The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage announced more than $960,000 in grants from the Philadelphia Theatre Initiative (PTI) to 13 theater companies, presenters, and theater independent artists. This year's PTI-funded performances represent a broad spectrum of imaginative programming for the stage that will engage the public in lively, sometimes unconventional ways. Over the course of the 2010–2012 theater seasons, Hans Christian Andersen will go Pop, two works by famed Irish playwright Martin McDonagh will be interpreted by two different companies, the theater experience will go mobile, and puppets will reveal their dark sides.
Among the projects funded:
- Hans Christian Andersen's final children's story, an absurd tale of a professor, a flea, and a traveling circus act, will be adapted for the stage for the Arden Theatre Company in The Flea and the Professor. Written by Guggenheim Fellow Jordan Harrison with music by seasoned theater composer Richard Gray, this musical is the first commissioned work by the Arden Children's Theatre program and will be staged in the spring of 2011 as a world premiere. Arden Theatre Company will distribute 5,500 free tickets to low-income students and their families, ensuring that a wide range of young audiences get to see this offbeat yet heartwarming production, set to a rousing score of bubblegum pop music.
- Both the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts and Theatre Exile will produce darkly comic plays by OBIE Award-winning playwright Martin McDonagh. The Annenberg Center, a leading presenter of Irish theater and music events in the region, will bring Ireland's Druid Theatre to Philadelphia for the first time, to perform The Cripple of Inishmaan. The production will be directed by Druid's founding director Garry Hines, who first discovered and produced McDonagh's work.
Theatre Exile will work with a team of experts in fight choreography and special effects to produce the Philadelphia premiere of McDonagh's The Lieutenant of Inishmore. The play, a bloody stage spectacle about members of an Irish Republican Army splinter group, will provide audiences with a visceral look at how violence often begets violence.
- In 2009, New Paradise Laboratories brought the stage to the Internet and vice versa with Fatebook, a uniquely interactive, multimedia performance. Its new play, Extremely Public Displays of Privacy, will also experiment with Web and Global Positioning Satellite technologies in ways that challenge traditional expectations of “live” theater. Extremely Public Displays of Privacy addresses issues of privacy and anonymity that are central to social network Web sites which encourage us to be constantly “connected” to one another. Parts of the show will be filmed at public sites around Philadelphia. Audiences will be able to “attend” the show in three ways: online, attending the live stage performance, and/or watching video clips via cell phone. These clips will be made available at predetermined locations so that visitors may watch scenes from the performance while standing in the very sites where the scenes were originally filmed.
- The beloved, yet dark and violent, English puppet show Punch and Judy will serve as the inspiration for The Devil and Mister Punch, a new work by the UK–based Improbable Theatre that has been commissioned by Philadelphia Live Arts Festival & Philly Fringe for its 2011 festival. Known for its dynamic puppetry and an emphasis on improvisation, Improbable Theatre has gained international acclaim for its unique brand of experimental yet accessible theater. OBIE Award winner and Improbable's co-artistic director Julian Crouch will direct the production, which features wooden and paper-mâché puppets and explores the inner world of Punch, a villainous, iconic character with a penchant for murder and mischief. This experimental theater performance, meant for both young adults and older audiences, will be preceded by a puppetry workshop led by Crouch in summer 2011, as well as a free event during which audiences will have the rare opportunity to meet Crouch and members of Improbable Theatre.
According to Fran Kumin, director of the Philadelphia Theatre Initiative, “This year's PTI grants support a diverse array of imaginative and ambitious projects aimed at varied tastes and ages. We are proud to support the artistry of outstanding theater professionals as they create and present work that promises to entertain, inspire, and educate audiences in our region.”
See the complete list of 2010 grantees and full descriptions of each funded project.
“We are proud to support what promise to be some of the year's most outstanding productions,” said Greg Rowe, director of Culture Initiatives at The Pew Charitable Trusts. “If these grants are any indication, the 2011–12 theater season will be one of the most exciting in years, with an eclectic mix of projects that offers something for everyone—audiences of all ages and interests.”
Philadelphia Theatre Initiative grants are awarded annually on a competitive basis and are selected by a distinguished panel of theater professionals from around the country with a broad knowledge of the field. These grants represent the Philadelphia Theatre Initiative's commitment to the theater artists and organizations that serve, entertain, and educate the citizens of Philadelphia and its surrounding communities.
The Philadelphia Theatre Initiative was established in 1995 and has since funded 192 theater performances and projects, investing over $9.7 million in stimulating artistic development in the theater community and bringing outstanding theatrical programming to the region's audiences.