The Apollo Theater in New York City has announced inaugural commissions through a new initiative focused on the creation of a diverse twenty-first century American performing arts canon.
The initiative, Apollo New Works, is funded by grants of $2 million from the Ford Foundation, for the creation of new work by artists of color, and $1 million from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, in support of the theater's Master Artist in Residency program. Ta-Nehisi Coates, the program's inaugural recipient, started his residency in September.
The commissions, which will be workshopped and presented at various stages of development, include world premiere performances, festivals, and programs from Ballet Hispánico, which will create a work celebrating Latin music from the past half-century; Haitian-American composer and violinist Daniel Bernard Roumain and vertical performance pioneers BANDALOOP, who together will celebrate the Apollo's two new theaters at the Victoria with a performance above the marquee; choreographer Camille A. Brown, whose dance-theater work Queens is co-commissioned by the Apollo and Joyce theaters; and movement artists and choreographers Lil Buck and Jon Boogz (Movement Art Is), who will celebrate the Harlem Renaissance with historical dances that had an impact on the Harlem scene in the 1920s and '30s.
Other recipients include artist and scholar Ebony Noelle Golden, who will create a multidisciplinary performance triptych that seeks to answer the question "How does a liberated black feminist world operate, work, exist, and sustain when systems of oppression fall away?"; Black Gotham Experience, led by artist and historian Kamau Ware, who will design a walking tour that celebrates the Harlem Renaissance and the Apollo’s rich history; New Black Fest artistic director Keith Josef Adkins, who will curate and produce ten-minute plays by twenty playwrights; Soul Science Lab, whose musical theater work will chronicle the "New Negro Movement" and its continued relevance; vibraphonist, educator, and thought leader Stefon Harris, who will explore the collaboration between live performance and technology; and scholar, playwright, and director Talvin Wilks, whose work examines the impact of the Harlem Renaissance and how organizations such as the Apollo provide context for the trajectory of African-American art in America.
"Thanks to the generous support of the Ford Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Apollo New Works expands our commitment to collaboration with established and emerging artists of color whose work is essential to the Apollo, Harlem, and the world," said Apollo Theater executive producer Kamilah Forbes. "Artists reflect the celebrations and challenges of society, and our goal for this initiative is to champion a group of voices and promote a new generation of storytellers in an effort to develop a more diverse American canon."