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Headshot of Lanise Antoine Shelley
Lanise Antoine Shelley. (Photo by Orel Cholette.)

House Theatre of Chicago Names Lanise Antoine Shelley Its New AD

Shelley takes over for founder Nathan Allen who stepped down last fall after 20 years as artistic director.

CHICAGO: The House Theatre of Chicago has announced the appointment of Lanise Antoine Shelley to be the company’s new artistic director. Shelley, a Haitian artist, director, playwright, educator, visual artist, and actress, succeeds founder Nathan Allen, who stepped down last fall after 20 years as artistic director.

“We are extremely excited and energized that Lanise has joined the House,” said board president David Shapiro in a statement. “She brings a new energy and unique experience in performance, movement, directing, and storytelling. We all will miss Nate, who built a strong foundation for the House over the past two decades, but we are confident that the next phase of the House will be amazing under Lanise’s artistic leadership. In partnership with our managing director Erik Schroeder, Lanise will continue to grow the House and reactivate our mission in new, innovative, and exciting ways.”

Shelley holds a BFA from Cornish College of the Arts, an MFA from American Repertory Theatre/Moscow Art Theater School at Harvard University, and certificates in classical theatre from the British American Drama Academy in Oxford, England, and the Birmingham Conservatory in Canada. She was nominated for the Princess Grace Award, and has been nominated for acting awards from the Black Theatre Alliance Awards and Joseph Jefferson Awards. She was Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s Chicago Fellow 2016 and was Victor Gardens Theater’s Directors Inclusion Initiative Fellow 2019. Most recently, Shelley was seen in Goodman’s production of School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play and Danai Gurira’s Familiar at Steppenwolf Theatre. Television credits include Empire, Chicago Fire, and Chicago Med.

“I am elated to start this adventure with the House Theatre of Chicago,” said Shelley in a statement. “Their whimsical and wonderfully imaginative plays are renowned. This partnership will explore the myriad of ways that we can reimagine storytelling and broaden our impact in the Chicago community.”

Shelley’s directing credits include work for Silent Theatre Company, Rising Sun Theatre Company, Voices and Faces, Akvavit Theatre, DePaul University, and assisting David Schwimmer in the world premiere of Plantation! at Lookingglass Theatre. In 2020, she directed virtual plays Manakin Blue and Luck of the Irish as well as an audio adaptation of Rastas and Hattie with 16th Street Theatre. Shelley also associate-produced the indie horror film Twenty Twenty. She will be directing Rites of Spring with Rising Sun Performance Company in New York City this month.

As an educator, Shelley has 20 years of teaching experience at institutions such as Stratford Shakespeare Festival, Lookingglass Theatre Company, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, and Shakespeare Santa Cruz. She is an activist in the adoption community, where she is a leading voice with the podcast When They Were Young: Amplifying Voices of Adoptees, which brings to the forefront adoptee voices while investigating the racial and cultural ramification of intercountry adoptions.

“Lanise is a very exciting next leader for the House,” said founding company member Carolyn Defrin in a statement. “With an impressive résumé across the performing and visual arts, she shares our passion for interdisciplinary and imaginative storytelling. She isn’t afraid to address the current challenges facing the industry—specifically the need to work together on anti-racist approaches to creating art at all levels of the organization. And she understands the Chicago theatre scene while holding a global perspective, having lived and worked all over the world. Nate created the House with incredible energy, talent, and a big, beautiful heart that beats profoundly in our foundation. We are now poised to build on our 20-year history and create a next chapter with Lanise, guided by her exceptional artistry, ambition, wisdom and care.”

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