January 14, 2021
7:00 pm

Join us as we present the first reading in The Inception Project, Pretended, and stay after as we look into the play with an informative panel discussion.


In Pretended, Lanise Antoine Shelley draws from her own life experience as a Haitian adoptee raised by a single white mother to dissect and debunk misconceptions around adoption and move audiences to a place of racial healing. She achieves this with her story about Elly, an intercultural adoptee who finds herself pregnant and moving to Seattle to gain familial support. As told from the rare lens of an adoptee’s perspective, Elly, and the audience, are confronted with the definition of family and how we cannot always choose the route in which we love someone.

Join us for the reading and the panel discussion after as we go inside the story


Lanise Antoine Shelley

Shelley (she/her) is a Haitian adoptee, actress, director and playwright. Pretended, her first full length play, was written during quarantine, spurred by the murder of George Floyd. Shelley is also the creator of the Interracial Adoptee Panel Series sponsored by United States Foundation for the Children of Haiti. She presently hosts the podcast “When They Were Young: Amplifying Voices of Adoptees” available on all major platforms including her website laniseantoineshelley.com. As a writer, Shelley has also worked this year with Chicago Children’s Theatre in their Springboard Initiative to develop her TYA show Bread. As an actress, she is known for Chicago FireEmpireChicago MedDiscovery WorldMacbeth HD and Goodman Theatre’s live stream of School Girls: African Mean Girls. Selected directing credits include: Rastas and Hattie, Black & Blue, Movement consultant for Muthaland (16th St Theatre), Hear Me See Me (Silent Theatre), The Luck of the Irish (virtual reading), Identity Lab (Lookingglass Theatre), The Tenant (Akvavit Theatre), RefuSHE Project (Voices & Faces Project), Rumors (DePaul University), and a staged reading of The Convert (Stratford Shakespeare Festival). She holds a BFA in Directing, Acting, and Playwriting from Cornish College of the Arts, an MFA from ART/MXAT at Harvard University, and a certificate in Classical Theatre from both BADA in Oxford, England, and Birmingham Conservatory in Canada. Awards/ Fellowships include Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s Chicago Fellow 2016 and Victory Gardens Theatre’s Directing Fellow 2019. www.laniseantoineshelley.com








Dr. Juliana Deans is an interracial adoptee who has reunified with many biological family members. Dr. Deans has a Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy. She is currently a Licensed Professional Counselor in Colorado, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Florida, and a National Certified Counselor. Additionally, Dr. Deans is a Certified Adoption Competent Therapist. She enjoys working collaboratively with others to empower, enrich, and enlighten them towards healing and growth. She resides in Colorado Springs with her husband of 17 years and their elementary age child. When she’s not working, she enjoys watching sports, getting outdoors and spending time with her family.

Melissa Guida-Richards







Melissa Guida-Richards is an author, adoptee, and advocate based in Pennsylvania. She was adopted in 1993 from Colombia to a family in the USA.  Her viral essay, “My Adoptive Parents Hid My Racial Identity From Me for 19 Years,” was published in HuffPo in April 2019. She soon launched the Adoptee Thoughts Instagram and Podcast to help elevate adoptee voices and educate adoptive parents on the nuances and complexity of adoption. Melissa has also had work in Insider, Zora by Medium, ElectricLit, and more; and has been on podcasts such as NPR’s Code Switch, BBC Radio 4, Strange Fruit, and Do the Work. She has also appeared on panels, such as the, We the Experts: Adoptee Speaker Series, and is a contributing editor at The Everymom. Her book, WHAT WHITE PARENTS SHOULD KNOW ABOUT TRANSRACIAL ADOPTION, will be out in Fall 2021 with North Atlantic Books.

Facebook: facebook.com/guidarichards
Instagram: instagram.com/guidarichards
Twitter: twitter.com/guidarichards

Dr. Charmaine Borda







As an Afro-Caribbean female immigrant from Jamaica, having survived abuse and neglect in and out of the foster care system, Dr. Borda has demonstrated an innate ability to survive through extraordinary circumstances. The grit and determination she developed over the years has strengthened her passion for families, with a specific heart for children and youths in the foster care system.  

Inspired and motivated by the experience of being an un-adopted teen in the child welfare system, through an unsuccessful adoption, she became an Adoption Competent Certified Counselor in 2010 in hopes to assist families and children find forever homes. She has also founded That Place, Inc.: The Wellness Project, a Non-profit, 501c(3) organization, as a result of her work with front line practitioners/helpers and their experiences with burnout and lack of effective self-care.

In addition to her work as a part-time and adjunct professor at Nova Southeastern University and Walden University, Dr. Borda has served her community by providing  pro-bono services, consultations and overall support, as she is inspired by Gandhi’s challenge, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” This challenge resoundingly echoes in Dr. Borda’s love for Family Therapy, Mental Health and Community Outreach Services.

Douglas Brown







Douglas Brown adopted three biological sisters from Perú eleven years ago. They live together with Doug’s wife and her three children outside of Richmond, Virginia. The family was featured in a National Public Radio piece about family dinners in 2013, and their photo still turns up on the first page of a “family dinner” Google image search. Doug is the director of music at Ginter Park Presbyterian Church and is an adjunct faculty member of Union Presbyterian Seminary, both in Richmond. His hobbies are cabinet making and running.

what is the inception project?

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Meet the Team

Aneisa Hicks

Aneisa Hicks is a graduate of M.F.A program at the University of Iowa.  Her TV credits include: Chicago Justice, Chicago Med, The ExorcistEmpire,  and The Chi.

Her Theatre credits include: Pride and Prejudice, Graveyard Shift, Her Portmanteau  

In her spare time she helps actors prepare for auditions She is signed with DDOChicago

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