How to Defend Yourself


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

2022/23 Season

February 22, 2023—April 2, 2023

How to Defend Yourself runs approximately 100 minutes with no intermission.

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How to Defend Yourself takes place after a sexual assault. It discusses, but does not depict sexual violence and contains other mature themes. For a detailed content advisory, please click here.
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Read Synopsis

I wish girls fought more. Like beat the shit out of each other for fun. I wish that was like a socially acceptable thing to do. Fight club, you know? If it was me and you, I think I’d win.

In a DIY self-defense class, college students 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.

-You asked how I like it, that’s how I like it.

          -Maybe you can interrogate why you like that.

-Maybe you can interrogate why it scares you.

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 (TWITCH) and Princess Grace Award winner Steph Paul (The Last Match) will co-direct the production.

How to Defend Yourself discusses but does not depict sex and sexual violence.

Scenic Design You-Shin Chen
Costume Design Izumi Inaba
Lighting Design Stacey Derosier
Sound Design Mikhail Fiksel
Movement Director Steph Paul
Casting Erica Hart, Nicholas Petrovich, Cindy Tolan
Fight Director Rocío Mendez
Voice Director Dawn-Elin Fraser
Intimacy Coordinator Ann James
Production Supervision Tinc Productions
Stage Manager Katie Young

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Interested in more? Check out our calendar of For the Culture pre- and post-show events featuring our community partners, Speak About It, The Center for Anti-Violence Education, Breaking the Binary Theatre, Crime Victims Treatment Center and The New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault.

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Amaya Braganza / Nikki

NYTW debut! Broadway: Annie (July), King and I. National Tour: King and I. Regional: Spring Awakening (Martha, Northern Stage). TV: “Succession.” “The Braganza Sisters” found on all streaming platforms. Currently fulfilling a BASW in Social Work at Fordham University. Proud Filipino-American. Carson Kolker Agency. (She/They) @amaya_ braganza

Sebastian Delascasas / Andy

NYTW debut. Most recent credit includes Cash in the feature film Last Straw (2023) & Teo in the film Promise (2023). Sebastian graduated NYU Tisch in 2020, receiving the “Outstanding Achievement in Studio” Award.

Jayson Lee / Eggo

NYTW debut. Regional: How to Defend Yourself (Victory Gardens), The Wickhams (Northlight Theatre), Hooded (First Floor Theater), Ivanov & JAYSON (The Exodus Ensemble—of which Jayson is a founding member). Film & TV: “61st Street” and Heist 88. Jayson is a graduate of The Theatre School at DePaul University.

Ariana Mahallati / Mojdeh

Ariana Mahallati (she/her) is thrilled to make her NYTW debut with a show she has been with from San Diego to New York.  Listen for her voice in Pixar’s upcoming “Win or Lose,” streaming on Disney+ in late 2023.

Zan, Zendegi, Azadi – Woman, Life, Freedom.

IG: @oreomochalatte

Teagan Meredith / Susannah

NYTW debut. Teagan has co-starred in “The Calling” as Gabrielle Holt, and will be co-starring as Janey Howard in the anticipated series “Fallout.” She made her short film debut in the Neymarc Brothers Film, Memo Inc, and has starred in commercials for Delta Airlines, Nick Jr., and Noggin. Rep: Zuri, Nouveaux 

Gabriela Ortega / Diana

NYTW debut. Gabriela is an interdisciplinary artist from the Dominican Republic, a Sundance theatre fellow, and a USC graduate. Theatre: Electricidad (Centre Theatre Group), Dance Nation (B Street Theatre), Las Mujeres del Mar (Playwright’s Arena), How to Defend Yourself (Humana Festival), Lovesick (Victory Gardens). Solo performance: 23nMe (IAMA Theatre), Las García (Bootleg Theatre). 

Sarah Marie Rodriguez / Kara

Sarah Marie Rodriguez is making her NYTW debut. Sarah recently starred as Violet Wheeler on the Netflix series Manifest. She is a Brooklyn native and recent graduate of Pace University’s BFA Acting program. She is a winner of the National August Wilson monologue competition.


Talia Ryder / Brandi

Talia Ryder made her Broadway debut at thirteen playing Hortensia in Matilda The Musical. She played Skylar in Eliza Hittman’s Never Rarely Sometimes Always,  distributed by Focus Features, and received a nomination for an Indie Spirit award and a Critics Choice Award. Her upcoming films include: A Little Death, directed by Jack Begert and produced by Darren Aronofsky; Sony Picture’s Dumb Money directed by Craig Gillespie; Joika directed by James Napier Robertson; and The Sweet East, directed by Sean Price Williams. Previous film credits include Netflix’s Hello, Goodbye, And Everything In Between directed by Michael Lewen, and Do Revenge directed by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson; Amazon’s Master, directed by Mariama Diallo; and Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story.

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 & Movement 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. 

You-Shin Chen / Scenic Design

Izumi Inaba / Costume Design

Stacey Derosier / Lighting Design

Mikhail Fiksel / Sound Design

Rocío Mendez / Fight Director

Dawn-Elin Fraser / Voice Director

Ann James / Intimacy Coordinator

Tinc Productions / Production Supervision

Katie Young / Stage Manager


Q&A with Liliana Padilla

Broadway World

Read more about Liliana's experience with creating and co-directing How To Defend Yourself, as well as the plays effect on people from all generations.

The Directing Trio


Liliana Padilla, Steph Paul, and Rachel Chavkin (the co-directors of How To Defend Yourself) stop by All Of It with Alison Stewart to chat about how their revolutionary leadership model of three co-directors has developed and flourished over the course of the production.

Suggested Reading

FIRST LOOK: How To Defend Yourself

HOW TO DEFEND YOURSELF Cast & Creatives Announced