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New Fund Awards $100,000 to Support New Work

by Stephen Becker 25 Jun 2012 7:17 AM

Three North Texas theater companies will each produce works with the help of funding from a new grant program announced today.


Three North Texas theater companies will each produce works with the help of funding from a new grant program announced today:

KERA Radio story:

Online version:

Dallas Theater Center is working on a new musical based on true events that express the struggle of African American migration throughout the 20th Century. African American Repertory Theater will produce a show called homeschooled, which explores the topics of black flight to the suburbs and how black neighborhoods have been hit hard by foreclosures. And Cara Mia Theatre is working on a project called The Dreamers, about three young women who walk from El Salvador to within 30 miles of the US-Mexican border, never reaching their destination

The three theaters are the first recipients of the newly created TACA Donna Wilhelm Family New Works Fund. Cara Mia Theatre and African-American Rep will each receive $25,000. The Dallas Theater Center is getting $50,000.

Rebecca Young is the head of TACA, which provides financial support to North Texas arts organizations.

“We feel that new work is so important for our community because if new work is being created here, then we will indeed become a major cultural center and a major destination for the arts,” she says.

Young says that the fund also serves another purpose.

“When it’s economically challenging, the thing that goes by the wayside is the risk work. So there was real interest and real desire to not shut down the creativity of the artist and arts organizations that work in our community, but make it possible for that risk to take place.”

David Lazano is writing The Dreamers for Cara Mia. He says new work reflects relevant cultural changes

“New work for us, for Cara Mia, is helping our community find its place in such a fast-moving and often chaotic world,” he says.

The three new works will have their world premieres in 2013 and 2014.

The full release:

TACA Announces Inaugural Recipients of The Donna Wilhelm Family New Works Fund Grants

DALLAS, Texas, June 20 2012 – TACA is pleased to announce that three inaugural grants totaling $100,000 will be awarded from the first round of applications to the TACA Donna Wilhelm Family New Works Fund.

African-American Repertory Theater

homeschooled by Jonathan Norton

Award: $25,000

homeschooled tells the story of three African American mothers who are friends through their children. The women home school their children and take turns teaching different courses and supervising field trips. The question of the play stems from an argument between two of the mothers. The argument concerns an extremely graphic picture drawn by a five year old girl of a black man being lynched. The mother of the five year old is angry that the mother in charge of the class discussed lynching and other atrocities with children so young. The third mother ultimately takes a side, which reveals long hidden truths about the real reason they’ve chosen to home school, and the deeper, darker truths about how African Americans view themselves in the 21st century. This play aims to debunk the notion that there is one monolithic African American consciousness that governs communities, and was inspired by a conversation about how African Americans discuss their cultural history with their children. The play will also address recent “Black Flight” to the suburbs, and the fact that African American neighborhoods have been particularly hard hit by the foreclosure crisis, topics that have yet to be explored through plays.

Anticipated public performance dates are September 6 – 29, 2013.

Cara Mia Theatre

The Dreamers, Part 1 by David Lozano

Awarded $25,000

The Dreamers, Part 1 is a collaboratively written play focusing on the story of three young women who travel by foot from El Salvador to within 30 miles of the US-Mexican border yet never reach their destination. This story reveals the hardships of thousands of Latinos who come from neighboring countries and arrive in Dallas. As immigrants from El Salvador travel north they face corrupt border officials at the Mexican-Guatemalan border that perpetrate human rights atrocities. As the journey continues, they face violent Mexican drug cartels. And they leave behind extreme poverty, rampant gang violence and reluctantly, loved ones and family members. Through the playwright and collaborative writers who will serve as actors for the play, stories will be gathered from immigrants in the area and compiled using scripted narrative and poetic imagery as well as video and music.

Development of this work will take place through March 2013. The goal is to present a world premiere in May of 2013 at the Latino Cultural Center. Performances will continue during the TCG National Conference to be held in Dallas in summer 2013.

Dallas Theater Center

Stagger Lee by Will Power and Justin Ellington

Awarded $50,000

Stagger Lee is a new musical from hip-hop artist Will Power and composer Justin Ellington that dramatizes three African American folk tales, based on true events that express the struggle of African American migration throughout the 20th Century. These folk tales are becoming lost as they dropped out of the African American experience in the 1970’s. The work resonates with diverse audiences of all ages as it thematically explores how the quest for the American Dream impacts those who achieve it and those for whom it is denied. Stagger Lee brings forward the tales and myths of the past, adds new relevance and meaning to them, and gives them a voice that will impact new generations. The story begins as its five characters arrive in St. Louis in 1895 seeking to leave behind the ways of the South and become Northerners. As they time travel through a century of social and musical change, the characters land in historically significant places and times, and the musical’s score shits from ragtime to jazz, from blues to rock and roll.

Developmental activities, including two one-week workshops with readings for invited audiences and a four week staged workshop with presentation, will take place between June 2012 and July 2014. A full creative team will be selected in early 2014 and casting, rehearsal, technical development and productions as a world premiere in Dallas will take place in late 2014.

Nationally recognized performing arts professionals and academics in the fields of dance, theater and music evaluated the 18 grant applications received for the inaugural 2012-2013 cycle.

Donna Wilhelm in whose family’s name the fund is established said, “I believe the arts are a vital force in the business and culture of a city. When we move the arts forward, we move Dallas forward, too. And that’s why creating new work is essential.”

“The New Works Fund makes it possible for arts organizations to take more risks and create original work with the potential for national and international impact,” Wilhelm continued.  “I am so proud that significant work is being developed in Dallas and I eagerly await the production of these three important new pieces.”

TACA President and Executive Director Rebecca Young added, “In this economic climate, TACA is thrilled to have the opportunity to encourage performing arts organizations to take risks on new, untested projects.  It is a privilege to partner with the Wilhelm family and to involve nationally recognized peer reviewers to help identify the new works with the greatest promise.”

ABOUT TACA Donna Wilhelm Family New Works Fund:

In January 2012, TACA launched a new grants initiative: the TACA Donna Wilhelm Family New Works Fund.  This fund will grant up to $100,000 each year, for at least the next three years, to support the creation and performances of new work in Dallas County by one or more of TACA’s annual beneficiaries. New works supported by the Fund may include dance, plays, musical theater, solo and choral vocal works, instrumental performances, spoken word performances or any comparable work presented for an audience. The grants are intended to particularly encourage the creation of innovative and experimental work in the area of performing arts.  This fund is in addition to the $1 million granted in 2012 to 41 local performing arts organizations. For those interested in supporting this Fund, contact TACA’s President and Executive Director Becky Young at 214.855.0400.