Black Theatre United and Williamstown Theatre Festival announce the early career Bipoc Theatre-Makers Program

Black Theatre United (BTU) and Williamstown Theatre Festival (WTF) announce the creation of the Early Career Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Theatre-Makers Program, in partnership and with a lead gift from the Tiger Baron Foundation. The Early Career BIPOC Theatre-Makers Program is a central, new component of the Festival’s training program, beginning in 2021.

 The resounding demand for racial equity and inclusion in the American theatre has reaffirmed the Festival’s commitment to providing meaningful work experience and increased opportunities for early career theatre-makers who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in its 66-year-old training program. WTF has refashioned its training program with an emphasis on structured learning that presents outstanding opportunities for early career theatre-makers. BTU was formed to protect and promote Black talent, Black people, and Black lives. BTU and WTF came together to build this new program in the shared dedication to creating new opportunity for emerging talent in all areas of theatre, in an environment focused on the core values of equity and inclusion. Launched with the support of a generous lead gift from the Tiger Baron Foundation, the Early Career BIPOC Theatre-Makers Program represents the first piece of a new structure that seeks to eliminate systems of racism at the Festival.

 Participants in the Early Career BIPOC Theatre-Makers Program – who will be recruited and identified jointly by the organizations and named as BTU Rise Fellows – will spend the summer in residence at the Festival, engaging in a newly co-conceived and co-executed “work & learn” experience. Together, both BTU and WTF have built a program that provides each participant with room, board, and a stipend of $2,500. Each participant will be embedded in a specific WTF department, working alongside seasoned practitioners while also learning as a cohort in a classroom setting combining seminars, panels, and structured mentorship with founding members of BTU. This unique program puts early career BIPOC theatre-makers at the heart of Festival operations and in the company of BTU mentors, provides them with instruction and access to affinity groups, and prepares them for careers in the American theatre.

 WTF will remain compliant with evolving federal, state, or local guidance in light of COVID-19.

 For information on how to apply for the Early Career BIPOC Theatre-Makers Program, visit www.wtfestival.org/work-learn/. There, you will also find information about other training and employment opportunities at WTF.

 Allyson Tucker-Mitchell, founding member of BTU, said, “After the culmination of horrific events of this spring including but not limited to the death of Breonna Taylor, the execution of George Floyd, the execution of Ahmaud Arbery, the beating deaths of Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, and Riah Milton, it was clear that something had to be done.

 And when our own industry broke open with stories of abuse, pain, marginalization, access denied, subjugation and more, constantly visited upon Black, Indigenous, and People of Color bodies, the path forward became clear: artists in all aspects of the industry had to act.

After much open discussion of what had been and what must change if this program is to move forward in a totally new manner, BTU is proud to announce an inaugural partnership with WTF for the 2021 summer season. 

This collaboration ensures that access to this training program is guaranteed for at least 10 participants who will become a part of BTU Rise, BTU’s own initiative for early-career practitioners. These BTU Rise participants will be able to avail themselves of the benefits of WTF, and they will also have access to our BTU Rise mentors who will offer support during the program and beyond. BTU is working with WTF to create spaces that are safe, nurturing, inclusive, and artistically satisfying for all BTU Rise participants who attend. Where all voices are heard and respected and uplifted, and barriers erected to prevent BIPOC artists from reaching their full potential are torn down. 

 The program is designed to facilitate connections with other BIPOC artists in the program and those outside who will provide guidance and support as our participants enter into or transition within the various aspects of the theatrical industry. 

 With this collaboration, BTU strives to create an inclusive program that will allow BIPOC artists to emphatically state, ‘We are here. We will be seen. We will not be denied.’”

 Mandy Greenfield, Artistic Director of WTF, said, “The only viable way forward for this institution and for all American theatrical institutions is to discard programs and systems that oppress people and to rebuild with care for a future that unites and elevates Black people, Indigenous people, and People of Color. We have a lot of work to do, ahead. The Williamstown Theatre Festival board and staff, as well as the professional artists who consider the Festival an artistic home, are humbled by the extraordinary work of BTU, and we are grateful for their partnership, leadership, trust, and candor as we find our way forward, together. We are also tremendously grateful for the support of the Tiger Baron Foundation, whose visionary lead gift enables us to launch this program and will hopefully inspire other foundations and individuals to support this important work.”

 WTF will not run its existing Apprentice Program in 2021. Additional changes to the Professional Training Program will be announced at www.wtfestival.org/work-learn/.

ABOUT BLACK THEATRE UNITED

 Born out of friendship, Black Theatre United states: “As members of the Black theatre community, we stand together to help protect Black people, Black talent, and Black lives of all shapes and orientations in the theatre and communities across the country. Our voices are united to empower our community through activism in the pursuit of justice and equality for the betterment of all humanity.”

 Black Theatre United (www.blacktheatreunited.com) has served the community through a series of events that have sought to educate, uplift, and give voice to the issues that have led to the disenfranchisement of communities as well as to present pathways to empowerment. We began by presenting a town hall hosted by Audra McDonald with the incomparable Sherrilyn Ifill who helped to streamline many of the issues plaguing Black and Brown communities while encouraging people to get involved to create change. We followed that up with another town hall event, hosted by Viola Davis, where leader Stacey Abrams and leader Jeanine Abrams-McLean spoke to the power of being counted in the census and the power of our vote.

 The work to address and dismantle systemic institutionalized racism within our industry is ongoing as we begin a partnership with Williamstown Theatre Festival. There is much work to be done and we are thrilled to partner with WTF as they, too, pick up the mantle on this journey to join us and create change.

 ABOUT WILLIAMSTOWN THEATRE FESTIVAL

 For over six decades, Williamstown Theatre Festival, recipient of the Tony Award® for Outstanding Regional Theatre and the Commonwealth Award for Achievement, has brought emerging and professional theatre artists together to create a thrilling summer festival of premiere work alongside fresh, new productions of the western canon, accompanying cultural events including COMMUNITY WORKS and Late- Night Cabarets, and readings and workshops of new plays. Under Artistic Director Mandy Greenfield, WTF launched the Andrew Martin-Weber New Play and Musical Commissioning Program, through which theatre artists, including Jocelyn Bioh, Nathan Alan Davis, Halley Feiffer, Justin Levine, Matthew Lopez, Benjamin Scheuer, and many others, create new work supported by a year-round play development program. WTF runs unmatched training programs for new generations of theatre talent, and artists and productions shaped at WTF fill theatres in New York, London, and around the country each season. Williamstown Theatre Festival’s productions of The Bridges of Madison CountyThe Elephant ManFool for LoveLiving on Love, and The Visit enjoyed critically acclaimed runs on Broadway, with The Elephant Man and The Visit receiving Tony Award nominations for Best Revival of a Play and Best Musical, respectively. WTF’s world premiere productions of Cost of Living (winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Drama), ActuallyParadise Blue, and Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow played acclaimed Off-Broadway runs. In the abbreviated 2019-20 theatrical season, Williamstown Theatre Festival was represented or scheduled to be represented on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and regionally by The Sound Inside and Grand Horizons, both of which received Tony Award nominations for Best Play, The Rose TattooSearedSelling KabulUnknown Soldier, and Lempicka.