NATIONWIDE: Five theatres have announced a national partnership to commission and develop 16 new plays by Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian American and Pacific Islander writers for multigenerational audiences. The partnership, dubbed Generation Now, is made possible by a $1.5 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and includes Penumbra Theatre in Saint Paul, Minn., Ma-Yi Theater Company in New York City, Latino Theater Company in Los Angeles, Native Voices at the Autry in Los Angeles, and Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis.
“Theatres serving multigenerational audiences are often the first places audiences encounter live theatre,” Mellon Foundation Culture Program officer Susan Feder said in a statement. “Yet despite decades of activity that has resulted in the commissioning of original stories and adaptations of classical and contemporary ones, the field lacks a repertoire that includes a plurality of voices and stories from emerging and established artists of color. The Mellon Foundation is delighted to be supporting the 16 artists who will be working with these five eminent theatres to co-develop new plays and musicals serving audiences for whom culturally relevant voices and stories could be formative.”
Due to the scale and ambition of Generation Now, the grant also includes the creation of an annual arts administration fellowship to add support for all the partner theatres in the implementation of the program. Latino Theater Company, Ma-Yi, Native Voices at the Autry, and Penumbra will select both emerging and established playwrights to create artistically excellent, culturally specific theatre, with Children’s Theatre Company serving as co-commissioner.
Native Voices at the Autry has been in residence at the Autry Museum of the American West since 1999, providing an artistic home for Native American theatre artists and supporting the production and development of new works by Indigenous playwrights. “From its inception, Native Voices has been dedicated to supporting Indigenous playwrights and theatre artists and sharing Native stories with audiences of all ages,” artistic director DeLanna Studi said in a statement. “We are excited to collaborate with these incredible cohort theatres on Generation Now to reach across generations and geography, bringing multigenerational, diverse audiences together to appreciate the universal human experience and collectively shape an inclusive, shared future.”
Latino Theater Company at the Los Angeles Theatre Center provides a world-class arts center for those pursuing artistic excellence and a place where the convergence of people, culture, and ideas contributes to a more vibrant future. Artistic director José Luis Valenzuela stated, “This collaboration gives the Latino Theater Company the opportunity to advance our mission and to engage in a national dialogue with culturally specific theatre companies in the development and creation of new works for the American theatre canon.”
Ma-Yi Theater Company is renowned as the premier incubator for new works by Asian American playwrights, and is one of the few BIPOC-led theatres in the country whose original work has transferred to major regional theatres. “This is amazing gift from the Mellon Foundation: An opportunity to develop new works for multigenerational audiences is a long-held dream for Ma-Yi Theater, made even sweeter by a cohort of culturally specific theatres we have long admired,” artistic director Ralph B. Peña said in a statement.
Penumbra Theatre is internationally recognized for artistically excellent and socially responsible art that illuminates the human condition through prisms of the Black experience. “Not only is Penumbra excited to work with such esteemed partners, but really hopeful about the collaborative model that we are developing together,” artistic director Sarah Bellamy said in a statement. “For the field to change, the canon must be diversified and young people in particular need to see themselves lovingly and authentically represented onstage. When we imagine the impact of this project, the possibilities are myriad and so vitalizing.”
Children’s Theatre Company is the nation’s largest theatre for young people and creates theatre experiences that educate, challenge, and inspire for more than 250,000 people annually. “Children’s Theatre Company is grounded in the deep respect we have for our audiences, our partner theatres, and the desire to create powerful new work,” artistic director Peter C. Brosius said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing to learn from each other with Generation Now.”
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the nation’s largest support of the arts and humanities. Through their grants, they seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive.
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