As we’ve all known for too many years to count, Black folks are seen on Broadway stages but don’t have many places behind-the-scenes as producers, general managers, company managers and stage managers. Well, there is a nonprofit that is trying to rectify that situation. Begun in 2020, The Theatre Leadership Project (TTLP) launched a fellowship program in Fall 2021 to ensure that Blacks had a place in commercial theater leadership. TTLP sought to make sure Black people being in these positions became a reality and not a pipe dream through a three-year fellowship program. TTLP’s founding members are A-list producers of previous, current and coming Broadway shows including Barbara Broccoli (“Once,” “The Band’s Visit”), Lia Vollack (“MJ the Musical,” “Almost Famous”), Alecia Parker (“Waitress,” “Chicago”), Patrick Daly (“The Mountaintop,” “August: Osage County”) and Travis LeMont Ballenger (“MJ the Musical,” “Almost Famous”). Leah Harris, formerly of Dallas Theater Center and Milwaukee Rep, is the program manager. “The work of building a more welcoming, inclusive and fair industry doesn’t happen alone. We are in need of community to sustain the change we seek to make, so we are fortunate to be doing this work hand in hand with partners who are dedicated to long term change,” said Harris. “We are proud of the work our fellows are accomplishing and are eager to continue following and supporting their success.”

Realizing that it takes a village to make things happen, TTLP is partnered with Black Theatre Coalition (BTC)—a group founded in 2019 by T. Oliver Reed and Warren Adams to address the disparity between the number of Blacks on stage, and the number employed behind the scenes. TTLP is also partnering with Columbia University’s Prince Fellowship. TTLP has an impressive advisory board straight out of the industry that includes Whoopi Goldberg, John Gore, Kamilah Forbes, Whitney White, Aaliytha Stevens, Brian Moreland, Robert Fried, Stefan Schick and Oliver Sultan. The Fellowship, which is open to candidates across the U.S. looking for careers in commercial theater management and production, has nine people who have had the opportunity to get the training, mentorship and in some cases job offers.

Isabella Schiavon has been hired as a producing assistant at Orin Wolf Production, through a connection made by TTLP. BTC GM Fellow Devon Miller, after the first year of the fellowship, has been offered and accepted a full time role as associate GM at Foresight Theatrical. In its first three-year cycle TTLP has been the link with its fellows to jobs at 101 Productions, Bespoke Theatricals, Foresight Theatrical, RCI Theatricals, ShowTown Theatricals, and Thompson Turner Productions.

For General and Company Management Fellowships in collaboration with TTLP, BTC—which already had a year-long fellowship program to bring Black artists and managers together in all areas of the theater—created six two-year General and Company Management Fellowships with six leading Broadway general management offices. After the first two years in the Black Theatre Coalition program, TTLP will work to assist fellows with job placement.

BTC co-founder and Artistic Director T. Oliver Reid said, “We realized that there was a necessary element that no one has talked about: long-term, sustained, paid apprenticeships and fellowships. Through Black Theatre Coalition’s Management Fellowships, in partnership with TTLP, we can make certain that when these general and company management fellows are given opportunities, they are ready for it. Being in these rooms and building relationships, alongside the knowledge gained during the fellowship will help us move the needle towards equity in the American theater.”

Each year, the Prince Fellowship provides one early career producer with the network, financial resources and mentorship necessary for a career as a creative producer. Begun in 2021 for three successive years, TTLP will partner with the program to fund an additional fellow. TTLP Creative Producing Fellows will each spend the second year of their fellowship working in a production office. In the third year, TTLP will use its financial resources and networks to help the fellows find job placement opportunities.

It is so important that people put their money where their mouth is so to speak and make positive, long overdue things happen and TTLP/BTC/Columbia University’s Prince Fellowship are doing just that. The organizations recently had a celebration of the project at Brooklyn Chop House on W 47th Street in Times Square. The event was attended by the crème de la crème of the industry including TTLP Founders Barbara Broccoli, Alecia Parker, Patrick Daly and Travis Ballenger; TTLP Program Manager Leah Harris; Hollywood luminaries Erika Alexander and Lee Daniels; “1776” actor Liz Mikel; fashion model Sophie Sumner; TTLP Advisory Council Aaliytha Stevens and Olivier Sultan; representatives of TTLP funders No Guarantees—Darren Johnston, and The Shubert Organization—Dessie Moynihan and Robert E. Wankel; TTLP partners Warren Adams (Black Theatre Coalition) and Orin Wolf (The Prince Fellowship); TTLP Creative Producing Fellows Cynthia L. Dorsey and Lawyrn LaCroix; BTC Fellows supported by TTLP Brandon Brooks, Carrli Cooper, Jordan Flemming, Taylor Courtney and Devon Miller; General Managers from RCI Theatrical—Beverly Edwards and David Richards, and Thompson Turner Productions—Drew Kowalkowski; Nilan Johnson and Bevin Ross—Drama League; and Rob Nanus and Cody Renard Richard—Broadway Advocacy Coalition; Matt Polk—Polk & Company; Gennean Scott—The Broadway League; Charlotte St. Martin—The Broadway League; Rhoda Glickman—Empire State Development; and Dayron Miles—American Repertory Theater. TTLP has raised more than a million dollars in support of the fellows. If TTLP sounds good to you, the next round of applicants will be for the next TTLP/Prince Fellow in the spring of 2023. Check https://www.theatreleadershipproject.org for updates.

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