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ASF Signs Agreement With HBCU To Develop BIPOC Student Talent

Alabama Shakespeare Festival and Alabama State University entered an MOU to provide for-credit internships and training in technical theatre, design, and more.

Today, Alabama Shakespeare Festival (ASF) and Alabama State University (ASU) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to enhance and enrich students enrolled in the University's College of Visual and Performing Arts through programs established between ASF's staff and artistic company and ASU's students and faculty. ASF Artistic Director Rick Dildine and ASU President, Dr. Quinton T. Ross, Jr., signed the MOU today in a ceremony held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the not-for-profit arts sector, there is a lack of diversity in both leadership roles and production roles. This agreement between ASF and ASU seeks to intentionally form pathways for BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) students to build arts careers and become leaders, specifically in the fields of technical theatre, design, and production. ASF and ASU staff and faculty will work closely to provide students with internships, professional training, mentorships, observations, class credits and other avenues of education and professional advancement for students.

For ASF, the partnership with ASU combines its goals of being a community steward and partner and identifying and eliminating barriers to BIPOC artists' success within professional performing arts.

"Alabama Shakespeare Festival is dedicated to diversity and equity in the arts, starting with our own organization," ASF's Dildine said. "This partnership with such an esteemed historically black university like ASU and its College of Visual and Performing Arts furthers our mutual goals of providing opportunities for BIPOC students to gain experience and build networks that will help launch their careers as leaders and artists in the theatre."

ASU's Ross said this agreement brings together two fine institutions, one in higher education and the other in the arts to provide meaningful opportunities for the University's students.

"This agreement allows both ASU and Alabama Shakespeare Festival to focus on helping to further enhance the artistic education of the University's students who are enrolled in the College of Visual and Performing Arts," Ross said. "This will broaden the educational and career opportunities of our students and will help by building pathways of diversity and artistic enrichment for them in production and leadership roles in the arts and entertainment sector."

Brian Martin, ASU's interim chair for the Theatre Department, who attended the signing ceremony, said he is excited about this new relationship between Alabama Shakespeare Festival and ASU.

"I am confident that it will open up new doors, insights and opportunities for the University's students by building a bridge to such an acclaimed and prestigious national theater as ASF," Martin said.

Dr. Tanjula Petty, ASU's assistant provost of Student Success and Special Initiatives, believes that this agreement will provide an opportunity for ASU students to go much farther in the arts.

"Alabama State University is continuing to promote student success through building partnerships and providing continuous opportunities for its students. Such partnerships further demonstrate our living up to our mission of being a comprehensive, diverse, student-centered public historically black university that is committed to global excellence in teaching," Petty said.

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