Announcing the Fall 2021 Development Fund Awards


November 29, 2021  •  8 minute read

Cast photo for The Wooden People, filmed at REDCAT (2021). Photo: Hiroshi Clark.

The National Performance Network (NPN) is pleased to announce we are awarding $105,000 and leveraging an additional $272,000 through the Fall 2021 Development Fund to further support eleven Creation Fund projects. NPN will continue to guarantee additional Development Fund awards for all Creation Fund projects awarded in 2020 and 2021, reflecting its commitment to continuing to support the live arts during the current crisis through projects that advance racial justice and cultural equity.

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 next Development Fund deadline will be March 11, 2022.

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


Fall 2021 Development Fund Recipients

Due to the pandemic, projects descriptions and timelines may shift.


Martha Gonzalez in a todo dar productions’s Riding the Currents of the Wilding Wind. Photo: Pablo Aguilar.

a todo dar productions (Austin, TX)Riding the Currents of the Wilding Wind

Co-commissioning partner: Pregones Theater / Puerto Rican Traveling Theater (Bronx, NY)

Riding the Currents of the Wilding Wind is a concept album and theatrical concert about displacement and freedom inspired by Helena Maria Viramontes’s novel Their Dogs Came with Them. This new work centers music as a driving narrative force, drawing on the theatrical possibilities of a concert to create a sonic landscape and rich visual world steeped in symbolism and poetry. Created in collaboration with musical director Martha Gonzalez of the Grammy Award–winning band Quetzal, writer Virginia Grise, director Kendra Ware, and designer Tanya Orellana. Funds will be used for a developmental workshop in Los Angeles with musicians and the artistic director.


Cast photo for The Wooden People, filmed at REDCAT (2021). Photo: Hiroshi Clark.

Nao Bustamante (Los Angeles, CA) — The Wooden People

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

The Wooden People is a VR miniseries with a performance art core and telanovela vibe. Each episode culminates in a live performance/ritual. This melodramatic “soap” follows archetypal characters from the Mayan origin myth, presented as a subculture group, set in the backdrop of contemporary Los Angeles. The series will be distributed online with a series of live events that will accompany the release of the project. Funds will be used for post-production work on the film, including paying performers for rehearsal time and hiring additional technical expertise.


Simone Joy Jones in the dance floor, the hospital room, and the kitchen table in a workshop at Carnegie Mellon University (2019). Photo: Louis Stein.

Lyam B. Gabel (Pittsburgh, PA) Immersive App Development and Integration for the dance floor, the hospital room, and the kitchen table

Co-commissioning partner: Immersive Media Department, Chatham University (Pittsburgh, PA)

the dance floor, the hospital room, and the kitchen table is a performance, immersive media project, and ongoing archive of queer care that stitches together stories from COVID-19 and the early years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. This development fund will allow the artists to undertake the final technical residency for the work, integrating the Augmented Reality (AR) app and digital archive with the live performers in collaboration with student and faculty immersive media creators at Chatham University.


“Catalina,” Earth set design. Model by Mark Kanief, 2021. Photo: Leo Garcia.

Leo Garcia (Santa Monica, CA) — EARTH (or the Monster of Tierra Amarilla)

Co-commissioning partner: Highways Performance Space (Santa Monica, CA)

Earth is largescale experimental hybrid live/virtual theater, performance, puppetry, and mixed-media work that combines magical realism, futurist philosophy, and body horror to tell the story of pregnant landowner Catalina, a descendant of early Hispano Catholic settlers, as she navigates devastating acts of both God and man in 1911 New Mexico. Grounded in American historical themes—the legacy value of land, the gray area between good and evil, and the environment, human body, bioethics, and women’s roles in our history—Earth looks at a moment in time and place and turns it on its head, critiquing colonialist aspirations in the process. Funds will support the design, development, and building of the set for the work, which will include moveable set pieces and can also be viewed as a sculptural installation when not in use during performances.


Emily Johnson performing in Portals Into, Being Future Being, at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival (2021). Photo: Cherylynn Tsushima, courtesy of Jacob’s Pillow.

Emily Johnson / Catalyst (Los Angeles, CA) — Being Future Being

Being Future Being is a dance performance/process which asks audiences to consider stories with the power to sustain a world that must begin again. From desires for radically just, Indigenized futures emerges an inquiry into a collaborative technology/speculative architecture that supports community processes flowing forward from performance. Featuring an original soundscore by Raven Chacon and a cast of more-than-human creatures, Being Future Being gathers audiences in a performance/process designed to bring forth new futures with the potential to reshape the way we relate to ourselves, and to the human and more-than-human cohabitants of our world. Funds will support the transition of a work that has so far been performed outdoors into the interior space of a theater, looking toward how outdoor imagery might serve as a portal to the otherwise and how the architecture of the theater, its structure, and its occupation of the land it sits on can be reflected or disrupted in the sound design.


Celeste Miller (left) and Dora Arreola (right) performing At Water’s Edge/Al Filo Del Agua at the Tijuana–San Ysidro border (2017). Photo: Andrea Assaf.

Celeste Miller (Grinnell, IA) and Dora Arreola (Tampa, FL/Tijuana, Mexico) — At Water’s Edge / Al Filo del Agua

Co-commissioning partner: Art2Action (Tampa, FL)

At Water’s Edge / Al Filo del Agua is an interdisciplinary cross-border collaboration between Celeste Miller (USA) and Dora Arreola (Mexico/USA). Drawing on legends of women at the borders of waters (told through queer and feminist lenses), Al Filo del Agua is an episodic, bilingual Spanish/English, site-specific event with audience engagement as an essential contributing force to the evolution of the piece from watery site to watery site. At Water’s Edge invites the audience to join us at water’s edges, as bystanders or participants in creative moment-making contributions to create the spell, which is the ritual and the performance.

Development funds will bring Miller, Arreola, and collaborator Miroslava Wilson together for a ten-day exploratory residency in Tampa to re-envision the work as an event to take place at waters’ edges, transforming what was once a metaphor to the performance’s site.


OzuzuDances performing Project Tool at Sweet Water Foundation in Chicago (2019). Photo: Zachary Whittenburg.

Onye Ozuzu/Ozuzu Dances (Gainesville, FL) — Space Carcasses

Co-commissioning partner: QDance Center (Lagos, Nigeria)

Space Carcasses is an interdisciplinary performance that juxtaposes, superimposes, and asserts the body’s relationship to its built environment, particularly spaces that echo with Afrodiasporic forced migrations. Facilitated by emergent technologies, the dancing body will become time traveler, truth teller, and historical record by extending into architecture and embodying it as an exoskeleton to access the ancestor like a masked dancer becomes EGUNGUN. The Development Fund will support in part a creative residency in Nigeria with co-commissioner QDance Center, in which collaborators of the Nigerian diaspora will track their family and tribal lineages through architectural sites.


Shamel Pitts and Tushrik Fredericks in Touch of RED. Photo: Alex Apt.

Shamel Pitts and TRIBE (Brooklyn, NY) — Touch of RED

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

Continuing Pitts’s research to propose and share the colorfulness within Blackness, Touch of RED is a new duet for two men that will take place inside of a contemporary boxing ring. Its research will deal with the allowance of Black men to soften; the power in vulnerability; and the meeting point of two individuals within a boxed space that references a gladiator entertainment site in which a heat path between the two performers builds not out of aggression but within an enhanced electrifying effeminacy that heals. Bold. Boiled. Blood. Funds will support a residency at Miami Light Project, where TRIBE will create, visualize, and work within the multidisciplinary environment for Touch of RED.


Nikesha Breeze in Stages of Tectonic Blackness: Albuquerque (2020) Photo: MK (Monica Kennedy).

Stages of Tectonic Blackness (Taos, NM) — Stages of Tectonic Blackness: Blackdom

Co-commissioning partner: New Mexico State University/ University Art Museum (Las Cruces, NM)

Stages of Tectonic Blackness is an ongoing series of durational performances and ritualized, elongated mourning rites for Black bodies/Earth bodies. An act of Black Queer resistance, decolonized time, and reimagined futures, Stages of Tectonic Blackness: BLACKDOM, will be physically performed and conceptually centered in the ruins of the early 20th century Southern New Mexico Black freedom town named “Blackdom.” Founded in 1902, Blackdom was created to be a Black utopia, focused on Black freedom, land stewardship, anti-capitalism, and education. This performance will engage the concept of Black freedom through dance, conscious movement, original music, organic sound, and community storytelling. Funds for this grant will be used to create a virtual Southwest African American story repository, expanding the project’s reach to include local African American community members’ voices and stories as essential elements of the work’s focus on historical reclamation.


Makoto Hirano (left) and Benjamin Camp (right) in Team Sunshine Performance Corporation’s JapanAmerica Wonderwave (2013), directed by Alex Torra. Photo: Lindsay Browning.

Team Sunshine Performance Corporation (Philadelphia, PA) — The Great American Gunshow

Co-commissioning partner: Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble (Bloomsburg, PA)

THE GREAT AMERICAN GUNSHOW, Team Sunshine’s latest hybrid theatrical offering, will be an original, live performance conceived by award-winning, Asian American multidisciplinary performing artist, former US Marine, and Team Sunshine Co-Artistic Director Makoto Hirano. Using real-world stories gathered through interviews and surveys, THE GREAT AMERICAN GUNSHOW will attempt to uncover the humanity behind the gun control/reform debate and asks all Americans, regardless of political affiliation, economic status, ethnicity, or race, to consider what is truly necessary to feel safe in the Land of the Free. The Development Fund will support the interview phase, gathering narratives from citizens of Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, as well as a residency with the creative team to incorporate these as source material


Ni’Ja Whitson. Photo: Maria Baranova.

Ni’Ja Whitson (Riverside, CA) — The Unarrival Experiments: Unconcealment Ceremonies

Co-commissioning partner: Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC; Troy, NY)

The Unarrival Experiments is a constellation of art/works that explore dark matter and dark energy. Through an intersectional engagement with Black Trans embodiedness, astrophysics, and African Indigenous spiritualities, the work asks social, political, and cosmic implications of invisibility. In partnership with EMPAC, Whitson is creating The Unarrival ExperimentsUnconcealment Ceremonies and creating a performance dome: a mothership that aids in experiencing darkness while also allowing for the seamless integration of immersive VR, projection, and spatial audio. Funds will support materials and collaborator fees for a development residency at EMPAC to develop the performance dome for the work.