As part of THRIVE! Week – a virtual convening from June 7-11, with programming by, for, and about theater-makers who identify as BIPOC, POC, or People of the Global Majority (representing 80% of the world’s population) – Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national organization for theater founded in 1961, has announced the launch of THRIVE!, a regranting program to provide unrestricted funds and professional development and technical assistance for US-based Black, Indigenous, and all Theatres of Color (BITOC).
With $1,635,000 in support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, TCG is working in partnership with a BIPOC Advisory Circle to craft a program that will include regranting, leadership development, convening, and widespread dissemination of learnings. At the core of this new program is a call for complex emergent thinking to help BITOC thrive and to reach their highest potential, with opportunities for reflection and collective action.
In a released statement, TCG Executive Director and CEO Teresa Eyring said, “BITOC have made vital contributions to their communities and to the entirety of our theatre ecology in spite of pernicious racist inequities in funding. We believe that when these barriers are removed, and BITOC have equitable access to fully realize their potential, our field will truly thrive.”
Emilya Cachapero, Director of Artistic & International Programs, added, “W.E.B. Du Bois defined Black Theatre as about, by, for, and near Black people. In that spirit, TCG defines BITOC as those who make theatre by, for, about, with, and near communities of color. THRIVE! will build on the long legacies of these theatres to create BITOC-specific programs, connect BITOC to equitable funding from grantmakers, and bring national visibility to and support for the ingenuity of BITOC.”
Working in emergent partnership with BIPOC leaders, THRIVE! will encompass three main areas of activity:
Grantmaking – to provide rapid response grants that address immediate conditions, as well as larger unrestricted grants to empower BITOC to self-determine areas of their programming and operations that are most in need of funds, with field conversations with BITOC and BIPOC community leaders held early in the program’s activity period to inform the grant program’s structure;
Convening – in which the experiences of BITOC and BIPOC communities will be centered, to uplift their leadership and wisdom, which is not regularly shared with the field at large; and
Dissemination – with TCG disseminating learnings and ideas to the US theater field and beyond through American Theatre magazine, the TCG Circle, convenings like TCG’s National Conference, and other online and in-person platforms, including BIPOC who are not yet theater journalists or critics, but who exhibit the talent for and interest in writing for the field, invited to participate as contributing writers.
Working closely with an Advisory Circle of BIPOC theater leaders and representatives of BITOC throughout the life of the program will ensure that the components are relevant and useful. 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); 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 Torange Yeghiazarian (Founder, Golden Thread Productions).
While TCG acknowledges that BITOC and BIPOC – terms used for solidarity purposes, representing a multiplicity of racial, ethnic, and cultural groups – are imperfect, and are not universally embraced by People of the Global Majority, the organization also recognizes that language is in a constant state of reimagination and redefinition, and the language used by THRIVE! will likely evolve over the course of the program.
“These extraordinary times call for new thinking, revitalized structures, and deepened commitments,” said Maurine Knighton, Program Director for the Arts at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. “The foundation applauds TCG’s active partnership with theater leaders from the communities they intend to benefit, and we are pleased to support their collective efforts.”