Jelena is a freelance director committed to making innovative, inclusive theatre – drama that starts important conversations, and reflects the world we live in. With producer, Sanna-Karina Aab, she’s the founder of All Ignite Theatre. In 2018, the pair’s first production, White Guy on the Bus by Bruce Graham, gained 4 Offie nominations -including Best Director. This excoriating exploration of race and inequality in the US, was critically acclaimed, “…a play that is as relevant as it is ruthless…” Spy in the Stalls ★★★★★.
In 2019, All Ignite returned to London’s Finborough Theatre with Beast on the Moon by Richard Kalinoski, a moving exploration of the impact of the Armenian Genocide of 1915. “…a powerful and timely tale that speaks to a modern audience…” Evening Standard ★★★★. “…thought-provoking, disturbing, shocking, and rewarding…” Close up culture ★★★★.
Later in 2019 saw the first outing of a new play, Property, at New River Studios. This Arts Council funded political farce about the London housing crisis was written by Jelena. Its proposed return was stalled by COVID and Jelena concentrated on directing online, including Phillip Meeks, Fireflies on Jarrow and Tipping the Velvet by Laura Wade, for Drama Studio London.
The Duration, by Bruce Graham, brought the company out of lockdown in September 2021, to coincide with the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the play’s moving subject matter. This was closely followed by a new play with music, ReSisters, by Nicky Hallett and Val Regan, it sold out its R and D performances in Yellow Arch Studios in Sheffield, with plans to remount it.
Jelena was Associate Director at Chickenshed Theatre. She directed many shows at this leading inclusive company including Benjamin Zephaniah’s Refugee Boy, Sarah Daniels’ Gut Girls, The Comedy of Errors, Dario Fo’s Can't Pay! Won't Pay! Lysistrata, Our Country's Good by Timberlake Wertenbaker, Yard Gal by Rebecca Prichard and Ariel Dorfmen’s Widows. At Chickenshed, she developed the Studio Theatre, and headed up the company’s emerging writers’ programme Write Here, Write Now.
Jelena has led projects for Clean Break, Hampstead Theatre, Cardboard Citizens, Synergy Theatre, and directs regularly at Drama Studio London. She has also written and directed extensively for young people and children.