Photo: Courtesy of Leah Ursendowski-Courser

Catch Leah Ursendowski-Courser at the Neo-Futurists' The Miss Neo Pageant (through June 22) and you can say you knew her when.

Despite Neil Patrick Harris' and Audra McDonald's closing paean to New York at the Tony Awards, this year's thespians were just as rooted in Chicago. The hard-hitting Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (three Tonys), of course, was a replication of the production that originated at Steppenwolf. Kinky Boots (six Tonys) premiered here.

But as Steppenwolf's Martha Lavey and Tracy Letts firmly noted, Chicago's theatrosphere runs far deeper than the glossy prime-time kudos doled out annually at Radio City Music Hall.

In honor of Chicago’s big night, here are some of the hottest local performers who might just collect their own statuettes in coming years.


Tommy Rapley
The House Theatre's resident choreographer is a classically trained ballet dancer who has morphed into a quadruple-threat (actor/dancer/choreographer/director) since arriving in Chicago from Southern Methodist University. Perhaps it's due to his dancer training, Rapley has the gift of communicating volumes without speaking a word. As a mute boy taken in by a carnival family in The Magnificents, he was mesmerizing. Rapley also directed the House's Nutcracker, shaping a warm, often riotously funny rendition of a staid holiday chestnut. Next up: Donning stilts to play Death in Death and Harry Houdini at the House (opening June 21).


Alex Weisman
He broke hearts in his 2010 breakout role as a shy gay schoolboy in TimeLine Theatre's The History Boys. Over the past three years, Weisman has proved himself to be an actor of range taking on roles that demand gravitas (Lucius in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar), playfulness (Michael Darling in Lookingglass Theatre's Peter Pan), and all points in between.


Leah Urzendowski-Courser
Head over to the Neo-Futurists this month and you can catch Ms. Urzendowski-Courser taking a sledgehammer—both literally and metaphorically—to the societal status quo in the alternately physical/poetical/whimsical/radically feminist The Miss Neo Pageant (running through June 22). An ovaries-to-the-wall powermix at the intersection of blonde bombshell and defiant androgyny, Urzendowski-Courser both transcends and deconstructs female clichés with cathartic verve. Lumberjack to ballerina, she could play the bejeebus out of just about anything.


Evan Tyrone Martin
In his role as the imprisoned revolutionary in Boho's Kiss of the Spider Woman (running through June 30), Evan Tyrone Martin's youth sometimes reads as uncertainty. But there's no denying the passion and utter fearlessness he brings to an intensely demanding role that ranges from supermacho righteous bravado to whimpering helplessness. He dives into the complex part with a raw abandon and rough artistry that makes him one to watch.


Adam Poss
About a year ago, Adam Poss was laying it all bare as the inadvertently patricidal ex-con in the heated heart of Luis Alfaro's Oedipus El Rey, a gangland retelling of the Oedipus myth. It was a ruthlessly indelible performance, and one that Poss followed up with something totally different: A cruelly menacing college boy in the Goodman's Teddy Ferrara. Other notable turns for Poss include a polyrhythmic, poetry spouting beatnik in 16th Street Theater's The Beats and a conflicted son of a dying diner owner in Silk Road Rising's Lake Effect. He's the rare actor with the ability to morph into whatever the text demands.