As the public health crisis ensues and theatres shift their programming to the spring, New York Theatre Workshop has revealed a different approach to its 2020–2021 season. The Off-Broadway theatre has commissioned a cohort of Artistic Instigators to create new work unbound by content, form or even medium; some events will be exclusively virtual experiences while others may take place in person when safety possible to do so.
This group of Artistic Instigators will include Ayad Akhtar, Clare Barron, Lileana Blain-Cruz, David Cale, Sean Carvajal, Victor I. Cazares, Rebecca Frecknall, Sam Gold, Aleshea Harris, Jeremy O. Harris, Modesto Flako Jimenez, Martyna Majok, Denis O'Hare, Lisa Peterson, Dael Orlandersmith, Rubén Polendo, Martha Redbone, Tina Satter, Geoff Sobelle, Celine Song, Theater Mitu, Aaron Whitby, Whitney White, Kristina Wong, and Doug Wright.
Supported with $2,500 grants, these artists have been engaged to imagine work in our present moment that creates community within the given circumstances of social distancing, celebrates the liveness that is inherent in a theatrical experience, and examines the relationship between theatre, distance, and technology. Artists will be provided with additional funds to bring their projects to life.
Audiences will be invited to experience the evolution of the projects through work-in-process sharings and behind-the-scenes conversations with artists. Memberships have been re-conceived for the alternative programming, with more information available here.
“It seemed essential in this paradigm shift within the theatre and our society to extend a new commitment by engaging artists to guide, inspire, and provoke us to bear witness and participate in the evolution of our world," shared NYTW's artistic director James C. Nicola. "We eagerly look forward to discovering and supporting new forms of theatrical exploration that these artists are imagining. From virtual experiences to outdoor performance to art installations, the possibilities are limitless.”
NYTW has also unveiled its class of artistic fellows. The 2020–2021 directing fellows are Josiah Davis, Adil Mansoor, and Tyler Thomas; and the playwriting fellows are Nissy Aya, Ruth Tang, and David Zheng.
Finally, as global cries for racial justice continue, NYTW has published a set of NYTW Core Values, alongside ongoing action steps to question histories and practices, disrupt patterns that reinforce institutionalized oppressions and inequities, examine inherent missteps, and hold the organization to a standard that does not accept that this work is ever done.
"NYTW has not always lived up to these values and must contend with the harm that those shortcomings have caused. Only when all members of the community are truly safe—when their lives and humanity are valued above their artistic contributions—will we experience the community we aspire to be" reads a statement from the theatre. You can read NYTW's initial response to Black Lives Matter here.