Information provides career and contact info on the founders and employess of Catharsis Productions including Dr. Gail Stern and Christian Murphy as well as Funding Ideas for campus events.
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Co-Owner, 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 Dr. Stern and serving as the main male presenter for the program for seven years, Mr. Murphy focuses primarily on the aesthetic and creative content of the programs. 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.
Mr. Murphy also 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 serves as a major contributor to the online trainings Catharsis Productions currently designs with Jellyvision. 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 and its programs.
Mr. Murphy worked as a professional actor for over thity years and an award-winning playwright. His one-person show, Meditations, won the 1998 Factory Theater Shut Up and Laugh! One-Act Play Festival, where he met Gail Stern.
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 served 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 received pursued some of undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame with degrees in the Program of Liberal Studies and Theater. He currently is pursuing an Executive MBA through the University of Notre Dame in Chicago.
He is happily married to Lauren Murphy, co-owner of Laurenceleste, makers of some really hip, organic baby clothes. Visit them at www.laurenceleste.com. He and Lauren are also happy to now be dressing their two children in the aforementioned hip clothes.
Coordinator of Social Media
Maura Kinney has been working with Catharsis for several years and is pleased to now serve as their full-time Coordinator of Social Media. She believes strongly in the power of social media and loves engaging online with the many students, administrators, and military personnel who are moved by Catharsis Productions' programming. Maura began her interest in sexual assault prevention as a teenager through her work as a peer educator for Planned Parenthood. She recently completed a BFA in Theatre Arts and Women's and Gender Studies at DePaul University where she received the outstanding undergraduate award in Women's Studies. She is thrilled to be working in a field she is so passionate about and with the wonderful community at Catharsis.
In her spare time, Maura enjoys biking, singing, and eating ice cream.
Program Specialist, Got Your Back
Morgan Micucci joined the Catharsis Productions team in 2013. Morgan has a B.S. in Communications Studies with an emphasis in interpersonal communication from the State University College of New York at Oneonta. Post-grad, she worked as a training & development educator for Planned Parenthood in New York for three years. In her time there she trained on topics such as parent-child communication, sexual health, media literacy, and sexual assault prevention.
Morgan is thrilled to be working for Catharsis in her role as Program Specialist for "Got Your Back" and is a committed social justice advocate in her new home of Chicago. In her spare time she enjoys, sci-fi/fantasy everything (Dr. Who, say what!), How I met Your Mother, and hanging out in Logan Square.
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 over a thousand times at universities and military installations each year.
Training and Coaching
Dr. Stern is the co-creator (with Heather Imrie) of the 40-hour intensive training initiative, The Force of Awesome Institute, which enables prevention educators to develop and hone their presentation development and analysis. Based on her doctoral research and twenty years of practice, the training initiative 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. 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 is the proud partner of Ari Frede, and the proud parent of Noa.
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 almost 3,000 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, International Conference on Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence and Campus Responses 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.
Brian Golden is a Chicago-based writer. He is the author of four full-length and eight short plays, which have been produced in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, St. Louis and Philadelphia, and nominated for one Joseph Jefferson Award, two Black Theatre Alliance Awards and an Ovation Award. For eight years, Brian was the Artistic Director of Theatre Seven of Chicago, a storefront theatre company that has produced 20 full-length productions, collaborated with over 300 artists, and won the coveted Emerging Theatre Award under his leadership.
Brian's essays about sports, social justice and culture have appeared on various online outlets, and he is currently the Literary Manager for Catharsis Productions, developing new theatrical content related to social justice. He recently assisted Fawzia Mirza with the development of Me, My Mom and Sharmila Tagore. In addition to his literary work at Catharsis, he has participated in over 600 presentations of Got Your Back, SEXSIGNALS and the Hook Up.
Before coming to Catharsis, he reported on college football for several sites on the Rivals.com network and published over 200 articles on college football in two years with the site. He also briefly worked for the city desk at the Quad-City Times and still holds a passion for news and daily journalism.
Brian currently sits on the Board of Directors of the League of Chicago Theatres, and has served as a panelist for conversations at Chicago Director's Lab, Northwestern University, the Chicago theatre anti-conference and more. He holds a BA in Drama from Washington University in St. Louis, where he was a two-time winner of the A.E. Hotchner Playwriting Contest, and honored with the Leota Diesel Ashton Award for Playwriting and the John J. Jutkowitz Award for excellence in the performing arts.
M.Ed., Director Program Development Catharsis Productions
She received her M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) in 2008 and is currently working towards her PhD in Educational Psychology. She has created and presented sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking, sexual harassment, hate crime, systems of oppression, victim blaming and bystander intervention training to crisis centers, universities and military installations around the world. She is the creator of various anti-violence programs most notably Got Your Back/The Hook-Up. She is the co-creator of the Force of Awesome Institute, a program that incorporates active coaching and curriculum analysis for violence prevention educators. She has created and implemented anti-sexual violence & bystander intervention training for the U.S. Navy, U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, Wisconsin and Ohio National Guards and various Colleges and Universities.
She is the former Associate Director of the Campus Advocacy Network (CAN) at the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her role, she was a key player in the development and implementation of all of CAN's anti-violence educational and advocacy initiatives which included, but are not limited to; advocacy, safety planning, resource and referral coordination, policy creation, internship programs, anti-violence and social justice media campaigns, anti-violence and social justice programming, workshops and training.
Manager of Program Management
Tara began working for the company in the summer of 2013, but she actually learned about Catharsis Productions via a job posting seeking an administrative assistant in 2008. In Tara's mind, the stars had aligned, creating the perfect position that matched her experience and interests. She had recently moved from Miami to Chicago to pursue comedy writing and was working at a women's health clinic as an administrative assistant. Prior to moving to Chicago, she earned a Bachelor's of Science in Communication, with concentrations in Motion Pictures Writing and Women's Studies, from the University of Miami in 2004. After graduation, she parlayed her creative and altruistic interests into teaching Language Arts at a public middle school in the Miami-Dade County school district while simultaneously working as a patient advocate for a private clinic. Though those positions were extremely fulfilling, it was that pesky dream of changing the world through her writing that drew Tara away from the land of fun and sun to Chiberia. Unfortunately back in 2008, the stars hadn't actually aligned and Tara did not get the position at Catharsis Productions. She moved on, continuing to work in administration and also went back to school. In 2011, she completed her Master's degree in Written Communication from National Louis University. She also had the pleasure of teaching English to learners from all over the globe through Rosetta Stone. But then a friend sent her a job ad posted by none other than Catharsis Productions. Tara thought, "Why not apply one more time?" She's glad she did because she landed the job and it's been an incredible ride ever since. She feels honored to work with a great group of people who are all committed to changing the world one presentation at a time.
When she's not managing schedules and organizing presentations, Tara's still probably planning something: her next writing project, an event for the Church of the Atonement's 20s/30s Group, a trip to the UK, life.
Manager of Program Development
Cara Thaxton was born and raised in Chicago, IL surrounded by laughter, love and chaos. She is the youngest of five kids, and an aunt to eight nieces and nephews.
Cara comes to Catharsis Productions with over fifteen years of experience working for social justice, both in Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area. Cara began her work in Chicago's anti-violence movement, including two years as the Victim Advocacy Coordinator at Horizon's Community Services (now Center on Halsted); her work earned her the 2003 Advocate of the Year award from the State's Attorney's Office. Cara also served as the Director of Education and Training for Rape Victim Advocates.
In her career, Cara has educated thousands of individuals, from elementary school students to the media, on rape prevention and intervention, with a special focus on the LGBTQ community and hate crimes. Cara's unique educational style is authentic, entertaining, and compassionate. Cara is thrilled to have found a home with Catharsis, a company that shares her dedication to ending violence and her approach to education.
Cara holds a Bachelors of Arts in Sociology and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Aurora University. She currently lives in Chicago with her partner Jen and their two cats, mama and kit-ten.
SEX SIGNALS Director
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.