Minority theaters get coin infusion

St. Louis Black Rep., Penumbra, Bilingual Foundation chosen for Capital

Three regional theaters with a minority arts focus recently received a big boost from the Working Capital Fund, a St. Paul, Minn.-based foundation.

The four-year program helps arts orgs to reach maturity in financial and institutional terms.

The theaters receiving support are the St. Louis Black Repertory Co., the St. Paul-based Penumbra Theater Co. and the Bilingual Foundation of the Arts in L.A.

The St. Louis Black Rep received a first-year sum of $128,000, the first installment of a total of up to $375,000 to be delivered over the next three years.

St. Louis Black Rep and Pemubra are among a handful of prestigious black theaters producing new work nationally. The Bilingual Foundation of the Arts is a repertory theater that does Spanish and English translations of plays in rotation.

Building foundations

Each of the three theaters is working to get the word out to audiences and build up the backbone of their boards. The four-year Working Capital Fund grants will help them do just that. A collaborative effort of the Ford Foundation and the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the fund encourages theaters to focus on long-term goals and to become self-supporting. It also helps theaters beef up community support by building strong outreach and PR efforts.

“The initial investment allowed us to add several staff positions” which will help to stabilize and expand the theater’s development, marketing and public relations outreach, said Ron Himes, founder and producing director of St. Louis Black Rep. “This will help us to diversify our sources of funding, particularly in the area of development.”

The St. Louis Black Rep’s growth comes on the heels of the shuttering of the New Jersey-based Crossroads Theater, one of the largest high-profile black theater in the U.S.

“We are strengthening our board of directors,” Himes said. “Leadership at the board level allows us to go out into the community.”

WCF money will be used to spearhead an annual fund drive, enhance donor programs and plan for the solicitation of more contributed income.

The St. Louis Black Rep’s season includes August Wilson’s play “Jitney,” Samm-Art Williams’ comedy “The Dance on Widow’s Row,” the world premiere of Leslie Lee’s “Legends” and productions of “Godspell” and “Oak and Ivy.”

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