The Incubator is a significant commitment. Participants meet 12 hours a week starting in early August, and performances run at the end of October/early November. Participants in the Incubator receive a modest stipend.
Unnatural Spaces (2012)
The Unnatural Spaces cast, led by their artistic guide, Coya Paz:
Esmie Cuevas Decker
Dawn H. Helphand
Tour Guides 2011
DIRECTOR, COYA PAZ (2008, 2010, 2011) is a poet, director, and lip gloss connoisseur who was raised in Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Brazil before moving permanently to the United States in 1987. Coya is a proud co-founder of Proyecto Latina, and co-founded Teatro Luna in 2000, serving as co-Artistic Director until 2009. Recent projects include: Nation of Cowards, a multi-sited performance piece about interracial dialogue; Tour Guides; and Machos, which won the 2008 Non-Equity Jeff Awards for Best New Work and Outstanding Ensemble. She is at work on a new play called The Americans, based on interviews with people in 10 states across the USA. Coya teaches in The Theater Department at Columbia College, and holds a PhD in Performance Studies at Northwestern University. She is a regular commentator on race, media and pop culture for Vocalo.org (89.5) and has published several articles on Latina performance, Latina/o identities, and public violence. Coya’s artistic work has been profiled in The New York Times, American Theater Magazine, Theater Journal, and the Chicago Tribune, among others. She was named one of UR Magazine’s 30 Under 30 (when she was under 30!), a GO-NYC Magazine 100 Women We Love, and received a Trailblazer Award for her service to LGBTQ communities. Most recently, she has been awarded 3Arts Residency at Ragdale. Above all, she believes in the power of performance and poetry to build community towards social change. For a full manifesto, visit her on the web at www.coyapaz.com.
SENYO ADOR (2012) Writer, poet and magazine editor, Senyo_Twilight, comes with the most unlikely of backgrounds, being that he was once an electrical engineer. Raised between Accra, Ghana and Chicago’s western suburbs he was heavily influenced by Nikola Tesla, the pioneering electrical engineer, humanitarian, and showman from Austria. Senyo_Twilight is now using the power in his words to energize audiences the world over to act on causes both locally and remote.
BOBBY BIEDRZYCKI (2012) is a writer, performer, and social activist who came to Chicago from St. Paul, Minnesota via The Bronx, New York. His writing has appeared in The Black Bear Review, Ghost Factory, Ante:thesis Volumes I & II, and Hair Trigger, and he is a company member of 2nd Story, where he serves as Director of Programming. Bobby works to infuse his work with collaboration at all levels by routinely working with performers from many disciplines in a constant effort to explore, question, and expand narrative. Bobby is an adjunct faculty member of the Fiction Writing Department at Columbia College Chicago, and he teaches personal narrative performance at Gallery 37 for the Arts and the Goodman Theater.
ESMERALDA CUEVAS (2011) “Amorpoesia” Cuevas wears many hats under the umbrella of “performer”. As an actress, she is a member of the Vida Bella Ensemble – cast of Bless me, Madrina! and the award-winning The Brown Girls’ Chronicles: Puerto Rican Women and Resilience. She was also individually cast in Beast Women Productions’ Beast Women Spring 2011 Series. As a poet and philanthropist, Miss Cuevas is a co-founder of the Ponce @Nite collective, which has taken on the responsibility of providing more opportunities for artistic expression to local artists, as well as introducing a variety of art forms to those with limited access within her beloved communities. Through this platform, she was impassioned to share her own writing and emerged as spoken-word artist “Amorpoesia” onto the Chicago poetry scene. She has since been a featured artist at many performance venues and universities throughout the Chicagoland area, as well as the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and the USA Shaolin Temple on the East Coast. Most recently, Miss Cuevas has also added choreography to her resume after having assisted with choreography for Mac ‘N Cheese Productions’ Fear Experiment and Dominzuelan’s People in the City. She is extremely excited to combine her love for performance and her love for Chicago through this unique production.
STEVEN EVANS (2008 – 2012) is an “investment poet” – while investing in others he discovered the poet within. Since his marriage to the pen, he has become fearless attempting various poetic styles from traditional to new age. His style can be best described as chameleon, ever growing and changing, No topic is off limits however Steven has a propensity to write lyrically laced long lines. In short, he gives the images of his poems space to chase and tickle one another on the page. It is said that the people that go the furthest find something that they feel passionate about and stick with it. Steven’s poetry is an example of beautiful things that happen when you do.
GIOVANNI GONZALEZ writer, producer, actor. Gio never considered acting until one day when he fell into Free Street Theater in 2006. Being part of the Free Street Ensemble for 4 years he has performed in numerous plays. His most memorable work includes: Sub-Primed Youth (Benito) and To Kill A Teenager: 7 Sins of the Juvenile Mind (Derrion, John, Me-me). At the age of 21 he made his directorial debut co-directing alongside Coya Paz with Free Street’s LOL OMG WTFAY #distracted. When asked to join Unnatural Spaces he accepted and is happy that he did. Creating new work with people he haven’t met before is always fun to him.
DAVID PINTOR (2011) was born and raised in Pilsen. He is Director of the Southside Ignoramus Quartet Back Yard Theater Tent Show. He is a graduate of the Second City conservatory and liberal arts educated in the ice cube of Northfield, MN. His poetic roots reach back to being a Young Chicago Authors Scholar 02’. His aspirations to change the world led him to community organizing for several years before realizing that he may be able to have more influence through a theatrical medium. He’s a food addict, TV Series addict, a Mexican momma’s boy, a picture snapping, guitar smashing, politically driven, love driven, passionate in your face, wine sippin’, fun loving , puppy loving, life loving beast.
REIGN STAR (2011) graduated from Olivet Nazarene University with a concentration in Social Work. After a brief stint as a Juvenile Counselor, the Theater called her name and she began to pursue the arts full time. Ms. Star has appeared in numerous productions including; Seven Brides for One Man, Shades of My Skin, and the 2011 Alcyone Festival production Fa$hion. Along with her theater work Reign has spent the last three years as an active member of the Chicago based improv comedy group named “Throw’d TV. When she isn’t on stage she enjoys expressing herself through writing, film production, and photography.
LOY WEBB (2011) holds a BA in Political Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. While at the University of Illinois she was the Creative Director of Expression Theatre Troupe, a division of the African-American Academy of the Arts ran by the Bruce D. Nesbitt Cultural Center. She is co-founder of the performance poetry group “The Unwritten Amendment”. The name The Unwritten Amendment came out of their yearning to create a type of change that had not yet been written. The group combines poetry with theatre elements to create a concoction called Po’theatre. Po’theatre is a term they coined which signifies the use of art as a weapon of social activism, to combat the social ills that reside in society. The Unwritten Amendment has performed at various venues, most notably they opened up for Dr. Cornel West at the “The Dream Has Been Realized” lecture in 2009. Additionally, a film in which she wrote called “BOIL,” won third place at the 2010 Chicago Film Festival, in their Human Condition 60 sec film category, and she performed at the 2011 Chicago Minute Play Festival. Currently, she is a member of Black Ensemble Theater’s, Black Playwrights Initiative. Her motivation for performing and writing comes from the African-Proverb which states “Until the lion gets her own historians, the tale of the hunt will always be told by the hunter, not the hunted.” Simply put, she is a lion historian. Loy is currently in her final year at the John Marshall Law School.
JON COFIELD (2010) is a proud lifelong citizen of Illinois. He has a BA in Theater from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, was a member of the sketch comedy group Shtick People, and has performed in plays such as The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged), Reckless, and The Phantom Tollbooth. Jon trained with Center Theater, Chicago Center for the Performing Arts, and completed the improvisation program at ComedySportz.
KIMBERLY DIXON (2008, 2010) is a Cave Canem and Callaloo fellow. She recently released her first collection SenseMemory (www.kimberlyddixon.com) has published in journals including The Drunken Boat, Torch, Versal, Reverie, and the anthology Just Like a Girl: A Manifesta! from GirlChild Press. She is also a playwright and performer with readings and staged productions at Crossroads Theatre Company, Plowshares Theatre Company, Guild Complex and Strawdog Theatre Company. Her comic play “The Gizzard of Brownsville” was a finalist in the Theodore Ward Prize for African-American Playwrights. She has studied the arts and human expression through degrees in theater, psychology and race/gender studies from Yale, UCLA and Northwestern. She has also worked in for-profit and non-profit marketing, and in 2010 became Managing Director of the Chicago literary non-profit, Guild Complex. Born in New England, she has become a naturalized Chicagoan, successfully staring down The Hawk several winters in a row.
RICARDO GAMBOA (2008) is an actor, artist, educator and writer. Gamboa graduated from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and shortly after began his career in his native Chicago. In a few years he has received a City of Chicago, Department of Cultural Affairs’ CAAP Grant, trained with modern master Anne Bogart and her internationally recognized SITI Company, and worked with some of the city’s most notable directors. Ricardo Gamboa has most recently been seen in “Surface Day” with Teatro Luna at Victory Gardens Theatre, “Smart” at the Side Project, in the “365 Plays/365 Days” at Chicago Dramatist and at Steppenwolf with 500 Clown and understudied the world premiere of Jose Rivera’s “Massacre” at the Goodman Theatre. Alongside all this Ricardo Gamboa is a Company Member of Barrel of Monkeys Theatre Company, to which he is completely dedicated. Gamboa has worked with over 4,000 school children as an arts-educator through Chicago Public Schools, enrichment programs and outreach centers with Barrel of Monkeys, Children Home & Aide Society, Marwen Foundation, Pegasus Players, Piven Theatre Workshop, Steppenwolf Theatre and at West Town Academy using theatre as a progressive tool for individual and community empowerment.
STEPHANIE GENTRY-FERNANDEZ (2008, 2010) is a genderqueer mixed Chicana/Latina from the South Side of Chicago. A regular performer, feature, and facilitator in venues as diverse as the 2005 COOL Idealist National Conference to the Guild Complex’s “Palabra Pura,” this poet incorporates issues of identity into larger questions of oppression. She is currently involved with “Left Turn Magazine” and “The Abolitionist,” and was recently spotted as a “he” in Teatro Luna’s Jeff-nominated work “Machos.” Her ‘zine, “Question,” is a self-published work that she has been doing since the tender age of 18.
DAWN HERRERA HELPHAND (2012) has been thinking, writing and performing in Chicago for the past eight years. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. with the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought, where she has supplemented her study of philosophy and political theory with number of poetry workshops. Dawn has developed ensemble-built performances with Stillpoint Theater Company, Walkabout Theater and Teatro Luna as well as programs for undergraduates and high school students. She has enjoyed sharing her poetry and solo performance work at festivals and open mics including Proyecto Latina, a monthly event near and dear to her heart. Unnatural Spaces will be Dawn’s return to the page and the stage following the birth of her daughter Selah in August 2011.
TRICIA HERSEY (2008) has been participating in open mics, book groups and writing circles since 1999. She slays terror by demanding truth telling in her poetry. Tricia is a spoken word artist, cultural critic, entrepreneur and all around hustler. She enjoys screaming for social justice, community organizing and using art as a means to heal. Her workshops on hip hop, poetry writing and HIV/AIDS have given her the beautiful opportunity to collaborate with many Chicago communities. Her career with not for profit organizations has spanned over 10 years. She was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco, North Africa and has taught poetry, yoga, performance and storytelling in Chicago Public Schools. Tricia appears in the anthology *AIMprint: New Relationships in the Arts and Learning* and in the documentary *Support the Hustle.* You can build with her by visiting
CARRON LITTLE (2010) received her Masters of Fine Art from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1999, followed by her graduation from Goldsmiths’ College, London University, UK, in textiles and art criticism. An artist in resident for the British Arts Council in 2000, Little taught art and design for ten years. In addition to her teaching in the UK, she was on the Editorial Board of The Alliance Newspaper and performed site-specific work for the Red Velvet Curtain Club. She established the N16 Arts Network to develop art teaching practices in all the local schools before returning to Chicago in 2009. Among her current activities in 2010, Little has curated a group show entitled Sonic Strata, she is art critic for Our Urban Times and is coordinating the Youth Media Conference for Young Chicago Authors as well as teaching and performing in schools. Little performed annually at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London U.K. with the Red Velvet Curtain Club, in 2010 she performed at the MCA, Swimming Pool Projects, Bucktown Arts Fest and The Studio to name but a few. Carron fuses her tactile aesthetic medium with spoken word and interactive art practices.
SAGE XAXUA MORGAN-HUBBARD (2010, 2012) earned her MA in Performance Studies at Northwestern University where she is currently a PhD student. She is a graduate of Brown University where she double majored in “Performance Studies: Socially Conscious Art of the Everyday” and Ethnic Studies. She is a poet, activist and teacher from Washington, D.C. She is the founder of WORD! spoken word artists and activists, a former DC poetry slam coach and one of the original members of Spoken Resistance and the performance group Sol y Soul, arts for social change.
SANDRA POSADAS, (2010) “La PiXie,” was born and bred in Chicago, Illinois. She is a teacher, published artist/illustrator, artisan performance poet and actress; an original cast member of the Vida Bella Ensemble. She successfully co-wrote her first production in 2007, Brown Girls Singing, which was successfully staged at University of Chicago and Jane Addams’ Hull House. She is a cast member of the Vida Bella Ensemble, who have performed the award winning play, The Brown Girls’ Chronicles: Puerto Rican Women and Resistance and the more current production Bless Me Madrina. She has also participated as a cast member of the Teatro Luna’s 10 x10 project. Sandra has published her poetry in several anthologies including Stray Bullets; An Anthology of Chicago Saloon Poetry(Tia Chucha Press) and The Journal of Ordinary Thought (Fall 2009 and Winter 2010) She also performs at various Chicago venues . She’s not afraid to live life authentically and is all about telling it like is. Sandra believes strongly in that art can educate. She believes in using art as knowledge and transformation so that all participants and spectators examine themselves in relation to their place in society. Through different modalities that she uses, whether visual, interactive, or the performing arts, the audience can explore, reflect, analyze and transform the reality in which they are living.
RUPAL SONI (2008) is a multi-disciplinary artist and community organizer who uses art and creativity to build community and empower marginalized voices. She is currently the Program Director of the Neighborhood Writing Alliance, an organization that provokes dialogue and promotes change by creating opportunities for marginalized adults in Chicago neighborhoods to write, publish, and perform works about their lives, and is the Associate Editor of their award-winning publication, the “Journal of Ordinary Thought.” Previously, Soni lived in India for 18 months, where she started a Rural Design School on the India-Pakistan border with an Indicorps Fellowship. She has led creative-writing and performance workshops with After School Matters, the Chinese Mutual Aid Association, the University of Chicago’s Civic Knowledge Project, and Young Asians with Power; has served as a grant reviewer for the Illinois Arts Council; has completed the Leadership Center for Asian Americans Community Leadership Program; and was recently awarded an Emerging Leader of Color grant from the Americans for the Arts. Rupal also writes and performs sketch comedy and poetry, focusing on building awareness and inspiring necessary discussions. She has performed shows for CAAELI (the Coalition of African, Asian, European, and Latino Immigrants), the Chinese Mutual Aid Association, the Foundation for Asian American Independent Media’s Film Festival, the Public Square at the Illinois Humanities Council, and YAWP! (Young Asians with Power!).