Victory Gardens Announces 2018-19 Directors Inclusion Initiative Fellows

By: Aug. 07, 2018

Victory Gardens Announces 2018-19 Directors Inclusion Initiative Fellows Victory Gardens Theater Artistic Director Chay Yew and Managing Director Erica Daniels announce the 2018/19 Season Directors Inclusion Initiates, to include Lauren Katz (Indecent), Mikael Burke (Rightlynd), N. Emil Thomas (Pipeline), Denise Yvette Serna (Cambodian Rock Band) and Ruby Des Jardins (Miriam for President).

The Directors Inclusion Initiative, started in the 2015/16 season, aims to encourage and develop talented and emerging Chicago stage directors identifying as disabled, women, transgender, gender non-conforming and people of color. This mentorship program features each initiate assistant directing a production as Victory Gardens Theater continues its commitment to cultivating a new generation of diverse stage directors who create dynamic theater work from their unique points of view.

"We're very excited to continue the mentorship of emerging female and LGBTQIA directors, directors of color and of disability through Victory Gardens' Directors Inclusion Project now in its fourth year," states Chay Yew. "Many directors of color and I would have welcomed such an opportunity when we first started out in the field. I'm glad to be in a position to open this door to our next generation of directors."

About the Directors

Lauren Katz - Indecent

Lauren Katz is a director, dramaturg, and teaching artist. She moved to Chicago from Washington, DC, after completing a Company Management Fellowship with Mosaic Theater Company. Lauren served as the Artistic Apprentice at Steppenwolf Theatre Company for its 2016/2017 season; she has been freelancing since its completion. Recent directing projects include: Subjective is Beauty (Prop Thtr), Toni and Marcus: From Village Life to Urban Stress (Illinois Holocaust Museum), and Salena's Story (iO Theater). As an assistant director and dramaturg in Chicago, Lauren has worked with various companies including About Face Theatre, Theater Wit, Steppenwolf Theatre Company and Windy City Playhouse. As a teaching artist, Lauren works with Mudlark Theater, Lookingglass Theatre, and the Memory

Ensemble. She received her BA from Kenyon College in English Literature and Drama.

Mikael Burke - Rightlynd

Mikael Burke is a Chicago-based director, deviser, and educator. In Chicago, he's most recently worked with About Face Theatre, First Floor Theatre, Northlight Theatre, American Theatre Company, and Strawdog Theatre Company, as well as Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota, FL, Geva Theatre Center in Rochester, NY, and the Indiana Repertory Theatre in Indianapolis, IN. He is a 2017 Princess Grace Award Winner in Theatre and a current SDCF Observership Class member. Mikael received his M.F.A. in Directing from The Theatre School at DePaul University, and serves as adjunct faculty at Roosevelt University. Recent directing credits include Hooded or Being Black for Dummies by Tearrnace Arvelle Chisholm, and Richard Wright's Native Son, adapted by Nambi E. Kelley.

N. Emil Thomas - Pipeline

An Atlanta-based artistic director, director, playwright, and actor recently relocated to the great city of Chicago. He is the artistic director of Actors Theatre of Georgia, the in-house resident theatre company to Marietta's Theatre in the Square. Recent directing credits include Tarell Alvin McCraney's In the Red and Brown, Carmen Rivera's La Gringa and Nambi E. Kelley's Native Son, for which he was awarded Broadway World's Atlanta Best Director and Play for 2017. His holiday adaptation of The Gift of the Magi 2.0 premiered in 2017 and is currently up for 5 Metropolitan Atlanta Theatre Awards including best sound, set, lights, and acting for his performance of Robert Harvey.

Denise Yvette Serna - Cambodian Rock Band

Denise is a theatre practitioner and arts activist based in Chicago. Credits include Carnaval 2018: ConeXion! (Latinx Theatre Commons), HIR (Steppenwolf Theatre Company), Earthquakes in London (Steep Theatre Company), The View Upstairs (Circle Theatre Chicago), For The Love Of (Pride Films & Plays), SPARK (20% Theatre Company), After Orlando (Pride Films & Plays), La Chingada (inappropriate theatre company), (the)forget_meknot (inappropriate theatre company), Much Ado About Nothing (The Shaw Theatre), Om Swastyastu from London - The Wailing Woman (Institut Seni Indonesia Denpasar), and Heart's Core (Refugee Women's Theatre Programme). Denise holds an MFA in Theatre Directing and is co-founder of Global Hive Laboratories, a collective of international practitioners working toward a global theatre.

Ruby Des Jardins - Miriam for President

Ruby Des Jardins was born on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands where she was raised by a folk duo. Since leaving the Caribbean, Ruby directed the New England premiere of Jesus Hopped the A Train, helmed a gender-bending version of The House of Yes, aided under the late Thomas Derrah of the A.R.T., served as a Director for the Artists Lab 2016, and returned home to put on Cabaret & Into the Woods. She is a certified Rape Crisis Counselor with Rape Victims Advocates & hosts Other People's Poems (OPP) at Uncharted. She teaches tiny DJs at Chicago Girls Rock Camp and spins tunes at weddings and events with her DJ company, Birds & B-sides (

About Victory Gardens Theater

Under the leadership of Artistic Director Chay Yew and Managing Director Erica Daniels, Victory Gardens is dedicated to artistic excellence while creating a vital, contemporary American Theater?that is accessible and relevant to all people through productions of challenging new plays and musicals. Victory Gardens Theater is committed to the development, production and support of new plays that has been the mission of the theater since its founding, set forth by Dennis Za?ek, Marcelle McVay, and the original founders of Victory Gardens Theater.

Victory Gardens Theater?is a leader in developing and producing new theater work and cultivating an?inclusive?Chicago theater community. Victory Gardens' core strengths are nurturing and producing dynamic and inspiring new plays, reflecting the diversity of our city's and nation's culture through engaging diverse communities, and in partnership with Chicago Public Schools, bringing art and culture to?our city's active student population. ?

Since its founding in 1974, the company has produced more world premieres than any other Chicago theater, a commitment recognized nationally when Victory Gardens received the 2001 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre. Located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, Victory Gardens Biograph Theater includes the Za?ek-McVay Theater, a state-of-the-art 259-seat mainstage and the 109-seat studio theater on the second floor, named the Richard Christiansen Theater.

Victory Gardens Ensemble Playwrights include Luis Alfaro, Philip Dawkins, Marcus Gardley, Ike Holter, Samuel D. Hunter, Naomi Iizuka, Tanya Saracho and Laura Schellhardt. Each playwright has a seven-year residency at Victory Gardens Theater.

The Playwrights Ensemble Alumni includes Claudia Allen, Lonnie Carter, Steve Carter, Gloria Bond Clunie, Dean Corrin, Nilo Cruz, Joel Drake Johnson, John Logan, Nicholas Patricca, Douglas Post, James Sherman, Charles Smith, Jeffrey Sweet and Kristine Thatcher.

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