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The National Theater Project supports the creation and development of new, devised and ensemble theater works. Since 2010, NTP has supported 37 projects through convenings, networking and grants. The core of the program are the six Creation and Touring grants that NTP awards every year. These grants, ranging from $80,000 to $130,000, provide funds for the development and national touring of new work. Creation and Touring grants also include an additional $10,000 for support of the administration necessary to tour the project.
Early in May, the NTP advisors met in New Orleans, LA, to make truly hard decisions about which projects would advance to the final application round. The goal of the meeting was not only to choose the finalists but also to provide feedback for those who are not selected, in the hopes that they will apply for funding in the next round with even better applications. It's an incredibly difficult decision and the advisors take the process very seriously, working diligently before, during, and after the meetings. It's never easy, and, as the applications get better each year, the decisions get that much harder. The discussions were lively and informative, and resulted in a very strong list of final applicants.
This year, the NTP advisors were responsible for reading 90 proposals in advance of the two days of project discussions. After several rounds of voting, agreement was reached and 24 projects were moved forward. Each application has been paired with an advisor who may help in any number of ways, including looking at text and work samples or helping to refine the budget. The final application is more in-depth, requires a more detailed budget, and includes a five minute work sample. The goal is to submit the strongest application possible in June. After those 24 final applications are reviewed at the next meeting in July, only six will receive NTP Creation and Touring grants.
These projects, and many that were submitted for this first round, are all worthy of your attention. 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 take a look at the 24 NTP finalists:
501 (see three) ARTS Los Angeles, CA
Pang! is a triptych of short theater pieces based on the lives of three diverse families living with hunger in Los Angeles CA, Cedar Rapids IA and Miami FL. It experiments with conventions of 20th century radio drama and contemporary nonfiction podcasts, in a live theater format, to put audiences "between the ears" of participating families. A single mom and her nine children are evicted from their family home; a refugee family recounts their escape from war-torn Burundi; a seven year-old boy fantasizes his way out of a neighborhood besieged by gun violence. Producer/playwright Dan Froot collaborates on the work with composer Shoji Kameda and dance/theater artist Sheetal Gandhi.
ArtSpot Productions New Orleans, LA
Jeff Becker, working with video artist Courtney Egan and choreographer Jeffrey Gunshol, leads the ArtSpot ensemble in the creation of Sea of Common Catastrophe, a multi-disciplinary performance inspired by a passage from a Gabriel García Márquez short story. Becker’s design and direction, Egan’s magical video projections, Gunshol’s liquid choreography, and ArtSpot’s physical performance-making style and original music will create an immersive theatrical experience informed by stories from cities facing the pressures of dynamic urban change.
Clyde Petersen Seattle, WA
Torrey Pines is a live theatrical production with stop-motion animation projections accompanied by live music and live Foley. Based on a true story by director Clyde Petersen, this transgender queer-punk coming-of-age tale takes place in Southern California in the early 1990's. Raised by a schizophrenic single mother, Petersen's life story unfolds in a series of baffling and hallucinated events. With a mother fueled by hallucinations of political conspiracy and family dysfunction, Petersen is kidnapped at the age of 12 and taken on a cross-country adventure that will forever alter the family as they know it.
Desired Evolutions New Orleans, LA
Vessels is a seven-woman harmonic meditation on the transcendental possibilities of song during the Middle Passage. It is a ritual performance on a floating vessel in the Mississippi that explores singing as a survival tool - to release spirit, reconstitute bodies, and span the gap between sanity and insanity. Using the mechanics of Black Diasporic song, Vessels ignites the musicality present in bound bodies.
Geoff Sobelle Brooklyn, NY
HOME is a large-scale devised performance work that explores and explodes concepts of “House vs. Home." The show will be a visual physical theatre event - combining dance, movement, illusion, live music, and a lot of home-spun engineering. At its heart is the participation of unprepared audience members reflecting on their own histories of house and home. The goal: by the end of each performance we will have transformed the “house” (the theatre) into a “home” (an audience becomes a community).
In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre Minneapolis, MN
THE STORY OF CROW BOY explores the courageous and intriguing work of Japanese-American artist Taro Yashima. The proposed project further develops the production to make it suitable for touring locally, nationally, and internationally.
Jennifer Kidwell and Scott Sheppard Philadelphia, PA
Underground Railroad Game is a theatrical duet that uses semiotics and satire to investigate the ingrained narrative around America’s racialized past and present. It is based on creator Scott Sheppard’s childhood experience with a pedagogical tool in which students captured or mobilized slaves, represented by rag dolls, to earn points in an “educational Civil War.” Acknowledging our own bodies as political symbols, we critique the hypocrisy of this objectification by distorting and re-inscribing prevailing signs and tropes.
José Torres-Tama & ArteFuturo Productions New Orleans, LA
José Torres-Tama & the ArteFuturo Ensemble's Taco Truck Theater / Teatro Sin Fronteras will re-purpose a food vehicle into a mobile stage to explore the anti-immigrant hysteria gripping the country post-9/11 and driven by political zealots. From New Orleans to Tulsa to Minneapolis, this radical theater on wheels will traverse racial and geographical borders--taking on the “immigration crisis,” and challenge the dehumanization of immigrants as “illegal aliens” with a genre-bending ensemble show whose theme is "NO GUACAMOLE for Immigrant haters.”
Manual Cinema Chicago, IL
The End of TV will be an interdisciplinary, cinematic piece of theatre performed using live actors on a set, actors in silhouette, hundreds of paper puppets on vintage overhead projectors, hand-made miniatures, vivid 5.1 surround sound design, and a live chamber orchestra performing an original score. All of these various media will be captured live by onstage cameras and projected to one large central screen hung above the performance space, simultaneously creating a “live TV production” and a piece of live theater with TV as its subject.
Marissa Chibas Los Angeles, CA
The Second Woman is an original interdisciplinary two-character performance piece inspired by John Cassavetes' film "Opening Night" and a 19th century novel titled "She" by Henry Rider Haggard. Both share themes of the terrors of aging and the mysteries of the feminine. The Second Woman is an alchemizing of female aging, a ritual of transformation through a performance of story, video, dance, and song.
Meshell Ndegeocello New York, NY
Meshell Ndegeocello's new work is a multi-disciplinary theatre production, Can I Get a Witness? The Gospel of James Baldwin. Blending theatre and music, and backed by a seven‐piece band and eight‐piece choir, Ndegeocello will explore her own investigations on race, religion, sexual orientation, America and the status quo, while celebrating Baldwin’s ideas through theatre, music and visuals.
Murielle Borst-Tarrant and SilverCloud Singers Jersey City, NJ
Watch out when Indian show business meets the Doctrine of Discovery! DON’T FEED THE INDIANS is a raucous play and political satire loosely based on Dante's Divine Comedy. A comedic Native aesthetic look at the negative marginalization of Indigenous Peoples and the appropriation of Indigenous cultural and intellectual property. See what happens when the Indians push back.
New Noise New Orleans, LA
Jubilee is a deep-fried, Gulf South food play that uses the familiarity of a family feast to stage a purposefully uncomfortable conversation about race in the American South. Traversing the lineage of one white Alabama family, Jubilee carves up the Southern cookbook for clues to our diverse, collective history. Jubilee seeks a white identity for Southerners that reckons with our ancestral history of enacting white supremacy and binds us to the current struggle for a more just, equitable future.
Phantom Limb Company New York, NY
FALLING OUT is a multi-disciplinary theatrical event and the final installment in Phantom Limb’s environmental trilogy. Fusing Butoh tradition with puppetry, contemporary dance, visual design and soundscape, FALLING OUT is a story about water, Japan, Fukushima and climate crisis.
Ping Chong + Company New York, NY
Where the Sea Breaks Its Back is a new interdisciplinary performance with puppetry, video, movement, and recorded interview, exploring identity, belonging, and cultural confusion in Alaska, created by Ping Chong, Ryan Conarro, and Alaska Native key collaborators. This production will tour to a range of arts venues and universities and will feature post-show dialogues, story circles and an audience interview archive, exploring the histories and ramifications of cross-cultural encounter in the U.S.
Richard Montoya, Joan Osato, Sean San Jose San Francisco, CA
NOGALES is a new play by Richard Montoya and Sean San Jose with Visual Design by Joan Osato. As an expansion of the conceptual framework used in their previous work The River, we are creating an immersive platform for the play that includes a state-wide community engagement project, film, media, and installation. Using residency opportunities at ASU and Borderlands Theater, the artists will create the play, while creating rich opportunities for artists, communities, students and individuals to collaborate, interact, and participate.
Ripe Time Brooklyn, NY
Sleep features Haruki Murakami's iconic imagination charged through with a feast of visual and physical storytelling celebrating a woman's radical impulse to transgress and rebel. Collaborators include Naomi Iizuka (writer), Rachel Dickstein (director/deviser), Mimi Lien (sets), Hannah Wasileski (video), Jiyoun Chang (lights) Ilona Somogyi (costumes), Jane Shaw (sound) and NewBorn Trio (live score: shakuhachi flute, glass, metal percussion).
Sandglass Theater Putney, VT
Babylon is a response to the rapidly escalating world crisis of refugees and asylum seekers. We will work with the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program to help us understand the challenges that face refugees: physical, emotional, spiritual. The testimonies that we hear from VRRP and its client refugees will become the basis for the texts and images of our production. Using finely expressive puppets, scrolling panoramas, metaphorical settings, and original choral music, we will create our production.
TeAda Productions Santa Monica, CA/Kalihi Valley, HI
Welcome to Hawaii, the Aloha state – a tropical paradise where everyone gets along. However the reality for many residents is much different. HI’s most recent newcomers come from Micronesia. Many have fled their island nations due to environmental and economic pressures. Their path to assimilation is a story that needs to be told. Masters of the Currents will combine community based story collection and social justice practices with devised ensemble techniques to create a theatrical performance built with the involvement of this community.
THADDEUS PHILLIPS Philadelphia, PA
100 BILLION NIGHTS will be a spectacular visual theater work for children and adults that blends the disciplines of theater, installation and music and employ ‘pop-up’ book design techniques, a cinematic score, and innovative staging. This work is devised by Phillips in collaboration with visual artist Steven Dufala, composer Juan Gabriel Turbay and engineer Efren Delgadillo Jr.
The Residents San Francisco, CA
Adapted from The Residents’ 1988 album, GOD IN THREE PERSONS dramatizes the gospel of Mr. X, a corrupt evangelist who preaches of his encounters with a pair of conjoined twins. Their union has magical healing powers--or so he claims! Narrated by The Residents’ lead singer, backed by The Residents band, and animated through puppetry and song by a company of crip, queer, and freak-identified performers, this world premiere production confronts audiences with a confession of exploitation complicated by a crisis of desire.
Theater Grottesco Santa Fe, NM
The Moment of YES! is a play about communication, the many verbal and non-verbal propositions we receive each day, creating common culture, and the humor and humanity of the journey. It is dance, theater, and music with twists on classic theatrical styles woven together into a unique theatrical experience.
Toshi Reagon Brooklyn, NY
Parable of the Sower is a genre blending theater/opera/concert work based on the post-apocalyptic novel by the late Octavia Butler, Afro-futurist and author. It chronicles the spiritual awakening of Lauren Olamina amidst an America wracked by violence brought on by climate change that has driven society to the brink. Exploding the form of a ritual song cycle, the piece blends science fiction with African-American spiritualism and deep insights into gender and race to construct a mesmerizing meditation on the future of human civilization.
Urban Bush Women Brooklyn, NY
Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and Urban Bush Women will devise HairStories 3.3, an evening-length, dance theater work created with the full ensemble of seven performers. This work will incorporate text, physical theater and video and will reincarnate two characters from a 2001 narrative dance that will otherwise be entirely original, with all-new artists and creative team. HairStories 3.3 will address topical matters of race and equity today, and UBW will engage communities around these issues via Hair Parties.
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