Funding The Arts

More student-run performances are being funded through the Blackbox Theatre Grant program, a system where students can propose and execute their dream project.

The program began with an idea from Theatre Department Associate Chair Brian Swanson with support from Assistant Professor of Theatre Scott Knowles. Knowles said the program was created to help students explore their interests, and students have jumped at the opportunity.

“It really allows them to take the initiative and create a piece of art that they are passionate about, instead of hoping that their favorite show, role or style of theatre will be selected for the main stage season,” Knowles said. “Ultimately, the grants are about providing more students with beneficial artistic experiences, and I think that objective is being met in a multitude of ways.”

The most recent play to perform under the grant was “Really Really.” The project was proposed by Jessi Sommer, a junior theatre arts major from Las Vegas, who played the lead role.

“I’ve had the most amazing opportunity producing for the Blackbox Grant,” Sommer said. “I would love to produce for professional companies in my future, so I’ve learned a lot to help me in that field. The best kind of experience is anything that creates art, and I’ve been so satisfied with the final product for this project.”

The chance to learn extended to all members of the cast. Tony Sloan, a master’s candidate of arts administration from Griffith, Indiana, was the director of “Really Really.”

“I learned a lot about directing,” Sloan said. “I had directed small projects for class before, but I had never directed a full show … I learned all kinds of new ways to talk to my actors and team, and coach them in different ways.”

The grant program originally gave $500 to each project from the department budget, but it has since become self-sufficient through ticket sales. Knowles said that if the fund continues to grow, the department will be able to purchase new equipment for the theatre.

Each semester, a “Call for Proposals” (CFP) goes around the theatre department for students to review. To apply for a grant, students must write a two-page paper as outlined in the CFP and submit a form outlining the details of the performance.

Any questions regarding the program can be directed to the committee for the grant comprised of Scott Knowles, J.D. Sargent, Melinda Vaughn and Michael Crotty.

Story By
Jenna Chapman