CTC receives second Joyce Award grant

The Children's Theatre Company has earned its second Joyce Award supporting new works by artists of color. The $50,000 grant will be used to nurture Asian-American playwright Naomi Iizuka's new play The Last Firefly, which the company hopes to premiere during its 2013 season.

The Joyce Awards have supported multicultural institutions throughout the Midwest since their inception in 2003. This year, 41 arts organizations from the Great Lakes region offered submissions. Awards were given in four categories in 2011. Minneapolis group VocalEssence also received a grant. The ensemble will commission a new work by African-American composer Hannibal Lokumbe.

"We know that this is a highly competitive process and we are honored that the Joyce Foundation has again celebrated the commitment and quality that CTC brings to the development of new work," says CTC Artistic Director Peter Brosius. "We are committed to making extraordinary theater for young people, and to bring great artists--particularly artists of color--to make their best work as they engage with our multi generational audience."

Iizuka has previously created Anon(ymous) at CTC, which took The Odyssey as inspiration for a story about a teenage refugee fleeing a civil war. She also earned a Joyce award in 2004 for a piece at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. There she crafted Ghostwritten, inspired by the classic children's fable of Rumplestiltskin, which premiered in 2009.

"We loved working with Naomi on the world premiere of Anon(ymous). It was a play of urgency and poetic power and spoke to our audience on so many levels. We can't wait to see how her newest play for CTC, The Last Firefly grows and develops on its path to production," Brosius says.

In partnering with the artist, CTC will develop an original work based on the Japanese folktales Iizuka grew up listening to. The staging of this production will incorporate theatrical elements of Kabuki theater.The piece will be presented in workshop form in February at Carleton College's The Art of Sight, Sound, and Heart: Visualizing Japanese Theater.

"Naomi is a remarkable artist, and we will use this money to help this piece fully develop through workshops and readings and then in helping with production costs," Brosius says. "We will be exploring how to incorporate the power of Kabuki theater and have worked on the play with renowned Kabuki expert David Furumoto who also created and directed Wondrous Tales of Old Japan for CTC."

The previous winner at CTC was Will Power, who created Flow with the help of the grant. Power also went on to write Five Fingers of Funk for the 2008 CTC season. The grant not only helped to bring Flow, which opened the theater's Cargill Stage, to life, but it led directly to the second play, Brosius says.

"We feel it is critical to speak to the entire community and nation in which we live. We are a state that was formed by immigrants and has continued to grow stronger and richer through its diversity. We want our work to continue to speak to the complex realities in which young people live," he says.

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