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League of Chicago Theatres Calls for Entries for Samuel G. Roberson Resident Fellowship

League of Chicago Theatres Calls for Entries for Samuel G. Roberson Resident Fellowship

The Fellowship offers early to mid-career Black theater artists the opportunity to work with a Chicago-based non-profit organization in a supportive environment.

The League of Chicago Theatres has announced the 2023 Samuel G. Roberson Jr. Resident Fellowship, an annual grant awarded to a Black Theatre Artist to fund a residency or collaboration with a Chicago area non-profit organization. This year the award will go to an Artivist - an individual who combines art with activism.

Now in its third year, the Samuel G. Roberson Jr. Resident Fellowship offers early to mid-career Black theater artists the opportunity to work with a Chicago-based non-profit organization in a supportive environment. The Fellowship provides the Artist with a grant of $20,000 and the Partner Organization receives $7,500 to support their work with the Artist. The fellowship is administered by the League of Chicago Theatres and funded by the McMullen & Kime Charitable Trust.

Applications and eligibility requirements can be found at leagueofchicagotheatres.org/samuel-g-roberson-jr-resident-fellowship/. The application process opens on December 5, 2022. Applications are due January 27, 2023 at 5:00pm CST.

Each year, the Fellowship is focused on a particular area of concentration in Theatre Arts. Previous recipients of the Samuel G. Roberson Jr. Resident Fellowship are Kristiana Rae Colón (Playwright/2021), who worked with Congo Square Theatre to develop homan + fillmore, an afrofuturistic, hybrid-media work and community healing-focused work based on the 2016 Freedom Square encampment at Homan & Fillmore, and Jerrell L. Henderson (Director/2022), who will present AmericanMYTH: Crossroads, a new genre-defying historic reckoning with five performers mixing live theatre, shadow puppetry, lights, and immersive sound, currently scheduled to be staged at Free Street Theater in the Fall of 2023.

In keeping with the spirit of this year's chosen category, applicants should feel free to step away from conventional ideas for how their work might unfold, and breaking from prior tradition, the Partner Organization may be a theater company or any other non-profit organization of the Artist's choosing. The only requirement is that the Partner Organization must be a 501(c)(3) organization committed to working with the Artist to achieve their goals as an Artivist. Applications will be evaluated based on the Artist's proposal and the ability of the Partner Organization to support the Artist in pursuing their vision.

Applications are open to all early to mid-career Black theater artists and non-profit Partner Organizations that reside in or are based in Chicago or a Chicago suburb, with the exception of those individuals and non-profit organizations that have previously received a Samuel G. Roberson Jr. Resident Fellowship. Partner Organizations may only apply to partner with one Artist per application year.

Applicants with questions are encouraged to email Jamie Abelson, Director of Programs, League of Chicago Theatres, at jamie@chicagoplays.com. Organizations seeking to partner with an Artivist serving a particular population or demographic group may contact Jamie Abelson to request assistance in identifying possible partners for their project.

Director and 2022 Samuel G. Roberson Jr. Resident Fellowship recipient, Jerrell L. Henderson (in partnership with Free Steer Theater) comments, "I cannot recommend applying for this Fellowship enough. This experience has focused my ambition as a theatre director and American storyteller by combining my want to serve-through building on the legacy of Sam-and my want to entertain through telling meaningful stories, The Samuel Roberson Fellowship is providing me space and opportunity to dig deep inside myself in order to holistically excavate the comprehensive neo-Folklore story I am interested in telling through the genres of large-scale shadow puppetry and musical theatre."

About Samuel G. Roberson Jr.

After graduating from Howard University's Theatre Arts Department in 2005, Samuel G. Roberson Jr. began his theatre career with an apprenticeship at The Children's Theatre of Minneapolis, where he spent three years defining his desires for acting, writing, directing, and social justice theater. During this time, he began writing and using his artistry to draw attention to issues important to him. He successfully wrote and produced two plays, And They Said I Wouldn't Make It: A story of Hope, an autobiographical one man show about his fight with cancer as a child. And Same Difference, a 2 man show that deals with black male identity, and the pressures one experiences to act, sound and look a certain way in order to fit in to society.

After his success in Minneapolis, Sam made the move to Chicago where he continued pushing boundaries within the arts and within himself. Through his work with several prominent Chicago Theatres, including Steppenwolf, The Goodman, Northlight, Victory Gardens, Writers Theatre and Congo Square, as well as Spike Lee's film, Chiraq, Sam made a name for himself not just as an artist but as an activist and leader within the theatre community. In addition to continuing to produce and perform his one-man show, Sam also founded the Make Me A Match Project (M3P), a non-profit organization focused on raising awareness about the need for bone marrow donors within the African American community. Through his efforts with M3P, he helped register donors that resulted in bone marrow matches.

In 2013 he was elected the Artistic Director of Congo Square Theatre. Under his leadership, Congo Square presented the world premiere and subsequent remount of Kelvin Roston's award winning and Jeff-nominated Twisted Melodies, both productions directed by Sam. He created Congo Square's signature conversation series, Owning Our Worth, which has hosted culturally specific theater leaders of color in public dialogue for talks on issues relevant to the theatre community at-large. He felt very strongly that it was his duty as an influential member of the community to advocate for more diverse work and casting throughout the Chicago Theatre scene. He also helped bring together a cohort of artists to create Chicago Artists Against Injustice using his artistry as a way to start difficult conversations around issues that often divide us. Wanting to spread his work to Chicago's youth, Sam founded Congo Square's Education program, Y-BOOM (Young Brothers Owning Our Mission), a literacy-based leadership program that provides a safe environment for adolescent African American men. It was his work with Y-BOOM that garnered the attention of the 3Arts organization who awarded him a 3Arts award for service and leadership as an artist in his community.

For all of Sam's accomplishments and contributions, there was much more that he had hoped to achieve before succumbing to pneumonia in 2017. But he lived everyday he was given to his fullest, and gave all that he could of himself in hopes of inspiring others to do the same. When asked once, "What wakes you up in the morning?" he responded, "Knowing that at some point in my day, I am going to have a positive impact on someone, somewhere." We are most pleased to honor such a beloved, brave and committed truth teller through the Samuel G. Roberson Jr. Resident Fellowship.

About Chicago theatre

Chicago theatre is the leader in the U.S. with more than 250 theatres throughout Chicagoland, comprising a rich and varied community ranging from storefront, non-union theatres to the most renowned resident theatres in the country, including 5 which have been honored with Regional Tony Awards, and the largest touring Broadway organization in the nation. Chicago's theatres serve 5 million audience members annually and have a combined budget of more than $250 million. Chicago produces and/or presents more world premieres annually than any other city in the nation. Each year Chicago theatres send new work to resident theatres across the country, to Broadway, and around the world.



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