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Meet Lavina Jadhwani

Lavina Jadhwani will be directing our HVSF2 Reading of UNTITLED AGATHA PROJECT by Heidi Armbruster. Register to join us for the performance on Thursday, August 27.

Originally published on September 18, 2018 in VoyageChicago 

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lavina Jadhwani.

Lavina, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?

Many of my early career directing opportunities came through Rasaka Theatre Company, the Midwest’s first South Asian American ensemble. I served as Artistic Director of that company for over 6 years, and through my tenure there began to articulate my personal aesthetic (which includes a textually rigorous and inclusive approach to both new plays as well as classics) as well as advocate for other artists of color and marginalized voices. Some of the artists I collaborated with in my first few seasons at Rasaka include Usman Ally, Minita Gandhi, Fawzia Mirza, and Mouzam Makkar.

After completing an MFA in Directing from The Theatre School at DePaul University, I began to work nationally, with institutions such as Actors Theatre of Louisville, American Conservatory Theater, Asolo Repertory Theatre, the Guthrie Theater, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. In Chicago, I maintain relationships with Silk Road Rising (Artistic Associate), Steppenwolf Theatre Company (Artistic Engagement Associate), and Writers Theatre. Nationally, I serve on the Affiliated Artists Council of the National New Play Network and on the Committee of the 2020/2021 Jubilee.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?

I don’t think any artist of color has had a smooth road in American theatre, and I am no exception. I have three advanced degrees in theatre (BFA in Scenic Design, MA in Arts Management, and MFA in Directing) and in all three programs I felt very alone as a South Asian American artist. Post-graduation, I struggled with the lack of Asian American voices and role models in my field.

We’d love to hear more about your business.

While I primarily identify as a director, I am perhaps best known for my advocacy. I see this as an inherent part of my work — I think all artists must ask themselves “who are you willing to go to the mat for?” My work always includes opening doors for emerging artists from marginalized communities. As a second generation immigrant, I’m constantly investigating the question, “What does it mean to be an American?” and through my work, I strives to expand the definition of that word to include more minority voices.

I am also known for my writing about my field on HowlRound, where I aim to break down complex ideas about inclusion and introduce best practices in an accessible way.

What were you like growing up?

I was (and still am) a big nerd! I attended the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, where I overloaded on English/Humanities classes, sang in a bunch of choirs, and worked on a lot of plays. I’ve always been happiest when I’m working on a lot of projects at once. I love building community and collaborating with a lot of people, but I’m also an introvert at heart who also needs her alone time.