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April 2009

Supporting the Arts in
Good Times and Bad

Choreographer Yvonne Meier's Stolen, was performed as part of Danspace Project's City/Dans series. Photo by Ryutaro Ishikane.

The show must go on, and not just to take our minds off the economy. Theater, dance, and the visual arts often get short shrift in tough times, but as the soul of the City, and as a driving force of tourism, New York can’t afford to neglect the arts. More than 160,000 jobs and $21 billion in revenue were generated by the arts industry in the City in 2005.

A 2009 three-year grant of $75,000 supports the Barrow Group, an incubator for new plays and a training ground for directors, actors, and playwrights. “In our work, we attempt to make the ‘acting’ invisible, so that audiences feel like they’re watching real events instead of ‘performances,’” said founder and co-artistic director Seth Barrish. “In this way, the viewer has a more intimate and hopefully more moving relationship with the story.”

Ping Chong & Company is known for pushing the boundaries of multi-media theater and creating works that combine themes of race, immigration, history, art, and technology. Since 1992, the company has produced a community-hosted series, “Undesirable Elements,” in which people born in one culture, but currently live in another, are invited to share their experiences with the audience. Chong is currently directing Three Vampires: A Parable of the Philippines in collaboration with Trust grantee Ma-Yi Theater Company. The Company is also working on a stage adaptation of Akira Kurosawa’s film, Throne of Blood. A three-year grant of $75,000 will provide continued support for this creative powerhouse.

Wendy Wasserstein and David Mamet are among those who received their first readings at Ensemble Studio Theater. With a three-year grant of $90,000, Ensemble will continue nurturing the work of emerging playwrights. New audiences are drawn by a showcase entitled “Youngblood,” in which writers ages 18 to 25 present readings of new works. This spring, the theater will also be featuring a marathon of new one-act plays in addition to a series of works by contemporary African-American women, and a festival dedicated to plays about science and technology.

Presenting both emerging artists and experimental pieces by established choreographers, Danspace Project has become a hub of innovation in movement. With its variety of programs, low-cost performances, and central location at St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, it is also one of the most accessible homes of contemporary dance in the City. With a three-year grant of $90,000, Danspace is beginning 2009 with works produced locally and globally: City/Dans features New York choreographers and Global Exchange will feature artists from Poland, Denmark, and Hungary. In addition to its regular season, Danspace will present performances in Brooklyn and on the Lower East Side, and a showcase of younger choreographers that collects donations for various causes in lieu of admission. Danspace also shares its space at St. Mark’s Church, providing low-cost performance space for smaller companies.

Queens Theatre in the Park prides itself on offerings that are just as good as what’s on stage in Manhattan, but closer to Queens and Long Island residents, and at half the price. In order to produce quality shows that attract an audience as diverse as its borough, the theater employs seven artistic directors expert in a different cultural niche. With a $90,000 grant, programs such as the Latino Cultural Series and Festival, Black Cultural Arts Series, and the Immigrant Voices Play Reading Project will continue to complement the regular theater and dance seasons, which are filled with tangos, ballets, musicals, comedies, tragedies, and all that’s in between.

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