaire for Brain Surgeon Theater. Originally from Chicago, Jessie has been teaching and working in the arts for 20 years. Her favorite teachable moment was bringing in an eyeliner pencil to draw on the unibrow Dev so desperately wanted.

Will Sonheim

Will currently works as the Communications Manager for The Neo-Futurists, an experimental theatre company in Chicago. A graduate of Northwestern University, Will has been making pretty silly videos for over a decade now and there's no end in sight. His favorite teachable moment was when a student designed a basketball room that was not only cool and colorful but also ran entirely on windmill power.
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Brain Arts Productions | Chicago, IL • Louisville, KY • Madison, WI