The Hippodrome will receive NEA Grant

Through its grant-making to thousands of nonprofits each year, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) promotes opportunities for people in communities across America to experience the arts and exercise their creativity.

In the second major grant announcement of fiscal year 2015, the NEA will make a $30,000 award to the Hippodrome Theatre toward the creation and production of “The Hidden Sayings,” a community-centered theatre work in collaboration with the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards. The NEA will make 1,023 awards totaling $74.3 million nationwide in this funding round.

NEA Chairman Jane Chu said, “The NEA is committed to advancing learning, fueling creativity, and celebrating the arts in cities and towns across the United States. Funding these new projects like the one from the Hippodrome Theatre represents an investment in both local communities and our nation’s creative vitality.”

The Hidden Sayings is an exploration of old African-American songs of the U.S. South as vehicles for contact and meeting with church communities. The Hippodrome will collaborate with a team of international performers from the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards in producing a theatrical work that shifts boundaries of performance within the traditional theatrical landscape, and bridges the work of Jerzy Grotowski into cultural communities across the southern United States.

The Hippodrome is interested in investigating a long-term project seeking to discover the very core of theatre, the moment of immediate contact between human beings. The Hippodrome is committed to develop connections with communities and individuals – mainly outside established theatre circles- to ask together: what can the shared impact of this art be a vehicle for? What and who can it serve? How can it be useful in and around us?

With a grant from the NEA, the Hippodrome is creating an encounter between the Workcenter and the Hippodrome as further experimentation in its development practices. For 29 years, the Workcenter’s praxis has been articulated as an investigation on ancient songs of the African and Afro-Caribbean tradition. From 2007 onwards, the internationally-composed Open Program team directed by Mario Biagini, have been tracing a new branch of this research, exploring African-American songs of the U.S. South as vehicles for remembering, restoring, and nourishing the dignity, creativity and unknown potentialities of human spirit. Located not far from the locations where these songs originated, the Hippodrome felt this collaboration could prove a fertile ground of research for both companies.

Together, we wish to explore these songs as vehicles for contact and meeting with church communities in Gainesville. This will serve as a platform not only to expand the work of the Hippodrome’s company and its artists, but further investigate the possibility of international collaboration as a way to expand established models of regional theater. The desire for this endeavor comes from the necessity to analyze how the performing arts can catalyze and benefit from a meeting between cultural communities and experienced arts practitioners in order to engage new audiences in regional theater.

Located in the southern United States, the Hippodrome has access to some of the oldest African American churches where a living performative tradition exists outside the performative field. We want to make a movement that this living tradition is not a folklore, and bring these two different planes of theater and church communties together to manifest a performative event that like a church service, starts with an interpersonal and perception quality and arrives to another level of interaction, perception, and ultimately presence.

The culmination of this collaboration will result in the premiere of The Hidden Sayings on the Hippodrome mainstage along with symposiums on oral history in collaboration with the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at the University of Florida.

Michael Littig, Hippodrome company member, who created the seed for the project said, “To me, the Hippodrome has always been a place that pushes boundaries. I’m honored to join forces with the Hippodrome leadership to create this unique opportunity for Gainesville audiences and create opportunities for others to feel the sense of home I feel when I walk through the doors of the Hippodrome.”

To join the Twitter conversation about this announcement, please use #NEASpring2015.

For more information on projects included in the NEA grant announcement, visit arts.gov

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