EMJOY GAVINO (she/her/hers) is the Casting Director and a Co-Artistic Director for The Gift Theatre. The eldest child of Filipino immigrants, Emjoy grew up in the Pacific Northwest, dreaming of finding an artistic home, a true community, a place where she belonged.
Emjoy moved to Chicago in 2006, where she would eventually find her way onto its stages and working as a teaching artist. She is a proud member of “The Wolfpack” – the group of students who graduated The School at Steppenwolf in 2010. There she met so many of her favorite humans who make up her chosen family, including Gift luminaries, Sheldon Patinkin and Michael Patrick Thornton, who taught her improv and the true meaning of generosity.
As an Asian American actor, she grew weary of the lack of opportunities and access that marginalized artists had, even in a large city like Chicago. Astonished by gatekeepers’ lack of imagination and motivation to change the larger stage picture, Emjoy began offering to assist local theatres in casting, with the hope of opening more doors to people so often shut out. After months spent begging every artistic director she knew, Emjoy happily accepted the position of Casting Director at The Gift Theatre in 2015.
That same year she founded The Chicago Inclusion Project with a collective of theatre artists and activists, dedicated to bringing together artists and audiences typically separated by ethnicity, gender identity, physical ability, and economic status. They began with accessible pay-what-you-can staged readings and in-depth conversations, collaborating with The Open Center for the Arts, The Swedish American Arts Museum, Hyde Park Arts Center, Victory Gardens Theatre, Writers Theatre, The Hypocrites, and Timeline Theatre – the latter of which resulted in a full production of In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play) and received box office and critical success. Acknowledging that many marginalized artists may not have access to the tools necessary to make a career in theatre sustainable, they launched a professional performance training series in partnership with Jackalope Theatre and Steppenwolf Theatre. Centered around pay-what-you-can classes in accessible venues, the series seeks to eliminate the barriers for underrepresented artists to find their well deserved places in theatre. The Chicago Inclusion Project has been recognized with The Leppen Leadership Award (AboutFace Theatre), the Hallie Flanagan Award (Stage Left Theatre), and the Katheryn V. Lamkey Spirit Award (National EEO).
Through The Gift and The Chicago Inclusion Project, she has been fortunate to help design ensembles and launch programs that truly align with her mission—lifting up underrepresented communities, exploding stereotypes, and joyfully exploring what a character, story, and room could be. She is grateful every day for the opportunity to create spaces where everyone can feel like they belong.
Chicago Theatre Credits include:
That’s Weird Grandma (Playmaker’s Laboratory); Wait Until Dark (Court Theatre); Animal Farm – a Radio Play, The Drunken City, and You Got Older (Steppenwolf Theatre); Kentucky (The Gift Theatre); Arabian Nights (Lookingglass Theatre); Hair (Paramount Theatre); Bull in a China Shop (About Face Theatre); Vietgone (Writers Theatre); Working (Broadway Playhouse); The Realish Housewives (Second City Theatricals); You on The Moors Now (The Hypocrites); and Do You Feel Anger (A Red Orchid Theatre); as well as the world premieres of Cooperstown (Theatre Seven); Wilson Wants it All (House Theatre of Chicago); A Very Neo-Futurist Christmas Carol (The Neo-Futurists); Failure: A Love Story (Victory Gardens Theatre); The Good Book (Court Theatre); and Act(s) of God (Lookingglass Theatre).
Regional Acting Credits:
The Violet Hour, Into the Woods (ReAct Theatre); A Christmas Carol (ACT); Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes (Book-it Repertory), Baseball Saved Us (5th Avenue Theatre); Searching 4 Y (Village Theatre); Iphigenia in Aulis (The Getty Villa/Court Theatre); and Cry it Out (Studio Theatre).
Theatre Casting Credits:
The Pillowman, Kentucky, Wolf Play, Doubt, Cosmologies, Hang Man, A Swell in the Ground, Pilgrims, Unseen, and The Grapes of Wrath (The Gift Theatre); New Year New Works Play Festival (Victory Gardens); Men on Boats, Picnic, Welcome to Jesus, and We’re Gonna Be Okay (American Theater Company); Wit (The Hypocrites); Rasca Cielos, Dandelions, and 2020 – A Going Away Party Play (Theatre on the Lake: In the Works).
The Exorcist (20th Century Fox); Chicago Med (Universal Pictures); Empire (Lee Daniels Entertainment); Mob Doctor (Sony Pictures); Chicago Fire (Universal Pictures); Boss (Lionsgate Television).
2017 3Arts Make a Wave inaugural grant
2020 3Arts Stan and Evelyn Appell Lipkin Award
For updates, please follow www.emjoygavino.com