Posted by Al Anile
Guest Speaker Gillian Hemme, Education Director at Piven Theatre Workshop

Gillian Hemme is a performer, writer, and director. She has studied at Grinnell College, Pacifica Graduate Institute, the National Theatre Institute, and Piven Theatre Workshop. Gillian has appeared on stage with Piven, The Moth, ten x9 Chicago, Literate Ape’s Bughouse, Something Marvelous, Prop Theatre, Jubilee Theatre Collective, Prologue, the Chicago Fringe Festival, and the International Theatre Festival in Taiwan.  Her on-camera credits include Mind Games and The Onion, and she is represented by Big Mouth Talent. At Piven, she teaches PEEP (Piven Empowerment through Enrichment Program) classes for adults with developmental disabilities, directs for Performance Project, and teaches story theatre for Conservatory. She and Beth Voitik helped start the EPIC ensemble at Cook County Jail, where she and an outstanding team of teachers develop original performances with an incredible group of women.

Experienced with a demonstrated history of working in the entertainment industry. Skilled in Non- Profit Organizations, Theatre, Performing Arts, Fundraising, and Acting. String arts and design professional with Bachelor of Arts (BA) focused un Theatre w/Honors; Pre Med from Grinnell College.

For over 45 years, the Piven Theatre Workshop has maintained both a professional theatre and a nationally acclaimed theatre workshop for children and adults. The mission of Piven Theatre Workshop is to encourage a process of creative exploration that celebrates each individual’s unique voice through an ensemble-based, community-oriented approach to theatre training and performance. This mission, as it has evolved over 40 years, is pursued through the three branches of the organization: the renowned theatre training center for children and adults which serves over 1,000 students annually and provides mentorship opportunities for emerging theatre artists and educators, the extensive scholarship and community based programs, and the professional Equity theatre committed to new works and literary adaptations.
The Piven Theatre Workshop now annually trains approximately 1,000 students from age 9 to adult. By focusing on the creative process rather than the pre-patterned result, on releasing the natural sense of play, and on the richest personal expression evoked through the communal experience that is theatre, the Piven Theatre Workshop training program has touched countless lives over the years. For all the spawning of celebrities, the Workshop’s greatest value over the years are the many students who have taken into their lives and varied professions an enriched understanding of the human exchange and greater confidence in the value of their unique presence.
Why Theatre Training?
Theatre training helps people, both young and old, become well-rounded, creative members of society.Watching and participating in theatre has been linked to benefits ranging from higher standardized test scores to improved social and emotional skills. Studying theatre gives students the opportunity to explore emotions in a safe environment while creating key connections within their peer group. Participants learn to empathize with characters of different backgrounds and viewpoints, fostering cultural competency in students of all ages.
Exposure to the arts in general and theatre specifically (especially within an improvisation-focused curriculum) encourages participants to have greater mental and emotional flexibility. Piven’s cohesive approach to theatre training, including training in improv, theatre games, scene study, and Story Theatre adaptation, produces alumni who are fluid thinkers who have the tools to be life-long learners in our ever- changing cultural landscape.
Why the Piven Technique?
Piven's focus is on a theatre games and improv-based training technique encourages students of all ages and skill levels to think creatively, to empathize with fellow ensemble members, to take bold risks in a safe environment, and to communicate both verbally and non-verbally on a sophisticated level.  These skills translate to heightened acting skills and increased success in theatrical performances, as well as in a whole host of off-stage situations: navigating social groups, presenting in classroom and professional environments, and even improving focus and reading comprehension!
Piven’s theatre classes also harness the power of improvised play to create a sense of trust and community in each classroom, valuing the contributions of each individual’s voice while also teaching students the power of genuine connection within a group. While many of their students and alumni have found great professional success in the entertainment industry, they find that the greatest value of their training is the increased confidence and sense of belonging that their  students emerge from their classrooms with—and all of the fun they have along the way!