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If you are a college junior/senior or recent graduate you currently have a chance to apply for the Black Theatre Coalition (BTC)/Broadway Across America (BAA) Fellowships. The fellowship application can be found at www.BroadwayFellows.com and must be in by September 30, 2022 for the spring semester. When we think of fellowships that have to do with the arts we think of acting, producing, directing, but did you know that there is a whole other world that is happening behind the scenes at productions? This is a space that has never been carved out for Blacks. But thanks to this incredible collaboration between BTC and BAA, a space at the table is finally being made. The fellowship is now in its second year. It is so exciting to have fellowships offered to Black students that feature interaction with Black people who are in the behind-the-scenes business of theater right now. 

Recently the AmNews spoke with Bree Turner, the program director of the BTC/BAA Fellowship. 

AmNews: This is the second year of the BTC/BAA Fellowship, where did the idea for this program come from?

BT: The idea for this program was born from a collaboration between the Black Theatre Coalition and the John Gore Organization/Broadway Across America in the wake of the tragic loss of George Floyd. The program’s mission is to address and combat a lack of racial representation on Broadway both on and off the stage.

AmNews: What are the roles that the two organizations involved in these fellowships play?

BT: The Black Theatre Coalition (BTC) and Broadway Across America (BAA), with sponsorship from the John Gore Organization (JGO) work in tandem to recruit and mentor the fellows throughout the 14-week program. The fellows are based in Broadway Across America offices around the country and work with both BAA and JGO to learn the ins and outs of commercial theater and presenting. BTC plays an integral role in recruitment for the program, as they help connect their networks to this opportunity and shepherd them through the process.

AmNews: It is amazing to think of these fellowships happening in BAA offices in New York City, Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Louisville, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City and Seattle. How many students that are either college juniors/seniors or recent graduates participate at each location.

BT: We are flexible with the number of fellows in each market and are excited to see the applicants we receive this cycle. We had six fellows last year—three in New York and three in cities around the country—and are hoping to increase that number this year.

AmNews: In the 14-week program, spring semester 2023, participants get part-time, paid positions 20hours/week in theater administration to learn how to tour Broadway, what does that involve exactly?

BT: This program operates like an on-the-job/seminar style course. Fellows in each market will spend 20 hours in our local offices where they will learn about topics ranging from ticketing, producing, finance, programming and more. Once a week, all of the fellows will join a Zoom session for a cross-market training where our executives lead a presentation on a specific area of commercial theater. The hope is that the coupling of both group learning and in-person practice will equip these fellows with the tools necessary to build a successful career in the theater business.

AmNews: Looking at the makeup of most of the administrative positions in the theater, why is this program so imperative to encourage equity, diversity, access and inclusion in the theater business?

BT: Programs like this are essential if we want to continue to diversify and make space for people of color in the theater industry. I remember, as a Black woman, feeling nervous about whether or not I could be successful here, since I didn’t see many others who looked like me doing theater behind the scenes. My hope is that our program can provide both education and instill a confidence that young, Black people are successful here.

AmNews: How important is it in this business to have theater professionals and mentors that are Black for these students?

BT: Sometimes we don’t realize what we are deprived of until we experience it firsthand. I remember how it felt to meet Brian Moreland, an iconic Black producer on Broadway, and feeling like I was talking to an old friend. Though new to the industry, he has always encouraged and supported my career, assuring me I’d be successful. There’s something so special and familial about Black camaraderie, and Brian’s support unlocked a confidence in me I hadn’t yet seen in myself. That is the power of a good mentor who looks like you.

AmNews: When young people think of theater they may think of what they see on stage, but there is an entire world that’s behind the scenes in the areas of: arts administration, business administration, marketing, public relations/communications, finance/accounting, theater studies, human resources, ticketing/sales/operations. How do you spark their interest in these fields in this fellowship?

BT: When you go to the theater, you see the talent bring a story to life on the stage. What many don’t know, though, is that there is an entire community of people behind the stage, hidden in the theater, and at nearby offices working tirelessly to create those magical, onstage experiences. The wealth of opportunity in the theater business is under-discussed, and it is a formidable field to learn about and grow within. We hope our program will expose young people to that opportunity and give them the tools to join us in the commercial theater industry.AmNews: When I heard about this program I was so excited. These types of behind-the-scenes careers have never been something that Blacks could aspire to in the past. For years you might have one Black person in the room, because these were always fields dominated by whites. I thank God for the fellowship opportunity that BTC/BAA is offering young Blacks and hope you take advantage. Imagine being trained to be that valuable support system that is behind every successful production! When that curtain goes up you know you had something to do with it too! Get in your applications a.s.a.p.! These are opportunities that we are just now getting to partake in! Apply for your seat at the table!

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