The Billie Holiday Theater in Brooklyn will lead The Black Seed, a new grant program to support Black U.S. theatres, kickstarted by a $5 million gift from the Mellon Foundation. Plans are in place to begin accepting proposals in October for up to 50 grants, ranging from one to three years and $30,000 to $300,000. Selected theatres will be announced in December.
The New York Times reports The Black Seed will be administered by the Billie Holiday in collaboration with three other Black-led performing arts companies around the country: the Craft Institute, Plowshares Theater Company in Detroit, and Los Angeles' WACO Theater Center.
The initiative aims to help Black theatres forge national partnerships and new commissions instead of increasing BIPOC representation at historically white institutions. In addition to the grants, the project will launch a National Leadership Circle to invite donor investments, a cohort of six national networks and coalitions will meet twice a year to collaborate on advancing the Black theater field, and a national marketing campaign will share the story of Black theater in America.
“The Black Seed stands on the shoulders of Black theatre leaders who came before and centered the work by us, for us, about us, and near us,” said Indira Etwaroo, who conceived the project and serves as executive artistic director of the Billie Holiday.
Tony-winning director Kenny Leon, co-founder of True Colors Theater Company, adds, “We are deeply moved to be a part of a fieldwide endeavor that would bring institutions and coalitions together to link arms, to find strength in one another, and to dream out loud, as a collective.”
In addition to the gift from Mellon, The Black Seed hopes to raise $10 million in awarded grants for theatres.