In Order to Form More Creative Producers, Columbia University Offers New Fellowship Program

News   In Order to Form More Creative Producers, Columbia University Offers New Fellowship Program In an effort to help create a new generation of creative theatrical producers — those who initiate work from the ground up, following a path all their own — some of the biggest names in theatre and arts education have collaborated to create the "T Fellowship."

"The T Fellowship was created to honor the legacy of Broadway producer T. Edward Hambleton by supporting and developing gifted, emerging theatrical producers," according to its creators and the host academic organization — Columbia University.

Harold Prince, T. Edward Hambleton, the late Geraldine Stutz, Ed Wilson, and TDF (Victoria Bailey, Executive Director) designed the fellowship in cooperation with The Theatre Division of the Columbia University School of the Arts (Bruce W. Ferguson, dean; Steven Chaikelson, chair of theatre), and The Columbia Arts Initiative (Gregory Mosher, director).

Famed producer Prince (The Pajama Game, West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof) stated the fellowship's reason: "For a number of years now, I have had interviews with extraordinary young people who want careers as creative producers. Because they love and want to be part of the commercial theatre, they express frustration. They know my history as a producer before I became a director, and they have identified with the tasks of a creative producer."

Prince said the new program, which will invite one or two students a year to follow a specific study and producing plan, was created for fledgling producers who "want to nurture new work, encourage new artists, and take chances" but "recognize that the current climate on Broadway makes that almost impossible."

The T Fellowship "will expose fellows to the best contemporary producing practices, but will not teach those practices as the only or most effective way to produce theatre." The Fellowship "will emphasize that the creative producer's role is to be the instigator, the collaborator, and the leader who gets art on the stage and to the public," according to the June 27 announcement of the program, which begins in fall 2006 following an application process that starts in the coming months.

The T Fellowship "is looking to empower new producers to reinvent the wheel themselves on their own terms, following their own tastes, in their own style."

What the program seeks to avoid is a cookie cutter approach to producing, apparently relying less on public tastes, marketing surveys and brand names than on the singular taste, intelligence and perspective of the producer.

Prince commented, "Costs have escalated, and producing is generally the work of either a consortium of wealthy individuals, or corporations. So, before it's too late, my colleagues and I have shaped a program with the help of Columbia University, to once again put young creative producing in the mainstream. I've always believed the best of Broadway is the best there is."

"We're thrilled that this program has come to fruition," says Victoria Bailey of TDF. "T. Edward has worked tirelessly on behalf of TDF for nearly 20 years and this fellowship has been a dream of his for quite some time which he developed with other TDF trustees Gerry Stutz and Ed Wilson."

According to the creators, the T Fellowship will draw on working professionals in the field "as well as the extraordinary academic and cross disciplinary strengths that Columbia University offers including its MFA program in Theatre Management and Producing."

Steven Chaikelson of Columbia stated, "The T Fellowship intersects perfectly with our MFA program in Theatre Management and Producing and our mission to educate and inspire creative managers and producers for the commercial and not-for-profit theatre. In addition, through seminars and conferences sponsored by the Fellowship, our graduate students will have access to one-of-a-kind opportunities to interact with the best, brightest and most innovative members of the New York theatre community."

Gregory Mosher, director of the University Arts Initiative said, "T.'s contribution to the theatre is immeasurable, and I am grateful to have known him and his work since I was a young student. The Columbia University Arts Initiative is delighted to join with Hal, TDF and our colleagues in the School of the Arts to honor T. in the most meaningful way, by reinvigorating the creative producing spirit and expertise he exemplified."

Each year, the T Fellowship will select one or two outstanding individuals to participate in a two-phase program.

The first phase will expose the fellows to the widest possible range of contemporary theatrical producing practices while providing opportunities to discuss the shifting role of the creative producer. In the second phase, the fellows will produce a presentation of work they have developed. The T Fellowship will provide financial, legal, and production support of the project development and presentation.

The program will be free to the fellows. In addition, a need-based stipend will be awarded to assist in covering living expenses.

The application process will begin this fall. The first fellow will be announced the following spring to begin the fellowship in the fall of 2006. For more information about the fellowship or to apply, visit www.tfellowship.com.

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T. Edward Hambleton founded the Phoenix Theatre with Norris Houghton in 1953, making it an early force in the Off-Broadway movement. After 29 consecutive New York seasons and 164 productions as managing director, "T. Edward continues the Phoenix commitment [by] presenting challenging new productions of high artistic quality and assisting emerging playwrights."

During its long and distinguished history, the Phoenix presented new works by Robert Audrey, Frank Gilroy, Arthur Kopit, James Saunders, LaTouche and Moross while at the same time offering fresh productions of Shakespeare, Shaw, Pirandello, Brecht, O'Neill, Ionesco, Fry, O'Casey, Sherwood, Gorky, Marlowe, Kaufman and Hart, Sartre, Molière, Miller and Williams, under such directors as Tyrone Guthrie, John Houseman, Ellis Rabb, Gordon Davidson, Hal Prince and Gene Saks with actors including Helen Hayes, Irene Worth, Cynthia Harris, Meryl Streep, Eva Le Gallienne, Jimmy Stewart, Nancy Walker and Carol Burnett.

After 1976, the Phoenix concentrated on new plays and the nurturing of new playwrights through its Commission Program. The result was Wendy Wasserstein's Uncommon Women and Others and Isn't It Romantic; David Berry's G. R. Point; Marsha Norman's Getting Out; Ron Hutchinson's Says I, Says He; Peter Handke's A Sorrow Beyond Dreams; and Mustapha Matura's Meetings. Hambleton serves as a member of the board of directors of Center Stage in Baltimore, Maryland. Hambleton has also served as a member of the board of governors of the League of American Theatres and Producers. He received a Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre in 2000. In 2001, he was added to the Theatre Hall of Fame.

Columbia University's School of the Arts offers Master in Fine Art degrees through four divisions: film, theatre arts, visual arts and writing. The theatre arts division offers MFA. degrees in acting, directing, playwriting, dramaturgy/script development, theatre management and producing, and stage management. Among the division's leading faculty are Arnold Aronson, Anne Bogart, Steven Chaikelson, Kristin Linklater, Eduardo Machado and Andrei Serban.

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