Our stories in theatre begin with the playwright….
There is a resurgent discussion about gender equity in theatre. Stories define who we are, they help us to make sense of the world. But who exactly is telling our stories? Unfortunately for American Theatre, the answer is still the same as it was 300 years ago. Plays produced and directed by women on Broadway and national theatre companies are rare, and this lack of representation negatively impacts BIPOC women and nonbinary artists even more. American Theatre has to do better. Our solution? Invest in those telling the stories.
The AGE Legacy Playwright (ALP) Grants serves to change the equity landscape of the American Theatre canon by investing in and bringing agency to women and nonbinary BIPOC playwrights 40+. This is a “come full circle” grant program that allows AGE to stay small but mighty, and capitalize on what has been our initial success: Offering grant funding.
“Grants funding has been at the core of AGE’s programming since 2016, ranging from Equity Grants to Portland based theatre companies, distributing COVID emergency funds, and now launching our first ever individual grants. We aim to create a social conversation around supporting and empowering marginalized artists in theatre and recognizing that this grants funding is only a baby step in the direction we must all take.”
Through the ALP Grants, we are able to offer emerging women and nonbinary BIPOC playwrights 40+ $10,000 in unrestricted funds. Why Unrestricted? AGE is intentionally making our grant funding to BIPOC women and nonbinary playwrights unrestricted. When funders dictate how funds are used and require complex systems of documentation, oversight, and conditions, it actively disempowers the recipient. We refuse to create a grant that would add additional stress to artists who have already dealt with a layered history of oppression. For AGE, equity means creating environments where everyone can achieve their goals, and how that is done must be determined by the people who are denied equity. AGE wants to be curative and healing in our relationship with grant recipients. That means respecting our recipients’ dignity and judgment in using the funds towards realizing their goals. We are giving fully and freely, knowing that our recipients will make the world a better place. Although we realize we can’t provide grants to everyone, if we can change the trajectory of just one life the world will be better. Together, we are doing something that seldom happens in a world still struggling to find pathways to equity.
For full details on the AGE Legacy Playwright Grant processes – including application, reviewing, and selection criteria – click here!
This year we are also excited to announce our newest partnership with Artist Repertory Theatre (ART), which will produce a new mentorship program: PATHWAYS. Launching summer 2022, PATHWAYS is a 2-year holistic mentorship and professional development program for emerging BIPOC gender-diverse theatre artists in the Portland area.
Arriving after the success of AGE’s 2021 IGNITE mentorship program, PATHWAYS is co-created and developed by Minita Gandhi (IGNITE Founder) and Melory Mirashrafi (Associate Director of DNA: Oxygen at ART). The program uses Gandhi’s collaborative pairing model, comprised of a pairing committee representative of the community it serves and a process that prioritizes the creation and maintenance of an environment where artists have the opportunities and resources to achieve their full potential. PATHWAYS is produced by DNA: Oxygen, ART’s BIPOC artist lab and affinity space, offering creative enrichment and community building to artists pursuing a professional career in theatre, and creating a “pathway” to professional development grounded in IGNITE’s values of shared experience, cultivation, and expansion. All participants will be paid hourly and equitably for their contributions.
To read the full press release: click here!
Applications and details about the 2022-2024 PATHWAYS program will be available this spring. Interested applicants will be asked to submit a brief questionnaire as well as a flexible creative statement. To learn more, please visit artistrep.org, or contact Melory Mirashrafi (firstname.lastname@example.org).
2021 marked the inaugural launch of IGNITE. IGNITE was a thought partnership program, in which emerging women and non-binary BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) artists were paired with women and non-binary BIPOC National Theatre Leaders. Through this partnership, we aimed to create a brave space for shared experience, cultivation and expansion.
We recognize that while we are all having experiences that are wholly our own, we as BIPOC artists do have a unique lived experience in society and in the arts. One of the foundations of this program is to provide a space where women and non-binary BIPOC artists can have a point of connection with someone who has shared lived experience as BIPOC. We recognize the labor the current climate is placing on us and we honor and welcome a place where we don’t have to explain or educate. We hope that this connection can be that space and a place for your shared experiences.
Through these connections we hope we can cultivate the practice of drawing a new line of inheritance. Many of us have inherited our knowledge and education from predominantly white sources. What happens when we draw knowledge and education from each other? We believe it will empower both parties in the conversation. As a collective community of women and non-binary BIPOC artists developing this progrma, we have experienced the power of these conversations. We are excited to cultivate these conversations for the women and non-binary BIPOC arts community at large.
There is much language that strives to make the global majority appear diminutive as a “minority” or “marginalized community”. What happens when we can be in a room and take up space? We naturally take up space when we feel seen and heard. What ahppens when we mobilize connection and collaboration between woemand non-binary BIPOC artists? IGNITE invests in the resilience of women and non-binary BIPOC artists for the purpose of make art more just, sustainable, and representative. We believe access dismantles power structures, and builds confidence. We hope this is an expansive experience for all of you in many ways.
– Minita Gandhi, AGE National Program Director and IGNITE Founder
– Marilou Carerra
– Sandra Delgado
– Arantxa Chavez
Building off the original success of the AGE WOC PDX Theatre Collective, The goal of this program is to bridge a collective experience between emerging artists in our community and industry leaders that fosters collaboration and accessibility for BIPOC artists. We seek to provide an anti-racist, non-patriarchal, LGBTQ+ affirming space to authentically discuss challenges presented to the BIPOC community, explore avenues for leadership, and find ways to challenge the predominantly white patriarchal structures in the arts.
Hear Our Voice Showcase
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2018 AT 7 PM – 10 PM – We Can Listen: Spotlight on Equity in Theater
Theatre was meant to tell the truth about life and the social situation (Stella Adler). What if theatre is not telling the truth about life? What if theatre is not relevant to the social situation? Artists who live and work in the margins of mainstream theatre will talk about the obstacles that they experience and their perseverance in making socially conscious art. Join us for an inspiring and transformative conversation as we spotlight equity as the cornerstone of art and of humanity.
MONDAY, APRIL 9, 2018 AT 2 PM – 4 PM Telling Native Stories to Rehumanize Native Peoples
It’s a ground breaking convergence of award-winning, distinguished native playwrights. The three playwrights will participate in an AGE panel discussion! Moderated by Jacqueline Keeler, the panel will focus on social justice, and how telling Native stories can be used to re-humanize native peoples.
TUESDAY, APRIL 16, 2019 AT 7 PM – 9 PM We Can Listen: The Future is Fluid
What does it mean to be transgender? What is the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity? Why is transgender equality so important?
Join us for The Future is Fluid, Developing Fluency in a Nonbinary World, an evening of personal expression facilitated by Jenn Burleton, founder of TransActive Gender Center. You are invited to listen as teenage girls engage in conversation about their own journeys of transition.
The TOC “We Can Listen” event includes music by Acchord and a “look to the future” panel discussion with professionals in academia, healthcare and advocacy.
– Tayllor Johnson
The AGE WOC (Women od Color) PDX Theatre Collective was created in November 2019 to build the resiliency of women and non-binary people of color working in Portland Theatre. Our inter-generational mentorship program paired early-career theatre women of color (WOC) artists with WOC artist mentors. This Collective prioritized the voices of queer, black, brown, indigenous, disabled, undocumented, trans, and non-binary theatre artists by supporting the artistic empowerment and professional development of our diverse communities.
In 2017, AGE in the Arts partnered with Portland State University (PSU) and its office of Global Diversity and Inclusion to present the symposium, Unconscious Bias: Achieving Gender Equity. This unique two-day event provided a multigenerational, multicultural, and multidisciplinary focus on unconscious gender bias – its impact on our lives, our choices, and the art we create.
Experts on gender bias and the performing arts headlined keynote events, plenary and breakout sessions throughout the conference. Theatre leaders and decision makers; artists in theatre, film and entertainment; future theatre leaders and students; and advocates of equity in the arts and culture were all invited to participate.
Through this symposium, AGE and PSU were able to raise awareness of unconscious gender bias and its impact on the arts and culture, stimulate transformation, and facilitate an action plan for achieving gender equity in the arts.
The New House Group aimed at introducing a younger and more diverse audience to local theatre.
Led by AGE Senior Leader, Yasmin Ruvalcaba, AGE invited local individuals and organizations to go see plays together as a group, with a pay-what-you-can model (free-$10). We attended plays as a group to ensure new theatre attendees would feel welcomed and supported, and we would follow-up the plays with snacks, drinks, and a group discussion. We would talk about what we saw on stage – how did we see or not see equity represented on stage – and afterward would draft up a report on behalf of the group to share with the artistic directors of the theatre companies. We had an established group of attendees. But we also reached out to other non-profits and took groups from there to see the performances. In total we went to see about 15 shows and created a lasting local community of theatre-goers.
Led by AGE founder, Jane Vogel Mantiri, Advanced Conversations was an affinity space for women who identify in the second half of their life. The group explored what it means to advance in age, wisdom, and experience, and the simultaneous challenges for recognition when opportunities become fewer. Together we can support, validate, empower, and encourage new discoveries.
Between 2015-2019, Advance Gender Equity in the Arts (AGE) awarded over $250,000 in grants to professional Portland metro-area theatre companies that demonstrated a commitment to intersectional gender equity in playwriting, directing, casting, and designing.
It was important that AGE not only reward others for intersectional gender equity, but also that we adhere to it ourselves. The AGE grant review committees were comprised of 60% or more people of color, trans and nonbinary people and people with disabilities. The review committees scored and interviewed applicants, and chose the recipients of the grants.
Theatre leaders are stating that the AGE Equity grant application process has made them more aware of bias in their programming and production of art, and has changed the way they are making casting, programming, and hiring decisions.
At the end of 2019, AGE decided that these Portland theaters needed to carry on their equity efforts without monetary incentives. We are pleased to report that local theatre companies are still showing long-term and sustainable efforts commitments to intersectional gender equity in playwriting, directing, casting, and designing. The grants made a resurgence at the onset of COVID-19 in early 2020, providing emergency funds to struggling theaters/entities. The AGE Equity Grant program ceased to exist by the end of 2020.
Learn about the 2019 AGE Equity Grants and Recipients.
Learn about the 2018 AGE Equity Grants and Recipients.
Learn about the 2016 & 2017 AGE in the Arts Awards Recipients.
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