Jenny Connell Davis (Playwright) has had her work developed and/or produced with The Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, The Playwrights Center, Icicle Creek, ACT (Seattle), American Theater Company (Chicago), SPACE at Ryder Farm, Ars Nova, NAATCO, Theater MITU, Articulate Theatre, New York Stage and Film, Shrewd Productions, Scriptworks, and The Gift Theatre, among others. She has been a finalist or semi-finalist for the Heideman, PlayPenn, Seven Devils, BAPF, the Nicholl Fellowship and the O’Neill. Jenny’s short film, Fatakra, with writer/director Soham Mehta, played at over 75 festivals worldwide, including Toronto and SXSW, and was recognized with more than a dozen audience awards and jury prizes, including the Student Academy Award. She currently has screenplays in development with Maven Pictures and Co-op Entertainment. Jenny is an Affiliated Artist with The Playwrights’ Center, and an alumna of Ars Nova Play Group, UT Austin’s MFA Playwriting program, The School at Steppenwolf, the Court Theatre Resident Apprentice Program, and The University of Chicago.
Jessica Holt (Director) is a New York-based director. Recent projects include Speech and Debate by Stephen Karam at Barrington Stage Company (Boston Globe‘s Critics Pick), Rich Girl by Victoria Stewart at Florida Studio Theatre, Venus in Fur by David Ives at Virginia Stage Company, Ugly Lies the Bone by Lindsey Ferrentino at the Alliance Theater, Significant Other by Joshua Harmon at Actor’s Express, and the West Coast premiere of Bright Half Life by Tanya Barfield at Magic Theatre. She also directed a multimedia, live immersive project with advertising agency BBDO and their pro bono client Street Grace to tell a powerfully impactful story that shined a light on the horrific realities of domestic minor sex trafficking. Jessica is currently a National Directing Fellow with the O’Neill/National New Plays Network, and is working with Rivendell in Chicago and Magic Theatre in San Francisco as part of her fellowship. She was the 2015-2016 Yale Directing Fellow at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, under the mentorship of Artistic Director Susan Booth. She developed new work by Bekah Brunstetter, Will Arbery, Mark Kendall, and Edith Freni. She has developed, produced and directed work at Ensemble Studio Theatre, Rivendell Theatre, Berkeley Rep’s Ground Floor, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, Alliance Theatre, the American Academy of Dramatic Art in NYC, Theater Emory, Playwrights Center SF, Cutting Ball Theater, Berkeley Playhouse, Magic Theatre, New Conservatory Theater Center, and Piano Fight. Currently she is working with a number of playwrights and composers on exciting new projects including: Edith Freni’s The Mystic, a time-travel comic drama about the 12th century mystic Hildegard von Bingen, Megan Cohen’s Truest, a feminist absurdist fantasia of Sam Shepard’s True West mashed with Thelma & Louise, and the new musical Danny and the Rocket by Marella Martin (Book/Lyrics) and Casey O’Neil (Music).
Jenniffer Thusing (Stage Manager) happily returns to Rivendell. She previously stage managed Cal in Camo, Alias Grace, 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. Her 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.
Catherine Allen (Production Manager) is thrilled to be working with RTE for the first time! Recent production management credits include Significant Other (About Face Theatre), Violet and Ragtime (Griffin Theatre), Invisible Hand, Hookman, and Bobbie Clearly (Steep Theatre), A Funny Thing Happened… (Route 66 Theatre Company), and many circuses with Actors Gymnasium where she is the staff Production Manager. She has also worked with Congo Square Theatre, Pegasus Theatre Chicago, Haven Theatre, Chimera Ensemble, and Step Up Productions where she was an Artistic Associate. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where she received a BFA in Acting.
Robert Groth (Technical Director) is excited to return to Rivendell. 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.
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.