Ian Fields Stewart (pronouns: they/them/their) is a black, queer, and mixed-race gender nonconforming New York based storyteller working at the intersection of theatre and activism. A native of Birmingham, AL, their work is centered in deconstructing mainstream media forms and rebuilding them to amplify and include the voices of marginalized people in our local and global communities.
Having danced and performed since the age of four, Ian attended Illinois Wesleyan University where they received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre.Their career shifted from traditional theatrical expressions in the summer of 2013 when they helped form a grassroots organization dedicated to bringing attention to queer youth voices in Alabama. From there, Ian continued to balance the two worlds of theatre for entertainment and activism performing every semester in main stage productions at Illinois Wesleyan and centering their education and outside theatrical work on the experiences of marginalized communities. In the summer of 2014, Ian returned to Birmingham to work as the assistant to the LGBTQ Youth Services Director at the Birmingham AIDS Outreach. There, they organized a non-binary fashion show called Label Not Found as the inaugural event at the newly built Magic City Acceptance Center that had been funded by the Elton John Foundation earlier that year. Label Not Found was dedicated to deconstructing the idea of a runway by idealizing the authenticity of the queer youth models’ sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identities, etc rather than their clothes.
In the fall of 2014 Ian received the SOGIE Award from the Council for Social Work Education for an academic essay they co-authored exploring the dynamics of Safe Schools Coalitions in the deep south. The essay is currently in the final stages of publication with an academic journal. In the fall of that same year, Ian also organized a #blacklivesmatter die-in at their university. Ian graduated cum laude from Illinois Wesleyan in May 2015 and received the John L Clark Award in Literary Studies, an honor bestowed on graduating seniors who have demonstrated outstanding academic performance, particularly in historical and theory course as evidenced by scholarly ability and participation in the creative activities of the School of Theatre Arts.
After graduation, they moved to New York where they began their career as the Artistic Directing Fellow at Girl Be Heard, a nonprofit theatre company that brings global issues affecting girls center stage by empowering young women to tell their stories. They also became a co-founding board member of End Rape Now, a collective of artists, activists, academics, and uniquely skilled individuals dedicated to eradicating campus rape. They made their New York acting debut in the fall of 2015 in the world premiere of Daria Marinelli's Untameable as the Lady Queen. Since then, they have worked in productions at NYC venues such as Manhattan Rep, NYC Fringe Festival ’16, Shapiro Theatre, and more.
Their work as a choreographer and director with Girl Be Heard has been seen at various organizations in New York City, the United Nations, and the Pitchwise Festival in Sarajevo, Bosnia. Outside of Girl Be Heard, in early February, Ian directed MacRorie Dean’s After, a play about the aftermath of rape that aims to restructure conversations and university policies to support survivors. In the summer of 2015, Ian was accepted as one of 17 choreographers to the Stage Director and Choreographer’s Foundation ’15-’16 Observership Class. After a highly selective process, Ian was chosen to work alongside Neel Keller, the artistic director of Los Angeles’s Center Theatre Group, on Sheila Callaghan’s Women Laughing Alone with Salad which opened March 13, 2016.
Ian's play, A Dying Breed, which is a dystopian examination of the construct of gender in our society, premiered Off-Off Broadway at Judson Memorial Church on March 30, 2016 as a part of their Magic Time Series.
In the summer of 2016, Ian expanded their work with young women as a teaching artist at Achievement First Brooklyn High School and co-director of the viBe stages mainstage production with viBe Theater Experience. Over the summer, Ian also began developing In Theory: Notes on Home, Love Diaspora, and Failing Adulthood with Jackie Torres of Cracked Binding. The show premiered at the WOW Café Theatre and has been extended twice for a three show and 8 show run. In Theory is a spoken word-dance fusion about converting the pain of our past into the resistance of our future.
Ian has also been featured on Buzzfeed LGBT (“Dressing Beyond the Binary”, "This is What Nonbinary People Want You To Know"), the You Had Me at Black podcast (“Black Cinderella”), and the Is It Transphobic? podcast (“Mixed Nuts”, "Danish Girl Pt. 1/2").