By Elizabeth Hurd and Anna Holloway
In professional theatre, the dream of a lifetime is to grasp with humility a Tony Award. Presented by the American Theatre Wing in honor of Antoinette Perry, an accomplished actress of the early 20th century and one of the Wing’s founders, the Tony recognizes excellence in Broadway theatre.
Yet the American Theatre Wing does not stop with noting the deserving performer in New York City. Over the past 55 years, the American Theatre Wing has shown its dedication to not-for-profit theatres by distributing some $3 million dollars through its Theatre Company Grants Program. These grants, although less well known, are equally prestigious. Among these are the Jonathan Larson Grant (awarded to musical theatres) and the National Theatre Company Grant. This can only be awarded to companies that are between 5 and 15 years in continuous operation with an established record of excellence in theatre.
In the American Theatre Wing’s own words, the grant of $10,000 is “…for general operating support to companies which have articulated a distinctive mission, cultivated an audience, and nurtured a community of artists in ways that strengthen and demonstrate the quality, diversity, and dynamism of American theatre.”
This year, for the first time, one recipient of the National Theatre Company Grant is an Oklahoma company. The dedicated and talented members of Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre (CityRep) have earned this national recognition for their hard work, attention to detail, accuracy and expertise. CityRep is led by Artistic Director Donald Jordan, and this dedicated group is proud to receive the honor.
CityRep has just completed 10 difficult and rewarding years of operation providing professional theatre to Oklahomans. From their home base at the Civic Center Music Hall in downtown Oklahoma City, the company has produced Oklahoma premieres and returning favorites. Their efforts and talents are showcased in the upcoming 11th season opening September 7 with the timely show November by David Mamet. This production should not only entertain us but will also encourage us to perform our civic right and duty – to vote.
In addition to Jordan as Founding Artistic Director, the company includes Development Director and Production Stage Manager Steve Emerson, Artistic Associate Michael Jones and Artist-in-Residence Jonathan Beck Reed. Kurt Leftwich serves as Box Office Manager, Anna Holloway as Dramaturg and Historian, and the Official Photographer for CityRep is Wendy Mutz. The company operates under a Board of Directors consisting of twenty members headed by President Ruth Charnay. Many of the actors in each production are members of Actors Equity. CityRep is now in its eleventh season of producing professional theatre for culturally aware and sophisticated Oklahoma audiences.
Oklahoma is nationally remembered for disasters like the dustbowl and the Murrah Building bombing, or for sports teams taking national and international attention from the Oklahoma City Thunder NBA team to the football programs at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University. We don’t often get credit for Oklahoma’s significant contribution to the arts.
Oklahoma is a hotbed of talent. Many Broadway and Hollywood stars have been nurtured in this heartland by the great theatre training programs at our local colleges and universities. We should all be proud: of our young performers, of those who have gone on to represent us on the national stage, of our diverse residents who support the arts in this great state.
CityRep is one company that offers talented young performers a doorway to professional excellence. And the American Theatre Wing, by making CityRep the recipient of one of the 10 National Theatre Company Grants in 2012, has chosen to remind all of us, and the nation, that Oklahoma is a land of creativity and endeavor that rivals the Big Apple in texture, taste and talent.
The grant money is welcome, of course, but the honor gives all Oklahomans another reason to be proud. Artistic Director Jordan states: “The recognition from the American Theatre Wing is a tremendous honor. It is a tribute to the efforts and talent of the artists from Oklahoma, Broadway and throughout our American professional Regional Theater whose work has been represented on our stages as well as the steadfast support of our loyal patrons, dedicated Board members and generous supporters. Together we are striving to enhance our community’s Artistic, Educational and Economic future. We are very grateful to the ATW for this award and for all they do to promote and support professional theater in our country.”
The National Theatre Company Grant is our Tony Award – a Tony for the state as well as for CityRep. It is just as inspiring as a Heisman or Olympic Medal.
Congratulations to CityRep as a truly professional theatre and to Oklahoma as a truly cultural haven.