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Michael R. Jackson begins residency at the School of Communication

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and composer will visit classes and work with performers

michael r. jackson
Michael R. Jackson created the 2020 Pulitzer Prize-winning musical “A Strange Loop.”

The School of Communication at Northwestern University will host a virtual residency with Hope Abelson Artist-in-Residence Michael R. Jackson Feb. 15 to March 5. During the residency, Jackson will visit classes, lead workshops for performers, dramatists, composers and lyricists and participate in a public panel event. 

“Michael R. Jackson is one of the true luminaries of musical theatre of our time,” said Masi Asare, assistant professor in the theatre and performance studies departments and advisory board member of Northwestern’s Black Arts Consortium. “His work is unflinchingly honest, searing in its insights about the condition of the artist and the violent absurdities that threaten Black and queer life. I am so excited that our students will be able to benefit from his brilliance and feedback as a composer/writer, as an intellectual and as a visionary.”

Jackson is a playwright, composer, and lyricist and creator of 2020 Pulitzer Prize-winning musical “A Strange Loop.” The New York Times reviewer Ben Brantley described the 2019 world premiere at Playwrights Horizons as a “gutsy, jubilantly anguished musical with infectious melodies.” The premiere was co-produced by Page 73 and Barbara Whitman (a proud Northwestern parent and producer of the Tony Award-winning show “Fun Home,” among many others).

As a songwriter, Jackson’s work has been performed at Joe’s Pub, the National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT) and everywhere in between.

In addition to “A Strange Loop,” Jackson wrote the book, music and lyrics for “White Girl in Danger,” and lyrics and book for the musical adaptation of the horror film “Teeth,” with composer and co-book writer Anna K. Jacobs.

His honors include an Obie Award, a New York Drama Circle Critics Award, a Drama Desk Award, a Lambda Literary Award and a Fred Ebb Award. Jackson currently serves on the Dramatists Guild Council. 

“Michael R. Jackson’s work invites practitioners and audiences alike to wrestle with pressing questions of class, commerce and identity. Jackson centers perspectives traditionally confined to the margins of mainstream musical theatre,” said Roger Ellis, assistant professor of theatre, and like Asare, an advisory board member of Northwestern’s Black Arts Consortium. “Jackson’s musical storytelling weaves together complex emotional content with layered incisive critiques of contemporary American culture. We are honored to host Jackson as our Hope Abelson Artist and look forward to the conversations his artist residency sparks.”  

The public is invited to attend a free virtual panel discussion at 7 p.m. CST, Thursday, Feb. 25. Participating in the panel are E. Patrick Johnson, dean of the School of Communication; Miriam Petty, associate professor in the departments of performance studies and radio, TV and film; and Northwestern alumna Lili-Anne Brown (C ’95), the Kelsey Pharr, Jr. series speaker from fall of 2020. 

RSVP online for a link to the livestream event.

The Hope Abelson Artist-in-Residence Program at the School of Communication was established in 1990 with a generous gift from Hope Altman Abelson (1910–2006), a former Northwestern theatre student who went on to become a Broadway producer and co-founder, with her husband Lester Abelson, of the League of Chicago Theatres. 

Past Abelson Artists-in-Residence include Cherry Jones, Moises Kaufman, Kate Shindle, Regina Taylor and Jeanine Tesori. 

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