Monica Payne is a freelance director and the founder of Theatre Lumina, a company devoted to cross-cultural collaboration and international exchange. She recently partnered with Chimera Ensemble to co-produce and direct a staged reading of Lauren Gunderson’s Natural Shocks, to raise awareness about gun violence. Other recent Chicago projects include a devised piece, Into the Empty Sky, at Trap Door Theatre, where she is also a Resident Director. (This project was Jeff-nominated for Best Ensemble and Best Original Music in a Play.) Other projects include The House of Bernarda Alba (Pittsburgh Playhouse), Our Country’s Good by Timberlake Wertenbaker for the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television 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 Garcia Marquez; 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 two 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.
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. She has taught for The School at Steppenwolf, Steppenwolf Classes West, The Artistic Home and The Audition Studio, as well as her own studio in Los Angeles. Her students have gone on to work on Broadway, in regional theatre, television, and film.
She earned her M.F.A. in Directing from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. Her research areas include literary adaptations, ensemble work and Polish drama.