NPN Announces 2020 Documentation & Storytelling Fund Recipients

May 1, 2020  •  8 minute read

"this is now, and now, and now" by Amanda Szeglowski | cakeface, photo: Maria Baranova.

The 2020 Documentation & Storytelling Fund, one of NPN’s special initiatives for 2020, aims to create pathways for artists’ career advancement and to support their ability to document, promote, and share their work, ideas, and selves. To that end, NPN is awarding $72,000 and leveraging an additional $175,000 to 24 Documentation & Storytelling Projects.

These 24 recipients will reflect on creative placemaking in border cities, build disability aesthetics into a performance work, and question traditional philanthropy models in dance, among other things. Through albums, books, blogs, essays, films, installations, photographs, podcasts, and zines, artists will highlight community engagement efforts, share unique development processes, and celebrate decades of creative work.

“While NPN has traditionally focused on touring and performance of artists’ work, the Documentation & Storytelling Fund seeks to invest in artists’ practices as narrative changers,” says NPN’s President & CEO Caitlin Strokosch. “In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential that we challenge ourselves to reimagine the arts presenting field as more than live performances and ensure artists’ voices are centered offstage as well as on.”

NPN’s Documentation & Storytelling Fund provides up to $3,000 of support for artists who received an NPN Artist Engagement Fund or Creation & Development Fund between 2018 and 2020.

The NPN Documentation & Storytelling Fund is made possible by generous support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation

A Host of People (Detroit, MI)

Seeking Belonging through Theater Research and Documentation Project

A Host of People will undertake a research project focused on crafting belonging both as an ensemble and with its audience. Continuing work it embarked on during the run of Cleopatra Boy, the company will interview ensemble and audience members as it presents Kilo Batra and as it hosts community dinners and conversations about free speech during the research year for Fire in the Theater! Through this research, A Host of People will codify its values and unique community-driven development process and write about building community with its Detroit audience.

Ananya Dance Theatre (Minneapolis, MN)

Documentary Film of Dastak: I Wish You Me

Dastak: I Wish You Me (formerly Āgun) investigates the lives of women from global communities of color caught in conflict zones of borders and boundaries, exploring the different ways they reach for and construct “home.” Ananya Dance Theatre’s creative process incorporates six months of community dialogues, workshops, shared meals, and oral-history interviews. The company will create a brief film documenting these community conversations as well as movement explorations from rehearsals, showing the deep reservoir of research that shaped Dastak and inviting audiences into the world of the work.

cakeface (Brooklyn, NY)

Documentation and Press Kit

All-woman dance-theater company cakeface’s latest production this is now, and now, and now is an incisively humorous ode to aging, in which a multigenerational ensemble of women confronts impermanence and imperfection with striking musicality and movement. cakeface will document this performance during its upcoming world premiere and craft a digital press kit to uplift the company’s last eleven years of work, showcasing its signature dance-theater blend and intergenerational empathy.

Christopher K. Morgan & Artists (Washington, DC)

CKM&A Tenth Anniversary Documentation Project

In honor of its tenth anniversary, Christopher K. Morgan & Artists will undertake a documentation project to reflect on its identity-driven body of work and impact on surrounding communities. The multimedia project will include commissioned articles, a photographic retrospective, and interactive videos that will be shown throughout the tenth anniversary concert. This archival effort will allow artistic staff to reflect on the company’s history, acknowledge its growth, and identify areas to revisit or deepen.

Bug Davidson (Austin, TX)

The Dinner Table

In the experimental theater piece the Dinner Table, an ensemble cast presents a medley of iconic dinner table scenes that shift from live performance to screen. The piece presents both bodies and camera signals as live theater, engaging the digital personas and lens-based representations of our bodies that many of us craft. Davidson will record video of this hybrid work at full length, film rehearsals and interviews with actors, and work with a writer to develop an essay, aiming to give the show life through this documentation rather than to simply describe it.

Nina Elder (Albuquerque, NM)

It Will Not Be The Same, But It Might Be Beautiful

It Will Not Be The Same, But It Might Be Beautiful is a video installation and series of drawings centered around puzzle stones, rocks that have been shattered by rapid temperature shifts and retreating glaciers. Elder will accompany a team of glaciologists to document Alaskan landscapes exposed by deglaciation. She will then hold community conversations in Anchorage where activists, artists, Indigenous culture bearers, and scientists will engage the metaphor of puzzle stones and climate change to illuminate the beauty of something that is fractured and fundamentally changed.

Everett: Company, Stage & School (Providence, RI)

Everett Curriculum Book

Everett will compile a curriculum book to document its arts education programs for young people that center around trauma. The curriculum book will give insight into Everett’s creative process and teach its on-your-feet, trial-and-error, improvisational method of creating work. It will be used as a template to develop additional curricula for the programs Everett has developed over the last thirty years.

Paul S. Flores (San Francisco, CA)

“Producing and Presenting from Concept to Tour” Video Series

Nationally produced theatermaker and multidisciplinary artist Paul S. Flores will develop a series of short videos to serve as a point of entry for emerging artists to the world of producing, presenting, and touring. The videos aim to support emerging and mid-career artists of color in particular, outlining best practices on creating a budget, communicating with potential presenters and producers, marketing and publicizing work, raising funds, hiring collaborators, and developing a tech rider for touring. The project will document and share lessons from Flores’s 2020 work We Have Iré as it tours to presenters in New York, San José, Houston, and Miami.

Gesel Mason Performance Projects (Austin, TX)

No Boundaries: Dancing the Visions of Contemporary Black Choreographers Digital Archive

Over the last fifteen years, the dance performance project No Boundaries: Dancing the Visions of Contemporary Black Choreographers has commissioned ten solos by leading African American choreographers. No Boundaries will be transitioned to a digital archive to share these choreographers’ legacies, histories, and aesthetics and to celebrate the depth and diversity of style and vision in the field of modern dance. The platform will feature videos, interviews, and essays and be developed over a ten-day scholar convening at Jacob’s Pillow in Becket, Massachusetts.

Alice Gosti/MALACARNE (Seattle, WA)

Fort Worden Battery Dance Work

Gosti will film the work-in-progress showing of her new, site-specific choreography on one of the historic artillery batteries in Fort Worden on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington.  Through the location and its architecture, the performance explores immigration, rural and urban relationships, water as a propelling force, Indigenous histories, and the erasure of diverse women in the history of the Northwest. The video will allow the artist to share the site-specific work with communities across the country.

Miguel Gutierrez (Brooklyn, NY)

Are You for Sale?

The six-episode podcast Are You for Sale? examines the relationships between dance-making, philanthropy, and ethics. It delves into the origins and history of philanthropy, considers emerging trends from tech and media, and seeks to identify ways of making dance that do not collaborate with inherently problematic systems of support. Its approach is inspired by the book Decolonizing Wealth by social-justice philanthropist Edgar Villanueva, who will be the podcast’s first guest.

Last Call (New Orleans, LA)

Alleged Lesbian Activities Book

In collaboration with UNO Press, Last Call will publish a book documenting the creation of Alleged Lesbian Activities, a six-year performance project and social practice work that culminated in a cabaret musical. The performance emerged from the New Orleans Dyke Bar History Project, which captured the stories of New Orleans lesbian bar patrons of the 70s and 80s through oral history interviews. Written as a practical how-to guide for other communities to learn, celebrate, and interrogate their history, the book will reflect on Last Call’s experiences interviewing elders, building a multi-racial ensemble, and touring the piece.

Andresia “Real” Moseley (Tampa, FL)

Documentation and Development Residency for Five Black Women: A One-Woman Show

Five Black Women: A One-Woman Show tells the story of five black female characters to explore sexuality, faith, belonging, and just how complex identity can be. During a development residency at StageWorks Theatre in Tampa, Florida, Moseley will engage collaborators to develop a soundtrack for the production and build a professional portfolio of her work as an artist committed to invoking thought and initiating activism for misrepresented and often unheard voices.

Tracy Murrell Studios (Atlanta, GA)

Mache Nan Soulye Ou (Walking in Your Shoes): Exploring Haitian Migration

The multimedia visual art project Mache Nan Soulye Ou (Walking in Your Shoes): Exploring Haitian Migration documents contemporary Haitian migration, offering counternarrative immigration stories from the female perspective. Murrell will travel to Haiti and Mexico to interview and photograph Haitian migrants and produce a series of color-blocked silhouette paintings that will be brought to life through stop-motion animation. The project will be presented at the Hammonds House Museum in Atlanta and the Haiti Cultural Exchange in Brooklyn as a site-specific installation accompanied by programming providing audiences with the tools to act.

Paper Doll Militia (Los Angeles, CA)

Vertical Theatre Method Book Project

Paper Doll Militia will compile its methods developed over fourteen years as a company in the book Vertical Theatre Methods, creating the first guide to aerial theatre work. Co-artistic directors Rain Anya and Sarah Bebe Holmes will coauthor the book and test its ideas in open community workshops. The publication will serve as a practical how-to guide for artists with extensive exercises and present the company’s unique approach to integrating aerial skills with theatrical content.

Marc Pinate/Barrio Stories (Tucson, AZ)

Barrio Stories Creative Placemaking Book and Podcast Project

Pinate will create a book project and podcast series to reflect on his creative-placemaking efforts with his company Borderlands Theater in the Mexican American barrios of Southern Arizona. The most recent of these is Barrio Stories Nogales, a $100K project aimed at revitalizing the historic downtown of the border city Nogales, Arizona. It was preceded by Barrio Stories in Tucson’s Barrio Anita (2018) and Barrio Viejo (2016). The project will provide a unique and necessary perspective on creative placemaking by a Latinx practitioner.

jumatatu m. poe (Philadelphia, PA) and Jermone Donte Beacham (Dallas, TX)

Documenting Let ‘im Move You: This is a Formation

Choreographers poe and Beacham will document their performance Let ‘im Move You: This is a Formation during its presentation at the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center. The artists will capture video of the work’s three elements: the outdoor traveling component, the indoor theatrical version, and the Queer Slow Jam party. Both professional videography and intimate selfie footage from performers will be assembled to document performances at full length and create cinematic and documentary-style shorts that showcase this intricate, immersive performance work.

Mary Prescott (New York, NY and Minneapolis, MN)

Solo Piano Improvisations Album

Interdisciplinary artist and composer Mary Prescott will edit, mix, and master her first professional album of solo piano improvisations. As a Thai American woman, Prescott hopes that the album will not only maximize her potential as a performing artist, but also address the lack of representation of women of color in the improvised music industry.

Tim Smith-Stewart and Jeffrey Azevedo (Seattle, WA)

Film of Salvage Rituals and Open-Source Instructions for Dance Platform

The performance Salvage Rituals began with a private ritual to mourn friends who are still alive but lost to unsupported neurodivergence and addiction. Performers dance on a platform constructed of piezoelectric tiles, which transform the mechanical stress from their bodies into electrical current, actively powering the stage lights. The artists will film their performance at On the Boards theater for the streaming platform, develop materials on mutual aid and community care, and publish Azevedo’s unique platform design for the DIY engineering community.

Kate Speer (Denver, CO) and Kayla Hamilton (Bronx, NY)

Disability Aesthetics for Place Holder

The performance work Place Holder exposes how surveillance actualizes and strips identities. The artists will integrate disability aesthetics, which center disability as an aesthetic value in itself, throughout the work’s development. The performers will work with trained describers who will describe their physical movements, create a soundscore with a sound designer and voice actors that conveys the piece’s rich visuals, and collaborate with an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter in the rehearsal studio to craft a performance experience with multiple, interdependent storytelling formats.

TeAda Productions (Santa Monica, CA)

TeAda on Tour

The short video TeAda on Tour will highlight TeAda Productions’s unique approach to story development and community engagement, showcasing its collaborations with the Micronesian community for the touring show Masters of the Currents. TeAda prides itself on developing shows with communities of color and involving community members in each phase of production. The video will document this invisible work and show the value of the company’s approach to community engagement. 

theatre dybbuk (Los Angeles, CA)

Documenting Process

theatre dybbuk’s work is based in extensive historical research and a development process that includes both physical development workshops and dramaturgical discussions with scholars, composers, choreographers, and other collaborators. Through photographs, video, and text, theatre dybbuk will document and share its process with the public, clearly demonstrate to donors and foundations the resources required to create new productions, and spark dialogue about in-depth approaches to ensemble creation within the field.

José Torres-Tama & ArteFuturo Productions (New Orleans, LA)

“GringoLandia Provocations & Other Immigrant Screams” Blog

Torres-Tama will develop the blog “GringoLandia Provocations & Other Immigrant Screams” to chronicle the raging anti-immigrant hysteria gripping the “land of the free.” Torres-Tama, who contributed to NPR’s Latino USA news journal in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, will document immigrant stories to humanize a persecuted people, as well as bear witness to and chronicle their contributions to New Orleans’s rebirth. 

Edisa Weeks/DELIRIOUS Dances (Brooklyn, NY)

THREE RITES: Life, Liberty, Happiness and Roots Parties Zines

DELIRIOUS Dances will create four zines about the performance series THREE RITES: Life, Liberty, Happiness and the accompanying Roots Parties. Through essays, poems, recipes, instructions, photographs, sketches, artwork, and an original musical score, the zines will reflect on the current state of life, liberty, and happiness in the United States and the making of THREE RITES. These will be assembled into 200 limited-edition box sets with a patch, sticker, and mural fragment from a work-in-progress showing of THREE RITES: Life.