NEW YORK CITY: Theatre Communications Group (TCG) and the William and Eva Fox Foundation have announced the 14th round of Fox Foundation Resident Actor Fellowships. The fellowship awards grants in two categories: Exceptional Merit, which provides $15,000 (with an additional $10,000 available to relieve student loan debt) to chosen actors with 10 or more years of professional experience to continue in their artistry; and Distinguished Achievement, which provides $25,000 to actors with 20 or more years of experience to continue growth and sustain the longevity of their careers. TCG Member Host Theatres each receive $7,500 to be applied to expenses associated with the actor’s fellowship activities.
“At a time when the COVID-19 global pandemic has shuttered so many of our stages, the support for actors provided by the Fox Foundation is even more important,” said Teresa Eyring, executive director of TCG, in a statement. “When our theatres reopen, the visionary work of this latest round of Fox Fellows will help knit communities back together.”
The program’s goal is not only to further an actor’s artistic and professional development in live theatre; it also aims to deepen and enrich the actor’s relationship with not-for-profit theatres and communities by encouraging actors to work outside their comfort zone. Funded by the Fox Foundation and administered by TCG, the fellowship is one of only a few programs of its kind for actors in the country.
The recipients of the Distinguished Achievement Fellowship are Ayanna Berkshire, Tonia Jackson, and Stephan Wolfert. The recipients of the Exceptional Merit Fellowship are Leila Buck, Shannon Dorsey, and Moses Goods.
Ayanna Berkshire—a Resident Artist of Portland, Oregon’s Artists Repertory Theatre (ART)—will work in cooperation with Barbara Ann Teer’s National Black Theatre in Harlem and the National Black Theatre of Sweden to focus her studies on racial identity and the prevalence of inhibitors which may be specific to theatre artists of color working in predominantly white communities. With the support of ART and local theatre professionals, she will design workshops and initiative groups to further the discussion of racial identity in the performing arts, and channel these discussions into the development of devised works.
Tonia Jackson will study movement for the aging actor as well as immerse herself in Shakespeare, storytelling, and voice/dialect techniques. She will deepen her relationship with True Colors Theatre Company of Atlanta and offer artistic input in their process. Her ultimate goal is to build a bridge between young, disenfranchised African American youth and the world of theatre at two critical stages of their lives: their first introduction to theatre, and as they start their careers.
Stephen Wolfert, a military veteran turned classical actor, will focus on healing-centered engagement with the veteran community and their families. At the crux of this project will be community engagement events and workshops centered around theatre as a means to create space for and support veteran voices and experiences. Stephan will also rehearse, workshop and perform an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Richard III and his critically acclaimed solo show CRY HAVOC!—part of his DE-CRUIT program to help treat trauma in military veterans through Shakespeare and science—for the community at New York’s Syracuse Stage.
Leila Buck will focus on the development of her piece Mix & Match, an immersive theatrical event that invites the audience into the journey of two families—one Lebanese and (mostly) Muslim, one Irish and (mostly) Catholic—joined in marriage. This interactive exploration of the challenges and joys of connecting across all kinds of borders was commissioned by En Garde Arts in New York City. The fellowship will allow Buck to hone her vocal and musical training and Arabic language skills, travel to Lebanon for research, and study expressive arts therapies in service of this piece.
Shannon Dorsey, a company member of Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, is dedicated to understanding, deeply connecting, and reflecting the vast, varying parts of her Black womanhood. She will learn different aesthetics and physical theatre practices within the African Diaspora through time and immersion directly on the continent; study intimacy work with a mentor and with different organizations; and invest in sharpening her physical, vocal, language, and puppetry skills. Through Woolly Mammoth, she will host a series of workshops focused on actors of color and other marginalized performers, looking to give performers the gift of movement, touch, combat, and violence in a story without jeopardizing their personal sense of safety or integrity.
Moses Goods will supplement his long-term project Two Ships, which follows two lineal journeys that converge to form his unique identity. One journey begins on an ancient Polynesian voyaging canoe navigating the waters of the Pacific, and the other in the bowels of a slave ship crossing the Atlantic. Goods will use the fellowship to return to the source of his Black heritage by connecting with family and roots in the Southeastern United States; connect with other Black artists and theatres nationally to explore various Black art forms; and establish relationships within Hawai’i’s Black community and develop work based on those relationships. He will also work with Honolulu Theatre for Youth to create a piece documenting the history of Black people in Hawaiʻi.
“The Fox Foundation expresses our continued appreciation of the long-term collaborative relationship between Fox and TCG,” said Robert P. Warren, president of the Fox Foundation, in a statement. “This program has provided extraordinary opportunities for Fox Fellows to further their artistic development, and is especially important to the field in these troubled times. The proposals from this year’s recipients hold great promise, not only for them personally and professionally, but also for their sponsoring theatres and the communities they so richly serve.”
The Fox Foundation Resident Actor Fellowships selection panel included Susan Booth, artistic director of Alliance Theatre; Michelle Shay, actor; Godfrey L. Simmons, Jr., artistic director of HartBeat Ensemble; Victor Vazquez, founder of X Casting NYC; and M. Burke Walker, founding artistic director of Empty Space Theater.
Established in 1987, the William and Eva Fox Foundation is the largest U.S. grantmaker dedicated to the artistic and professional development of theatre actors, and one of very few that provides direct financial support to individual actors. It has awarded nearly $5 million in fellowships to 372 actors since 1994.