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Lisa Portes. (Photo by Joe Mazza/BraveLux)

Lisa Portes Named Chair of UCSD Theatre and Dance Dept.

The acclaimed director, a co-founder of the Latinx Theatre Commons, has relocated from Chicago to California for the job.

SAN DIEGO, CALIF.: Director Lisa Portes has been named chair of UC San Diego’s Department of Theatre and Dance. An acclaimed Cuban American director, teacher, advocate, and leader, Portes most recently served as head of the MFA Directing Program at DePaul University. Her work as a director includes credits at South Coast Rep, Seattle Rep, and Steppenwolf Theatre. Early in her career, she served as associate director of the Tony-winning Broadway production of The Who’s Tommy and the first national tour of Titanic.

Portes received her MFA in Directing from UCSD’s Department of Theatre and Dance, which offers students the chance to apprentice at the La Jolla Playhouse, a longstanding community partner. 

“This symbiotic relationship between a world-class theatre training program and a highly innovative, internationally renowned professional theatre is unparalleled in the nation,” said Portes in a release. “For me, my time in the MFA Directing Program was the crucible that formed me as an artist.”

Portes believes that UC San Diego, a research university ranked among the top 20 in the world, is an ideal place to explore ways that technology might transform the theatre experience.  

“Theater and dance are human art forms, so it may seem counterintuitive to lean into technology,” said Portes in a release. “However, in the hands of artists, technology has the potential to make performance more human, more intimate, to transcend borders and to connect us more deeply.”

After graduating from UC San Diego, Portes founded Theater E, which produced the work of underrepresented writers, garnering her consistent recognition in the annual San Diego Union-Tribune’s “Top Ten Productions of the Year.”  Portes also co-founded the Latinx Theatre Commons, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. The national network and thinktank is designed to identify and support the development of Latinx stories as central to the American narrative. One of Portes’s largest initiatives is the tri-annual Carnaval of New Latinx Work, which unites theatre decision makers from across the country to celebrate the latest cohort of Latinx writers, actors, designers, directors and dramaturgs. She intends to bring the lively event to UC San Diego in 2025.

Portes officially began her new role on Jan. 1, joining two dozen Department of Theatre and Dance faculty members who are experts in a range of fields, including acting, dance, lighting, sound, stage and costume design, directing, performance studies, playwriting, and stage management.

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