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Executive Director

Christian Murphy founded Catharsis Productions with Gail Stern in 2000. He serves as Artistic Director and Director of Operations for the company, managing both the creative side and the logistical aspects of the program.

In addition to originally co-creating SEXSIGNALS with Ms. Stern and serving as the main male presenter for the program for seven years, Mr. Murphy has focused primarily on the aesthetic and creative content of the program, serving as the main force behind the ongoing evolutions of the script to keep the presentation topical and relevant to its target audiences. He has also served as the chief architect of the adaptation of the civilian script for military audiences, engaging with staff in each branch of the military in a diligent effort to have each script reflect the military jargon, customs, and courtesies of that branch of service. He also co-wrote with Subject Matter Expert Anne Munch additional versions of SEXSIGNALS for Department of Army civilian employees and adult family members of U.S. soldiers serving in Europe. In 2010, Mr. Murphy co-wrote with Dr. Christopher Kilmartin and co-produced the U.S. Army sexual harassment video "Amateur Night," which is now seen as part of the sexual harassment refresher course for U.S Army Soldiers. He continues to serve as a Subject Matter Expert and consultant to the United States Army. Mr. Murphy is also responsible for the operations of the company, management of the staff, continual development of the company programs, and management of government contracts.

Mr. Murphy has been a professional actor for over twenty years and an award-winning playwright. After relocating to Chicago, he began writing plays. His one-person show, Meditations, won the 1998 Factory Theater Shut Up and Laugh! One-Act Play Festival, where he met Gail Stern. He also wrote the full-length one-person show, Sleeping through the American Dream, that was workshopped at Stage Left Theatre. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame with degrees in the Program of Liberal Studies, and Communication and Theater. Upon graduation, Mr. Murphy spent time as an apprentice actor at the Actors Theatre of Louisville. He continued pursuing his acting career in Los Angeles. There, he co-founded Voices in Harmony, a non-profit urban youth-theater program that paired high school students with professional actors to create and perform vignettes that addressed cultural diversity and identity. He served as the original Artistic Director for the program.

He has been trained as a certified rape victim advocate through Chicago's Rape Victim Advocate program. He designed a peer education training program on gender issues for Lambda Chi Alpha and its undergraduate fraternity members. He currently serves as the co-chair on the MEN (Men Endorsing Non-Violence) subcommittee for Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence and co-created its highly successful Male Ally Pilot program for students at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

He is happily married to Lauren Murphy, co-owner of Laurenceleste, makers of some really hip, organic baby clothes. Visit them at He and Lauren are also happy to now be dressing their two children in the aforementioned hip clothes.


Coordinator of Program Management

In 2005, after receiving a degree in Performing Arts from the Savannah College of Art & Design, Ashleigh moved to Chicago. She put her art school training to work right away as an Administrative Assistant at The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). Although that position required a little less creativity than she might have imagined for her first real job, she loved it and, over five years, grew to lead LLS's administrative team. After uncovering those hidden admin talents, Ashleigh sought to put them to use in a theater. She did just that for two years with an awesome Chicago theater company, The New Colony, as their Business Manager and company member. She now cheers for The New Colony from afar so she can focus her administrative skills and passion for artistic work on one company that is making the world a better place. She is so happy to have found the best of all her worlds in Catharsis Productions.


Chief Academic Officer

Dr. Gail Stern is an educator and curriculum developer with over 20 years of experience in violence prevention education and advocacy. She is the Co-Owner and Chief Academic Officer of Catharsis Productions, and is the co-author of the non-stranger rape prevention program, SEX SIGNALS, which is presented hundreds of times at universities and military installations each year.

Training and Coaching

Dr. Stern is the creator of the "Buffy Institute," a 40-hour intensive training initiative focused on enabling prevention educators to develop and hone their presentation development and analysis. Based on her doctoral research and twenty years of practice, the Buffy Institute provides intensive coaching that improves participants' ability to deliver tough content to multiple audiences. In addition, Dr. Stern keynotes frequently on the use of humor as a pivotal tactic in effective prevention education.

Subject Matter Expertise and Curriculum Development

Dr. Stern has served extensively as a subject matter expert for each branch of the U.S. Military. She participated in the development and delivery of the Air Force Wide Bystander Intervention Training (BIT) program and was responsible for the development of the BIT Women's Module; she also co-designed and delivered the accompanying Train-the-Trainer program from 2007-2010. Dr. Stern co-developed a 20- hour peer education curriculum and training program on sexual assault and harassment prevention for the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. The program, SHAPE, is the most comprehensive prevention initiative of its kind in the United States. Dr. Stern continues to serve as a subject matter expert on sexual assault prevention to the U.S. Army, the U.S. Navy, the U.S National Guard, and served as an education consultant to the U.S. Department of Defense Task Force on Sexual Harassment in the Military Service Academies in 2005.

Law Enforcement Training

In addition to her work with the military and academic institutions, Dr. Stern has been training law enforcement officers for the last fifteen years, focusing on victim support for survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, hate crime, and domestic extremist group investigation in both the U.S. and Canada.

She served as the National Law Enforcement Training Coordinator for the Anti-Defamation League from 1999-2003, and was a member of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center Hate/Bias Crime Training Cadre (U.S. Department of the Treasury); the State and Local Anti-Terrorism Training Program; and, the U.S. Department of Justice Hate Crime Training Cadres.

Dr. Stern was the founding director of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Campus Advocacy Network, serving from 1991-1998. She provided crisis counseling and court advocacy to victims of sexual violence, domestic abuse, hate crime and stalking.

Dr. Stern earned her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, examining the role of humor in reducing the emotional and cognitive resistance to the subject of rape. She resides in Chicago with her daughter Noa and husband Ari Frede, the founder of The Orange School.


Director of Program Management

Ben Murrie joined Catharsis Productions in 2003 as the lead male presenter for SEXSIGNALS. He presented the piece at colleges and military installations around the world until the end of 2009 when he returned to his Midwestern roots and moved to Chicago to become the Director of Program Management. In this role, he oversees and maintains the integrity of more than 1,000 annual Catharsis presentations. He also develops and contributes to new artistic and educational programming while representing the company at various meetings and conferences.

After receiving his undergraduate degree in Psychology at Pepperdine University, Ben worked as a primary counselor in a psychiatric hospital in Los Angeles. Here he developed and monitored rehabilitation therapy for dual diagnosis residents. In the meantime, he worked as an actor and producer, enjoying involvement in various stage productions and films around the country and performing at the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland. Ben is also a published author of the rock musical "www.Here.I.Am" and can be seen in promotional material for the Red Cross and every major branch of the Armed Forces.

Ben received his M.S. in Educational Psychology from Oklahoma State University, where his work concentrated on the intersection of moral development and social psychology. From this research, he developed "Going Down", a lecture program that explores how pornography affects cognitive and behavioral functioning. In the past several years, Ben has become one of the most well-traveled speakers on sexual assault prevention in the country. He has been a keynote and featured speaker at various National and International US Military conferences, the National Sexual Assault Conference, the National Conference on Sexual Assault in our Schools, and for the Cook County States Attorney's Office. Ben also sits on the Illinois State Men Endorsing Non-Violence Committee with which he developed a pilot program at the University of Illinois Chicago to encourage men to end sexual violence on their campus.

For Ben, the only source of pride greater than his relationship with this company, is his marriage to the imminently gracious Shawna Murrie, with whom he has two rambunctious sons.


Literary Manager

Brian Golden is the Literary Manager at Catharsis Productions. For five years, he oversaw the training of sixteen new presenters who have, cumulatively, presented SEXSIGNALS 4,300 times around the world. He now serves the company by developing new artistic content with an emphasis on social justice and violence reduction. Brian is also the Managing Artistic Director of Theatre Seven of Chicago. During his leadership of the company, Theatre Seven's work has worked with over 280 artists, been nominated for three Jeff Awards, two Black Theatre Alliance Awards, and been a three time finalist and the 2012 winner of Broadway in Chicago's Emerging Theatre Award. As a playwright, Brian's work has been produced in Chicago, New York, St. Louis, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. He is a Board Member of the League of Chicago Theatres, a two-time winner of the Hotchner Playwriting Contest, and recipient of the Leota Diesel Ashton Playwriting Prize and John J. Jutkowitz Award. He was recently nominated for a Jeff Award for Best New Work for We Live Here.


Director of Program Development

Heather Imrie received her BA in Psychology from University of Illinois at Chicago in 1998 and her M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2008. She has certificates in rape victim and domestic violence victim advocacy as well as hundreds of hours of additional training in interpersonal violence (stalking, sexual assault, domestic violence) hate crime, bystander intervention, sexual harassment and systems of oppression.

In addition to serving as the Associate Director of CET with Catharsis Productions, Ms. Imrie is the Associate Director of the Campus Advocacy Network (CAN) at the University of Illinois at Chicago. As the Associate Director, Ms. Imrie has been a key player in the development and implementation of all of CAN's anti-violence educational initiatives which include but are not limited to; media campaigns, freshmen and transfer orientation, Gender and Women's Studies (GWS) class for peer educators, training for UIC Police and Student Judicial. From 2005-2009 she regularly taught the Gender of Women Studies (GWS) Peer Ed class as well as designed and facilitated several different independent studies and internships. She is the staff advisor to two student groups on campus: Student Outreach Services and Men Against Sexual Violence. She has provided workshops, programming and training to tens of thousands of UIC students, staff and faculty, most notably to the UIC Hospital ER Nursing Staff, UIC Hospital Residents Program, UIC Medial School First Year Med Students Program, Student Judicial, UIC Housing Resident Advisors and Peer Mentors and the UIC Police. In 2008, Ms. Imrie's work on anti-violence initiatives both on and off campus was recognized by being awarded both the CAPE and WOW awards.

Off campus Ms. Imrie is a long time volunteer for Rape Victim Advocates and has had the honor of also being a board member. She also served on the board for The Women & Girls Collective Action Network which was a center for consciousness-raising, training, dialogue and action around issues that matter to women and girls. She is on the District 12 Domestic Violence Advisory Committee, on the Steering Committee meeting for the State's Attorney 12th District Central Office, a member of the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women's Network, a member of the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence' MEN's Committee, an advisory member to the University Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and served on the State's Attorney Sexual Assault Task Force. In 2007 she was asked to attend as national summit of leaders in the anti-violence movement to suggest best practices for centers around the country. Ms. Imrie has worked with and provided workshops, consultations and training to the following area schools; School of the Art Institute, Dominican University, University of Chicago, DePaul University and Columbia College.

From 2009-2011 Ms. Imrie provided train-the-trainer training to the Air Force's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office's Sexual Assault Response Coordinators on Bystander Intervention Training. She also co-authored the Bystander Intervention Course Train the Trainer training manual for the Air Force's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. She has also provided training on sexual assault, victim blaming and bystander intervention to the Wisconsin National Guard. For over five years she has provided consultation to Catharsis Productions and SEXSIGNALS and was recently named Associate Director of CET.


Coordinator of Community Engagement

Abbey Fox joined the Catharsis Productions team in the fall of 2010. Born in a small town in Ohio, Abbey completed her B.A. in political science and philosophy with an emphasis in gender studies from John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio. While in Cleveland, she interned at the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, co-founded the JCU Feminist Collective, and was a founding member of Every Two Minutes, a peer-led sexual assault prevention program.

Upon graduating from college, she moved to Chicago to begin her M.A. in Women's and Gender Studies at DePaul University. She graduated, with distinction, in the spring of 2010 upon the completion and defense of her master's thesis, "Girls Coming of Age: Possibilities and Potentials within Young Adult Literature." While at DePaul, she was employed by the Theatre School, and served as a graduate assistant for Take Back the Halls, a relationship violence prevention program at Roberto Clemente High School.

In her spare time Abbey DJ's with CHIRPRadio and plays her ukelele.


New Media Manager

Fawzia Mirza has been with Catharsis since 2006. She's an actor, producer, writer, performer, born in Nova Scotia, Canada. She attended Indiana University-Bloomington and moved to Chicago for her J.D. from Chicago Kent College of Law.

After lawyering for two years and nine months (not that she was counting), she left the law to become a full-time member of Catharsis Productions, as a performer and as a staff member. Fawzia has been in a number of short and feature independent films and web series and produced several documentaries. Fawzia is proud to have her first short play "Me, My Mom & Sharmila Tagore" being workshopped at Catharsis Productions. In 2013, she'll be on stage at The Goodman Theatre in the world premiere plays "Teddy Ferrara" and "The Happiest Song Plays Last".

You can keep tabs on all her work and projects @thefawz or at:


Coordinator of Special Projects

Amber joined Catharsis Productions in 2003 as a presenter for SEXSIGNALS. Since then, she has performed SEXSIGNALS over 1000 times at colleges and military installations around the world. Prior to her work with Catharsis Productions, she was both an Actor and a Community Educator for a Rape Crisis and Victim Services Program.

When Amber first began working with Catharsis Productions, she was living in New York City, where she produced a play for the first time. In 2007, she moved to Rhode Island where her production company, Theater of Thought, grew into a successful site-specific theater company. Theater of Thought put the audience in the middle of the action, challenging their comfort zones as well as their social mores. In 2012, Amber relocated to Chicago to join the Catharsis Productions staff and focus her efforts on advancing this ever-growing company. She is working closely with the Navy at Great Lakes Naval Station in North Chicago.

Amber received a Bachelor of the Arts from Texas Wesleyan University in 1997. Her acting credits span from Shakespeare to DragonBallZ. All of her time on the road with SEXSIGNALS has taught her to treat new faces like old friends, so feel free to say "hello" when you meet her.


Program Manager, Sex Signals

Originally from Kansas, Brea holds a BFA in Theatre: Directing from Columbia College: Chicago. Most recently she directed SiNNERMAN's Sweet Confinement. She has directed at Resident Alien, Effie, and What you Wanted with The Neapolitans, a company she helped originate. Brea has also worked with Jackalope, Sideshow, Strangetree, Remy Bumppo, Point of Contention and Polarity Ensemble. She has held administrative roles at both Court Theatre and Lookingglass. Brea is a former medical advocate for Rape Victim Advocates and held an Adult Education Internship at San Francisco Women Against Rape. Brea is a graduate of the STARC Summer Institute, a bay area training for student organizers and a former coordinator for Portland State's Student For Unity. Brea also helps run a vegan coffee shop, Delicious, on the North side of Chicago.

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