Multiple Tony Award nominees and Olivier Award winners Stephen Byrd and Alia Jones-Harvey’s announced today that Front Row Productions – founded by Byrd to bring major works with diverse casts, creative teams, and management to Broadway and London’s West End – has established a new fellowship with Columbia University School of the Arts Theatre Program. Set to launch during the 2021-22 academic year, the Front Row Productions Fellowship will support the development of emerging theatrical producers and increase the diversity of participants and work within Broadway’s professional theater industry.
In a joint statement, producing partners Byrd and Jones-Harvey (whose recent NYC credits include Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations, Smokey Joe’s Cafe, American Son, and the upcoming MJ: The Musical) explained, “The lead producers, at the helm of every Broadway show, determine how diverse and inclusive it will be. As two in the shockingly small club of only five Black lead producers in the history of Broadway, our mandate has been to create opportunity for people of color on and off the stage. Recognizing the systemic hurdles to mounting Broadway shows, we have mentored many emerging producers of color. This fellowship draws on our experience as lead producers, on the collective experience of many lead producers who have embraced us in this industry, and on the renowned academic prowess of Columbia University’s graduate-level Theatre Management & Producing program to equip future Black lead producers with the tools for Broadway. We believe that establishing this pipeline is vital for the inclusive Broadway we imagine.”
The Fellowship will be supervised by an Oversight Committee, composed of leaders in the theater industry and Steven Chaikelson, Head of Columbia’s MFA Theatre Management & Producing Concentration, which will select one or two applicants to participate in the year-long program. Those who have demonstrated potential, achievement, and/or leadership in and support of the African-American theater community will be given preference during the selection process.
During the fellowship year, each participant will develop a new play or musical; receive a stipend and a separate budget allocation to cover development costs; receive one-on-one mentorship from Oversight Committee members; have access to the Columbia University resources, including the library system, classes offered through the MFA concentration in Theatre Management & Producing, and selected courses throughout the University; and have the opportunity to participate in the Theatre Management & Producing Concentration’s Producer Exchange Program with Stage One in the UK.
Additional application details, deadlines, and information will be announced at a later date.