The Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) and USITT are partnering with the goal of increasing diversity in the behind-the-scenes areas of theatre. USITT committed $5,000 to the partnership to benefit OSF’s FAIR program to mentor emerging arts leaders of color.
Both USITT and OSF have development programs for theatre artists from underrepresented groups. USITT’s Gateway Program offers mentorships for students in theatrical design, tech, and management at its Annual Conference & Stage Expo. OSF’s FAIR (Fellowships, Assistantships, Internships and Residencies) program provides training in all areas of theatre with an emphasis on recruiting young professionals of color.
“This partnership sends a strong message that these two large institutions, OSF and USITT, are working together to figure out ways to provide access to people of color in theatre, particularly in the area of production,” said Sharifa Johka, OSF’s FAIR experience manager. “We are committed to exploring how we can share resources and opportunities to provide access points, and USITT’s contribution to our fund for this mission is one proof of that.”
USITT Diversity Initiative leaders Kasey Allee-Foreman and David Stewart proposed the two organizations collaborate after participating in OSF’s first FAIR Conference this past August. During the course of the conference and conversations, the organizations looked at the possibility of the Gateway Program as a feeder program for the FAIR program or vice versa.
Allee-Foreman and Stewart encouraged the USITT board to donate $5,000 toward OSF’s Tim Bond Production Fund (Bond started the FAIR program in 2005), which provides grants to FAIR alumni to produce a play in their selected U.S. city.
USITT and OSF plan to continue working together to increase diversity in theatre production through efforts like Gateway and FAIR.
“OSF’s FAIR program has impacted untold numbers of people, and as USITT works to grow our impact with efforts like Gateway, there is no better partner than OSF,” said USITT Executive Director David Grindle.
USITT’s Gateway Program offers 12 mentorship opportunities for technical theatre students and young professionals from underrepresented groups at USITT 2016 in Salt Lake City March 16-19. Nominations for mentees are open now through Nov. 20 at www.usitt.org/gateway.
Each Gateway participant will be paired with a mentor from a similar background and interest area at USITT 2016. USITT provides free Conference registration and one year free USITT membership, with travel and housing funds also available based on need.
OSF, founded by Angus Bowmer in 1935 and winner of a 1983 Tony Award for outstanding achievement in regional theatre, presents an eight-month season of 11 plays including works by Shakespeare and a mix of classics, musicals, and new works. The Festival draws more than 400,000 people to some 800 performances a year and employs about 575 theatre professionals. Visit OSF at www.osfashland.org.