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On Wednesday, May 9, the McCarter Theatre announced that it received a $30,000 National Endowment for the Arts grant to support the McCarter LAB, a year-round creative incubator that supports artists through commissions, workshops, retreats, and more. 

More than $80 million was awarded in the form of 1,071 grants by the NEA to programs in a wide range of categories across the country The McCarter grant was in the Art Works category, dedicated to funding projects that increase public engagement, promote lifelong learning, and strengthen communities through the arts. This is the second such grant that McCarter has received in the past 18 months dedicated to the LAB and play development. 

Tom Miller, Director of Public Relations at the McCarter Theatre, said the grant will be important in maintaining and expanding the LAB’s offerings.

“It is extremely important, not only for the health of  American theater, but for the local and regional communities served by McCarter, that we continue to cultivate and develop new voices through our various development programs,” Miller wrote in a email statement. “This grant will go a long way to bolster our existing efforts and allow us the freedom to expand the scope of our programs both here in Princeton and in the greater Mercer county area and beyond.”  

A key feature of the McCarter LAB program are LAB Spotlight plays, which are small-scale workshop productions staged in the Roger S. Berlind Theater that provide crucial feedback for playwrights in an intimate setting. Many of the plays have responded to current political and social issues, such as the 2017 Princeton and Slavery Plays.The program has empowered up-and-coming artists to write original plays, many of which go on to be professionally produced.

Artistic director of diSiac Dance Company Elena Anamos ’19 expressed hope that grants of this type would expand opportunities for student groups as well, as diSiac performs a fall show at McCarter, 

“If that allows them to give more funding to student groups to perform at McCarter Theater Center, it makes such a huge difference to our shows. The lighting, the backstage facilities, everything is much better quality. You can tell the difference,” Anamos said. “It would be great if dance companies could perform there more frequently or have more opportunities.”  

Simon Morrison, Professor of Music and Slavic Languages and Literatures, was also excited about the grant announcement and hoped that it would lead to an expansion of McCarter’s facilities in the future. 

“A grant like that, which encourages development of new talent and theatrical methods, is all for the greater good,” Morrison said. 

Morrison is interested in working with members of the McCarter board and the wider community on new developments, such as a stage with space for a pit orchestra, or other renovations and modern upgrades. 

“We have an institution right on our campus that the University doesn’t make much use of,” he said. “The University has tremendous talent, tremendous faculty, and a growth of interest in the performing arts.”

But, the University does not have the type of performing space necessary to put on ballets or operas, Morrison said. Even the new Lewis Center for the Arts performing arts center does not have an orchestra pit, for example.

“There’s no shortage of talent,” Morrison said. “But there seems to be a shortage of stage space.”

 

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