Staff member accepted into prestigious playwright unit

By Campus Reporter

Dawn Renee Jones, assistant to the chair of the Theatre Department, was one of only four Chicagoans accepted for a yearlong residency  with the prestigious Goodman Playwright Unit.

“As a playwright, you want to be associated with a theater—with a good organization or institution—that is going to support your work,” Jones said about her new position.

Of the 70 applications submitted this year, the Goodman Theater, 170 N. Dearborn St., selected the four playwrights to become a part of its unit. Twice a month, unit members will meet with Goodman’s literary staff to discuss and edit scripts, according to Jonathan L. Green, the theater’s literary management associate. The plays members produce during their residencies are paired with a professional cast and director who will stage a public reading at the end of the season, he added.

In 2015, Jones won the Ruby Prize, an annual award given to a female, minority playwright by the Southern Rep Theatre in New Orleans, for her play “A Heap See.” The award included a workshop Jones used to strengthen her writing and gain the confidence to apply to the Goodman Unit, she said.

“[The position] is going to benefit Dawn because it is a recognition of her growing talent as a playwright,” said John Green, former chair of the Theatre Department and current faculty member. “She has won a number of awards. She is a new voice, and it’s absolutely commendable the Goodman has recognized her unique vision.”

Plays written by unit members during their residencies have been staged for world premieres at the Goodman and other theaters, according to Jonathan L. Green.

“All of the readings are usually sold out several weeks before they happen,” Jonathan L. Green said.

Lucas Baisch, Evan Linder and Emma Stanton are the three other members of the unit, all of whom have extensive backgrounds in the performing arts, according to the Goodman Theatre website.

“[Membership] is having constant support from a large organization as well as a group of incredibly talented peers,” Jonathan L. Green said. “Being a resident artist at the Goodman comes with a certain amount of weight, respect and excitement.”

Jones described the play she will write during her unit residency, which is currently untitled, as an exploration of pop culture and its effects on feminine beauty.

The exact dates for the public readings have not been scheduled but are expected to be in mid-summer of 2017, according to Jonathan L. Green.

Jones’ accomplishment reaffirms the talent Columbia’s faculty and staff possesses, according to John Green. Though her day job is being a staff member, she is a true artist, he said.

“[Goodman Theatre] has the resources to bring the work to life,” Jones said. “The human resources and the people who work there, who are just incredible professionals and take this all very seriously… that’s what is really exciting to me.”