How to Defend Yourself


By Liliana Padilla
Co-Directed by Rachel Chavkin, Liliana Padilla & Steph Paul

2022/23 Season

Good Neighbor Program Directions Accessibility
Read Synopsis

After a sorority sister is raped, seven college students gather for a DIY self-defense workshop. They learn to use their bodies as weapons. They learn to fend off attackers. They learn “not to be a victim.” Self-defense becomes a channel for their rage, anxiety, confusion, trauma and desire—lots of desire. With sharp humor and brutal honesty, Liliana Padilla’s How to Defend Yourself explores what we want, how to ask for it, and the violator and violated inside us all. Tony Award-winning NYTW Usual Suspect Rachel Chavkin (Hadestown), Susan Smith Blackburn finalist Liliana Padilla (Born 1000 Times) and Helen Hayes Award winner Steph Paul (The Last Match) will co-direct the production.


Liliana Padilla / Playwright & Co-Director

LILIANA PADILLA‘s work explores community, the body, power and healing. How to Defend Yourself won the Yale Drama Series Prize, was an international Susan Smith Blackburn Prize Finalist and was featured on The Kilroy’s list. Liliana’s work has been produced at the Humana Festival, Victory Gardens Theatre and the La Jolla Playhouse, and workshopped at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Hedgebrook and the Ojai Playwrights Conference. Liliana teaches at Dartmouth College and the Sewanee Writers Conference. Liliana is a theatremaker, performer, teacher and creative doula. MFA Playwriting: UCSD, BFA Theatre: NYU.

Rachel Chavkin / Co-Director

RACHEL CHAVKIN received the 2019 Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, and Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Director of a Musical for Hadestown. She is a director, writer and dramaturg, as well as the founding Artistic Director of Brooklyn-based ensemble the TEAM whose work has been seen all over London and the U.K. including the National Theatre, the Royal Court and multiple collaborations with the National Theatre of Scotland. Selected freelance work: Dave Malloy’s Natasha, Pierre, & The Great Comet of 1812 (Ars Nova, A.R.T., Broadway), Matt Gould and Carson Kreitzer’s Lempicka (Williamstown), Caryl Churchill’s Light Shining in Buckinghamshire (New York Theatre Workshop), Marco Ramirez’s The Royale (Old Globe, Lincoln Center), Bess Wohl’s Small Mouth Sounds (Ars Nova, Off-Broadway, national tour), Sarah Gancher’s I’ll Get You Back Again (Round House) and multiple collaborations with Taylor Mac including The Lily’s Revenge, Act 2 (HERE). In addition to her awards for Hadestown, Chavkin is a recipient of a Tony Award nomination for Best Direction of a Musical, three Obie Awards, a Drama Desk Award, multiple Lortel Award nominations, two Doris Duke Impact Award nominations and the 2017 Smithsonian Award for Ingenuity along with Dave Malloy, with whom she is developing an adaptation of Moby Dick (World Premiere at the American Repertory Theater). Her first film, Remind Me, was an official selection of the Venice and Beverly Hills Film Festivals. Proud NYTW Usual Suspect and Member SDC.

Steph Paul / Co-Director

STEPH PAUL is a director/choreographer/creative who clears space for uninhibited physical truth. What comes up must come out. She weaves together her lived experience as a first-generation Haitian-American, body percussionist, dancer, athlete, and is passionate about art as a means to build a team. Recent credits include The Royale (KCRep), America v2.1 (Definition Theatre), The Last Match (Writers Theatre), Where the Mountain Meets the Sea (Humana Festival), How to Defend Yourself (Victory Gardens Theater, Humana Festival), The Wolves (Studio Theatre – Helen Hayes Award Winner, Outstanding Choreography in a Play). International credits include Royal Opera House Muscat and National Theatre of Scotland. Steph is an Artistic Associate of Chicago Dance Crash, a proud member of SDC and a 2021 Princess Grace Award-winner. She is also a big fan of curating playlists, açaí bowls and improbable comebacks.