Queens Theatre Announces New Community Engagement Director
In this newly created role, D'Andrea will develop the community-engagement department, building on Queens Theatre's longtime commitment to Queens' history, surrounding neighborhoods, and the vibrant intersectional communities that thrive here.
"We want all communities in our borough to think of Queens Theatre as their home base," D'Andrea said. "Though each cultural community's entry point to QT might be
unique, one of the strengths of making art for one of the most diverse populations on earth is the potential energy for cross-pollination, celebrating intersectionality, and discovering new ways of earning nuanced cultural understanding."
D'Andrea will begin his work by meeting with various neighborhood, cultural, religious, educational, artistic and political organizations, as well as other stakeholders who comprise the heart and soul of Queens.
"Holding meaningful conversations and inviting members of the community to share what's true for them and what their needs are, might help us locate how we can best be of service to the worlds around us," he said.
He wants to uncover the groups that have stories to tell. And the people who need to see these stories and themselves on stage.
"Our job is to make Queens Theatre matter to the community, and to make the community's interests matter to the people who work in this building. The work is a two-way street," he said. "In order to be reflective of the community's values, we have to start by examining ours. We must embrace the willingness to be adaptable and deeply listen-to be open to change and learning. Making ourselves vulnerable and open might further our understanding of what it means to be inclusive."
In his role, D'Andrea will be creating community conversation programming around mainstage productions, dance, and cultural performances, which allows for open access between artists and audiences; he'll be developing a strategic plan that includes cultural and community performances and events proposed by community groups in Queens Theatre's cabaret space; and, creating programming off-site around the city.
"We don't think of QT is just a brick and mortar building, but as a set of values and ideas, and a large part of that means brining those experience to people by meeting them where they are," he said.
"Dominic is a national leader in community engagement. He knows how to connect with people, discover what is meaningful to them, and create projects and opportunities that are authentically reflective of what is important to them. He will advance our mission to serve our incredibly diverse community. I'm looking forward to working with him to develop new programs and make new friends together," Sacramone said.
For more than a decade, D'Andrea shepherded The One-Minute Play Festival (1MPF), one of the largest and longest-running community-engaged theater projects in the country, which has created works in more than 30 cities and communities, including LORT Theatres, NNPN Theatres, social justice organizations, universities, and community centers. work with communities in crisis, incarcerated populations, young people, immigrant groups, and others who are grappling with questions or topics relevant to their communities.
Through dialogue and consensus building workshop, or writing prompts, a series of 50-100 theatrical moments are generated by community participants and playwrights, that are reflective of each group's values and ideas.
"We call this work a social barometer project, because the community provides the themes organically, and we're highlighting and reflecting what's being said. It's a form of theater making that values what the group has to say, over any one individual voice. It's consensus building through storytelling. We like to think of a 1MPF performance as heartbeats, breaths, or pulses of storytelling generated by each community," D'Andrea said. "A one-minute play is like a tiny window frame but when you look through it, it suggests a world that is much bigger."
In his role with the One-Minute Play Festival, D'Andrea worked with Trinity Rep, Primary Stages, New Ohio Theatre, Cornerstone Theatre Company, Mixed Blood, Z Space, Kitchen Dog, Actor's Express, and Boston Playwrights' Theatre among others. Other projects include co-creating with Oregon Shakespeare Festival The Every 28 Hours Plays; a collection of plays in response to Black Lives Matter developed in Ferguson, Missouri; NextGen, a theater project in South Florida centered on answering the question, how do we design the future we want to live in? and currently No Wall, a project by Mexican and American Playwrights discussing topics of division and connections.
D'Andrea said he was looking forward to taking want he learned about community engagement running The One-Minute Play Festival and applying it to Queens Theatre. He is working on a methodology to engage the various Queens communities and find out what is important to them.
Although he is full-time at Queens Theatre, D'Andrea will work to transition leadership of the festival he helped create in 2007 to the next generation of leaders, including 1MPF's current associate artistic director Caitlin Wees.
"After 10 years on the road, some seasons more than 30 weeks a year, I look forward to investing deeply back in my own community, D'Andrea said. "As (Edward) Albee wrote in The Zoo Story 'sometimes it's necessary to go a long distance out of the way in order to come back a short distance.' That idea resonates with me quite deeply at the moment."