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On behalf of the National Theater Project Team, including our Advisor ensemble, we are pleased to announce the 2023/2024 National Theater Project Creation & Touring Grant Finalists. This years’ 24 finalists were selected from NTP’s largest ever applicant pool, composed of:
The 2023 preliminary applicant pool represents an increase of 56 applications (30%) over 2022, which includes:
We are grateful to each of the artists who submitted preliminary applications and recognize that each application represents a combination of labor, vulnerability, and generosity from the artists and ensembles who are the life blood of this program and our field.
We also collectively extend immense gratitude to each of our Advisors; this process simply does not happen without their expertise, time, labor, commitment, and collective insight. A little about this year’s 12 person Advisor ensemble;
A record-setting round of preliminary applications means a record setting amount of work for each of our Advisors; between the preliminary application closing on September 27 and our panel meeting November 14–17, advisors read and scored all 130 eligible applications, providing written feedback for all applicants. This is an essential part of NTP’s process, as we hold both transparency and field-building as core values: these comments, along with transcripts from the panel meeting (when applicable) are available to applicants. It is our hope that the combination of detailed info sessions, office hours, and feedback post-application will allow applicants to be more competitive not only in our process, but in their larger grant writing, project pitching, and in other application processes.
After all preliminary applications were read and scored, the top 60 applications were advanced to our preliminary panel meeting. Over these five days and across six time zones and multiple continents, our Advisors selected this year’s 24 finalists through a series of rigorous discussions rooted in NTP’s Core Criteria. The conversation both leaned into and interrogated NTP’s definitions of Ensemble, Devised, and Tour/Touring, and centered artist definitions of excellence and community.
As our finalists begin preparing to submit their final applications on Wednesday, February 14, 2024, they have each been paired with an Advisor to support them in crafting their strongest applications. This relationship is central to the process for both NTP and our sister program, the National Dance Project, as Advisors provide and support in a variety of ways, which may include: relaying feedback on the preliminary application, selection of work samples, guidance on budget and/or tour planning, advise around community and relationship building, and more. The strong, lasting relationships that this process forms is one of the highlights from our program evaluation, released earlier this year.
Advisors will reassemble in March 2024 at NEFA’s offices for a final panel meeting, during which 10 projects will be selected to receive the NTP Creation & Touring Grant. These 10 grantees will become our 14th NTP Cohort. Over the previous 13 Creation & Touring Grant cycles, NTP has awarded $10,662,700 to 96 Creation and Touring Grant Projects and more than $2,859,493.505 over more than 300 NTP Project Presentation Grants. Overall, NEFA has infused over $9.69 million into the field through this program, supporting the creation of 96 new works that have toured 43 states across the United States both on and off the mainland, via in person, virtual, and hybrid tours at small presenters, universities, military bases, regional theaters, festivals, and even to the moon!
While only 10 projects can be awarded Creation & Touring Grants, we truly believe that all 24 of our finalists are exceptional projects, deserving of material support. To that end, we will be awarding 14 Artist Development grants of $8,000 - $10,000 per project. This means all finalists will in fact be NTP grantees, and will be notified of whether they are receiving the Creation & Touring Grant or the Artist Development Grant by the end of May, 2024.
We cannot do this work without the generous support of our funders, the Mellon Foundation and the Doris Duke Foundation, to whom we extend our gratitude for more than a decade of support.
We also extend our gratitude to our NEFA colleagues, especially the exceptional tech team. We are also grateful to our senior most team members Jane Preston, Deputy Director, Programs & Co-Accessibility Coordinator, and Quita Sullivan, Senior Program Director, Theater, who have upheld the distributive leadership model so central to NTP’s team ethos during a particularly complicated staffing moment. Their balancing of support, leadership, and guidance with autonomy, trust, and flexibility has served as a model of mutual accountability we as Program Officers will seek to model in our own work.
As we turn the spotlight to our finalists (listed in no particular order), it is NTP’s hope the field at large will take a serious look at these 24 unique, engaging, community-driven, and thoughtfully crafted projects, and extend our heartfelt congratulations to each!
Please Note: As one extension of NEFA’s land acknowledgment practice, we believe it is important to provide space for artists/companies to uplift the original caretakers of the lands they reside and/or create on. You will notice that this may be represented differently for each NTP Finalist. We respect the varied choices made by artists/companies in honoring and recognizing the original caretakers of land and the relationships that exist and are being fostered through these projects. In addition, project descriptions below represent the current understanding of the project by the artist/company and are subject to change as part of the full proposal submission.
Looking for Lilith (Louisville, KY)
Lifecycle of a Blackberry is a new devised work by the Looking for Lilith ensemble that transforms KY Poet Laureate Crystal E. Wilkinson’s writings and poetry into a one-woman show starring lead artist Morgan Younge. The creation and touring of this new work, supported by Historic Berea College, celebrates the daily lives, struggles, and victories of Affrilachian women using spoken word, song, and narrative realism. We know by lifting up this voice, through adapting her works and incorporating voices of women today, our audience will benefit from engaging in storytelling about the Black Woman’s Appalachian Experience that fights stereotypes and reflects the true history of the Application region.
Downtown Louisville and The Kentucky Center are on the traditional lands of the Osage, Shawnee and Miami Peoples. Looking for Lilith’s office and rehearsal studio are on the land of the Osage, Tsalaguwetiyi (Cherokee, East) and Shawnee.
Papel Machete (Santurce, PR and Cambridge, MA)
On the Eve of Abolition is an original, bilingual (Spanish-English), multimedia and mask/puppet theater performance by Papel Machete. The story is set in 2047 on the last day of the last prison in transnational liberated lands of Southern North America. A movement of abolitionists have created the conditions to end the prison industrial complex. There are abolition camps, formerly incarcerated people, families, and organizers outside of the prisons, and from within, prisoners organized in this final moment to end all prisons. We use puppets, masks, miniature sets, stop-motion, shadow puppets, and video projection to create an immersive experience for the audience. The play is developed and performed by a multiracial and intergenerational crew of artists and collaborators of Papel Machete.
Shayok Misha Chowdhury (Brooklyn, NY)
RHEOLOGY is the autobiography of an avalanche. A physics symposium. A concert. My mother studies the rheology of granular materials: how the natural landscape flows in fits and bursts. She also sings the songs of Bengali poet-composer Tagore. Most singers approach his songs delicately. But my mother's voice is strident. Confrontational. She says, "gawla khule ga"—sing with your throat open. When she's teaching me a song, I ask her to translate lyric by lyric. Scattered throughout the house are yellow pads scrawled with equations. Sigmas and deltas. I've always been mystified by these other, intricate languages my mother speaks. RHEOLOGY is a performance memoir. A translation across boundaries of language, gender, discipline, and generation. An artist son studies his physicist mother. She studies the strange behavior of sand. Together, they try to understand the science—the story—of how things flow.
I reside on the unceded land of the Munsee Lenape tribe of Native Americans.
André de Quadros (Boston, MA)
THE SLAYING OF INNOCENCE fuses storytelling, music, and visual art to create a compelling artistic testimony about America's broken and racialized legal system and the triumph of hope. It is a music-theatre work that emerges from the lived experiences of African American men who have served and are currently serving prison sentences. Co-created by four artists with lived experience in the carceral system--Eric M. Anderson, Sean "Truth" Evelyn, Onyx White, and Wayland Coleman--alongside long time justice advocate and creative director André de Quadros, stage director Jennifer Harrison Newman, and singer-songwriter/ sound artist Justin Hicks, the challenges of living inside and outside of the prison system are vividly told through rich, compelling poetry, choral music, song, and rap. A large-scale version will tour to national performing arts centers, building awareness about our failed legal system and its disproportionate impact on African American men. A second, more intimate version will tour incarceration facilities in cities where presentations occur, offering presenters opportunities to deepen their relationships with the carceral system in their communities.
I reside on the unceded territory of the Wampanoag and Massachusett peoples of North America
Candace L. Feldman (Lansing, KS)
Enjoy the ride! Drawing from Aeschylus’ Oresteia, where justice & super ego are entangled in an eternal battle, we revisit a past solo by Jerron Herman, “Many Ways to Raise a Fist'', to expand into a full-length theatrical form. We begin with an unnamed protagonist that sits, marooned, on a literal & metaphorical island awaiting a trial on his “thought crimes.” Think John banished to Patmos. The protagonist must use persuasion, reason & evidence to deliver one great speech. The text centers litigation & Structuralism to devise a series of defenses that interrogate “protest” through a disability lens. What happens if a protest is compromised? What happens if protest doesn’t include you; do you still act? Why? What if you are not able to raise a fist? Chant the words? March the streets? Is protest the method?
Yakama, Chinook and Wenatchi
Latino Theater Company (Los Angeles, CA)
Latino Theater Company’s Carpa Project will create a new ensemble of Latinx theater artists to co-create, alongside LTC’s current company members, a touring production inspired by Mexico’s tradition of Carpa. Composed of devised comically satirical sketches that utilize poetry, song, dance, puppetry, and magic, The Carpa Project will be co-created around a dramatic question to illuminate important contemporary issues and will both educate and entertain, creating community dialogue through the power of live theater to an untraditional and undeserved Latine audience.
The Ume Group (Seattle, WA)
Using their signature style of acrobatics and butoh-driven physical theatre, Jordan Rosin and Yokko – founding members of The Ume Group – will create PASSING, a new physical theatre spectacle that explores time, mortality, generation, gender, and parenthood. Thematically, PASSING draws inspiration from the creators’ own histories of “passing:” Yokko’s experience of their mothers’ passing, the passing of know-how from Jordan to their new child, and both artists’ passing for cisgender despite their increasingly queer identity.
The show will use a chiastic structure of monologues, found object puppetry, as well as solo and duo Butoh dances, building to and away from a centerpiece funerary ritual. The work will be set to a soundscape of both experimental music and recorded interviews offering advice on parenting and dealing with loss. PASSING and will be created with and for parents, queer folx, people who have lost family members, and people who are confronting the passage of time.
Duwamish, Puyallup, Suquamish, Stillaguamish, Tulalip, Muckleshoot
Sugar Vendil/Isogram (New York, NY)
Antonym: the opposite of nostalgia is a memoir of a Filipinx American childhood that interweaves music, movement, and nonlinear theater. Excavating insignificant yet indelible experiences, Antonym envisions the future as an escape from pain and ponders how we can possess and carry painful memories without being beholden to them. Using field recordings of New York City throughout the year, the four seasons serve as a cyclical frame and context for memory.
I live and work on the stolen lands of the Canarsie and Munsee Lenape people
Obvious Agency(Philadelphia, PA)
Space Opera is a game engine for building empowered community
Minty Fresh Circus (New York, NY)
An afro futuristic contemporary circus in 9 movements. Exploring Oasis Spaces of healing, joy, adornment, ritual, beauty, rest and protection. Layering acrobatics, aerial, clowning and other circus art forms to support the narrative of blood memory literally propelling black bodies towards spatial freedom. We will use the circus arts to explore migration, non-verbal communication and sovereignty. This contemporary circus uses Black Music, dance and physical theater as a Freedom Portal a joy amplifier. This transdisciplinary contemporary circus will explore liberation and living as a modern maroon.
Creative Care Ensemble (Milwaukee, WI)
Within a Single Rose (WASR) is a devised theater collaboration with artists experienced in caregiving, elders with dementia living at home and their carepartners. Inspired by the archetypal themes found in The Little Prince, a story by Saint-Exupéry, this project explores love, longing for home, connection with community, and using one’s imagination to see beyond the surface. Working with groups of elders in five cities we will develop stories, music, physical scores, costumes, and scenic design - creating a whimsical world that, in the hands of participants, transforms before our eyes. Many people with dementia are underresourced, isolated and often experience systemic ageism, racism, and ableism. WASR provides an innovative art making practice along with a sustainable performance structure that empowers and invites greater engagement with this marginalized community.
Hochunk, Potowatomi, Oneida, Anishinabe
Faultline Ensemble (Halifax, VT)
This project will use an ensemble production by Faultline Ensemble to reimagine the public and municipal spaces of fire and ambulance stations as sites for collective trauma recognition and healing. Incorporating live performance, interactive discussions and a series of participatory workshops, Counting Pebbles will work with rural Emergency Medical Services (EMS) providers, their families, and their communities to process the trauma of rescue work and the impact of provider burnout on patients. Drawing on firsthand stories gathered from EMS providers over the past four years and created by artists, emergency responders and health workers, this collaboration will create public space for traumas typically buried and unrecognized. In healing these traumas together, the project will build relationships between communities and their rescue workers, reducing stigma against marginalized patients and improving emergency patient care for people oppressed within the healthcare system.
Faultline stewards land originally and still inhabited by the Abenaki peoples and the Wabenaki Confederation
Jaronzie Harris (Boston, MA)
Dorchester Weather is a neighborhood-based theatre ensemble that began in Fall 2022. We propose, through this project, to continue the exploration of the true story that brought our ensemble together. The main narrative features neighbors on a small block in Dorchester and their relationships to a proposed development that would go up on the city-owned lot that touches each of their respective properties which include a house, a church and an abandoned convenience store.
This original play will be devised and produced by a group of community members and artistic partners that comprise our neighborhood-based ensemble. In addition to a commitment to artistic excellence in the sharing of our stories and experiences through the production of this new play, our ensemble aims to raise awareness of the issues impacting our neighborhood at the intersection of environmental justice, development and social resilience.
I, Jaronzie Harris, reside on the ancestral and unceded lands of the Massachusett people, whose name was appropriated by this Commonwealth.
LubDub Theatre Co (New York, NY)
THE MAGIC BULLET is a transdisciplinary performance inspired by historical accounts of the marabouts—Sufi mystics who animated Algeria’s massive revolt against French colonial rule in the 19th century—and by the story of renowned French stage magician Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin, who crossed the Mediterranean on an imperial mission to prove the superiority of European conjuring over the miracles of the marabouts. Drawing on archival sources, ritual, original writing, stage magic, and documentary filmmaking, THE MAGIC BULLET offers an uncanny confrontation between the power of illusion and the illusion of power.
THE MAGIC BULLET is created by LubDub Theatre Co with the following ensemble of generative artists: Caitlin Nasema Cassidy, Noelle Ghoussaini, Pierre Jampy, Ismail Khalidi, Mohamed Yabdri, Geoff Kanick, and Robert Duffley. THE MAGIC BULLET is a National Performance Network (NPN) Creation & Development Fund Project co-commissioned by Pangea World Theatre in partnership with the Arab American National Museum, Noor Theatre, and NPN.
LubDub is on the sacred, unceded land of the Munsee Lenape Peoples. Our partner Noor is also located on this land. Our partner AANM sits on Anishinaabe land and Pangea is on the sacred traditional lands of the Dakota people.
"Postcards From the Border" is a multimedia theater work created for audiences of all ages and devised by 3 Austin-based Latinx collaborators with a narrative by noted writer Oscar Cásares, the music of singer/composer Carrie Rodriguez, and poetic photography of Joel Salcido. Combined, these elements illuminate the nuanced humanity of lives lived along the U.S.-Mexico border. The concept for Postcards began when Oscar, an acclaimed novelist (“Brownsville”) from the Rio Grande Valley, wanted to share his experience of growing up on the border with his 10-year-old daughter, Elena. To tell this story, he and Joel travel the length of the Rio Grande, from El Paso and Juarez to Brownsville and Matamoros searching out the subtle and profound details of those who live there which are often lost in the politics and rhetoric surrounding immigration. Their observations reveal a human-scale perspective of the lived experience in this area rooted in Latinx identity and family heritage.
Derek Lee McPhatter (Chicago, IL)
water riot follows a troupe of activists trying to stage a rock concert to protest the privatization of Lake Michigan in a near-future, dystopian Chicago.
Featuring four primary performers, the show is grounded in issues of climate anxiety and eco-grief and explores the potential for coalition-building across virtual and physical realities.
The music draws on the under-acknowledged legacy of Black voices in punk, electronic, and experimental music, and the story brings audiences along a collective emotional reflection on climate change -- moving from anger/confusion/despair towards determination/resilience/hope.
water riot is the anchor production for Derek’s NightQueen Performance Suite, an ongoing series of multidisciplinary works. The saga follows an expansive ensemble finding faith in one another as they face a global water crisis, unbridled network technologies and resurgent authoritarianism, inviting audiences to co-create an empowering, aspirational story-world.
This is ancestral land of the Peoria, Miami, Kickapoo and Potawatomi Nations.
The Potawatomi Nation is part of the Council of the Three Fires, along with the Ojibwe and Odawa Nations.
The Ojibwe word mishigaama means Great Water (root for "Michigan").
All My Relations Collective (New York, NY)
Skeleton Canoe follows the story of young Nawbin as they leave home and set out on a rites of passage through a season of their life. Their journey along the water to discover their truth and way back to themselves and ancestral knowledge. Along the way they discover unexpected friends, weather storms, and gain a canoe! Through the use of puppetry, traditional Anishinaabe lifeways, and multimedia design, Skeleton Canoe makes known what is just below the water’s surface.
Rising Youth Theatre (Pheonix, AZ)
A “keysmash” according to urban dictionary, is “exactly that, a random smashing of the keyboard that conveys intense or overwhelming emotion that cannot be expressed through words.” And we know that is often what trying to talk about mental health can feel like. For young people - and adults - there is a tremendous amount of shame, stigma, and secrecy wrapped around these topics. Keysmash: A Conversation About Mental Health is a theatre and dialogue project from Rising Youth Theatre will bring youth and adults across a wide range of backgrounds together to talk honestly and compassionately about mental health. This project will center young people’s voices and leadership in the creation of an original play that will radically imagine our community of care while also providing tools for immediate support. This project will be an opportunity for Rising Youth Theatre to develop a model for touring its unique way of making intergenerational theatre in community spaces at a national level.
Akimel O’odham (Pima), Hohokam, O’odham, and Pee Posh (Maricopa)
Goat In the Road (New Orleans, LA)
In 2025 Goat in the Road Productions (GRP) will premiere Carlota, a new musical built in collaboration with ensemble member Denise Frazier. Carlota will examine the life and descendants of Carlota Ruíz de González, a fictionalized version of a 19th-century Afro-Cuban revolutionary. Jumping back and forth in time, the story will revolve around González’s time as an enslaved woman in colonial and Reconstruction-era New Orleans, her work in the Cuban War for Independence, and the connection with her great-great-granddaughter Carlota James, living in present-day New Orleans.
Houma, Choctaw, Chitimacha, and Biloxi
LIZN'BOW - Liz Ferrer & Bow Ty (Miami, FL)
Novelas de Niñas is an interactive bilingual soap opera set within a quince where music and storytelling explore the intersections of femme, queer, Latinx identity.
Produced our media collaborative LIZN’BOW, Novelas de Niñas is a feminist, musical soap opera. Part installation, part interactive theatre, this project recreates the elaborate reception of a fiesta de quince años—the momentous event announcing a 15-year-old’s transition into adulthood. In this reinvention of a party that centers the performance of acceptable femininity audience members sit alongside actors in an immersive drama. Set in an outrageously bedecked banquet hall, Novelas de Niñas provides the food, live music, and drama expected at any significant rite of passage. Stories inspired by the personal experiences of femme, queer, Latinx people materialize throughout the evening in the form of projected mini-telenovelas and live theatrics. Central to this project is the feminist reimagining of each element
Four Larks (Los Angeles, CA)
I saw a crescent moon above a branch of silver. . . (working title) is a new multimedia theatre work adapted from pre-modern love poetry. The performance traces a lost queer history through an invocation of lyric verse from across the Middle East, North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean, animated through Four Larks’ “visually enthralling” musical and physical theatre (Los Angeles Times). The multilingual performance combines new and traditional music, ancient and contemporary expressions of desire, and integrated digital components created in collaboration with visual artist/filmmaker Mohammad Shawky Hassan.
Four Larks creates work on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Gabrielino-Tongva and Chumash people.
Love Force (New York, NY)
Love Force is a music theater piece inspired by the concept of satyagraha. Coined by Mohandas Gandhi in the early 1900’s, truth (satya) and firmness (graha) is an act of nonviolent resistance. Also referred to as truth force, love force, soul force (as used by Martin Luther King, Jr.), this theory envelopes the oppressor with compassion.
Love Force is an immersive musical journey in which Sunny Jain shares his life stories, questions cultural traditions, religious values and brings into focus our shared humanity. Love Force draws parallels between the Indian caste system and hierarchies in America. The music reflects Jain’s multiple identities. Exposed to baraat (Indian wedding procession) bands at an early age, while also growing up with progressive rock, Bollywood music, and ultimately falling in love with Black American music, jazz, Jain relies on musical improvisation to develop the music with the ensemble, and make salient points of prioritizing collectivity over individuality.
Nekaa Lab / Sachiyo Takahashi (New York, NY)
Shinnai-bushi is a genre of Jōruri (song-storytelling accompanied by shamisen music) from Japan that originated in the mid-18th century. Inspired by spirited shinnai-bushi Grand Master Okamoto Bunya's (1895-1996) work, Shinnai Meets Puppetry: One Night in Winter & The Peony Lantern is an intercultural, multilingual project to showcase the world of shinnai-bushi repertoires to American audiences with visual accompaniment by an ensemble of US puppeteers, Rowan Magee and Emma Wiseman. Interpreted through a variety of puppetry innovations, One Night in Winter is a heart-warming story of an old man and a magical animal, and The Peony Lantern is a fantastical ghost love story depicting the sorrow of a woman-in-love facing an unfaithful lover.
The final show will consist of live shinnai-bushi song-storytelling (in Japanese and English) by Okamoto Miya (a.k.a. Sachiyo Takahashi), tabletop and shadow puppetry, additional sound effects, and projection with English subtitles.
Canarsie, Munsee Lenape
Wonderlust Productions (Saint Paul, MN)
Caregiving is both universal and very personal. But the stories of caregivers are often invisible, especially for those facing impossible professional demands and those caring at home for aging parents, adult children, neighbors, or others. Using a process developed over a decade, the Wonderlust ensemble will engage hundreds of caregivers in story circles and creative workshops to devise a set of scripted stories that brings the lived experiences of caregiving to wider audiences.
Caregivers will perform the work alongside professional artists in caregiving spaces in the Minneapolis-St Paul area. Engagement partners will host performances in partner facilities and medical settings across Minnesota. Scenes filmed in studio and produced as a streamable web series will be accessible to individuals and in group settings across the United States with facilitated conversation. Together, we will illuminate the untold stories of caregivers seen and unseen who we interact with every day.
We are on land first cared for by Dakota tribal nations, whose ancestral lands were stolen during the genocide and forced removal of Dakota and Ojibwe people; whose descendants still live, work, and fight to maintain their tribal sovereignty here now.
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