Art Worthy of Kings (County)
|Trust grantee Pascal Rioult Dance Theatre performs Views of the Fleeting World. Photo by Basil Childers
Brooklyn has no less than 762 dance, film, theater, literary, visual, and multimedia producers, presenters, and educators listed on the Brooklyn Art Council’s directory. Many of these groups are able to produce critically acclaimed works at audience-friendly prices on shoe-string budgets, but it’s not easy. Reader’s Digest co-founder and art-lover Lila Acheson Wallace knew that all great things start somewhere and established funds in The Trust that support small and mid-sized arts groups. Five grants to such organizations are featured below, four in Brooklyn, and one that presents dozens of events there.
When Truth Proves More Interesting Than Fiction
What do you call it when playwrights use journalism to develop plays? If your answer is “investigative theater,” you are correct, and very culturally savvy. The Civilians, a theater company in the BAM cultural district in downtown Brooklyn, coined the term to describe a process of exploring current events, interviewing primary sources, and recording community discussions. A two-year grant of $50,000 will help the company develop new investigative theater. The Great Immensity, a play currently in the works, focuses on the implications of climate change based on interviews with residents of Panama and arctic Canada, two places already irrevocably altered by climate change. The grant will also be used to teach investigative theater to the next generation through the expansion of programs at Brooklyn Community Arts and Media High School and two other schools.
|Irondale Ensemble performs Murrow's Boys, a piece using the words and adventures of reporter Edward R. Murrow and other journalists to investigate the questions: Is news important today? Where do we get it? And why should it matter? Photo by Gerry Goodstein
Performing Brooklyn’s History
Where some saw a neglected Sunday schoolroom, experimental ensemble Irondale Productions saw a theater. In 2008, The Trust supported the renovation of the schoolroom in the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church, an important stop on the Underground Railroad. With a new two-year $50,000 grant, Irondale will use the space to develop and perform its own work, as well as provide the Foundry and Epic theaters with time and space to perform and rehearse. True to the history of the building, In Pursuit of Freedom, a play currently in development, will explore Brooklyn’s abolitionist history with fellow Trust grantees Brooklyn Historical Society and Weeksville Heritage Center. “Along with the theater piece, the project will include a walking tour, a website, three exhibits, and a work of public art,” says Terry Greiss, Irondale’s executive director. “In Pursuit of Freedom will use little-known events of the past to address themes relevant to the present.”
|Swing night at Kingsborough's Hot Summer Nights free outdoor concert series draws loyal Jitterbuggers and Lindy Hoppers. Photo by JoAnne Meyers
Bringing Big Band to the Beach
A cooling breeze ruffles your hair while you dance to live swing and big-band orchestras, or maybe you just sit on a picnic blanket enjoying Ellington, Gershwin, and Porter. It happens every July, and it’s always free. There’s even free parking. In the colder months, audiences go indoors to enjoy world-class Flamenco or to see a play still in development and stay for a discussion with the playwright, for a fraction of Manhattan prices. Residents of this seaside hotspot have been enjoying free concerts at Kingsborough Community College’s amphitheater since 1968. Located on the southern tip of Brooklyn close to Brighton Beach, the college’s commitment to the community shows in its affordable, crowd-pleasing lineup. A two-year $40,000 grant to On Stage at Kingsborough will help keep the music in the air, the spotlights on, and the artists paid. It will also bring artists-in-residence to the campus, including Brooklyn’s Camille Brown & Dancers, Godlight Theatre, and playwright Stephen Earnhardt.
Creating an Artistic Home
The Brooklyn Arts Exchange in Park Slope is more than just a place for artists to hone their crafts and kids to enroll in programs named Dance Frenzy and Puppet Play, though it’s great for both. “We create an artistic home,” says Marya Warshaw, the group’s executive director. “When you walk in the door, it’s important that you know people. A lot of good things happen when you build trust.” That’s why, Ms. Warshaw says, its artist residency program lasts longer than most. “Our artists can create a play over one or two years, working on it in our studios, showing it as a work in progress, and integrating feedback from other artists.” Some former resident artists go on to advise the next round of artists and help them apply for grants and find venues for their work. A two-year $60,000 grant to Brooklyn Arts Exchange will provide 12 artists with free rehearsal space, stipends, and the opportunity to present their work. “Many people can make it as an artist for a short period of time,” Warshaw continues, “but this residency helps artists handle their long-term goals, births, deaths, and livelihoods so that they can keep it going for a lifetime.”
|Before Akim Funk Buddha performed, he shared some of his moves on stage at a master dance class in Von King Park, Brooklyn. Photo by Roneil Smith
Performances in Parks: Worth the Mosquitoes
While many New Yorkers choose to summer elsewhere, those who stick around are richly rewarded. SummerStage, City Parks Foundation’s free outdoor concert series in Central Park, offers music, dance, and theater. SummerStage crews are now taking the show on the road throughout the five boroughs, turning small neighborhood parks into entertainment venues—setting up lights, sound equipment, and stages where needed. The crews start the summer in Brooklyn with hip-hop, funk, and Latin rhythm playing in Bedford-Stuyvesant’s Von King Park, Brownsville’s Betsy Head Memorial Playground, and Red Hook Park. After putting up and taking down shows in the Bronx, Queens, and on Staten Island, the crews end the tour in Manhattan neighborhoods, including Washington Heights and the Lower East Side. A two-year $40,000 grant to the Foundation will keep the lights on and New Yorkers entertained through these long, hot nights. For a full listing of what’s in store this summer, visit www.summerstage.org.
Other grants to small and mid-sized arts groups:
- Casita Maria, $40,000 to support dance and theater performances in the South Bronx.
- Center for Traditional Music and Dance, $60,000 to preserve and present immigrant dance in the five boroughs.
- Chen Dance Center, $50,000 for an Asian dance center.
- Dance/USA, $25,000 to help inventory the City’s dance community and publish a report on the needs of dancers and the audiences, space, staffing, and finances of dance groups.
- Foundation for Jewish Culture, $50,000 to distribute a DVD of Nuremburg, a film produced by Pare Lorentz.
- Gina Gibney Dance, $40,000 for a modern dance company.
- Harlem Stage, $60,000 for dance, theater, and multi-disciplinary performances.
- Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning, $60,000 for dance and theater presentations.
- Kupferberg Center for the Arts, $60,000 to support dance, theater, and literary arts at Queens College.
- Lehman College Center for the Performing Arts, $50,000 for dance and theater performances in the Bronx.
- Ma-Yi Theater Company, $50,000 to develop and produce plays about Asian-American experiences.
- New Georges, $30,000 for a theater that develops and produces new plays by women.
- Pan Asian Repertory Theatre, $40,000 to support an Asian-American theater.
- Poetry Project Limited, $20,000 for literary readings and performances.
- Pascal Rioult Dance Theatre, $60,000 to support a dance program in the five boroughs.
- Sundog Theatre, $30,000 for a Staten Island theater.
- Symphony Space, $50,000 for literary programs at a performing arts space.
- Women’s Project and Productions, $60,000 for a theater dedicated to developing and producing new plays by and about women.