CHICAGO: Victory Gardens Theater has announced the recipients of its inaugural Next Generation Fellowships: Jess McLeod and Aaron Todd Douglas. Supported by a grant from the Field Foundation of Illinois, the program will foster future leaders of color. The fellows will receive comprehensive mentorship and requisite training for leadership.
“Victory Gardens’ Next Generation Fellowship furthers our institutional commitment to inclusion, diversity, and equity,” said artistic director Chay Yew in a statement. “It is imperative that we as a theatre community invest in future theatre leaders that represent our audiences, communities, and stories told on our stages. We are thrilled to have Jess McLeod and Aaron Todd Douglas as our first Next Generation Fellows. Victory Gardens is extremely grateful to the Field Foundation for their generous support to make this a reality.”
McLeod currently serves as the resident director of Chicago’s Hamilton, and as a resident director at Victory Gardens. She has worked at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Porchlight Music Theatre, Haven Theatre Company, Strawdog Theatre Company, the House Theatre of Chicago, Griffin Theatre, American Theater Company, and Steppenwolf Theatre. McLeod was the Goodman Theatre’s 2017 Michael Maggio Dirceting Fellow. She served as the festival coordinator for Young Chicago Authors’ Louder Than A Bomb Poetry Festival, and has worked as a teaching artists for Storycatchers Theatre. McLeod served as the director of programming for the New York Musical Theatre Festival. She holds an MFA in directing from Northwestern University and a BA from Williams College, and has taught or lectured at both. She has also taught at New York University, Yale University, NSLC, and the Calhoun School in New York.
Douglas is a theatre artist who acts, directs, writes, and teaches. Douglas is a founding member and the playwright in residence of the Congo Square Theatre Company. His production of Ruined at Eclipse Theatre garnered Jeff Award nominations for best ensemble and best production. He has also directed and acted at Chicago theatres including the Congo Square Theatre Company, Goodman Theatre, Raven Theatre, ETA Creative Arts, Chicago Theatre Company, Victory Gardens Theater, Chicago Shakespeare, the Court, Steppenwolf Theatre, and as part of the Cultural Conversations Festival. He received an International Ibsen Scholarship from the Norwegian Ministry of Culture in cooperation with Teater Ibsen for his play, The Master Comic. His play Upstate premiered at MPAACT Theatre, and he is currently working on a commission from Rivendell Theatre Ensemble. Douglas is a member of the acting faculty at Northwestern University.