Jennifer Blackmer (Playwright) is the 2015 PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theatre Award winner for Emerging American Playwright. Her plays have been seen in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Berkeley and St. Louis, and include Human Terrain, Unraveled, Alias Grace, Delicate Particle Logic, and Borrowed Babies. In 2016, Jennifer’s screenplay for Human Terrain won the prestigious Alfred P. Sloan Foundation prize through the Tribeca Film Institute, and the film is currently in pre-production. Jennifer has also been a finalist for the Sundance Film Institute Sloan Prize, the David Charles Horn Prize for Emerging Playwrights, the Fratti-Newman Political Play Contest, the Firehouse Festival of New American Theatre, and The O’Neill National Playwrights’ Conference, and her writing has been short-listed for both the Princess Grace Award and the Shakespeare’s Sister Fellowship. Her work has been developed by Seven Devils, Illinois Shakespeare Festival, The Playwrights’ Center, The Lark and Activate Midwest. Jennifer is Professor of Theatre and Associate Provost at Ball State University, and is resident playwright for Chicago’s Broken Nose Theatre. Visit Jennifer’s website at www.jenniferblackmer.com.
Karen Kessler (Director) is excited to return to Rivendell Theatre, a company she was part of starting, to get to work on Alias Grace with Jennifer Blackmer. She is a member of the ensemble at A Red Orchid Theatre where she most recently directed a production of Jennifer Healy’s The Nether. Amongst Karen’s directing credits are: Wrens (1996 and 2012), The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek, Hamlet, and Ten Tiny Fingers, Nine Tiny Toes at Rivendell; Solstice, Blasted, Gagarin Way, and Mr. Kolpert at Red Orchid; A Number, God of Hell, Into the Woods, and War at other theatres around Chicago; Glengarry Glen Ross at the Northern Stage Ensemble in Newcastle, UK; Macbeth, Scapin, The Three Musketeers, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Taming of the Shrew and All’s Well That Ends Well at the Illinois Shakespeare Festival. Karen is a professor of directing and Shakespeare at Ball State University.
Brian Nitzkin (Associate Producer) has produced and developed new plays and musicals including the current Broadway production of 1984, Mother Justice by Michael Dice, Jr., The Fisher King by Michael Brennan & Mark Leydorf, Over The Top by Gary Conway, and US by Peter Gabriel & Maggie Levin. For Richard Frankel Productions – Broadway: The Producers, Hairspray, Little Shop of Horrors. Off-Broadway: My Old Lady, Stomp, The Water Coolers. Brian also serves as Vice President of Business Affairs and International Operations for IM Global, where he has worked on over fifty films including Hacksaw Ridge, The Butler, Miles Ahead, and Silence.
Jenniffer Thusing (Stage Manager) is thrilled to be returning to Rivendell. She previously stage managed Grizzly Mama and Winter. Jenniffer has stage managed for SoloChicago, Chicago Dramatists, Chicago Commercial Collective, Noble Fool, Nuns for Fun, Emerald City and Light Opera Works. In addition to having stage managed 14 productions at Chicago Dramatists, she also served as props designer, co-designed a set (Aiming for Sainthood at the Pritzker Pavilion) and is an artistic associate there. Jenniffer’s work as a set designer with her partner Robert Groth has been seen at Irish Theatre of Chicago, Mary Arrchie, The Royal George, Metropolis Performing Arts, The Broadway Playhouse, The Apollo Theater, and Emerald City’s Little Theater. Jenniffer is a proud member of Actors Equity Association.
Jess Hutchinson (Dramaturg/Assistant Director) is a dramaturg and director. She earned her MFA at UT Austin, where she had the pleasure of collaborating with stellar writers on projects like 381 Bleecker, ‘ratio, Lyla School, 100 Heartbreaks, We Are StarStuff, and Enter A Woman, Pretty Enough. As Artistic Director of Chicago’s New Leaf Theatre, her favorite projects included Arcadia, The Dining Room, and world premieres of Burying Miss America, Lighthousekeeping, and The Man Who Was Thursday. She was proud to be the 2015-16 NNPN Producer in Residence at Kitchen Dog Theater in Dallas. www.jesshutchinson.com
Melody Ekstrom (Research Dramaturg) most recently served as dramaturg on Remy Bumppo and Silk Road Rising’s co-production of Great Expectations. Prior to moving to Chicago, she served as an artistic apprentice at Cleveland Play House and an intern at the Goodman Theatre. Selected credits for dramaturgical support include for Mamaí Theatre Company, Minnetrista Cultural Center, and Sutton Foster, as a member of a student group that conducted pre-production research for Anything Goes at Roundabout Theatre Co. Melody is a proud alumna of Ball State University where, in 2013, she traveled to the Kennedy Center for her dramaturgical work on a production of the musical Spring Awakening.
Kathy Logelin (Dialect Coach) is happy to be home again at Rivendell, where she is an ensemble member. Past Rivendell productions include The Electric Baby, Precious Little, and These Shining Lives. Recent coaching credits include Moby Dick and Treasure Island at Lookingglass Theatre Co., Beauty’s Daughter with American Blues Theatre, Boeing Boeing with Indiana Repertory Theatre, Little Flower of East Orange with Eclipse Theatre Co., and Persuasion with Chamber Opera Chicago (Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2015). Kathy holds a B.S. in Acting from Illinois State University.
Elvia Moreno (Scenic Design) is a founding member of RTE and has done scenic design for Rivendell’s productions of Winter, Mary’s Wedding, The Walls, Fighting Words, Silence, Indulgences in the Louisville Harem, The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek, The Factory Girls, Holy Days, Mommapalooza! and WRENS; and the Rivendell/Powertap production of Hamlet. During the day, Elvia is a professional architect.
Janice Pytel (Costume Design) has been an ensemble member since 2010 and serves on Rivendell’s Literary Committee. She has a special interest in new play development, and has designed costumes for numerous world premiers by noted playwrights such as Bruce Norris and Moises Kauffman. Recent design credits include: Bootycandy (Windy City Playhouse); Song from the Uproar (Chicago Fringe Opera); Grizzly Mama, Dry Land, Body / Courage, Look, we are breathing, and WOMEN AT WAR (Rivendell Theatre Ensemble); The Low Down Dirty Blues (Milwaukee Rep); The Clean House (Remy Bumppo); Queen, Hand to God, Cocked, Hillary and Clinton, and Rest (Victory Gardens Theater); and The Qualms (Steppenwolf). In Chicago, Janice has worked with Court Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Writers’ Theatre, TimeLine Theatre, Next Theater, About Face Theater, Lookingglass, Chicago Shakespeare, Silk Road Rising, Piven, and others. Her Broadway credits are 33 Variations and I Am My Own Wife. Regionally she has worked with The Alley Theatre, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Kansas City Rep, Geffen Playhouse, Milwaukee Rep, Madison Rep, Alliance Theatre, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Centerstage, Arena Stage, Center Theatre Group, La Jolla Playhouse and others. She has designed costumes for opera, dance, film, and performance art, and her work has been seen in numerous cities across five continents. In addition to her freelance work, Janice is a personal and commercial stylist with her company Wardrobe Solutions, Inc.
Michael Mahlum (Lighting Design) is excited to be returning to Rivendell where he last designed Winter. A native of Denver, Colorado, Michael has designed lighting for dance, theatre and architecture all across the globe. Michael’s recent projects include lighting for theatre as well as events and architecture. Recent theatre credits include: Year of the Hiker, Of Mice and Men, Death of a Salesman, A Night of Innocent Games, Dustbowl Gothic, Dracula, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Macbeth. A selection of projects includes: The Fillmore – Philadelphia, The Gas Light Building Exterior – Milwaukee, Crayola Experience – Orlando, Choctaw Casino and Resort – Durant. Michael currently works for Visual Terrain Inc. as the Principal Designer in Chicago.
LJ Luthringer (Sound Designer) returns to Rivendell where he last was the Associate Sound Designer on Winter.
Robert Hornbostel (Associate Sound Designer) is excited to return to Rivendell where he has designed Winter and Body/Courage. Robert is a freelance sound designer, engineer, and composer who enjoys collaborating on engaging and visceral art throughout the Chicago area. Robert also collaborates with Porchlight Music Theatre, Eclectic Theatre, First Floor Theatre, On the Spot Theatre, New Millennium Theatre, Glitterati Productions, Roosevelt University, and Music Theatre of Wichita. Samples of his previous work can be found at www.Techmagicdesigns.com. Thanks and enjoy the show.
Lacie Hexom (Properties Design) is delighted to be making her Rivendell Ensemble debut. Other Chicago designs include; Ideation and Octagon (Jackalope Theatre), Mother of Smoke (Red Tape Theatre/Walkabout Theater). Regional theatre credits include; Steppenwolf, Goodman, Chicago Shakespeare, Zach Theatre, Glimmerglass Opera, Cleveland Playhouse, Dallas Theater Center, Arizona Theatre Company, Santa Fe Opera.
Robert Groth (Production Manager/Technical Director) Robert is excited to be working with Rivendell Theatre Ensemble for the first time. He has been a freelance technical director, scenic carpenter and designer for over 15 years. Robert has also worked as a scenic designer for several theater companies with his partner Jenniffer Thusing including Mary Arrchie, Pinebox, Emerald City and most recently Chicago Theatre Workshop’s production of Little Miss Sunshine. Their design work was recognized in 2011 with a nomination for an Equity Wing Jeff for Best Scenic Design – Midsized Theater.
Marcus Carroll (Assistant Stage Manager) Recent work: Sub-ASM: The Firebirds Take the Field (Rivendell Theatre Ensemble) Cymbeline (Strawdog). ASM: Prowess (Jackalope) Schoolhouse Rock Live!, Skippyjon Jones (Emerald City). SM Intern: A Christmas Carol, 2666 (Goodman). SM: A Charlie Brown Christmas, The Wiz (Emerald City). Marcus is the Production Stage Manager for Emerald City Theatre.
Laura Duncan (Assistant Costume Design) is a recent graduate of Loyola University Chicago. During her time at Loyola, she costumed A Doll’s House (directed by Ann Shanahan) and Baltimore Waltz (directed by Maggie Cramer) under the mentorship of the incomparable Rachel Healy. This is Laura’s first time assisting Janice on a project. Laura is thankful to have this opportunity to work with such an incredible ensemble of artists at Rivendell.
Abby Armato (Box Office Manager) joined the Rivendell team this past summer as a Production Intern. After graduating from Kenyon College where she studied Drama and English, she is thrilled to work at RTE and be a part of its empowering and thoughtful community. She feels honored by the opportunity to support both the artists and patrons by serving as Box Office Manager. She has a background in directing, dramaturgy, events, and content writing and hopes to continue to be an active part of Rivendell’s mission.
Tara Mallen (Rivendell Artistic Director / Producer) is the founder and Artistic Director of Rivendell Theatre Ensemble. An actor, director and producer, she was most recently on stage in RTE’s world premiere The Firebirds Take the Field. Prior to that she appeared in Lynn Nottage’s pulitzer-prize winning play Sweat at Arena Stage and Steppenwolf’s How Long Will I Cry: Stories of Youth Violence written by Chicago Journalist Miles Harvey. Other notable productions at Rivendell include Jeff Nominated, world premiere productions of Look, we are breathing; Rasheeda Speaking; The Walls; and Self Defense, or the Death of Some Salesmen. Tara has produced and/or acted in over thirty productions at Rivendell and received a Joseph Jefferson award for “Supporting Actress” for WRENS as well as being part of that production’s Jeff-winning “Best Ensemble”. She was nominated the following year for “Actress in a Principal Role” for her work in My Simple City. Tara co-conceived and directed the critically acclaimed World Premiere of WOMEN AT WAR, a theatrical exploration of women in today’s military that played to sold out houses in the fall of 2014 and is now touring throughout the mid-west; she also directed the Jeff nominated Midwest premieres of The Electric Baby, 26 Miles (in co-production with Teatro Vista); Fighting Words; Psalms of a Questionable Nature; and the co-production of Elliot, a Soldier’s Fugue with Stageworks/Hudson. Screen credits include Steven Soderbergh’s film Contagion, Boss, Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D., Sense8, the CBS/Sony pilot Doubt, the FOX pilot Doubt, and the independent feature film Fools.
Jackie Banks-Mahlum (Rivendell Managing Director / Producer) is an arts manager, producer, and educator based in Chicago. She was thrilled to join the Rivendell Theatre Ensemble as the Managing Director in March 2014. Jackie is also the Membership and Development Associate at Arts Alliance Illinois, and the Co-Producer for Theatricum Botanicum. Previously Jackie was in the Los Angeles area where she worked with Center Theatre Group’s P.L.A.Y., the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Theatricum Botanicum. She has also freelanced regionally where she has had the opportunity to work in a variety of performing arts including opera, ballet, modern dance, improv, and theatre. She is a member of Actors’ Equity Association, has a Bachelor of Science in Theatre Production and Business Management from Bradley University, and a Masters of Fine Arts in Producing from the California Institute of the Arts.