TCG Announces RECOGNIZE Grantees for THRIVE! Uplifting Theatres of Color Program

Twenty-two theatres are receiving RECOGNIZE grants and will participate in the REBUILD cohort.

By: Oct. 20, 2022

TCG Announces RECOGNIZE Grantees for THRIVE! Uplifting Theatres of Color Program

Theatre Communications Grouphas announced the recipients of RECOGNIZE grants as part of the THRIVE! Uplifting Theatres of Color program. With $1,635,000 in support from Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, TCG is working in partnership with an Advisory Circle of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC*) to provide unrestricted funds for Black theatres, Indigenous theatres and Theatres of Color (BITOC*) based in the U.S. (including Tribal Nations and U.S. Territories). In this inaugural round of the program, The Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation has joined as a supporting partner for theatres in Western states. TCG is looking to partner with additional funders to further augment the reach and impact of the THRIVE! program, and interested parties should contact LaTeshia Ellerson for more information.

Twenty-two theatres are receiving RECOGNIZE grants and will participate in the REBUILD cohort: AlterTheater; Bindlestiff Studio; Breaking Wave Theatre Company; Eagle Project; East West Players; Golden Thread Productions; Hattiloo Theatre; Ikidowin Acting Ensemble; Junebug Productions; KC Melting Pot Theatre Productions; Last Call; Lower Depth Theatre; National Black Theatre; Native Voices at the Autry; New Native Theatre; Pangea World Theater; Penumbra; Safe Harbors NYC; San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company (SFBATCO); Silk Road Rising; Su Teatro and Teatro Vista. More information on the awardees can be found below.

RECOGNIZE grants were awarded through a highly competitive process of review by BIPOC theatre and community leaders. Theatres were chosen through criteria that included: a deep level of service to their chosen communities, a clear vision guiding their on-going and future work, and the highest potential for the THRIVE! program to positively impact their organization. These criteria provided a framework with which to evaluate BITOC as they activate intentional community partnerships. With few national opportunities for BITOC to apply for unrestricted funds, and with operating budget minimums often excluding smaller-budget BITOC, THRIVE! represents a more inclusive, equitable model of grantmaking. THRIVE! also breaks with the grantmaking norm of tying the award amount to the size of the theatre's operating budget. Theatres from all U.S. states and territories were encouraged to apply, and THRIVE! marks the first time TCG has awarded a grant to a Guam-based theatre (Breaking Wave Theatre Company).

In addition, during the grant program period, RECOGNIZE grantees will participate in REBUILD: A Learning Cohort, working with BIPOC consultants to strengthen their effectiveness in specific areas which may include financial planning, crisis management and scenario planning, and program evaluation. Earlier in the year, THRIVE! awarded $10,000 RESPOND grants, providing unrestricted funds to BITOC to address immediate, time-sensitive challenges that prevent ongoing work with their community. Learn more about the THRIVE! program here.

"TCG is honored to provide unrestricted support to these visionary Theatres of Color and to learn with them through the REBUILD learning cohort," said Teresa Eyring, executive director and CEO, TCG. "Thanks to our partnership with Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the THRIVE! program can play an important part in addressing the ongoing legacy of systemic racism in our theatre field by investing in the artistry and abundance of these theatres. We are pleased that The Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation has also offered support for THRIVE!, and hope this will inspire similar support from funders around the country."

"These vibrant theatres are deeply connecting with their chosen communities through authentic and significant partnerships. An all-too-common narrative in the not-for-profit sector is the assumption that BITOC have only 'needs' and 'challenges,' and not solutions to larger field issues." said Emilya Cachapero, TCG's director of grantmaking programs. "Through the national spotlight of the THRIVE! program, we hope that others, both fellow grantmakers and theatre colleagues, will recognize their contributions and solutions to challenges and join in supporting the ingenuity and tenacity of these and many other vital BITOC."

"Although THRIVE! was launched during the pandemic, it is, in fact, a response to a challenge that has hindered realizing the full potential of the arts and culture sector for decades-the undercapitalization of BIPOC arts and culture organizations," said Maurine Knighton, program director for the arts at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. "We're excited to partner with TCG, and to welcome the additional support of The Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation, to provide some of the critical tools that help address that issue, including general operating support, technical assistance, and visibility. The kind of holistic funding envisioned by the THRIVE! initiative is key to a healthy, vibrant cultural ecosystem, and we're pleased to play a part in bringing it to life."

"We are thrilled to be supporting the THRIVE! program and to lift up these vital Theatres of Color and their invaluable work," said Audrey Haberman, President and CEO, The Sheri & Les Biller Family Foundation. "We are grateful to the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and Theatre Communications Group for their leadership and I hope that other philanthropic organizations eager to support theatres of color and center efforts to address systemic racism in theatre will consider joining this important effort."

To learn more about the program, click here:

AlterTheater (San Rafael, CA):

AlterTheater is an Indigenous-led organization based in San Rafael, CA, serving Native youth from the Seneca Nation (NY) to Yurok, Maidu, and Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians (CA) among many others in its Arts Learning Project for Native Youth (ALP4NY), 100% designed, taught, and led by Native artists and Indigenous education experts, for Native students. AlterTheater also develops and produces new plays by writers from underrepresented communities, primarily through its AlterLab playwright residency program. With support from DDCF and BFF, Alter Theater is receiving $60,000.

Bindlestiff Studio (San Francisco, CA):

Originally opened in 1989, by the late 90s Bindlestiff Studio emerged as the only professionally run black-box theater in the nation dedicated to showcasing Filipino/Filipino-American performing arts. Bindlestiff provides the often under-served Filipino American community of the San Francisco Bay Area access to diverse offerings in theatrical productions; music and film festivals; workshops in directing, production, acting, stand-up comedy, and writing; as well as arts education programs for youth and seniors. With support from DDCF and BFF, Bindlestiff Studio is receiving $60,000.

Breaking Wave Theatre Company (Guam, GU):

Breaking Wave Theatre Company (BWTC) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit based on Guam that aims to use theatre and the arts to nurture individuals and build communities. For the past four years, BWTC has engaged in various events that have benefited local creatives, at-risk youth, and the community at large. Their goals are to use the arts to promote lifelong learning, to improve well-being through self-expression, and to foster a community of artists and audiences. BWTC believes in promoting accessibility for the arts as well as highlighting the diverse community on the island, from the indigenous CHamoru people to the many other Pacific Islander and Asian communities that make up the population of Guam. With support from DDCF, Breaking Wave Theatre Company is receiving $50,000.

Eagle Project (New York, NY):

Eagle Project is a Lenape-led performing arts company headquartered in the part of Lenapehoking known as New York, New York. They behave as an artistic laboratory by utilizing theatre, music, dance, spoken word, and film to dissect the American identity; while using the Native American experience, both past and present, as the primary means for which to conduct their exploration. It is the goal of Eagle Project to produce theatrical work that gives Native Americans as Americans a true recollection of their past, a better understanding of their present, for a just and more inclusive vision for their future. With support from DDCF, Eagle Project is receiving $50,000.

East West Players East West Players (EWP)

is the nation's longest-running theatre of color and largest producer of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) creative work. EWP's mission is to raise visibility of the Asian American experience by presenting innovative, world-class theatrical productions, developing artists of color, and providing impactful youth arts education programs. As the nation's premier Asian American theatre organization, EWP's vision is to build an inclusive community; to inspire and advocate for a world free of racism and discrimination through transformative artistic works. With support from BFF, East West Players is receiving $10,000.

Golden Thread Productions (San Francisco, CA):

Founded in 1996 by Iranian American playwright Torange Yeghiazarian in San Francisco, California, Golden Thread Productions is the first theatre company in the U.S. devoted to plays from or about the Middle East and its global diaspora. Golden Thread was created and is driven by the need for space and representation of Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) artists as a necessary component of theatre in the U.S. Their programs expose non-Middle Eastern audiences to authentic voices and alternative perspectives of the region while serving Middle Eastern audiences who rarely encounter meaningful reflections of their own culture in the performing arts. With support from DDCF and BFF, Golden Thread Productions is receiving $60,000.

Hattiloo Theatre (Memphis, TN):

Hattiloo's mission is "to develop a Black theatre that is accessible to, relevant to, and reflective of a multicultural community." It produces shows that depict Black life and that transcend their entertainment value by giving audiences an authentic, cultural experience. Its educational programs help Black youth acquire tools to care for their emotional selves in inequitable and discriminatory situations. As the largest Black theatre in the Mid-South and one of a few free-standing Black theatres in the country, Hattiloo is a hub for Black theatre training and convening. With support from DDCF, Hattiloo Theatre is receiving $50,000.

Ikidowin Acting Ensemble (Minneapolis, MN):

The Ikidowin Acting Ensemble is a performance group who specializes in theater development for Native American teens and young adults. Based in the Minneapolis East Phillips neighborhood, one of the most culturally diverse communities in Minnesota, Ikidowin is a holistic, out of school time program providing connection to Native American values and traditions. Their program provides support and artistic development for teens who face many social barriers. The plays and work are relevant to the community and devised through story weaving and sharing life experiences. The Ikidowin Ensemble performs in many venues across Minnesota and across the US including tribal communities, conferences, high schools, and professional performances. With support from DDCF, Ikidowin Acting Ensemble is receiving $50,000.

Junebug Productions (New Orleans, LA):

Junebug Productions is located in New Orleans, Louisiana. The mission of Junebug Productions is to create and support artistic works that question and confront inequitable conditions that have historically impacted the Black community. Through interrogation, they challenge themselves and those aligned with the organization to make greater and deeper contributions towards a just society. With support from DDCF, Junebug Productions is receiving $10,000.

KC Melting Pot Theatre (Kansas City, MO):

KC Melting Pot Theatre is the premier African American theatre company located in Kansas City, Missouri. Their mission is to share diverse representations of American theater that draw from the past, present, and future of African American Theatre Arts. Following a Duboisian model of creating theatre "by, about, for, and near" Black people, they train and employ Black identified playwrights, actors, directors, critics, stage managers, sound, and costume designers. They proudly serve an audience that is primarily African American with the remaining audience being a mixture of BIPOC and non-POC audience members from ages 10 to 90. With support from DDCF, KC Melting Pot Theatre is receiving $10,000.

Last Call (New Orleans, LA):

Last Call is a creative and oral history collective, whose work centers Black and Brown artists, archivists and organizers in the South. Drawn together by the closing of the last remaining dyke bar in New Orleans, Last Call creates innovative, multi-platform performances, events, and digital media that document and interpret neglected trans and queer history in New Orleans, Louisiana and the U.S. South. Their cultural organizing model creates connections between those who lived this history and those who have much at stake if it is forgotten. With support from DDCF, Last Call is receiving $50,000.

Lower Depth Theatre Lower Depth Theatre

is a BIPOC theatre company based in Los Angeles, California. Their mission is to champion new plays that break down barriers of cultural misunderstanding, transform perspectives, and create space for fresh narratives to unfold. They commission, develop and produce plays that challenge perspectives, overcome barriers to empathy, and illuminate diverse stories. They provide a platform to the issues that deeply affect BIPOC communities in Los Angeles and beyond through mainstage productions, workshops, readings, commissioned projects, and audio programming. With support from BFF, Lower Depth Theatre is receiving $10,000.

National Black Theatre (New York, NY):

National Black Theatre (NBT) was founded in 1968 by Dr. Barbara Ann Teer, creating a home for Black arts and theatre in Harlem on 125th Street. It is one of the oldest Black theaters in the U.S. and remains the only theater in New York City that has the sole purpose of supporting and producing emerging Black artists, playwrights and creative entrepreneurs. NBT's core mission is to produce theatrical experiences that enhance and tell stories of American cultural identity and the Black experience, imbued with theatrical excellence and authenticity. With support from DDCF, National Black Theatre is receiving $50,000.

Native Voices at the Autry (Los Angeles, CA)

is the country's only Equity theatre company devoted exclusively to developing and producing new works for the stage by Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiian, and First Nations playwrights. Native Voices provides a supportive, collaborative setting for Native Theatre artists and is committed to putting Native narratives at the center of the American stage, highlighting the often-erased voices and experiences of their shared history. With support from DDCF and BFF, Native Voices at the Autry is receiving $60,000.

New Native Theatre (Twin Cities, MN):

New Native Theatre is a new way of looking at, thinking about, and staging Native American stories for the stage. Based in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota since 2009, the company set out to bring the powerful tools of theater to the Native American experience. While there are over 100 performing arts organizations in the Twin Cities and a vibrant urban Native American population, NNT sets out to create a bridge between the two but on the Native community's own terms, using Native worldview to define and bring to the American theatre its own sense of what is valuable and how to define artistic excellence. With support from DDCF, New Native Theatre is receiving $50,000.

Pangea World Theater (Minneapolis, MN):

Pangea World Theater strives to build a just world by creating multi-disciplinary theater that embodies decolonizing practices of solidarity, sustainability, and equity. Since our inception in 1995, Pangea World Theater has worked with artists from multiple communities locally, nationally, and internationally to create new aesthetic realities for an increasingly diverse audience. Pangea World Theater builds bridges across multiple cultures and creates sacred, intergenerational and intersectional spaces. They create authentic spaces for real conversations across race, class, and gender. Through theatre and creative organizing they strive for a just world where people treat each other with honor and respect. With support from DDCF, Pangea World Theater is receiving $50,000.

Penumbra (St Paul, MN):

Founded in St Paul, Minnesota in 1976, Penumbra is among the state's oldest nonprofits led by, for, and with people of color. Penumbra creates artistically excellent and socially responsible drama that illuminates the human condition through prisms of the African American experience. They open hearts, rehearse strategies for change, and dispel dehumanizing narratives of people of color. The Penumbra of the future will be a dynamic performing arts, retreat, and wellness center, developing new work, ideas, and sustainable strategies for social change generated by Black artists. With support from DDCF, Penumbra is receiving $50,000.

San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company (SFBATCO):

SFBATCO engages artists and audiences through live theatre productions, creative development, and community service initiatives that resonate with SF Bay Area perspectives. The organization provides a platform for People of the Global Majority and members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and inspires both new audiences and theatre innovators. Founded in 2014 by Rodney Jackson and Marcelo Javier, SFBATCO envisions a San Francisco Bay Area where the participation in live theatre is essential, accessible, and exhilarating; where artists are valued for their creativity as well as their role in sparking societal change; and where a multitude of cultural experiences are equitably represented. With support from BFF, SFBATCO is receiving $10,000.

Safe Harbors NYC (New York, NY)

focuses on the development and production of Native Theater and Performing Arts in New York City within the broader American theatre; they combat stereotypes and support vibrant Native communities. They develop ongoing dialogue with Policymakers about the approach to cultural and socioeconomic issues using Theatrical performances, Performing Arts, Native Cultural Consultancy, panel discussions, and Cultural Events. With support from DDCF, Safe Harbors NYC is receiving $50,000.

Silk Road Rising (Chicago, IL):

Silk Road Rising is a community-centered artmaking and arts service organization in Chicago rooted in Pan-Asian*, North African, and Muslim experiences. Through storytelling, digital media, and arts education, they challenge disinformation, cultivate new narratives, and promote a culture of continuous learning. Their work builds empathy within and between diverse peoples and communities. They strive to build and empower a citizenry that can tackle big questions with deep understanding, breadth of perspectives, and commitment to grace. *Silk Road defines Pan-Asian as inclusive of all cultures that span the Asian continent, including their diaspora communities. With support from DDCF, Silk Road Rising is receiving $50,000.

Su Teatro Cultural and Performing Arts Center is a multidisciplinary Chicano/Latino arts organization in Denver, CO. At 50 years old, Su Teatro is both a legacy organization and a contemporary producer. They are a product of the national Chicano Civil Rights Movement and influenced and inspired by The West High School Blowouts, the Kitayama Floral Strike, and the vitality of the activists, artists and families who make our community thrive. They promote, produce, develop and preserve the cultural arts, heritage, and traditions of the Chicano/Latino community, advance mutual respect for other cultures; and establish avenues where all cultures may come together. With support from BFF, Su Teatro is receiving $10,000.

Teatro Vista (Chicago, IL):

Teatro Vista was founded in 1990 by Edward Torres to address the lack of opportunities for bi-lingual Latine artists and other artists of color, and to explore the new work of Latine writers that challenged not only the actor and director, but also the audience. The company continued to thrive under Sandra Marquez's leadership support as an Associate Artistic Director for many years and eventually became a stepping stone of success to many well-known Latine artists now working within the entertainment industry. Their company motto is "Forward, together." With support from DDCF, Teatro Vista is receiving $50,000.

TCG is inspired by the writings of W.E.B DuBois and defines BITOC as organizations that have been founded by, for, about, with, and near BIPOC communities. THRIVE! recognizes that communities of color often disperse beyond one geographic area. Also, during this pandemic time, TCG recognizes the difficulty of being in physical proximity to community members. For these reasons, TCG defines "near" and "with" broadly to include digital and cultural proximity. In addition to these elements, BITOC are led by BIPOC.

*A note about terminology: BITOC and BIPOC are terms used here for solidarity purposes representing a multiplicity of racial, ethnic, and cultural groups. We acknowledge that the terms "BITOC" and "BIPOC" are imperfect, not universally embraced by many who identify as People of Color and/or People of the Global Majority, and that language is in a constant state of reimagination and redefinition. For reference, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color represent over 80% of the global population. It is possible that during the program period, the language may shift again.

The THRIVE! RECOGNIZE grants were awarded by the following selection panel: Cole Alvis (she/her), leader, lemonTree creations, manidoons collective, and AdHoc Assembly; Brian Freeman (he/him), artist-in-residence, Booker T. Washington Center; Cynthia Fuhrman (she/her), vice president, executive search at Tom O'Connor Consulting Group, LLC; Tracy Francis (she/her), artistic director, Boom Arts; Minita Gandhi (she/they), multi-hyphenate artist and cultural leader; Daniel Jaquez (he/him), theatremaker, translator, and co-founder of TuYo Theatre; and Erica Lauren Ortiz (she/her), director of equity, diversity, & inclusion for Ford's Theatre Society.

The mission of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF) 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 Doris Duke Charitable Foundation focuses its support to the performing arts on contemporary dance, jazz and theater artists, and the organizations that nurture, present, and produce them. DDCF is one of only two foundations in history to have received the National Medal of Arts from the National Endowment for the Arts, in special recognition of DDCF's support of creative expression across the United States and "bold commitment" to artistic risk, which has helped performing artists share their talents and enriched the cultural life of the nation.

The Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation works to advance equitable change by creating access to systems and solutions that expand economic opportunity, promote innovative approaches to education, improve access to supportive care for life-threatening illness, and lift up social impact theatre. We practice active philanthropy, support outstanding leaders with bold ideas, and explore innovative approaches and models that can be tested locally and, if successful, implemented nationally.

Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national organization for theatre, leads for a just and thriving theatre ecology. Since its founding in 1961, TCG's constituency has grown from a handful of groundbreaking theatres to over 700 Member Theatres and affiliate organizations and over 7,000 Individual Members. Through its programs and services, TCG reaches over one million students, audience members, and theatre professionals each year. TCG offers networking and knowledge-building opportunities through research, communications, and events, including the annual TCG National Conference, one of the largest nationwide gatherings of theatre people; awards grants and scholarships to theatre companies and individual artists; advocates on the federal level; and through the Global Theater Initiative, TCG's partnership with the Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics, serves as the U.S. Center of the International Theatre Institute. TCG is North America's largest independent trade publisher of dramatic literature, with 19 Pulitzer Prizes for Drama on the TCG booklist. It also publishes the award-winning American Theatre magazine and ARTSEARCH®, the essential source for a career in the arts. TCG believes its vision of "a better world for theatre, and a better world because of theatre" can be achieved through individual and collective action, adaptive and responsive leadership, and equitable representation in all areas of practice. TCG is led by executive director and CEO Teresa Eyring.

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