jakub | January 20, 2024

AMERICAN THEATRE | 5 Companies Form Future of American Theatre Cohort


Clockwise from top left: Caro Dubberly and Nikkole Salter in “Confederates” at Mosaic Theater Company (photo by Chris Banks); Jordan Don, Monique Crawford, and Chibueze Crouch in “Edit Annie” at Crowded Fire Theater (photo by Cheshire Isaacs); Salissa Thole in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” at Perseverance Theatre (photo by Sydney Akagi and Tristan Cameron); a play reading as part of Obras en Evolucion, a short-play festival at Teatro de Publico de Cleveland; a Cpmpany One convening at Pao Arts Center and Cambridge Foundry.

NATIONWIDE: Cleveland Public Theatre in Ohio, Company One in Massachusetts, Crowded Fire Theater in California, Mosaic Theater Company in Washington, D.C., and Perseverance Theatre in Alaska have announced a new collaboration titled the Future of American Theatre Cohort, bolstered by a generous $2.5 million grant from the Mellon Foundation. Each of these organizations, whose budgets range from $400,000 to around $2 million, will receive $500,000 from Mellon over two years to support their ongoing innovation, cultural change-making, and ambitious artistic programming.

In the face of dwindling arts funding and shrinking audiences, at a time when many theatres have been forced to shutter or contract, these five small-to-midsize companies came together last spring to share resources, foster collective learning, and champion new visions for the American theatre. According to a press release, their goal, “individually and collectively, is to center historically marginalized artists and audiences in all facets of their work while developing new models for artistic production, audience building, community engagement, new-play development, and organizational leadership.” Support from the Mellon Foundation will allow the cohort to better sustain their companies, as well as benefit from peer mentorship and collective learning through regular gatherings, so that they can continue to innovate strategies that can be replicated by the national field.

Each cohort member will focus their work on a unique area of expertise and exploration:

  • Cleveland Public Theatre: Deep interconnectivity between communities served and the art onstage
  • Company One Theatre: Neighborhood activation and production in civic spaces, entirely with free and pay-what-you-want ticketing
  • Crowded Fire Theater: Radical shared leadership
  • Mosaic Theater Company: Equitable new-work development practices
  • Perseverance Theatre: Decolonizing for right-purposed relations with Alaska Natives and all Native/Indigenous peoples for collective liberation

Across their respective geographies and leadership structures, the organizations in this cohort have already begun collective exploration and peer mentorship with the common goal of building more equitable ecologies within their communities, prioritizing fair wages for artists and staff while deepening reciprocal local and national relationships.

“Each organization in this cohort has demonstrated local and national leadership capabilities through coalition-building and their practice of abundant collectivism,” said Stephanie Ybarra, program officer for Arts and Culture at the Mellon Foundation, in a statement. “The close collaborations on behalf of communities and the larger theatre ecosystem is thrilling to see, and we’re proud to be in partnership with them as they do this important work.”

Cleveland Public Theatre’s mission is to raise consciousness and nurture compassion through groundbreaking performances and life-changing education programs. Founded in 1998, Company One has situated itself as a home for social justice and artistic excellence by connecting Boston’s diverse communities through live performance, the development of new plays and playwrights, arts education, and public engagement programming. Crowded Fire Theater (CFT) is a critically acclaimed company for new-play production on the West Coast, known for developing and presenting poetic, bold, relevant works by up-and-coming playwrights. Mosaic Theater Company’s mission is to produce bold, culturally diverse theatre that illuminates critical issues, elevates fresh voices, and sparks connections among communities throughout the D.C. region and beyond. And Perseverance Theatre has worked since 2019 to invite a deliberate and committed look at the makeup of the company, the practices housed by the theatre, and what it means to be in right relations and right purpose with Alaska Native elders, leaders, their organizations, culture bearers, and artists.

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