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NEA grant helps expand Black and Latino Playwrights Conference

Posted by Jayme Blaschke
University News Service
December 5, 2014

Eugene Lee
Eugene Lee

The Black and Latino Playwrights Conference at Texas State University has received an Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Black and Latinos Playwrights Conference, now in its 13th year, brings together guest professionals and university students to foster the development of new plays by African-American and Latino playwrights. Week-long rehearsals and script workshops culminate in staged public readings. The conference also features panel discussions and symposia on the craft of playwriting.

"This NEA grant will fund activities for the conference we wouldn't be able to otherwise," said Eugene Lee, artistic director of the conference. "We bring in playwrights. Then we bring in professional directors and professional actors to work with them. We fill out the cast with Texas State drama students.

"It's an interesting opportunity to develop a play. These are all young plays that have never been produced," he explained. "Writers get a chance to hear them, then work on the storytelling and further develop the characters. That's important. A writer can write a play, but until it comes off the page, it's hard to tell how it will export."

The Texas State grant totals $10,000. The university is one of 919 nonprofit organizations nationwide to receive a NEA Art Works grant this year. The conference also received an Access to Artistic Excellence grant from the NEA in 2011.

"The conference fills an interesting void in providing an opportunity for people of color to develop their work. For the past six or seven years, I've receive several hundred script submissions, but I can only bring in two for each conference," he said. "We've been trying to expand this thing every year, just a little bit, and the NEA grant allows us to bring in an additional playwright, and all that entails.

"Ultimately, I'd like this conference to last a fortnight, nurturing playwrights and celebrating the work. I'm trying to grow this thing so we have more conference-type activities, panels on director-actor relationships, the legal aspects of playwriting, relationships within the theater. Nuts-and-bolts seminars," he said. "I'd love to bring in experts to do seminars on publishing so that other writers come in and participate. It's not a festival--it's a group of like-minded people pulling all their wagons into a circle, discussing common interests and developing their art."

Art Works grants support the creation of art, public engagement with art, lifelong learning in the arts, and enhancement of the livability of communities through the arts.

"I'm pleased to be able to share the news of our support through Art Works including the award to the Black and Latino Playwrights Conference," NEA Chairman Jane Chu said. "The arts foster value, connection, creativity and innovation for the American people and these recommended grants demonstrate those attributes and affirm that the arts are part of our everyday lives."

The NEA received 1,474 eligible applications under the Art Works category, requesting more than $75 million in funding. Of those applications, 919 are recommended for grants for a total of $26.6 million. For a complete listing of projects recommended for Art Works grant support, please visit the NEA website at arts.gov.

About the National Endowment for the Arts

The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $4 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. The NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector. To join the discussion on how art works, visit the NEA at www.arts.gov.