Quita smiles with her arms crossed over her lap.
Senior Program Director, Theater

The National Theater Project (NTP) advisors met in early May to decide which projects will be invited to complete a final application for the NTP Creation and Touring Grant. NTP advisors take the decision and feedback process very seriously. it's never easy to deny proposals, and, as the applications get better each year, the decisions get that much harder. The discussions are always lively and informative, which result in a very strong list of 24 final applicants. The goal of this meeting is not only to choose the finalists but also to provide feedback for applicants who are not selected. The hope is that by providing feedback on a particular project, unsuccessful applicants will have a stronger proposal if they apply for funding in the future.

This year, NTP advisors were responsible for reading 107 proposals in advance of the two days of project discussions. After two and a half days of discussion, three rounds of voting, and several creative stress expressions (see photos below), 24 projects were moved forward. Over the next month, each finalist will work with an NTP advisor and NTP staff to put together a strong full proposal. Advisors may relay feedback on the initial application, and offer guidance on the narrative, budget, work sample selection, and strategies for tour planning and community engagement. After those 24 final applications are reviewed at the next meeting in July, eight projects will receive NTP Creation and Touring grants.

Since 2010, NTP has supported 57 projects through convenings, networking, and grants. This year’s eight awardees will receive Creation and Touring Grants, ranging from $80,000 to $130,000, providing funds for the development and national touring of new work. The grants also include an additional $10,000 to support the administration necessary to tour the project.

I am happy to share the projects which made it to the final round. Regardless of which projects ultimately receive funding, these are projects to watch - and I hope that other artists, funders, and presenters will look closely at the 24 NTP finalists. We look forward to announcing the awardees in August. 

2019 National Theater Project Finalists

A Host of People | Cleopatra Boy

Cleopatra Boy is an original play that uses the historical figure of Cleopatra to illustrate how women, POC, and LGBTQIA+ individuals in positions of power risk losing control of their own images and histories, resulting in false narratives and misrepresentations, while the current dominant paradigm (straight white men) retains power and control.

ANIKAYA | Conference of the Birds

Conference of the Birds is a physical theater work made by an international ensemble, inspired by the epic poem of Attar, embodying stories gathered from refugees and other migrants.

Art2Action | DRONE

DRONE is a multimedia, ensemble devised theatre project integrating live music, drone technology, and artistic containers for public dialogue. It explores the drone as a metaphor for how we become desensitized to daily violence, domestic and global, the question of Moral Injury, and the effects of remote-control warfare on the human soul. The finished work will include a touring production, an interactive online platform, and a process model for community engagement.

Baba Israel | Cannabis! A Theatrical Concert

Baba Israel and his band Soul Inscribed featuring Grace Galu, explore the history of Cannabis through music and spoken word. Based on Martin A. Lee’s 2012 book Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana - Medical, Recreational, and Scientific, this theatrical concert weaves a time-traveling tale of jubilation, injustice, and transformation. They plan to tour the show nationally to festivals/theaters.

Clear Creek Creative | Ezell: Ballad of a Land Man

Ezell: Ballad of a Land Man is an environmental, cultural & spiritual parable devised & performed from the perspective of a rural white working class man in Appalachia reckoning with climate change, extractive resource industry, intergenerational trauma, belonging, ancestry & generations yet to come. The project involves a site-specific performance, an interactive visual-sound installation, a locally-sourced community meal & an engagement session with audiences to integrate the theatrical experience & explore themes of domination & resilience.

DNAWORKS | The Secret Sharer

Joseph Conrad’s 1909 novella The Secret Sharer is the source material for a devised performance integrating dance, music, sound, spoken narration, and immersive video projection. Considered an early LGBTQ text, this adaptation is an exploration of fragility, tenderness, and intimacy in times of personal duress and societal discrimination. The devising process incorporates the audience physically in the performance environment; and weaves in the sharing of their stories at critical moments in the narrative.

Double Edge Theatre | We The People

We The People is a multidisciplinary place-specific work exploring the collective memory and creativity of three distinct communities, Sauk County, WI, Chapel Hill, NC, and Worcester, MA. In each location, We The People will present a humanistic vision of history: illustrating culture through a mosaic of historical characters and events that have evolved the courage and resilience of a place. These intertwining stories will be animated through immersive performance that travels through key public spaces combining parade, visual art, aerials, music and dance.

Erika Chong Shuch Performance Project | For You

Erica Chong Shuch Performance Project will collaborate with the Global Brain Health Institute at UCSF Memory and Aging Center, to create a theatrical experience in collaboration with dementia family caregivers and their loved-ones living with dementia. The work will be a theatrical assemblage of 12 multimedia performance installations/vignettes presented gallery style by an ensemble of 5 performers. The work will draw from individual and collective memories while commemorating the intimate relationship story between caregiver and cared for.

Eugenie Chan Theater Projects (ECTP) | Chan Family Picnic (CFP), A New Vaudeville

Chan Family Picnic (CFP), A New Vaudeville, in English with Chinese, explores an American legacy of anti­Asian legislation, sex­ trafficking, race & exploitation through the multi­generational history of the playwright’s family as Gold Rush immigrants – a story of hard­scrabble peasants sold into indentured labor, turned prostitute, gambler, or madam when legitimate employment became impossible. CFP is part of Chan’s Gum Saan Trilogy, spanning 160 years of a Chinese American clan in California.

Flako Jimenez | Taxilandia

Taxilandia is a site-specific play-within-a-tour of a city. Audience members become passengers on a dramatic reunion with Flako's neighborhood of Bushwick, Brooklyn. Taxilandia is a front-row, backseat ride on a quest to save the vital tapestry of community in America.

Kamala Sankaram | Looking at You

Looking At You is an immersive techno-noir music-theater piece by Kamala Sankaram and Rob Handel confronting the issue of privacy in our digitized society. The highly charged narrative, directed by Kristin Marting, is a story of love and espionage fusing Edward Snowden with Casablanca, driven by a dynamic score for three saxophones, piano, and electronics inspired by dance music, crime jazz, and operatic arias. Set inside a corporate headquarters and integrating data mined from the audience in real time, it lays bare urgent questions of our time.

Leyla McCalla | Breaking the Thermometer to Hide the Fever

Breaking the Thermometer to Hide the Fever is a multidisciplinary performance set to new music by Haitian-American singer-songwriter Leyla McCalla. The project explores the legacy of Radio Haiti-Inter, Haiti’s first privately owned Creole-speaking radio station, and the assassination of its owner, Jean Dominique, in 2000.

Mark-n-Sparks | Exiled in America

Based on a year of ethnographic fieldwork with residents of a low-budget motel, Exiled in America is a devised performance that brings together artists with local residents, community development corporations, and government officials to undo some of the policies that keep our most vulnerable on the margins. Exiled will be developed and performed in/with five host communities: Buffalo, Cincinnati, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Venice Beach. Community workshops will inform the piece by surfacing policy barriers and imagining new solutions.

Mondo Bizarro | The Way at Midnight

The Way at Midnight is a thematically ambitious, emotionally rich performance and cultural organizing salon that explores how the legacy of colonization lives in our bodies and impacts our lives. Surprisingly humorous, it is a call and response between the past, present and future. It is a yearning for justice and a reckoning between the timely and the timeless, where personal memories collide with histories left off the map.

the Nouveau Sud project | La Bestia, a Contemporary Circus take on the Central American immigrant path

For the past four years, the Nouveau Sud project has been immersed in the research and development of a piece of theatre that would help bring some light to the treacherous journey that is the immigrant path as lived by the Central American community. Driven by the growing presence of Central Americans in Charlotte and triggered by the recent discoveries on the Calvario (Calvary) that is crossing Mexico for most immigrants, the Nouveau Sud project embarked in this theatrical investigation with the goal of creating a contemporary circus piece to be shared with an all inclusive audience.

Radical Evolution | The Corrido of the San Patrcios

In collaboration with its partner El Teatro Campesino, Radical Evolution will develop and tour The Corrido of the San Patricios, a new play with music about a battalion of Irish immigrants who enlist in the US Army during the Mexican-American War and defect for religious, political, and cultural reasons to fight for Mexico. The tour focuses on engaging Latinx communities, primarily in the western US, and is a hybrid model including a touring ensemble from both companies and local artists.

Spiderwoman Theater | Misdemeanor Dream

Misdemeanor Dream is a new theater project, conceived by Muriel Miguel, produced by Spiderwoman Theater in collaboration with Loose Change Productions and Aanmitaagzi Storymakers. The production is developed and woven through the stories and languages of the ensemble - spoken, danced and sung - personal, family, community stories. Miguel's work is rooted in an Indigenous storytelling tradition which encompasses story/text, language, dance, movement, music, sound and image. This is “storyweaving", where elements are layered and woven together to realize the production.

Su Teatro | Interview with a Mexican

Interview with a Mexican is a satirical romp that tackles cultural misunderstanding, misrepresentation and straight up racism. The work is inspired by Gustavo Arellano's once syndicated column, Ask a Mexican, a parody of serious Latinx advice columns, earnest and pandering, that attempt to sinceely answer ignorant questions on race and culture. With Mr. Arellano's permission, Su Teatro explores the idea of Mexicaness and creates an environment for dialogue and exchange.

Sunrise Prayer Project | Sunrise Prayer

Sunrise Prayer, an artist-led devised piece with oral histories, written text, and a composed song cycle, tells the story of the WWII Concentration Camp, in Poston, Arizona, on the lands of the Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT). The racist fear and legal regime that built the US Concentration Camps incarcerating Japanese Americans with Executive Order 9066, also legislated the Indian Removal Act, the genocide that followed. Sunrise Prayer interconnects the histories of the CRIT and Japanese Americans that endured these vulgar consequences.

Teatro Luna / Teatro Luna West | The Times

The Times is an 80 minute, movement-based theatrical experience, an immersive performance study that seeks to examine what it means to breathe in the current political environment as a Woman of Color. Teatro Luna/West is utilizing breath as a theatrical device through the creation of its 15th full-length ensemble devised play, and are building a vehicle for touring that will be able to translate the healing power of finding, practicing, and honing your breath as a radical act of joy in the face of so much chaos, for a general public.

The Theater Offensive | Legends, Statements, and Stars

Legends is a new work centered on intergenerational coming of age stories of LGBTQ people of color in the US. Using Documentary Theater, Legends explores the journey of LGBTQ youth of color as they battle identity politics in an effort to create their own community and culture of legends and legacy outside of mainstream culture. Based on interviews with local LGBTQ youth, adults and elders, this piece uses a Queer POC aesthetic to illuminate diverse stories and experiences of youth, race, and representation growing across different generations.

Ty Defoe | Revolving Sky | GIZHIBAA GIIZHIG

Revolving Sky | GIZHIBAA GIIZHIG looks at astronomy from an indigenous perspective. The experience takes on multiple forms; immersive performance and interactive multimedia installation. Utilizing personal narratives and Anishinaabe storytelling traditions we draw connections between past and present to explore the intersections of science and sacred knowledge.

Unit Souzou | Constant State of Otherness

Constant State of Otherness is a new multi-disciplinary performance project exploring the feelings of isolation and displacement that come from a sense of not fitting in. Through a rich creation and community engagement process weaving storytelling, taiko and Japanese folk dance to work with diverse adults and youth, and culminating in a full theatrical production, the project provides artistic and social dialogues that will question, challenge, and disrupt the mainstream narrative of identity, especially within this current American landscape.

Will Power, Lee Sunday Evans, Eric Berryman, Zlatov Mitev | Detroit Red

Detroit Red is a multi-layered theatrical exploration of the turbulent, destructive, yet ultimately redemptive life of Malcolm X as he dwelled and came of age in the Roxbury section of Boston, MA and Harlem, NYC. This ensemble-created work features three shape-shifting actors who create a uniquely imaginative theatrical experience. Detroit Red offers a radical take on traditional theater, illuminating an iconic African-American figure and the community that helped form him.


Special thanks to NEFA’s Theater Team, Meena Malik and Derek Schwartz, and our Deputy Director, Jane Preston. They did so much work behind the scenes to ensure that the meeting ran smoothly. And, a big Thank You! to the NTP advisors who did such amazing work over 2 ½ great days!

Fifteen people, wearing earth tones, pose and smile.

Row 1: NTP Advisors: Steve Raider-Ginsburg, Brooke Horejsi, Leslie Tamaribuchi, Candace Feldman; Theater Program Manager, Meena Malik

Row 2: NTP Advisors: Ronee Penoi, Alison Carey; NEFA Deputy Director, Jane Preston; NTP Advisors Claudia Alick, Keryl McCord; Theater Program Director, Quita Sullivan

Row 3: Theater Program Associate, Derek Schwartz; NTP Advisors Jacob Yarrow, Byron Au Yong, Jonathan McCrory

Missing: Todd London


Aaand, an insight into stress management during NTP Panel meetings – a few of the constructions made during the conversations:

A swirly pipe cleaner sculpture with a bright yellow cleaner braided into it.
Multicolored pipe cleaner sculptures.
Multicolored pipe cleaner sculptures that look almost amphibious.
A pink and a green pipe cleaner sculptures. These are floral-inspired.