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Monica Payne Assistant Professor Department of Theatre & Dance Tulane University

Monica Payne

Assistant Professor
Head of Performance
Head of Directing


MFA, UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television


Monica Payne is a freelance director and the founder of Theatre Lumina, a company devoted to cross-cultural collaboration and international exchange.  She recently directed the Jeff-recommended Chicago premiere of Ada and the Engine by Lauren Gunderson at the Artistic Home in Chicago.  Other recent projects include Maison, an immersive project in New Orleans, produced by BODYART, Into the Empty Sky (Trap Door Theatre, Jeff-nominated for Best Ensemble and Best Original Music in a Play), Intimate Apparel for Tulane University, The House of Bernarda Alba (Pittsburgh Playhouse), Our Country’s Good by Timberlake Wertenbaker (UCLA TFT) and a workshop production of Camino Real by Tennessee Williams for CSU Summer Arts/Steppenwolf Classes West. She spent much of 2015/16 working on Trash Story, an award-winning Polish play by Magda Fertacz. She directed full productions in both New York (Kulture+ Productions) and Los Angeles (UCLA TFT), as well as a staged reading for the International Voices Project/Trap Door Theatre in Chicago. She has made two trips to Poland in recent years with the Adam Mickiewicz Institute to further her understanding of contemporary Polish drama.  Other projects include a critically acclaimed production of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye for the Pittsburgh Playhouse; Ploughman from Bohemia for Theatre Lumina in a site-specific Los Angeles production; Racine’s Phedre for Point Park University; Euripides’ Hecuba and Mark Twain’s Huck Finn for the Pittsburgh Playhouse; her own adaptation of The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Erendira and her Heartless Grandmother by Gabriel García Márquez; Euripides’ Elektra; William Inge’s Natural Affection; and Sam Shepard’s Savage Love. She assisted Jose Luis Valenzuela on Goodman Theatre’s Destiny of Desire, Georges Bigot (formerly of Theatre du Soleil) on Macbeth for Theatre Y, and Brian Kite on the La Mirada Center for the Performing Arts’ award-winning production of Miss Saigon, which subsequently toured in China.  She has also directed several music videos for singer/songwriter Kaitlin Huwe.

A former actress, Payne worked for many years in Chicago with various companies, including Steppenwolf Theatre Company, The Artistic Home, The Hypocrites, The Journeymen, and Famous Door, among others. She is a member of the 2008 Lincoln Center Director’s Lab in New York, as well as the 2012 Director’s Lab West in Los Angeles. She is grateful for the rigorous mentorship of directors Jose Luis Valenzuela, Kim Rubinstein, Michael McLain, and Michael Hackett, and is inspired by the work of many European artists, including Pina Bausch and Tadeusz Kantor.

Payne has been a Meisner teacher for almost 20 years, and has taught workshops in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Atlanta.  In addition, she has taught both acting and directing for various universities, including UCLA, Carnegie Mellon, and Point Park University, where she also served as the Head of Graduate Acting for two years. She has taught for The School at Steppenwolf, The Artistic Home and The Audition Studio, as well as her own studio in Los Angeles.  She has an ongoing relationship with Steppenwolf Classes West and has joined them in Monterey, Long Beach, and Toronto. Her students have gone on to work on Broadway, in regional theatre, television, and film.  She is an Assistant Professor at Tulane University, and a Resident Director for Trap Door Theatre in Chicago.

She earned her M.F.A. in Directing from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. Her research areas include literary adaptations, devised work, and Polish drama.

Upcoming projects include: The Old Man and The Old Moon, originally devised by PigPen Theatre Company, Song of Home, which will tour to Europe in Feb. of 2020, and Mississippi Styx, a dance-theatre piece co-directed with Leslie Scott.