Black Theatre United and Williamstown Theatre Festival have announced 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/.