Founder and Chief Executive Officer
Christian Murphy founded Catharsis Productions with Gail Stern in 2000. He serves as Chief Executive Officer for the company where he oversees the strategies and implementation of the company vision, mission, and its core values. In addition to co-creating SEX SIGNALS with Dr. Stern and serving as the original main male presenter for the program, 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 designs, in particular, U GOT THIS!. Mr. Murphy worked as a professional actor for over twenty-five years and as 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 Dr. Stern. Shortly thereafter he and Gail began developing “Sex Signals” (then known as “The Sensitive Swashbuckler & Other Dating Myths”) through Downstage Left Program at Stage Left Theatre in Chicago. Mr. Murphy also served as the founder and original Artistic Director of Voices in Harmony, a Los Angeles-based non-profit organization that paired urban youth with theater and film professionals to collaborate one-on-one in creating and performing personal stories. 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 his Bachelor of Arts and Masters of Business Administration degrees from the University of Notre Dame. He currently serves on the board for the non-profit Stage for Change and teaches the Our Whole Lives (OWL) healthy sexuality curriculum to eighth graders. He is happily married to Lauren Murphy, co-owner of Laurenceleste, makers of some really hip, organic personalized baby blankets. Visit them at www.laurenceleste.com. Christian is also known for his extraordinary Chewbacca impression.
Dr. Gail Stern
Founder and Chief Visionary Officer
Dr. Gail Stern is the co-founder of Catharsis Productions, co-author of the non-stranger rape prevention program Sex Signals, and author of the programs, Beat the Blame Game, and Teaching Rape as a Moral Issue. She has been a SME for the White House and each branch of the Armed Forces on issues related to sexual violence prevention.
Dr. Stern and colleague Heather Imrie are the co-creators of the innovative Force of Awesome Institute, a program for violence prevention educators that enables them to design and deliver more effective presentations in their own communities. Based on Dr. Stern’s and Ms. Imrie’s extensive research and experience, the Institute incorporates a combination of lecture, group work, and coaching, effectively transferring the training capacity to participants.
A large part of Dr. Stern’s expertise strays from traditional prevention education. She began performing stand-up and improvisational comedy at the age of fifteen, and continued performing throughout her college and professional career. In the early 90s, she was asked to utilize this skill when training over 800 Chicago Police sergeants on “cultural sensitivity.” She discovered quickly that the strategic use of humor enabled her to connect with her audience, not only in building rapport, but also in enabling them to hear challenging information. This experience fueled the rest of her academic career, and she focused her studies and research on using humor to reduce emotional and cognitive resistance to challenging issues.
Dr. Stern is also the creator of the sexual assault prevention programs, Beat the Blame Game; Sexual Violence Prevention as a Moral Issue; The Canary in the Mineshaft: What Rape Jokes Signal About Our Culture; and, Fight Fire With Funny: Using Humor to Reframe Rape as a Moral Issue. Dr. Stern served as the director of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Campus Advocacy Network from 1991-1998, providing crisis counseling and court advocacy to victims of violent crime.
Kenya works at Catharsis Productions as Human Resources Manager. Kenya earned a Bachelor’s in Communication from Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Il and a Master’s in Organizational and Multicultural Communication from DePaul University right here in Chicago. She also holds a Professional in Human Resources Certification. Kenya has worked in both higher education and professional services. Kenya is a wife and mother who loves spending time with her family and friends. She is very excited to be working at CP with a great team of people.
Director - Business Development & Marketing
Jetaya McGhee is a business development and marketing professional with more than 17 years of corporate, private, and non-profit experience. She earned her BS in Political Science and Pre-Law from Southern Connecticut State University and her M.B.A. from Mercer University. Jetaya began her career in the private sector where she concentrated on client development, firm messaging, project management, and new business. She has collaborated with partners in the United Arab of Emirates, Italy, and Trinidad/Tobago as the team lead of an international marketing committee with a new business focal point. She has served in leadership roles within high-profile organizations, focused on business strategy, data analysis, relationship building, and organization visibility.
Contract & Client Relations Director
Ben Murrie, M.S. serves as the Contract & Client Relations Director. Having joined Catharsis in 2003, he now oversees and maintains the integrity of almost 3,000 annual presentations. After graduating from Pepperdine University, Ben worked as a primary counselor in a psychiatric hospital. He earned 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, he developed “Going Down”, a program that explores how pornography affects cognitive and behavioral functioning. Ben has been a keynote and featured speaker at various Military conferences as well as the National Sexual Assault, Advocacy in Action, and EVAWI Conferences. He has also conducted trainings for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and represented Catharsis on NPR’s “To the Point” and TIME.com. He is married to the imminently gracious Shawna Murrie, with whom he has two rambunctious sons.
Administrative Coordinator of Contracts & Client Relations
Elizabeth Schult hails from the sunny sands of Palm Springs, California, trading in the dry heat for thunderstorms and blizzards. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing and a minor in Psychology from Knox College in June 2013. Elizabeth is honored to be a part of the Catharsis team as the Administrative Coordinator of Contracts and Client Relations, and proud to commit her days to social change. Instead of sleeping, Elizabeth reads almost anything, writes comics, bakes for friends and coworkers, volunteers at the Oak Park Library in the graphic novel section, works to get her passport filled, and takes her cat for walks.
Client Relations Manager
Tara Sparks began working for the company in the summer of 2013. In Tara’s mind, the stars had aligned, creating the perfect position that matched her experience and interests. As a lover of the written word, Tara pursued and earned a Bachelor’s in Communication from the University of Miami and a Master’s in Written Communication from National Louis University. Professionally, her altruistic nature always caused her to take positions in the health and education fields because she loved using her communication, organization, and planning skills to help others. 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, a travel adventure, life. Email her and she’d be happy to plan something for you too!
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. Her work earned her the 2003 Advocate of the Year award from the State’s Attorney’s Office. 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 Communications from Aurora University.
Senior Account Manager, College Online Programming
Barbara Wells is overjoyed to be a member of the sales team at Catharsis Productions. Barbara has worked in the field of campus interpersonal violence prevention since 2007, and is passionate about campus safety. She has a diverse background in sales, marketing and law. Barbara has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Boston University and a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. Barbara likes to spend her spare time with her two children, and is an Ambassador for EverWalk, a national walking initiative. After spending most of her life in New York, she recently traded in her snow shovel and winter coat for the sunshine and palm trees of Southwest Florida. When not wrestling gators she can be found adding to her shell collection, singing show tunes with far more enthusiasm than talent, or quoting Springsteen.
Emma Couling (she/her/hers) is a Chicago-based writer and social justice educator. She is the founder and host of “Stay Mad”: an anger positivity cabaret that spreads the philosophy and science of anger positivity as a path to anti-colonialism, social justice, and healing from trauma. She’s the youngest of 6 siblings, all of whom are educators and/or artists. She originally hails from the beautiful Upper Peninsula of Michigan where she was raised by her phenomenal parents, who are professional storytellers.
"NSFW"/"SAY WHAT?!" Educator
Sharyon A. Culberson is one of the original creators of “Say What” and “Not Suitable for Work”. Unorthodox and artistic, Sharyon has always enjoyed taking the path yet traveled, even with her career. After performing in major American reparatory and off-Broadway theaters nationwide, she spent nine years touring globally with Catharsis presenting ‘Sex Signals’, ‘Got Your Back’, and various other programs. Recently, Sharyon has been focusing on creating more live and on-camera content that uplifts and educates with sustainability.
Anne Dufault joined Catharsis Productions in 2014. Anne has traveled the world facilitating Catharsis’ innovative programming, and has trained new Catharsis educators how facilitate, educate, and fight fire with funny. She is a current M.Ed. student in Instructional Leadership—Educational Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. There, she focuses her studies on social justice education, specifically on how to address power, privilege, and oppression. Anne is committed to an anti-racist approach to her work and has received training on anti-racist educational practices from Chicago Regional Organizing for Anti-Racism and Chicago Freedom School. She currently lives in Chicago with her Chihuahua Mille and can be found weaving on her loom when she’s not facilitating conversations.
Jessamyn Fitzpatrick is absolutely thrilled to be a part of the Catharsis team! A Chicago native, she graduated from Reed College in Portland, OR, where she studied feminist theatre, free love, and the art of drinking wine in the rain. Jessamyn has performed with various Chicago companies such as Redmoon, Walkabout, The Chicago Mammals, Corn Productions, and Beast Women. She also spent a few years moonlighting as a burlesque dancer, and then escaped to Paris for a year, where she lived exclusively on bread, cheese and cheap theatre. Jessamyn is also a proud teaching artist at both TimeLine and The Raven Theatre. Her work performing Sex Signals continues to be the most challenging, unpredictable and inspiring work she has ever done. Thanks to Catharsis for all that they do, and to her parents, for letting her talk about rape culture at family dinners.
Marixa is incredibly excited to be a part of Catharsis Productions & Sex Signals. She graduated from Illinois State University with an Acting degree (sorry, dad). When she’s not with Catharsis she’s a Chicago improviser, stand-up comedian & poet.
Connor is proud to be a recent addition to the Catharsis Productions team of educators. A native of Houston, Texas, Connor received his BFA in Performance and Dramaturgy from the University of Oklahoma. After graduation he moved to Chicago, where he has been lucky enough to write and perform his own comedic material at theatres all over the city. Connor is also a founding member of GeekHaus, a cosplay performance collective geared toward inclusivity within the LGBTQ Community. Teaching Got Your Back and Sex Signals, he’s excited to use humor to approach difficult subject matter and inspire others to help stop interpersonal violence.
Sarah Patin is an all-around theatre kid with a love for performing, devising, directing, and teaching. Not long after graduating with a B.A. in Theatre Performance from Louisiana State University in 2012, she ran away to Chicago and spent the next 5 years doing The Chicago Theatre Thing, performing with amazing and inspiring companies like The Runaways Lab, The Comrades, Emerald City Theatre, Strawdog Theatre, Collaboraction, Redtwist Theatre, Pegasus Theatre, and The Artistic Home. She has also directed in festivals with The Runaways Lab and The Artistic Home, and has been a teaching artist with Emerald City Theatre and The City of Evanston. She is beside herself with gratitude for the opportunity to do this work with Catharsis Productions.
David Seeber is very proud to be performing with Sex Signals. He has been privileged to act in Chicago plays including Annie Bosh Is Missing (Steppenwolf), The Shadow Over Innsmouth (WildClaw Theatre), Loom (Nothing Without a Company), The Whole World is Watching (Dog & Pony Theatre Co.), Collaboraction’s 13th Sketchbook Festival, and Mercury Fur (Ex-Pats Theatre Company). He co-founded the National Cool Theatre and performed in their productions of Uncle Vanya and The Football Play. He enjoys riding unicycles and wants to learn to hang glide. David is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago. He never dreamed that he would be creating safer communities across the country for survivors of sexual assault, but now can’t imagine doing anything else. He wants to thank his friends and family for their love and support.
Michael Turrentine was born on The West Elm of Yore! Khaleesi is a long time childhood friend of his sharing similar interests in dragons, long skirts, and of course, the Winter. Michael is also very much known for his sense of humor and abstract imagination. On a real note, Michael is originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma but now dwells in the windy arms of Chicago. He is mainly an actor working all around the city, but LOVES his Social Justice work with Catharsis Productions. He started off educating college students through Catharsis but has since moved into Military Education, specifically the Navy. Michael is very much excited to be a part of a company that does such incredible work and touches so many lives.
Hilary Williams is a Chicago based actress, writer, and educator. A graduate of Columbia College Chicago with a BA in Theatre/Acting, Hilary hails from Omaha, Nebraska. She has worked with such companies as The Hypocrites, LifeLine Theatre, New Leaf Theatre, Rivendell Ensemble, Wayward Productions and Shattered Globe. As an educator and teaching artist Hilary has worked with TimeLine Theatre, CAPE, Still Point, and currently teaches for Storycatchers Theatre working with court involved youth. She is grateful to her fellow Great Lake’s educators and the rest of her Catharsis family for their work and dedication.
In 2019, Racine Amos (pronouns she/her/hers), began her second career as the Engagement & Equity Librarian at Penn State University, previously served as a campus-based violence prevention educator and victim advocate. For twelve years, Racine traveled across the US establishing and developing programs and peer educator groups for current and former grantees of the Department of Justice Office of Violence Against Women Grants to Reduce Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, and Stalking on Campus Program. As an adjunct Gender and Women’s Studies instructor, she was diligent and capitalized on this opportunity to promote and center the prevention of interpersonal violence with students. While no longer in student affairs,
Racine’s research interests include “whole person librarianship,” the application of social work concepts to inform and enhance user experience, instruction, and library practice. This is demonstrated by her chapter for Libraries Unlimited’s upcoming “Underserved Patrons in Academic Libraries: Assisting Students Facing Trauma, Abuse and Discrimination” (J. Skinner and M. Gross, eds.). A chapter focused on the field of library and information science foundations of information seeking, customer service and social justice in combination with praxis from the field of campus-based advocacy to develop a basic framework of support for patrons impacted by interpersonal violence.
Dr. Raja Bhattar
Dr. Raja Gopal Bhattar (pronouns: they/them/theirs) is a higher education leader, advocate, consultant, author and artist. Raja’s work straddles qualitative and quantitative approaches to intersectional identity development and the experiences of LGBTQ people, immigrants, first-generation students, Desi/South Asian students, international students and people of color in higher education. Raja’s research centers intersections of identity and sense of belonging, international students, religious and spiritual identity development, HIV-AIDS in higher education, access and inclusion in global higher education and impact of diverse staff and faculty on student experience and campus climate. Raja has been featured in The Advocate Magazine, Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, India Abroad Magazine, Hinduism Today Magazine, the Vermont Quarterly and many other news outlets.
Jess Clark is the Education and Prevention Manager for Solace Crisis Treatment Center in Santa Fe, NM. His work over the last decade has focused on increasing youth capacity to interrogate systems of oppression, exploring queer/trans masculinites as a site of violence prevention, and supporting organizations in better serving transgender communities through policies, best practices, and learning to be like his grandma. Jess is Vice Board Chair for Girls Inc. of Santa Fe and serves on the Santa Fe Public Schools Equity and Diversity Committee.
Jill Dunlap is the Director for Research and Practice at NASPA-Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, based in Washington, DC. Prior to joining NASPA, Jill worked closely with college student survivors of interpersonal violence in a professional capacity for more than 14 years at three different campuses. In 2014, Jill served as the non-federal negotiator representing four-year, public institutions on the Violence Against Women Act negotiated rulemaking committee. Jill has also served as a program reviewer for the Centers for Disease Control, National Center for Injury Prevention and Controls’ Research Grants for Preventing Violence and Violence Related Injury. Jill is currently an adjunct Political Science instructor at St. Xavier University and DePaul University in Chicago. She completed her PhD in Political Science and Public Administration at Northern Illinois University, where her dissertation work focused on the experiences of students impacted by sexual violence on campus. Jill’s research can also be found in the 2016 book, Preventing Sexual Violence on Campus: Challenging Traditional Approaches Through Program Innovation as well as the 2019 book Contested Issues in Troubled Times: Student Affairs Dialogues on Equity, Civility, and Safety. In the summer of 2018, Jill taught a course in Bogota, Colombia on Gender-Based Violence from an International Perspective as an invited scholar at LaSalle University. Jill has served as a national consultant with a range of organizations, including the National Organization for Victim Assistance, Victims’ Rights Law Center, and the Department of Defense.
Carla Madeleine Kupe
Carla Madeleine Kupe currently serves as the first Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Compliance for the City of Chicago Office of Inspector General. Carla is also Director of the Professional Identity Formation program at Loyola University Chicago School of Law.
Before her current position, Carla served as Associate General Counsel and Title IX Coordinator for Chicago State University. Prior to that, Carla was an Assistant Corporation Counsel for the City of Chicago Law Department in its Federal Civil Rights Litigation Division. She also held the position of Victim Witness Advocate for the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office in Boston, Massachusetts. Additionally, Carla was the former Director of Community Relations for the Chicago Metropolitan Chapter of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE).
Carla is the founder of The Impact Alliance NFP, a diversity, equity, inclusion, and culture change consulting group. Additionally, Carla created Speak Truth Summit, a platform giving voice and visibility to the particular and unique experiences of women of color. Carla is a member of the Loyola University Chicago School of Law’s Diversity Mentoring Program and the law school’s Dean’s Diversity Council. Additionally, Carla is a member and contributing author of the editorial board for the Illinois Diversity Council. Carla serves as a mentor at the University of Chicago Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and is one of the 2020-2021 Illinois Ambassadors for the civic engagement platform United State of Women.
Carla speaks eight languages and has roots in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Germany, and Luxembourg. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a minor in Psychology from Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and her Juris Doctor from Loyola University Chicago School of Law, Chicago, Illinois.
Sharmili Majmudar is the Executive Vice President of Policy and Organizational Impact at Women Employed, a nonprofit that mobilizes people and organizations to expand educational and employment opportunities for all women. Since 1973, WE has been opening doors, breaking barriers, and creating fairer workplaces for women – and WE is widely recognized for its groundbreaking work to improve women’s economic status and remove barriers to economic equity in Chicago, in Illinois and at a national level. A skilled public speaker, Majmudar has engaged various audiences to make progress on the issues facing working women, including forward-thinking employers, employee resource groups, community organizations, faith-based organizations, and conference attendees.
Prior to joining WE in 2017, Majmudar worked in the gender-based violence movement for 25 years, helping thousands of survivors of domestic and sexual violence heal and rebuild their lives, building allies and alliances to prevent sexual violence, and working with institutions like universities, schools, hospitals, and businesses to develop inclusive prevention policies and response protocols. Honored in 2017 as one of Chicago Woman Magazine’s International Women Leaders, Majmudar has received numerous other awards and recognitions, including the Community Advocate Award from the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network and the prestigious Loyola University Chicago Damen Award which recognizes alumni who demonstrate “qualities of leadership in industry, leadership in community and service to others.” She was featured as one of National Asian Pacific Women’s Forum’s Everyday Sheroes and is also a recipient of the Chicago Foundation for Women’s Impact Award.
Consultant and Corporate Trainer
Ebony, who describes herself as a “midwestern as it gets”, was born and raised in Chicago. In addition to working with Catharsis, Ebony has worked to build public and private partnerships that help build equity in communities across Chicago and the midwest region for the past 16 years. She’s also a podcaster, a mom, a trainer, and a lover of all things pop culture. At Catharsis Productions, she looks forward to working with individuals and groups who want to grow in their understanding of how to promote equity and inclusion in all that they do.