After the post-election sighs of relief and the tears of joy for some, and the cries of anguish and tears of sorrow for others, a profound moment begins a new dawn and call for unity and collective work for the future of all of us. At the vanguard will be the Arts and the Artists. What we create, what we perform, and what we bring forth into this world is now more important than ever. Despite political differences, we have chosen the path of those who will strive to bring us together, in a vote of unprecedented numbers. There is fear on both sides, but fear is the absence of knowledge, nothing more. So, we in the Arts can help eradicate fear by helping to bring light to everyone. We are ready for a New Renaissance, a path into the future where everyone has a voice and a part to play. Let's all help lead the way. Let's build a new American Theatre that includes everyone from the ground up, the pit to the flies, backstage to front of house, box office to admin office. And, yes, Liberal and Conservative. For we have seen that the divisive rhetoric of "The Other" is a path to failure. Working together we have no limits to what we can accomplish. - David Fuller, President, NTC
More than any period in our scant time on earth, this one really matters, so please vote!
NTC Member Robert Schenkkan Shares: #ENOUGH Plays to End Gun Violence
SEVEN WINNING PLAYS ABOUT ENDING GUN VIOLENCE SELECTED BY LAUREN GUNDERSON, TARELL ALVIN MCCRANEY, ROBERT SCHENKKAN, DAVID HENRY HWANG, AND KAREN ZACARIAS FOR #ENOUGH #ENOUGH Plays to End Gun Violence, in Partnership with Broadway on Demand, Playscripts and The Dramatists Guild of America, Announce Seven Winning Plays, their 2020 Digital Premiere, and a Nationwide Reading
The winning plays will be free to view on Broadway on Demand from Dec 14-20 in a ground-breaking collaboration with Alliance Theatre, Arizona Theatre Company, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Orlando Repertory Theatre, and South Coast Repertory.
From the Press Release: #ENOUGH is proud to announce the selection of seven plays by teen playwrights chosen by nationally recognized dramatists Lauren Gunderson, Academy Award winner Tarell Alvin McCraney, Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Schenkkan, Tony Award winner David Henry Hwang, and Karen Zacarías, as the winners of #ENOUGH: Plays to End Gun Violence, a national short play competition for middle and high school students. On December 14, 2020 -- the eight-year remembrance of the shootings at Sandy Hook -- the winning titles will receive their digital premiere on the streaming platform Broadway on Demand and be made available for free for organizations to stage readings locally.
NTC Member Shellen Lubin Shares: Women in the Arts and Media Coalition Hosts VintAge Virtually NTC Member Martha Richards to Receive Award
Every two to three years, the Women in the Arts and Media Coalition hosts VintAge, an event celebrating the voice and vision of women in the arts and media as they age. This year, on Saturday, November 14th, the Coalition is convening in a virtual setting, to celebrate the accomplishments of the community as they continue to produce vibrant and exciting creative work, even in this challenging environment. The Elsa Rael VintAge Award, named for Coalition Co-Founder and guiding spirit Elsa Rael, to Martha Richards, Founder and President of WomenArts, an organization dedicated to increasing the visibility of women artists in all art forms, and an affiliate member organization of the Coalition.
The Save Our Stages Act was first introduced in July by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) and would provide six months of Small Business Administration grants to live music venue operators that have taken a hit during COVID-19.
NTC 2020 Person of the Year Taylor Mac has won the International Ibsen Award. According to American Theatre Magazine: "The award, considered to be the Nobel Prize for Theatre, is gifted every two years and comes with a $300,000 cash prize. It is given to an individual or company that has brought new artistic dimensions to the world of drama or theatre...The award ceremony is usually presented as part of the Norwegian National Theatre’s biennial Ibsen Festival, which has been postponed and reimagined as a digital celebration. The ceremony will now kick off a special live-streamed event entitled Taylor Mac’s Holiday Sauce…Pandemic! on Dec. 12 at 8pm EST."
According to Rolling Stone, Taylor is the first American to receive this award. The magazine also touts a new album: "On November 13th, Mac plans to release Holiday Sauce, an album that Mac dedicates to the legendary Mother Flawless Sabrina, Mac’s drag mother, who died in December 2017. In the liner notes, Mac writes: 'What better way to celebrate the winter solstice than through motherhood? Especially drag motherhood. In ancient Roman times, gender-play was a key element of Saturnalia...'"
Playbill also reports on Mac's award and quotes the International Ibsen Award Committee: "In a world of increased polarization and divisions, Mac crafts work that shows theatre’s potential to bind and unite audiences, to think about how we relate to culture in its various forms, and what it means to engage with other human beings imaginatively, ethically, and politically, through the act of performance."
Taylor Mac will join us for a virtual NTC Person of the Year Award presentation, conversation and Q&A at our December 4-6 NTC Conference. Reserve your schedule: Saturday, December 5, from 2:30 to 4:00 pm EST!
Taylor Mac has chosen Graham KG Garlington to receive the 2020 Paul Green Award. Selected by the recipient of the Person of the Year Award, The Paul Green Award recognizes and encourages excellence in new professional theatre talent and is presented to a young theatre artist. Graham is a 2018 graduate of Sarah Lawrence College where they received a BA in Music, Theatre and Film.
His latest bio:
Graham KG Garlington is a trans non-binary singer-songwriter, activist, experimental musical theatre composer, and drag artist. He's been assistant directing off-Broadway and performing (Till, NYMF, 2019; Only Human, 2019; Chance in America’s Favorite All-Boy Band, The Tank, 2018; Countee in the Crocus Eaters, Trans Lab, 2018; Kitt in Beasts of Warren, The Syndicate & Scottish Rite Theatre, 2018 & 2020) since graduating Sarah Lawrence College in 2018. They are currently working on their third musical while working and performing with Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir. They look forward to a future where the police are abolished and the capitalist white suprematist state falls in favor of BIPOC queer/trans liberation.
NTC 2020 Outstanding Theatre, Cleveland Public Theatre, has named Reginald L. Douglas as recipient of the NTC 2020 Emerging Professional Award. Selected by the Outstanding Theatre Award recipient, this Award is presented to a person demonstrating exemplary promise in a professional theatre organization. A graduate of Georgetown University, Reginald is a director, producer, and advocate dedicated to creating new work and supporting new voices, and the Associate Artistic Director at Studio Theatre in Washington, DC. His full bio can be read here.
Nan Barnett, NTC Member and Executive Director of the National New Play Network, send us info on their New Play Exchange. It is truly an amazing way to connect with plays and playwrights, whether you are a writer, a reader, a theatre, or an institution of higher learning! Nan tells me that the site offers access to information on more that 9000 writers and 37,000 plays, most fully downloadable for reading). Also, in the two years since the higher education subscriptions began there are now more than a million students and faculty members with access! The prices are low, averaging around $15/year! Here's a pitch from them:
The New Play Exchange—the world’s largest digital library of scripts by living writers—has revolutionized the theater industry. Launched in 2015 as an answer to the broken and outdated processes by which scripts and theater-makers were finding one another, the NPX now boasts more than 37,000 scripts by more than 9,000 writers. The platform’s latest innovation surpasses its previous success exponentially. With the introduction of Higher Education subscriptions, students and faculty can now search the NPX from anywhere they can access their institution’s network. In our new landscape, the NPX is proving to be an invaluable tool for educators and students no matter where they are currently learning. Robust search filters make it easy to find scripts for discussion or analysis that are perfectly aligned with your curricula. Whether you’re examining the Black Lives Matter movement, the impact of climate change, women’s suffrage, modern love, or a host of other timely or timeless topics, the NPX’s keyword search capabilities will point you toward new, relevant scripts. Contact and Rights Inquiry features allow you to reach out to writers with questions – or to request performance rights – with a single click. The NPX is ready to expand the possibilities for harnessing the empathy, curiosity, and appetite for inquiry that art infuses into any subject, with an eye toward creating a more equitable, inclusive cultural landscape in the process.
Melting ice on the coast of Adélie Land in East Antarctica. REUTERS/PAULINE ASKIN
Fires raging. Glaciers melting. Hurricanes blowing. Icons dying. And COVID-19 still on the rampage. Meantime national leaders ignore, deflect and lie. Lies and liars. Mendacity.
One summer I had the amazing experience of working with Tennessee Williams, who years prior had written Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Most of you know this, but it bears repeating. In it Big Daddy says: "What's that smell in this room? Didn't you notice it, Brick? Didn't you notice a powerful and obnoxious odor of mendacity in this room? There ain't nothin' more powerful than the odor of mendacity. You can smell it. It smells like death." And Brick declares: "Mendacity is a system that we live in. Liquor is one way out an' death's the other." Depressing. But there's more to it. Tennessee also has Brick say: "Maggie, we're through with lies and liars in this house."
I was in a play once, The Boy Who Changed the World, by Patricia Malango, a play about a prehistoric teenager at a time when homo sapiens were at the precipice of extinction. The boy fails at hunting, fighting and killing, but excels at painting, poetry and music. He's the one who saves the world by inventing the wheel. Yes, a cheesy parable. I played the narrator. At the top of the show I said: "What an age to be alive in - everything violently new and a challenge! The world full of knowledge just waiting to be discovered!"
Tennessee Williams and Patricia Malango, two very different artists whose words resonate today. These are depressing, uncertain times, surely, but they offer us a chance at creating something new and better. With our artists leading the way.
It's easy to be sad, depressed all holed up in our COVID Cubbyholes. Let's take the lead, as artists always do. Let's be through with lies and liars. Let's embrace the possibilities this unique moment in history affords us. - David Fuller, President, NTC
Many NTC members are at the forefront of the COVID battle for theater in the USA.
Helmed by NTC member and Artistic Director Risa Brainin, LAUNCH PAD at UC Santa Barbara commissioned 24 playwrights to write monologues and short plays for the Zoom platform. Alone, Together was performed in June, and the collection was recently published by Dramatic Publishing. All 39 pieces are available to be licensed now and include plays by NTC members Arlene Hutton and James Still as well as Stavis winner Mia Chung. Member Liz Engelman served as festival dramaturg. Brainin says, “The plays are wonderful, and we hope they are useful to NTC members seeking material for both the classroom and virtual performances.” Excerpts can be read on the DPC website.
At Playmakers Repertory, in Chapel Hill, NC, NTC member and Artistic Director Vivienne Benesch has announced their all virtual 2020-2021 season, ALL TOO HUMAN - EXPLORING THE RESILIENCE OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT. Their website states the season "explores the resilience of the human spirit in the face of personal and national upheaval," and "was born out of the need to adapt, learn, and change." It features six streamed performances "ranging from audio drama to film, ensemble to solo work, all enjoyed in the safety of home until we can gather again as a community."
Out of Juneau, Alaska, NTC member and Perseverance Theatre Artistic Director Leslie Ishii began their 20-21 Season with a co-production with ACT, InLove and Warcraft by Madhuri Shekar, an on-line performance they dub Live Video Theatre. The audience watches live from their homes; the actors are socially distanced, often performing in different states; and through design, lighting, and camera angles, the actors appear to be interacting in the same space. Outside the stage, Perseverance has also been working with The City and Borough of Juneau to produce several health and safety PSAs in response to the global health crisis.
2013 NTC Outstanding Theatre Oregon Shakespeare Festival is taking a lead in helping those in its region devastated by the forest fires. Through its "We Will Rebuild Together" web-page, it is promoting how to help its region and its theatrical family get back from these difficult times. Though not in production due to the pandemic, it is having its virtual "Dare to Dream" gala this fall. [Photo at right: OSF stage hand & IATSE Local 154 member Jack Buckley was one of many civilians who helped dig trenches & support those evacuating at the start of the Ashland Fires. #OSFTogether]
In Pittsburgh, NTC member and Quantum Theatre Artistic Director Karla Boos has announced its 20-21 Season of three plays in three different site-specific productions where artists and audience will be safely socially distanced. The plays, An Odyssey, Chimerica and The Current War will be staged in an outdoors skating rink, a park and the entire floor of the United Steelworkers Union building. Boos states: "Each show has a very large site ...custom-built, distanced seating, for a small number of people, with safe and distanced ways in and out. We hope Quantum, free from four walls, can lead us back to live theater, even if it looks a little different..." The Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports on the season here.
In New York City, Woodie King Jr., NTC member and Artistic Director of New Federal Theatre, has announced the start of New Federal Theatre's 50th Season. On September 21 and 28 they will present in two parts, Black Words Matter, a 2020 Virtual Poetry Jam, and a reading series in October: 5 Plays Illuminating the Social Injustices of America. The plays: Do Lord Remember Me, Mr. DuBois & Miss Ovington, From the Mississippi Delta, Medal of Honor Rag, and Stories of the Old Days
This Labor Day Weekend brings me to pause and think about the unions under whose contracts I have labored, especially with respect to my first love, Theatre. Theatre is a calling and I have been "blessed" to have heard this clarion call for decades. Yet how is it defined? What constitutes "theatre?" It used to be that a live performance before a group of people in one space was an adequate definition. Now we are doing live shows from different spaces for virtual audiences across the globe. Our labor union, Actors' Equity Association, appears to not think of this new actor/audience relationship as theater. It's communicated on a screen so it must be under SAG/AFTRA jurisdiction. I can understand if the work is on video or film. But live? Has our union abdicated oversight of a form of theatre that is not going away and is going to grow? Post COVID-19, throughout the next decade, this new technology is not going to go away. It is going to grow. AEA needs to grow with it.
Broadway is Closed until 2021 - (NY Post photo)
On another note, how are the labors of our theaters doing? So, far, quite simply, most of us are not working. Some of us lucky ones are working virtually. But overall, it's bleak. If you are in theater you know this, of course.
"The fine and performing arts industries will be hit hardest, suffering estimated losses of almost 1.4 million jobs and $42.5 billion in sales. These estimated losses represent 50% of all jobs in those industries and more than a quarter of all lost sales nationwide... The creative economy is one of the sectors most at risk from the COVID-19 crisis. Arts, culture, and creativity are one of three key sectors (along with science and technology as well as business and management) that drive regional economies. Any lasting damage to the creative sector will drastically undercut our culture, well-being, and quality of life.
So, I posted this last month, but it bears repeating:
In the midst of all this madness, I am compelled to write. Seeing the images of a 17 year old white male, moved by misguiding beliefs, shoot a military rifle, a weapon he had no business possessing, at protesters, with deadly force, shows the outcome of rhetoric forged in hate.
By advocating no platform and acceding solely to the demagoguery of its leader, the RNC appears to be taking a page out of George Orwell's 1984: “The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power... We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end."
But Orwell also wrote: "If they could make me stop loving you-that would be the real betrayal."
NBA LA Clippers Coach Doc Rivers
Doc Rivers spoke about this passionately and eloquently yesterday: “It’s just so sad. You know, what stands out to me is just watching the Republican Convention, and they’re spewing this fear, right. Like, all you hear is Donald Trump and all of them talking about fear. We’re the ones getting killed. We’re the ones getting shot. We’re the ones who are denied to live in certain communities. We’ve been hung. We’ve been shot. And all you do is keep hearing about fear. It’s amazing. Why do we keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back.”
John Lewis' final words to American need reiteration: "I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe...the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way...walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide."
"We smiled and said, ‘I needed this today.’ White cop and black man, we were both hurting. We walked around for an hour, just listening to each other.’: Police officer urges ‘we must build change together.’"
August 18, 1920, was the day the 19th Amendment to US Constitution was voted into law, assuring women in America the right to vote. On this day in 2020 we have an administration in Washington that is admittedly making it more difficult for citizens to exercise this universal suffrage: "But if they don’t get those two items [in the proposed Bill], that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting because they’re not equipped to have it." So, today, let's remember the long struggle for voters' rights and pledge that, no matter what, whether it means mailing our ballot as early as possible, delivering that ballot personally to our Board of Elections, or standing masked six feet apart for as many hours as it takes, WE WILL VOTE.
The Playwright: Erika Dickerson-Despenza The Play: cullud wattah
The Barrie and Bernice Stavis Playwright Award is presented annually to recognize an outstanding emerging playwright. Past recipients are HERE.
Erika Dickerson-Despenza is a Blk, queer feminist poet-playwright and cultural-memory worker from Chicago, Illinois. She is a 2020 Grist 50 Fixer and was a National Arts & Culture Delegate for the U.S. Water Alliance's One Water Summit 2019. Awards: Laurents/Hatcher Foundation Award (2020), Thom Thomas Award (2020), Lilly Award (2020), Princess Grace Playwriting Award (2019). Residencies & Fellowships: Tow Playwright-in-Residence at The Public Theater (2019-2020), New York Stage and Film Fellow-in-Residence (2019), New Harmony Project Writer-in Residence (2019), Dramatists Guild Foundation Fellow (2018-2019), The Lark Van Lier New Voices Fellow (2018). Communities: BYP100 Squad Member, Ars Nova Play Group (2019-2021), Youngblood Collective (EST). Commissions: The Public Theater, Studio Theatre & Williamstown Theatre Festival. Productions: cullud wattah (2019 Kilroys List) originally slated at The Public Theater, 2020; Victory Gardens Theater, 2021. Currently, Erika is developing a 10-play Katrina Cycle, including shadow/land and [hieroglyph] (2019 Kilroys List), focused on the effects of Hurricane Katrina and its state-sanctioned, man-made disaster rippling in & beyond New Orleans.
It’s been 936 days since Flint has had clean water. Marion, a third generation General Motors employee, is consumed by layoffs at the engine plant. When her sister, Ainee, seeks justice & restitution for lead poisoning, her plan reveals the toxic entanglements between the city & its most powerful industry, forcing their family to confront the past-present-future cost of survival. As lead seeps into their home & their bodies, corrosive memories & secrets rise among them. Will this family ever be able to filter out the truth?
Development/Production History: cullud wattah was developed during the Lark Play Development Center's 2018 Van Lier New Voices Fellowship tenure (John Clinton Eisner, Artistic Director) & received its first staged reading in October 2018 at Jackalope Theatre in Chicago (Gus Menary, Artistic Director; Nora Leahy, Managing Director). cullud wattah received a Public Studio workshop production March 7 – 10, 2019 at The Public Theater, where it was slated to have its world premiere in July 2020 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director; Patrick Willingham, Executive Director). The regional premiere of cullud wattah is scheduled for an April 2021 premiere at Victory Gardens Theater (Roxanna Conner, Managing Director).
The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that Arts & Culture accounts for $877,809,406,086 and 4.5% of the U.S. economy, contributing 5,107,889 jobs. [Source: US Dept. of Commerce]
America’s nonprofit arts industry generates $166.3 billion in economic activity every year, resulting in $27.5 billion in federal, state and local tax revenues. [Source: National Assembly of State Arts Agencies]
Cleveland Public Theatre will receive NTC's 2020 Outstanding Theatre Award (OTA) this December!
This year’s OTA committee members, Vivienne Benesch, Kirsten Brandt, Deborah Brevoort, Mindi Dickstein, David Feldshuh (Chair), Bruce Levitt, and Courtney Sale stressed Cleveland Public Theatre’s remarkable longevity, breadth and diversity of programming and commitment to its neighborhood, the City of Cleveland and its artists, echoing what NTC member and nominator Laurie McCants wrote: “Cleveland Public Theatre is a truly outstanding organization." The NTC Board of Trustees unanimously and enthusiastically approved the committee’s selection.
The award will be presented at our 2020 Virtual Conference on Saturday, December 5th at 1:00 PM, Eastern Time, followed by a conversation with Executive Artistic Director Raymond Bobgan and nominator Laurie McCants. We will then have a Q & A session with the membership.
Cleveland Public Theatre’s Breakout Session (or Frogorse) by Nikkole Salter (2020). From left: Jess Moore, Nicole Sumlin*, Enrique Miguel, Tina D. Stump*. *Actor appears courtesy of Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States. +2019/2020 Premiere Fellow. Photo by Steve Wagner.
"Cleveland Public Theatre's mission is to raise consciousness and nurture compassion through groundbreaking performances and life-changing education programs. We are about bold innovation, adventurous performance, and powerful community engagement..."
Pictured (from left): Ebaa Boudiab, Omar Kurdi, Amro Handousa, Ahlem Zaaeed, Jamal Julia Boudiab, Hussein Ghareeb, Abbas Alhilali, Ahmed Kadous, Issam Boudiab, Shirien Muntaser, & Haneen Yehya in Cleveland Public Theatre & Masrah Cleveland Al-Arabi’s وبعدها التقينا And Then We Met.... Photo by Steve Wagner.
Founded in 1981, Cleveland Public Theatre has become integral to the cultural fabric of Cleveland. They have been instrumental to the revitalization of their city and they continue to be standard-bearers for community engagement that is truly inspiring. - David Fuller
Cleveland Public Theatre’s Cleveland Act Now performing at Station Hope 2016. Photo by Steve Wagner.