Announcing the Fall 2023 Development Fund Awardees

November 8, 2023  •  9 minute read

San Cha in La Luz de la Esperanza at Red Bull Music Festival Los Angeles (2019). Photo by Maria Jose Govea Photography.

The National Performance Network (NPN) is pleased to announce we are awarding $115,000 and leveraging $129,000 through the Fall 2023 Development Fund to further support thirteen Creation Fund projects that advance racial and cultural justice.

The Development Fund is the second phase of NPN’s Creation & Development Fund (CDF) and assists in offsetting managerial, artistic, or technical needs when developing projects. These needs can include supporting technical residencies, deepening community engagement, relationship building, expanding storytelling, or studio time to adapt a work for travel.

NPN’s approach to artistic support is built on the notions of partnership and long-term relationship building. NPN actively strives to expand the capacities and connectivity of its constituents. The Development Fund is structured to maximize these goals. Artists can apply independently or as a team with a Co-commissioning partner of their choosing, depending on the needs of the project. 

“The NPN Creation & Development Fund is unique because we are able to support the different stages of the work. I didn’t feel the pressure of having to deliver a product, instead I was able to be in a place of sustained curiosity and discovery with my collaborators.”

—NPN Creation & Development Fund Artist, Kendra Ware, a todo dar productions

The Creation and Development Fund is made possible with support from the Doris Duke Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts (a federal agency).

Fall 2023 Development Fund Recipients

Alyah Baker / AB Contemporary Dance

Raleigh, NC

Quare Dance and Other Stories

Co-commissioning partner:

Black in Space (Washington, DC)

AB Contemporary Dance’s Quare Dance and Other Stories is an evening-length performance work that deconstructs and reimagines the classicism of ballet through the lens of Black queer identity. It combines movement, text, video, and adornment to challenge assumptions about race, gender, and sexuality and explore what becomes possible when we expand our understanding of what ballet is and can be. The development funds will support the Quare Dance team as they travel to the co-commissioning cities of Oakland, CA, and Washington, DC to deepen public engagement and build audience awareness through a series of free community workshops and work-in-process showings.

Four brown-skinned dancers of varying builds, dressed in close fitting brown tank tops, brown flowing pants, and flesh tone ballet shoes are spread out across a dark stage, captured in mid-motion. The dancers make varying shapes with their bodies, raising their arms above their heads, rising on the balls of their feet, and reaching with their legs.
AB Contemporary Dance at Queering Dance Festival in Berkeley, CA (2023). Left to right: Lee Edwards, Alexandria Johnson, William B. Fowler, Jr, and Kiara Felder. Photo by Robbie Sweeny.

Ananya Dance Theatre

Minneapolis, MN


Co-commissioning partner: Dance Place (Washington, DC)

Ananya Dance Theatre’s ANTARANGA: BETWEEN YOU AND ME, an original full-length work, is inspired by the Sufi concept of Humsafar: “fellow traveler” or “those who journey together” and by a central tenet of Baul culture: moner mānush, “cherished person.” Their community-embedded creation process challenges fundamentalist/supremacist politics as they uplift the concept of love with site-specific public workshops, shared food-making traditions, and community dialogues. The development funds will support their community engagement efforts that build intimacy and solidarity across differences through cross-cultural artmaking in the D.C. metro area.

A group of women and femmes pose in a circle, each striking a position of specificity and power, facing in all directions, most away from the camera. The woman at the bottom of the circle poses in a backbend facing the camera, her arms framing her upside-down face. All performers are BIPoC and each woman/femme is of different skin tone, hair texture, and body shape. They wear close-fitting silk shirts in blue and green jewel tones and loose silk pants in blue, green, and purple jewel tones.
Company photo for MICHHIL AMRA | WE ARE THE PROCESSION (2023). Clockwise from top: Juliet Irving, Lauren Reed, Noelle Awadallah, Ananya Chatterjea, Lizzette Chapa, Kealoha Ferreira, Parisha Rajbhandari, Kavya Kaviraj, Taylor West, Belle Alvarez, Photo by Canaan Mattson.

Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson & Lubana Al Quntar

San Antonio, TX

The Seasoned Woman

Co-commissioning partner: Art2Action Inc. (Tampa, FL)

The Seasoned Woman is a collaboration between poet and vocalist Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson and Syrian opera singer Lubana Al Quntar that celebrates the beauty, strength, resiliency, and wisdom of womanhood across time and cultures. This collaboration marries poetry, music, and soaring vocals of reimagined jazz standards through the cultural and musical influences of the artists, including R&B, Hip-Hop, and Middle Eastern music. The development funds will support their work to deepen cultural exchange in the music styles’ locations of origin, music direction, and projection design for the final concert.

Two women sit on a modern-style gray velvet sofa in an upscale lounge. A wall of windows illuminates them from the left. There is green foliage on either side of the frame. On the left, Lubana Al Quntar has light skin and medium blonde shoulder-length wavy hair, wearing a sparkly black dress that is sleeveless and off the shoulder on the left side. On the right, Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson has medium-dark skin and long black hair in twists with gold highlights, wearing a sparkly royal purple jumpsuit. Both women are laughing, radiating a confident and light-hearted energy.
Lubana Al Quntar and Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson in The Seasoned Woman in Ybor City, Tampa, FL (2023). Photo by Gabrielle Vigueira.

Andrew Saito

New York, NY

Harlem Canary / Tokyo Crow

Co-commissioning partner: Asian Arts Initiative (Philadelphia, PA)

Harlem Canary / Tokyo Crow is a comedic theatrical exploration of a little-known WWII-era Japanese propaganda program, “Negro Propaganda Operations,” in which captured African American Prisoners of War (POWs) recorded radio plays that contrasted the supposed joys the POWs experienced living in Japan with the horrors of racism in the US. The work is geared towards a mixed house of Black and AAPI (not exclusively Japanese) audiences, with the hope that such gatherings can spark conversations and new community building. The development funds will support the playwright’s trip to Japan which will include museum and archive visits, academics and community leaders, and a play reading geared towards Black Americans living in Japan and English-speaking Japanese artists. It will also support the exploration of staging and design elements.

A table of Black and Japanese performers, a playwright, and director all sit around a brown rectangular table on the stage of a dark theater, printed out scripts are in front of each of them as they read the play together for the first time. They are all focused on the current actor reading lines at the center of the photo. The viewer is positioned as if sitting at this table. In the background, four audience members look on from further downstage.
Screenshot from a video recording of an open rehearsal of Harlem Canary / Tokyo Crow at Montalvo Arts Center (June 2023). Pictured are Andrew Saito (only his arm on extreme left), Tasi Alabastro, Ron Munekawa, Jordan Covington, Terrance Smith (obscured) and Steven Sapp. Photo by Elisabet Gallego Rigoll.

Aretha Aoki and Ryan MacDonald

Topsham, ME


Co-commissioning partner: Powell Street Festival Society (Vancouver, BC, Canada)

IzumonookunI is a hybrid dance/punk/glam-goth/synth-wave performance inspired by Izumo no Okuni, the 17th-century cis-female founder of the Japanese dance-drama form, kabuki. Choreographer Aretha Aoki and Bessie-nominated sound designer and artist Ryan MacDonald’s final work will bring together an international cast: the core group of co-creators who are based in Maine, and three members of the first all-women taiko group in Canada, Sawagi Taiko. The development funds will support their travel and artist fees as they travel to Vancouver, BC, and immerse the drummers in the work.

A blue compression swing hangs from the ceiling upstage, stage right. A blond-haired child sits on the back of a dark-haired woman wearing all red. She is crawling. There are pink petals beneath her. A person wearing a tree mask is behind a table of synthesizers, stage left. There is a projection of a large purple bar on the scrim behind the performers.
Frankie Aoki-MacDonald on the back of Aretha Aoki, and Ryan MacDonald in a tree mask, performing IzumonookunI at Bowdoin College (2023). Image capture of video by Colin Kelley.

BRKFST Dance Company

Saint Paul, MN


Co-commissioning partner: John Michael Kohler Arts Center (Sheboygan, WI)

The BRKFST Dance Company will create an evening-length production consisting of two parts: a remounting or reimagining of Dancers, Dreamers, and Presidents by composer Daniel Bernard Roumain for the proscenium stage and a new work titled STORMCLUTTER, with an original score by BRKFST member Renée Copeland, which explores the process of transitional periods in life. The development funds will support their intensive rehearsals in the spring and their engagement in technical rehearsals, lighting design reconfiguration, and more.

Dancers are on stage in front of an orchestra. A Sicilian American female facing stage left, looking up with arms extended is standing on the back of Vietnamese American male, bent at waist with hands on the floor, head facing the audience. From behind, standing Caucasian female holds Sicilian dancer’s left leg, Chinese American female kneeling, holds right leg. Sicilian dancer’s thighs are supported by standing Caucasian male and her torso is supported by standing Mexican American male extending his arms to her stomach. He is supported on both sides by Romanian-Jewish American female and Colombian/African American female.
Lisa Berman, Joseph Tran, Renée Copeland, Travis Johnson, Marie Thayer, Azaria Evans-Parham, Michael Romero, and Danielle Banovetz performing Grosse Fuge Op. 133 with the Minnesota Orchestra at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis (2022). Photo by Courtney Perry.

CARPA San Diego

San Diego, CA

La Carpa De La Frontera

CARPA San Diego presents La Carpa De La Frontera, a site-specific touring show in the tradition of the Mexican carpa (tent), an irreverent and satirical vaudeville-esque variety show commonplace in Mexico and the US Southwest in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. Their work illuminates human, labor, disability, and immigration rights issues on the US-Mexico border and draws on the troupe’s culturally specific arsenal of humor, satire, and savvy critique to promote post-pandemic healing. The funds will support the constant development of the show’s new material.

An outdoor space with two pillars in the back and 7 people standing in front. Hanging to the left is a blue tarp, and to the right are colored decorations. The back row from the left, a young light-skinned woman with dark hair, a brown skinned woman with dark hair, a light-skinned man with sunglasses and a red hat waving both hands, a light-skinned woman with sunglasses and blondish dark hair, a light-skinned male with dark fluffy hair. In front from the left, a woman dressed as an older lady and a brown-light skinned man on a mobile scooter.
Back left, Zayra Nicifore, Olivia Ramos, Memo Mendez, Vanessa Lopez, Paul Araujo.
Front left, Catalina Tapia, Samuel Valdez. Carpa performance at ARTS IN THE PARK in Chula Vista, CA (Summer 2022). Photo by Joaquin Garay III.

Dan Froot & Company

Los Angeles, CA

Arms Around America

Co-commissioning partner: UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance (Los Angeles, CA)

Arms Around America is a collection of oral histories of families whose lives have been shaped by guns in South Florida, Montana, and Southern California. By opening a window into these families’ lives, they hope to explore diverse perspectives and foster dialogue around the complex roles that guns play in our society and provide a method of learning how to productively and mindfully discuss gun-related issues. The podcast will be a companion to the live iteration of Arms Around America (Fall 2024), a performance and community forum in which we stage six short plays based on these stories in each family’s home community. The development funds will support two four-day technical residencies to integrate Arms Around America’s staging, sound design, live “foley” sound effects, and live music.

A brown-skinned women, a white-skinned man, and a brown-skinned man gesture excitedly as they lean over a table at which a diverse group of eight people sit, listening intently to them. Behind the table is projected an image of a smiling dark-skinned family, with nine children of various ages embracing their mother at the center of the group.
Dan Froot & Company with community members in a performance of Pang! at University of Saint Joseph in Hartford CT (2019). Standing, L to R: Natalie Camunas, Dan Froot, Christopher Rivas. Photo by Ray D. Shaw.

Miguel Gutierrez

Brooklyn, NY

Currently untitled

Co-commissioning partner: New York Live Arts (New York, NY)

Miguel Gutierrez’s project engages performers from New York and Los Angeles as they examine questions of archive, memory, and how context moves us into relation with ourselves and each other. Their work questions how the present reshapes the view of the past and how the past tells us about how bodies constantly change. By toggling the lens of attention between the past and the present, this research project into performance is a marker and an examination of the challenges in coming together. The development funds will cover collaborator fees and travel costs for an APAP presentation in January (Live Artery) and a production residency in September. These activities aim to expand the audience reach and finalize the newly commissioned work developed through NYLA’s Randjelovic/Stryker residency program.

A shirt-less light-skinned man is leaning a light gray curtained wall. The light-skinned man's forehead meets a dark-skinned man's forehead, who is wearing a black shirt and gold-hoop earring. Their hands are touching. They may be slow dancing or moving toward an embrace.
Justin Faircloth and Anjani Brannum in rehearsal for Miguel’s new project (2023). Photo by Amelia Golden.

Nia O. Witherspoon

Brooklyn, NY

Priestess of Twerk: A Black Femme Temple to Pleasure + Wisdom School

Co-commissioning partner: HERE (New York, NY)

Priestess of Twerk: A Black Femme Temple is a multi-disciplinary work of live and interactive performance that offers participants embodied experiences of Black feminist spirituality, inspired by African traditional religions, Black feminist literature, Southern folkways, healing justice movements, and the lived experiences of Black women + femmes. The development funds will support the production of a Priestess of Twerk workshop in Brooklyn where attendees will develop core creative elements focused on the Temple experience in advance of the project’s premiere next spring.

A medium brown skinned person sits behind a desk covered in different colored post-it notes facing the camera. With short-cropped hair and chunky gold jewelry, they face the camera wearing a pumpkin-colored cardigan, a white shirt, and light blue ripped jeans.
Nia Witherspoon. Photo by Carolina Porras Monroy.

Rogue Artists Ensemble

Sun Valley, CA

Happy FALL: A Queer Stunt Spectacular

Co-commissioning partner: Contemporary American Theater Festival (Shepherdstown, WV)

HAPPY FALL: A Queer Stunt Spectacular is a highly immersive theatrical experience about a queer closeted stuntman’s journey to discover himself in a world of faux masculinity, unmasking the importance and danger of being true to oneself. Based on true-life stories and direct testimonies compiled through extensive research about Hollywood’s stunt community, this project illuminates issues of racial and cultural identity and gives voice to a community that is often sidelined by the movie business. Funds will support a five-day developmental workshop at the Contemporary American Theater Festival (CATF), culminating in a live reading/workshop.

A drawing of a muscular, blue male 1980’s-style action figure with its teeth clenched is featured on the left side of the photo. There are two images of action figures from the 80’s, both with muscular stylized physiques above the drawing. The right side of the image includes a hand-drawn rendering of a humanoid puppet with articulated joints and photographs of old crash dummies. The puppet’s abdomen is missing, exposing the spine and strings inside. The puppet has a door-like opening in the chest that reveals its heart.
Designs by Sean Cawelti and Brian White.

San Cha

Alhambra, CA

Asunción: A Tele-Operetta

Co-commissioning partner: Long Beach Opera (Long Beach, CA)

San Cha’s Asunción: A Tele-Operetta interrogates and dispels the cisgender and heteronormative archetypes that dominated the telenovelas of her youth. The work features Dolores, a woman who, after breaking free from her jealous and abusive husband, discovers her true worth. With a live soundtrack fusing Mariachi, punk, classical music, and electro, this project celebrates the liberating power of ascendant relationships. The development funds will support the workshop performance and preview for Asunción in partnership with LA Performance Practice. Premiering with Long Beach Opera in July 2024, Composer/Performer San Cha, director McCall Cadenas, and designer François-Pierre Couture are experimenting with production elements like music, projections, costumes, and sets ahead of the full premiere.

Latinx performer San Cha, a medium-skinned woman, standing triumphantly in a knee-length, peach-colored dress adorned with ruffled shoulders and skirt. She poses gracefully in front of a marble arch within a cathedral adorned with roses, where the projection of a foreboding masculine figure in a suit adds an intriguing contrast to the scene, all set amidst dense fog.
San Cha in La Luz de la Esperanza at Red Bull Music Festival Los Angeles (2019). Photo by Maria Jose Govea Photography.

Sol and The Tribu

Hollywood, FL

Positive Vibration Nation

Co-commissioning partner: Miami Light Project (Miami, FL)

Positive Vibration Nation is a new full-length multimedia Rock “Guaguanco” Opera by Sol Ruiz that includes six characters who embark on a journey to search for their roots, and through their discoveries and unification, they unlock their musical superhero powers. The show incorporates live performances with integrated technology, such as lighting techniques and visual media, to create an immersive cultural experience of sound, visual art, costume, dance, and Caribbean music. The project reflects artists’ roots as the foundation of Miami’s uniqueness while also connecting the audience with a positive message. Funds will support three week-long workshops and a four-week intensive rehearsal leading up to the premiere.

Sol "La Barbara" wears flowers and a peacock feather in her hair as she sings passionately into a microphone. She is also wearing a feathered collar and a corset with tan watches around the waist. In the background Rey plays "Guarapo" on the guitar with his head down. There is a spotlight on them both.
Left to Right: Rey Rodriguez and Sol Ruiz performing in the short-form work Positive Vibration Nation. Photo by Elvis Suarez.