• Stephen Leaver, Executive Director

    Mr. Leaver has been with Imagination Theater since 1998 when he first joined as an ensemble member. He has served as the Associate Artistic Director from 2001-2003,Artistic Director from 2003-2009, and Executive Artistic Director from 2009-2016. During his tenure with Imagination Theater, Mr. Leaver has designed countless customized programs for schools, colleges, and corporations. He has overseen all aspects of the company since 2009. In addition to his work at Imagination Theater Mr. Leaver has been teaching at the Metropolis School of Performing Arts since 2002. He has taught acting classes for all ages and directed student productions of “The Laramie Project” and “The Dining Room”. He also directed the Metropolis production of “The Diary of Anne Frank”. From 2008-2012, Mr. Leaver served on the Board of Directors for the Illinois Theatre Association where he was representing Theater for Young Audiences. Through his work at the ITA, Mr. Leaver helped to coordinate the Theater In Our Schools conferences every March held in partnership with the American Alliance for Theatre in Education. Mr. Leaver served on the advisory committee through Arts Alliance Illinois where we worked on revising the Illinois Arts Learning Standards that were recently approved by the Illinois State Board of Education. Mr. Leaver graduated Cum Laude from Illinois State University where he holds a Bachelors of Science degree in theater.

  • Jeremy Schaefer, Artistic Director

    Jeremy is an actor, improviser, storyteller, writer, and facilitator who has been part of the Imagination Theater family since 2005. He’s created dozens of shows during his tenure with IT and contributed scenes to all of the preexisting programs in the company’s diverse roster.  In addition to interactive performances, Jeremy has collaborated with IT’s partners in the creation and execution of corporate diversity trainings throughout the US as well as IT’s first series of international workshops in London, England. Outside of Imagination Theater, Jeremy has served as the Education Director for Chicago Improv Productions, on the board of the Illinois Theatre Association, a performer and teacher for Laugh Out Loud Theater in Chicago and Schaumburg, and he created and teaches the level 2 improv classes for teens and adults at The Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington heights. In addition to touring Illinois and beyond with Imagination Theater, he toured the state of Arizona with Chilsplay’s premier of With Two Wings.  His solo performances have appeared in fringe festivals throughout the Midwest and he’s improvised in festivals in Honolulu, Vancouver, Austin, Montreal, and more. He currently co-produces The Sidesplitter, a monthly storytelling event featuring funny stories from funny people, at Laugh Out Loud Chicago.

  • Braden Cleary, Manager of Sales and Marketing

    Braden joined Imagination Theater in 2016 as the Manager of Sales and Marketing, handling performance scheduling, print and digital communications, and public relations. Cleary is passionate about the social applications at the intersection of art and community. As such, he works in various educational capacities around the city of Chicago, including Columbia College Chicago’s Center for Community Arts Partnerships; Chicago Youth Shakespeare; and ABLE Ensemble, a theater company providing artistic experiences for young people with special needs and Down syndrome. Recently, Cleary consulted on a the creation of a school residency curriculum with Chicago Children’s Theatre focused on teaching tolerance in conjunction with their remount of The Hundred Dresses. A graduate of Indiana University, Braden holds a B.S. in Arts Management and a B.A. in Theatre and Drama.

  • Nina O’Keefe, Development Coordinator
    Nina O’Keefe joined IT in 2014 as a development associate working on grants and fundraising.  Previously, she ran the Education and Outreach Department for Lookingglass Theatre Company for six years.  Nina is an Artistic Associate with Sideshow Theatre Company, and an actress.  She is also a certified Early Childhood Educator, with over 10 years of teaching experience.


  • Ellen Cribbs, CSAPP Program Facilitator

    Ellen Cribbs is an award-winning actress and published playwright who is thrilled to be working with Imagination Theatre. She earned her Acting BFA from Ithaca College and completed a graduate acting course at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in England.  Ellen spent a year long internship at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington D.C. where she taught children’s acting workshops and residencies focusing on the works of Shakespeare. She moved to Chicago in 2010 and became the Head of Education for the Shakespeare All-Stars, which brings the plays of the bard to audiences of all ages. Ellen has worked with many Chicago area theaters, including the Metropolis Performing Arts Center, Citadel Theatre, MadKap Productions, and First Folio Theatre.


  • Cliff Ruemmler, Bookkeeper
    Cliff joined Imagination Theater in February 2010. Mr. Ruemmler is Certified Public Accountant and a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (“AICPA”) and the Texas Society of Certified Public Accountants. Mr. Ruemmler has 15+ years of experience working with public and privately held companies as an auditor, information technology specialist and program director with such companies as Ernst & Young LLP (senior manager); and Equity Office Properties Trust (Director of Program Management). Mr. Ruemmler is currently a stay-at-home dad and donates a significant amount of his time to various PTO’s and community organizations on the north shore of Chicago. Mr. Ruemmler received his Bachelors of Accountancy and Bachelors of Business Administration in Management Information Systems from the University of Oklahoma in 1988.