Announcing the 2021 Documentation and Storytelling Fund Awards

August 25, 2021  •  8 minute read

Carmina Escobar, Photo by JP García Busio

The National Performance Network (NPN) is awarding $57,000 and leveraging an additional $154,000 to nineteen Documentation & Storytelling projects. NPN’s Documentation & Storytelling Fund aims to create pathways for artists’ career advancement and to support their ability to document, promote, and share their work, ideas, and selves.

Through these projects, artists will consider the intersection of pandemic and protest; celebrate the contributions of Black women and gender-nonconforming artists to the fields of experimental dance and avant-garde art; and share stories from the Filipino community to show they are not a monolith. One project will compile a show book of musical notation and storytelling that celebrates Native peoples and culture, another aims to provide collaborators with promotional and submission materials that show their practice. Many incorporate lessons learned during the pandemic, translating works to film or hybrid forms to complement their in-person versions or building an archive with which collaborators can reflect on their practice in these changing times.

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 within the last three years.

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

2021 Documentation and Storytelling Fund Awards

Afrofemononomy (New York, NY)

Filming, recording, and archiving Afrofemononomy

Afrofemononomy // Work the Roots is a collaborative group project celebrating and producing Black femme multidisciplinary avant-garde artists. The group will film their adaptation of Kathleen Collins’s one-act play Remembrance performed by Eisa Davis and Kaneza Schaal and directed by Jackie Sibblies Drury. Davis will also engage a pianist and engineer to create an album version of her music-theatre piece The Essentialisn’t. Finally, funds will be used to record and archive conversations between the collaborators to be placed in the Schomburg Center archive dedicated to Kathleen Collins, working to counter the theatre establishment’s erasure of Black women.

Charles O. Anderson/dance theatre X (Austin, TX)

Book Chapter on Pandemic Restaging of (Re)current Unrest

Charles O. Anderson will develop a book chapter for the publication Pandemic Performance: Resilience, Liveness, and Protest in Quarantine Times (working title) documenting the experience and methodology of restaging (Re)current Unrest for film. A strong case study for pandemic performance and protest, (Re)current Unrest was rehearsed, restaged, and filmed at the height of the pandemic, and the work addresses anti-Black racism and the uprisings for Back lives in the summer of 2020. Anderson will also work with filmmaker Maggie Bailey to create an excerpts reel to accompany the chapter on a digital platform.

Ani/MalayaWorks (Philadelphia, PA)

De(scribing) Maharlikha

De(scribing) Maharlikha (book form) is a weaving of autoethnographic stories by Filipinx queer mother and multidisciplinary artist Ani Gavino, merged with historical research and transcribed interviews of members of the Filipino community members on the subject matter of identity and history. This research was compiled by Gavino throughout the pandemic and during the creation of past dance works as an effort to document various complex non-monolithic Filipino stories into the ether of literature.

Dahlak Brathwaite and Roberta Uno (Queens, NY)

Filming Try/Step/Trip

The artists of Try/Step/Trip believe that the subjugation of Black people is an American ritual, that the criminal justice system now functions as a normalized rite of passage for too many young Black males—this work offers an alternative ritual. After presenting other works virtually due to the pandemic, Brathwaite and his team of collaborators are committed to integrating virtual presentations with their live-theater practice to increase accessibility and have a broader cultural impact. They will create a film version of Try/Step/Trip, and Documentation & Storytelling funds will be dedicated to the recording the sounds that are elemental to this piece: the singing, the language, and the sound of feet stomping on floor.

Ephrat Asherie Dance (New York, NY)

EAD Archive: It’s About Time

EAD Archive: It’s About Time is a project dedicated to archiving material spanning from the first evening-length work Asherie created in 2012 to the present. “In the constant hustle of being an artist in NYC, I have not been organized in this part of my work, and it would be a dream to have the time and resources specifically allotted to creating a comprehensive Ephrat Asherie Dance archive,” the artist said. The archival work will also allow a company member to shift from an administrative assistant role to that of company manager, as well as give members a deeper opportunity to reflect on what they want to change and build on.

Carmina Escobar (Los Angeles, CA)

Documenting collaborators’ work for Bajo la Sombra del Sol

Bajo la Sombra del Sol / Under the Sun’s Shadow is a performative hypertextural scenic work that is staged, makes communion with, and is filmed at the natura landscape of Mono Lake, California. Collaborators will use Documentation & Storytelling funds to create a booklet with writings from all artists, performers, and partnering organizations, which will also include high-resolution visual documentation of the process, instruments, creatives, and performers. In parallel, the artists will create a short documentary about their process that equally highlights all of the creatives and partners. The documentation will aim to serve to all collaborators as promotional, submission, and exhibition materials.

J’Sun Howard (Chicago, IL)

Documenting The Righteous Beauty of the Things Never Accounted For

The Righteous Beauty of the Things Never Accounted For is a transdisciplinary performance project about the built environment—spatial and ecological politics. How do Black and Brown bodies negotiate and perceive space? Howard will create a short documentary of this work during an upcoming residency. In addition, the artist will work with an embedded writer during the residency, and will then create an artist book from the writings, drawings, and other things generated during the creation process.

Anthony Hudson / Carla Rossi (Portland, OR)

Tales from Queer Horror

Queer Horror is the only LGBTQ+ horror film and performance series in the country. Hosted and programmed by Portland’s premier drag clown Carla Rossi at Portland, Oregon’s historic Hollywood Theatre, Queer Horror celebrates horror as an intrinsically queer artform while lampooning the heteronormative culture that claims it through staged one-act pre-shows with queer, trans, and women-identified performers. Tales from Queer Horror will allow for the virtual presentation of preexisting pre-show documentation with bookended horror host segments from Carla contextualizing each production, an intro theme song, and more.

Indigenous Performance Productions (Olympia, WA)

Show book and documentation of Welcome to Indian Country

Indigenous Performance Productions will work with video editor Maurice Johnson (Navajo) to rework footage from Welcome to Indian Country’s May 2021 premiere at Washington Center for the Performing Arts into a sizzle reel, a full-length work sample, and material for an ongoing documentary project. Additionally, the project Music Director and Assistant Director are creating a show book including the notation of all music and storytelling with directorial directions and notes for future staging. Finally, the artists will engage show photographer Carlos Martinez (Latinx/Zuni) to document their development residencies at Virginia Tech and All My Relations.

Raja Feather Kelly | the feath3r theory (Brooklyn, NY)

Ugly pt III: BLUE

BLUE is the third and final installment of the UGLY solo trilogy directed, choreographed, and performed by Raja Feather Kelly. Part dance-theater and part pop-culture collage, this work continues Raja’s study of popular culture and its displacement of queer Black subjectivity. Long-term collaborators videographer Laura Snow and photographer Kate Enman will create promotional footage and photos of the production, as well as a full-length video of BLUE that will be edited for future digital and live presentations of the new work.

Leslie Parker (St. Paul, MN)

Divination tools: imagine home

Call to Remember is a shared offering of improvisation, experimentation, and conjuring exploring Black pedagogy, artistry, and activism in dance. The Documentation & Storytelling fund will support collaborator and artist fees for the work’s next iteration, Divination tools: imagine home. Dr. Naimah Petingy will do research and development work around the contributions of Black women and gender-nonconforming experimental dance artists, and filmmaker Adriana Foreman will be hired to edit her documentation of all performances, residency activities, and community engagements of Call to Remember.

Propelled Animals (Philadelphia, PA)

Translating Switch Signal to film

Switch Signal is a performance film by Propelled Animals rooted in the technologies of imagination and mindfulness taught by Pittsburgh’s Mister Rogers. Conjuring the absent presence of community during the global pandemic, this work is about listening. It is an invitation from the Propelled Animals collective to visit sites of celebration, trauma, and history throughout Pittsburgh, PA. It’s a love letter to Pittsburgh. Watch a trailer here.

Kaneza Schaal (Brooklyn, NY)

KLII: Perish the Stranger

As theaters open their doors, many people, for many different reasons, will not be ready or able to walk through them. KLII: Perish the Stranger is a distilled documentation of Kaneza Schaal’s new live performance KLII into a 5-minute augmented reality record. It holds the essence and core ideas of the work and is created for viewing in the intimacy of one’s own home, activated by QR-code poster. KLII is an exorcism of King Leopold II, a work that disrupts the residue of colonialism that penetrates our daily lives.

James Allister Sprang (Philadelphia, PA)

Filming Aquifer of the Blues

Aquifer of the Blues is a durational experience for 10 audience members at a time that features a soundscape, sonic holograms, and a mural-sized cyanotype weaving. In a time when space to heal is paramount, Aquifer of the Blues harnesses the ways in which deep listening transforms what we see and feel, calling audiences to tune into themselves while holding space for letting go. Filmmaker Jasmine L. Callis will document the journey of process, production, and presentation for this work. In addition to the final presentation, the film will capture interviews with lead artist James Allister Sprang and his team, documentation of Sprang’s home studio, and workshops and studio time with 20 youth the project employs.

STAYCEE PEARL Dance Project & Soy Sos (Pittsburgh, PA)

CIRCLES: going in

Black Joy. Fem. Cycles of Life and Love. CIRCLES is an unapologetic, full-length dance work celebrating #BlackGirlMagic. Layering dance, visual arts, and a live original score, the work presents snapshots of popular culture through choreographer Staycee Pearl’s lens as a Black woman. The artists will document CIRCLES through an online blog series spotlighting different artists and aspects of the creation process, as well as engaging an artist to film the work’s stage premiere.

Team Sunshine Performance Corporation (Philadelphia, PA)

Documenting community interviews for GUNSHOW

THE GREAT AMERICAN GUNSHOW is an investigative, interview-based theater piece that seeks to unpack and understand guns, gun control, and gun violence in contemporary culture through the lens of violence committed against people of Asian descent within urban and rural communities. Team Sunshine’s creative team, led by multidisciplinary performing artist Makoto Hirano, will interview individuals to gain a deeper, nuanced understanding of where we are at this moment with the hope of seeing a clear picture of where we may be headed and what is truly necessary to feel safe in the Land of the Free. Video producer and multidisciplinary artist Danielle Gatto will document one-on-one interviews as well as facilitated community discussions, informing the underlying story of GUNSHOW and creating a living archive of these narratives.

Fereshteh Toosi (Miami Shores, FL)

Animated film of Oil Ancestors

Oil Ancestors is a triptych of participatory performances that explore the cultural history of petroleum. How does power and industry impact the landscape and our lives? These performances focus on audience interaction and include a telephone performance for an audience of one and a week-long contemplative performance ritual based on a collection of objects sent to the audience by mail. Toosi will work with a story editor and animator to create a short animation to accompany audio recordings that feature the voices of audience members before, during, and after experiencing the performances.

Nicolás R. Valdez (San Antonio, TX)

The Conjunto Blues Digital Storytelling Project

The Conjunto Blues Digital Storytelling Project, developed as a direct response to the closure of live performance venues during the COVID-19 pandemic, is a yearlong virtual/in-person hybrid tour of the play Conjunto Blues. The project includes an on-demand digital streaming presentation of the film; a panel discussion and audience feedback session with the artist; and a community workshop that presents videos of historical figures and contemporary scholars of conjunto music alongside a discussion forum and oral history gathering session led by the show’s creator, Nicolás R. Valdez.

Kendra Ware (Cedar Park, TX)

Workshopping American Dream Nightmare and How to Wake Yourself Up

American Dream Nightmare and How to Wake Yourself Up is a multimedia performance experience that deep dives into the ancestral, depicting anti-Blackness and the reclamation of the soul. Part memoir, part historical cooking lesson, and part exorcism, this visual performance lecture explores how white privilege creates anti-Blackness through a shape-shifting cadre of characters and scenes, exposing the tensions derived from slavery and examining how these play/prey on contemporary white and Black bodies, creating bodies in crisis and in need of catharsis. Funds will be used to workshop the piece with a videographer to share ideas, discuss vision, and to map out a process for filming.