Lorraine Hansberry Initiative Announces Inaugural Recipients of the Hansberry Lilly Playwright Fellowship
L-R: Amalia Oliva Rojas, Danielle Stagger
L-R: Amalia Oliva Rojas, Danielle Stagger

New York, NY – The Lillys, under the leadership and vision of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage and The Lillys Executive Director Julia Jordan, are proud to announce the inaugural recipients of the Hansberry Lilly Playwright Fellowship. This unique opportunity was created as part of the Lorraine Hansberry Initiative to encourage women and nonbinary playwrights of color to follow in Hansberry’s footsteps regardless of race, gender, or economic situation; to acknowledge and combat documented financial disparities based on gender and identity; and as part of The Lillys’ long-standing campaign for racial and gender parity in the theatre.  

The inaugural 2023 Hansberry Lilly Playwright Fellows are Amalia Oliva Rojas and Danielle Staggerwho are currently enrolled in Columbia University and Yale University’s graduate playwriting departments, respectively. Each Fellow will receive a $25,000 stipend for each year of their matriculation, up to $75,000 during the course of their graduate degree. The funds will be dedicated to living expenses not covered by subsidized tuition to ensure the Fellows’ meaningful and protected time to write, work with collaborators, and benefit from the guidance of professional mentors in their respective fields.  

This unprecedented Fellowship is both merit and need-based, and recipients were selected by a panel led by award-winning playwrights Lydia R. Diamond and Nikkole Salter

“These inspiring young playwrights confirm that in their talented hands the future of the American Theatre is bright. And Lord are we all craving singular voices delivering moving and entertaining plays about things that matter,” said Diamond. 

In this inaugural year, all women and nonbinary writers of color newly or currently enrolled in the graduate playwriting programs at Brooklyn College, Brown University, Columbia University, Juilliard, Northwestern University, NYU-Tisch School of the Arts, University of California San Diego, and Yale University were encouraged to apply for this fellowship. In 2024 and beyond, the Hansberry Lilly Playwright Fellowship will be dedicated exclusively to incoming enrollees, and more schools with graduate playwriting programs may be added to the eligible list. The Lillys aim to increase the number of women and non-binary writers of color who are able to attend such programs. 

 “In over twenty years of teaching at institutions such as Columbia, Princeton, and Yale, I can attest to the financial obstacles that have prevented generations of women of color from attending dramatic writing programs,” said Lynn Nottage. “It is heartbreaking that there are important voices that go unheard, because the aspiring writers did not have the economic resources to invest in nurturing their craft. We at The Lillys want to change that. The Hansberry Lilly Playwright Fellowship is a pathway for talented women of color who thought that graduate school, and a career in writing was beyond their reach.” 

“The Hansberry Lilly Playwright Fellowship pays attention to the moiety between the profound voices of women and nonbinary BIPOC folx and their ability to ‘sit a while and think;’ which is foundational for forming and creating theater we all aspire to see,” said playwright and chair of playwriting at the Yale School of Drama Tarell Alvin McCraney

Last June, the Lorraine Hansberry Initiative unveiled a sculpture installation by Alison Saar entitled To Sit Awhile in Times Square. After several New York City installations, the sculpture embarked on a national tour, with recent stops in Minneapolis, Detroit, San Francisco, Seattle, and Howard University in Washington, D.C. Currently, the sculpture can be viewed in Los Angeles’ Gloria Molina Grand Park until June 30 and at A C Bilbrew Library from July 7-31. After Los Angeles, the statue will continue its national tour, heading to Spelman College in Atlanta before a permanent installation on the Southside of Chicago: Lorraine Hansberry’s birthplace. 

The Lillys are thrilled to partner with the Dramatists Guild Foundation and continue their long and fruitful relationship, with special thanks to Rachel Routh and Goldie Patrick for their contributions. The Dramatists Guild Foundation will manage the $2.5 million Hansberry Lilly Playwright Fellowship endowment and administer the current and future awarding of the fellowship. 

More about the 2023 Hansberry Lilly Playwright Fellows can be found below: 

Amalia Oliva Rojas (she/her/ella) is a Mexican poet, performer, and theatre “artivist” raised and based in Nueva York. Her work centers and archives the stories, myths, and legends told by her family, her community, and fellow immigrant women. She is a proud alumnus of the Vassar College Powerhouse Theater Apprentice Program and CUNY Lehman College. 

Residencies Include Pen America's DREAMING OUT LOUD fellowship, New Perspectives Theatre Company Women’s Work Short and Full-Length Play Lab, NYU Hemispheric Institute for Performance and Politics, EmergeNYC Program, Culture Hub’s Thriving Changemakers, and Beam’s Center Lighthouse Artist Residency at Governors Island, among others.

In addition to her playwriting, Amalia has contributed to several online magazines on immigration, policy-making, and personal narratives. These magazines include City Limits, Popula, and Mexico’s renowned La Revista De La Universidad De México. In 2019, an excerpt from Amalia's one-woman show Tonantzin On the 7 Train was published by Pen America.

In November 2022, her play A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Succeed in the Myth-Making Business was produced by Lehman College. Most recently, Amalia's play How to Melt ICE (or How the Coyote fell in love with the lizard who was really a butterfly) received the New York Women’s Fund grant. How to Melt ICE was co-produced by New Perspectives Theatre Company and Boundless Theatre Company in February 2023. This summer Amalia’s new play In The Bronx Brown Girls Can See Stars Too was workshopped with the support of Titan Theatre Company and was part of the Future Classics Festival presented at Queens Theatre. She is currently pursuing her MFA in Playwriting at Columbia University.


Danielle Stagger (she/her) is a playwright and performer from Queens, NY. Danielle’s plays largely explore questions of performance, respectability, and shame through a lens of the appropriate and the forbidden. Her work prioritizes the authentic presence of Blackness, queerness, and womanhood both on and off stage. As an artist in practice, she places particular emphasis on creating in community, and continually works to decentralize and destabilize the product-driven, linear theatrical process. 

Danielle has developed work at Second Stage Theater, Manhattan Theatre Club, Performance Space New York, Dragon Theatre, and Stanford Repertory Theater. Her work has been a finalist for the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, the Ollie New Play Award, and the Lark’s Venturous Playwrights Fellowship. Danielle holds a B.A. in Theater and Performance Studies from Stanford University and is currently pursuing an MFA in Playwriting at the David Geffen School of Drama at Yale.



In 1959, Lorraine Hansberry became the first Black female playwright on Broadway with her play A Raisin in the Sun. It continues to be one of the most produced plays in the world, but Hansberry’s contribution to the world was far greater than that single play. Her entire body of work as an artist, journalist, and civil rights leader has proven to be as incisive and relevant today as it was during her short lifetime and deserves to be studied and revered as such. 

Over sixty years later, female playwrights of color remain the most proportionally underrepresented demographic on American stages. Despite making up 20% of the population, holding 20% of the undergraduate degrees in English literature and in the performing arts, and being chosen by their peers for over 20% of the spots in national playwright organizations, prior to 2020 following the murder of George Floyd, they only accounted for under 10% of professional productions.

Through this initiative, we will keep the current national conversation about race, justice, and economic equality going by honoring Lorraine Hansberry. We will add to the growing movement to honor women and people of color with physical monuments. And, we will alleviate the financial inequality that discourages women and non-binary playwrights of color from pursuing graduate degrees in her chosen art form.

The Lorraine Hansberry Initiative Leadership Council includes Liz Armstrong, David Binder, Michelle T. Boone, Lily Fan, Kamilah Forbes, Mandy Greenfield, Agnes Gund, Mamie Hansberry, Nantille Hansberry Charbonnet, Taye Hansberry, David Henry Hwang, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Alia Jones-Harvey, Julia Jordan, Anne Kauffman, Renee Landegger, Kenny Leon, Emily Mann, Jaimie Mayer, Stacey Mindich, Dominique Morisseau, Marsha Norman, Lynn Nottage, Antoinette Chinonye Nwandu, Robert O’Hara, Imani Perry, Charles Randolph-Wright, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Jane M. Saks, Jayne Baron Sherman, Seret Scott, Pauletta Washington, George C. Wolfe, and Charlayne Woodard.

Lead support has been provided by the Dramatists Guild, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Shubert Foundation, Grantmakers for Girls of Color, Liz Armstrong, Agnes Gund, Stacey Mindich, Jayne Baron Sherman, Leslie Simpson, and Daniel M. Ziff.