In the Spring of 2004, TVP's founders, Reina Hardy and Ellie Kaufman, were acting in a Chicago production of Lysistrata. A conversation one night after a performance led them to realize they shared similar thoughts about theatre growing up; that is, that there were always more girls interested in theatre than there were roles for them to play in school productions.  Reina had been privileged to take part in a summer Shakespeare program which had a gender-blind casting policy, and as a result she was able to play such roles as Iago and Hamlet. Ellie thought this was a fantastic idea and wondered why there wasn't such a program in existence in Chicago today. Taking the idea one step further, they decided to create a program where only girls would be allowed to participate, so they could play all the meaty, complex, difficult, exciting characters Shakespeare envisioned. After all, in the year 1600, only men were allowed on stage. Isn't turnabout fair play?

In 2012, The Viola Project was reincorporated under new leadership with a goal of combining theatre with social justice pertaining to women and girls. Our curriculum is artistically rich, academically challenging, socially conscientious and community centric. The Viola Project combines theatre, performance, text analysis, creative experiences, and discussion of contemporary issues with the aim of empowering a new generation of diverse young women to take part in shaping a future with social, economic and political equality for girls and women.

The name of the program comes from Shakespeare's heroine in Twelfth Night, Viola, who is marvelously adept at playing a man and yet in the end does not compromise her wit, her strength, or her feelings one bit in order to get what she wants.


City Lit Theater

After a 15-year partnership, The Viola Project and City Lit Theater have officially merged as of Fall 2019.

The Viola Project has had a partnership with City Lit Theater since 2006. Learn more about City Lit at