Tara Mallen, Artistic Director and Founder

Tara Mallen is an actor, director, and the Producing Artistic Director at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble. She is the 2017 3Arts William Franklin Grisham Awardee and the 2014 Volunteers of America Silver Star Awardee. Most recently Mallen was seen onstage in The Cake for which she was won the 2018 Jeff Award for “Actor in a Principal Role”. In 2016, she performed in the world premiere production of Lynn Nottage’s Sweat at Arena Stage. Prior to that she was in Rivendell’s world premiere productions of Look, we are breathing and Rasheeda Speaking. Tara appeared in the Steppenwolf for Young Audience’s production of How Long Will I Cry: Stories of Youth Violence written by Chicago Journalist Miles Harvey. One of Rivendell’s founding members, Tara has now produced and acted in over thirty productions. She received a Joseph Jefferson award for “Supporting Actress” for work in WRENS as part of that production’s Jeff winning ensemble. She was nominated the following year for “Actress in a Principal Role” for her work in My Simple City. Screen credits include Steven Soderbergh’s film Contagion; Empire (Fox); Boss (Starz); Chicago Fire (NBC); Doubt (CBS/Sony Pictures pilot); Chicago P.D. (NBC); Sense8 (Netflix) and the independent feature FOOLS. Tara co-conceived and directed the world premiere of WOMEN AT WAR, directed the Jeff nominated Midwest premieres of The Electric Baby, 26 Miles (co-production with Teatro Vista); Fighting Words; Psalms of a Questionable Nature; Elliot, a Soldier’s Fugue (co-production with Stageworks/ Hudson); and the brief and brilliant Shady Meadows by Lisa Dillman as part of the 2007 Chicago Humanities Festival.


Denise Yvette Serna, Associate Artistic Director

Denise Yvette Serna (she/her) is a theatre practitioner and arts activist raised in San Juan, Texas. She has facilitated international workshops and productions with Global Hive Laboratories and its partners, as well as readings, fundraisers, panels, and festivals to raise awareness and promote activism about racial equity, accessibility, climate justice, gender-based violence, immigration, land sovereignty, literacy, community collaboration, and collective joy. Chicago directing and curating credits include productions with MCA Chicago, The Latinx Theatre Commons, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Prop Thtr, Strawdog Theatre Company, Pop Magic Productions, The Neo-Futurists, Victory Gardens Theater, Writers Theatre, Goodman Theatre, El Semillero, and Steep Theatre Company. Producing Credits include Dreams Beyond Borders: New Roots at Howard Area Community Center, Pop Magic’s salon series HOMESET, and The Syndicate’s FIRST READ. Denise is committed to supporting arts organizations as they champion equity, diversity, access and inclusion, and move forward as transformative Anti-Racist forces in their communities.

Read Denise’s Artistic Statement HERE


Catherine Painter, Managing Director

Catherine Painter, after serving as Rivendell’s grant writer for six years, joined the company as Managing Director in 2020. She is also Executive Director of Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre and Development Consultant to Praize Productions Inc. She is a member of the faculty at the University of Illinois – Chicago Certificate in Non-Profit Management Program where she teaches classes on Individual Giving and Strategic Leadership. Previously, she consulted with the American Indian Association, Trinity Irish Dance Company, and independent artists, and worked with Victory Gardens Theater, Merit School of Music, Northlight Theatre, and Latin School of Chicago. She holds Bachelor and Master of Science degrees from Northwestern University. 





Trisha Hooper, Business Manager

Trisha has been involved with Rivendell since graduating from Loyola University Chicago in 2007. She started as a volunteer and went on to become the Business and Box Office Manager. In addition to her work with Rivendell, Trisha spent a summer with American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wisconsin where she was a management intern. Trisha also made vegan pastries at Metropolis Coffee Company





Tanya Ward, Marketing Director

Tanya Ward has more than 15 years in grassroots and traditional marketing engagement, and 10+ years in social media content marketing. She has supported brands such as: McDonald’s USA, Coca-Cola, Toyota, Verizon, Proctor & Gamble’s My Black Is Beautiful, L’oreal, Congo Square Theatre Company, and Siskel Jacobs Films, among others.  She is a writer and a founding member of the Englewood Arts Collective, which was formed to help produce artists, events and interactions that reflect the Englewood community of Chicago in a positive way. 



Rivendell Theatre Ensemble
Theatre: 5779 N. Ridge Avenue
Office: 5775 N. Ridge Avenue
Chicago, IL 60660


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