Solo Voices: When Given The Choice, Bleed


Curated by RTE Member Kristen Osborn

April 29 – May 2, 2020


Hungry to watch the play? 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.

Take a peek!


When Given the Choice, Bleed

by Kimberly Dixon-Mays
Directed by Rashada Dawan

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 its hands instead. This play reminds us that some stories of Black women’s heroic survival flow from everyday choices in tiny drops.

Kimberly Dixon-Mays – Playwright

Kimberly Dixon-Mays is a poet, playwright and performer. A Cave Canem, Callaloo and Ragdale fellow, her poetry has been published in journals including Reverie, Anthology of Chicago, the anthology Trigger Warning, Uproot magazine, Rhino magazine (finalist, Founder’s Prize, 2018) and Consequence magazine (finalist, Prize in Poetry, ‘14). As a writer for theater, Kimberly was a recurring member of Guild Literary Complex’s Poetry Performance Incubator (2005-2013), co-creating and performing staged poetry. Her own plays have received several readings and staged productions, and among other honors, her play (Nine) was a featured reading for Congo Square Theatre Company’s 2019 August Wilson New Play Initiative, and a semi-finalist for the 2019 Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, and she is a 2018-20 Russ Tutterow Fellow with Chicago Dramatists. Kimberly holds a B.A. in Psychology/Theater Studies from Yale, an M.A. in Afro-American Studies (playwriting concentration) from UCLA, and a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Theatre/Drama from Northwestern.



Rashada Dawan – Director

Rashada Dawan is a proud Southside Chicago native and so grateful and excited to be a part of this exciting project and to be making her directorial debut! Select Chicago credits include: Madagascar, Junie B. Jones, The Nutcracker (Marriott Lincolnshire), Elf (Paramount), Caroline or Change (Firebrand/Timeline), Djembe (Foresight), Something In The Game (AMTP/ Wirtz), The Winner of Our Discontent, A Red Line Runs Through It (Second City), Aida (MUNY), Dynamite Divas, Black White Love Play and The Other Cinderella (Black Ensemble Theatre).
TV/Film: Chicago PD, Shameless, Hope Springs Eternal, Easy, The Red Line and Proven Innocent. Rashada is a Jeff award nominated actress, Executive Director of B.Fli Productions, Inc. and proud mother of 2. She is most thankful for God, her Village, family and friends, Paonessa Talent Agency and her two managers aka daughters, Journey and Genesis.



Shariba Rivers – Performer

Shariba Rivers is ecstatic to return to work with Rivendell Theatre. She was last seen on Rivendell’s stage as Elyse Manning in the production of The Tasters. She has worked with various theater companies around Chicago and is an ensemble member at MPAACT, The New Colony, and First Floor Theater. Other recent stage credits include Hoodoo Love (Raven Theatre) and Black Ballerina (Fleetwood Jourdain). Shariba voices Lily Harper in the very popular audiodrama, Unwell: A Midwestern Gothic Mystery, and was recently awarded “best performance of a leading role in a new audio play production” by AudioVerse Awards. TV credits include Empire, Chicago PD, Chicago Med, and The Chi.



Gabrielle Randle-Bent – Dramaturg

Gabrielle Randle-Bent is a scholar, director, and dramaturg who is passionate about social justice, storytelling, and the power of performance to change the world. She has a dual BA degree in drama and sociology from Stanford University and an MA degree in performance as public practice at The University of Texas at Austin. She has directed, devised, dramaturged, and produced professionally across the United States in Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Austin, and New York City (off-Broadway) and internationally on three continents. In Chicago she has worked with Sideshow Theatre Company (Artistic Associate), Chicago Dramatist, Victory Gardens Theater, Court Theatre and Steppenwolf Theatre. She is a fourth year PhD Candidate at Northwestern University in the interdisciplinary PhD in Theatre and Drama and the inaugural Court Theatre Research Fellow.


Cat Wilson – Lighting Design Consultant

Cat Wilson  is proud to be joining Rivendell for this awesome experience. A Chicago-based lighting and projection designer for 8 years, she recently became the Assistant Professor of Lighting Design at Point Park University in Pittsburgh.  Chicago credits include work with Goodman Theatre, Drury Lane Theatre, 16th Street Theater, Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, TimeLine Theatre, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, University of Illinois Chicago, The Joffrey Ballet Academy, Chicago Children’s Theatre, Kokandy Productions, Irish Theatre of Chicago, Hell in a Handbag Productions and many others. Regional credits include work with Portland Stage, Li Chiao-Ping Dance Company, Point Park University, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre, Theatre Squared.  She received an MFA from Carnegie Mellon University.



Sarah Ramos – Sound Design Consultant

Sarah is an Audiovisual Consultant for Charcoalblue, an international theatre, acoustic, and digital design consultancy. She spent nine years as the Resident Sound Supervisor for Court Theatre. Chicago sound credits with Court Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre, Drury Lane Theatre, American Blues Theatre, Griffin Theatre, About Face Theatre, Gift Theatre, Congo Square Theatre, Bailiwick Chicago, Teatro Luna, Prop Thtr, Firebrand Theatre, and Livewire Chicago. Regional credits with Milwaukee Chamber Theatre (WI), First Stage Children’s Theatre (WI), Renaissance Theatreworks (WI), Indiana Repertory Theatre (IN), AndHow Theater Company (NY), Gateway Playhouse (NY), and Piedmont Opera (NC). She is an alumnus of the North Carolina School of the Arts.

Watch us work: When Given the Choice, Bleed Dramaturgy Discussion

In this video excerpt, Gabrielle Randle-Bent, dramaturg, discusses When Given the Choice, Bleed with playwright Kimberly Dixon-Mays, director Rashada Dawan, and performer Shariba Rivers.



Imagining what could be: Lighting and Sound Design Discussion

In this video excerpt, sound designer Sarah Ramos and lighting and projections designer Cat Wilson discuss When Given the Choice, Bleed with playwright Kimberly Dixon-Mays and director Rashada Dawan. 



Sound Design Consultant Sarah Ramos created a playlist of music from the world of When Given the Choice, Bleed. Take a listen! 



Check out these digital renderings, created as a collaboration between sound designer Sarah Ramos and lighting and projections designer Cat Wilson. Hear performer Shariba Rivers as she reads an excerpt of When Given the Choice, Bleed and imagine the ways in which lights, projections, and sound would come to life in a live performance of the play.



Projections designer Cat Wilson used photographs of Shariba Rivers to imagine the ways in which projected images of veins could playon the performer’s body during the performance. 





What’s On Our Desk: When Given the Choice, Bleed Creative Team


Kimberly Dixon-Mays – Playwright

Rather than a desk practice, mine is more like a cocoon-to-table practice. That means I generate writing with pen and paper from a comfortable piece of furniture, then move to a table and hardback chair to transcribe to a computer and revise. Right now our love seat is my cocoon of choice; it gets a lot of sun, and it’s just compact enough to make the task of writing feel manageable. Then hours or days later, I use our kitchen table to hone what I’ve written; its space and hard edges make me feel focused, and the shift separates me from the me who wrote the earlier draft. Even when these two physical spaces aren’t available I try to find their equivalents,if only in my head.


Rashada Dawan – Director

*Colorful sticky notes

*A notebook/journal

*Flowers (I love all kinds)


*Laptop & printer

*A list of happy triggers & reminders of how to be the friend I want to have (taped to the wall behind me)

*Surrounded books to reference and my pics of loved ones, favorite celebrities and awards to remind myself that life is good and that I’m a good artist!

An office of what I believe my higher power would call “A Beautiful Mess”. ️


Shariba Rivers – Performer

-My script with highlights and notes from both the director and my own “Aha!” moments

-Notes from the dramaturgy session, which are separate from…

-Notes from the director

-Various highlighters to represent the various characters in the play

-Pencils and pens

-Cheap WINE at the ready because I keep late nights and I love a glass of wine

-Clear fingernail polish to keep me from biting my nails while I’m studying something

-Lavender in the middle of the table to soothe my soul

-A completed puzzle that my daughter and I did together (mostly my daughter; I was the moral support and the “help get me unstuck” contributor)

-A wine fund box because…see the cheap wine entry above

-The cords you see behind everything are the cords to my ring light, which helps me light my zoom meetings and my self tapes in this weird time of shelter in place

-My laptop with the new version of the script to compare to the original paper version on the desk


Sarah Ramos – Sound Design Consultant


I bought myself a corner desk back in January with the mind that it would be nice to have a space to work, during the “once or twice a month” that I work from home instead of the office. I had no idea that a few months later, we’d be living in such a different world, and I’d be spending such a significant amount of time here.
I’m extremely grateful to have a lot of natural light.

When I’m not working as an artist, I work as a “theatre consultant.”  So, I spend most of the workday in front of a computer, designing sound and video systems to go in new theatre buildings. Since I’m not up and about as much, I got myself a standing desk. It helps, but I don’t use it nearly as much as I should.

I share my space with my four year old son Terry, who will draw and play with Lego blocks at the table on the left, and a cat named Fortuna that will sit on the
scratching post to the right to look out the window. They are frequent contributors to keeping my Zoom backgrounds messy, but dynamic.



Cat Wilson- Projection and Lighting Design Consultant


– My dining room/kitchen table. I recently moved to Pittsburgh to become the new Lighting Design professor at Point Park University, and while I have been here now almost 9 months, my house is nowhere near unpacked. All my energy has gone to creating new classes and organizing my school life, so my office is still in boxes. Thus, when I was told we had to move our classes online, I was excited to have a strong push to get my office organized. Clearly that didn’t happen.

– Double screens helping me finish up grading for the semester, as well as allowing me to render much faster.

– Coffee… it’s my life blood. I have many fun mugs, most of which are either polka dotted or some sort of “crazy cat lady” message.

– Sewing machine in the background. I have been making masks for friends and neighbors.

– Behind the curtains I am growing veggies from seeds for the first time! And I haven’t killed them yet!

– Not pictured: The giant pile of papers, notes, grading documents, etc.

– Featured: My supervisor, Finn. He let’s me know when it is time to take a break and play. He also has a fun habit of guest starring on zoom calls, keeping my keyboard warm, and taste testing my charging cable. He is very helpful.





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Chicago, IL 60660


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