CHICAGO: The Jeff Awards have announced the recipients of the inaugural Jeff Impact Fellowships, presented to two early- to mid-career artists of color in the Chicagoland area, which include $10,000 gifts aimed at supporting the fellows’ pursuit of artistic excellence in Chicago theatre. The first two fellowships are going to multidisciplinary artists Satya Chávez and Terry Guest.
The Jeff Impact Fellowship is intended for the professional, academic, and/or personal development of Chicago artists of color who have been involved in Chicago theatre for at least one year as actors, directors, stage managers, designers, theatre technicians, cabaret artists, playwrights, music directors, theatre composers, theatre musicians, choreographers, or improvisational performers.
“We encouraged applicants to step away from conventional ideas for how they might best pursue their artistic vision, and did they ever!” said John Glover, Jeff Awards chair, in a statement about the candidate review process. “It was truly moving and a privilege to see how each and everyone of them are striving to change the status quo of under-representation of artists of color and the stories they want to tell on stage.”
The Jeff Awards received nearly 90 applications. Given the strength of the applicant pool, the selection committee also recognized three finalists: Mikael Burke, Dillon Chitto, and Jared Gooding. Each finalist received $250. The fellowship is made possible by an anonymous donation gifted to the Jeff Awards for a minimum of the next five years.
Satya Chávez is a Jeff Award-winning Chicago-based queer Latine multidisciplinary artist with a passion for social justice and writing music. Their work as a composer, actor, musician, director, and music director has been produced across the country. While Chávez is inspired by those who have overcome hardship and non-acceptance with stories of resilience and triumph, they cite their father as their greatest influence for his invincible spirit and unwavering determination. According to their proposal, Chávez envisions an environment with access to a recording studio, creating a space for artistic collaboration, connecting musicians to performers and creators, helping artists record and produce their own music. Their vision extends beyond technical expertise, as they want to create a space where theatre artists not only record their work but build meaningful connections with each other. In their own words, Chávez wants to be a resource that bridges the gap between developing artists lacking access and realizing their dreams.
Terry Guest is a Jeff Award-winning Chicago-based playwright, actor, director, and teaching artist. He is a Governing Ensemble member at the Story Theatre and a teaching artist at Jackalope Theatre Company, Writers Theatre, and Chicago Children’s Theatre. Reimagining and expanding the way we remember American history has become the driving force of his work. He seeks out projects that tell Black and LGBTQ stories in unexpected and whimsical ways and place these stories where they belong: at the core of American culture and history. With the fellowship monies, Guest plans to bring to life a realized Black gay musical called Nightbirds, inspired by the story of a formerly enslaved person, William Dorsey Swann, who became the “queen of drag” 150 years before RuPaul hit television screens. In Guest’s musical, he plans to explore how Black queer ancestors used art to envision a future for themselves post-emancipation. In his career, Guest has worked with over 100 people of color and LGBTQ+ artists who gifted their time and talents because they believed in him. With this award, Guest hopes to give back to the ecosystem of Black queer artists who have given him so much.
Originally chartered in 1968 to recognize Equity productions, with a non-Equity wing established in 1973, the Jeff Awards aims to foster the growth of companies, encourage artists, bring new appreciation for diverse storytelling, and cultivate civic pride in the achievements of the Chicago theatre community through their recommendations, awards, and honors.
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