Alliance Theatre Receives Grant from Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
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by BWW News Desk
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded a grant to the ALLIANCE THEATRE to create a three-year Playwright In Residence staff position. Designed to advance the role of playwrights in American theatre, the goals of the residencies include providing playwrights with space, time and resources; and positively influencing the working environment of theatres by embedding playwrights on their staffs.
Theatres were invited to apply for the grant with a specific playwright in mind, and fourteen recipients were chosen in consultation with a panel of leading artists and practitioners. The grant provides three years of salary, benefits, and a flexible research and development fund for an American playwright at each selected theater. This initiative by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has grown out of a longstanding commitment, across disciplines, to provide institutional support to generative artists, and to improve both developmental processes and prospects for the continued life of new works.
Selected for its commitment to supporting playwrights and new play development, the ALLIANCE THEATRE's chosen playwright is long-time collaborator Pearl Cleage. While Cleage has previously worked with the ALLIANCE THEATRE as Artist-In-Dialogue, this new position places her on staff at the Alliance and puts more emphasis on her playwriting. In addition to her writing, Cleage will be involved in audience engagement, season planning, mentoring young playwrights who participate in the Alliance's National Graduate Playwriting Competition, advising the Alliance's High School Collision Project, teaching advanced playwriting workshops, and serving as an artistic liaison to the Alliance's business leaders.
Plays by Cleage include the critically praised works What I Learned in Paris (which opened the ALLIANCE THEATRE's 2012/13 season), The Nacirema Society Requests the Honor of Your Presence at a Celebration of Their First One Hundred Years, Blues for an Alabama Sky, and Flyin' West - all of which premiered at the Alliance. Her novel What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day was an Oprah Book Club selection and appeared on the New York Times best-seller list for nine weeks.
Founded in 1968, the ALLIANCE THEATRE has become the lead producing theatre in the Southeast, creating the powerful experience of shared theatre for diverse people on two stages. The Alliance values excellence, pursued with integrity and creativity, and achieved through collaboration. Reaching more than 200,000 patrons annually, the Alliance delivers powerful programming that challenges adult and youth audiences to think critically and care deeply. Under the leadership of Susan V. Booth, Jennings Hertz Artistic Director, the ALLIANCE THEATRE received the Regional Theatre Tony Award in recognition of sustained excellence in programming, education and community engagement.
Known for its high artistic standards and national role in creating significant theatrical works, the Alliance has premiered more than 70 original productions including Tony Award winners "The Color Purple," by Alice Walker, "Aida," by Elton John and Tim Rice, and Alfred Uhry's "The Last Night of Ballyhoo." The Alliance has a reputation for developing important American musicals with a strong track record of Broadway, touring, and subsequent productions including the world premieres of "Sister Act: The Musical," "Bring It On: The Musical" and Stephen King and John Mellencamp's "Ghost Brothers of Darkland County." The Alliance also creates and nurtures the careers of playwrights through the Alliance National Graduate Playwriting Competition, producing a premiere for the competition winner as part of the regular season with national networking opportunities for four finalists. The works produced by the Alliance allow locally based artists the chance to create on a nationally watched stage, building and sustaining Atlanta's artistic community.
Each year, the ALLIANCE THEATRE Acting Program and Education Department reaches close to 50,000 students through performances, acting classes, drama camps, and in-school initiatives. The Alliance creates and produces plays for young audiences at every age level: from the Collision Project, where high school artists create and perform new work based on a classic text, to the ground breaking Theatre for the Very Young, creating interactive work for infants and toddlers. The Alliance also offers community education classes for all ages and abilities of theatre interest; and adult student productions of unproduced plays in development (working with local and national playwrights).
An active participant in Georgia classrooms, the Alliance has developed programs using theatrical techniques to aid in student learning through storytelling and problem solving. The ALLIANCE THEATRE Institute for Educators and Teaching Artists equips teachers with theatrical techniques that link directly to school curriculum, align with the Georgia Performance Standards, and increase student learning. Other programs include GA Wolf Trap, a nationally recognized professional learning program that focuses on literacy skills for children in Pre-K - 2nd Grade, and Dramaturgy K-12, a unique program that empowers students to create research material that both informs Alliance productions and prepares peer audiences. Twice recognized by the Federal Department of Education as leaders in the field of arts education, these programs reflect the Alliance's commitment to city wide arts access.
Pearl Cleage is an Atlanta based writer, currently in residence as Artist in Dialogue at The ALLIANCE THEATRE in Atlanta where her new play, "What I Learned in Paris," will open the season in September, 2012. Her works include award winning plays, bestselling novels and numerous columns, articles and essays for a wide variety of publications including Essence, Ebony, Rap Pages, Vibe, The Atlanta Tribune, and The Atlanta Journal Constitution. Her first novel, What Looks Like Crazy On An Ordinary Day, was an Oprah Book Club pick and spent nine weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. She is the author of thirteen plays, including Flyin' West, the most produced new American play in the country in 1994. Her Blues for An Alabama Sky was included in the 1996 Olympic Arts Festival in Atlanta. Her other plays include Chain; Late Bus to Mecca; Bourbon at the Border; A Song for Coretta and The Nacirema Society Requests the Honor of Your Presence at a Celebration of Their First One Hundred Years. She is the author of eight novels, including Baby Brother's Blues, which was awarded an NAACP Image Award for Literature. She is also the co-author with her husband, writer Zaron W. Burnett, Jr., of We Speak Your Names, a praise poem commissioned by Oprah Winfrey for her 2005 Legends Weekend. Cleage and Burnett are frequent collaborators, including their award winning ten year performance series, "Live at Club Zebra!" featuring their work as writers and performance artists.
Cleage was chosen Cosby Chair in the Fine Arts by her alma mater, Spelman College, in 2005 and spent two years as a member of the Spelman faculty. Awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts by the college in 2010, Cleage remains active with the Women's Resource and Research Center and the Department of Theatre and Dance. She was the founding editor of CATALYST Magazine, an Atlanta-based literary magazine for ten years and served as Artistic Director of Just Us Theatre Company for five years. She currently serves on the Advisory Board of Kenny Leon's True Colors Theatre Company. Her work has been given grant support through The National Endowment for the Arts, The Fulton County Arts Council, the Georgia Council for the Arts, The City of Atlanta Bureau of Cultural Affairs, and the Coca-Cola Foundation. A regular columnist for The Atlanta Tribune for ten years, Cleage is a popular speaker on college campuses across the country. She also maintains a web site at www.pearlcleage.com and a Face Book Fan Page. Cleage and Burnett make their home in Atlanta.
ALLIANCE THEATRE, Atlanta, Georgia