Tutterow Fellows

Designed to support the emergent playwright, this two-year fellowship emphasizes training, practice and mentorship. Ideal candidates display significant potential for developing their craft, their voice and their network of collaborators during their fellowship at Chicago Dramatists. Our goal is to include historically under-represented voices, including writers of color, LGBTQIA, differently-abled, and/or neuro-divergent. The Tutterow Fellowship is named after the late Russ Tutterow, the first and long-time artistic director of Chicago Dramatists. The program honors Mr. Tutterow’s commitment to identifying and nurturing talent that might not otherwise get the opportunity to grow.  This program is made possible by the generous support of the Joyce Foundation. 

Fellows are enrolled in year-round classes, workshops and writers’ groups as part of a curriculum that is tailored to their individual needs as a writer. They receive a new-play commission, career development seminars, masterclasses and a mentor from the professional industry. The program culminates in a celebratory weeklong festival of public readings.  

Fellows must prioritize their writing during this fellowship over all other artistic endeavors as they concentrate on expanding their body of work as a playwright. 

2018-2020 Fellows

Mallory Raven-Ellen Backstrom

Mallory Raven-Ellen Backstrom is an author, mixed-media artist, tarotist and intuitive healer. A Chicagoland native, her contribution to the world is a bevy of art that reaffirms that Happily Ever After is for everyone. Dedicated to the diversification of the literary realms of fantasy and science-fiction, this avid creator possesses a whimsical new voice for the soul of sun-kissed and queer women. Windy City Reviews hailed her as a “craftsman of the English language,” for her first novel,  Reasons for Being. Going on to say, “her writing is as clear and beautiful as springtime in a meadow. You’re amazed at the beauty around you and inhale the delicate natural musk to make it a part of your very being.” The first installment in her epic trilogy For, Evermore, is anxiously anticipated. A multifaceted wordsmith, Mallory’s work is radical in that it inspires revolutionary self-love, and the actualization of the spirit of black girl magic. Her passion for inclusive storytelling, mindfulness and mysticism, resonates across the vast universe of color she leaves on the page, the stage, and the canvas. 

Kimberly Dixon-Mays

Kimberly Dixon-Mays is a poet, playwright and performer. A Cave Canem, Callaloo and Ragdale fellow, her poetry has been published in journals including The Drunken Boat, Torch, Versal, Reverie, and in the anthology Just Like a Girl: A Manifesta! She also released her first poetry collection, SenseMemory, with Blue Pantry Publishers and has developed a second collection More Than a Notion: Reflections on (Black) Marriage. As a playwright, she has received readings and productions at Crossroads Theatre Company, Plowshares Theatre Company, Emotive Fruition, and Strawdog Theatre Company, and her comic play The Gizzard of Brownsville was a finalist for the Theodore Ward Prize for African-American Playwrights. She was also a frequent performer with the Guild Literary Complex’s collaborative writing/performance project the Poetry Performance Incubator led by director Coya Paz, co-creating and appearing in its original works Tour Guides and Like Bread. She holds a B.A. Psychology/Theater Studies from Yale University an M.A. in Afro-American Studies (playwriting concentration) from UCLA, and a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Theatre/Drama from Northwestern University.

Siena Marilyn Ledger

Siena Marilyn Ledger is a playwright and actress from San Diego, CA. She graduated from California State University Fullerton’s BFA Acting program where she studied in-depth the Stanislavski Method and gained a broad taste in theatrical styles. Much of her work is metaphorical and symbolic and shows a penchant for exploring disease and the process of dying. Siena finds beauty in the sound of words, concepts of time, and the commonalities between human beings and major objects of the universe. Siena’s works include her first play, “The Empty Space”, which was recently produced abroad in Wales and a full-length play, “Man and the Moon”, which tackles the subject of breast cancer and loss shown through the eyes a transitioning man and a young girl with a passion for outer space. Her most recent play, “Inosculation” was performed at the Hollywood Fringe Festival and depicts a visceral relationship between two antithetical aspects of the same person.

Nancy García Loza

Nancy García Loza is a Mexican American pocha playwright rooted in Chicago & Jalisco. She co-launched and participates in ALTA Chicago’s El Semillero: Latinx Playwrights Circle since 2014. Her inaugural play, MACHA: a pocha sister story, was a 2017 finalist for the Theater on the Lake In The Works: New Play Commission. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Theatre Marathon, PEACEBOOK (Collaboraction & Goodman), Saints & Sinners (Collaboraction & Steppenwolf), Black Ensemble Theater (a Community Fighting the Ism’s), Joe’s Pub at The Public (NYC), Encounter Festival (Collaboraction & Theater on the Lake), Paula Vogel’s National UBU Bake-Off (Victory Gardens), New Works Lab Festival (Breath of Fire Latina Theatre Ensemble – CA), Theatre Nuevo (St. Louis), El Semillero’s Public Reading Series of New Work (Victory Gardens), Bechdel Fest (Broken Nose Theatre & Steppenwolf LookOut Series), and more. In 2018, she enjoyed residencies at HBMG Foundation’s National Winter Playwrights Retreat (Creede, CO), as well as, the coveted SPACE on Ryder Farm (NY). She has been selected for the Fornés Playwriting Workshop for two consecutive years exploring the methodology of Maria Irene Fornés (led by Migdalia Cruz & Anne Garcia Romero). Her full-length plays include: MACHA: a pocha sister story;  Rasca Cielos;  Sleepwalk; Hollywood G.T. Oh and nearly a dozen shorter works (among them Jets, Sharks, & Beckys). In 2018, she was recognized in TCG’s American Theatre Magazine Roll Call Series: 6 Theatre Workers You Should Know.