Russ Tutterow
  • Russ Tutterow

Sad news from Chicago Dramatists: its longtime artistic director Russ Tutterow died today, after a battle with cancer. A beloved director and stalwart of the Chicago theater scene, Tutterow was a widely recognized nurturer of playwrights and champion of new work.

Here’s the announcement:

It is with great sadness that Chicago Dramatists announces that Russ Tutterow passed away today. The beloved Artistic Director Emeritus, who nurtured the works and careers of countless playwrights, had been battling cancer and died in peace, surrounded by loved ones. Information on his memorial will be available soon.

“We not only lost an outstanding creative force in the local and national theatre community, we lost a dear friend,” said Cindy Jo Savitski-Lantz, Managing Director of Chicago Dramatists. “Without Russ, some of the most celebrated and impactful works we know today may never have found a stage.”

Tutterow served as Artistic Director at Chicago Dramatists for 30 years, establishing it as an acclaimed hub for the development and production of new work. He worked with hundreds of playwrights, including Rebecca Gilman, Tina Fey, Sarah Ruhl, Keith Huff, Lydia R. Diamond, Tanya Saracho, Brett Neveu, Rick Cleveland, David Barr and Roger Rueff among others. His directing credits include Chicago Dramatists’ world premiere productions of:

· The Jeff Award-winning hit A Steady Rain by Keith Huff (which was subsequently produced on Broadway, starring Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman)

· Blizzard 67 by Jon Steinhagen

· Hickorydickory by Marisa Wegrzyn

· Water by Alice Austen (Jeff Award nomination for New Work)

· Voyeurs de Venus by Lydia R. Diamond (Jeff Award for New Work)

· Heat by Marsha Estell (Jeff Award nomination for New Work)

· Drawing War by Brett Neveu

“Russ devoted his life to Chicago theatre and his long list of artistic contributions lives on,” said Meghan Beals, Artistic Director at Chicago Dramatists. “He was a visionary, a tireless advocate for new voices and a generous mentor who touched the lives of so many playwrights and audiences. We will always remember Russ with a play in his hand and a smile on his face because that is when he was happiest.”

Tutterow directed, managed or taught for such Chicago theatres as Goodman, Victory Gardens, Royal George, Mercury, Briar Street, Prop, Zebra Crossing, Igloo, and Cullen, Henaghan & Platt Productions, as well as Cafe LaMama Hollywood, and served on the 2005 First Look Council at Steppenwolf Theatre. He held positions as Adjunct Associate Professor of Theatre at the University of Wisconsin and Director of Theatre at Lake Forest College.

“Chicago Dramatists is Russ’s legacy and we will honor his memory in the years to come,” said Neill Shanahan, President of the Board for Chicago Dramatists. “We will continue Russ’s lifelong work in developing new playwrights and plays, and make sure that this organization that meant so much to him continues to thrive. We will miss our friend.”

Tutterow was the recipient of the 2005 League of Chicago Theatres Artistic Leadership Award for his “outstanding achievement in developing new plays and his long time contribution to Chicago theatre,” the 2007 Achievement in Theatre Award from the Illinois Theatre Association and the 2010 Actors’ Equity Spirit Award for his commitment to non-traditional casting and diversity.