Supporting the Work of Black Theatre Artists in Chicago
2024 Program Details
Now in its fourth year, the Samuel G. Roberson Jr. Resident Fellowship, administered by the League of Chicago Theatres, 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. Each year, a specific category is selected as the focus area for the Fellowship.
The League of Chicago Theatres would like to thank the McMullen & Kime Charitable Trust for being a funder of the The Samuel J. Roberson Jr. Resident Fellowship.
If you have questions about this grant opportunity, please email email@example.com.
Timeline for the 2024 Grant Cycle
- February 1st, 2024 – Application Process Open
- March 1st, 2024 at 5:00pm CST – Application Process Closed
- April 1st, 2024 – Applicants Notified of Final Application Status
If Awarded the Fellowship
- All of the work described in the proposal must be completed by February 29th, 2025
- A brief final progress report must be submitted to the League of Chicago Theatres by March 29th, 2025
2024 Grant Cycle Focus Area
The Focus Area of the 2024 Samuel G. Roberson Jr. Resident Fellowship is Artivist.
What is an Artivist? An Artivist is an individual who combines art with activism. Samuel G. Roberson, Jr. was an Artivist long before the word came into common use. Here are a few of the ways Sam embodied the spirit of an Artivist:
- His play, Same Difference, focuses on Black male identity, and the pressure to fit into society.
- While Artistic Director at Congo Square Theatre, Sam created Congo Square’s signature conversation series, Owning Our Worth, which hosted culturally specific theater leaders of color in public dialogue for talks on issues relevant to the theatre.
- He founded an Education and Outreach initiative at Congo Square called Y-BOOM (Young Brothers Owning Our Mission), a literacy-based leadership program that provided a safe environment for adolescent African American men, and earned him recognitions from 3Arts, which presented him with an award for service and leadership as an artist in his community.
- Sam felt 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, and in keeping with that mission, he helped bring together a cohort of artists to create Chicago Artists Against Injustice using his artistry to start difficult conversations around issues that often divide us.
How this Year’s Fellowship will Work. 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.
Previous Recipients of the Samuel G. Roberson Jr. Fellowship
Previous recipients of the Samuel G. Roberson Jr. Resident Fellowship are:
Tonika Lewis Johnson (Artist & Activist/2023), who collaborated with Rivendell Theatre Ensemble on The Folded Map Project. The theatrical interpretation of her work with Rivendell will center on the psychological and social impact of segregation and racism in the city of Chicago. (read more here).
Jerrell L. Henderson (Director/2022), who presented AmericanMYTH: Crossroads, a new genre-defying historic reckoning with five performers mixing live theatre, shadow puppetry, lights, and immersive sound, staged at Free Street Theater in the Fall of 2023.
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.
About Samuel G. Roberson Jr.
The Samuel G. Roberson Jr. Resident Fellowship honors the life of a beloved, brave, and committed storyteller. 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.”