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Samuel G. Roberson Jr. Resident Fellowship Awarded to Jerrell L. Henderson and Free Street Theater

The fellowship is funded by the McMullen & Kime Charitable Trust and administered by the League of Chicago Theatres. 

The League of Chicago Theatres has awarded the 2022 Samuel G. Roberson Jr. Resident Fellowship to director Jerrell L. Henderson and Free Street Theater. Henderson will be awarded $20,000 for participation in the program and Free Street Theater will be awarded $7,500 for its support of the artist. The fellowship is funded by the McMullen & Kime Charitable Trust and administered by the League of Chicago Theatres. Applications were reviewed by an external panel of Chicago directors, actors, playwrights and administrators.

Jerrell L. Henderson and Free Street Theater will collaborate on AmericanMYTH: Crossroads, a new genre-defying historic reckoning with five performers mixing live theatre, shadow puppetry, lights, and immersive sound to be produced in the fall of 2022.

"Free Street Theater is committed to work that focuses on racial and economic justice in ways that are broadly accessible to audiences who may not feel culturally affirmed in most theatrical spaces," comments Free Street Theater Artistic Director Coya Paz. "We are particularly excited about Jerrell's vision for using shadow puppets and movement to explore the mythology of racism in America. His work will provoke critical thought in ways that feel fun, spectacular, and accessible to diverse audiences."

Jerrell L. Henderson adds, "This piece speaks to the spirit in which I knew Sam. I never got the chance to know Sam well, but he changed my life. The first event I remember attending in Chicago was "We Must Breathe" at Victory Gardens. Sam hosted the talk back and used 'I love you' to keep folx in check with time restraints. I never saw that before. In just about all of my interactions with Sam, he was promoting love and community. He inspired me to make sure I had something worth saying anytime I opened my mouth or typed on a keyboard. I see participating in this fellowship as an opportunity to do that."

Executive Director of the League of Chicago Theatres Deb Clapp comments, "This is our second year awarding this fellowship thanks to a generous grant from the McMullen & Kime Charitable Trust. Opening the grant to directors this year enabled us to look at the amazing work being done by Black directors in Chicago, and we are so pleased that Jerrell and Free Street Theater will collaborate on this project. The League of Chicago Theatres is honored to administer this fellowship in Sam Roberson's name."

"We are delighted to welcome Jerrell as the 2022 Samuel G. Roberson Jr. Resident Fellow, and are extremely excited that he will be partnering with Free Street Theater, which for more than 50 years has been at the forefront of creating affordable, inclusive, and innovative theater in communities across Chicago," said Melinda McMullen and Duncan Kime in a joint statement. "The project Jerrell and Free Street proposed is creative, ambitious and compelling; we look forward to seeing the results of their partnership."

Ashley Honore Roberson is a theatre artist and educator who was Sam Roberson's wife and served as one of the five panelists for the Fellowship application process. "Once again this year, it was exciting to see all the talent Chicago artists have to offer through the submitted applications. I know that this project in particular is one that Sam would have wanted to work on, and if he couldn't, then he would have done what he could to help get it to the stage. I'm certain he would have been a champion of Jerrell's work and would be proud to see him receive this fellowship in his honor."


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