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Victory Gardens Theater announces Directors Inclusion Initiative assistant directors
2019-08-15

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Chicago, IL— Victory Gardens Theater announces the 2019/20 Season Directors Inclusion Initiative Assistant Directors including Alexander ( Lex ) Turner ( Tiny Beautiful Things ), Lanise Antoine Shelley ( The First Deep Breath ), Christina Casano ( How To Defend Yourself ), Jeremy Ohringer ( Dhaba On Devon Ave ) and Aliza Feder ( The Right To Be Forgotten ).

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. 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 Initiative now in its fourth year," states Chay Yew, Artistic Director. "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

Alexander ( Lex ) Turner ( Tiny Beautiful Things ) is a queer and trans director and administrator based in Chicago. He graduated from the University of Chicago in 2017 with a degree in Theater and Performance Studies and Classical Studies. He recently served as Assistant to the Director on How to Defend Yourself at the Humana Festival at Actors Theatre of Louisville. Lex is passionate about ( in no specific order ): really good comedy, using theater to amplify the voices of the unheard, and his cat Pinto Bean. He is dedicated to diversity, inclusion, and accessibility in the arts.

Lanise Antoine Shelley ( The First Deep Breath ) is an actress, director, and painter. Selected assistant directing credits include: the world premiere of Plantation ( Lookingglass Theatre, dir. David Schwimmer ), Nell Gwynn ( Chicago Shakespeare ), and Snow Queen ( American Repertory Theater, AD & Choreographer ). Lanise has also worked as a director with 16th St. Theater ( also as a movement consultant ), with Lookingglass Theatre's Summer Lab, and directed a staged reading at Stratford Shakespeare Festival. She has studied abroad six times and holds a BFA in Directing, Acting, and Playwriting from Cornish College of the Arts and an MFA from ART/MXAT at Harvard University. Lanise also holds a certificate in Classical Theatre from BADA in Oxford, England, and was a Stratford Shakespeare Festival's Chicago Fellow 2016. Other works can be viewed at www.laniseantoineshelley.com

Christina Casano ( How To Defend Yourself ) is a theatre artist based in Chicago, focused on directing and acting, with an interest in developing new work. She earned a BA in Theatre from Miami University and completed the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey's Summer Professional Training Program. Recent directing credits include: The Living Newspaper Festival ( Jackalope Theatre ), New World Play Festival ( Nothing Without A Company ), Beyond the Curtain Festival ( Theatre Evolve ) and a staged reading of Richard III ( Stone Soup Shakespeare ). She has also assistant directed Bury Me ( Dandelion Theatre ), The Light Fantastic ( Jackalope Theater ) and Ulysses ( The Plagarists ). Next spring, she will direct the world premiere of Poison by Dusty Wilson with The Plagarists, where she also serves as the Literary Manager.

Jeremy Ohringer ( Dhaba On Devon Ave ) Jeremy Ohringer is a director and teaching artist. He recently earned his MFA in Theatre Directing from Boston University, where his projects included Horizon Line ( Inspired by Homer's Odyssey ), Angels In America: Perestroika, and Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children. Chicago directing credits include: Milkwhite ( The Kinematics ), Sad Songs For Bad People ( Co-Director, Rough House Theater ), Salve Regina: A Coming of Gay Story ( Center on Halsted/Ringwald Theater ), Who Rowed Across Oceans ( Lost Compass/Edinburgh Fringe Festival ) and a new adaptation of Frank Wedekind's Spring Awakening with Fearless Theater. As a Teaching Artist, he has worked with Steppenwolf, Chicago Youth Shakespeare, and Open Books, among others.

Aliza Feder ( The Right To Be Forgotten ) Aliza is a Chicago-based director, writer, and makeup artist. She was previously the artistic director of Fermat's Last Theater Company in Madison, WI, where she last adapted and directed Miss Julie. Assistant Directing credits include The Night Season ( Strawdog ), The Recommendation ( Windy City Playhouse ), Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom ( The Bower Theatre Ensemble, AD & Gore/SFX ), Slipper Tongue ( Violet Surprise: A FemSlash Festival ), Ligabue, part of The Storefront Project at the Museum of Contemporary Art, and Medusa, an internationally devised project with Pop Magic Productions and Global Hive Laboratories. She was the script supervisor and gore/SFX designer for Masque Macabre ( Strawdog Theater ) and is an ensemble member of The Bower Theatre Ensemble.

About Victory Gardens Theater

Under the leadership of Artistic Director Chay Yew and Executive 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 ZaÄćek, 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 ZaÄćek-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.

Victory Gardens Theater receives major funding from Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Joyce Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The REAM Foundation, Shubert Foundation, Venturous Theater Fund of the Tides Foundation, Wallace Foundation.

Additional major funding comes from Crown Family Philanthropies, Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, the Illinois Arts Council Agency, Polk Bros. Foundation.

Major funders also include: Allstate, Alphawood Foundation, Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events ( with Year of Chicago Theatre funding from BMO Harris Bank and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation ), Edgerton Foundation, Exelon, The Harvey L. Miller Supporting Foundation, David Rockefeller Fund, The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust, Time Warner Foundation, Inc.

Additional funding this season Robert and Isabelle Bass Foundation Inc., Charles H. and Bertha L. Boothroyd Foundation, Capital Group Private Client Services, Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation, ComEd, Conagra Brands Foundation, Nathan Cummings Foundation, Golden Country Oriental Foods, Goldman Sachs, John R. Halligan Foundation, Illinois Humanities Council ( with support from the MacArthur Foundation's Safety + Justice Challenge ), ITW, MAP Fund, Mayer Brown LLP, The Robert R. McCormick Foundation, McKinsey Company,The McVay Foundation, Metropolitan Capital Bank and Trust, National Endowment for the Arts, Negaunee Foundation, Roberta Olshansky Charitable Fund, Origin Ventures, Pauls Foundation, PNC Financial Services Group, The Poetry Foundation, Prince Charitable Trusts, Charles and M.R. Shapiro Foundation, Wrightwood Neighbors Foundation.

In-kind support is provided by: Italian Village Restaurants, Southwest Airlines, Suite Home Chicago, and Whole Foods Market.

Capital improvement support from the Performing Arts Venue Fund at the League of Chicago Theaters, with funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; and Capacity Building support by Compass-Chicago.

Victory Gardens Theater is proud to be part of the 2019 Year of Chicago Theatre, presented by the City of Chicago and the League of Chicago Theatres. To truly fall in love with Chicago, you must go to our theatres. This is where the city bares its fearless soul. Home to a community of creators, risk-takers and big hearts, Chicago theatre is a hotbed for exciting new work and hundreds of world premieres every year. From Broadway musicals to storefront plays and improv, there's always a seat waiting for you at one of our 200+theatres. Book your next show today at ChicagoPlays.com .

For more information about Victory Gardens, visit www.victorygardens.org . Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/victorygardens, Twitter @VictoryGardens and Instagram @victorygardenstheater .

—From a press release


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