MacArthur Fellows Program

MacArthur Fellows / Meet the Class of 1998

Mary A. Zimmerman

Theater Director and Playwright

Evanston, Illinois

Age: 38

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

Mary A. Zimmerman In the Media

"Spending a Windfall"

Chicago Magazine
Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle , 2001 MacArthur Fellow
Sandra Cisneros , 1995 MacArthur Fellow
Aleksandar Hemon , Reginald R. Robinson , 2004 MacArthur Fellows
Mary A. Zimmerman , 1998 MacArthur Fellow
Mark Hersam, 2014 MacArthur Fellow
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"The Sunday Sitdown: Mary Zimmerman"

Chicago Sun-Times
Mary A. Zimmerman , 1998 MacArthur Fellow
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"Cutting Through a Cultural Thicket: 'The Jungle Book' Comes to the Stage"

From The New York Times
Mary A. Zimmerman, MacArthur Fellow, 1998
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About the Fellows Program

The MacArthur Fellows Program awards unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction. Learn More

Tami Bond, Environmental Engineer

Class of 2014

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Review Affirms Impact and Inspiration of MacArthur Fellows Program

“We are proud of the Fellows Program and its impact on the lives of not just those selected but people all over the world." Cecilia Conrad, Vice President, MacArthur Fellows program. Read More
"Five Myths About the MacArthur ‘Genius Grants’" thumbnail

"Five Myths About the MacArthur ‘Genius Grants’"

Commentary by Cecilia Conrad originally published in the Washington Post Read More