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You may have noticed that this year’s announcement of the National Theater Project finalists is a bit later than usual. COVID-19 complicated an already complex process and came at a time when NEFA was making system changes, including launching a new reviewer portal for our Advisors. These things slowed down our process, but the panel meeting was held, our amazing Advisors did the hard work, and these are our exciting results! I must give a special shout out and thank you to NTP team members – Meena Malik, Program Manager; Derek Schwartz, Program Coordinator, as well as our Tech team, in particular Abby Southwell, Technology & Data Director, and Jane Preston, Deputy Director, Programs. And of course, our amazing Advisors. Thank you for your patience and tenacity. We are in uncharted waters – Zoom panel meetings are hard!
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 resulted this year in a very strong list of 28 final applicants. An additional significant goal of this meeting is 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, in the wake of all that is happening in the world, the decision was even tougher.
For this preliminary application round, NTP advisors were responsible for reading 90 proposals in advance of the three days of online project discussions. By the end of those three days of discussion on Zoom, 28 projects were moved forward. Over the next months, 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. We acknowledge that this year, given the uncertainties of the touring environment, some of those questions may be very difficult to answer and are committed to being as flexible as possible. The 28 final applications will be reviewed at the next meeting in August and ten projects will receive NTP Creation and Touring grants.
Since 2010, NTP has supported 65 projects through convenings, networking, and grants. This year’s ten 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 create and 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 28 NTP finalists. We look forward to announcing the awardees later this summer.
The following are summaries of the 28 finalist projects, in the artists’ words:
In GIZHIBAA GIIZHIG | Revolving Sky, the All My Relations Collective merges augmented reality, performance, and community dialogue to explore the intersection of science and sacred knowledge. Utilizing Anishinaabe star maps, astrophysics, and personal narrative, the piece creates a lens through which to view indigiqueerness and the rapid degradation of our natural and celestial environment.
Anonymous Ensemble’s Flight is a serialized, webcast performance with real time international participation that explores contemporary issues of borders and human migration. Through real time video editing, Flight integrates fantastical sets and live film magic with real stories from the everyday lives of human migrants around the world. Flight creates a new form of performance that combines digital fantasy and documentary reality for audiences in real and virtual spaces, creating a community that is simultaneously local and global.
Baba Israel, Grace Gal and their band Soul Inscribed 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.
CURRENCY is an evening length hip hop theatre performance inspired by the themes of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, created through a series of rap cypher videos and live mixtape variety shows. Equal parts theatre and cypher, our dramatic themes and story will draw from The Merchant of Venice, one of the thorniest of Shakespeare’s ‘problem plays,’ while our form will be a mix of performance styles: acting, rapping, beat-boxing, singing, dancing and whatever else comes into the performance along the way.
Black Benatar’s Black Magic Cabaret (BBBMC) is an epic theater spectacle that fuses elements of circus, magic, and drag performance to bring audiences on a journey through race and cultural allyship in the U.S. Between storied interludes that explore these topics, performances rooted in physicality and culture further explore queer and POC identities. The whole experience leads the audience on a journey of collective discomfort, joy, and liberation through participatory theater that creates spontaneous community and connection.
Antigone at the Border is a post-colonial re-imagining of Sophocles’ classic exploring the legacy of white supremacy on Latinx border communities. Creating a bridge between the next generation of Latinx performers in Arizona’s two most populous cities, Tucson’s Borderlands Theater invites members of Phoenix based Teatro Bravo to work in-depth with DACA and undocumented immigrant communities to co-create a multidisciplinary new work encompassing dance, digital media, traditional Waila music of the Tohono O’ohdam nation, and theatre.
THE 2017 NATIONAL EDUCATION POLICY TALENT SHOW #CHARTERSCHOOLEDITION is about the charter school movement in North Carolina. It is a verbatim musical, created from hundreds of interviews conducted by a company of artists as well as community education leaders.
MARIOLOGY is a multi-modal performance with interactive installation, which explores the profound impact of the Virgin Mary as weapon of control and colonization, as well as a source of faith and comfort for many people. MARIOLOGY detonates ingrained beliefs about gender and power through a dynamic fusion of live music, spectacle, text, movement, and video. A program of ancillary events (panels, conversations, art-making, films, music) will engage community through different access points and thought-provoking activities.
Altar no. 5 is a ceremonial performance devised by Daniel Alexander Jones in collaboration with ensemble members Ebony Noelle Golden, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Julia Sangodare Wallace, and Josh Quat. The piece conjures a liberation cosmology by moving audiences through a modular, processional event in small groups over the course of an evening.
DNAWORKS is adapting Joseph Conrad’s 1909 queer novella The Secret Sharer into a mixed-media performance. This devised work is an exploration of fragility, tenderness, and intimacy in times of personal duress and societal discrimination. In response to both an increase in hate crimes and the visibility of LGBTQQ2SPIAA+ youth suicides worldwide, The Secret Sharer provides a queer-centered space for resiliency and healing with audience members sharing their own stories during the performance, interspersed at critical moments in the narrative.
We The People is about place: its layered identity, collective memory, imagination, its natural world and the journey of its people. Originally created by the Double Edge Ensemble and directed by Stacy Klein, this work will be re-envisioned with collaborator Larry Spotted Crow Mann and with each of the 2 communities where it will be developed and performed - Osceola, WI and Worcester, MA. Then it will continue to tour. It illustrates the courage and dream of a place through a mosaic of stories, mythic archetypes, visual art, music and dance.
The Truer History of the Chan Family, A New Vaudeville, in English with Chinese supertitles, explores the impact of America's legacy of anti-Asian legislation and sex trafficking on three generations of the playwright's Chinese American family – peasants sold into prostitution, turned trafficker when legitimate employment became impossible.
Song of the North is a devised, large-scale, 80-minute multi-disciplinary live performance work by Hamid Rahmanian and collaborating visual and performing artists. The show will employ shadow puppetry, movement, an original music score, voiced dialogue, and animation to interactively tell a tale adapted from the Shahnameh. A cast of 7 actor-dancer-puppeteers will perform the work.
We are living in a fractured and divided America. As theatre artists we have the power to create a space that shows people as interlocked and interconnected. We can create events which reflect how we are part of a shared community, all navigating the common passages of life but with different lived experiences. We choose to base our exploration on Our Town in order to widen the canon’s definition of the common experience of an American life and create an inclusive version.
She Came Home will be sequel to 2017’s, She Went to War, an autobiographical performance by four female military combat veterans. She Came Home will follow the same cast through the next phase of their lives: the return to civilian society; the conflicts, negotiations and adjustments ensuing; to where they find themselves now.
An immersive modern/contemporary experience, Wired traces-is-the fine line between “us” and “them.” Wired meditates in sound, light, and movement on the gender, race, and disability histories of barbed wire, showing how it shapes common understandings of who belongs.
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.
Invisible Rivers is a project of Mondo Bizarro that employs the artistic practices of music, theater and boat-building to respond to our region’s interconnected struggles against coastal land loss, cultural loss and displacement. We are building boats in rapidly disappearing areas of our coast and hosting dialogues and performances on them. The project invites artists and citizens to examine how climate driven adaptations—large and small, historic and contemporary, cultural and scientific—will necessarily shape our future.
The Garden is an experimental, queer opera about rewilding and the roots of internalized transphobia. This surrealist performance revolutionizes the form of opera, incorporating medieval and electronic musical influences as well as circus arts such as acrobatics, aerial silks etc.
In La Bestia, Nouveau Sud is responding to the ever evolving immigration/migration reality. They are exploring this archetypal journey from their point of view as a multicultural circus theatre troupe. The phenomena of immigration is an international/intercultural one, and in La Bestia, they aim to bridge the gap within their communities in this, their region, as they look to discuss together a national issue beyond our four walls - questioning all walls. They aspire to create poetry through acrobatics and spoken word, but always rooted in community driven dialogue key for the creation of these theatrical experiences.
Ocean Filibuster is an epic human vs. ocean showdown; a solo performance with songs that puts audiences in the middle of the battle. A single performer embodies both Mr. Majority, Global Senate leader, proposing a bill to end the ocean as we know it, and The Ocean, appearing in human form to defend itself. And there’s more: John Ashcroft-style ballads by Mr. M, a chorus that emerges when The Ocean expands in frustration, and an interactive intermission to bring audiences closer and implore humans to see that we ARE ocean, before it’s too late.
A Hard Time begins as a lecture, bursts into hilarity, and evolves into a somatic dance party for a new, post-patriarchal world. Three women/non-binary/queer people – Jenn Kidwell, Jess Conda, and Mel Krodman – explore the fiction of gender, the violence of humor, and the impossibility of masculinity. The shape-shifting trio excavate and exorcise the patriarchal forces that shape how we see and how we laugh.
TALES OF CLAMOR is a theatre-based, hybrid performance project utilizing aerial arts and archival footage of the 1981 Commission Hearings on Wartime Relocation & Internment of Civilians to connect past/present notions of cultural and institutionalized silence and what it takes to break cyclical trauma and create collective clamor to find justice & healing.
VARIEDADES: Little Central America 1984 is a series of performances conceived and curated by Rubén Martínez, directed by Elia Arce and performed by Elia Arce, Robert Farid Karimi, Raquel Gutiérrez, Leticia Hernández Linares, and Rubén Martínez with Deejay Mix by Oscar Santos. It explores Los Angeles and Latin American history by telling under-told stories from the point of view of its visionaries and outsiders, especially those affected by the past wars and recent turmoil in Central America.
At the end of Plato’s Apology, Socrates, having taken his hemlock, asks his friends to stay with him a little while longer. He says, “There is still more time to think on virtue.” The Hang consists of those final moments and imagines they’ve turned into a centuries long philosophical music theatre hang (full of all styles of food, jazz, dance, debates, and queer romps).
RECONSTRUCTION is a new work about reconstructing ourselves personally and nationally in the harsh light of America’s white supremacist past and present. It will unfold in a series of interlocking chapters tracing different relationships between black and white Americans striving towards genuine intimacy. We plan to present RECONSTRUCTION to racially diverse audiences, and to make a work that is as useful to audiences as the process has been to us, as a company, in earnestly and honestly reckoning with the profound costs of white supremacy.
F/Punk Junkies is a new dance theater piece by Teo Castellanos with choreography by Augusto Soledade. This piece brings Teo Castellanos' continued development of "AfroRican Punk" aesthetic to the forefront, which breaks away from traditional Eurocentric proscenium theater and returns to the ritual and interactive performance circle. Text is based on Orisha Mythology, as well as Puerto Rican folk myths. It will be performed by all Black and Latinx company and will focus on older and culturally trained bodies.
UTOPIA is Theater Mitu’s newest company-created work that examines how we collectively reimagine the future of our species. The piece will merge first-person interviews collected from NASA Astronauts and children ages 8-12 with intersections of performance and new media. This technology-driven work will use a live original score and machine learning generated media to interrogate past utopian models.
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