Spotlight On 2016

For the 26th National Conference in Washington DC, TCG is highlighting the current recipients of the Fox Foundation Resident Actor Fellowships and the Leadership U[niversity] One-on-One Program, the Rising Leaders of Color, and the four finalists for the Alan Schneider Director Award. These programs are unique to the field, and provide critical support and mentorship for the future leaders of our art form. In honor of our longstanding commitment to professional development across the field, we are excited to continue to host the Spotlight On Series throughout the spring leading up to the conference.

Introduction from Teresa Eyring, "The Collective Effort"

"If I had a dollar for every time someone told me their career trajectory was transformed through one of TCG's grant programs, I´d be able to...well, I'd be able to start a whole new TCG grant program! And believe me, given the number of qualified applicants and the calling from the field, we could do so in a heartbeat. The need for new ways of deepening practice and expanding professional networks is ever present, and it just takes a look at our grantees--past and present--to be convinced of the impact..."

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Spotlight On: Dawn Monique Williams, "Inclusion Takes The Lead"

"Honestly there isn’t a single moment that I can call out as “the moment” that I decided to be a leader. It was a necessary evolution. I made a gradual shift from being an actor to being a director, and that came with a degree of inherent leadership. The more my desire and clarity about a directing career grew, like so many before me, I understood that if I wanted to be a working artist, I needed to be a theatre maker that creates opportunities for myself and others..."

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Spotlight On: Sonja Parks, "Acting With Agency"

"For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be an actor. I come from a family of storytellers and whenever we come together, stories are always conjured:

“That one about…”“Oooo, do ya’ll remember when…”“Chile, the next thang we knew…”

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Spotlight On: Ryan Conarro, "This is not ‘a year off’: Kinship, Communion, & Creating Space"

"I grew up as an Army brat. When I finished my bachelor’s degree in drama and English at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, I moved to Nome, Alaska as an AmeriCorps volunteer where I was Public Affairs Director at KNOM Radio. I remember my interview for that position with then News Director Paul Korchin. I mentioned several times that I looked forward to this opportunity to 'take a year off.' Paul interjected, 'Ryan, you might find that this is not ‘a year off’ at all. This might just be your life’s path.'..."

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Spotlight On: Joe Wilson, Jr., "Art Is Not a Luxury Item"

"I don't think there was a singular moment that made me want to be an actor, but rather a series of experiences. I discovered that art-making was a process that made me feel good about myself. It gave me confidence about voicing my place in the world. I participated in speech and debate competitions in high school and I took my first 'real' acting class my senior year of college, in hopes of getting an easy 'A.' I didn't want to screw up my chances of getting into a top law school. I eventually wanted to run for office. I wanted to be governor of Louisiana. That didn't happen..."

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Spotlight On: SK Kerastas, "Bridging Our World To Fruition"

"I’ll admit I have resistance to this focus on taking leadership. It puts the emphasis on one person’s action when, big picture, leadership roles are a complex negotiation of power on interpersonal and institutional levels.

Every leadership opportunity in my career has involved a sharing of power—an exchange where someone else made space for me to move into leadership. This can happen with 'gate-keepers' in hierarchical power structures, this can happen collaboratively in community. There are many manifestations of this exchange. It is not a singular move...."

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Spotlight On: Heather Litteer, "Lemonade"

"My first play was Free to Be You and Me in the second grade. So I suppose I got the bug there. Playing dress up with my mother’s clothes and transforming myself happened constantly. I love to tell stories and take people on journeys; it feeds my soul. When I moved to NYC, I joined a small theater company called Friends Theatre and we did our first show at the Bruno Walter in Lincoln Center. I remember sitting next to the fountain there, and studying. That was my beginning here in NYC..."

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Spotlight On: Jerry Tischleder, "I'm Raising My Hand"

"I started to obsess about other artist’s work and how to create more opportunities for visiting companies. I never truly felt comfortable with my own work as an artist; was rarely satisfied with the end product, and remained unsure on how it impacted audiences because I felt I was too far inside it. When I talked to other groups about their work it was easy to gush, critique, or absolutely love something because I had no hand in it. My interest quickly shifted from wanting to make work to wanting to make work possible..."

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Spotlight On: Miriam Laube, "Find Your Company"

"There was the moment when I was five, when I sat in the theater across the street from my house, in the dark, listening to the overture and my heart began to race.

There was the moment when I was in college feeling lost and scared and I walked to the theater because that felt like home.

There was the moment onstage when I had the sensation that the words poured forth not from me but through me.

There was the moment I could no longer walk away…"

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Spotlight On: Joanie Schultz, "My Utopian American Theatre Dream"

"I found myself pursuing a life in the theater as a young adult because it was in the theater that I found a community where I belonged. For various reasons, as a young person, I always felt like an outsider. Even among friends or family I always felt like the odd man out, the person who secretly knew she didn’t fit in. Somehow, though, when I stumbled into the theater, I always felt accepted and supported. It was a place where I could express myself, celebrate my own contradictions, and find peace with my own flawed human-ness. It was life-saving..."

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Spotlight On: Keith Randolph Smith, "Claim Your Power"

"I decided after the first play that I was ever in. It was during college. I was majoring in journalism. I saw a notice around campus for an audition for Marsha Norman’s play Getting Out. I waited until the last day of auditions before I got up the courage to go in. I got the part and entered a world that was foreign to me and received baptism by fire. Everyone else in the play was a theatre major and had done many plays. I was and am thankful to them for guiding me, teaching me, and being patient with me. I changed my major after the show closed..."

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Spotlight On: Matt August, "Beautiful Rebellions"

"I knew I wanted to pursue directing as a career when I figured out that directing was a way to say controversial things in a beautiful way and not get punished. Growing up, I was the class clown: always restless, always speaking out, always in trouble. Alone at home, I withdrew into stories and music—I was an avid gamer, comic book aficionado, first-chair trumpet player, and fan of socialism..."

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Spotlight On: Shana Cooper, "The Future of Our Field"

"Audiences and artists are hungry for new and surprising journeys. But how can we expect to make innovative works if our methods of collaboration stay the same? I believe that artistic innovation within our production processes and our organizational structures is possible, vital, and necessary for the growth of our field as a whole. We can and we must move our art-form forward by transforming our artistic methodologies, yes, but also our infrastructures, budgets, calendars, and fundraising to prioritize creative innovation."

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Spotlight On: Kimberly Senior, "Bigger Than us"

"The best parts of being a freelance director are being able to work so many different places and interact with so many different staffs, audiences, and artists. The question has always been for me: Where can I have the most impact? I’ve always been obsessed with travel and I think working as a freelance director has made me feel like I’m visiting different countries. It’s such an apt metaphor for the work. Each theater has such a distinct flavor and part of the puzzle is navigating each theater’s 'map.'"

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