Jessica Thebus (Director of MFA in Directing) is an associate artist with Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company, where she has directed Sex With Strangers, Intimate Apparel, Dead Man’s Cell Phone, When the Messenger Is Hot, and Sonia Flew. Among many others, she has also directed As You Like It at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The Clean House and Stage Kiss at The Goodman Theatre, A Civil War Christmas at The Huntington Theatre, Harriet Jacobs at Kansas City Repertory Theatre, and Jekyll and Hyde, Inherit the Wind, and Red Herring at Northlight Theatre. In 2009, Thebus co-directed a Lookingglass Theatre production of Our Town with fellow faculty member Anna D. Shapiro. Her favorite projects include the award-winning plays Pulp and Winesburg, Ohio at About Face Theatre, as well as the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s world premiere of Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter, which then moved to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. An artistic associate at the Corn Exchange in Dublin, Ireland, Thebus holds a PhD in performance studies from Northwestern. She teaches seminars in Advanced Directing, American Realism and Naturalism, and Collaboration Techniques for Designers and Directors.
Anna Shapiro has been affiliated with Steppenwolf since 1995, serving as the original director of the New Plays Initiative, later joining the artistic staff as the resident director, and currently serving as an associate artist. Her recent Steppenwolf credits include I Never Sang For My Father featuring John Mahoney and the world premieres of Man From Nebraska by Tracy Letts, Until We Find Each Other by Brooke Berman, The Infidel, and Purple Heart (also in Ireland) by Bruce Norris, and The Ordinary Yearning of Miriam Buddwing by Alexandra Gersten. Also at Steppenwolf, she directed The Drawer Boy by Michael Healey, Warren Leight’s Side Man (also in Ireland, Australia, and Vail, Colorado), and Richard Greenberg’s Three Days of Rain.
Other recent credits include The Drawer Boy for Papermill Playhouse, The Guys for Piven Theatre Workshop, Agnes of God at Indiana Repertory Theatre, A Fair Country at the Huntington Theatre Company, and The Infidel at Philadelphia Theatre Company. She has been a guest artist at the New School for Social Research, Columbia College, and the University of Illinois.
Dassia N. Posner is a theatre historian specializing in Russian avant-garde theatre, the history of directing, production dramaturgy, and world puppetry history and performance. She teaches undergraduate courses in Theatre and in Slavic Languages and Literatures and graduate courses in the MFA in Directing and the Interdisciplinary PhD in Theatre and Drama (IPTD). She is currently Director of IPTD and Vice President for Awards of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education.
Posner’s books include The Director’s Prism: E. T. A. Hoffmann and the Russian Theatrical Avant-Garde (2019: Shortlist, Prague Quadrennial Best Scenography and Performance Design Publication Award; 2016: Finalist, TLA Freedley Memorial Award); The Routledge Companion to Puppetry and Material Performance (co-edited with Claudia Orenstein and John Bell, 2014); and Three Loves for Three Oranges: Gozzi, Meyerhold, Prokofiev (co-edited with Kevin Bartig and associate editor Maria De Simone; under contract with Indiana University Press). Her web-based archive companion to The Director’s Prism features over a hundred multimedia Russian theatre sources: www.fulcrum.org/northwestern. Her current book-in-progress, The Moscow Kamerny Theatre: An Artistic History in Political Times, examines the Kamerny Theatre’s innovations and international influence in the artistic and political context of the Soviet 1920s and 30s.
Recent creative scholarship includes production dramaturgy at Steppenwolf Theatre Company for Grand Concourse and Russian Transport, as well as for Three Sisters, for which she was also Tracy Letts’s dramaturgical translator. Prior to coming to Northwestern, she was the resident dramaturg at Connecticut Repertory Theatre. She has performed as a puppeteer with First Night Boston, the Children’s Free Opera and Dance of New York, Bread and Puppet Theater, Underground Railway Theatre, the Puppeteers’ Cooperative, and Luna Theatre.
Shana Cooper is a company member at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington, D.C., where her directing credits include The Nether and HIR by Taylor Mac. Other directing credits include The Unfortunates (A.C.T., SF); American Night, Romeo and Juliet (Yale Repertory Theatre); Straight White Men (Studio Theater); The Unfortunates (World Premiere Musical), Julius Caesar, Love’s Labor’s Lost (Oregon Shakespeare Festival); Venus In Fur (Seattle Rep, Arizona Theatre Company), The Taming of the Shrew, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (California Shakespeare Theater); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Playmakers Rep); Camino Real (New York University MFA Program); Three Sisters (The Studio/New York); The Whale Play, Twelfth Night Parking Lot Project (New Theater House). Shana was the Associate Artistic Director of the California Shakespeare Theater (2000-2004), and also a Cofounder of New Theater House with Yale School of Drama alumni (2008-present). Awards include: 2014 U Grant – Funded by The Melon Foundation and Administered by TCG, 2010 Princess Grace Award, Julian Milton Kaufman Memorial Prize in Directing (Yale School of Drama), Drama League Directing Fellow, TCG Observership Grant, OSF Phil Killian Directing Fellow, G. Herbert Smith Presidential Scholarship.
Halena Kays is a Chicago-based theater director and performer. Most recently she served as the artistic director of The Hypocrites, where she both performed and directed. She is the co-founder and former artistic director of Barrel of Monkeys, where she created and directed the majority of their public performances. She is a founding member of the artistic collaborative The Ruffians and directs their recurring hit production of Burning Bluebeard as well as their other experiments in live performance events. Kays is an artistic associate with the Neo-Futurists where she directed Pop/Waits, 44 Plays for 44 Presidents, Burning Bluebeard, co-created and directed Daredevils and Daredevils Hamlet and the sight-specific extravaganza Fake Lake. Other directing credits include: Endgame, Ivywild, Six Characters in Search of an Authorat The Hypocrites; The Magic Play at The Goodman, The Olney Theatre Center and Actors Theatre of Louisville, Lord of the Flies at Steppenwolf TYA; Feast (part of a collaborative directing effort) with The Albany Park Theatre Project at The Goodman. Kays has been nominated for a Jefferson Citation for Best Supporting Actress and Best Direction, named one of the top 50 “players” in Chicago theater by NewCity, and is a recipient of the prestigious 3Arts award.