Class of 2019

Dolores Díaz is a Latinx playwright originally from the border city of Laredo, Texas. Her full length play, Los Tequileros, will receive a reading from 16th Street Theater in October 2019. Man of the People was produced by Three Cat Productions in October 2018. Also in October 2018, Nothing Without a Company (Chicago, IL) premiered Appreciation Day; MOJOAA of Raleigh, NC presented the play the same month. Performing Arts Studio will also present Dolores’s work devised using Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed methodologies as part of their Forum Theatre's fall/winter season; this work can be seen throughout Chicago for the 2018-2019 season. Dolores was also a semi-finalist for the 2018/2019 Goodman Playwrights Unit. Dolores’s adaptation of Sir Conan Doyle's The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle world premiered in 2017 with Three Cat Productions as part of the Holiday Radio Show, which was recommended in the Tribune's list of top 40 Holiday entertainment for 2017. Her play, Los Tequileros, received a workshop from Teatro Vivo in August 2015. A Truthful Christmas and Uncomfortable Positions premiered at The Vortex in October 2014 as part of the 14-48 Projects in Austin, TX. Border Grammar was produced by Teatro Chicano de Laredo in 2010. From 2015-2017, Dolores served as Producer for Teatro Vivo's annual Austin Latino New Play Festival.

Nikkita Duke. As a writer of diverse genres delivered through various mediums like poems, plays and screen plays, Nikkita loves to explore the complexity and simplicity of various relationships in life. This usually translates into stories with amusing situations that highlight societal norms and issues. Her first play, ‘Affiong’s First Novel’ won second place in a national contest in Nigeria and she’s been on a roll since. Her writing has been acclaimed internationally across continents from Europe to North America to Africa by placing highly in competitions such as Desi Writer’s Lounge Short Story Competition, Little Wonder Short Radio Play Competition, Wild Claw Theatre’s Deathscribe Festival, etc. In Chicago, her plays have had readings at NU Wirtz Center, Chicago Dramatists and The Goodman Theatre. She is currently producing her co-written sitcom, ‘Aliens in America’ which won the school's Advanced Sitcom Grant.

Liam Fitzgerald is a writer/director/producer originally from Gainesville, Florida. He graduated from the University of Miami, where he received a BFA in Musical Theatre performance. He has done absolutely nothing with that degree, and has spent the past four years in Chicago, writing and working as a Production Manager and TD for various theaters around the city. His play Bad Date will be premiering this summer as a part of Stage Left’s Leap Fest and will be a part of Camp Fire Theatre Festival this fall.

Exal Iraheta is a Salvi-American playwright & screenwriter, born in Houston, TX now based in Chicago, IL. After earning his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in Film & Video Production, he went on to work with Chicago-based organizations as videographer and editor. Sometimes humorous and often uncomfortable, his writing explores the intersections of innocence, queerness, Latinx realities, violence, and sex. His TV original pilots have received staged readings at iO Chicago Theatre, Annoyance Theater, and The Crowd Theater. Recently, his play Rules of a Closed Door was a semi-finalist for the 2019 Activate: Midwest New Play Fest. Exal is a 2018 Hispanic Scholarship Fund Scholar, 2018 Fornés Playwriting Workshop participant, 2019 Theater Masters Playwright, and is currently an MFA student in Northwestern University’s Writing for the Screen and Stage program.

Jake Polonus is from Springfield, Missouri. He graduated from Missouri State University with a B.S. in Political Science. For the past two years, he has worked in security for a bank. He has written multiple screenplays, ranging from a World War II epic to a coming of age story. His screenplay, The Abnormals, was a semi-finalist in the Missouri Stories Scriptwriting Fellowship. He’s a sports enthusiast who enjoys playing golf, but most of his time is spent daydreaming about characters. He is currently writing a novel.

Sheikh Taha Munir was born and raised in Pakistan. He graduated in 2014 with a degree in Liberal Arts, majoring in English Literature and received a distinction in his thesis. In 2017, he received a Fulbright scholarship to pursue his postgraduate degree. His recent work for Chayn Global, an organization which helps victims of abuse, received widespread acclaim and was featured on ABC News, The Independent, UN website, among others. Currently, he is working as a Creative Manager in an advertising agency.

Taylor Rankin grew up in Long Island, New York. She graduated from Oberlin College with a BA in Cinema Studies and English. She has worked with various media organizations in NYC, most recently as a program associate with the National Black Programming Consortium in Harlem. She has been a production assistant on several video projects, as well as a writer's assistant to an independent filmmaker. Taylor has also had the pleasure of working in student registration at Gotham Writer's Workshop.

Aalisha Sheth is a Chicago-based screenwriter and playwright from Bombay (India), who loves watching, reading and writing stories about flawed and ferociously funny women. Through her writing, Aalisha aspires to showcase the zany, fantastical, and complex inner and outer worlds of people of Indian origin, through a dignified, evocative and inclusive gaze. She digs awkward (non)conversations and is drawn to write stories about rebels who break away from systemic labels and fiercely negotiate their place in the world. In 2018, her short play, ‘The Last Plait’ was performed at the New World Play Festival in Chicago. She was recently awarded Northwestern’s Advanced Sitcom Award for co-creating the TV pilot ‘Aliens in America’.

Ben Verschoor is a New York City-based writer originally from Idaho. At the College of Idaho he majored in History and Theatre while doing improv and sketch comedy. In New York he has assisted with id Theater’s NYC Sit In! reading series and waited tables at the busiest restaurant in Times Square. His play Internet Hate Machines was a 2015 Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference Finalist, and his monologue “When in Rome” can be found in Smith & Kraus’s collection 222 More Comedy Monologues. Along with writing he enjoys going to the movies, riding his bike, and direct-action politics.

Konner Wilson is a screenwriter and playwright based out of Chicago. Born and raised in Maine, Konner earned her BFA from the University of Maine at Farmington in Creative Writing and Theatre. Konner has had play readings at the Chicago Dramatists and at Northwestern. Though adamant that she loved playwriting and screenwriting equally when entering the Writing for the Screen and Stage program at Northwestern, she has learned that she has a particular fondness for writing screenplays. 

Shuping Yang was born and raised in Kunming, China. She recently graduated from University of Maryland (UMD) with a double degree in Theatre and Psychology and a minor in German Studies. She wrote Goldfish, which was showcased at the Kennedy Center’s 15th Annual New Play festival and produced at Cafritz Theatre at UMD. Recently she developed Martyr through American Dramatist Guild’s New Play Workshop. She also wrote and produced short films at the UMD Film Festival. Besides writing, Shuping loves cooking, painting and traveling.