Dayna Hanson

Dayna Hanson’s Gloria’s Cause was one of six projects to be awarded a subsidy during the 2010 pilot phase of NPN’s Forth Fund, supported The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

As we envision a new work, we’re often rushed into articulating its themes, content and collaborators by grant application prompts and deadlines. In order to compete in funding cycles, artists conceptualize new projects in terms that we hope will make an impact with panelists—often before we know exactly what we’re doing.

What happened when I was invited to apply for NPN Forth Fund support for my project, Gloria’s Cause, was another exercise in creative forecasting:  Essentially, I was asked to predict, months down the line, what additional help might make or break my new work prior to its premiere. This exercise added rigor and realism to my creative planning, which, in turn, infused the Forth Fund support I received with an unexpected layer of value.

Inspired by the complex ironies of the American Revolution, Gloria’s Cause is a dance-driven rock musical that exhumes the colonies’ forgotten players and offers warped replays of caricatured moments, like the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Gloria’s Cause seeks out the life and soul of American history, looking beneath the overplayed, default version of the Revolution for insights into our current struggles. Inspired by what is infuriating about the USA as well as by what makes it fantastic, Gloria’s Cause takes a layered, colorful and gritty look at the roots of America’s inequities.

Following an extended research phase, the creation of Gloria’s Cause had been fast and furious:  After barely two months of rehearsals with a group of nine multi-talented performers, Gloria’s Cause was presented as a work-in-progress in September at the TBA:10 Festival in Portland, OR, which is presented by NPN Partner PICA. I’d worked hard and fast all summer with my group, then took intensive audience and critical response at TBA:10. Of all the feedback I gathered, the most provocative was the impression held by some folks that the work was unlikely to change much in the two months before its December premiere at On the Boards in Seattle.

Gloria’s Cause did transform into a finished work during those intervening months, and it was no accident:  When applying to the Forth Fund, I identified those months as the period when I would need additional support — after the work-in-progress showing and before the premiere. Because the piece is text-heavy, I anticipated needing dramaturgical support. I also projected the need for support roles, such as rehearsal assistant and production coordinator. The presence of these and other elements, which I’ve often considered non-essential, profoundly impacted my ability to lead the production to a fully-realized state by its premiere on December 2, 2010.

My long-standing relationship with commissioning NPN Partner On the Boards didn’t hurt either:  In fact, during a recent evaluation of the Forth Fund pilot program, Artistic Director Lane Czaplinski acknowledged that it was relatively easy for him to provide tangible, meaningful support to my project through the Forth Fund, given the mutual trust and understanding that has built up over the years we’ve worked together.

In my experience, complex, original work seasons as it’s performed in different communities. Already my group and I have learned about the work we’ve created:  Both our premiere at On the Boards and our recent residency at the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival have kindled change, clarification and refinement in the work.

There’s no substitute for the performance experience and exchange with audiences and artists that come with touring a work in different communities. But NPN’s Forth Fund went a long way in ensuring that the premiere of Gloria’s Cause was as focused and fertile as it could be. Given the field’s current dialogue about effective ways to support new work during its creation, NPN’s experimental Forth Fund should be considered a strategic success.

The Forth Fund is made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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