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Strawdog front entrance.

Jennifer H. Banys

Jen Banys has a long love of theatre beginning in her early childhood when her mom introduced her to musicals such as Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar. In grade school, her class often took field trips to see theatre productions around Chicago. It was around this time that Jen landed her first acting role as Hera in the school play, Pandora’s Box. She became actively involved in theatre in high school where she appeared both onstage and behind the scenes. She continued to be involved in theatre in college where she started out as a theatre major, but ultimately graduated magna cum laude with a BA in Sociology/Anthropology and Religious Studies and a minor in Women’s Studies. While she is proud of her degree, she is actually more proud of having graduated from Chicago’s Second City Improv Program in 2007. And also of playing Ouiser Boudreaux in her high school’s production of Steel Magnolias, a role she was born to play.

Jen Banys first discovered Strawdog Theatre when she and her then fiancé, now husband, Mike, moved to the East Lakeview neighborhood in 2006. They were immediately drawn to the second floor, storefront theatre that was so conveniently located a literal two-minute walk from their front door. Jen & Mike quickly started attending shows and soon became subscribers. They also attended other Strawdog functions, like Board Night” where they were thrilled to see the actors they had come to admire mingling with regular people” like them! Jen & Mike were devastated when Strawdog was forced to relocate in 2016, but followed them to their temporary home in Rogers Park. It was here, after a showing of Cymbeline, that Jen attended an open meeting for persons interested in joining the Strawdog Board of Directors. Jen was looking to fill the theatre sized hole in her life that wasn’t being filled simply by being an audience member. When she heard other board members describe Strawdog as a family,” she knew this was the right place to be. After attending a couple board meetings and talking one-on-one with several board members, Jen officially declared her desire to be considered for a spot on the board!

Occasionally Jen is forced to act like a grown-up, and then she is the Senior Program Administrator for Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, Office of Continuing Medical Education. Thankfully, she is allowed to decorate her office however she likes, and so she has, in a style she calls dorm room chic” (photos available upon request). When Jen is not pretending to be an adult, she is making stuff out of clay or sewing things at Lillstreet Art Center. She also regularly punches, kicks, and knifes things (and the occasional person) at Mind Body Defense. Jen also loves karaoke, all things horror and Halloween, tattoos, geek culture, animals (particularly her four fur-children) and the original Ghostbusters movie. If you’re lucky, she will tell you all about how her Ghostbusters tattoo landed her on Jimmy Kimmel…