Tantrum Theater to receive $10,000 in grant funding from the National Endowment for the Arts

Published: May 12, 2021 Author: Staff reports

Tantrum Theater, Ohio University’s professional theater, has been approved for a $10,000 Grants for Arts Projects award from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to support a Tantrum Theater Community Commission.

This project supports the commission of a play to be written by playwright Jacqueline E. Lawton in collaboration with the Mt. Zion Baptist Church Preservation Society and Tantrum Theater. 

The work will center on the historical experience of living within the Black community of Athens in Southeastern Appalachian Ohio. Tantrum Theater’s project is among the more than 1,100 projects across America garnering support totaling nearly $27 million that were selected during this second round of Grants for Arts Projects fiscal year 2021 funding. Tantrum Theater also received $2,300 in funding from the Ohio Arts Council through its ArtsNext grant program to support initial planning and research and matching funds from OHIO College of Fine Arts’ Community Engagement Fund.

“As the country and the arts sector begin to imagine returning to a post-pandemic world, the National Endowment for the Arts is proud to announce funding that will help arts organizations such as Tantrum Theater reengage fully with partners and audiences,” said NEA Acting Chairman Ann Eilers. “Although the arts have sustained many during the pandemic, the chance to gather with one another and share arts experiences is its own necessity and pleasure.”

The project announcement is the result of at least two years of planning and patience as Tantrum Theater weathered the pandemic, said Producing Director Josh Coy.

“We couldn't be happier to begin this work with this generous funding support from the NEA, OAC, and the College of Fine Arts’ Community Engagement Fund,” Coy said. “Athens is rich in stories of Black culture; incredible tales of inspiration, perseverance, and hardship. We believe that we have a responsibility to share these important legacies — ones that have been historically undervalued in American theater — as a means to reflect upon our past in order to consider our future as a community. This collaborative effort between Tantrum, Mt. Zion, and playwright Jacqueline E. Lawton is ultimately intended to entertain, spark conversation, and shine a light on the vibrancy of the communities of color that make Appalachian Ohio what it is today.

“The work that Mt. Zion Baptist Church Preservation Society is engaged in and the historic and cultural preservation of the Black experience in Southeast Ohio is critical to understanding our landscape,” Coy added. “They were a natural and valuable collaborator that we are continually thankful to have as a partner. Jacqueline is both an incredible artist and individual. I'm certain we could not have found a better person to lead us on the creative portion of this journey than she.”

Lawton says she’s honored and excited to be part of the project.

“What excites me about working with Tantrum Theater is being able to uncover the rich, wonderful, and unique Black history in this area of the Appalachia,” Lawton said. “Being able to work directly with the Athens community to tell their story is a powerful way to protect, preserve, and promote this historic community. I am honored to have received this commission and feel strongly that the play we create together will bring awareness to the issues that matter most to the Athens community and promote racial healing through empathy and engagement.”

Mt. Zion Baptist Church Preservation Society is a group dedicated to restoring and repurposing an iconic 115-year-old building in Athens into a Black Cultural Center. Board President Ada-Woodson Adams said the funding from the NEA and the collaboration is much-welcomed news. 

"As an organization dedicated to establishing a vibrant educational, cultural and creative programming Center, it doesn't get any better than this. For Mt. Zion to forge a coalition with the award-winning scholar and playwright Jacqueline E. Lawton and a renowned company as Tantrum Theater is incredible or perhaps heaven-sent,” Adams said. “I say that because both have displayed genuine interest in recognizing and supporting the contributions, history and ongoing concerns of Appalachia's Black Americans and other marginalized groups in the Ohio River Valley. And that is our mission, our goal. Kudos, NEA, for recognizing this talented duo.”

Other members of the society who are supporting this effort include Trevellya (Tee) Ford-Ahmed, PhD, media/communications for the society; Travis Gatling, director, OHIO School of Dance; and Rhys Carr, an OHIO junior studying musical theater performance in the College of Fine Arts School of Theater.

For more information on the projects included in the Arts Endowment grant announcement, click here