Announcing National Theater Project Finalists

Quita wears a wrap, a long necklace, and beaded earrings over a black turtleneck. Nakum is a light-skinned woman.
Senior Program Director, Theater
Image: Courtesy The Theater Offensive's CreativeGround profile
Each year, the National Theater Project (NTP) advisors meet in the spring to decide which projects will be invited to complete a final application for the NTP Creation and Touring Grant. The goal of the meeting is not only to choose the finalists but also to provide feedback for applicants who are not selected. The hope is that if unsuccessful applicants apply for funding in the next round, they will have a stronger proposal. The 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, and result in a very strong list of final applicants.  

This year, NTP advisors were responsible for reading 100 proposals in advance of the two days of project discussions. After the discussions, 24 projects were moved forward. Each application has been paired with an advisor who may help in any number of ways. Over the next month, each Finalist will work with their NTP Advisor and NTP staff to put together a strong full proposal. Advisors relay feedback on the initial application and offer guidance on the narrative, developing a budget, work sample selections, and strategies for tour planning and community engagement. The goal is to submit the strongest application possible in June. After those 24 final applications are reviewed at the next meeting in July, beginning this year, eight will receive NTP Creation and Touring grants. This increase in the number of Creation and Touring grants is supported by additional funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Since 2010, NTP has supported 49 projects through convenings, networking, and grants. The 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.

The following 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 look closely at the 24 NTP finalists. We look forward to announcing the awardees in August.

2018 National Theater Project Finalists

Andrew Schneider Performance, NERVOUS/SYSTEM
NERVOUS/SYSTEM is the third project in a triptych of new performance works that create rapid-fire existential meditations using physics lecture, pop culture and personal revelation to dissect subjects ranging from quantum mechanics to missed connections. NERVOUS/SYSTEM pulls the frame back and examines our relationship to the systems around (and between) us.

Anonymous Ensemble, The Future
Anonymous Ensemble (AnEn) creates a new form of audience experience that is highly technological but intimate and almost telepathic. The Future is a live, interactive, multimedia theater event that invites the audience to explore and share their own beliefs about self, society, the environment, and the future of humankind.

Carlton Turner, River Sols
Carlton Turner (Mississippi Center for Cultural Production) along with Dipankar Mukherjee, and Meena Natarajan (Pangea Theater) are collaborating to create River Sols, an evening length devised work weaving personal narratives infused with community stories of identity, culture, faith, and family into the embodiment of a river; the perfect metaphor for exploring culture, memory, and time. 

Combat Hippies, AMAL
With AMAL, Combat Hippies seeks to use spoken word/theater to humanize war trauma by delving into both the nature and impact of war based on the shared experiences between Puerto Rican combat veterans and Middle Eastern refugees and asylum seekers. AMAL will explore each population’s search for identity and purpose after war as well as the stigmas facing both groups.

Critical Mass Performance Group, MARIOLOGY
MARIOLOGY is both a live, multi-disciplinary performance, and a series of interactive encounters with audiences, which explores the cultish power of the Virgin Mary through her many manifestations, appropriations, and interpretations. The piece detonates ingrained beliefs about womanhood, power and culture, through a dynamic fusion of live music, spectacle, text, movement and video.

Dahlak Brathwaite, Try/Step/Trip
Try/Step/Trip is a dramatic reenactment of a profound journey through the criminal justice system. Through spoken word, live music, dance and character monologues, the devised work will chronicle the process of the playwright's own criminalization along with his struggle to be vindicated in the eyes of the law and society.

DANCING EARTH CREATIONS, Between Underground and Skyworld (BTW US)
Between Underground and Skyworld (BTW US) is a multimedia dance theater work that will illuminate the practical, spiritual, and cultural aspects of renewable energy, centering diverse intertribal perspectives. Fusing tradition with technology, Indigenous interdisciplinary artists engage creation and constellation stories in tandem with geo-sensitive new media to conjure visions for a more sustainable future.

DREAMING EMMETT, written by Toni Morrison in 1986 and then abandoned, opens as a young Emmett Till invites the people associated with his death to a liminal, dream-like space which spins until it is revealed that he is not Till, but another Black youth who has been killed in an act of brutality and whose story has been lost. DNAWORKS will use its ensemble-building approach, including our unique community story circles to promote inter and intra-group understanding and healing.

Double Edge Theatre, A More Perfect Union
A More Perfect Union is a multidisciplinary, site- and place-specific work which will examine historical and cultural narratives through a rigorous visual aesthetic interweaving oral storytelling, magic, flight, and traditions of carnivál. Working with collaborators, this performance pushes Double Edge’s, and the field’s, conception of living culture and collaborative creation to new vistas.

Eugenie Chan Theater Projects, Chan Family Picnic (CFP)
Chan Family Picnic (CFP), A Nouvelle Vaudeville, in English with Chinese, explores an American legacy of anti-Asian legislation, sex-trafficking, race and exploitation through the multi-generational history of the playwright’s family as Gold Rush immigrants – a story of hard-scrabble peasants sold into indentured labor, turned prostitute, gambler, or madam when legitimate employment became impossible.

Heidi Rodewald/The Good Swimmer Company, The Good Swimmer
The Good Swimmer (TGS) is a theatrical pop requiem that addresses war, sacrifice, and memorial from a different perspective. Using found text from the 1937 Red Cross Lifesaving Manual, we tell the story of a family of lifeguards, and through it explore grief and loss, questioning what is heroic, what is lifesaving, and who we send to war.

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 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.

Last Call, Alleged Lesbian Activities
Alleged Lesbian Activities is a cabaret show run amok, an immersive performance art event staged in a smoky bar, a one-night stand with a girl you might never see again. Weaving together oral history audio, theatrical stagings, and the queer traditions of cabaret and drag kinging, it looks closely at our vanishing legacy, inviting audiences into a nuanced LGBTQ history and a clear trajectory towards vibrant queer futures.

Lucky Plush Productions, Rink Life
Rink Life draws from the plot structure and themes in John Guare’s play Six Degrees of Separation and the visual aesthetics and social politics of classic roller rink culture. A sound design entirely generated by the performers, builds upon the many fragments of information a person assembles daily to make meaning—partially overheard conversations, intimate exchanges, distant whispers, pop song earworms—all of which drive the work’s playful and moving narrative arc.

OCEAN FILIBUSTER is an operatic solo performance putting audiences in the middle of an epic human vs. ocean showdown. A performer embodies both a politician proposing a bill to end the ocean as we know it, and The Ocean, who appears in human form to defend itself and demands that humans acknowledge that we ARE ocean, before it is too late.

Pig Iron/Mimi Lien/Troy Herion/Dan Rothenberg, A PERIOD OF ANIMATE EXISTENCE
A PERIOD OF ANIMATE EXISTENCE (PAE), is a symphonic-theater hybrid. In five staged movements, PAE presents a meditation on life cycles and planetary cycles, set in a time of dire ecological predictions and technological change.

Progress Theatre, Plantation Remix
Plantation Remix, a series of site-specific a cappella musicals, will be performed at historic plantation sites, and other sites related to US systems of slavery, to revisit, re­work, reimagine and remix the separatist genre of “traditional” plantation tourism. This examination of shared histories/multi­-perspective narratives of enslaved and slave-holding families (and their descendants) interrogates sites in both the Southern and Northern US.

Sandglass Theater, Babylon
Babylon is a piece about refugees: their journeys, traumas, and challenges to resettlement. It is performed by puppets and actors, with choral singing. The work addresses the walls of bias and misinformation that refugees face in their new homes.

Team Sunshine Performance Corporation, ¡BIENVENIDOS BLANCOS! OR WELCOME WHITE PEOPLE!
BIENVENIDOS BLANCOS! OR WELCOME WHITE PEOPLE! is Team Sunshine Performance Corporation’s first-ever Spanish-language performance that explores Cuban diasporic narratives, U.S.-Cuba relations, and the role of “whiteness” in Cuban-American identity.

The Hinterlands, The Enemy of My Enemy
The Enemy of My Enemy is a trio of bi-locational, simultaneously performed theatre pieces that use a combination of live and digital means to connect performers and audiences in two “enemy” nations (US-Iran, US-China, US-Russia). Blending physical theatre with visual performance art, dance, and web-based performance, the multilingual pieces explore nationalism and enemy-ness through an immersive and experiential playing space for audiences across the globe and on the Internet.

The Theater Offensive, Heart Matter
Heart Matter, is a new work centered on intergenerational stories of coming out and growing up as LGBTQ youth of color in the United States. Based on 40 hours of interviews with youth, adults, and elders about their experiences growing up LGBTQ, this piece focuses on the stories of the 20 interviewees over seven decades, examining how their experiences across race, gender and sexual orientation shape our movement, our culture, and our future.

UniSon: A high-energy, multimedia, music-filled theatrical work inspired by the poetry of August Wilson in a one-of-a-kind production by UNIVERSES. Originally granted access to Wilson’s poetry catalog, UNIVERSES blends it into their mythically modern story of a dying poet who leaves a mysterious box to his apprentice; with strict instructions to destroy it. Curious, the apprentice opens it, releasing terrors that tormented the master through his life.

Wayne Shorter and Esperanza Spalding, Iphigenia
Wayne Shorter and Esperanza Spalding's original chamber opera places the Iphigenia myth in a contemporary context and is scored for a chamber orchestra and cast of operatic and non-operatic voices. This new opera scrutinizes the societal roles of women and men, reevaluating Euripides’ original plays and extending Iphigenia’s transformative journey beyond the scope of the original works.

THE BLACK HISTORY MUSEUM… ACCORDING TO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA delves into the fraught relationship between Black bodies and the value America has placed on those bodies. Starting from the founding of this country traveling through modern day this immersive production will explore 'Blackness' from its constitutional conception to its currency.