JESS MCLEOD (Conceiver/Director) specializes in risky new work about America and recently served as Resident Director for the three-year run of Hamilton Chicago. Regional credits include Paola Lázaro’s There’s Always the Hudson (world premiere, Woolly Mammoth**paused for COVID), Kate Hamill’s Pride and Prejudice (Long Wharf), and Idris Goodwin’s Hype Man (Actors Theatre of Louisville). Chicago credits include Frances Pollock & Jessica Murphy Moo’s Earth To Kenzie (world premiere, Lyric Opera of Chicago); Stacy Osei-Kuffour’s Hang Man (world premiere), Hansol Jung’s Wolf Play (Gift Theatre); Suzan-Lori Parks’s Venus (Steppenwolf); Mara Nelson-Greenburg’s Do You Feel Anger?, Abe Koogler’s Fulfillment Center (A Red Orchid); Sharyn Rothstein’s Landladies (world premiere, Northlight); Idris Goodwin’s How We Got On (Haven); Short Shakes! Midsummer (Chicago Shakespeare Theater), Kevin Coval’s L-vis Live! (world premiere, Victory Gardens), and a reimagined Marry Me A Little (Porchlight Music Theatre). New York credits include The Unauthorized Musicology of Ben Folds (NYMF Director of Programming, 2005-08) and work by Joyce Carol Oates, Rachel Axler and Harrison David Rivers. She was the Goodman’s 2017 Michael Maggio Directing Fellow and a 2018 Artistic Fellow at Victory Gardens.
A passionate advocate of community engagement through the arts, McLeod has also developed six operas with community groups through the Lyric Opera of Chicago (Resident Director, Chicago Voices), musicals with incarcerated teens through Storycatchers Theatre and Fire Fire Gentrifier!, an art/audio walking tour excavating social justice history for the National Public Housing Museum. In addition to Mill Girls, she is currently developing the multi-disciplinary Redline Project with Blu Rhythm Collective, Keep Your Head Down with singer/songwriter Ari Afsar, and ICANTKEEPQUIET with pop artist MILCK. Represented by Michael Finkle, WME. www.jess-mcleod.com.
DIANA LAWRENCE (Composer/Lyricist) makes a habit of the unexpected, working across genres and disciplines to create unique musical points of view. She is a member of the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop, and her musical, Mill Girls, was granted a 2018/19 Incubator workshop at the O’Neill Theatre Center. Diana was commissioned to write original music for Steppenwolf Theatre’s 2016 premiere of Tracy Letts’ Mary Page Marlowe, and in the recent season, commissions came from Chicago Tap Theatre and North Shore Choral Society. Diana & the Dishes, her original music project, has shared the stage with artists such as Nellie McKay and Becca Stevens, and the band’s recent releases were produced by Rob Kleiner (Sia, Andra Day). As a music director, pianist and improviser, Diana has worked with The Second City, the Goodman Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, the American Musical Theatre Project, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and the Uptown Poetry Slam, one of the premiere spoken-word events in the country. Diana’s work is grounded in her belief that music should empower under-represented voices. From 2014-2019, she was a music director, composer and teaching artist with Storycatchers Theatre, an organization that creates original musical theatre in collaboration with incarcerated youth. As a member of the cross-genre vocal trio, Artemisia, Diana creates and performs staged concerts and workshops that empower the voices of girls and women. She currently teaches musical theatre composition at Chicago Dramatists. Diana is an alumna of the ASCAP Johnny Mercer Foundation Songwriters Project and the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance. www.dianalawrence.com.
SAMANTHA BEACH (Bookwriter) is an Austin-based writer, actor and teaching artist. Her plays include The Snare (Jackalope Theatre Company), Thing 100 (Eugene O’Neill Finalist 2014, Northwestern University’s Agnes Nixon Playwriting Award, 20% Theatre’s DarkRoom Workshop), Welcome to the Laborhood (a commission from Northlight Theatre’s Education Program) and short works Customer Service (That Thing!), Blubber (Actors Theatre of Louisville Solo Mio) and As Is (Living Newspaper Festival, Jackalope Theatre). She wrote, performed and co-created We the W(h)ee, a traveling play in miniature produced in living rooms, children’s homes and hospitals in tours across the country. As an actor, Sam has developed new work with Actors Theatre of Louisville, Northlight Theatre, Signal Ensemble Theatre, Next Theatre, Awkward Pause Theatre, Gowanus Arts & Production and Juilliard Drama. She also creates original content for churches and non-profits; bringing moments of wonder and creativity to religious services, company meetings and conferences with short dramatic pieces and videos. Sam taught playwriting and acting at the National High School Institute “Cherubs” Theatre Arts Program for 6 years. She is now the Education Director at Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre. Graduate of the Actors Theatre of Louisville Apprenticeship program and Northwestern University. www.samanthabeach.work.