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by Meghan Brown
Directed by RTE member Devon de Mayo


Featuring ensemble members Paula Ramirez and Eric Slater with Shariba Rivers, Daniella Pereira, and Collin Quinn Rice

World Premiere
January 10 – February 16, 2020


2019 Workshop Victory Gardens IGNITION Playwrights Festival
2018 Workshop Portland Center Stage - JAW Playwrights Festival
2016-17 Readings Crowded Outlet Theater (NYC)
dir. Wes Grantom

Kilroy’s List Honorable Mention
2019 Semi-Finalist National Playwrights Conference – Eugene O’Neill Theater Center

The show runs 90 minutes with no intermission.


Screenshot 2022-05-31 at 11-41-56 Rivendell Theatre Ensemble (_rivendelltheatre) • Instagr

With government leaders getting poisoned left and right, the Tasters have an important job—eating delicious, gourmet meals, and then waiting to see if they die. When rebellious Taster Elyse goes on a hunger strike, she kicks off a series of events that will change the course of history…while putting all of the Tasters’ lives in jeopardy.   In her sharp, energetic new play, Meghan Brown (The Pliant Girls) explores the nuances of political resistance, self-interest and individual action creating hope in the face of hopelessness.



Review: ‘The Tasters’ at Rivendell Theatre: Interesting play

"Playwright Meghan Brown has a lot to say in Rivendell Theatre Ensemble’s world premiere of Brown’s new play “The Tasters” (which was developed as part of Victory Garden’s 2019 Ignition Festival). With her pen, Brown takes aim at a very particular subset of potential 2020 voters — the complacent.

Read more here


The Tasters pictures dystopia—with a gourmet twist 

“Devon de Mayo’s production [is] charged and thought-provoking…creatively outlandish and guaranteed to leave inquisitive audiences with a lot to chew over…Highly Recommended!”

Read more here


Something to Chew On: A Review of The Tasters at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble

” A riveting work of theater… With devastating clarity, “The Tasters” mirrors the current moment — and the story it tells, which not long ago would have seemed far-fetched, now feels disturbingly like our own…Highly Recommended!” – NewCity Stage

Read more here


Political resistance, hope served up amid horrors in engrossing ‘The Tasters’

“The Tasters” confronts audiences with the kind of questions we all hope we never have to answer…Rivers’ Elyse has unmistakable, irresistible authority.” 

Read more here


Mystery, Tension and Strong Characters

“Beautifully directed by Devon de Mayo…this dystopian drama is very powerful. It’s filled with mystery, tension and a compelling story that stirs the imagination. Highly Recommended!” – Chicago Theatre Review

Read more here


THE TASTERS Review – Call to Humanity’s Barricades

“Superb performances… a top pick for anyone who worries, like playwright Brown, where humanity is headed.  Highly Recommended!”

Read more here

Community EVENTS


Friday, January 10, 2020 8:00pm
Saturday, January 11, 2020 8:00pm
Sunday, January 12 at 3PM
Thursday, January 16, 2020 8:00pm
Friday, January 17, 2020 8:00pm
Saturday, January 18, 2020 8:00pm



Wednesday, February 5, 2020 at 8:00pm
Wednesday, February 12, 2020 at 8:00pm
Sunday, February 16, 2020 at 3:00pm



Industry Performance (& NNPN Night)
Sunday, January 12 at 3:00PM

Following the performance join in the conversation with playwright Meghan Brown and director Devon de Mayo in our rehearsal studio


Edgewater  Night
Saturday, January 18th at 8:00pm

Neighbors from our Edgewater community are invited to join Rivendell Artistic Director, Tara Mallen, pre-performance in our rehearsal studio for wine, cheese, and great conversation followed by the 8pm preview performance.

Open Captioned Performance

Friday, February 7th at 8:00pm

Join Rivendell for an 8:00pm performance with open captioning. 50% OFF tickets available with the code “ACCESS”.


Saturday, February 8th (after 4:00pm matinee)

Our town halls happen after select Saturday matinees, and are an essential touchstone for our organization to extend the conversation from the stage to the community. Members of the artistic team moderate a panel discussion on a topic from the production. Panelists help field questions, present observations, and participate in supporting a thoughtful, in-depth dialogue for all involved. Audience participants need not be present for the Saturday matinee and are welcome to join the conversation following the performance.


Topic: More Than Just Food: Discussing the political, revolutionary, and culinary implications of THE TASTERS



Kelly Howe teaches at Loyola University Chicago and co-organizes a Chicago collective at the intersection of Theatre of the Oppressed, activism, and organizing. She co-edited (with Julian Boal and José Soeiro) The Routledge Companion to Theatre of the Oppressed and (with Julian Boal and Scot McElvany) Theatre of the Oppressed in Actions. Kelly’s writing also appears in Theatre Journal, Theatre Topics, Theatre Survey, Text and Performance Quarterly, Comparative Drama, etc. She served twice as President of the organization Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed (PTO), co-organized three of its past international conferences, and is co-organizing PTO’s 25th conference in 2020 in Chicago. Kelly also writes about theatre and performance for reproductive justice and has dramaturged and/or directed a range of plays in the Chicago area and elsewhere. Kelly is an advisory board member for Jana Sanskriti International Research and Resource Institute, West Bengal, India.



Freedom Nguyen is a Vietnamese American writer and political food blogger with He is fascinated when food becomes socio-political capital and explores how food takes on a transnational identity as people become more and more connected. His writing hopes to challenge the idea of “us” and to defy the notion of “other” within the context of cuisine.




Amanda Dykema-Engblade earned her Ph.D. in Social Psychology and is an Associate Professor of Psychology and Department Chair of Psychology at Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU).  Amanda teaches a course on The Psychology of Food focusing specifically on consumption stereotypes (i.e., judgments of others based on what and how much they eat).  Amanda is a vegan, a marathoner and lives in Chicago with her husband, two children, and two dogs.



Nick Rabkin has a background in the arts and activism. He was the executive director of the Organic Theater for four years, then deputy commissioner of cultural affairs in the administration of Harold Washington. He spent a decade at the MacArthur Foundation, where he led the it’s arts program, then director of the Center for Arts Policy at Columbia College Chicago and a senior research scientist at NORC at the University of Chicago.. He is currently working on a research and consulting project with Rivendell and several other theatres about how they select the shows they choose to produce. He’s been active in progressive political matters as an activist and organizer throughout his life. He is a leader in Indivisible here in the Edgewater neighborhood and an active volunteer in Marie Newman’s campaign for the Democratic nomination for Congress in the 3rd district 
(SWside and suburbs).


Dan Milsky received his Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Illinois/Chicago in 2004.  He has been a professor at Northeastern Illinois University since 2003.  Dan’s research is focused primarily on issues relevant to environmental ethics and the philosophy of ecology. He teaches courses in applied ethics, including medical ethics, environmental ethics, philosophy of sex, and most recently, a seminar in the philosophy of food.


Paula Ramirez (Bianca)
Paula is is thrilled to be back at Rivendell Ensemble Theatre, where she is an ensemble member and was last seen in their world première productions of Laura and the Sea and Women at War. Originally from Venezuela, Paula has spent the last two years touring the country performing scripted and improvised material as a Sexual Assault Prevention Educator with Catharsis Productions. Other Chicago stage credits include Another Word for Beauty (Goodman Theatre; ensemble + u/s), Fefu and her Friends (Goodman Theatre/Rivendell Theatre as part of the Latino Theatre Festival), Heat Wave (CBD/Steppenwolf Garage), PUTAS!, Crossed, GL2010 and Gen Sex (Teatro Luna). Recent TV/Film credits include Mixtape (Netflix), Chicago Fire (NBC) and Brujos (OTV).






Eric Slater (The General)
Eric is happy to return home to Rivendell where he is an ensemble member. Rivendell: Cal In Camo, Alias Grace, Winter, Self Defense, Expecting Isabell and Silence. Chicago: Small Jokes About Monsters (16th Street Theatre); Support Group for Men (Jeff Award Nomination: Ensemble), Feathers and Teeth, Smokefall (Goodman Theatre);The Doppelganger: (Steppenwolf Theatre Co.); Tiny Beautiful Things and Hand to God (Victory Gardens Theater); Kill Floor (American Theatre Co.); and The Diary of Anne Frank (Writers Theatre). Off-Broadway credits include Juvenal Players (The Kitchen); The Dudley’s: A Family game! (Theatre for a New City); Our Greatest Year (Kraine and The Brick); Original cast of Gloryana (Workshop Productions at The Public Theatre and The York Theatre Company); and Cyanocitta (The Beckett on Theatre Row). Regional credits include American Repertory Theatre, Boston Institute of Contemporary Art, Detroit Institute of Arts Museum, Madison Repertory Theatre, Grand Arts and the Dobama Theatre. Film: Widows and Coming To You. TV: Fargo and Chicago Fire.



DANIELLA PEREIRA (Corrine) is thrilled to be making her Rivendell Theatre debut. Some of her most recent credits include Elizabeth Rex (OPFT), Bus Stop (Eclipse Theatre); Women Laughing Alone With Salad (Theater Wit); The Taming of The Shrew (OPFT) and Letters Home (Griffin Theatre). She is also an ensemble member of Strawdog Theatre, most recently appearing in The Effect and Cymbeline. TV credits include Empire (FOX) and Chicago PD (NBC). She is represented by Gray Talent Group.








Shariba Rivers (Elyse)
Shariba is thrilled to finally work with Rivendell Theatre on its production of The Tasters. She has worked with various theater companies around Chicago and, most recently, the Geva in Rochester, NY. This year’s stage credits include Hoodoo Love (Raven Theatre), Black Ballerina (Fleetwood Jourdain) and Small Jokes About Monsters (16th Street Theater). TV credits include Empire, Chicago PD, Chicago Med, and The Chi. More at




Collin Quinn Rice (Lt. Sawyer)
Colin is simply charmed to be working with Rivendell for the first time! They were most recently seen in All Quiet on the Western Front (Red Tape Theatre), Mike Pence Sex Dream (First Floor Theater), Trans Voices Cabaret (Steppenwolf LOOK OUT Series), The Harvest (Griffin Theatre Co.), Hatfield & McCoy (The House), Le Switch (About Face Theatre), Masque Macabre (Strawdog Theatre Company), Going to a Place… (Redtwist Theatre), The Ode at Pint’s End (Birch House Immersive), and The Hilary Duff Project (MCL Chicago). Film credits include The Right Swipe and The Play Cycle. Collin is a graduate of Northwestern University, and they are represented by Big Mouth Talent. Collin also moonlights as a headshot photographer, and their work can be found at


Meghan Brown.png
Headshot Devon de Mayo.jpg

Meghan Brown (Playwright)
Meghan Brown is an award-winning playwright, librettist, and screenwriter based in Los Angeles. Her work has been developed at Victory Gardens Theater, Portland Center Stage, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Getty Villa. Full-length plays include The Pliant Girls (winner of the 2014 Ovation Award for Playwriting for an Original Play), The Kill-or-Dies (Max K. Lerner fellowship winner), What Happened While Hero Was Dead, and Shine Darkly, Illyria. Meghan wrote the lyrics for the song cycle Untuned Ears Hear Nothing but Discord which premiered at Lincoln Center as part of In Need of Music: The Songs of Ben Toth. Current projects include raging rock musical These Girls Have Demons with Pittsburgh CLO (music by Sarah Taylor Ellis) and wild west hypertheater play (with music!) (and PUPPETS) Cowboy Elektra with Rogue Artists Ensemble (music by Z. Lupetin). She’s thrilled to be making her Chicago debut with The Tasters at Rivendell.





Devon de Mayo (Director)
Devon de Mayo directed the world premiere of The Scientific Method by Jenny Connell Davis for Rivendell Theatre and returned as director and movement director for Laura and the Sea. Other Directing credits include: If I Forget (Victory Gardens Theatre); First Love is the Revolution (Steep Theatre); Women Laughing Alone With Salad (Theatre Wit); The Burn (Steppenwolf Theatre), Harvey (Court Theatre), Sycamore (Raven Theatre), You on the Moors Now (The Hypocrites), Animals Out of Paper (Shattered Globe Theatre), You Can’t Take it With You, and Lost in Yonkers (Northlight Theatre), Jet Black Chevrolet (side project); Compulsion and Everything is Illuminated (Next); Roadkill Confidential, The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler, and Clouds (Dog & Pony). Directing and devising credits: Don’t Look Back/Must Look Back (Pivot Arts); Guerra: A Clown Play (La Piara, Mexico); The Whole World is Watching, As Told by the Vivian Girls and The Twins Would Like to Say (Dog & Pony). She received her MFA from Middlesex University in London and did further studies at the Russian Academy of Dramatic Arts in Moscow and the Indonesian Institute for the Arts in Bali, Indonesia.


Production Team


Lucia Lombardi (Production Stage Manager) has over forty years of experience in both the commercial and not for profit theatre communities. Her national touring credits include The Lion King, Billy Elliot, Love Loss and What I Wore and Scrooge The Musical. Here in Chicago she has worked at the Broadway Playhouse, the Drury Lane Theatre, the Royal George Theatre, the Goodman Theatre, the Briar Street Theatre, Northlight, Victory Gardens, Porchlight, the Ivanhoe Theatre, the Body Politic Theatre, the Organic Theatre Company, the Remains Theatre Company and Friends of the Zoo. Lucia has recently joined the ensemble and is delighted to now call Rivendell her home.

Yeaji Kim (Projections and Scenic Design)
Yeaji Kim is a scenic and projections designer based in Chicago, originally from South Korea. She is excited to work with Rivendell for the first time. Her recent credits in Chicago are Howards End (set & projections), Bloomsday (projections), Skin Of Our Teeth (set & projections) with Remy Bumppo Theatre, The Effect (set & projections) with Strawdog, Art on the Merchandise Mart – 7 Soliloquie (projection illustrations). Yeaji also worked on the operas outside Chicago area El Retablo de Maese Pedro (Bard College, NY) as a set designer and assisted Opera Gloria – A Pig Tale (Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY). Her love of combining drawing and video projections has brought her frequent collaborations with a variety of artists. She received her MFA from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. More information at

Heather Sparling (Lighting Design) is grateful to be working with Rivendell again after Scientific Method and Laura and the Sea. Recent design credits include The Fly Honey Show (The Inconvenience), Empower Youth! (Lyric Unlimited); The Burn (Steppenwolf); Twelfth Night and The Heart of Robin Hood (Door Shakespeare), Yardbird (Hackney Empire, London), La Havana Madrid (Teatro Vista), Longer! Louder! Wagner! (Lyric Opera of Chicago), The Way She Spoke (Greenhouse Theater). Heather is a proud alum of Boston University. For more information on her work, visit

Hannah Foerschler (Original Music and Sound Design)
Hannah Foerschler (Sound Designer) is excited to return to Rivendell for the top of the 2020 season! Hannah holds a BA in Music from Kenyon College, and she apprenticed with The Purple Rose Theatre Company for their 2015-2016 season. This past August, Hannah graduated from the MA in Sound Arts & Industries program at Northwestern University. Recent sound credits include: Laura and the Sea (Rivendell Theatre Ensemble); Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins (Strawdog Theatre Company); Women of 4G (Babes With Blades); Seagulls (Steppenwolf LookOut & The Sound); Unwell: a Midwestern Gothic Mystery (Hartlife NFP); 3:35PM and Candide! (Mudlark Theatre); The Death of Gaia Divine (Momentary Theatre); Spirits to Enforce (The Passage Theatre).

Becca Duff (Costume Design)
Becca Duff has been making theatre in and around Chicago since graduating from Dominican University in 2014.  Her costume designs have been featured at ETA Creative Arts Foundation, AZUSA Productions, and Dominican University. She devised and directed “Tele-“ with Erasing the Distance as part of DocFest 2019 and has recently performed with Pride Films and Plays, Williams Street Repertory, and Citadel Theatre as well as many others. Love to Alli.

Sarah Slight (Dramaturg)
Sarah Slight is the Artistic Programs Manager at Northlight Theatre and a freelance dramaturg. Most recent dramaturgy credits include the world premieres of The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon, dir. Jessica Thebus (Northlight Theatre), First Love is the Revolution by Rita Kalnejais, dir. Devon de Mayo (Steep Theatre), The Burn by Philip Dawkins, dir. Devon de Mayo (Steppenwolf Theatre, SYA), and Welcome to Jesus by Janine Nabers, dir. Will Davis (American Theater Company). Alongside Jess McLeod, she is the co-adaptor of a condensed version of The Project(s) by PJ Paparelli and Joshua Jaeger, which toured
through Chicago Public Schools and three conferences in 2017. For five years, Sarah served as a producer, literary manager and dramaturg at American Theater Company. She has also worked as a literary associate at Williamstown Theatre Festival and literary manager at Red Eye Theatre in Minneapolis. MFA Columbia University, BS University of Evansville.

Deanna Meyers (Assistant Director)
Deanna Myers {she/her} is thrilled to be working with Rivendell this season. Myers is a Chicago and New York based theatre artist, educator, story-teller, and writer. She has had the privilege of working with Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Playmakers Laboratory (formerly Barrel of Monkeys), Catharsis Productions, Writers Theatre, The Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, 2nd Story Chicago, and Actors Gymnasium. Many thanks to Devon and this amazing team!

Sara Beaman (Production Manager)
Sara is excited to be working with Rivendell for the first time. She works as a freelance stage and production manager and as Production Stage Manager for Theater Unspeakable. Sara has stage managed regional and national tours of TU’s original productions Moon Shot, The American Revolution, and Superman 2050. Based in Chicago, Sara is also the Production Manager for Theater on the Lake: The Chicago Summer Theater Festival. She is originally from North Dakota and has a B. A. in Theatre Direction and Management from the Johnny Carson School of Theatre & Film at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln.

Kristen Osborn (Outreach Coordinator)
Kristen is a Chicago-based director and theatre maker who is passionate about sparking compassion through storytelling. Currently, Kristen serves as 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 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,) Sex With Strangers (dir. Kimberly Senior, Geffen Playhouse,) Relativity (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.) Kristen’s previous work with the Ojai Playwrights Conference, serving as Artistic Associate and Associate Director, has ignited in her an insatiable appetite for new play development processes. She is a graduate of UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television.

Tara Mallen (Rivendell Artistic Director / Producer) 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.

Jackie Banks-Mahlum (Rivendell Managing Director / Producer) is an arts manager, producer, and educator based in Chicago. 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 Institute of the Arts.


The Tasters production photos are courtesy of Michael Brosilow and feature ensemble members Paula Ramirez and Eric Slater, with Daniella Pereira and Shariba Rivers. 
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Video: The Tasters playwright Meghan Brown speaks to Dramaturg Sarah Slight about the play.
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