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Crowded Fire Theater Announces 2017 IGNITE FUND Recipients Granting $10,000 to Bay Area Designers and Technicians

Crowded Fire Theater (CFT), known as a vital home for new play development and production on the West Coast, announced Sara Huddleston, Heather Kelly-Laws, Alice Ruiz, and Randy Wong-Westbrooke as the second year IGNITE FUND awardees. The IGNITE FUND awards $10,000 in total annually to support the growth of and enhance the working lives of Bay Area theater designers and technicians through a competitive grant process.

Sara Huddleston was awarded funding for sound equipment purchases. Since moving to the Bay Area in 2006, Sara has designed sound for over 50 local productions - primarily new work. For Crowded Fire, she has designed sound for I Call My Brothers, 410 [Gone] and Invasion! In 2007, Sara joined Magic Theatre as Director of Production and Resident Sound Designer where she helped to produce over 50 productions, including the epic and unforgettable The Lily's Revenge. For Magic, designs include: Grandeur, Fool for Love, Dogeaters, Fred's Diner, And I And Silence, Every Five Minutes, Hir, Arlington, Terminus, Se Llama Cristina, Any Given Day, The Brothers Size, Mrs. Whitney, Goldfish, Evie's Waltz, The K of D and Octopus (Magic/Encore Theatre Company). Further Bay Area sound design credits include Autobiography of a Terrorist (Golden Thread Productions), Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley and Gem of the Ocean (Marin Theatre Company), In On It and T.I.C (Encore Theatre Company), The Shaker Chair (Encore Theatre Company/Shotgun Players), Macbeth (Shotgun Players), Three on a Party (Word for Word), A Round Heeled Woman (Z Space). Sara is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University and a native Californian.

Heather Kelly-Laws was awarded funding to create a professional stage manager kit. Heather is a stage manager, playwright, and award-winning mixtape-maker born and raised in San Francisco. She is a company member at Shotgun Players in Berkeley, and has worked around the Bay with Cutting Ball, San Francisco Fringe Festival, and Troupe Theatre, where she is a founding company member and production manager.

Alice Ruiz was awarded funding for costuming equipment and registration costs for 'Costume College,' an annual three-day costuming arts conference produced by Costumer's Guild West, Inc. Alice does costume work all over the Bay Area, including Costume Design, Assistant Costume Design, Wardrobe, and Stitching/Crafts. She relocated here from Southern California and received her B.A. from San Francisco State University in Technical Theatre Production and Design (Costumes). Most recent credits include Associate Costume Designer for The Making of a Great Moment (Z Below), Costume Coordinator for The Diary of Anne Frank and Little Shop of Horrors (Lick-Wilmerding High School), and Costume Designer for The Events (Shotgun Players).

Randy Wong-Westbrooke was awarded funding to attend the USITT and TCG conferences in 2018. Randy is a local scenic designer and Bay Area native. Driven by their own identity as a multiple minority person and desire to bring unheard voices from around the world to various audiences, they seek opportunities to work with diverse creative teams to tell relevant, impactful, and intersectional stories. Local credits include: MacBitch (The Breadbox), Ghost Limb (Brava), brownsville song (b-side for tray) (Shotgun Players), Beneath the Tall Tree (TheatreFIRST), Apocalypse, Please (PianoFight), dark is a different beast (6NewPlays), Taming of the Shrew (ACT M.F.A. Program), Stories High XVI (Bindlestiff Studio), Avant GardARAMA! (Cutting Ball). They have been a scenic art assistant in Oregon Shakespeare Festival's F.A.I.R. Program and a mentee in the USITT Gateway Program. They are also a resident designer with TheatreFIRST. Education: Ithaca College, B.F.A.

"We are thrilled to continue support of the design and technical theater community through this program, and we are deeply grateful to the anonymous angel donor who is committed to providing annual support for the IGNITE FUND. This year's recipients are a great mix of artists at different stages in their careers working throughout the Bay Area," commented Artistic Director Mina Morita. "With the shifting economics of the region, artists are struggling to stay afloat while creating their art and in many cases struggling to stay in the field. The IGNITE FUND was created to serve as an investment in individual artists' professional sustainability and growth, and specifically to assist designers and technicians who have very few opportunities for funding via grants and awards. Our hope is that these funds will impact the individual careers of each of these artists and support the greater Bay Area theater community."

Just as Crowded Fire's artistic programming supports a plurality of voices, the IGNITE FUND is distributed with an awareness towards supporting a diversity of race, culture, class, gender, age and sexual orientation in our local design and technical community. The IGNITE FUND provides grants for professional development workshops and training opportunities, to purchase design tools and equipment, and to strengthen the economic sustainability of an arts practice. Each year a total of up to $10,000 is granted through the IGNITE FUND with grants ranging between $1,000 and $5,000. Applications are reviewed by a panel composed of Crowded Fire staff members, a Bay Area theater designer and/or technician, and an additional leader in the theater community. The 2016 recipients were Beth Hersh, Devon LaBelle, and Mikiko Uesugi. The next round of applications are projected for July 2018.

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