How is Knight Working to Break Up the "Big-City Monopoly" of Theater Talent?

Loyal IP readers know that we're pretty bullish when it comes to the state of American theater. Scan our Theater vertical, and you'll see dozens of examples of foundations large and small giving serious money to big-city and small-town theater organizations across the country.

And now, it seems that this prolonged period of generous giving is bearing fruit in two specific and related ways.

First, giving to nonprofit theater organizations in smaller cities and towns has, to a degree, eroded the talent monopoly previously enjoyed by places like New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Cleveland, for example, has recently emerged as a mecca of American theater thanks to its anchor institutions—the Cleveland Play House and the Cleveland Public Theatre—and the foundations that pay their bills.

Secondly, this dispersion of talent to other parts of the country, be it the Rust Belt or the South, inevitably demands a kind of bidding war for that talent. Competition is fierce, so cities, theater organizations, and foundations pull out all the stops to ensure that their city is the destination for theater professionals. 

For example, are you a theater professional looking to a change from, say, New York, but aren't entirely excited about Midwest winters? Well, why not consider lovely Charlotte, North Carolina?

The Children's Theatre of Charlotte (CTC) has a national residency program whose goal is to bring directors and designers from around the country to work with the company. The CTC recently announced it will work with Christopher Parks of Experiential Theatre Company in New Jersey on a new interactive version of "The Wizard of Oz," entitled "Journey to Oz." CTC will also hire Michael Bobbitt, producing artistic director of Adventure Theatre MTC in Maryland, to direct a rock concert version of "Schoolhouse Rock Live!"

And did we mention that the CTC's national residency program has a particular high-profile fan by the name of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation? Indeed, it's true. The foundation recently awarded the CTC $100,000 to further expand the residency program over the next two years.

This give is significant because, just like its work in places like Akron, this illustrates Knight's commitment to transforming Charlotte into yet another magnet city for specialized talent.

The takeaway? With large foundations working to break up the big-city monopoly of theatrical talent, including Knight and Andrew W. Mellon, which is doing its part to attract theater professionals to Minneapolis, it's a really, really good time to be a theater professional.

If, of course, you can withstand a Midwest winter.

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