Article contributed by Jay Michaels
Edited by Natasha Dawsen
Performing Arts organizations, whether they are for- or non-profit, take this time of year to add a larger helping of philanthropy to celebrate its audience. Free performances, events for children, not to mention fundraising & benevolent opportunities for those to whom engaging in the performing arts is rare.
There are those that do this all year long.
Planet Connections Theatre Festivity, for instance, has joined its productions within its festivals to more than 300 charities over the course of it’s just under 10 years. Founder Glory Kadigan has transformed the Theatre Festival concept into something educational and philanthropic. PCTF is New York’s premiere socially-conscious arts festival. It’s designed to invoke the power of art in motivating philanthropy, community outreach and social change. PCTF artists raise awareness for an organization/topic of their own selection and introduce audiences to these causes and charities. Planet Connections has more than 250 Full Theater Productions and nearly 100 Staged Readings. More than 300 charities have benefitted from Planet Connections Artists. Planet Connections also hosts Playwrights for a Cause connecting illustrious authors and much needed charities to audiences grateful for the entertainment … and enlightenment.
Genesis Repertory, and its educational institution, the M Center, both run by artistic director Mary Elizabeth Micari has, since the start of the twenty-first century, created opportunities for individuals to learn and perform in professional atmospheres. Its student body are promising individuals who – for myriad reasons – never got the chance to engage in their dream of working in the arts. The M Center gives these students the training they need mixed with opportunities to be on a professional stage. Dreams have come true for Genesis/M Center students at numerous NYC theatres including the Producers Club, 440 Studios, and the 13th Street Playhouse. Frank Calo’s Spotlight-On even hosted a special night in which four one-acts were written, produced, directed, and featured more than 50 students from Kingsborough Community College.
Ms. Kadigan and Ms.Micari Are Not Alone. The New York Independence Theater Skyline glitters with those dedicated souls who use their art with heart.
Step 1 Theatre Project. Recently, in response to the hurricane that hit Puerto Rico, Step 1 Theatre Project, and artistic directors Jazmyn Arroyo & Janelle Zapata, created Artists United for Puerto Rico, and produced a fundraiser for the people of the devastated island. In what seemed like an instant the two philanthropic artists gathered together the finest of their colleagues and presented a night of music, theatre, and art.
“Janelle and I knew we wanted to do something” said Ms Arroyo. “We started organizing the same day Maria hit Puerto Rico. We put out the call for performers, different art pieces, reached out to theaters for performance space, studios for rehearsal space, anything that would help create a platform. We did this before we knew what the event would be, before we had heard from our families on the island, before we really understood the magnitude of the situation. We felt a strong sense of urgency and needed to organize. We are so lucky to have encountered such amazing, talented, generous people to make this come to life. It started as a conversation between Janelle & I, and grew into a community effort and a movement that inspired audience and artists alike, myself included. I was moved and humbled by the love and talent that took place at Artists United for Puerto Rico and am so grateful to everyone who supported us. There is still much work to do, but we were more than happy to do our part” she concluded.
This event helped so many and changed the lives even of the artists:
“Since this catastrophic event happened in the island where I was born – I had been doing what I can with the very limited resources that I have. I feel like [the event] gave me a chance to do much more then I could ever give to my little island by myself – this sense of community near and far cannot be erased by any administration or institution. Puerto Rico will always live on.” Maribel Martinez
A regular at FRIGID Fest, Step 1 will join with prolific playwright, Michael Hagins, for his play, The Vengeance Room. Hagins explored racial issues brilliantly with Michael Is Back earlier this year, in which the life of an African American was presented in a one-man show – played by a Caucasian actor. And where was it done … Planet Connections. Step 1 also has multiple initiatives to give back to the artistic community with their newest – Step It Up!, a workshop series, where they invite expert artists of different areas of independent theatre to host free panels and workshops for aspiring artists. Their most recent hit another hot-button topic: Creating Trans and Non-Binary Narratives, led by Trans Activist and Playwright Ashley Rogers.
Walking along Manhattan you need but look up to see other Independent Artists extending a hand in Friendship rescue and care. List of shows.
Since 2011, Playhouse Creatures Theatre Company has been one of the most community-oriented theatre companies in NYC. Besides the main stage productions (here and in Boston- viewed by over 15,000 patrons), PCTC has created and maintained its LCAO (Little Creatures Act Out) youth theatre program; these FREE theatre camps have given access to over 500 at-risk youths. This program has provided access to a group that has traditionally been overlooked and forgotten.
Then there’s Rising Sun Performance Company, an Award-Winning Ensemble Theatre Company committed to the principle of ensemble process and performance through the collaboration of a resident company of theatre artists, RSP’s mission is to advance the vitality and diversity of American theater. Child’s Play – dealing with childhood trauma – and Glory of Living – a powerful tome about spousal abuse – are recent entries in the canon of this company heading toward 20 years in NYC. Their [truly] fearless leader, Akia Squitieri, heads a team of vibrant young artists determined to shine a spotlight on daring issues.
Founder Jessie Fahay’s Ripple Effect Artists is committed to working with productions and touring companies that promoted a sense of change through dialogue, REA conducts regular productions and educational workshops to colleges and universities across the country, featuring distinguished experts in fields of Psychology and Social-Reform. They offer as a contribution, Drama-Education Workshops both abroad in Lima, Peru and in New York City to those in need. Through this, they are committed to empowering students to explore self-expression and to make a difference in their own community. REA addresses injustice and causes social impact through art – primarily by producing masterful plays – presenting them along with talk-back discussions in partnership with educators and advocacy groups. These events cultivate empathy, shift audiences from APATHY to ACTION, and create a RIPPLE EFFECT in the larger community.
Sometimes it takes just one artist. Doug Devita is rapidly becoming an indie theatre go-to playwright with a rapidly growing canon of works featuring the gay everyman. The Phillie Trilogy and The Fierce Urgency of Now have shown us life – from adolescence to employment – of the [gay] man in the street. Mr. Devita has been lucky enough to get Broadway personalities to tell his story over the years… with no end in sight.
Anthony J. Piccione can’t decide which cause is most important to him so he writes about them all. He saved the planet with a play about being green in An Energy Tale and will present What I Left Behind, a tome about teen suicide opening this January. Another play, Ebol-a-Rama, looks – with biting satire – at this quite deadly issue. A recent reading, A Therapy Session with Myself tells the story of a young college student and aspiring writer dealing with severe social anxiety, depression and Asperger’s syndrome. This piece is looking for a home for a first production.
With these and countless other venues dedicated to opening our minds at every opening night, Mr. Piccione should have no problem finding a home.
For more information on these and other philanthropic arts organizations and individuals, please contact JMAE.firstname.lastname@example.org