First Read 2019

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First Read is a week-long festival of new play readings and community events that center trans and non-binary theater artists and connect the queer theater community.

The Syndicate, with lead producers Hal Cosentino, Denise Yvette Serna of Pop Magic Productions, and Ellenor Riley-Condit, hosted First Read at The Martin, 2515 W. North Avenue, Chicago, the week of June 10th – June 16th, 2019.

First Read launched in NYC in 2018 as part of Syndicated at IRT Theater.

Photo by Ashlyn Napoletano

Photo by Ashlyn Napoletano

Quemado by Lucas Garcia

How do you stay soft when the world is full of thorns? How do you stay rooted when the rain comes after a lifetime of drought? QUEMADO explores how a group of queer family, friends and lovers grapple with the secrets of the past, the pain of the present, and the uncertainty of the future. All the while the cosmic and terrestrial forces that move the world watch enraptured. A play about drought, dreams and fierce love.


Lucas Garcia (they/them, playwright) is a writer and dramaturg from Albuquerque, NM. Writing across multiple genres, their work is centered on disrupting systems of oppression and continuously re-imagining the stories of queer people of color. Their dramaturgy includes Master Class, In the Next Room or The Vibrator Play (TimeLine), Twelfth Night (Writers), Hundreds and Hundreds of Stars (Goodman New Stages), Columbinus (The Yard), and Wit (The Hypocrites). They are a theatre critic with Rescripted, a board member of InterAction Initiative Inc, a member of El Semillero Latinx Playwrights Circle, and a core team member of The Alliance of Latinx Theatre Artists. Their critical writing can be seen on Rescripted, Howlround, and American Theatre.


Airos Sung-En Medill (They/Them, Director) works to make space for QTPOC//TGNC folks, centering them in the stories they tell; moving bodies in space as a means to heal. For folks of all ages to learn with curiosity and joy, infusing spaces with breath, embodiment and imagination. They are currently a company member at For Youth Inquiry(FYI) as well as the squad leader of new work, a teaching artist with Steppenwolf and Timeline theatre and is studying to become a bodyworker at Zen Shiatsu. Photo by Alexis O'Connor. 


Isaura Flores (They/Them, Beatriz) is a Performing Artist/Educator/&Community Organizer from Chicago. Based out of Pilsen, they are working on building brave/healing/creative autonomous learning spaces for families and longtime residents with an emphasis on care for indigenous black and brown youth, trans, queer, undocumented, and femme identifying folks. They are also currently self-producing their first album and one person show!

Ashley Joy (She/Her, The Moon + Stage Directions) is a Chicago native. She is honored to create with such a kind and enthusiastic group of artists and is especially happy and grateful to be a part of Chicago’s wonderful theatre community. In addition to acting, Ashley dedicates her time as a secular disciple of Shaolin Kung-fu, a poet, and dancer. Ashley is represented by Big Mouth Talent Agency and is a founding member of Connective Theatre Company based in Chicago.


Alyssa Vera Ramos (She/Her, The Sun + Stage Directions) is a theatre maker and reproductive justice organizer. She is the Artistic Director of For Youth Inquiry Performance Company at ICAH (catch the remount of This Boat Called My Body in August) and is a Founding Member of FEMelanin, with whom she recently directed Epic Tales from the Land of Melanin, featured at the Latinx Theatre Commons’ Sin Fronteras TYA Festival. She loves this play.

Vic Wynter (They/Them, Petra) shapeshifts through space discovering where and how they can contribute. Most recently, they got the opportunity to perform original work at Kinship; About Face theaters Queer Variety Show. They’ve also been on the Goodman stage in the IAM...Fest performance of The Interrogation of Sandra Bland. Vic is an FYI(For Youth Inquiry) actor teaching the youth sexual health through immersive and interactive plays. They have also performed on the Neo-Futurists stage in The Arrow; One Night Only and assistant directed The Arrow Takes A Leap & The Arrow Cleans House. They love the worlds of performance, writing, and dance. Those worlds give birth to communities all while connecting folks with and to themselves. These are all ways of communicating in a world that tries stifling our voices


Jazmín Corona (She/Her, Tillie) has had the pleasure of working with Steppenwolf, Porchlight, Raven Theatre, Collaboraction, 16th Street, Free Street, First Folio, Teatro Luna, Adventure Stage, Eclipse Theatre Company, Goodman, American Blues, Urban Theater Company, Chicago Dramatists, Prop Theatre, Babes With Blades, and Physical Festival Chicago. She has worked on such films as Dawn and The Southside Has Many Beauty Queens, both having been shown at the Chicago Latino Film Festival with the latter winning the Audience Choice Award for Best Short Film. Television credits include NBC’s Chicago Fire.

Jose Nateras (He/Him, Lupe) is a Chicago based Actor & Writer and Director. Recent acting credits include: First Love is the Revolution (Steep Theatre), Fulfillment Center (A Red Orchid Theatre), Frankenstein (Remy Bumppo), and many others. He's appeared on NBC's Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D., Fox's Proven Innocent, Utopia on Amazon Prime, and elsewhere. Jose is a graduate of Loyola University Chicago, has his MFA in Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and beyond the theatre, is also a novelist, adjunct professor, teaching artist, and playwright. A resident playwright with ALTA Chicago's 'El Semillero' (residing at Victory Gardens), he's written a number of shorts, pilots, and full length screenplays, and is a contributor for The A.V. Club and elsewhere. Jose is represented by Gray Talent Group.


Sar Cohen (She/Her, Gaudi) is a Columbia College Chicago graduate with a major in Acting and a minor in Stage Combat. She grew up in Mexico City, Mexico and is represented by Grossman & Jack Talent. Her recent Theatre credits include Haven Theatre (Simply Maria) and Windy City Performs (Wizard of Oz). She will be starring in an upcoming web series called Bottled Up! and has extensive experience in voiceover, movement and dance. Sar is honored to be a part of Quemado and the First Read Festival, she hopes you enjoy the magical love in this play

Gregory Taylor Hill (He/Him, Dominic) is an Ohio born actor living in Chicago for the last 3 years and working for Imagination Theatre and FYI for the last 2. He received IO's Diversity Scholarship, where he is currently in their Level 5 Programming. You can catch him at IO every Friday at 10:30 performing in a sketch show called Studio 11.


Phyllis Liu (They/Them, Andrew) is a Taiwanese-American creator and mover based in Chicago. Phyllis works at an AAPI racial advocacy nonprofit, supporting social justice work with other organizations and community organizers. They constantly seek to learn and unlearn, grow, discover, decolonize and reeducate. They graduated from University of Maryland, College Park in Theatre and Performance Studies and East Asian Studies. Phyllis creates work that explores the intersections of heritage, identity, and gender through movement, visual/mixed media, and physical theatre. @sanbaowa on instagram for their creative explorations.

Photo by Harley Foos

Photo by Harley Foos

Ashana (A Native Play) by June Thiele

Relationships are important in any culture, and in most Native American culture, relationships are everything. This is the case for Ashana; a modern Native scrimshaw artist making her way through life in an urban setting. Until something unimaginable happens, her relationships with her family and chosen family were solid pillars.


June Thiele (she/her, they/them, playwright) is an Indigenous, two-spirit actor, writer, and performance artist. Indigenous to Alaska, June travelled to Chicago some years ago to attend Columbia College. June has been lucky enough to work with some amazing artists in Chicago, and their playwriting endeavors have created some great opportunities. Recently June had the honor of attending a fellowship with PBS Kids Television to help the development of the First Nationally Distributed Children's Series to Feature Alaska Native Lead Character, Molly of Denali. June hopes to further their indigenous and queer culture by creating modern narratives through theatre, performance arts, and story-telling.

Rinska Carrasco Prestinary (She/Her, Director) is a Dominican-American who is proud member of SAG-AFTRA and Gray Talent Group. She is a Freelance Columbia College Directing Grad, that has worked alongside companies such as Chicago Shakespeare, Adventure Stage, Goodman Theatre, Silk Road Rising, Steep, Stage Left, and Something Marvelous among many others both on and off stage. She is also the current Associate Artistic Director of Halcyon Theatre. Selected directing credits include: Between Riverside and Crazy (Red Twist) Firefly Love (Something Marvelous) The River Bride (Halcyon) Heat Wave (Steppenwolf Garage), Between Pancho Villa and a Naked Woman (Halcyon). Past selected production credits include: Taming of the Shrew Assistant Director (Barbara Gaines/Chicago Shakes), Romeo and Juliet Directing Intern (Marti Lyons/ Chicago Shakes), Fishmen Assistant Director/ Casting Director (Goodman Theatre/Teatro Vista). Select acting credits include: There's Always the Hudson (Goodman Theatre) Roots in the Alley (Adventure Stage) In the Time of the Butterflies (Teatro Vista), She Kills Monsters (Steppenwolf Garage). She has also been seen on Chicago P.D, Empire, A.P.B and CHI-IRAQ.


Frankie Pedersen (She/Her, Ashana) is thrilled to be taking part in the First Read Chicago series, as well as helping June bring this piece to life. Frankie is a First Nation Listuguj Mi’gmaq artist from New Orleans, Louisiana. Twelve hours after this reading, she will have graduated from The Theatre School at DePaul University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Studies, with a concentration in directing, with a minor in Digital Cinema Production. She has directed shows at Southern Repertory Theatre, Playhouse NOLA, and the Chicago Fringe Festival. When she’s not directing, writing, or acting, her main focus is on community engagement and healing through the arts. For current and upcoming projects visit


Lauren Fisher (She/Her, Trish) is thrilled to be a part of this festival. Full disclosure, she is also the proud wife of the playwright! Lauren is a founding member of Silent Theatre Company and has performed with a number of companies about town. She was most recently seen in Our Christian Nation in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. By day, Lauren is a self-employed fundraising consultant, by night you can find her singing with her friends and annoying her partner with requests to keep the google calendar up-to-date.

Caleb Fath (He/Him, Gilly) is thrilled to be a part of The Syndicate’s First Read. A 2016 graduate of Indiana University’s Musical Theatre Program, some of his favorite theatrical credits include: West Side Story (Bernardo), Grease (Sonny), Sister Act (Pablo), Godspell (Jesus), and Sweet Charity (Vittorio Vidal/Herman). For current and upcoming projects, visit Thank you to June for allowing me to be a part of Ashana’s journey.

Matthew Nerber (He/Him, Chris) is an actor, writer, and director originally from Buffalo, NY. He is a proud ensemble member with Interrobang Theatre Project, and a 2019 fellow at the National Critics Institute at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center.

photo by Ashlyn Napoletano

photo by Ashlyn Napoletano

prefer not to answer, or other by Gavin D. Pak

Florence is a trans girl living in the complicated closet of her Asian immigrant parents' humble, quiet lives. Seeing college as her chance to start a new, out life, Florence writes a college application in secret about her queerness. A story of mothers and daughters, queer love, and the distance we manufacture between us and our loved ones.


Gavin D. Pak (they/them, playwright) is a writer, actor, and stage manager in the Chicago area. Gavin’s first short play Fresh Out the Closet was awarded the Olga and Paul Menn Foundation Prize and received a reading at the Goodman Theatre. A strong believer in new works, storefront, and community theater, Gavin was a participant in The New Colony’s Writers’ Room, and is a proud associate of Echo Theater Collective in Oak Park, a group focused on creating accessible art focused on social justice and inclusivity. Favorite acting credits include Sweeney Todd, Christmas Eve (Avenue Q), Beaujo (Geography of a Horse Dreamer). University of Chicago Theater and Performance Studies.


JD Caudill (They/Them, Director) is a Chicago-based director, music director, and occasional performer. Select directing credits includes Southern Comfort at Pride Films and Plays, Face the Day at The New Colony, and other work at Haven Theatre, Stage Left, New American Folk Theatre, Red Theatre, The Runaways Lab Theatre, Otherworld Theatre, Hobo Junction, Arc Theatre, and 20% Theatre. They are the Literary Manager and an associate company member at Broken Nose Theatre, where they directed in Bechdel Fests 4-6 and assistant directed At The Table. Additionally, they are a proud company member of Hell in a Handbag Productions, where they've music directed a multitude of productions including Snowgirls the Musical, Lady X, Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer, Skooby Don't!, and more. Their music direction has also been seen at Pride Films and Plays, where they music directed Flies! The Musical. Lastly, you may have seen them perform in shows such as Scraps at New American Folk Theatre, Golden Girls Vol. 1 at Hell in a Handbag,White Rabbit Red Rabbit at Interrobang Theatre Project, Displayed at The New Colony, and more. They are working to help audiences understand queer worlds they may not belong to, and offer visions of hope and beauty to those that do.


Angelíca Grace (She/Her, Florence) is a trans, Filipino, Chicago-based actor and drag performer. She’s worked with About Face Youth Theatre, The Route 66 Theatre Company, National New Play Network, Random Acts, Eclectic Theatre Company, The Gift Theatre, Asian Improv Arts Midwest, and Jedlicka Performing Arts. She’s been an ensemble member at AFYT for 6 years, serves on the Youth Task Force, and is part of the touring Outreach show, Power in Pride. She also serves on the Board of Directors at About Face. Through their work on the Youth Task Force, she co-created and curates KINSHIP: An All Ages Queer Variety Show which highlights young, queer performers of color. Angelíca is also a company member of Random Acts, having performed numerous times at their variety series #SafeSpace and being in their staged reading of The Laramie Project and recent production of columbinus. In drag, they’ve performed with Salonathon, Queer Abstract, Young Lungs with Wild Atlas Theatre Company, The Newness: A Salon, and Auntie’s Treasures. She starts every morning blasting Lizzo. Follow her on Instagram @missangelicagrace!


Samuel Flores (He/Him, Connor) is beyond honored to be in the first reading of PREFER NOT TO ANSWER, OR OTHER. He was recently seen in Pride Films and Plays’ production of SOUTHERN COMFORT this past Spring with JD Caudill and SWEENEY TODD at the Stahl Family Theatre. He would like to thank his friends and family for the love and support.


Mia Park (She/Her, Nina) is powered by hope and engagement. As a Chicago based multidisciplinary artist, Mia shares her passion for discovery through acting, teaching yoga, writing, playing music, producing events, and volunteering


Norman Garcy Yap (He/Him, Arthur) is excited to be a part of First Read Chicago. Chicago credits include Chimerica (Timeline Theatre). TV credits: Chicago Med, Air Emergency, The Onion Presents. Film credits include Rollerball and the upcoming Sun King and The Trafficker


Shane Novoa Rhoads (He/Him, Mr. Sanderson + Connor’s Dad + Mr. Dobson) is thrilled to be working with Gavin and JD in this wonderful play. His past credits include: Southern Gothic U/S (Windy City Playhouse), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof U/S (Drury Lane), Cymbeline (Strawdog), Displayed (The New Colony), Fulfillment U/S (American Theater Company). Originally from the Bay Area, past San Francisco credits include: The Play About the Baby, Superior Donuts, Taming of the Shrew, Equus and Angels in America


Alexandra Alontaga (She/Her, Stage Directions) is honored to have the opportunity to help tell this story. She has most recently appeared in Columbinus (Random Acts Chicago) and Sweeney Todd (MunroePark TheaterGuild). Alex also works as the company manager for Random Acts Chicago and is committed to their mission to uplift underrepresented artists in the Chicago community. Being a bisexual Filipino actress, she feels there are not often stories that address the nuances of being queer and Asian American, so being a part of Gavin's project is truly special.

Photo by Harley Foo

Photo by Harley Foo

Dig by Theo Germaine

Nick and Zuli want answers and retribution. On the night before their deceased lover's apartment gets turned over for new tenants, the two trespass, trying to solve the mystery of how their partner died. 


Theo Germaine (they/them, he/him, playwright) is currently based in Chicago, and DIG is their first full length play, first written as part of the late great American Theatre Company's residency program.  As an actor, they've worked at Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf, Writers Theatre, American Theatre Company, Timeline, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, and have been on screen via Open TV.  Recently, they also starred in the pilot Work in Progress (Sundance Film Festival's Indie Episodic Selection, 2019), the feature film Holy Trinity, about a dominatrix who can hear the dead, and in the fall, they will be appearing as a series regular in the Netflix Original Series, The Politician.  


AJ Schwartz (They/Them, Director) is a director living and making art in Chicago since 2013. As a theatremaker, they aim to use performance to explore the world through a radical, iconoclastic, and undeniably queer lens. Their recent credits include Mike Pence Sex Dream, Refrigerator (Assistant Director, First Floor Theater), This Bitter Earth (Dramaturg), Time Is on Our Side (Assistant Director, About Face Theatre), Zurich (Assistant Director, Steep Theatre Co.), and The Henry V Project (Director, Loyola University Chicago).


Jerome Riley Jr. (They/Them, Nik) is a gender non-conforming actor, singer, dancer, writer, and former nightclub performer, who is just trying to figure it out. Jerome received a BFA in Musical Theatre from Columbia College Chicago. A few of Jerome’s credits include: Trevor: the Musical (Writer’s Theatre), The Scottsboro Boys (Porchlight), and Madagascar (Marriott Theatre). Jerome likes to spend their free time reading about race, class, and gender, thrifting, watching Drew Barrymore movies, and writing poetry.

Elle Walker (She/Her, Zuli) is a transgender actor, musician, writer, and performance artist. Favorite Chicago credits include “Picnic” (American Theater Company), “Cinderella at the Theater of Potatoes” (the Hypocrites), “We’re Gonna Die” (Haven Theatre/Steppenwolf LookOut Series), and The Fly Honey Shows VII, VIII, and IX (The Inconvenience). TV/Film: “Two in the Bush,” “Kappa Force.” Elle is represented by Paonessa Talent. Through her work she aims to empower other trans*/gender non-conforming folks through laughter and the belief in finding strength through forging new paths, on one's own terms.


Wil (they/them/theirs) is an actor and singer-songwriter who sometimes goes by the name Campfire Wil and is frequently told they are "such" a Sagittarius. They are a proud graduate of the Black Box ACADEMY and The Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts). Wil has been featured in Steppenwolf's Lookout Series in the Trans Voices Cabaret and attended Steppenwolf West under the instruction of Alexandra Billings and Jeff Perry. Credits include The Peoples Temple, Goldstar, Ohio(American Theater Company) TEN (The Gift) and Southern Comfort (Pride Films & Plays) u/s. In the fall they will be recovering from gender confirmation surgery and understudying Kentucky at The Gift.

Monday June 10 7:00PM

Visioning Our Futures: A Space for TGNC Theater Makers

This event will be a space for trans, non-binary, genderqueer, gender non-conforming, and questioning theatre makers and artists to come together and talk about their experiences and hopes. This event will be largely discussion based and hopefully produce some meaningful ways of considering and address the needs of T/NB/GQ/GNC people in theatre moving forward. In this event there will be space to share positive and negative experiences, and think about the needs of our community. This event will ask attending T/NB/GQ/GNC theatre artists and professionals to envision an inclusive and affirming future theatre industry, and identify some of the steps we can take to get there. This will also be a space to have fun and build community.

Sunday june 16 1:00PM

Trans Inclusion - Resources for Theater Makers

This will continue the conversation from First Read’s first Inclusion Event, “Trans/NB/GNC Theatre Makers and Artists Visioning Our Futures”. At this event, theatre makers and artists are invited to come together, regardless of their familiarity, to learn about and discuss trans inclusion in the theater community. We'll go over some of the basics of trans history, and everyday trans inclusion. In understanding these basics we'll go over how to put cissexism in context with a wider post-colonial and anti-racist framework. We'll also discuss challenges to inclusion attendees have faced in the past, and address one another's questions as a group. This event will give attendees a chance to share experiences, ask questions, and ask how theatre can become more T/NB/GQ/GNC inclusive.