Teresa’s Weekly Update: Residency Edition

by Teresa Eyring

in Weekly Update

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“This grant gave me more than memories; it gave me a crucial experience that is formative to all writers: the ability to perceive that we become writers in exile, where what we write is the only link across distance and time…I became a Maryland writer because the community of Juneau took me in.”
-Paula Vogel, Stages of Transformation: Collaborations of the National Theatre Artist Residency Program

The artist-in-residence model is once again in the spotlight with the announcement that The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and The Center for the Theater Commons at Emerson College are awarding three-year-long, full-time residencies to 14 playwrights at theatres across 11 different communities. We congratulate these playwrights, and look forward to seeing the fruits of these long-term relationships.

The residency model has long been an engine for transformative creativity and community building. The quote I shared from Paula Vogel above is from the introduction to Stages of Transformation, a report on TCG’s 14-year residency program, the National Theatre Artist Residency Program (NTARP). Beginning in 1991 and in partnership with The Pew Charitable Trusts, NTARP awarded almost $10 million to support 135 artists at 99 theatres nationwide. The fruits of these residencies included: Vogel writing How I Learned to Drive at Perseverance Theatre; Sheldon Epps’ director residencies at The Old Globe helping lead to his long tenure as Artistic Director at the Pasadena Playhouse; and James Still’s playwright residencies at Indiana Repertory Theatre growing into a now 15-year relationship.

That commitment continued over the nine rounds of the NEA/TCG Theatre Residency Program for Playwrights, which supported residencies for playwrights like Betty Shamieh, Will Power and Lydia R. Diamond. It continues now through current grant programs like our Leadership [U]niversity and Fox Foundation Resident Actor Fellowships. Throughout these many years of residency-building, a common goal has been to integrate theatre people more deeply into the fabric of organizations and the communities they serve.  When that happens—when artists find themselves in places like Douglas, Alaska where, as Vogel writes, “I could go to the post office and the clerk would tell me what she thought about my second act”—the many diverse currents of our national theatre are fed by deeper springs.