MetLife/TCG A-ha! Think It, Do It
We need a type of theatre which not only releases the feelings, insights and impulses possible within the particular historical field of human relations in which the action takes place, but employs and encourages those thoughts and feelings which help transform the field itself.
- Bertolt Brecht
Round 7 (2014) A-ha! Recipients:
Chicago Shakespeare Theater (Chicago, IL) Serving as the artistic anchor of Chicago’s Navy Pier, which attracts more than nine million visitors annually, Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) will partner with experts in the fields of architecture and communications to explore how to optimize the principles of creative placemaking to develop new audiences for a cultural institution. Partnering with Charcoalblue, a leader in innovative architectural design, CST will explore the expansion of their space through the use of temporary architecture design and transform an underutilized tent into a permanent all-season venue with design modularity allowing for over 10 theatrical configurations. CST will also partner with Arc Worldwide/Leo Burnett, a worldwide advertising agency, to investigate pedestrian intersection points and the “shopper journey” to stimulate arts engagement and build brand awareness.
Southern Rep Theatre (New Orleans, LA) Currently producing its third season without access to a regular venue, Southern Rep Theatre is distinctly situated to understand the difficulties unique to producing 'on the road,' and utilizing unorthodox spaces to stage professional theatre works. To address the ongoing marketing challenges faced by theatres without a permanent space, Southern Rep Theatre will research and develop a prototype mobile application for theatres to provide pertinent information to both local audience members and tourists interested in experiencing theatre during their travels.
The Old Globe (San Diego, CA) Located in Balboa Park, The Old Globe is one of 27 diverse arts, cultural, and science institutions housed in the nation's largest urban cultural park. An estimated 10 million visitors come to Balboa Park each year to engage in a variety of activities. The Old Globe will develop and test a plan to reimagine Copley Plaza, the outdoor lobby for their three theatres, as a platform for learning about the Globe's work and the process of making theatre. The Globe plans to experiment with a combination of interactive high tech and low tech methods designed to activate the plaza in ways that will attract passing Balboa Park visitors into the theatre's outdoor space and engage patrons waiting for a performance.
Manhattan Theatre Club (New York, NY) In 2013, Manhattan Theatre Club (MTC) set up a committee of staff members to address the need for more diversity in their staff. A key idea stood out—to help diversify the staff, the company should strive to diversify its intern classes and by extension the pool of applicants from which the interns are chosen. MTC consistently promotes interns to fill staff vacancies and virtually every department at MTC has a staff member who was once an intern. To better understand how to create a deeper investment in the diversity through their internship pool, MTC will contract a consultant within this area of expertise, and will research how to attract more diverse candidates in the application process.
Youth Speaks Theatre Company (San Francisco, CA) Committed to producing performances relevant to our time and changing demographics across the country, Youth Speaks will explore how to best construct support systems for the young people currently being mentored into the theatre and performance world so that there are artistic pathways for them to thrive in and engage. Under the artistic direction of Sean San José, Youth Speaks will develop The Emerging Artists Fellowship, which will nurture and challenge two emerging playwrights resulting in the commission and presentation of new theatrical work. This three-year fellowship will afford a long-term investment and engagement with developing artists by providing them a stipend, dedicated space and resources for their development process.
Borderlands Theater (Tucson, AZ) Located in a community where Latinos make up 30% of the population, Borderlands Theater is seeking new and dynamic ways to cultivate this growing demographic to become active theatre-goers, and in the process, strengthen their ties to the community. They will achieve this by working with residents of Tucson's West Side barrios, high school students, ethnographers, and professional theatre-makers to create a site specific performance to preserve neighborhood identity. These narratives will be theatricalized by three award-winning playwrights, including Virginia Grise, Martín Zimmerman and Elaine Romero, and performed at locations within West Side neighborhoods. Borderlands will develop this work through community partnerships with local neighborhood associations, the University of Arizona's Department of Anthropology and Prescott College’s Tucson campus, which offers free Mexican American Studies classes to high school seniors for college credit.
The grant applications were reviewed by an independent national panel of theatre professionals comprised of Adrian Budhu, Managing Director, The Theater Offensive; Chip Walton, Producing Artistic Director, Curious Theatre Company; Maggie Villegas, Producing Director, EMP Collective; Brigitte Pribnow Moore, Executive Director, Young Playwrights’ Theater; and Steven Woolf, Artistic Director, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis.
Round 6 (2013) A-ha! Recipients:
- Bag&Baggage Productions (Hillsboro, OR): As the only professional performing arts organization within 60 miles of eight rural communities, Bag&Baggage Productions will determine how to connect their work to rural audiences in a more intentional way. Situated between urban/suburban Portland and the rural/agricultural west of Washington County, the organization will assess their nearby communities, examining issues such as the barriers to accessing performing arts services for residents of rural communities; population composition and effective marketing channels; and community interest in artistic programs both historically for the company and for future projects. This assessment will culminate in a series of performances within these local communities, and will include extensive feedback and conversation between the artists and the audiences they serve. It is the organization’s goal that through this process they will deepen their understanding of the specific issues surrounding rural communities, their access to live arts and how the company can intentionally connect their work to these audiences.
- Children's Theatre Company (Minneapolis, MN): Through the use of interactive technologies, Children’s Theatre Company (CTC) will research, develop, and test radical new strategies for engaging artists and audiences in sustainable, collaborative community art-making. CTC seeks to explore using crowdsourcing models to create a community-wide dialogue that feeds the artistic process and results in startling new works of theatre. Through deep conversation with artists, young people who have participated in CTC activities and experts in the field of crowdsourcing technology and software development, CTC will research web platforms and other technologies that support large-scale community conversation as well as ways to mitigate anticipated risks such as intellectual property and online safety for young people. This program will engage CTC in a dynamic, reciprocal relationship with their community; witness new energy, passion, and openness from their artists; and put surprising, wild, and brilliant new ideas onto their stages.
- Golden Thread Productions (San Francisco, CA): To strengthen and deepen a 15-year history of collaboration and networking with Middle Eastern artists that has been strained in recent years due to the current political and economic climates, Golden Thread Productions will develop a network of artistic teams across the globe by co-creating one-minute performances in dialogue, captured on cell phones, and shared in a common virtual forum. Inspired by the usage of smartphones to capture, disseminate and editorialize on recent historic events in the Middle East, the company will utilize this technology to put theatre artists in the U.S. and various Middle Eastern countries in dialogue with each other. These performances will create forums for expression, dialogue and connection that are cost-effective, manageable opportunities for collaboration among otherwise disconnected artists and will support the creation of a thriving global network of artists that are vocal, active and creative towards building a sustainable, dynamic and responsive community.
- National Black Theatre, Inc. (New York, NY): Building upon the online article series, “State of Black Theatre” on Howlround.com, National Black Theatre (NBT) will host a Think Tank in New York City for 20 leading theatre practitioners to create an action plan to address issues generated by the published articles. Through a series of online and in-person interactions, including a weekend-long summit at their facilities in Harlem, NBT will engage with the larger community of African American theatre artists. The goal of these interactions is to assess measurable ways to address issues surrounding institution building, playwright development, and financial stability as well as formulate initiatives that will generate change within Black institutions in America. This project will be heavily documented throughout the process and will allow NBT to build strong national partners, think strategically with others in the field, and reposition NBT as a national, leading voice.
- Center Theatre Group (Los Angeles, CA): A key challenge facing Center Theatre Group (CTG) as well as regional theatres across the country is how to ensure the art of theatre remains vital and relevant amidst rapid changes in technology and cultural consumption. To attempt to address this issue, CTG will pilot a series of workshops and events at their under-utilized costume shop and warehouse located in East LA. This location, known as “The Shop”, will provide opportunities for residents from all walks of life to express their creativity, build community, and connect the craft of making theatre to daily life. Through an action group representative of the East LA community, CTG will design and evaluate the workshop programming, identify potential partners, and actively market to community leaders and residents. CTG's re-envisioning of The Shop will be an important contribution to the field-wide dialogue about the changing role of theatre by testing an inventive model of community programming that utilizes an existing organizational resource, explores what it means to be a good neighbor, and leverages the need for creativity and theatre-related skills in daily life.
- The Playwrights' Center (Minneapolis, MN): As The Playwright’s Center (PWC) seeks to evolve to meet the needs of living playwrights and their work, they have found the need to develop a pioneering and comprehensive set of web-based and mobile tools for playwrights to help artists at all levels access the resources they need to further their careers and enrich the field. To do this, PWC will reinvent its website with an eye toward usability; create a new membership section that features free resources as well as premium content for submission opportunities; and develop a pioneering mobile application that will enable playwrights to track their submissions and build an online profile that can be viewed by literary managers, artistic directors, and others who can help move their work from the page to the stage. The website upgrade and corresponding mobile application will increase the number of PWC members and deepen their level of engagement with PWC, making it easier for members to balance their time with their writing careers and take full advantage of all the available playwriting and production opportunities.
- Young Playwrights' Theater (Washington, D.C.): In Detroit and Washington, D.C., young people frequently grow up presented with an image of their hometowns as centers of extreme poverty, high crime and violence, and with little recognition of their rich cultural histories. To counter this perception, Young Playwrights’ Theater (YPT) will engage youth in these cities through a project called “My Art Is So Loud: The 524 Project”. YPT will connect a classroom of D.C. students with a classroom of Detroit students using 21st century technology, such as online chats, photo sharing and live video conferencing, as they participate in a series of in-depth artistic workshops. Students will create art that embodies their neighborhoods in a variety of forms, and their work will be performed live in both cities and shared online, igniting national conversations about each city's past, present and future. The 524 Project will engage underrepresented youth who feel divorced from their city's artistic legacy.
The grant applications were reviewed by an independent national panel of theatre professionals comprised of Mark Clements, artistic director, Milwaukee Repertory Theater; Rachel Grossman, ring leader, dog & pony dc; Charles Varin, managing director, Denver Center Theatre Company; Amanda Thietje White, managing director, Mixed Blood Theatre; and Stephanie Ybarra, artistic associate, The Public Theater.
Round 5 (2012) A-ha! Recipients:
California Shakespeare Theater’s (Berkeley, CA) Artist as Investigator project will invite 10 artists to lead experiments in new methodologies in how theatre is made, with whom it is made, and to what end it is made.
Atlantic Theater Company (New York, NY) and Park Slope Collegiate, a public high school in Brooklyn, will partner on Staging Success, providing four years of in-school theater classes to more than 300 students and an intensive afterschool mentorship for select seniors.
Cornerstone Theatre Company (Los Angeles, CA) will expand upon their existing community-engagement efforts by providing tools and resources to community participants for ongoing impact, thereby improving economic viability in the communities they serve.
Mixed Blood (Minneapolis, MN) will assemble a comprehensive national database of both artists with disabilities and English-language plays that explore worlds of disability in content, as central theme or via character.
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival (Ashland, OR) will develop an Artisan Exchange of production skills and resources with three to five other theatres. Three to five OSF craftspeople will work 8-12 weeks at those theatres, and will in turn host 3-5 artisans to assume parallel jobs at OSF.
The grant applications were reviewed by an independent national panel of theatre and technology professionals comprised of Stephen Albert, executive director, Court Theatre (Chicago, IL); Carol Bixler, producing director, CalArts Center for New Performance (Valencia, CA); Lana Lesley, co-founder and co-producing artistic airector, Rude Mechanicals (Austin, TX); Jacob G. Padrón, associate producer, Steppenwolf Theatre Company (Chicago, IL); Carlo Scandiuzzi, executive director, A Contemporary Theatre (Seattle, WA).
Read the A-ha! Program Round Five Recipients press release (PDF).
Round 4 (2011) A-ha! Recipients:
Perseverance Theatre (Douglas, AK) will explore the feasibility of using their new multi-city operations as a catalyst to build statewide programming for Alaskan theatre artists who would work and train with the company.
CalArts Center for New Performance (Valencia, CA), will convene a TEDx conference in Los Angeles, bringing together creative minds from disciplines across the contemporary performance landscape to expand understanding of the live arts.
Curious Theatre Company (Denver, CO), capitalizing on the momentum of their 2010 MetLife/TCG A-ha! Think It grant addressing the desire to re-center artists within organizations, will create an innovative post-specialist staffing structure by developing and integrating artists with staff in a new organizational paradigm.
Salvage Vanguard Theater (Austin, TX) will continue to cultivate the Scenic Co-op (shared 'set' resources cooperative) based on discoveries made during their 2010 MetLife/TCG A-ha! Think It grant project.
The Wooster Group (New York, NY) will create an ongoing online talk show series in which artists across disciplines have discussions with other artists and the public, to foster a more thorough discourse of vital topics that include current trends in the arts; as well as more expansive cultural and political issues.
The grant applications were reviewed by an independent national panel of theatre and technology professionals comprised of Kevin Cunningham, executive artistic director, 3-Legged Dog, Inc. (New York, NY); Kevin Gillese, artistic director, Dad's Garage Theatre Company (Atlanta, GA); Bonnie Metzgar, artistic director, About Face Theatre (Chicago, IL); Hetal Patel, managing director, Brava! For Women in the Arts (San Francisco, CA); James Royce, director, marketing, communications and sales, Center Theatre Group (Los Angeles, CA).
Read the A-ha! Program Round Four Recipients press release (PDF).
Round 3 (2010) A-ha! Recipients:
Pillsbury House Theatre (Minneapolis, MN) will develop its transformation into a Cultural Community Hub. The project will focus on assessment and metrics planning that will define and measure organizational success.
Curious Theatre Company (Denver, CO) will explore innovative opportunities for reinventing the resident artistic company model for the 21st century American theatre, by re-centering artists within producing organizations.
Center Theatre Group (Los Angeles, CA) plans to conduct focus groups and interviews with students, academic administrators and theatres to explore an internship model that pairs graduate students in arts administration with Los Angeles theatres.
Southern Rep (New Orleans, LA) will establish Youth Onstage New Orleans, LA (YO NOLA) as a pilot program to bring the arts to the underserved population at a New Orleans elementary school, via a student-run theatre company. This program includes mentoring, workshops and building life skills.
Northlight Theatre (Skokie, IL) is building Northlight On Campus, a two-year, comprehensive residency program in one underserved suburban middle school featuring after-school drama programs, artist visits, student matinees and a commissioned play for students.
Dad's Garage Theatre Company (Atlanta, GA) will create their first season of online content in tandem with their live work. This ongoing initiative will be self sustaining and will redefine them from a theatre company to a creative company.
The grant applications were reviewed by an independent national panel of theatre and technology professionals comprised of Polly Carl, director of artistic development, Steppenwolf Theatre Company (Chicago, IL); Brad Carlin, development director, Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center & board member/consultant, Salvage Vanguard Theater (New Braunfels, TX); Ian Garrett, executive director, The Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts (Los Angeles, CA); Thomas O. Kriegsmann, president, ArKtype (New York, NY) and Marilyn Tokuda, arts education director, East West Players (Los Angeles, CA).
Read the A-ha! Program Round Three Recipients press release (PDF).
Round 2 (2009) A-ha! Recipients:
Book-It Repertory Theatre (Seattle, Wa.) investigated the feasibility of a long-term partnership between Book-It and other non-profits to create a literacy-based theatre arts complex.
Childsplay, Inc. (Tempe, Ariz.) convened experts from theatre design, manufacturing, recycling and sustainability to explore strategies for implementing green initiatives in stagecraft.
East West Players (Los Angeles, Calif.) researched the feasibility of developing an artist talent agency and diversity advocacy prototype.
Salvage Vanguard Theater (Austin, Tex.) developed and tested a business plan for a production element co-op for small to mid-size companies in the Austin theater community.
Clubbed Thumb (New York, N.Y.) planned to partner with a larger theatre for co-curation and co-production that will be presented at Clubbed Thumb’s annual festival in June, and then in a longer run at the larger theater. As the project progressed, it evolved into what they called Superlab, a six-play development laboratory, hosted by and co-curated with Playwrights Horizons.
Round 1 (2008) A-ha! Recipients:
Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company (San Diego, CA) will research and develop a tool to measure the environmental impact of theatre, helping the industry to make choices that do not damage our communities.
Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company (Washington, DC) will send its staff on 1-2 week sabbaticals to shadow professionals working in analogous jobs or fields to help provoke new thinking about their work at the theatre.
Round House Theatre would research and develop an “e-field trip” to expand its Student Matinee Program through simulcasts and web-based workshops.
Dell’Arte International proposed researching and investigating the development of a retired theatre workers community, which would impact the field of theatre as a whole.
The Playwrights’ Center (Minneapolis, MN) will take its cue from the film industry. TPC will create a professionally produced web trailer series, available by free download in an audio-visual gallery on its website.
Theater Grottesco will create a state-of-the-art intimate performance venue for smaller, not for profit organizations by inviting partners to invest in downtown Santa Fe property through a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC).
American Repertory Theatre would introduce Band/A.R.T., in which local bands would be commissioned to write original pieces of music in response to five A.R.T. productions.
Panel members were Michael Johnson-Chase, Consultant, GlobalHamlet Consulting (New York); Jason Neulander, Founder Artistic Director emeritus, Salvage Vanguard Theater (Austin); Victoria Nolan, deputy Dean of Yale School of Drama and Managing Director of Yale Repertory Theatre (New Haven); Brad Stephenson, Director of Projects and Marketing, Center for Arts Management and Technology; Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburg) and Mark Valdez, National Coordinator, Network of Ensemble Theaters (New York).