Current Students

M.F.A. in Directing

Jess Hutchinson

Jess Hutchinson

Jess Hutchinson creates epic, intimate theatrical events that explore and explode the necessary connections that forge our human experience. As Artistic Director of Chicago’s New Leaf Theatre, she directed world premieres, re-imagined classics, and championed the creation of the Treehouse Reading Series, which shepherded new plays through the middle of their development process. Favorite past productions include: We Are StarStuff, 70 Secrets of Marmalade Kittens (UT Austin), Arcadia, The Dining Room (Jeff Award nominations: best director, best ensemble), The Man Who Was Thursday, Burying Miss America, Vox Pandora (New Leaf Theatre), Hideous Progeny (LiveWire Chicago Theatre), Orange Flower Water (BackStage Theatre Company). Play development and other readings: ‘ratio development workshop (UT Austin), No Home for Bees (Austin/Iowa Exchange), Deb and Debra (Chicago Dramatists), Smashing (Theatre Seven of Chicago), Pure as Water, There Are No Revolutions Here (Goodman Theatre), Untrained in Geometry (Inchworm Reading Series), Red Green (Akvavit Theatre), Burying Miss America, Untrained in Geometry, Lighthousekeeping, Vow, Dandelion Momma (Treehouse Reading Series). As assistant director: Steven Dietz’s Mad Beat Hip and Gone (ZACH Theatre), Bureau of Missing Persons (Neighborhood Productions), All The Roads Home (O’Neill Theatre Center Playwrights Conference), The Crowd You’re In With (Goodman Theatre). Teaching: Fundamentals of Directing (UT Austin), Arts in Education (University of Chicago), Guest Director (North Park University), Director & Teaching Artist (National High School Institute “Cherubs” program at Northwestern University), Teaching Artist (Lookingglass Theatre Company). She earned a BA with high distinction in Theatre Performance from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. She is honored to be pursuing her M.F.A. among the inspiring community at the University of Texas at Austin.

Natalie Novacek

Woman with patterned shirt and dark hair

Natalie Novacek tells raw and daring stories with effortless staging through contemporary, language-driven scripts. She believes in collaboration rather than dictation in the rehearsal room and approaches each process with an inquisitive mind and open dialogue. She has worked with the Guthrie Theater, Theatre de la Jeune Lune, Children’s Theatre Company, ZACH Theatre, Ten Thousand Things, and Sandbox Theatre among others. She is the artistic director of Loudmouth Collective, known in her hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota for tackling challenging solo performance and engaging small-ensemble theatrical events (Gruesome Playground InjuriesThom Pain (based on nothing)Cul-de-SacFuddy Meers). Natalie’s UT directing credits include Annie Jump and the Library of Heaven, The Pillowman, and Esperanza Rising. Natalie was a Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival National Selection Team Directing Fellow, and her production of Never Swim Alone by Daniel MacIvor was an invited production at the National XXXVII KC/ACTF. Natalie received her B.A. in Theatre Arts from Minnesota State University Moorhead. She is an Associate Member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society. Learn more about Natalie and her work with Loudmouth Collective.

Cara Phipps


Cara Phipps is a director whose work focuses on new play development and production. She recently worked as a directing intern at Actors Theatre of Louisville for their 50th Anniversary season where she directed two devised shows, three solo performance pieces, and a ten-minute play, Grace by Eric John Meyer, with the Apprentice Company. She also developed and directed The Elevator Plays and a workshop production of Jacob Marx Rice’s Almost Happy with members of the A/I Company. A Bay Area native, Cara has developed new work with several companies including Transient Theater, The ’06 Ensemble, Dragon Productions Theatre Company, and City Lights Theatre Company. She received the 2012 FringeNYC Overall Excellence in Directing awards for her work on the world premiere of Candice Benge’s The Egg Play. Cara is a graduate of the drama program at the University of Portland currently pursuing an M.F.A. in Directing at The University of Texas at Austin.