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A live, online production
November 6 – 26, 2020

Stage Left Theatre presents the online production of the play

the project(s)
written by PJ Paparelli and Joshua Jaeger 

November 6 – 26, 2020
On ZOOOoooooommmm!

The Project(s) is dedicated to the residents of Chicago’s public housing.

Production Team

Director: Christian Helem

Stage Manager: Devonte Washington
Artistic Producer: Brittany Gillespie*
Costume Design: Brenda Winstead*
Projection Design: Christian Helem and James Yost*
Dramaturgy: Antwon Funches
Streaming Technology: Drew Martin*
Graphics: David Dowd

ASM/Running Crew: Lily Fitzsimmons

Box Office Manager: Kenneth Martin

Website Design: Vance Smith



Jaegen Ellison (Actor 6, Mr. Harris and Mr. Amey, Sgt. Mark Van Giesen, Donny Ambrose)

Jaegen Ellison recently graduated with his B.F.A in Acting and is continuing to take one day at a time because tomorrow is not promised so while he’s here he is going to live in the moment and spread love each chance he gets. 


Darren Jones (Actor 8, Dr. Timuel Black, Carl Bryant)

Darren is a veteran stage, television and voice actor based in Chicago. His recent stage credits include LABYRINTH (Broken Nose Theatre); KING LEAR (Redtwist Theatre); ONE 4 THE ROAD, NEVER THE MILK AND HONEY (MPAACT); CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, THE HEAVENS ARE HUNG IN BLACK (Shattered Globe Theatre Company), where he is an Artistic Associate; RUTHERFORD’S TRAVELS (Pegasus Theatre Company); KATRINA: MOTHER-IN-LAW OF THE ALL! (Interrobang Theatre Company), among others. Film/Television credits include CHI-RAQ, HOOD, ROAD TO FREEDOM, CHICAGO PD (NBC), CHICAGO FIRE (NBC). Darren has done commercials and internet ads for STATE FARM INSURANCE, NORTHWESTERN MEDICINE, RIVERS CASINO, BROOKFIELD ZOO and METLIFE along with training and industrial films for CAREERBUILDER, ACCENTURE, NORTHWESTERN MEDICAL, WALGREEN'S AND SEARS AUTO CENTER. Current projects include the YouTube web series BLACKBOARD JUNGLE for OpportuniTi Productions, independent film SPOKES- due for 2020 release. Darren is represented by Lily's Talent Agency

Renee Lockett (Actor 2: Miss Hallie Amey, Leona Parks)

Renee was most recently seen in Story Theatre’s  zoom production of Laying  on of Hands. She was last live on stage in Lookingglass Theatre’s Her Honor Jane Byrne, which COVID closed the same week it opened. She is grateful to have been on and around Chicago stages and film sets for 30+ years, and  is totally tickled that it’s not over yet. Take that pandemic! Renee is honored to have received a 2020 non equity Jeff award for her performance in the Den Theatre’s Sugar in our Wounds. Renee is represented by DDO Artists Agency. 

RjW Mays (Actor 3: Miss Beatrice Harris, Jacki Greer)

RjW Mays is thrilled to be doing Theatre during this pandemic with Stage Left.  Rj has performed at several theaters aroundThe Chicagoland area. ETA, Steppenwolf, Raven, Northlight and Interrobang to name a few. She is also an ensemble member at Broken Nose Theatre where she is a recipient of the BTAA and Joseph Jefferson Award (ensemble) for “Kingdom” and “Plainclothes”. Rj has also appeared on Television on Chicago PD, The Chi and Southside. Commercials Trident and Lunchables. Expression of self through Art is a fundamental truth in my life. Determination never quits.


Danyelle Monson (Actor 5, Young Miss Harris, Amey, Vickie Harris, Deborah Morgan)

Danyelle Monson recently relocated to Chicago and is happy to be working with Stage Left Theatre! Chicago Theatre credits include: Countess Dracula, Placing Home, and Titus Andronicus. She received her BFA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her collegiate theatre credits include: In The Blood, Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea, St. Lucy’s School for Girls Raised by Wolves, and Romeo and Juliet. Her screen credits include The Chi (Showtime), Running Back, Still, and Delivered The Webseries (Protagonist Pizza Productions). Danyelle is grateful for the gift of Theatre and dedicates each performance to her beloved niece Takiya Holmes. She is represented by Lily’s Talent Agency. 

Shariba Rivers (Actor 4, Annie R. Smith)

Shariba is excited to work with Stage Left again. Previous Stage Left credits are Insurrection: Holding History and Bad Date (LeapFest XIV). Her most recent performances just prior to shelter-in-place include The Tasters (Rivendell Theatre) and Hoodoo Love (Raven Theatre), for which she earned a Jeff nomination and a BTAA nomination. Online productions include Other Rockpools, A Laying on of Hands, Comb Your Hair (Or You’ll Look Like a Slave) and Landscape in DePaul’s Wrights of Spring. Shariba continues to work on season three of the audiodrama, Unwell: A Midwestern Gothic Mystery, as one of the main characters, Lily Harper, for which she recently won an AudioVerse award, and is anticipating release of Spokes, an independent short film, later this year. TV credits include Empire, Chicago PD, Chicago Med, and The Chi. Shariba is represented by Gray Talent Group. More at

Risha Tenae (Actor 1: Doreen Ambrose) 
Risha is a graduate of the Alabama School of Fine Arts, Miami University B.A. and California

Institute of the Arts M.F.A. Theater Programs. Featured credits are: Urban Love Story(Ms.Marion), Frankenstein(Caroline), The Seagull(Masha), Julius Caesar(Portia), Taming of the  Shrew(Curtis/Widow), Blues for and Alabama Sky(Angel), In the Blood(Welfare/Bully), Three Sisters(Irena), The Colored Museum(Woman #3), King Henry V(Kate), Don’t Make Me Over (Cissy Houston), Single Black Female(SBF #2). Risha is also a Teaching Artist who taught K-12 Theater in Los Angeles and is currently teaching and at the Chicago High School for the Arts. Represented by Big Mouth Talent.

Christopher Wayland (Actor 7, Dr. Bradford Hunt, Steve Jones) 

Christopher is thrilled to return to Stage Left Theatre where he was previously seen as Nat Turner/Ova Seea Jones in Insurrection: Holding History and as David in The Luckiest People. In the Chicago area, he has worked at Marriott Theatre, Porchlight Music Theatre, First Folio Theatre, 16th Street Theater, Oak Park Festival Theatre, Raven Theatre, Griffin Theatre, Teatro Vista, Haven, and Lifeline Theatre. Regionally he has worked at TheatreWorks, Spotlighters Theatre, Fells Point Corner Theatre, and Baltimore Shakespeare Factory. His television credits include neXt (FOX), Chicago Med (NBC), and APB (FOX). Christopher received an MFA in Acting from The Theatre School at DePaul University, and is represented by Gray Talent Group. Many thanks to the brave and beautiful residents of Chicago Public Housing for sharing your stories.

Sharayah Valerisse Wallace (Understudy)
Sharayah is a recent graduate from Ouachita Baptist University. She received her BFA in Musical Theatre and is now teaching Drama at Calvary Academy in North Little Rock, Arkansas. Her latest roles include Heather Duke in Heathers (The Royal Theatre), Lucille in Junie B. Jones the Musical (Ouachita Baptist University), and Ali in Mamma Mia (The Studio Theatre). Sharayah is honored to be able to work with Stage Left Theatre all the way from Arkansas in the telling of these significant and relevant stories. 


Christian Prins Coen (Understudy & M.W. Newman [video]) 
Christian Prins hails from a tribe of multi-media artists and storytellers with roots from South Africa to the America’s to the Philippines. Upon receiving his Bachelor of Arts in Theatre at Arcadia University, he promptly evacuated that facility; and moved on to study Improv and Sketch comedy at the Second City in Chicago. Currently you catch him studying the Meisner Technique at The Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City. Christian Prins finds solace in continuous motion and lives by the creed, “Movement is growth & Stagnation is damnation”. He is eternally grateful for the opportunity to immerse and connect with people via the art of storytelling. 

*The company play smaller characters as well as the play's Interviewers 

PJ Paparelli (Co-Playwright)

PJ was Artistic Director of American Theater Company (ATC) from 2007 until 2015, when he died from injuries sustained in a car accident at 40, even as The Project(s) was in its world premiere run at ATC. PJ received a BFA in Directing from Carnegie Mellon University and pursued graduate studies in acting at the Moscow Art Theatre School. He was a member of SDC and was represented by Creative Artists Agency in New York. He worked in education/administration at The Public Theater, Pittsburgh Public, and Circle Rep, and directed and/or taught Shakespeare at DePaul University, The Juilliard School, the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College, North Carolina School of the Arts, University of Alaska, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Catholic University, University of Pennsylvania, and Johns Hopkins University. He served on the artistic advisory board for the Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis. From 1998-2004, he served as the Associate Director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, DC. From 2004-07, he was the Artistic Director of Perseverance Theatre in Juneau, Alaska. In 2002, PJ conceived, co-wrote, and directed columbinus, a documentary-style play about modern adolescence through the lens of the Columbine shootings. During PJ's tenure at American Theater Company, he developed and produced many world or regional premieres including Dan LeFranc’s The Big Meal, Stephen Karam’s The Humans, and Ayad Akhtar’s Disgraced, which received the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. 

Joshua Jaeger (Co-Playwright)

Joshua is a storyteller and musician from Louisville, Kentucky. As a producer, playwright, and developer of new plays, he has had the pleasure to work at or alongside The Public Theater, Steppenwolf, and American Theater Company. Aside from his work in theatre, Joshua is an in-demand live and recording drummer. He spent seven years as Angel Olsen's bandleader, and was featured on her last five studio albums. Most recently, he can be heard on the latest Fleet Foxes release Shore. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Christian Helem (Director/Co-Projection Design)

Christian is happy to be making his Stage Left debut with such an important piece. His artistic belief is that if it doesn't scare him a little it isn't worth doing. That is why the imaginative, musical and complex theatre calls to him. His directing credits include: the musical 21 Chump Street, the most queer version of The Glass Menagerie, and assistant directing for A View From the Bridge and Middle Passage. He's an Alum of UIC where he wrote and produced his own play and was seen onstage for many projects. He is the Associate Director of the Chicago August Wilson Monologue Competition and teaches playwriting at ChiArts H.S.

Devonte E. Washington (Stage Manager/Sound Design)

Devonte is excited to join Stage Left Theatre again for this production. He has worked with Dandelion Theatre  ,MPAACT, Teatro Vista, Congo Square,Shattered Goble Theatre, See Every Monster Inc.,Theater Wit, Otherworld Theater, Idle Muse Theater, Pegasus Theater, The Runaways lab with Pop Magic productions, Aurora Theater Works, Nothing Without A Company and Court Theatre. He Is also an Artistic Associate with Shattered Globe Theater Company. He works throughout the city on multiple events and shows. 


Brittany Gillespie* (Artistic Producer)

Brittany is a Chicago based freelance director, casting director, and event producer. She is proud to be an ensemble member and former casting director of Stage Left Theatre. Directing credits include: Tall Tales Twice Told (Theater at Monmouth); 12 Angry Men played by women (Pride Films and Plays); Un-Likeable (Ski-Productions); Pasquinade Parade (Crowd Theater); The Velveteen Rabbit (Millbrook Playhouse); and various pieces for Drekfest (Stage Left Theatre) & Big Shoulder Festival (American Theatre Company). Assistant director credits: The Source (Route 66); What of the Night? (Stage Left & COR); The Body of an American (Stage Left Theatre); Bruise Easy (American Theatre Company); Love in the Time of Bumblehive (Leapfest).Brittany spends her time outside the theater working as a tour guide, immersive event producer, farmers market manager and scavenger hunt host.

She is a graduate of the University of Arkansas, where she majored in theatre with a concentration in directing and a minor in German.

Brenda M. Winstead* (Costume Designer/Company Manager)

Stage Left credits include What of the Night, Firestorm, Kingsville, Rabbit, Body of an American, and Principle Principal.  Other Chicago area design credits include Nice Work if You Can Get It (Jeff nominated), Spamalot, Guys and Dolls, The Wiz, Hello Dolly (Theatre at the Center), Oliver! (Light Opera Works), The Price (Shattered Globe) The Water Engine (Theatre Seven). Regional Credits include Mousetrap(Peninsula Players), All Shook Up (Forestburgh Playhouse), Waiting for Godot (Connecticut Repertory Theatre), Three Musketeers (Black Hills Playhouse) and Carousel (Sierra Repertory Theatre). Brenda has an MFA from the University of Connecticut and is a proud member of USA 829. 

Antwon Funches (Dramaturg)

Antwon is a Chicago based theatre, music, and visual artist who centers Black, urban narratives and experiences. As The Project(s) Dramaturg, Antwon outlines decades of segregation throughout the U.S.  and Chicago, contextualizing the play.

James Yost*(Co-Projection Design/Artistic Director)

Jim has over 20 years of directing and producing experience. Most recently, he served as Co-Artistic Director of Interrobang Theatre Project in Chicago. During his tenure there, Jim directed several critically acclaimed productions including: The North Pool, by Rajiv Joseph (Joseph Jefferson Award nomination for Best Director and Best Production); Really Really, by Paul Downs Colaizzo (one of the best shows in Chicago in 2015 - Chicago Tribune); and most recently Edward Albee’s The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? (“a rather fascinating new storefront Chicago production” – Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune). Before moving to Chicago, Yost founded and served as producing artistic director for BareBones Theatre Group in Charlotte, NC for twelve years.

Drew Martin*(Streaming Technology/Managing Director)

Drew has worked for over 30 years in Chicago theatre as a director, producer, manager, actor, designer, technician and educator. He was Artistic Director of Stage Left (SLT) in the 1990’s, Interim Co-Artistic Director 2008-9, and is currently Interim Managing Director. Among shows Drew directed, eleven were nominated and six honored with Jeff Awards. Drew earned a Jeff for directing SLT’s "Leander Stillwell" and was nominated for "Police Deaf Near Far." His passion for new work is reflected in World Premiere productions such as "The Firestorm,"  "The Fisherman," "The Day of Knowledge," "One Fine Day," "Prairie Lights," "Sing for Your Supper," and "Dapples and Grays" (all at SLT), as well as dozens of staged readings at Chicago Dramatists and elsewhere. Other directing work includes "All’s Well That Ends Well," "A Midsummer Night’s Dream," "Twelfth Night," "Julius Caesar," "Out of Spite: Tales of Survival in Sarajevo," "Escape from Happiness," and "In White America." He is a graduate of Dartmouth College and studied with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Drew produces corporate meetings and events worldwide through his company, Polaris Productions.

Katelyn Boerke (House Manager/Running Crew)

Katelyn is a high school senior at Loyola Academy. She is the current stage manager at Loyola and is the president of the choir program. In college, she plans to pursue an engineering degree, but hopes to keep theater in her life forever. She is so excited to be apart of this show at Stage Left and to be a part of the start of online theater. She is grateful to the cast and crew who have welcomed her with open arms, and, of course, her theater director, Jim Yost, for offering her this amazing opportunity.


Lily Fitzsimmons (ASM/Running Crew) 
Lily is thrilled to be joining Stage Left for the first time and is honored to share the virtual space with so many incredible artists. She is a graduate of Grinnell College, a '21-'22 Stage Management Apprentice at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, and has previously worked with Shakespeare Festival St. Louis and Union Avenue Opera. Thanks for tuning in!

* Stage Left Ensemble Member.    + Stage Left Ensemble Emeritus

Images courtesy of Chicago Housing Authority Archives



Original Photography by Annie Stubenfield



A Special Thank You to…

The Residents, Dr. Bradford Hunt, Grace Cannon, Kevin Dorff


Partner in Action

Stage Left Theatre is partnering with the National Public Housing Museum ( for programmed conversations about contemporary social justice topics, with the play, The Project(s) serving a foundation and catalyst. Stage Left plans to continue the conversation of community and housing transformation, including what's next for black residents of Chicago with post-show conversations following Sunday performances. Stay tuned to our website and Facebook page for more details.


New Membership Program

Stage Left fans and supporters can help Stage Left through these challenging times for live performance, get access to all our public programming for the 2020-21 Season, and receive invitations to special VIP-only events, by taking advantage of our new Membership program. Annual Memberships are $100 and replace our traditional subscription programs. Memberships can be purchased on our website



About Stage Left

Founded in 1982, Stage Left Theatre is committed to developing and producing plays that raise the level of debate and challenge perspectives on political and social issues. Through a full mainstage season and our new play development program Downstage Left, Stage Left strives to ask provocative social and political questions by producing a mix of new works, regional premieres and timeless classics.  

Board of Directors

Marcey Abramovitz

Melissa Lindberg, Ph. D.
Drew Martin

Angelique A. Sallas, Ph. D.

Artistic Ensemble

Brittany Gillespie

David Lawrence Hamilton
Kanomé Jones

Drew Martin

Arielle Valen
Greg Werstler

Brenda Winstead
James Yost


Artistic Associates

Kathryn Acosta

Katherine Arfken
Don Bender
Anita Chandwaney
McKenzie Chinn

Theresa Ham

Andrew Hildner
Tara Malpass
Kyle McCloskey

Annaliese McSweeney 
Nick Mikula

Lindsey Pearlman
Michael Reyes
Joe Schermoly
Sean Sinitski
Iris Sowlat

Emeritus Ensemble

Leigh Barrett

Kate Black-Spence
Larry Dahlke
Cat Dean
Melanie Derleth
Christine Gatto
Marguerite Hammersley
Kevin Heckman

Lisa Herceg

Jessi D. Hill
John Kohn III
Cory Krebsbach
M.E.H. Lewis
Melissa Lindberg
Mia McCullough

Brian Plocharczyk

David Rush

John Sanders

David Schmitz
Jack Short
Jacki Singleton
Vance Smith
Don Tieri
Jack Tippett
Sandra Verthein

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