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The League of Chicago Theatres Awards First Samuel G. Roberson Jr. Resident Fellowship

Selected for the fellowship are Kristiana Rae Colón and Congo Square Theatre.

The League of Chicago Theatres Awards First Samuel G. Roberson Jr. Resident Fellowship

The League of Chicago Theatres has awarded the first Samuel G. Roberson Jr. Resident Fellowship to playwright Kristiana Rae Colón and Congo Square Theatre to fund a one-year residency for Colón at the theatre.

Colón will be awarded $20,000 for participation in the program and Congo Square 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.

Kristiana Rae Colón and Congo Square will collaborate during the Fellowship to incubate and develop a new play that expands on Colón's canon of abolitionist theater and stories of rebellion, while also drawing on the current wave of resistance and direct action. Congo Square anticipates hosting public readings in the Spring of 2021.

"I've been a part of Congo Square's audience since I was a teenager and have long admired the work created by the company. Black stories produced at a high level are important to me and seeing my work on Congo Square's stages has been a career goal since I started writing plays," said Kristiana Rae Colón. "This opportunity to collaborate with Congo is a meaningful personal milestone because Sam Roberson and I dreamed of many collaborations that we didn't have time to see to fruition, but those that we did achieve changed the course of my life. Both on stage and in the streets, my work is rooted in nurturing and galvanizing the radical imagination. We are living in urgent and unprecedented political times and it's my life work to creatively refract my unique frontline experience and illuminate the possibilities engendered by uprising.

"We are immensely excited to add Kristiana Rae Colón to our list of emerging playwrights and to support her as host theatre for the Samuel G. Roberson Jr. Fellowship," said Charlique C. Rolle, Executive Director of Congo Square. "Before his passing, Samuel G. Roberson, former Artistic Director of Congo Square Theatre, was very excited about her work and vigorously sought to create space for her voice and influence in establishing dialogues around the violence on black and brown bodies through social justice theatre. Both Sam and Kristiana stood on the front lines in Ferguson and Chicago following Michael Brown's death in protest together. They diligently created artistic resources to funnel the experience surrounding this harrowing and heartbreaking time. That work was cut short when Sam passed, but the groundwork was set with various artistic activism efforts, including the #LetUsBreathe Collective, carrying on that torch in what she has coined Abolitionist Theater. Bringing Kristiana back into the Congo fold now brings their cumulative efforts full circle! Kristiana's artistic perspective highlights the diasporic experience in a fresh and unique way and we are excited to support her in the creation of provoking stories that maintain and push the pulse of social justice, shining a light on the true plight of Blacks in America."

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 well-loved member of the Chicago theatre community, and the League of Chicago Theatres is honored to administer this first Fellowship to Sam's home theater and his friend and collaborator Kristiana Rae Colón."

"The League spent considerable time creating this Resident Fellowship that would honor Sam's legacy and work," said Melinda McMullen and Duncan Kime, in a joint statement. "We are grateful to them for their thoughtful leadership, and for their management of the application process, and to the panel of judges who spent countless hours carefully evaluating each application. It is a fitting tribute to Sam that Kristiana Rae Colón will serve as the first Samuel G. Roberson Jr. Resident Fellow. We are excited about the plan for her Residency, and look forward to seeing how her work and the work of future Resident Fellows impacts the arts community in Chicago and beyond."

Ashley Honore Roberson is a theatre artist and educator who was Sam Roberson's wife and served as one of the eight panelists for the Fellowship application process. "I was so impressed by the applications I read, and I couldn't help but feel that Sam would be interested in working with all of the playwrights in some capacity," she said. "The fact that this first fellowship has been be awarded to Kristiana and Congo Square feels like a part of Sam will live on in the work that will be created-not just in name but in spirit as well. For Sam, art and activism went hand in hand. He wanted more than anything to use his platform to help other artists of color shine and their voices be heard, and I know he would be beyond proud that Congo Square, his last artistic home, and Kristiana Colón, an artist he highly respected and called a friend, are the first recipients of this fellowship in his name."

About Kristiana Rae Colón

Kristiana Rae Colón is a poet, playwright, actor, educator, Cave Canem Fellow, creator of #BlackSexMatters, co-director of the #LetUsBreathe Collective, and OpenTV Screenwriting Fellow. Her play Tilikum was nominated for seven 2019 non-equity Joseph Jefferson Awards, and won three, including Best New Play. In 2017, she was awarded Best Black Playwright by The Black Mall.

Past works include good friday (New Manifest ATX - 2020, The Flea Theater NYC - 2019, Oracle Productions - 2016), Tilikum (world premiere Sideshow Theater, 2018 Outstanding New Play at ALTA Awards), Octagon (world premiere Arcola Theatre, London, 2015; American premiere Jackalope Theatre, 2016), but i cd only whisper (world premiere Arcola Theatre, London, 2012; American premiere The Flea, New York, 2016).

In 2013, she toured the UK for two months with her collection of poems promised instruments, winner of the inaugural Drinking Gourd Poetry Prize and published by Northwestern University Press.

Kristiana is an alum of The Goodman Theatre's Playwrights Unit where she developed her play florissant & canfield, which debuted at University of Illinois-Chicago in February 2018. She is a resident playwright at Chicago Dramatists and one half of the brother/sister hip-hop duo April Fools. She appeared on the fifth season of HBO's Def Poetry Jam. Kristiana's writing, producing, and organizing work to radically reimagine power structures, our complicity in them, and visions for liberation.


Kristiana's current work explores Afrofuturist drama as a catalyst for social change. A foundational premise of her organizing is that artists are the vanguard of revolution, that it is the social duty of creatives to envision, imagine, rehearse, design, and embody our liberated future; we cannot achieve alternatives to the existing harmful, violent systems and institutions if we can't first imagine them. Liberation is a curatorial act, a creative act; revolution is inherently speculative in nature. Through science fiction, Afrofuturism, and speculative media, we create opportunities to rehearse the future together.

About Congo Square Theatre Company

Congo Square Theatre Company is an ensemble dedicated to producing transformative work rooted in the African Diaspora. It a haven for artists of color to challenge and redefine the theatrical canon by amplifying and creating stories that reflect the reach and complexities of Black Culture. Congo Square was co-founded in 1999 by Derrick Sanders and Reginald Nelson, who were driven to create a theatre ensemble that represented artistic excellence and would be important to the American theater landscape. Over twenty years later, the ensemble has grown to seventeen members, and has a reputation as one of the premier African-American theatres in the country. Congo Square's production of August Wilson's Seven Guitars garnered top honors (best ensemble, best direction, and best production) at the 2005 Joseph Jefferson Awards. Congo Square was the first African American theatre company to receive such an honor.

The Samuel G. Roberson Jr. Resident Fellowship funds a residency for early to mid-career Black theatre artists based in Chicago for a one-year partnership with a Chicago area theatre. Each year, the Fellowship will be focused on a particular area of concentration in Theatre Arts. 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. Priority is given to host theatres that have a stated mission to produce work by Black or BIPOC artists. The 2021 Residency Fellowship application process will be announced in August 2021 at leagueofchicagotheatre.org.



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