At Tennessee Women's Theater Project, if we see a story that needs telling, we don't ask can we do this? We ask how soon? Nashville’s immigrant population has increased sharply in recent years. New waves of Kurdish, Sudanese, Somali and Bhutanese immigrants have joined established populations of Hispanic, Egyptian and Korean people. The impact on Middle Tennessee has been enormous. Lifelong residents are faced with a changing Nashville, as they encounter people who look and dress differently, speak different languages, eat different foods, play different music, follow different customs. Not everyone is comfortable with this change. So, the company has commissioned playwrights Sara Sharpe and Christine Mather to create a play that examines Nashville's immigration experience from the point of view of its new Americans. Voices of Nashville: Immigration and Community will have its world premiere in our home theater in Nashville in October. After that, it will tour community centers such as Nashville's new Casa Azafrán, as well as public and private schools, churches and social organizations. Our goal is to make as many tour performances as possible absolutely FREE.
This Kickstarter campaign will help compensate the playwrights, actors, and designers as Voices makes its way toward Opening Night of its October world premiere run.
We have gotten to know some wonderful people, whose stories bring clarity and empathy to a topic most people know only from headlines and political rhetoric. At all points of the process – research, creation, outreach and performance – we are working in partnership with such organizations as the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, Conexión Américas, Nashville International Center for Empowerment, Scarritt-Bennett Center, American Center for Outreach and the Coalition for Education about Immigration. Our aim is to reach, teach and inspire audiences to see themselves and their new neighbors in new ways.
In sharing their experiences, Nashville’s new Americans are reaching across the distance that separates “us” from “them.” While their stories are deeply personal, their themes of heartbreak and triumph are universal. We believe that long-time residents will “see themselves in the stranger” and reach back, to build a stronger community.
Beyond this campaign, we are seeking funding commitments from foundations and corporations to sponsor the three-week run at the Looby Theater, and the subsequent tour with as many as 20 performances offered to community centers, civic organizations and schools free of charge. We're confident that once Kickstarter gets us from here to the stage, we will connect Voices of Nashville with the audience it deserves.
Risks and challenges
Creating a new play is a bold move for a small company. We know we face possible pitfalls, but we believe in the company, the people whose stories we tell, and the power of theater to change lives.
Q: Is the creative team solid?
A: Our Founder and Artistic Director, Maryanna Clarke, has now directed 16 plays for TWTP, including two US premieres, and curated 7 Women's Work Festivals, so she's experienced in the ups and downs of gathering a team of creative artists and bringing their collaboration to the stage.
Q: Will the play be finished on time?
A: We're six months into the work of outreach, interviews and drafting the script, following a schedule devised by Maryanna, Sara and Christine. The playwrights are excited about their accomplishments so far, and eager to bring the completed work to the stage. Opening night is October 4, and we will be ready.
Q: Will the play have an audience?
A: Yes! We have relationships with many groups and organizations that are working for immigration reform and that support immigrants. They've all pledged to support and promote Voices of Nashville when it opens. We're already scheduling tour performances in community centers and schools. Local TV, and newspapers will help spread the word, and Voices will be a featured event in Nashville's annual city-wide Artober celebration of the arts.
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