About The Casting Auction


The Casting Auction is a grand Chicago tradition that began more than three decades ago. In 1980, the late Chicago attorney Joan Grossman (1947-2008) devised an inspired fundraiser for Victory Gardens Theatre (VGT)—a casting auction, now known as The Casting Auction (TCA). With the support of the VGT Board of Directors, the first show, Tobacco Road, was staged in 1981. Soon, musicals became the preferred genre and VGT Board members who were first the primary actors were joined by other Chicagoland theatre lovers.

When Dennis Zacek retired from his role as VGT Artistic Director in 2011, he handed the baton to Bailiwick Chicago to continue and further this annual event. With the closure of Bailiwick in 2016, executive members Kate Garassino O’Driscoll and Eric Martin took that vision and created a company that helps deserving Chicagoland arts organizations flourish with fun and friendship; the TCA has even been the spark for several marriages through the years!

While some things have changed since that first show, one thing remains the same: The roles in the plays are sold to the highest bidders in an annual Casting Party & Auction.

The winners rehearse in their free time to perform in a professionally-produced show in a professional Chicago theater. By day, performers are professionals in completely different fields such as law, communications, education, sales, human resources, IT, finance, and more! Once bitten by the acting bug, it’s hard not to return again and again!

The Advisory Board


Stuart M. Burstein
Stuart made his stage debut appearing in a casting auction production on June 2, 1990 and has never stopped. Through the years he has shared the stage with his father, his uncle, his daughter and his wife. He has been on two theater boards and many other non-for-profit boards. For his day job, Stuart is a manufacturer’s representative in the candy and snack industry.

Laura Burstein
Laura has over 25 years professional experience in the financial services industry and has worked for organizations including Neuberger Berman, Zurich Scudder Investments, and Allstate. Laura has enthusiastically supported the Casting Auction since 2008 when she joined the cast of The Pajama Game. She is also an active volunteer with other non-profit organizations in the Chicago area.

Paula Cozzi Goedert
Paula is a partner with the law firm of Barnes and Thornburg LLP, where she chairs the Association and Foundation Practice Group.  Paula concentrates her practice on the representation of nonprofit organizations. Paula has enthusiastically participated in Casting Auction productions since 2005, including principal roles in “The Drowsy Chaperone” and “9 to 5”.

Christine Hadley
Christine has an extensive business development background in the technology industry. She is responsible for the rapid growth of a number of startup companies and has applied these same leadership and management skills to nonprofit organizations focused on assisting individuals toward achieving their educational and vocational goals. Her 2014 performance in The Drowsy Chaperone was her introduction to The Casting Auction and she is delighted to continue to lend her support.

Kevin Mayes
Kevin was the founding Artistic and Executive Director of Bailiwick Chicago, and has worked as an actor and director, twice having been Jeff-nominated for Best Actor in a Musical. He began his career as an assistant to Lloyd Richards at the O’Neill Theater’s Playwrights Conference after graduating from Yale with a BA in Music and Theatre. Kevin has spent more than a decade in healthcare IT, and is currently CEO of PrescriptIQ, a software company that uses a patient’s genetic information to help doctors identify the best medications for a particular condition.

Nancy Studenroth
Nancy is a senior portfolio manager with Great Lakes Advisors. Her involvement with the Casting Auction began in 1999 with a chorus role in Once Upon a Mattress and she has been captivated with the spirit of the casting auction ever since. Nancy has participated on two Chicago theater boards over the past several years and is skilled in development and fund raising.

Peg Wander
Peg brings more than 25 years of experience in both the nonprofit and corporate sectors to her work in developing strategic communications plans and grant proposals with positive financial and organizational impacts. Through her work and volunteer efforts, she has consistently demonstrated a professional and personal commitment to building stronger communities with a particular focus in social justice, diversity and the arts.  In 2013, she received the Karen Utterback Award for Professional Excellence from the Chicago chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators. Her expertise is also shared with both high school students and adult learners at two Chicagoland academic institutions in several topics including cultural diversity, creative/critical thinking and career development.  A proud supporter of Casting Auction, Peg’s first performance was in 2009 in one of her favorite shows, Mame.