MacArthur Fellows Program

MacArthur Fellows / Meet the Class of 1998

Mary A. Zimmerman

Theater Director and Playwright

Evanston, Illinois

Age: 38 at time of award

Published July 1, 1998

Mary Zimmerman is a director and playwright who adapts seemingly untheatrical source material from classic world literature into compelling theater.

Zimmerman has developed a distinctive style that blends strong visual images, sensual movement, music, and poetry to create a new theatrical vocabulary. She has a rigorous dedication to clarity, and a staging vision that distills conflicting themes and sprawling stories into stimulating theater. Zimmerman spends significant time researching often obscure texts to bring classic works to life for modern audiences. Among her numerous works, all of which originated in Chicago and have gone on to national acclaim, are Arabian Nights, The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, Journey to the West, Metamorphoses, and Galileo Galilei, a collaboration with composer Philip Glass. She also directed Henry VIII for the New York Shakespeare Festival.

Zimmerman is a professor of performance studies at Northwestern University. She is a member of the Lookingglass Theatre Company and an artistic associate of Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, and has directed plays in a number of other major American theaters, including the American Conservatory in San Francisco, the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, and New York City’s Lincoln Center.

Zimmerman received a B.S. (1982), M.A. (1985), and Ph.D. (1994) from Northwestern University.

Last updated January 1, 2005

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