BOSTON: The New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) has awarded 18 New Work New England grants totaling $250,750 to various artists across the region. The five theatre projects to receive NEFA grants include Aaron Jafferis’s Smooth Criminal, Articine’s The Anxiety Piece, Bess Welden’s The Death Wings Project, Gail Burton and Josie Bray’s Truth: A bio-fictional choreopoem, and Sam Plattus’s Driving in Circles.
The New Work New England pilot program provides grants of $7,500-$15,000 to artists in dance, film, interdisciplinary work, music, musical theatre, opera, poetry, storytelling, and theatre to support the development of new work. Now in its second year, the program aims to support artists throughout the creative process, and recognize projects that further equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility.
“Artists continue to be deeply impacted by the economic impacts of the pandemic,” said NEFA executive director Cathy Edwards in a statement. “This program assists New England artists directly to focus on what they do best: bringing joy, creativity, and conversations to our communities.”
Aaron Jafferis is a hip-hop poet and playwright based in New Haven, Conn. His project Smooth Criminal is an interactive hip-hop play about whiteness, class, identity, and belonging that marries beatbox with Scotch-Irish and Appalachian fiddle tunes. Aaron is the founding artistic director of The Word youth poetry program in New Haven. Some of his other musicals include The Ones, Trigger (Be)longing, Stuck Elevator, How to Break, Kingdom, Shakespeare: The Remix, and No Lie.
Articine is a nonprofit arts organization based in Newfields, N.H. The company integrates arts and medicine through workshops, performances, and initiatives between medical professionals and artists. Articine’s work advocates for more empathetic and effective healthcare that supports the healing and well-being of providers and their patients. The Anxiety Piece is a new touring work that uses dance, physical theatre, and partnerships with mental health professionals in New Hampshire to address the health challenge of increased anxiety resulting from a global pandemic.
Bess Welden is a playwright, teacher, performer, and producer based in Portland, Maine. She has adapted/written and performed six original solo works as well as several scripts for multi-character casts. The Death Wings Project is a web of visual and performing arts offerings designed to promote open dialogue that normalizes and celebrates our relationship with death, loss, grief, and painful life transitions. The Project includes an interactive art installation, performances of the original play Death Wings with songs performed by six women, and a series of hands-on wing-making workshops to facilitate the co-creation of an invented end-of-life ritual.
Josie Bray is a theatre and dance artist, producer, teacher, and facilitator, and Gail Burton is a joker, educator, thought leader, public intellectual, and director with the Center for Theater & Pedagogy of the Oppressed (CTPO). Truth: A bio-fictional choreopoem is a performance combining music, text, poetry, spoken word, dramatic storytelling, and dance to share the story and words of Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and other lesser-known self-emancipating women.
Sam Plattus is a New Haven-based director, actor, producer, and co-founding artistic director of The Harpers Theater. Driving in Circles is a hybrid live performance documentary film written by co-founding A.D. Jay Eddy that takes an intimate, autobiographical look at the aftershocks of childhood sexual abuse, featuring a moving folktronica score.
The New Work New England program has been supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Seedlings Foundation, the Fund for the Arts at NEFA, the American Rescue Plan, Anonymous Foundation, the Rebecca Blunk Fund, and by individual donors.
The New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) is a nonprofit regional arts organization headquartered in Boston. The foundation funds artists within its communities in order to cultivate and promote the arts in New England and beyond. As of 2019, NEFA had a budget of around $9.5 million.
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