Class of 2019

Dolores Díaz is a Mexican-American playwright and television writer from Laredo, Texas. She recently completed a television pilot, Border Grammar, adapted from an earlier work by the same name. Her latest play, Los Tequileros, received a workshop production by Teatro Vivo in August 2015 and a Chicago Dramatists reading in June 2016. A Truthful Christmas and Uncomfortable Positions, premiered at The Vortex in October 2014 as part of the 14-48 Projects in Austin, Texas. Her play, Border Grammar was produced by Teatro Chicano de Laredo in 2010. Dolores has served as Producer for Teatro Vivo's annual Austin Latino New Play Festival for the last three years.

Nikkita Duke is a Nigerian writer of diverse genres with a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) from the University of Buckingham, UK. Her poetry has earned her a commendation from the Poetry Society UK (Black Snow, 2009), publication by United Press and to the final round of War of Words slam competition (Season 5, 2015). Her short story Edidiong was shortlisted for the DWL Short Story Competition and her play Affiong's First Novel won 2nd place in the Beeta Playwriting Competition (2016). In Nigeria, she has worked with the James Ene Henshaw Foundation (2015), the Ministry of Petroleum Resources (2016) and the news site NAIJ.com. Nikkita's hobbies include reading, watching films, dancing and singing.

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 was conceived in Chiapas, Mexico, produced in Houston, TX, and distributed to Chicago, IL. After earning his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) in Film, Video and New Media, he went on to work with Chicago-based organizations as Videographer and Editor. He is fascinated by hybrid genres of screenwriting (Horror and Coming of Age, Fantasy and Crime Drama) and watches anything written by Tina Fey, Michael Schur, and Greg Daniels. For the last four years Exal has served as the Manager of Student Media and Training, for SAIC, where he has trained students in photo/video production, writing, and life survival skills. His words have been uttered before audiences at iO Chicago, Annoyance Theatre, and High Concept Labs.

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 was born and raised in Bombay and has a degree in Literary, Cultural Studies and Theatre from FLAME School of Liberal Education, Pune. She has served as a catalyst on several cutting edge creative media projects within the film, theatre, television, independent music and publishing industries in India. Aalisha likes to construct narratives that are heavily rooted within the quaint sociocultural milieus of her homeland. Through her writing, she aspires to authentically represent the complex, inner worlds of women of Indian origin. She is currently developing a seven-part webseries chronicling the endearingly obnoxious lives of twenty-something millennials in Mumbai. She is also a core member of the performing arts collective accelerated intimacy, which creates work within the space of live art, immersive theatre and one on one performance.

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 got her B.F.A. in Creative Writing at the University of Maine at Farmington, a liberal arts school in a small town in Maine. She grew up in an even smaller town in Maine, and is happy to finally be going somewhere that doesn't have stoplights that blink yellow after 11pm. She loves to write about things she doesn't understand. Konner has directed several plays and her work has been part of many theatrical festivals at the University.

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.