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By Margaret Atwood

 Adapted for the Stage by Jennifer Blackmer


Directed by RTE Co-Founder Karen Kessler

A world premiere adaptation of Atwood’s acclaimed novel
April 8th-May 20th 2018


Alias Grace takes a look at one of Canada’s most notorious murderers. In 1843, 16-year-old Grace Marks was accused of brutally murdering her employer and his housekeeper. Imprisoned for years, Grace still swears she has no memory of the killings. A doctor in the emerging field of mental health arrives to try to find out the truth of the matter. Alias Grace is a fascinating study of memory, culpability, and the shadowy spaces within the human mind.



Alias Grace, by Margaret Atwood, © 1996 O.W. Toad Ltd.Published by Nan A. Talese, an imprint of Doubleday BooksCurrently available in an Anchor Trade Paperback edition permission for adaptation and performance granted by Author.

Alias Grace is Jeff Recommended. 



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The Margaret Atwood story of ‘Alias Grace’ gets inside your head, Chris Jones: 2.5 stars

 “A killer central performance from the richly nuanced Ashley Neal. … “Alias Grace” already looks like a hit.”

The Arts Section: Rivendell Theatre Brings Margaret Atwood’s ALIAS GRACE to Stage, Kelly Kleiman & Jonathan Abarbanel: 2 recommendations

“A terrific production and the exact right production for Rivendell Theatre ensemble….Karen Kessler has directed a striking and creepy and thought-provoking and has an absolutely brilliant Grace Marks in Ashley Neal…I was riveted.” – Kelly Kleiman

“A wonderful portrayal of a wonderful character…Ashley Neal is at once powerful and subtle as Grace Marks.” – Jonathan Abarbanel

ALIAS GRACE Shines at Rivendell Theatre, Kate Scott

“Rivendell Theatre has created a stellar adaptation of Alias Grace, and it’s in no small part due to the efforts of playwright Jennifer Blackmer.”

Review: ALIAS GRACE at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, Erin Shea Brady

“I’m consistently excited by the programming at Rivendell. Artistic Director Tara Mallen and team mine their mission for brave, relevant works that are deep in conversation with the world we live in. Their tagline – “It’s Women’s Work” – rings true in their tenacity, their nerve and their aptitude for telling nuanced stories that serve to humanize and explore polarizing feminist issues and tropes. Karen Kessler’s intense production of ALIAS GRACE is no exception.”

Rivendell Theatre Ensemble Presents ALIAS GRACE, Amy Munice: Highly Recommended

 “…coming without the book in your mind’s eye may be a distinct advantage to get just how expert the direction (Director: Karen Kessler) and characters’ slides, akin to the glissando of a trombone, truly are.”

Margaret Atwood’s searing psychological thriller fit for the stage, Hedy Weiss: Highly Recommended

“Rivendell Theatre’s riveting world premiere … brilliantly adapted for the stage by Jennifer Blackmer — is reason to celebrate.”

Our current Margaret Atwood moment continues onstage with another tale of women’s disempowerment., Alex Huntsberger: 3 stars

“…there couldn’t be a better time for Rivendell Theatre Ensemble to be premiering a Margaret Atwood adaptation.”

A Review of Alias Grace at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, Kevin Greene

“As Grace, Ashley Neal is a conduit for her character’s memories, her gaze deep, her myriad anxieties bubbling in the depths”


ALIAS GRACE Review, Justin Hayford

“Each actor in the story’s central triangle brings an eye for nuanced detail turning (characters) into compelling conundrums.”


Rivendell’s “Alias Grace” a Powerful Psychological Study, Karen Topham

“Kessler’s direction is exquisite. It takes a powerful and cohesive vision to get the kind of performances we see here.”

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Review: “Alias Grace” (Rivendell Theatre Ensemble), Sarah Bowden: DIE RATING: d10 — “Worth Going To”

“Neal is particularly fine switching between the present, beaten down Grace, and the Grace of her teenage years… She sets the audience off-balance as she tells her tale, always indicating there is more to the tale than what she reveals…”

ALIAS GRACE Review, Carol Moore: Recommended

“The production, characterized by strong acting, is very well done.”

Fall Theater Top 10: ‘Minutes’ to ‘Margaritaville,’ too many titles for this list, Chris Jones

Margaret Atwood fans are snapping up tickets to this world premiere adaptation of an upstairs-downstairs murder mystery by the beloved Canadian writer of historical fiction.

Making a Monster: Rivendell Theatre Ensemble Continues Its Dedication to Female-Identified Artists With World Premiere of Margaret Atwood Adaptation, Danielle Levsky

” “We wanted to explore what happens when women are marginalized and how we maintain autonomy in situations where it is taken from us,” Tara Mallen continues. “Truth and personal identity can be explored in a really interesting way.” ”

Summer is ending but the fun goes on, Graham Meyer

“…the 1843 murder of housemaid Grace Marks’s employer and his housekeeper, and the amazing aftermath, when Marks claims to have no memory the day of the murder..”

17 Chicago theater shows to see in September, Kris Vire

“With The Handmaid’s Tale now firmly in the zeitgeist via Hulu, Rivendell debuts Jennifer Blackmer’s new stage adaptation of another Margaret Atwood novel.”

Sandburg Award Honors Margaret Atwood, Dave Eggers

“Authors Margaret Atwood and Dave Eggers will receive the 2017 Carl Sandburg Literary Award from the Chicago Public Library Foundation and Chicago Public Library. … The Carl Sandburg Literary Award is presented annually to an acclaimed author in recognition of outstanding contributions to the literary world and honors a significant work or body of work that has enhanced the public’s awareness of the written word.”

12 Novels to Read Before They Head to TV: These books are following in the footsteps of Big Little Lies and The Handmaid’s Tale, Isabella Biedenharn 

“…Mary Harron (American Psycho) will direct, and most of the creative team is female. “There’s a certain sensibility and relationship to female characters that’s probably easier to access for a female filmmaker,” says Polley.”

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An Adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace Is Heading to TV

“As with any Atwood adaptation, expect to see political themes, issues of gender and class, and questions regarding the treatment of mental illness woven throughout a plot that centers around the Canadian equivalent of Lizzie Borden.” – Caroline Hallemann

Community EVENTS

Thursday, September 7th at 8:00pm – League of Chicago Theater’s Theatre Thursday

Enjoy appetizers, cocktails and conversation pre-show with playwright Jennifer Blackmer and director Karen Kessler courtesy of Cellars Bar & Grill at 6:30PM in our rehearsal studio then sojourn next door to the theatre for an 8pm preview performance of Alias Grace.

Tickets only $15 online with the box office code “THTH”

Tuesday, September 12th at 7:00pm – Pop-up book club at Women & Children First with a scene from Alias Grace

Community partner, Women and Children First Bookstore will host a pop-up book club for anyone interested in discussing Alias Grace. Members of Rivendell’s artistic team will join to share a scene from their upcoming production. The book club will have the opportunity to both discuss the book as well as Rivendell’s process of bringing the novel to the stage. 


Friday, September 15 at 8:00pm – Planned Parenthood benefit night

See a show and support Planned Parenthood at the same time! $10 of every ticket sold will be donated to Planned Parenthood of Illinois. 

Thursday, September 28th at 8:00pm – Ladies Night

Following the performance, please join us in our rehearsal studio for wine, cheese and some great conversation!


Saturday September 23rd at 4:00pm – Matinee followed by Lobster Boil

Stay tuned for this event again next fall because it is Sold Out this year! Tickets to the lobster boil are sold are our annual Salon in the spring and $125 includes the matinee performance followed by a Lobster Boil – Midwestern style! The package includes an open bar, seafood hors d’ouevres, oyster bar, traditional Maine lobster boil and the best Midwestern dessert! Tickets are still available for the performance. 


Saturday September 30th – Town Hall Discussion: “Women, Incarceration, and Art”


The real Grace Marks was incarcerated for 30 years before she was released and mysteriously disappeared. The treatment she endured during her imprisonment is touched on in the novel and our adaptation of Alias Grace, and sparked our curiosity about the challenges that continue to face incarcerated women, especially those living in and near Chicago, and particularly those who are immigrants and/or women of color.

Join us on September 30th for a discussion with Lisa Wagner-Carollo and Hilary Williams, whose artistic work has become intertwined with the justice system. We’ll discuss the realities facing incarcerated women in Cook County and, along with Alias Grace’s new play dramaturg and associate director Jess Hutchinson, discuss the impact of art on incarceration: both in representation and through the rejuvenation of the human spirit that art makes possible.


Hilary Williams is a Chicago based actress, writer and educator. As an educator and facilitator Hilary has worked with TimeLine Theatre, CAPE, and Catharsis Productions.  She currently teaches theatre, improv and auto-biographical performance with Still Point Theatre Collective to incarcerated women at the Metropolitan Correctional Center of Chicago and Cook County Jail.

Lisa Wagner-Carollo is the founder of Still Point Theatre Collective and currently serves as the theater’s artistic director.  She founded Still Point in 1993, motivated by a strong desire to combine ministry, social justice, and theatre.

In 1998, Lisa began Still Point’s theatre program for women in prison at Chicago’s Metropolitan Correctional Center. Today, the program also includes workshops at Cook County Jail, Lake County Jail, and a performing company of women who have been released from prison.

Thursday, October 5th – Touch Tour and Captioned Performance

Join Rivendell for a touch tour of the set with the artists at 6:30pm followed by an 8:00pm performance with open captioning. $15 Tickets available with the code “ACCESS”.

Saturday, October 7th – Town Hall Discussion: The provocative questions in Alias Grace.

We are delighted to welcome clinical psychologist, Dr. Glen Veed, in conversation with Jess Hutchinson, new play dramaturg and associate director of Alias Grace. Join us as we grapple with some of the more provocative questions raised in Alias Grace such as …how does trauma make itself heard in our bodies; are we reliable narrators of our own memories, and how has psychology evolved from these early experiments in “talk therapy”?

Margaret Atwood was inspired by the uncertainty embedded in Grace Marks’s sensationalized life story. With this dialogue, we’ll seek to understand more about what we can truly know of another human’s experience, and what must remain conjecture.


Panelist Glen Veed, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist who has been working in the field of mental health for over 10 years. He currently works private practices in the western and northern suburbs. He specializes in treating anxiety disorders (e.g., Social Anxiety Disorder, OCD) using cognitive-behavioral therapy and he strongly believes in using psychological interventions that are supported by strong research evidence. Dr. Veed most often works with adolescents, but he has also worked extensively with adults and children. He received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.

Sunday, October 8th at noon –  Brunch & Salon followed by 3pm matinee

Join artistic director Tara Mallen for a champagne brunch and special matinee performance of Alias Grace, the world-premiere adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel by playwright Jennifer Blackmer.

The day begins at 12:00pm in a gorgeous, historic Andersonville home with great company, some bubbles, and a delicious brunch from Amazing Edibles. After brunch, former Women & Children First bookstore co-owner Linda Bubon will discuss the humor in Atwood’s writing, and share personal stories of hosting the author in Chicago and the relationship that was built from being an early supporter of her work.

We’ll head to the theatre for a special 3:00pm matinee performance of Alias Grace and a post-show discussion of the play with director Karen Kessler and playwright Jennifer Blackmer.

Very limited tickets are available at $150. Your purchase will support Rivendell Theatre Ensemble’s mission to advance the lives of women through theatre. A portion of the ticket price is a tax-deductible contribution.

Sunday, October 15th at 3:00pm – Additional Sunday 3pm matinee 

Audiences have been asking for Sunday matinees – get your tickets while you can!


Sunday, October 22nd at 3:00pm – Additional Sunday 3pm matinee 

Audiences have been asking for Sunday matinees – get your tickets while you can!

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Ashley Neal (Grace Marks) is thrilled to be back at Rivendell Ensemble Theatre, where she is an ensemble member and has appeared in many productions including WRENS, 26 Miles, The Walls, Be Aggressive, and others. Ashley most recently appeared in A Red Orchid Theatre’s The Nether where she also appeared in A Red Handed Otter. Other shows you may have seen her in include: London Wall, Men Should Weep and Stage Door with Griffin Theatre, The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle with Steep Theatre, as well as work with Chicago Dramatists Pine Box, Irish Theatre Company, Step Up, Jackalope Theatre, Victory Gardens, Strawdog, The Greenhouse Theatre, and others. Ashley is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago and The School at Steppenwolf.




Steve Haggard (Simon Jordan) was last seen at Rivendell as Evan in Winter. Chicago credits: 3C, Sender, The Mutilated, Accidentally Like A Martyr, The Aliens, Kimberly Akimbo and The Mandrake (A Red Orchid Theatre) Tribes (Steppenwolf); Doubt, Old Glory, The Subject Was Roses, and Our Town (Writers’); Funnyman, Season’s Greetings, and She Stoops to Conquer (Northlight); Wasteland (Timeline); King Lear, As You Like It and Romeo and Juliet (Chicago Shakespeare). Regional Credits: Arcadia, R+G are Dead, Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Tempest, Hay Fever, Comedy of Errors, and Ah Wilderness (American Players Theatre); Almost Maine (Milwaukee Repertory) and Fallen Angels (Indiana Repertory). He is an ensemble member of A Red Orchid Theatre and a graduate of The Theatre School at DePaul University.




Jane Baxter Miller (Mrs. Rachel Lavell) is a member of Rivendell Theatre Ensemble. RTE credits include American Wee-Pie; Falling: A Wake; Self-Defense, or death of some salesmen; Silence; Faulkner’s Bicycle; The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 ¾; and WRENS. Additional Chicago credits include Dandelion Wine with Chicago Children’s Theatre; The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer with Next Theatre; Mr. Kolpert with A Red Orchid Theatre; The Irish and How They Got That Way at the Mercury Theatre, Cowgirls with Northlight Theatre and Pump Boys and Dinettes at Theatre at the Centre. Her film credits include NBC’s Chicago Justice and an upcoming Captive State feature film. Jane is a singer and songwriter appearing on numerous recordings through Bloodshot Records. She composed the children’s musical Dirty Cowboy (with follow RTE ensemble member Victoria DeIorio) for Lifeline Theatre. Look for her critically acclaimed solo recording, Harm Among the Willows, in fancy places like Bloodshot Records and iTunes.




Ayssette Muñoz (Mary Whitney) is an ensemble member with Teatro Vista, where her credits include Wolf at The End of the Block; In the Time of the Butterflies; Between You, Me, and the Lampshade; Romeo & Juliet; and A View From the Bridge. Additional Chicago credits include Ah, Wilderness; Marisol (Goodman Theatre) and understudying in Short Shakes! Romeo & Juliet (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre). Regional credits include The Comedy of Errors; Richard III (Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival). Television credits include Chicago P.D. She was featured as one of the Chicago Tribune’s “Top 10 Hot New Faces of Chicago Theatre” in 2015 and is represented by Paonessa Talent Agency.




Maura Kidwell (Nancy Montgomery) is delighted to make her Rivendell debut in Alias Grace. In her eleven years acting in Chicago, Maura has enjoyed working on stage at Theatre Wit, The Gift, Erasing the Distance (ensemble member), and Court Theatre. Television credits include: Sirens, Chicago Fire, Chicago Justice, Mind Games and Boss. Film credits include: Canal Street and Tim Kasher’s debut feature No Resolution. Maura is an on-camera instructor at Vagabond School of the Arts. She is represented by Gray Talent Group and Principato-Young.




Amro Salama (Jeremiah/Jerome DuPont) is thrilled to be making his Rivendell Theatre debut. Chicago theatre credits include 16th Street Theater as Ali in the Jeff nominated play Yasmina’s Necklace, understudying at The Goodman, as well as staged readings for Silk Road Rising, Dramatists and International Voices Project. Regional credits: Illinois: Timberlake Playhouse; St. Louis: Mustard Seed Theatre; Los Angeles: Cornerstone Theatre, Theatricum Botanicum, Pacific Resident Theatre, The Hudson Theatre, and ACME; NYC: Variety Arts. TV and Film Credits include Ed Zwick’s The Siege, Chicago PD, Shameless, Modern Family, Law and Order, Children’s Hospital, Suite Life on Deck and an upcoming recurring role on the new Showtime series The Chi. Amro is represented by Gray Talent Group.




Drew Vidal (Thomas Kinnear) is delighted to make his Rivendell onstage debut, having started there as a Fight Director on Silence. Chicago acting credits include Famous Door, The Hypocrites, Defiant, Boxer Rebellion, Red Hen, Collaboraction and Tin Fish, among others. More recently: The Glass Menagerie (Human Race), The Book Club Play (Kansas University Repertory), Angels in America (Ball State University), and The Three Musketeers (Illinois Shakespeare Festival); and as a Fight Director, Solstice (A Red Orchid Theatre), Water by the Spoonful (Off Square Theatre Company), Holes and Dracula (Indiana Repertory). Drew leads the BFA acting program at Ball State University.




David Raymond (James McDermott) Chicago credits include Good People (Redtwist Theatre), It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play (Brightside Theatre), and Posh (u/s Steep Theatre, Jeff Award Winner–Best Ensemble). Bay Area credits include work with San Francisco Playhouse, Stanford Repertory Theater, and Custom Made Theatre Company’s 2015 production of This Is Our Youth for which David won an SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award (Best Principal Actor). He has also appeared in commercials and online content. David is a graduate of the School at Steppenwolf (2016) and is represented by Big Mouth Talent. 



Eric Slater (Simon Jordan for extension performances) has been a company member at RTE since 2006 and appeared in productions of Winter, Rasheeda Speaking, Self-Defense, Expecting Isabel and Silence. Other Chicago credits include Hand To God (Victory Gardens), Kill Floor (American Theatre Co.), Diary of Ann Frank (Writers Theatre), Feathers & Teeth and Smokefall (Goodman) among many others. Off & Off-Off Broadway: Juvenal Players (The Kitchen), The Dudley’s: A Family Game! (Theatre for a New City), Our Greatest Year (Kraine & The Brick), Original Cast Gloryana (The Public Theater & The York Theatre Co.), Cyanocitta (The Becket on Theatre Row). Regional credits: Fornicated From the Beatles (American Repertory Theatre), Experiment America (ICA Boston), Hunchback (DIA Detroit), Permanent Collection (Madison Rep), Our Greatest Year (Dobama Theatre). Film/ TV: Widows, Coming to You, and Chicago Fire.



Michael Szeles (Jerimiah / Dupontfor extension performances) last appeared onstage at Rivendell in the acclaimed production of Courtney Baron’s Eat Your Heart Out and has acted in Chicago at the Goodman, Famous Door, Center, and Chicago Shakespeare Theaters; in New York City, Off-Broadway at various theaters; and regionally across the country. In NYC, he was nominated for two New York Innovative Theatre Awards for Best Solo Performance for Goats; and Best Ensemble Cast for The Most Damaging Wound. He was the face of Motorola Razr Maxx at airports nationwide; the lead in the Indie feature film Fools (available online at Amazon Prime); and most recently acted opposite Minnie Driver and Frank Grillo in the 2017 feature film, The Crash.




Charlie Strater (Thomas Kinnear for extension performances) is an actor, painter and musician.  He last appeared onstage at Rivendell in the acclaimed production of Courtney Baron’s Eat Your Heart Out as Tom, the “jittery and easy-to-please” microscope salesman. Charlie’s vocals and guitar-playing will be featured in the upcoming winter production of Once at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora, Illinois.



Jennifer Blackmer (Playwright) is the 2015 PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theatre Award winner for Emerging American Playwright. Her plays have been seen in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Berkeley and St. Louis, and include Human Terrain, Unraveled, Alias Grace, Delicate Particle Logic, and Borrowed Babies. In 2016, Jennifer’s screenplay for Human Terrain won the prestigious Alfred P. Sloan Foundation prize through the Tribeca Film Institute, and the film is currently in pre-production. Jennifer has also been a finalist for the Sundance Film Institute Sloan Prize, the David Charles Horn Prize for Emerging Playwrights, the Fratti-Newman Political Play Contest, the Firehouse Festival of New American Theatre, and The O’Neill National Playwrights’ Conference, and her writing has been short-listed for both the Princess Grace Award and the Shakespeare’s Sister Fellowship. Her work has been developed by Seven Devils, Illinois Shakespeare Festival, The Playwrights’ Center, The Lark and Activate Midwest. Jennifer is Professor of Theatre and Associate Provost at Ball State University, and is resident playwright for Chicago’s Broken Nose Theatre. Visit Jennifer’s website at



Karen Kessler (Director) is excited to return to Rivendell Theatre, a company she was part of starting, to get to work on Alias Grace with Jennifer Blackmer. She is a member of the ensemble at A Red Orchid Theatre where she most recently directed a production of Jennifer Healy’s The Nether. Amongst Karen’s directing credits are: Wrens (1996 and 2012), The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek, Hamlet, and Ten Tiny Fingers, Nine Tiny Toes at Rivendell; Solstice, Blasted, Gagarin Way, and Mr. Kolpert at Red Orchid; A Number, God of Hell, Into the Woods, and War at other theatres around Chicago; Glengarry Glen Ross at the Northern Stage Ensemble in Newcastle, UK; Macbeth, Scapin, The Three Musketeers, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Taming of the Shrew and All’s Well That Ends Well at the Illinois Shakespeare Festival. Karen is a professor of directing and Shakespeare at Ball State University.


Brian Nitzkin (Associate Producer) has produced and developed new plays and musicals including the current Broadway production of 1984, Mother Justice by Michael Dice, Jr., The Fisher King by Michael Brennan & Mark Leydorf, Over The Top by Gary Conway, and US by Peter Gabriel & Maggie Levin.  For Richard Frankel Productions – Broadway:  The Producers, Hairspray, Little Shop of Horrors.  Off-Broadway:  My Old Lady, Stomp, The Water Coolers.  Brian also serves as Vice President of Business Affairs and International Operations for IM Global, where he has worked on over fifty films including Hacksaw Ridge, The Butler, Miles Ahead, and Silence. 

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 In

Production Team


Jenniffer Thusing (Stage Manager) is thrilled to be returning to Rivendell. She previously stage managed 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. In addition to having stage managed 14 productions at Chicago Dramatists, she also served as props designer, co-designed a set (Aiming for Sainthood at the Pritzker Pavilion) and is an artistic associate there. Jenniffer’s 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.

Jess Hutchinson (Dramaturg/Assistant Director) is a dramaturg and director. She earned her MFA at UT Austin, where she had the pleasure of collaborating with stellar writers on projects like 381 Bleecker, ‘ratio, Lyla School, 100 Heartbreaks, We Are StarStuff, and Enter A Woman, Pretty Enough. As Artistic Director of Chicago’s New Leaf Theatre, her favorite projects included Arcadia, The Dining Room, and world premieres of Burying Miss America, Lighthousekeeping, and The Man Who Was Thursday. She was proud to be the 2015-16 NNPN Producer in Residence at Kitchen Dog Theater in Dallas.

Melody Ekstrom (Research Dramaturg) most recently served as dramaturg on Remy Bumppo and Silk Road Rising’s co-production of Great Expectations. Prior to moving to Chicago, she served as an artistic apprentice at Cleveland Play House and an intern at the Goodman Theatre. Selected credits for dramaturgical support include for Mamaí Theatre Company, Minnetrista Cultural Center, and Sutton Foster, as a member of a student group that conducted pre-production research for Anything Goes at Roundabout Theatre Co. Melody is a proud alumna of Ball State University where, in 2013, she traveled to the Kennedy Center for her dramaturgical work on a production of the musical Spring Awakening.

Kathy Logelin (Dialect Coach) is happy to be home again at Rivendell, where she is an ensemble member. Past Rivendell productions include The Electric Baby, Precious Little, and These Shining Lives. Recent coaching credits include Moby Dick and Treasure Island at Lookingglass Theatre Co., Beauty’s Daughter with American Blues Theatre, Boeing Boeing with Indiana Repertory Theatre, Little Flower of East Orange with Eclipse Theatre Co., and Persuasion with Chamber Opera Chicago (Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2015). Kathy holds a B.S. in Acting from Illinois State University.

Elvia Moreno (Scenic Design) is a founding member of RTE and has done scenic design for Rivendell’s productions of Winter, Mary’s Wedding, The Walls, Fighting Words, Silence, Indulgences in the Louisville Harem, The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek, The Factory Girls, Holy Days, Mommapalooza! and WRENS; and the Rivendell/Powertap production of Hamlet. During the day, Elvia is a professional architect.

Janice Pytel (Costume Design) has been an ensemble member since 2010 and serves on Rivendell’s Literary Committee. She has a special interest in new play development, and has designed costumes for numerous world premiers by noted playwrights such as Bruce Norris and Moises Kauffman. Recent design credits include: Bootycandy (Windy City Playhouse); Song from the Uproar (Chicago Fringe Opera); Grizzly Mama, Dry Land, Body / Courage, Look, we are breathing, and WOMEN AT WAR (Rivendell Theatre Ensemble); The Low Down Dirty Blues (Milwaukee Rep); The Clean House (Remy Bumppo); Queen, Hand to God, Cocked, Hillary and Clinton, and Rest (Victory Gardens Theater); and The Qualms (Steppenwolf). In Chicago, Janice has worked with Court Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Writers’ Theatre, TimeLine Theatre, Next Theater, About Face Theater, Lookingglass, Chicago Shakespeare, Silk Road Rising, Piven, and others. Her Broadway credits are 33 Variations and I Am My Own Wife. Regionally she has worked with The Alley Theatre, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Kansas City Rep, Geffen Playhouse, Milwaukee Rep, Madison Rep, Alliance Theatre, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Centerstage, Arena Stage, Center Theatre Group, La Jolla Playhouse and others. She has designed costumes for opera, dance, film, and performance art, and her work has been seen in numerous cities across five continents. In addition to her freelance work, Janice is a personal and commercial stylist with her company Wardrobe Solutions, Inc.

Michael Mahlum (Lighting Design) is excited to be returning to Rivendell where he last designed Winter. A native of Denver, Colorado, Michael has designed lighting for dance, theatre and architecture all across the globe. Michael’s recent projects include lighting for theatre as well as events and architecture. Recent theatre credits include: Year of the Hiker, Of Mice and Men, Death of a Salesman, A Night of Innocent Games, Dustbowl Gothic, Dracula, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Macbeth. A selection of projects includes: The Fillmore – Philadelphia, The Gas Light Building Exterior – Milwaukee, Crayola Experience – Orlando, Choctaw Casino and Resort – Durant. Michael currently works for Visual Terrain Inc. as the Principal Designer in Chicago.

LJ Luthringer (Sound Designer) returns to Rivendell where he last was the Associate Sound Designer on Winter.

Robert Hornbostel (Associate Sound Designer) is excited to return to Rivendell where he has designed Winter and Body/Courage. Robert is a freelance sound designer, engineer, and composer who enjoys collaborating on engaging and visceral art throughout the Chicago area. Robert also collaborates with Porchlight Music Theatre, Eclectic Theatre, First Floor Theatre, On the Spot Theatre, New Millennium Theatre, Glitterati Productions, Roosevelt University, and Music Theatre of Wichita. Samples of his previous work can be found at Thanks and enjoy the show.

Lacie Hexom (Properties Design) is delighted to be making her Rivendell Ensemble debut. Other Chicago designs include; Ideation and Octagon (Jackalope Theatre), Mother of Smoke (Red Tape Theatre/Walkabout Theater). Regional theatre credits include; Steppenwolf, Goodman, Chicago Shakespeare, Zach Theatre, Glimmerglass Opera, Cleveland Playhouse, Dallas Theater Center, Arizona Theatre Company, Santa Fe Opera.

Robert Groth (Production Manager/Technical Director) Robert is excited to be working with Rivendell Theatre Ensemble for the first time. 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.

Marcus Carroll (Assistant Stage Manager) Recent work: Sub-ASM: The Firebirds Take the Field (Rivendell Theatre Ensemble) Cymbeline (Strawdog). ASM: Prowess (Jackalope) Schoolhouse Rock Live!, Skippyjon Jones (Emerald City). SM Intern: A Christmas Carol, 2666 (Goodman). SM: A Charlie Brown Christmas, The Wiz (Emerald City). Marcus is the Production Stage Manager for Emerald City Theatre.

Laura Duncan (Assistant Costume Design) is a recent graduate of Loyola University Chicago. During her time at Loyola, she costumed A Doll’s House (directed by Ann Shanahan) and Baltimore Waltz (directed by Maggie Cramer) under the mentorship of the incomparable Rachel Healy. This is Laura’s first time assisting Janice on a project. Laura is thankful to have this opportunity to work with such an incredible ensemble of artists at Rivendell. 

Abby Armato (Box Office Manager) joined the Rivendell team this past summer as a Production Intern. After graduating from Kenyon College where she studied Drama and English, she is thrilled to work at RTE and be a part of its empowering and thoughtful community. She feels honored by the opportunity to support both the artists and patrons by serving as Box Office Manager. She has a background in directing, dramaturgy, events, and content writing and hopes to continue to be an active part of Rivendell’s mission. 



Alias Grace production photos are courtesy of Michael Brosilow & Nathanael Filbert
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