The Victory Gardens Theater’s Next Generation Fellowship



Victory Gardens Theater announces Jess McLeod and Aaron Todd Douglas as the 2018 Next Generation Fellows. Beginning in February 2018, the Next Generation Fellowship will provide comprehensive mentorship, requisite training, and experience for these future leaders of color, preparing them to helm arts institutions or departments on the national and local level. The program is made possible by a generous grant from The Field Foundation of Illinois.

“Victory Gardens’ Next Generation Fellowship furthers our institutional commitment to inclusion, diversity and equity. It is imperative that we as a theater community invest in future theater leaders that represent our audiences, communities, and stories told on our stages. We are thrilled to have Jess McLeod and Aaron Todd Douglas as our first Next Generation Fellows,” said Artistic Director Chay Yew. “Victory Gardens is extremely grateful to The Field Foundation for their generous support to make this a reality.”

“The Field Foundation is interested in compelling art, levers of justice, and furthering Chicagoans to create the city of tomorrow,” said Angelique Power, President of The Field Foundation of Illinois.  “Because of this we are thrilled to support Victory Gardens Theater’s exploration of how this theater can be a critical catalyst in propelling brilliant leaders of color forward in their careers. Keep an eye on these Fellows!”

The Victory Gardens Theater’s Next Generation Fellowship is a new professional development program for mid-career persons of color that will prepare and groom underrepresented theatre professionals for leadership positions in the American Theatre.  Through hands-on experience, mentorship, and career- guidance, Fellows will be given tools to become the next generation of arts leaders. Thanks to the generous grant from The Field Foundation, fellows will be fully integrated into the Victory Gardens Theater staff and compensated for their time.


Jess McLeodJess McLeod (Samuel G. Roberson Artistic Fellow) is the Resident Director of Hamilton (Broadway in Chicago), a Resident Director at Victory Gardens Theater and was the Goodman Theatre’s 2017 Michael Maggio Directing Fellow.  Chicago credits include Short Shakes! A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Chicago Shakespeare Theater), 2.5 seasons with Chicago Voices (Lyric Unlimited/Lyric Opera of Chicago), a revamped Marry Me A Little (Porchlight Music Theatre), Idris Goodwin’s How We Got On (Haven Theatre Chicago), Lauren Yee’s in a word (Strawdog Theatre Company), Shawn Pfautch’s Season on the Line (The House Theatre of Chicago); poet Kevin Coval’s one-man show L-vis Live! (Victory Gardens Theater); Venus (Steppenwolf Next Up!); Bathsheba Doran’s Kin (Griffin Theatre); Jenni Lamb’s Suicide Kills (American Theater Company); Babes In Arms (Porchlight Revisits); and Chris Miller and Nathan Tysen’s Fugitive Songs, Zanna, Don’t, and The Pajama Game (The Music Theatre Company). She has directed workshops of new plays or musicals for the Goodman Theatre, Victory Gardens Theater, American Theater Company, Steep Theatre and The American Music Theatre Project, and served as Labrunner for Timber Lake Playhouse’s Summer Playwrights Lab (2011-12).  Upcoming shows include Stacy Amma Osei-Kuffour’s Hang Man (The Gift Theatre); projects in the pipeline include Mill Girls (Book by Samantha Beach, Music & Lyrics by Diana Lawrence) and Ellen Bond, Union Spy (Written by Jenni Lamb, Music & Movement by Tanji Harper & Blu Rhythm Collective).

From 2005-08, McLeod served as Director of Programming for The New York Musical Theatre Festival, where she oversaw all curating and directed pop/musical theatre fusion concerts such as The Unauthorized Musicology of Ben Folds. New York directing credits include Joyce Carol Oates’ The Corn Maiden, Harrison David Rivers’ Fell, Rachel Axler’s Kitchen Sink (Cherry Lane Studio), Joe Keenan and Brad Ross’ The Times (Sonnet Repertory Theatre), and The Last Five Years (Arthur Seelen Theatre). McLeod holds an M.F.A in Directing from Northwestern University and a B.A. from Williams College, and has taught or lectured at both, as well as at NYU, Yale University, NSLC, and The Calhoun School in New York.

An avid teaching artist and believer in youth and community engagement, McLeod has also served as Festival Coordinator for Young Chicago Authors’ Louder Than A Bomb Poetry Festival (the world’s largest youth poetry festival) and worked as a Teaching Artist for Storycatchers Theatre.

Aaron Todd DouglasAaron Todd Douglas (Marcelle McVay Management Fellow) is a theatre artist who acts, directs, writes and teaches. He is a member of the Acting Faculty at Northwestern University, a member in good standing of AEA and SAG/AFTRA, and a former NEA Art Works Panelist. He is a founding ensemble member and a Playwright in Residence of Congo Square Theatre Company. He received an International Ibsen Scholarship from The Norwegian Ministry of Culture in cooperation with Teater Ibsen for his play, The Master Comic. Aaron Todd is thrilled at the World Premiere of his playwrighting debut: Upstate, produced by MPAACT Theatre. Recent projects include directing the World Premiere of Kia Corthron’s play, Megastasis, at Eclipse Theatre, and acting in Writers Theatre’s The Importance of Being Earnest.

Directing projects include: Ruined (Eclipse Theatre, Jeff Award Nomination- Best Ensemble, Best Production), Radio Golf (Raven Theatre, African American Arts Alliance-Special Recognition for Direction), The Nativity (Congo Square/The Goodman), 12 Angry Men (Raven Theatre, Jeff Award Winner Best Ensemble, Nomination Best Director), Smash Hit by Steve Broadnax (Cultural Conversations Festival), Pill Hill (Black Theatre Alliance Award–Best Director, Best Production ETA Creative Arts), Talented Tenth (Black Theatre Alliance Award–Best Production), African Company Presents Richard III (Congo Square Theatre Company).

A Chicago stage veteran, Aaron Todd has acted and directed at many of Chicago’s finest theatre companies including The Goodman, ETA Creative Arts, Chicago Theatre Company, Victory Gardens Theater, Chicago Shakespeare, Raven Theatre, The Court and Steppenwolf. He was recently commissioned to pen an original work by Rivendell Theatre Ensemble.

Congo Square Theatre Company acting credits include the multiple Jeff Award winning production of Seven Guitars, The Piano Lesson, Before it Hits Home, Spunk, and Ali. He originated the role of Flip in the world premiere of Stick Fly by Lydia Diamond (the play was later produced on Broadway) and performed in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone at The Goodman Theatre commemorating the Goodman’s historic completion of Wilson’s Century Cycle.

Other acting credits include: Tree and Wheatley (Victory Gardens Theater), Wait Until Dark (Court Theatre), Journal of Ordinary Thought (Chicago Theater Company), Iphigenia 2.0 (Next Theatre), Fortunes of the Moor (ETA Creative Arts), The State of Mississippi v. Emmet Till (Pegasus Players), Julius Caesar (Chicago Shakespeare), Perfect Mendacity (Steppenwolf), and Measure for Measure (Goodman Theatre).

On Camera acting credits include: Resurrecting McGinn(s) (Gaffney Films- Best Drama at the Amsterdam Film Festival, The One Film Festival), He Sends Rain (Silverwave Entertainment LLC), Breathing Room (FFB/Driven Entertainment- New Harvest Festival/ San Diego Film Festival), The Porter (99Film Collective Productions- Winner-HBO/Kodak Chase Legacy Film Festival), Ernie the Clown (Maddhouse Productions), Season 2 of the acclaimed web series You’re So Talented, and Chicago PD.


The Next Generation Fellowship is a professional development program for rising career persons of color interested in theater Leadership. The Fellowship will work to develop individuals who are the future of theatre.

Through hands-on experience, mentorship, and career-guidance, Fellows will be given tools to become our next generation of arts leaders and managers.

The positions available are The Samuel G. Roberson Artistic Fellow and the Marcelle McVay Management Fellow.

Please read this information carefully:

The 2018 Next Generation Fellowship will take place from February, 2018 – October 30, 2018

  • In special circumstances, these dates can be slightly flexible depending on the needs of the candidate and hiring department.
  • Final candidates will be asked to interview in November/ December on a rolling basis.

Sam RobertsonThe Samuel G. Roberson Artistic Fellow will be fully integrated into the artistic staff; read and analyze plays for season planning and the IGNITION New Play Festival; assist in line producing main stage shows and any new play development programming; participate in Public Programs, Access Project and Education Department.

Marcelle McVayThe Marcelle McVay Management Fellow will be part of the management team; learn and assist in board development, fundraising, development and grant writing, contracts and negotiations, rentals, budgets, company management and human resources.


  • Identify as a person of color
  • Have earned a baccalaureate, or have equivalent professional experience
  • Reside in, or be able to relocate to, Chicago
  • Have a strong desire to work in their selected department
  • Submit an application


During their tenure, Fellows receive:

  • Fellows will be paid minimum wage for 27 hours/week during 9 months (February–October or agreed upon dates).
  • Perks: Professional Development and networking opportunities, and discount and free tickets to area theatres.


All applicants must submit ONE SINGLE PDF containing the following documents, in the following order.

  • Cover Letter
  • Resume or Curriculum Vitae
  • 2 Letters of Recommendation

Cover Letter should include:

  • How you feel you will benefit from this program;
  • Your long term professional goals (as much as you know them at this point);
  • Why working at Victory Gardens is the right next step in your career; and
  • What are you looking for in a mentor, and what qualities you possess that make you a strong leader.

All applications should be emailed to
Put Next Generation Fellowship in Subject line.

Due dates for 2019 Next Generation Fellowship application materials will be announced late 2018.