NEW YORK CITY: Theatre Communications Group (TCG) has announced the inaugural recipients of its Audience (R)Evolution Cohort Grants, which are awarded to teams of three or more not-for-profit organizations to design and implement audience-engagement and community-development strategies. More than $1.18 million will be awarded to 9 projects representing 32 partnering organizations, in the amounts of $25,000, $75,000, and $200,000. TCG will also provide additional general operating support equivalent to 30 percent. of each award.
“The Audience (R)Evolution research, convenings, and grant-making we’ve conducted thus far have revealed theatres testing innovative audience-engagement and community-development strategies,” said executive director Teresa Eyring in a statement. “These Cohort Grants provide some of the most daring and successful models the opportunity to scale through the transformative potential of collective action.”
“In a time when arts audiences are reported to be diminishing, a holistic approach to researching, supporting, disseminating, and scaling the best audience engagement practices is essential,” said Kevin Bitterman, associate director of artistic and international programs, TCG. “The second round of Audience R)Evolution includes in-depth case studies, an online resource hub, and the recent publication of Audience (R)Evolution: Dispatches from the Field, a book of diverse essays written by 48 visionary theatre practitioners and cultural leaders. ”
The recipients are listed below with a brief description of each project.
- Youth Speaks, Campo Santo, and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, all based in San Francisco, will present the Life is Living Festival in DeFremery Park, West Oakland. The community-based arts festival includes more than 7,000 intergenerational participants.
- People’s Light (Malvern, Pa.), Delaware Theatre Company (Wilmington, Del.), McCarter Theatre Center (Princeton, N.J.), Montgomery Theater (Souderton, Pa.), Theatre Horizon (Norristown, Pa.), and Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival (Center Valley, Pa.) will work with consultants Dr. Roger Ideshi, Elizabeth Gardner Roan, and Robert Smythe to address accessibility and inclusivity needs across their region by offering 10-12 “relaxed performances,” which will be specially adjusted, sensory-friendly theatre experiences for individuals with sensory, learning, and communication differences.
- The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Webster Arts, and Springboard, all based in St. Louis, will put together a visual and performing arts project that will capture the history of a key and vibrant part of the greater St. Louis community. The project will engage middle-school students and residents of North Webster Groves, one of the oldest African-American communities in Missouri.
- Huntington Theatre Company, Lyric Stage Company, and SpeakEasy Stage Company, all based in Boston, will collaborate on the expansion and further development of the “Huntington Community Membership Initiative,” which aims to reduce economic impediments to theatre and to build audiences more reflective of Boston’s diverse demographics.
- Ten Thousand Things Company (Minneapolis, Minn.), Delaware Shakespeare Festival (Wilmington, Del.), and the Old Globe (San Diego, Calif.) will hire artists to investigate, create, and test tactics to increase participation and engagement of non-traditional audiences through eight tours over a two-year period.
- Imagination Stage, DC Arts and Humanities Education Collaborative, Sitar Arts Center, and Spanish Education Development (SED) Center, all based in Washington, D.C., will explore parent engagement through the arts in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington, D.C., a socioeconomically diverse and largely Latino community. Imagination Stage plans to open a space in the neighborhood in 2018.
- The Public Theater (New York City), Dallas Theater Center (Dallas), and Seattle Repertory Theatre (Seattle) will work to create a scalable, replicable model of the Public’s “Public Works” program in other major U.S. cities. The program creates work of participatory theatres through long-term partnerships with community organizations.
- In Portland, Ore., Artists Repertory Theatre, Disjecta Contemporary Arts Center, and Hand2Mouth Theatre will work to increase participation from Portland’s “Maker” community, with the assumption that Maker-affiliated groups exhibit practices and values that align with the live theatre and arts experience.
- The Talking Band (New York City), Antioch College (Yellow Springs, Ohio), Telluride Theater (Telluride, Colo.), and Virginia Tech University (Blacksburg, Va.) will develop the “Marcellus Shale Project for Civically-Engaged Theater,” which uses theatre as a rallying point for conversation among artists, activists, and communities affected by environmental issues around the country.
Audience (R)Evolution is funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to study, promote, and support successful audience-engagement and community-development strategies for the U.S. not-for-profit theatre field.
“Audience engagement is an essential component of the cultural ecology that sustains the lives of artists” said the foundation’s program director Maurine Knighton in a statement. “Theatres must have a sophisticated understanding of who and where its audiences are and how they want to engage. We are honored to support TCG’s efforts to extend the dynamism, excitement, and participation theatergoers have come to expect.”
Audience (R)evolution is a multiyear program aimed at the study, promotion, and support of successful audience-engagement and community-development strategies for the U.S. not-for-profit theatre field. The initiative encompasses four phases: research and assessment, convenings, grantmaking, and widespread dissemination of lessons learned and effect audience-engagement models..