Jessica Thebus (Director of MFA in Directing) is a theater artist, director, and educator. She holds a PhD in Performance Studies from Northwestern University, and is currently Director of the Northwestern MFA Program in Directing for the Stage. She has directed and adapted plays in Chicago and nationally for twenty years, and has long associations with many Chicago theaters. At the Goodman Theatre she has directed A Christmas Carol, Buzzer by Tracey Scott Wilson, and both The Clean House and the world premiere of Stage Kiss by Sarah Ruhl. At Steppenwolf Theater Company she directed four large spectacle evenings at Millenium Park, the plays Sex With Strangers by Laura Eason, Intimate Apparel by Lynn Nottage, Dead Man’s Cell Phone by Sarah Ruhl, When the Messenger Is Hot by Laura Eason, No Place Like Home devised by the company, Lady Madeline by Mickle Maher, Sonia Flew by Melinda Lopez, and the Youth Theater program (1998-2001). Northlight Theater is also an artistic home for Jessica where she has directed eight plays and where she adapted and directed Shining Lives: A Musical which received a Joseph Jefferson award nomination for best new work. Other Chicago projects have been at Lookingglass Theater Company (In The Garden, a Darwinian Love Story by Sarah Gmitter, All Fall Down adapted from Richard Cahan’s book, and Our Town by Thornton Wilder). Favorite others include: Richard III at The Gift Theater, The Turn Of The Screw by Jeffrey Hatcher at Writer’s Theater, SALAO: The Worst Kind Of Unlucky and The Feast (Jeff award nomination for best new work) at Redmoon Theater, LATE : A Cowboy Song by Sarah Ruhl and Abingdon Square by Maria Irene Fornes at the Piven Theater, as well as the Joseph Jefferson award-winning plays Pulp by Pat Kane and Winesburg, Ohio adapted by Eric Rosen at About Face Theatre. Favorite projects nationally include: As You Like It at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Civil War Christmas by Paula Vogel at The Huntington Theatre, Harriet Jacobs by Lydia Diamond at Kansas City Repertory Theatre, The Oldest Boy by Sarah Ruhl at The Marin Theater Company, as well as the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s world premiere of Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter by Julie Marie Myatt, which then moved to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Jessica is also involved in Outdoor Spectacle projects that celebrate community, joy and environmental justice—these include The Persephone Project and Art Of Spontaneous Spectacle.
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.