Every passing year, artistic institutions are taking steps to be more inclusive organizations with more representative teams. Theatre companies have slowly begun to answer the call from communities to move beyond the norm of overwhelmingly white and male-dominated leadership roles. And while it is certainly an ongoing process, there are always groups springing up to empower and foster opportunities for those who wish to see these positive changes put forth. The latest such group that seeks to change the system of American theatre is The Theatre Leadership Project, which plans to give black theatre workers the leadership opportunities they deserve.
Based out of New York, The Theatre Leadership Project is a new initiative that “seeks to create lasting change in the American Theatre by installing BIPOC leadership in the industry.” The pilot program of TTLP is focused on establishing black theatre creatives in production and management roles with companies throughout the city, partnering with black-led businesses to support the fund. Despite Broadway and New York at large serving as a sort of theatre mecca, there still is notable lack of BIPOC voices- which is what the TTLP aims to change for the long-term.
“The Project is a new alliance between industry leaders in entertainment and Broadway commercial producers in support of a three-year pilot program for new, emerging, and transitioning professionals,” their mission statement reads.”Whilst the fund is committed to the support of BIPOC leadership, the initial pilot program will focus on Black applicants due to the extremity to which they are excluded.”
TTLP is currently preparing for two programs: one for creative producers and one for general/company management. Both programs have a three-year plan, detailing the move from mentorship and learning to job placement. Connecting practitioners to prominent resources within the New York theatre world, the programs appear to contain both practical and personalized drive to have successful applicants find their paths. And with no strictures on educational background or commercial experience, TTLP is also pushing back against the classist barriers that professional theatre has long been filled with.
The founders of The Theatre Leadership Project include Travis Lemont Ballenger and Barbara Broccoli, among others, as well as an advisory council that includes legendary performer Whoopi Goldberg. The primary partners of the project are Black Theatre Coalition- a group aiming to “to remove the ‘ILLUSION OF INCLUSION’ in the American Theatre”- and The Prince Fellowship- a fund that supports “gifted emerging creative theatrical producers”. With such a wealth of experience and drive at the back of TTLP, it seems well on track to start creating the changes that the community needs.
The Theatre Leadership Project is one of many groups that desire to see progress in theatre communities the world over. And the more we learn, the more we understand how deep these institutional problems run- racism, sexism, ableism, and various forms of abuse have been allowed to guide the path of many major theatres since their inception. But the leaders behind TTLP have already put a strong foot forward with the announcement of their project, and the steps they take next are surely going to move New York forward, closer to that lasting change.