For the past 23 years Rivendell Theatre Ensemble has been dedicated to advancing the lives of women through theatre. We strive to do this for women of all cultures, races, backgrounds, ages, and economic statuses. We do this inclusively with women, men, and non-gender conforming individuals working together to tell more women’s stories. 

For several years Rivendell has been engaged in furthering meaningful conversations around diversity, equity, inclusion and systemic institutional racism. In light of Hedy Weiss’ recent review of Antoinette Nwandu’s Pass Over, Rivendell is attacking these issues with renewed vigor. 

Below is a non-inclusive list of how Rivendell is trying to further these conversations within our company and the community:

  • Increased diversity among our ensemble and board. 
    • We acknowledge we have a long way to go for our ensemble and board to be truly representative of our community, but we have taken great strides in recent years to seek out exceptional artists and board members that are people of color. Currently our ensemble is comprised of 13% people of color and our board has 33%.
  • Commitment to telling diverse stories onstage
    • As part of our mission Rivendell has always brought the “majority minority” to the stage by being focused on women’s stories. We now deliberately seek out, or create, scripts that include depicting a women’s story with the added lens of race. Examples include:
      • A new play commission, currently being called the Playground Project, about an incident on a local playground to be written by Aaron Todd Douglas
      • A focus in our Fresh Produce play development series on plays that focus on race. In December 2016 this included The Playground Project as well as an nascent idea for a script based off of the findings of documents showing family history of owning slaves. 
      • Rasheeda Speaking by Joel Drake Johnson
      • WOMEN AT WAR by Megan Carney, conceived by Tara Mallen
  • We have recently formed a Diversity Committee within our ensemble to help Rivendell further advance our efforts for equity, diversity, and inclusion. The committee is comprised of Krystel McNeil, Paula Ramirez, and Rebecca Spence. The committee is working with the staff on the following efforts:
    • Developing a set of policies Rivendell can committee to for the number of playwrights and artists that are people of color on every project. 
    • Seeking out Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion training opportunities for our staff, board, and ensemble.

Rivendell Theatre Ensemble is honored to be part of the Chicago Community Trust’s current Smart Growth cohort. As part of our work with this capacity building grant Rivendell is focused on growing and retaining our audiences. 

To advance these efforts Rivendell has formed the Audience Development Committee which includes Joan Callahan, Colleen Flanagan, Elvia Moreno, Eva Silverman, and Shera Street. 

The committee meets every six weeks to discuss the upcoming productions and events at Rivendell and brainstorms how we can best promote our work with a limited budget. If you are interested in joining this committee to advance the work of Rivendell please email Managing Director Jackie Banks-Mahlum at jackie (at)

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


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