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Sound Theatre Awarded $100,000 Borealis Philanthropy Grant to Expand Disability-Inclusive Arts Programming

‘Transformational change’: Inaugural cohort funding enables Sound Theatre to build operations capacity in three priority areas.

Sound Theatre Awarded $100,000 Borealis Philanthropy Grant to Expand Disability-Inclusive Arts Programming

The Disability Inclusion Fund (DIF) at Borealis Philanthropy awarded Sound Theatre Company a $100,000 grant, along with 21 other disability inclusion, rights, and justice organizations. A total of $2.2 million was awarded to this inaugural cohort.

The funding gives a major boost towards a growing body of deeply intersectional theatrical work - a reflection of Sound Theatre's ethos of all systemic injustice being interconnected.

"Never has Seattle's theatre community embarked on a committed exploration of disability justice," said co-artistic director Teresa Thuman. "Sound Theatre is excited to help launch that conversation, and engage with the larger community to explore how theatre can serve that effort. Through an internal commitment to expand our own understanding of intersectional equity and disability justice, we are laying the necessary foundation."

Sound Theatre's disability-inclusive productions include an ASL MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, a co-production with Deaf Spotlight, IMAGINARY OPUS: A SENSORY EXPERIENCE IN 2 ACTS with eSe Teatro along with the art show I BEG TO DIFFER, THE RULES OF CHARITY, PEELING, as well as ILLUMINATE: a curated reading series of plays by deaf and disabled playwrights.

In 2017, Sound Theatre began holding general auditions for actors who are Deaf and disabled and continues to provide mentorship, training and practical experience for emerging theatre artists.

Geared towards general operations and capacity-building, the grant will enable Sound Theatre to meet key accessibility goals in 2021, including growing its Accessibility Coordinator position to deepen outreach, convene a diverse set of disabled stakeholders with lived experience, and lead intersectional community organizing.

By 2022, Sound Theatre also aims to establish an artist in residency program for a disabled theatre artist living with compound oppressions.

"This is an incredibly impressive group of grantees, and our hope is that leaders across philanthropy will take the time to get to know their work," said Dr. Richard Besser, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, in an announcement this week. "These grants and the entire cohort exemplify the guiding values of the DIF."

Many in the cohort have gone "under the radar, without prior acknowledgement or support from philanthropy for their critical work," the DIF press release stated.

Borealis Philanthropy funding will further enable Sound Theatre to continue championing a co-production model to shoulder major producing responsibilities, share infrastructure, reduce cost burdens on under-resourced partners, and strengthen community engagement.

Other arts-oriented grantees in this cohort include Visionaries of the Creative Arts, a Black and Deaf-led theatre organization, and Sins Invalid, a disability justice-based performance project which will join a panel with Sound Theatre Company on January 28.

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