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The League Of Chicago Theatres Announces The Samuel G. Roberson Jr. Resident Fellowship

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The League of Chicago Theatres announced The Samuel G. Roberson Jr. Resident Fellowship, a grant to fund a residency for early to mid-career Black theatre artists based in Chicago for a one-year partnership with a Chicago area theatre. This fellowship is funded by the McMullen & Kime Charitable Trust and administered by the League of Chicago Theatres.

Each year, the Fellowship will be focused on a particular area of concentration in Theatre Arts-

Directing, Artistic Leadership or Education, for example. The focus of the 2020 Samuel G. Roberson Jr Resident Fellowship Award is Playwriting.

The artist and host theatre recipients will work together toward a public performance of a play, performance piece, or other performance endeavor. Each year, an artist will be awarded $20,000 for participation in the program. The host theatre will be awarded $7,500 for its support of the artist.

Application and eligibility requirements can be found at leagueofchicagotheatres.org.

The spirit of this award encourages a relationship to be developed between the artist and the theatre that benefits the development of the artist's career. The project should be driven by the needs, artistic growth, and professional development of the artist. Host theatres are expected to support the artist through the development of the work and the end of the timeline is not expected to be the end of the relationship.

Priority will be given to host theatres that have a stated mission to produce work by Black or BIPOC artists.

Executive Director of the League of Chicago Theatres Deb Clapp comments, "The grant from the McMullen & Kime Charitable Trust is a generous gift to the Chicago theatre community and a fitting tribute to the late Samuel G. Roberson, Jr., a respected teacher, actor, director, Artistic Director and champion of social justice theater. Sam was a beloved collaborator and friend to the Chicago theatre, and the League of Chicago Theatres is honored to administer this Fellowship in his name to support the work of Black theatre artists."

"The League has served an important role in helping us fine tune both the vision and the details of this grant," said Melinda McMullen and Duncan Kime, in a joint statement. "Through our work with the League, we discovered there is a gap in funding for new and emerging Black artists, and this Fellowship is one way to begin to address that gap. While the award money is significant, this is not just about money. The goal of this award is to create an environment in which a Black artist can work in partnership with a host theater to create new work and foster a relationship that will last well beyond the year-long period of the Fellowship."

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.


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