National Theater Project as a Learning Project
Every year, the National Theater Project convenes its grantees and advisors for a meeting to connect artists with leaders in the field in order to discuss their projects and the field at large. It’s one of my favorite meetings because it’s about learning, sharing and networking – a “no pressure” meeting, i.e. no grant decisions to be made. This year we held that meeting in Jackson, MS, hosted by NTP advisor, Carlton Turner, Executive Director of Alternate Roots.
The reason for holding the meeting in Jackson was for the NTP advisors to get a clearer picture of the challenges of creating and presenting work in the South. Trying to support work from across the nation means that we, as a funder and as theater professionals, need to be open to learning in order to make better informed decisions. Instead of the two-day cohort meeting this year, we added a day at the beginning to become learners about the South. Yesterday, HowlRound posted the “Welcome to Mississippi” opening that Carlton gave. The link to that welcome is here and it’s a must read.
To better understand the reasoning behind the discussion, below are the comments that I made to open the convening. We hope to continue this discussion in other areas of the country and remain committed to NTP as a funding project but also as a learning project.
“New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Theater Project supports the creation and touring of devised and ensemble created theater.
Of course it’s that word National that is part of what brought us to Jackson, MS. One of the discussion the NTP Advisors have after every panel meeting is how to increase representation from all parts of the country – urban/rural, North, South, East, West, Northwest, Midwest, Southwest, - how to make the project a fuller representation of the work that is happening all over the country. And of course, we’ve noticed that there are fewer numbers of Southern applicants and participating presenters.
I know from my community organizer days that if you want to get to solutions, you have to break bread with, listen to, and learn from those most affected. I’ve learned a lot around the dinner table. When Carlton generously offered to have one of the NTP meetings here, we looked for a way to do that, and the result is today – a convening of artists, presenters, services organizations, brought together by NEFA, Alternate Roots and Turner World Around Consulting – to eat together, listen to each other, discuss with each other, and to learn from one another.
So, on behalf of the New England Foundation for the Arts, the National Theater Project and its advisors, thank you for opening your “home” to us and allowing us this opportunity. And, from those of us from New England, thanks for allow us to escape 7’ of snow!”