24th Street Theatre Among TCG Grant Recipients

The sixteen projects supported by the latest round of Audience (R)Evolution Travel Grants aim to connect with Deaf and Latinx audiences, reach Middle Eastern and Muslim communities, engage with refugees and those in addiction recovery, and more.  TCG Awards $114,470 for Audience (R)Evolution Travel Grant Recipients. Local Los Angeles theater companies 24th Street Theatre and Latino Theater Company will benefit among them.

footlights tcg audiencePRESS RELEASE

New York, NY –Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national organization for the American theatre, is pleased to announce the recipients of the second cycle of Audience (R)Evolution Travel Grants. Funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF), the nationally recognized program will award up to $7,500 to sixteen teams of TCG Member Theatre staff and community stakeholders to observe effective audience-engagement programs and strategies to deepen relationships with communities they serve.

“From connecting with Deaf and Latinx audiences, from reaching Middle Eastern and Muslim communities to refugees and those in addiction recovery, these Audience (R)Evolution grantees are bridging differences in a time of division,” said Teresa Eyring, executive director of TCG. “Thanks to our long-standing partnership with the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, these Travel Grants will empower the peer-driven exchange of innovative audience-engagement models that build community and dialogue.”

To date, the Audience (R)Evolution program has supported two national learning convenings; an online Research & Resources Hub that includes case studies and research commissioned by AMS Planning & Research; and the publication of Audience (R)evolution: Dispatches from the Field, a collection of essays edited by Caridad Svich, with a foreword by Bill Rauch and Alison Carey from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, on how theatre practitioners think about and engage with audiences as well as define and explore sites for performance. In addition, the program has distributed over $2,000,000 in grants to 40 projects in 20 states across the country. Audience (R)Evolution supports risk-taking, reflection, experimentation, and collective action toward implementing new strategies that will help theatres sustain and grow attendance and demand.

“TCG’s Audience (R)Evolution Travel Grants give practitioners the rare chance to step out of their own theatre and right into the physical space of their peers to learn firsthand the different ways they are working and connecting with audiences, both in the U.S. and abroad,” said Maurine Knighton, DDCF’s program director for the Arts. “There is no better way to garner such high-quality knowledge than through these on-site, real-life conversations. The tools and ideas that the participating theatres exchange will ultimately support the field at large by enriching the theatre-going experiences of audiences nationwide.”

This second cycle of the Audience (R)Evolution Travel Grants awarded $114,470 in total funds to the following theaters:

The 5th Avenue Theatre (Seattle, WA) will send producing artistic director Bill Berry and ‎director of education and outreach Orlando Morales to visit with leadership, actors, and staff from Deaf West Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, New York Deaf Theatre, National Theatre of the Deaf, and Roundabout Theatre. They will gather lessons learned when featuring deaf actors in performances and creating educational programming for Deaf, hard-of-hearing, and hearing audiences, in preparation for The 5th’s planned production of Hunchback of Notre Dame (June 2018), which will feature a deaf actor playing the lead role.

***24th Street Theatre (Los Angeles, CA) will send a team to the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis and the Oregon Children’s Theatre to learn first-hand strategies to increase audience engagement and attendance in the niche Theatre for Young Audiences market, with the goal of returning home with best practices on how to reach new families, retain families as on-going patrons, and foresee challenges in TYA programming by learning about these organizations’ histories and trajectories as major institutions in the field of children’s theatre.

Alley Theatre (Houston, TX) staff from their Education & Community Engagement and General Management departments will visit CASIC, the Community Animation and Social Innovation Centre at KeeleUniversity in Staffordshire, England and the New Vic Theatre in New Castle in order to explore their methodology of knowledge co-creation and community engagement, entitled ‘Cultural Animation.’ The visit will allow the Alley to rethink its efforts in community development, specifically as they relate to El Zocalo, an upcoming long-term initiative to engage Houston’s vast and vibrant Latinx majority.

Atlantic Theater Company (New York, NY) will send associate artistic director Annie MacRae, director of marketing Claire Graves, and manager of institutional giving Nick Luckenbaugh to London and meet with artistic, programmatic, and marketing leaders from the National Theatre, the Royal Court Theatre, and the Tricycle Theatre to discuss and observe each organization’s audience engagement and community development endeavors. Information learned from this research trip will be vital in growing and enhancing community development and audience engagement programming at Atlantic – a leading non-profit institution operating in a large city with similar populations and potential theatre-going audiences to that of London.

The Children’s Theatre Company (Minneapolis, MN) staff members will travel to Washington, D.C. to observe audience engagement strategies at Imagination Stage, CenterStage, and Arena Stage. Guided by the priorities of the company’s platform for access, diversity, and inclusion (ACT One), their goals are to return with an understanding of the investment these theatres are making to invite, welcome, and engage all audiences, and to incorporate the lessons learned into the organization’s next strategic plan.

Cleveland Play House (Cleveland, OH) will observe four organizations, two with expertise engaging persons with disabilities and two with expertise in engaging African Americans to learn best practices in preparation for launching a comprehensive series of access and inclusion programs designed to bridge the gap between the demographics of their community and those who attend their performances.

Cleveland Public Theatre (Cleveland, OH) will connect Executive Artistic Director Raymond Bobgan and director of community ensembles Faye Hargate with other artistic leaders across the country who are currently engaged with Arab American and Middle Eastern populations to gather best practices for cultural engagement. This experience will help the organization adapt and replicate its current, successful model of artistic engagement with local Latinx artists (“Teatro Publico de Cleveland”), with the goal of establishing a self-led, local ensemble of Arab Americans and Middle Eastern artists who will create and perform at Cleveland Public Theatre.

Golden Thread Productions (San Francisco, CA) will  send founding artistic director Torange  Yeghiazarian to visit Pangea World Theatre, Mu Performing Arts, and the Arab American National Museum, all organizations who focus on serving communities of color, to observe, listen, and learn best practices to improve audience engagement at Golden Thread. This travel will work towards building a national coalition of theatres serving the Middle Eastern and Muslim communities.

Long Wharf Theatre (New Haven, CT) will connect Joshua Borenstein (managing director), Elizabeth Nearing (community engagement manager), and Will Kneerim (director of employment and education services, integrated refugee and immigrant services) to Seattle Rep and Arena Stage to observe, research, and experience their community engagement programming. They will learn best practices for teaching and engaging community members in participatory programming that will inform the expansion of Long Wharf Theatre’s community engagement programming through partnerships with organizations that support refugees and individuals in substance abuse recovery during the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons.

Mixed Blood Theatre Company (Minneapolis, MN) will send key staff and personnel to visit ArtsEmerson in Boston, Massachusetts. They will meet with the staff and leadership to learn about how the organization advances community/audience engagement with their theatre work and gain firsthand experience to explore how Mixed Blood can replicate ArtsEmerson’s best practices effectively and sustainably for both the organization and the communities it serves.

Northlight Theatre (Skokie, IL) will send selected staff to visit the Guthrie Theatre to learn best practices on developing civic-minded projects that connect art with diverse populations. In anticipation of its construction of a new theatre within the Evanston community, Northlight anticipates the visit will help them learn how to more intentionally connect with the many social service organizations, education centers, and arts organizations in the extremely diverse community.

Ping Chong & Company (New York, NY) will travel to three communities and three arts organizations in Alaska to observe deeply rooted and culturally specific audience engagement strategies and to collaboratively design engagement approaches for their upcoming production Where the Sea Breaks its Back (working title), which will tour Alaska and the U.S. beginning fall 2017. Led and facilitated by PC+C artistic collaborator and community projects associate Ryan Conarro, this observership and research and development period will allow the organization to create audience engagement models that integrate with presenting organizations’ missions and the production’s aesthetics. This work will support the ongoing development of PC+C’s long-range strategies for weaving audience engagement into future interdisciplinary performance works.

The Studio Theatre (Washington, DC) will send staff to visit ArtsBoston and its member organizations including A.R.T to explore research-driven strategies employed by Boston arts organizations following their work with Clarity Campaign Labs, a political campaign analytics firm. Studio hopes to explore how to use their own research from Clarity Campaign Labs to implement successful audience building strategies, increasing demand for the arts among younger, more inclusive audiences.

Su Teatro (Denver, CO) will send staff to Los Angeles Theater Center/Latino Theater Company (Los Angeles), Teatro Pregones/Puerto Rican Traveling Theater (New York City) and Oregon Shakespeare Festival (Ashland, OR), to investigate the unique strengths and challenges that influence the audience development strategies used by each theatre. Su Teatro seeks to expand the definition of mainstream theatre by nurturing a truly diverse space for cultures to come together. Visits will reveal creative strategies to both broaden and deepen the commitment of audiences which the team will adapt to honor the complexity of Denver’s local community.

Trinity Repertory Company (Providence, RI) will build on their two-year relationship with Rhode Island Latino Arts by sending staff, artists and board members of both companies to visit two organizations creating theatre at the intersection of Latinx and non-culturally specific work: Cleveland, OH’s Cleveland Public Theatre/Teatro Público de Cleveland (Cleveland, OH) and Borderlands Theater Company (Tucson, AZ).  Their travels will explore engagement between produced performances, producers, and artists to better understand the organizational structures surrounding the work, which will assist the two organizations in developing a future model for their collaboration.

Two River Theater Company (Red Bank, NJ) will send artistic director John Dias, director of marketing Courtney Schroeder, education assistant Amanda Espinoza, and community relations officer Gilda Rogers to visit Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Borderlands Theater with the goal of further developing Two River’s Latinx audience and building a long-term dialogue between theater and community. During their travels to OSF, they will learn about the organization’s internal diversity and inclusion structure and its work with community ambassadors. While at Borderlands Theater, they will observe the company’s Barrios Stories Project and learn how Two River might better serve the community as a resource center.

The Audience (R)Evolution Travel Grants panel included: Susie Falk, managing director, California Shakespeare Theater; Joanne Seelig, director of education at Imagination Stage; Michael Develle Winn, community engagement manager, Alliance Theatre.

Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s mission is to improve the quality of people’s lives through grants supporting the performing arts, environmental conservation, medical research and child well-being, and through preservation of the cultural and environmental legacy of Doris Duke’s properties. The Arts Program of DDCF focuses its support on contemporary dance, jazz and theatre artists, and the organizations that nurture, present and produce them.

For over 50 years, Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national organization for U.S. theatre, has existed to strengthen, nurture, and promote the professional not-for-profit theatre. TCG’s constituency has grown from a handful of groundbreaking theatres to nearly 700 member theatres and affiliate organizations and more than 11,000 individuals nationwide. TCG offers its members networking and knowledge-building opportunities through conferences, events, research and communications; awards grants, approximately $2 million per year, to theatre companies and individual artists; advocates on the federal level; and serves as the U.S. Center of the International Theatre Institute, connecting its constituents to the global theatre community. TCG is North America’s largest independent publisher of dramatic literature, with 14 Pulitzer Prizes for Best Play on the TCG booklist. It also publishes the award-winning American Theatre magazine and ARTSEARCH®, the essential source for a career in the arts. In all of its endeavors, TCG seeks to increase the organizational efficiency of its member theatres, cultivate and celebrate the artistic talent and achievements of the field and promote a larger public understanding of, and appreciation for, the theatre.

About Tracey Paleo

Tracey Paleo is Associate Editor at FootLights Magazine. She's also the Founder and Chief Editor of the arts and culture site, Gia On The Move, where she often reviews live performance events.

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