Announcing the Spring 2023 Development Fund Awardees

May 16, 2023  •  8 minute read

Vanessa Sanchez and Diana Aburto performing “Sembrando” from “Ghostly Labor” in Half Moon Bay (2021). Photo: still from “Ghostly Labor,” a dance film, edited by John Leaños.

The National Performance Network (NPN) is pleased to announce we are awarding $120,000 and leveraging more than $300,000 through the Spring 2023 Development Fund to further support 12 Creation Fund projects.

The Development Fund, which is phase 2 of NPN’s Creation & Development Fund (CDF), helps offset managerial, artistic, or technical needs when developing a work. These needs can include supporting technical residencies, building or deepening community engagement, relationship building, 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-commissioner of their choosing, depending on the needs of the project.

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).

Spring 2023 Development Fund Recipients

Boni B. Alvarez

(Los Angeles, CA)

MIX-MIX: The Filipino Adventures of a German Jewish Boy

Co-commissioning partner: Playwrights’ Arena (Los Angeles, CA)

MIX-MIX: The Filipino Adventures of a German Jewish Boy is an epic WWII play inspired by the true-life experiences of Ralph J. Preiss. MIX-MIX tells the coming-of-age of 13-year-old Rudy Preissman, who escapes Nazi Germany at the age of nine with his family, finding safety in the Philippines. Their tropical refuge is upended when Japan invades the islands. MIX-MIX takes place when the Priessmans and their Filipino friends hide in the heights and depths of sacred Mount Banahao. Development Funds will be used to workshop MIX-MIX, with a culminating reading in Miami.

A trio of actors onstage with scripts in hand: a white man with glasses, a medium light-skinned Filipino man with glasses, and a petite medium-skinned Filipino woman stare up to the sky, wide, joyful smiles on their faces. They wear pants and shirts in whites, tans, and light browns.
Mark Jacobson, Alexis Camins, and Angelita Esperanza performing in a reading of “MIX-MIX” at Skirball Cultural Center (Los Angeles, 2022). Photo: Kelly Stuart.

Caitlin Nasema Cassidy

(New York, NY)


Noelle Ghoussaini

(Brooklyn, NY)


Ismail Khalidi

(Valparaíso, Chile)


Mohamed Yabdri

(St. Paul, MN)

The Magic Bullet

Co-commissioning partner: Arab American National Museum (Dearborn, MI)

The Magic Bullet is a transdisciplinary performance project inspired by the true story of Algerian marabouts (Islamic mystics) whose miracles inspired an uprising against French colonial rule in Algeria in the 1850s. This piece is co-commissioned by the Arab American National Museum, Pangea, and Noor Theatre and is currently being developed by Caitlin Nasema Cassidy, Robert Duffley, Geoff Kanick, Ismail Khalidi, Noelle Ghoussaini, and Mohamed Yabdri. Developmental activities will include residencies in France and Algeria as well as at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

A medium-skinned man wearing glasses stands between a large, light-filled window and a grand piano. He gestures dramatically upward with his right hand, while his left hand touches his stomach. He is encircled by two light-skinned women with long brown hair and two light-skinned men, one of whom is wearing a baseball cap.
Caitlin Nasema Cassidy, Robert Duffley, Ismail Khalidi, Noelle Ghoussaini, and Mohamed Yabdri perform research for “The Magic Bullet” in New York City (2022). Photo: Geoff Kanick.

free feral

(Oxford, MS)


Annette Hollowell

(Waterford, MS)

We Are the Promised Land

Co-commissioning partner: Mississippi Center for Cultural Production (Sipp Culture; Utica, MS)

We Are the Promised Land is an altar to Black land legacies in the Mississippi Hill Country that centers the land of Annette Hollowell and her family: Foxfire Ranch. As they prepare to launch our podcast, Hollowell and artist free feral will engage a full team of artists, deepen public engagement, and develop a web platform to host the multimedia altar. Through audio, video, text, photographs, and visual art, they explore how reverberations of our ancestors’ actions and experiences influence how we form the future.

A dark brown-skinned woman and man sit on a rustic church pew in front of a wall painted red on the top with forest-green corrugated tin below. Above their heads is a white hand-painted sign with green and black letters reading, “Welcome to Foxfire Ranch.” She has on a blue shirt and jeans. Her elbow rests on top of the pew with her hand behind her head, legs crossed. The man is wearing a green baseball cap with “Mississippi” in white lettering and a heather gray t-shirt with Foxfire Ranch’s logo and slogan, “A Great Place for Gathering.”
Annie and Bill Hollowell at Foxfire Ranch in Waterford, MS (2022). Photo: Jai Williams.


(New York, NY)

UnFiNiShEd aNiMaL

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

UnFiNiShEd aNiMaL is a multimedia performance that uses the vibrant aesthetics of queer nightlife culture to reveal how cognitive bias connects us all. With Development Funds, multimedia ensemble [NONFATAL_ERROR] will travel to the Dominican Republic for a Consciousness is the Medium workshop, video shoot, and ceremony in nature. Documentation of that process will be displayed in the New York Live Arts lobby gallery for the month leading up to the premiere of UnFiNiShEd aNiMaL. This project creates space for the community at New York Live Arts to engage in the development of the work through discussion at the gallery opening, engaging audio-video installation, and garments and objects printed with images and words from the journey that will be available for purchase and as a fundraising invitation.

The silhouette of a long-haired person with hands cupped and outstretched is filled with a digitally processed image of a mountain stream. The silhouette is filled with distorted purple, white, and yellow streaks of color. Outside of it is a blue saturated negative space.
MX Oops, “UnFiNiShEd aNiMaL” Offering.

Anna Luisa Petrisko

(Los Angeles, CA)


Co-commissioning partner: Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT; Los Angeles, CA)

ALL TIME STOP NOW is an experimental opera with multichannel video, dance, body-based sculpture, and original music. The project grew out of recorded conversations between Anna Luisa Petrisko and her best friend, who was living in a Buddhist monastery in Myanmar, during the height of the COVID-19 global pandemic. It is a contemplation on stillness, listening, impermanence, kinship, and the spaciousness of time. Development Funds will support a final technical residency for the full creative team to finish the project’s multichannel video, lighting and sound design, dance, and body-based sculpture. Funds will be used to compensate performers and designers, which is critical to the overall success of the work.

Three performers stand with their arms outstretched towards the audience. They are singing. They wear loose-fitting jumpsuits with geometric shapes printed on them and white socks. The first performer is a medium light-skinned woman with long dark hair. The next performer is a medium dark-skinned Filipino man with short dark hair. The third performer is a light-skinned man with short dark hair. They bask in the pink stage light, with a bright pink video projection behind them. The projection features a pattern of green triangles and the words “MAKE ME A SHELTER OF YOUR PEACE.”
Anna Luisa Petrisko, Mark Golamco, and Peter Hernández performing “ALL TIME STOP NOW” as a work-in-progress at the LAX Festival in Los Angeles (November 2021). Photo: Michael C. Palma.

Lionel Popkin

(Santa Monica, CA)

Reorient the Orient

(previously titled Orientation Event)

Co-commissioning partner: Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT; Los Angeles, CA)

Reorient the Orient is a durational performance unpacking the history of interculturalism through Popkin’s 30-year archive of dance-making, placed in the historical context of presentations of the South Asian diaspora within the United States. The work is art performance event, part durational installation, and part social agitation on the history and assumptions that have attached themselves to performances of South Asian identity. The project is a personal response to the dubious history of interculturalism, expanding the conversation on how South Asian artists inhabit contemporary art and performance, and shifting the context away from religious and spiritual tropes and toward an investigation of diasporic existence. Funds will be used for partial costs of a technical residency in December 2023, prior to the project’s premiere in the Spring of 2024.

A quarter-inch scale model of a black box theater is filled with benches, screens, and models of people (some sitting and some standing). In the back corner there is something very bright and yellow, although it is blurry and hard to tell what it is.
Model sketch for “Reorient the Orient” (2022).

LA Samuelson

(Longmont, CO)

Telegraph Valley

Co-commissioning partner: RedLine Contemporary Art Center (Denver, CO)

Telegraph Valley is a work that uses roofing material, digital and analog technologies, and a dancer to reverse engineer the feeling of having sent out and/or received a message through the medium of one’s body. It focuses on dismantling the ubiquitous metaphor of “the body as a house” in order to consider the role of the body in creation and dissolution of a singular self, and how who we are and what we love lives somewhere between the inside and outside of us. Funds will support a residency in Miami for the lead artist and Denver co-commissioner to build relationships among the project team and explore possible sites for the Miami presentation of Telegraph Valley, as well as to hire a tour manager.

A white light-skinned person is wrestling a grey pair of pants. The pants being wrestled have been shaped to appear as if there were legs inside of them, even though they are empty. The pants block the face and torso of the wrestling person, so that all you can see are their legs, feet, arms, and hands. Their arms and hands wrap around the empty pants, while their legs chaotically kick upward. The person wrestling the pants is wearing an identical pair. This scene takes place on a floor made from tied-together squares of plywood.
LA Samuelson performing “to get under, you have to lose” at the Atlas Institute in Boulder, CO (2020). Photo: Gretchen LaBorwit.

Vanessa Sanchez and La Mezcla

(San Francisco, CA)

Ghostly Labor

Co-commissioning partner: Brava! For Women in the Arts (San Francisco, CA)

Ghostly Labor explores the history of labor in the US–Mexico borderlands through Tap Dance, Mexican Zapateado, Son Jarocho, Afro Caribbean movement, and live music. This work brings together polyrhythmic movement and an original score to look at the (ongoing) years of systemic exploitation of labor while highlighting the power and joy of collective resistance. Development Funds will support La Mezcla in preparing the full-length premiere for a national tour in 2024, including consolidating the show in equipment and cast size while maintaining the impact and artistic integrity of the work, create a touring tech rider, and recording the score.

Two Latina women dancing in a farm in Half Moon Bay California, arms extended out to the sides holding sticks, torsos facing front and legs wide twisted one over the other. Both are medium-skinned, wearing blue plaid shirts, and folkloric skirts that billow outwards following their movement. One skirt is purple, the other white.
Vanessa Sanchez and Diana Aburto performing “Sembrando” from “Ghostly Labor” in Half Moon Bay (2021). Photo: still from “Ghostly Labor,” a dance film, edited by John Leaños.


(Pittsburgh, PA)


Co-commissioning partner: Kelly Strayhorn Theater (Pittsburgh, PA)

SUPERCELL is an evening-length multidisciplinary quintet responding to climate change, media sensationalism, desensitization, and environmental collapse. Funds will support a two-week production residency to finalize and refine the scenic/technological elements, and their relation to the performers and narrative arc.

Two white folks (anna thompson and taylor knight) are partnering in a dimly lit room with a grey background. Anna hangs upside down, their dark hair is wildly suspended in time.They have their legs wrapped around taylor’s neck, and are holding their hand to provide support. Taylor has their hair slicked back into a ponytail braid, they are looking down towards anna with their left hand providing support on their back.
slowdanger (anna thompson and taylor knight). Photo: Anita Buzzy Prentiss

Micaela Tobin

(Los Angeles, CA)

APOLAKI: Opera of the Scorched Earth

Co-commissioning partner: Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE; Los Angeles, CA)

This outdoor, site-specific opera follows the diasporic pilgrimage of the displaced pre-colonial Philippine God of Sun and War, Apolaki, as they travel through time and space searching for a new home in the San Gabriel Mountains overlooking the city of Los Angeles. Their pilgrimage begs the question—upon whose land are we walking? Development Funds will support artist fees for rehearsal time during eight weekly material development sessions at Zorthian Ranch, as well as materials for community outreach voice workshops.

A person bathed in sunlight walks around a sacred shape carved in a brown dirt ground.
“Apolaki’s Labyrinth.” Jay Carlon as Apolaki. Labyrinth pattern: Carlo Maghirang. Photo: Joshua Hill.

Sugar Vendil

(Brooklyn, NY)

Antonym: The opposite of nostalgia

Co-commissioning partner: High Concept Labs (Chicago, IL)

Antonym: the opposite of nostalgia is a memoir of a Filipinx American childhood that interweaves music and movement. Excavating insignificant yet indelible experiences, Antonym envisions the future as an escape from pain and ponders how we can possess painful memories without being beholden to them. Using field recordings of New York City throughout the year, the four seasons serve as a cyclical frame and context for memory. Development Funds will be used for a development residency at High Concept Labs in Chicago.

The view is from behind a woman sitting at a grand piano. Her left forearm is in front of her eyes, palm facing out, as her right hand is fully extended. A woman with a blonde ponytail faces right. Their arms are bent at the elbow in front of their head, palms facing in and hands in a curved shape. A blurry audience is watching them.
Laura Cocks and Sugar Vendil, “Antonym: Spring” at High Concept Labs in Chicago (2019). Photo: still from video filmed by Jake Laukhuf.

Anna Martine Whitehead

(Chicago, IL)

FORCE! an opera in three acts

Co-commissioning partner: Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA; Portland, OR)

FORCE! an opera in three acts follows a group of Black women and femmes as they wait to enter a prison and escape a memory-erasing mold. The work will tour in 2024–25 to a range of spaces, including well-funded theaters and the parking lots of community art spaces. In late 2023, Lighting Designer Tuce Yasak will work with co-directors Ayanna Woods and Anna Martine Whitehead to create a scalable set design, allowing them to use to full advantage what makes each venue particular and special.

A large group of Black folks of all shades and genders—most of them femme—wears denim. They are in a honey oak colored room, taken up largely by a staircase, where some of them sit, some stand and sing. One of them—in the foreground, behind a drum kit—closes his eyes and looks over his right shoulder as he plays drums.
“FORCE!” constellation (Daniella Pruitt, Tramaine Parker, Ayanna Woods, Anna Martine Whitehead, Angel Bat Dawid, Rahila Coats, Zachary Nicol, Jeremiah Collier, and Jenn Freeman) rehearsing at the Graham Foundation for Advanced Study of the Fine Arts (2021). Photo: Ricardo Adame.