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TCG Announces RESPOND Grants in Support of Theatres of Color

As part of THRIVE! program, the grants will provide unrestricted funds to 20 Black theatres, Indigenous theatres, and theatres of color.

NEW YORK CITY: Theatre Group Communications (TCG), the publisher of American Theatre, has announced 20 recipients of the $10,000 RESPOND grants, part of the THRIVE! Uplifting Theatres of Color program. With $1,635,000 in support from Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, TCG is working in partnership with an advisory circle of Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) to provide unrestricted funds for Black theatres, Indigenous theatres, and theatres of color (BITOC) based in the U.S. (including tribal nations and U.S. territories). RESPOND is designed to provide unrestricted funds to theatres to address immediate, time-sensitive challenges that prevent ongoing work with their community. THRIVE! will also provide RECOGNIZE grants and host REBUILD: A Learning Cohort. 

Chosen through a random lottery process to reduce administrative barriers the RESPOND recipients include A Call to Conscience Interactive Theater for Social Change in St. Louis; Amaterasu Za in New York City; Bindlestiff Studio in San Francisco; Black Arts MKE in Milwaukee; Black Creators Collective in Los Angeles; Canady Foundation for the Arts in Washington, D.C.; Cara Mía Theatre in Dallas; Ebony Repertory Theatre in Los Angeles; KC Melting Pot Theatre in Kansas City, Mo.; Kennie Playhouse Theatre in Nashville; Medina Theater Collective in Chicago; Native Voices at the Autry in Los Angeles; New Native Theatre in the Twin Cities, Minn.; Sankofa African American Theatre Company in Harrisburg, Pa.; Teatro Hispano De Dallas in Dallas; Tee Zee Productions in Houston; Turtle Theater Collective, Universes in New York City; Voices in the Dark Repertory Theatre Company in New Orleans; and Yangtze Repertory Theatre of America in New York City. Additional RESPOND grants will be awarded later this summer.  

RESPOND’s unrestricted funds are designed to support BITOCs in their work with local communities of color, and to honor the expertise and ingenuity that BITOC have shown in impacting their communities despite long-standing funding inequities as well as the recent challenges of the pandemic. 

Emilya Cachapero, TCG’s director of grantmaking programs, said in a statement, “In last year’s field conversations, we heard directly from BITOC leaders and worked to incorporate valuable learnings into THRIVE!: not all BITOC have tax-exempt status; unrestricted funds are both the most difficult to source and the most essential; the theatre’s budget size should not determine the level of funding; community relationships are assets and in-kind contributions should be included as part of their operating budget. TCG is committed to collaborating with colleagues in the grantmaking and theatre sectors who are dedicated to challenging funding inequities.” 

Working with an advisory circle of BIPOC theatre leaders, it was decided that a minimum of 30 percent of grants will be awarded to Indigenous theatre organizations, a minimum of 20 percent will be awarded to Black theatre organizations, with the remaining amount open to all other theatres of color. 

“Theatres of Color play a critical role in responding to the challenges and opportunities faced by the communities of color they serve,” said Teresa Eyring, executive director and CEO of TCG, in a statement. “Yet because of the ongoing legacy of systemic racism, these theatres often don’t have access to responsive support themselves. With these RESPOND grants, theateres will have access to rapidly accessible funds to address challenges as they arise.” 

In addition to RESPOND grants, THRIVE! will also support BITOC in these ways: 

  • RECOGNIZE: 20 unrestricted general operating grants of $50,000 each, to be awarded later in the Summer 2022. 
  • During the grant program period, RECOGNIZE grantees will participate in REBUILD: A Learning Cohort, working with BIPOC consultants to strengthen their effectiveness. 

The advisory circle members include Andrea Assaf, founding artistic director, art2action; Miranda Gonzalez, producing artistic director, Urban Theatre; Andre Harrington, professor of design at California State University, San Bernardino; Dr. Nicole Hodges Persley, artistic director, KC Melting Pot Theater; Leslie Ishii, artistic director, Perseverance Theatre and board president, Consortium of Asian American Theaters & Artists; Jonathan McCrory, executive artistic director, National Black Theatre; Alexandra Meda, artistic director, Teatro Luna;  Kate Moore Heaney, artistic producer, Noor Theatre; Meena Natarajan, executive and artistic director, Pangea World Theatre; Ryan Opalanietet Pierce, artistic director, Eagle Project; DeLanna Studi, artistic director, Native Voices; K. Zaheerah Sultan, founder and executive director of Mind Your Business Art; Meredith Suttles, managing director, Marin Theatre Company and steering committee member, Black Theatre Commons; and Torange Yeghiazarian, founding artistic director emeritus, Golden Thread Productions.

Inspired by the writings of W.E.B Du Bois, TCG defines BITOC as organizations that have been founded by, for, about, with, and near BIPOC communities. THRIVE! recognizes that communities of color often disperse beyond one geographic area. Also, during this pandemic time, TCG recognizes the difficulty of being in physical proximity to community members. For these reasons, TCG defines “near” and “with” broadly to include digital and cultural proximity. In addition to these elements, BITOC are led by BIPOC.

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