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Theatre Communications Group Announces Recipients of
2024 Rising Leaders of Color Program

Cohort features six early-career BIPOC theatre leaders based in Chicago

New York, NY – Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national organization for theatre, is pleased to announce the participants in the eighth round of its Rising Leaders of Color (RLC) Program. The participants will form a cohort of six exceptionally talented early-career leaders of color from Chicago, IL who are advancing their careers in the U.S. not-for-profit theatre and related sectors, and who demonstrate the potential to impact the field in a positive way. Funding for this round of the Rising Leaders of Color activities is provided in part by the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, Walt Disney Imagineering and Disney Live Entertainment, and the Joyce Foundation.

“We’re thrilled to welcome this new cohort of Chicago-based theatre leaders to the Rising Leaders of Color Program,” said LaTeshia Ellerson, interim chief growth officer, TCG. “We’re grateful to work in partnership with our funders to support the professional growth of these leaders locally, and to connect them nationally to an intergenerational network of peers.”

"TCG’s professional development programs are needed now more than ever,” said Karena Fiorenza, interim chief executive officer, TCG. “As BIPOC theatre leaders, we’ve always sought each other out for support and insight in navigating a theatre ecology that too often still replicates the racism of our broader culture. That’s why programs like the RLC have such a tangible impact on the lives and careers of participants.”

The members of the new cohort are:

India Nicole Burton (she/her) is a Chicago director, playwright, deviser, and producer. She earned her MFA in creative writing from The University of Nebraska-Omaha in 2022. India has been recognized through several programs such as the National New Play Network (NNPN) Producer in Residence program for Cleveland Public Theatre, which she participated in for two years, and the NNPN Bridge Program grant in 2021.One of India's notable works is her choreopoem titled Panther Women: An Army for the Liberation, which received a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere. The production garnered significant acclaim, earning nominations for two Jeff Awards in 2024. Additionally, Panther Women received nominations for two Chicago Black Excellence Awards. She was a cast member of American Dreams, a production that received a nomination for a Drama League Award in 2021. She was selected as a 2020/2021 Room in the House Fellow at The Karamu House Inc. India was also one of the select few to join the New Harmony Project. Through her work, India strives to empower African-American communities by providing platforms to control and shape their own stories, fostering meaningful representation and cultural resonance in the theatrical landscape.

Nora Carroll is a Chicago-based theatre artist, educator, and changemaker who believes in the transformative power of storytelling. Before Chicago Shakespeare, she was the Artist-in-Residence at Carthage College in Kenosha. While at Carthage, Nora taught theatre courses, directed a mainstage production, and developed programming to support marginalized students. Nora’s passion for language and heightened texts expands well beyond Shakespeare into the works of BIPOC playwrights, poets, and orators. Prior to her work at Carthage College, Nora’s work as Community Actors Program Lead at the University of Chicago, Arts + Public Life, centered high school students on the South Side. In addition to working with young people, Nora has had the pleasure of performing and storytelling in a variety of spaces, including The Goodman Theatre, Definition Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, The Old Globe, The Public Theater, Centinela Prison in San Diego, Metropolitan Detention Center in New York, and Armory Women’s Shelter in Manhattan. Nora received her MFA in Classical Drama from the University of San Diego/Old Globe and her BFA in drama from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Nora is invested in curating spaces that celebrate intersectionality, culture, and empathy, with theatre as the vehicle.

Tiffany Fulson is an actor, director, producer, and community curator from the South Side of Chicago. She has a deep devotion to reimagining the performing arts through innovation, collaboration, community healing and wellness. In 2018, Fulson led the effort to launch TimeLine Theatre Company’s first summer arts program, TimeLine South, and in 2021 she became TimeLine’s first Artistic Producer of Innovative Partnerships. She also currently serves as the Director of The August Wilson New Voices Outreach Program in collaboration with Goodman Theatre and League of Chicago Theaters. Some of her other favorite artistic collaborations have come through her work at Global Girls Inc. (Chicago), Northlight Theatre (Chicago), Tabard Theatre (London), and Steppenwolf, where she held the roles of Facilitator of Professional Development, Bridge Program Consultant, and Lead Teaching Artist over the course of six years. Tiffany holds a BFA degree in theatre performance from University of Illinois at Chicago and also studied abroad at Arcadia University for Global Studies in London, England. Director credits: How Blood Go, Congo Square; The Angry Brigade, University of Illinois at Chicago; The Blunt Way, Bad Nostalgia, Flowers Grow on Trees, Recidivism, and The Bereaved, all with TimeLine South; Boulevard of Bold Dreams (Associate) and Relentless (Assistant), TimeLine Theatre Company/ Goodman Theatre; The Christians (Assistant) and Fun Home (Assistant), Baltimore Center Stage; Sense and Sensibility (Assistant), Oregon Shakespeare Festival; Twisted Melodies (Assistant), Baltimore Center Stage, Apollo (NYC), Mosaic (DC); Shakin’ the Mess Outta Misery (Assistant), Pegasus Theatre Chicago. 

Jamal Howard (he/him) is a dedicated theatre artist with a focus on directing as well as choreographing, producing, and arts administration. He is the 2023-24 Goodman Theatre Michael Maggio Directing Fellow, the Co-Artistic Director of New American Folk Theatre (which he co-founded in 2011), and an Associate Company Member with TUTA Theatre. Jamal served as the Associate Artistic Director of Emerald City Theatre where he created inspiring productions that helped Chicago’s children creatively face the world. As a freelance director, Jamal has been immersed in Chicago storefront theatre. His work is eclectic with the primary goals of creating theatre with significant empathetic impact on audiences while caring for the artists and collaborators involved in the process. Jamal has directed and choreographed with Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre, Porchlight Music Theatre, Right Angle Entertainment, Breckenridge Backstage Theater, Redtwist Theatre, After School Matters, Boho Theatre, Filament Theatre, Children’s Theatre of Madison, Hell in a Handbag Productions, and CircEsteem. He holds a BA in theatre and public relations/advertising from Loyola University Chicago. 

Willow James is a Chicago-based freelance artist, educator, and arts leader who centers his work around exploring Black identity, new works, and activism. He currently serves as the Civic Engagement Director at Definition Theatre, where he is also an ensemble member. He also works with Court Theatre as a teaching artist, with Artemisia Theatre as Resident Sound Designer, and is represented by Dream Team Talent Agency. Working primarily as a sound designer, he’s collaborated with Goodman Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Writers Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, and Definition Theatre. Regionally, he’s collaborated with TheatreSquared, American Players Theatre, NAATC, Alleyway Theatre, and Phoenix Theatre Indianapolis.

Raised on a small farm in Southern Minnesota with nothing to do but play pretend, Sierra Rosetta (she/her) learned to translate imagination into stories from a young age. She is an emerging Indigenous theater artist and scholar (Lac Courte Oreilles Chippewa Nation) whose work focuses on Ojibwe performance & stories, public humanities, feminism, and anti-colonial

dramaturgy. Upon graduating summa cum laude and with faculty and academic honors in theatre from Northwestern College (Iowa) in 2023, Sierra was immediately granted a full-ride to pursue a PhD in theatre and drama from her dream school: Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Her research explores Ojibwe performance and anti-colonial dramaturgy. While an undergrad, Sierra gained unforgettable multi-faceted experiences interning/fellowing at Commonwealth Shakespeare Company as a Shakespeare apprentice, Yale University’s Indigenous Performing Arts Program as an actor, Northwestern University’s Summer Research Opportunity Program as a researcher, and the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center as a literary fellow. Now in graduate school, Sierra continues to wear many hats, working professionally and academically as an actor, playwright, director, and dramaturg. In her limited free time, Sierra enjoys reading, ax-throwing, singing karaoke, swimming, and playing with her adorable rabbit, Siro.

The 2024 RLC cohort was chosen by a panel of theatre professionals. Activities will span from May 2024 through June 2025:

  • Mid May 2024 (online): Two-Part orientation meeting.
  • June 19 - 23, 2024 (in-person): Professional development workshops and events in Chicago during the 2024 TCG National Conference.
  • July - October 2024 and February - June 2025: Individual coaching, full cohort meetings, and professional development webinars on topics selected specifically for the needs of the cohort.


RLC builds on the learnings and momentum of the Young Leaders of Color Program (YLC) and the SPARK Leadership Programs. From 2008-2013, YLC brought 79 leaders of color to TCG National Conferences. RLC expands and re-envisions that community as part of an ongoing national network of leaders of color. During 2014-15, the SPARK Leadership Program assembled a cohort of ten leaders of color for a focused, year-long professional development curriculum. Through RLC, SPARK and its other professional development programs, TCG has supported a variety of learning opportunities and networking programs to meet the diverse needs of BIPOC theatre leaders at various stages of their career. 

To learn more about the program, please visit: 

The Paul M. Angell Family Foundation’s mission is to work towards a world of thriving and equitable communities in which the promise and power of the arts flourish, and where healthy oceans sustainably support the human and other animal species that depend on them. Performing Arts grants focus on classical music and theater. Grantee organizations include performers, presenters (including broadcasters), and educators. The Foundation is currently considering grants to the Chicago area, the Mid-Atlantic Region (from Washington, D.C. north to Philadelphia, PA), Cleveland, and Detroit.

Walt Disney Imagineering is the creative engine that designs and builds all Disney theme parks, resorts, attractions, and cruise ships worldwide, and oversees the creative aspects of Disney games, merchandise product development, and publishing businesses.

The Joyce Foundation is a private, nonpartisan philanthropy that invests in public policies and strategies to advance racial equity and economic mobility for the next generation in the Great Lakes region.

We support policy research, development, and advocacy in six program areas: Culture, Democracy, Education & Economic Mobility, Environment, Gun Violence Prevention & Justice Reform, and Journalism. We focus our grant making primarily in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin, while also exploring promising, evidence-informed policy solutions nationally and at the federal level.


Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national organization for theatre, leads for a just and thriving theatre ecology. Since its founding in 1961, TCG’s constituency has grown from a handful of groundbreaking theatres to over 700 Member Theatres and affiliate organizations and over 3,000 Individual Members. Through its programs and services, TCG reaches over one million students, audience members, and theatre professionals each year. TCG offers networking and knowledge-building opportunities through research, communications, and events, including the biennial TCG National Conference, one of the largest nationwide gatherings of theatre people; awards grants and scholarships to theatre companies and individual artists; advocates on the federal level; and through the Global Theater Initiative, TCG's partnership with the Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics, serves as the U.S. Center of the International Theatre Institute. TCG is North America’s largest independent trade publisher of dramatic literature, with 20 Pulitzer Prizes for Drama on the TCG booklist. It also publishes the award-winning American Theatre magazine and ARTSEARCH®, the essential source for a career in the arts. TCG believes its vision of “a better world for theatre, and a better world because of theatre” can be achieved through individual and collective action, adaptive and responsive leadership, and equitable representation in all areas of practice. TCG is led by Interim Chief Growth Officer LaTeshia Ellerson and Interim Chief Executive Officer Karena Fiorenza.


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