Building solo shows in the age of social distancing


Curated by RTE Member Kristen Osborn

Wednesday April 29 – Saturday May 2, 2020


Originally conceived as an in-person new play festival of one-woman shows, Rivendell Theatre Ensemble presents a digital pivot of its inaugural Solo Voices Workshop: a celebration and exploration of the development process of four new one-woman plays written and performed by Chicago artists. Over the course of the digital festival, online audiences will explore process-generated content from digital workshops of four new plays–When Given the Choice, Bleed by Kimberly Dixon-Mays, Tidy by Kristin Idaszak, Aping Jane by Aurora Real de Asua, and The Inside by Lydia R. Diamond.
Thanks to Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation for generously funding this project.

Hungry to watch the plays? Rivendell will be hosting a public reading of all of the Solo Voices plays when we’re able to gather in the theater once again. Until then, we appreciate you engaging with the artistic conversations that took place during our digital workshop. Get the latest updates from the Solo Voices projects!  CLICK HERE to sign up!

Take a peek!





Aping Jane

Written and performed by Aurora Real de Asua
Directed by Brenna DiStasio and Paul Michael Thomson
In collaboration with The Story Theatre

Take a peek into the process!
Digital content to be released Wednesday, April 29th at 5pm

How was it that one untrained secretary was able to communicate with a species overlooked by an entire scientific community? Much has been said about the brilliance behind Jane Goodall’s work, but this new play seeks to illuminate an often overlooked factor of this extraordinary woman: her outrageously courageous compassion. Using a mixture of clowning, puppetry, and animal work, Aping Jane takes you through the jungle and back to unearth the heart behind one of the 20th century’s most influential scientists. 




by Kristin Idaszak

Directed by RTE member Kristen Osborn
Performed by RTE member Paula Ramirez 

 Take a peek into the process!
Digital content to be released Thursday, April 30th at

A struggling detective novelist recently read a self-help book about how to be happy. Actually, it’s about how to tidy. As she cleans her house, the novelist excavates her own personal history, and the history of the planet. Tidy examines the holes in our lives that we try to fill through consumption, and how we decide what to keep and what to leave behind. Who and what will survive the sixth mass extinction? And will it spark joy?



When Given the Choice, Bleed
 by Kimberly Dixon-Mays

 Directed by Rashada Dawan

Take a peek into the process!
Digital content to be released Friday, May 1st at

In this solo, five-character play, four Black women of different ages and eras encounter a trace of blood. In each ordinary moment, the women realize they must decide who or what to leave behind, like those blood traces, to live the lives they choose. As the women’s times and spaces seep into each other, their decisions unwittingly stain the others with consequences. Blood follows these veins closely, questioning why such consequences dirty their hands instead. This play reminds us that some stories of Black women’s heroic survival flow from everyday choices in tiny drops.




The Inside
 by Lydia R. Diamond, adapted by Tasia A. Jones and Amira Danan

 Performed by Amira Danan
Directed by Tasia A. Jones

Take a peek into the process!
Digital content to be released Saturday, May 2nd at

An intellectually savvy, and emotionally vulnerable African-American college graduate finds herself at yet another “painfully liberal, post-collegiate, anti- establishment, artistic event.”  The Inside, written by Lydia R. Diamond and adapted and re-imagined by Tasia A. Jones and Amira Danan, wanders through the landscape of a Black woman’s mind and soul as she comes to terms with her position as an outsider.


Kristen Osborn
Solo Voices Workshop Curator and Producer

RTE Ensemble Member and Artistic Associate

Kristen Osborn is a Chicago-based director and theatre maker who is passionate about sparking compassion through storytelling. Currently, Kristen is an ensemble member and artistic associate and outreach coordinator at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, and the literary manager and casting associate at Northlight Theatre. She is the founder and producing artistic director of JoyistLA. Directing credits include Sam Chanse’s the opportunities of extinction, Eugene O’Neill’s Fog, JoyistLA’s First Embrace, and an original adaptation of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, Lift. Assistant directing credits include Henry IV, (dir. Daniel Sullivan, Shakespeare Center LA,) The Scene (dir. Kimberly Senior, Writers Theatre,) Mother of the Maid (dir. BJ Jones, Northlight Theatre,) The Cake (dir. Lauren Shouse, Rivendell Theatre Ensemble,) Choir Boy (dir. Trip Cullman, Geffen Playhouse), Fighting Shadows (dir. Robert Egan, Inner-City Arts.). She is a graduate of UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television.


Lisa Dillman
RTE Literary Director, Festival Dramaturg

Lisa Dillman’s plays include Ground, Rock Shore, American Wee-Pie, Half of Plenty, The Walls, No Such Thing, Six Postcards, Flung, and Shady Meadows. Her work has been produced throughout the U.S., including at Steppenwolf, Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Humana Festival, American Theatre Company, Rogue Machine, Seattle Public Theatre, and Rivendell Theatre Ensemble. She has received commissions from Steppenwolf, Goodman Theatre, Northlight, Baltimore Centerstage, and the Chicago Humanities Festival. She is a longtime ensemble member at Chicago’s Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, where she serves as literary director. Rivendell has produced the world premieres of her plays Chiaroscuro, The Walls, and American Wee-Pie.  Also a teacher, she has taught playwriting at Western Michigan University, Chicago Dramatists, Northlight Theatre, Victory Gardens, and the Chicago Public Schools. Her work is published by Samuel French, Dramatic Publishing, Heinemann, Playscripts Inc., and Smith & Kraus. She is currently working on a new play commissioned by The Defamation Experience.


Zoe Lesser
 – Associate Producer

Zoe Lesser is a producer, director, and choreographer based in Chicago, originally from California. She was the LookOut Producing Apprentice at Steppenwolf Theatre Company for the 19/20 season and has also worked with Prop Thtr, Haven Chicago, and Silencio. Beyond the Midwest, she has worked with Directors Lab West, The Orchard Project, and Beth Morrison Projects. She is a graduate of Skidmore College.


Tony Churchill
Digital Content Producer

Anthony Churchill collaborates on media for theatre, events, and installations. Recent projections and media with Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Strawdog Theatre, Marriott Theatre, Greenhouse Theatre, Rivendell Theatre, Raven Theatre, The Cher Show, Q Brothers, Porchlight Music Theatre, Silk Road Rising, Theatre Wit, Stage Left, Museum of Broadcast Communications, Big Noise Theatre, and 16th Street Theatre – Berwyn.  Tony has been nominated for five Jeff Awards for Projections, and awarded one. When not working on plays, he enjoys sculpting tiny astronauts in peril, and exploring with his beautiful wife Sara, and rescue pit bull Cheetoh.

Tara Mallen – Rivendell Artistic Director 

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 won the 2018 Jeff Award for Performer 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 Jeff nominated world premiere productions of Look, we are breathing and Rasheeda Speaking. Tara appeared in Steppenwolf’s How Long Will I Cry: Stories of Youth Violence written by Chicago Journalist Miles Harvey. She was part of the ensemble in Rivendell’s world premiere, Jeff nominated production of The Walls and played Jolene Palmer (inspired by the true-life story of Aileen Wuornos) in Rivendell’s award winning production of Self Defense, or the Death of Some Salesmen—both productions part of Steppenwolf’s Visiting Theater Initiative. For Rivendell, Tara has produced and acted in over twenty-five productions. She received a Joseph Jefferson Award for Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Gwenyth 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. Her screen credits include Steven Soderbergh’s film Contagion opposite Kate Winslet, the Starz series Boss starring Kelsey Grammer, the NBC pilot of Chicago Fire, the CBS/Sony Pictures pilot Doubt, the NBC series Chicago P.D. and the Netflix series Sense8 directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski. With Rivendell, Tara 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; the co-production of Elliot, a Soldier’s Fugue with Stageworks/Hudson in Hudson, NY; and the brief and brilliant Shady Meadows by Lisa Dillman as part of the 2007 Chicago Humanities Festival.


Welcome to Rivendell’s first (virtual) Women’s Solo Voices Series!  Like everything else at this particular moment, Solo Voices has not played out in the way we had originally anticipated. But through ingenuity and intense determination, this gifted cadre of artists have shifted their approach and in doing so, have crafted an entirely new platform to continue developing their work.

Solo performance has existed in some form or another for thousands of years, and is truly the oldest form of theater. Early human tribes saw the rise of shamans whose job it was to retell their oral histories. These shamans were given special status, even mystical status, as the “sacred holders of knowledge”.  We are so proud to lift up our four “shamans” and support them as they continue to hone their deeply personal stories — even within the chaos of the pandemic. We look forward towards the moment we can open our doors at Rivendell and invite you in to experience these projects as they were intended – live and in community. But in the meanwhile, we hope you will enjoy these brief excerpts from the creative and provocative work being done on these three brand new solo plays.

Tara Mallen, Artistic Director
Rivendell Theatre Ensemble




When the shelter-in-place order was issued in Chicago, we were forced to answer difficult questions about what would happen to the Solo Voices workshop. As we assessed our options we realized that, of all the projects to adapt to working in isolation, a one-person show could actually succeed in this digital format. And a new play development process, where the first priority is to address the playwright’s needs for moving the piece forward on the page, could also take place over Zoom. We decided to take the Solo Voices workshop online. In doing this, we quickly learned that the essential ingredient, without question, was the artistic teams’ collaborative spirit and willingness to dive into this unorthodox approach to a new work festival together.

The incredible artists who jumped into the “digital pivot” did not know what to expect. As producers, we were (and still are,) figuring it out as we go. But as we navigate the roller coaster of these challenging circumstances individually, working on these projects and having (digital) space and time for the playwrights to dig more deeply into their inspiring new plays, has been a bright spot of connection and hope. Of course there have been unforeseen challenges and uncertain moments, times in which Zoom exhaustion set in and our hearts and minds were full and fatigued, but we have forged on. We’ve shifted our focus from “product” to “process,” and are excited to share excerpts of the artistic conversations that took place over the course of workshop with online audiences.

Coming Soon!

Coming Soon!

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


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