Class of 2018
Leah Bognanni was born in South Korea, adopted, and raised by Italians in Malden, MA. She graduated with a BA in English and a minor in Media and Screen Studies from Northeastern, where she produced a ten-minute play festival and wrote a short film about two men who pose as Catholic priests to acquire free housing in a rectory. She is currently writing an interactive play, a screenplay, and an animated film. In addition to writing for the screen and stage, Leah loves slam poetry and painting.
Josefina Valenzuela Cerda hails from Chile and graduated 2nd in her class from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile with a Bachelor’s in Audiovisual Direction. She has developed content for production companies ranging from mobile app games for education to fiction webseries and docu-reality television shows. Her documentary short Steam View was the Official Selection Youth Talent at the Sanfic and Valdivia International Film Festival. Josefina worked as an international flight attendant for over a year, and served as a screenwriting assistant for national telenovelas. She loves to travel and experience different cultures and peoples.
Kristen Field was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia. She received her Bachelor of Arts (Honours) from Monash University in Melbourne after writing an undergraduate thesis on the presence of the outsider in the plays of Sarah Ruhl. Her work has been performed in both Australia and the United States. Her first full-length play, she will fade at the finish, was part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival in 2014 and her short play “I Am” was named Best Play in the Youth Category of Eltham Little Theatre’s Ten Minute Quickie Competition in 2012. Currently, Kristen is writing reviews and opinion pieces for the online publication Lucifer’s Monocle.
Born in Seattle, Gail Gilbert has lived all over the world. She has a degree in Radio-TV-Film from Northwestern University, and a certificate in the Basic Program of Western literature from the University of Chicago. Her career as a film editor grew out of her background as a still photographer and has been fine-tuned as part of the Chicago advertising community, for which she has edited high-end national TV commercials for over 20 years. She compares her role as an editor to that of a collage artist -- manipulating images and sounds over time.
Joe Giovannetti is a Chicago-based playwright, actor and director. He holds a BA in Theater and Performance Studies from North Park University, where he has continued developing the university’s program post-graduation as a playwright and guest instructor. In addition, Joe is a company member with MPAACT, the Ma’at Production Association for Afrikan Centered Theater, and a founding member of InGen Productions, a company focusing on turning 80s and 90s movies into musicals. His directing credits include the musicals The Lockout, about the 2011 NBA lockout, and Welcome to Earth.
Ellie Goodman hails from Canada and recently received her Honours B.Sc. at the University of Toronto, where she studied Psychology and Philosophy. Despite this academic achievement, Ellie describes herself as “a comedy nerd,” studying improvisation at The Second City and Bad Dog Theatre in Toronto. Her other interests include: playing golf, eating pizza, and worrying about the amount of time she spends doing these things. Ellie hopes that one day she will be able to confidently describe herself as a comedy writer and performer at the beginning of her bio, rather than hidden deep in the middle.
Hannah Ii-Epstein, born and raised on the North Shore of Oahu, recently graduated with a B.A in Fiction Writing at Columbia College Chicago. She writes fiction, poetry, screenplays, plays, and musicals. She is a Co-Artistic Director, Board Member, and Founding Member of Nothing Without a Company (NWaC). Her work has been produced by NWaC, Kumu Kahua Theater, Fury Theatre's SAST, Mary-Arrchie's Abbie Fest, and Nothing Special Production's Fight Night. Hannah has also participated in 24 Hour Fests for NWaC, Silent Theatre, and CCC. Her film Sweet won Best Film Runner Up in Chicago's 48 Hour Film Project 2015.
Melissa Kong is a Chicago actor and writer. She earned her BA in Theater from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She’s studied abroad in London at LAMDA and is a graduate of iO and Second City. Her sketches have been produced at Second City’s de Maat Theater and Mary Scruggs Works by Women Festival. As an actor, she’s had the pleasure of working with many Chicago companies including Silk Road Rising and the sketch group Stir Friday Night. Her writing has placed in several competitions, most notably her screenplay, Tina Fey is My Friend, was a semi-finalist at the Austin Film Festival.
Priyankar Patra was born and raised in Kolkata, India and graduated from Asutosh College, University of Calcutta with a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication and a specialization in Film Studies. He has worked as a reporter at The Telegraph and with the Mumbai-based event management company, Only Much Louder. His interest in filmmaking dates back to high school, when his short film The Broken Nest was an official selection at the 9th Kolkata Short Film Festival. Priyankar’s writing often reflects the city of Kolkata and its socio-economic problems. His dream project is to adapt the Indian epic Mahabharata.
Joe Shetina is a writer originally from Joliet, Illinois. He graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a B.A. in Sociology. At UIUC, he wrote and acted in several short plays with members of the theatre department, and one of his plays, Fragmentation, was the subject of a semester-long series of workshops and readings. Currently, he is working at The Art Theater, Champaign’s premier independent movie theater. In June, his short play, Oil Sick, will be performed as part of the Acorn Theater Project’s Nature Monologues. His free time is spent watching Bette Davis movies and cultivating a strong camp aesthetic.
Lars Steier graduated from Lewis & Clark College with a B.A. in History. For the last five years, he’s worked as a sportswriter, contributing to newspapers including The Oregonian and Tampa Tribune, and most recently The Chronicle, a paper in Southwest Washington where he’s currently a staff reporter. Lars has also written about film for Oregon Arts Watch, and has been involved with the non-profit Northwest Film Center as a volunteer, intern and employee. Lars’ passion for film and storytelling extends to his experience cleaning popcorn spills at an independent movie theater in Portland.
Benjamin (B.J.) Tindal is a playwright, director, and spoken word poet from Philadelphia, PA. He graduated Oberlin College with a BA in Theater and Africana studies. He has worked with a number of organizations dedicated to the success of early playwrights, including Philadelphia Young Playwrights and New Dramatists in New York. He is a member of the Intiman Theater Festival’s Emerging Artists 2016 in Seattle, Washington.