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TYA BIPOC Superhero Project to Commission New Work From 20 Writers

A new program from TYA/USA, which partners its writers with 24 major TYA theatres, is billed as the largest such effort ever undertaken in the field.

NEW YORK CITY: Theatre for Young Audiences/USA (TYA/USA) has announced the TYA BIPOC Superhero Project, a new initiative led by playwright and educator José Casas, designed to give playwrights of color more access to mainstream/regional TYA theatres. In an effort the TYA/USA is calling the largest and most comprehensive partnership of theatres ever undertaken in the field, 20 playwrights of color will be commissioned by 24 theatres to develop their work in a one-week residency. All the commissioned works will feature stories of BIPOC superheroes, and the project will culminate in a year-long celebration with productions, co-productions, and a published anthology of all the plays.

“This project is about partnerships and community building, and creating spaces for necessary dialogue meant to create action,” said José Casas, the project’s creator and leader. “We will give opportunities to directors of color, actors of color, dramaturgs of color, and stage managers of color. It is about encouraging TYA to reassess and if they address issues of diversity, while inviting communities to be a part of the experience instead of tokenizing them. It is about reminding ourselves of why we do theatre in the first place.”

“The enthusiasm and support for the TYA BIPOC Superhero Project from theatres across the nation demonstrate the field’s commitment to represent more stories from artists of color,” said Sara Morgulis, executive director of TYA/USA, in a statement. “I see a whole community coming together to share new stories featuring original and complex heroes that will inspire young audiences across the country,” 

This project is dedicated to giving access to playwrights of color dedicated to writing for youth audiences. The playwrights were chosen based on their writing skills, their expertise in collaboration, their imagination and creativity, their unapologetic view of the world, and the way they express that intention. The list of playwrights is as follows:

  1. José Casas 
  2. Idris Goodwin 
  3. Marcus Yi
  4. Rhiana Yazzie
  5. Alvaro Saar Rios 
  6. Sigrid Gilmer
  7. Ramón Esquivel
  8. Gloria Bond Clunie
  9. Kwik Jones 
  10. Carolyn Dunn 
  11. Sam Hamashima 
  12. Mariah L. Richardson 
  13. Susan H. Pak 
  14. Gregory Van Acker
  15. Mabelle Reynoso 
  16. Emilio Rodriguez 
  17. June Carryl 
  18. Sean-Joseph Choo
  19. Lee Cataluna
  20. Dr. Manuel A. Morán 

Theatres commissioning the work include:

  1. John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
  2. First Stage in Milwaukee
  3. Childsplay Theatre Co in Tempe, Ariz.
  4. Seattle Children’s Theatre
  5. Lexington Children’s Theatre in Lexington, Ky.
  6. Alliance Theatre in Atlanta
  7. Magik Theatre in San Antonio, Texas
  8. Chicago Children’s Theatre
  9. The Rose Theater in Omaha, Neb.
  10. Circle Theatre in Omaha, Neb.
  11. Rising Youth Theatre in Phoenix
  12. Collective Consciousness Theatre in New Haven, Conn.
  13. Trike Theatre in Bentonville, Ark.
  14. Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts in Little Rock, Ark.
  15. Metro Theater Company in St. Louis
  16. Spinning Dot Theatre in Ann Arbor, Mich.
  17. Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Mich.
  18. Parallel 45 Theatre in Traverse City, Mich.
  19. Interlochen Center for the Arts in Interlochen, Mich.
  20. Northwest Children’s Theater and School in Portland, Ore.
  21. In Other People’s Shoes Productions in Los Angeles
  22. Honolulu Theatre for Youth in Honolulu
  23. New Native Theatre in St. Paul, Minn.
  24. Teatro SEA in New York City

Lead program sponsors of the TYA BIPOC Superhero Project are TYA/USA and Dramatic Publishing. TYA/USA will highlight the project at their next three gatherings: At the 2023 National Festival & Conference, there will be a breakout professional development session where facilitators will share about the project and the process. In 2024, TYA/USA will feature a reading festival of the plays, and the 2025 National Festival & Conference will conclude the project, with the participating theatres producing their respective plays at the same time. Dramatic Publishing will publish an anthology of all 20 plays.

Seattle Children’s Theatre is the fiscal sponsor of the TYA BIPOC Superhero Project, with Mary Pigott providing seed funding; the project is seeking additional support for this nationwide effort. Gifts can be made to Seattle Children’s Theatre, or people can directly contact SCT managing director Kevin Malgesini for more information.

José Casas is a playwright and associate professor who heads the Playwriting Minor in the Department of Theatre & Drama at the University of Michigan. His plays include la rosa grows beyond the wall, all brown all chingon, aDoBe, a million whispers all at once, the vine, la ofrenda, somebody’s children, and Flint.

TYA/USA is the leading national organization representing nearly 1,000 member theatres, organizations, and individual arts professionals across 46 states committed to the professional field of theatre for children, young adults, and families.

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