National Endowment for the Arts Acting Chairman Mary Anne Carter has approved more than $80 million in grants as part of the Arts Endowment’s second major funding announcement for fiscal year 2019. Included in this announcement is an Art Works grant of $20,000 to Playhouse Square to support the commission of Cartography, a new work by theater artist Kaneza Schaal, award-winning author and illustrator Christopher Myers and produced by ArKtype/Thomas O. Kriegsmann.
Art Works is the Arts Endowment’s principal grantmaking program. The agency received 1,592 Art Works applications for this round of grantmaking and will award 977 grants in this category.
“These awards, reaching every corner of the United States, are a testament to the artistic richness and diversity in our country,” said Mary Anne Carter, acting chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. “Organizations such as Playhouse Square are giving people in their community the opportunity to learn, create and be inspired.”
Playhouse Square Vice President of Community Engagement & Education Daniel Hahn met artists Kaneza Schaal and Christopher Myers not long after they returned to the United States from working with a group of refugee youth in Munich, Germany. Their work with those refugees inspired Schaal and Myers to propose creating a theater piece that would use mapmaking and storytelling to explore the themes of migration and immigration.
Compelled by the artists themselves and a previously-established relationship with Cleveland-based organization The Refugee Response, Hahn and Playhouse Square decided to partner with producer Tommy Kriegsmann, president of ArKtype, and commission Cartography.
“Myers and Schaal are creating an engaging performance that leads to the contemplation of urgent questions about migration and immigration,” said Hahn. “We at Playhouse Square believe in the power of theater to develop understanding, insight and empathy and because of this, we actively seek to produce new and promising work like Cartography for young audiences. We are so grateful to have received a National Endowment for the Arts grant which will provide students the opportunity to consider where we have come from, how we have moved and where we are all going, as well as give us the ability to expand and foster our ongoing relationships with The Refugee Response, Cleveland Metropolitan School District and the Cuyahoga County Public Library system.”
Leading up to the engagement of Cartography at Playhouse Square in November 2019, Kaneza and Schaal visited Cleveland this past April and will return in September to conduct storytelling workshops for area educators, for children ages 10-17 at the South Euclid-Lyndhurst Branch of Cuyahoga Public Library and with refugee students from John Marshall High School. Each student participating in the workshops will receive a free ticket to see the show at Playhouse Square in November.
“Many teens struggle to find out who they are and what motivates them. This is especially true of the teens in our program who have witnessed conflict, been forced from their homes and found themselves in a new home land,” said Patrick Kearns, executive director of The Refugee Response. “Cartography is a one of kind experience for these students to express themselves, to find their voices and to hear each other's stories with the guidance of professional performers and storytellers. We are thrilled and grateful for this unique opportunity and collaboration.”
Cartography, a new play commissioned by Playhouse Square, explores the issue of migration. Five refugees from struggling countries discover what it means to leave home behind and start a new life. Performed by a diverse company of actors from such countries as El Salvador, Syria, Lebanon, South Africa and Rwanda, the play itself was inspired by true events.
In 2016, artists Christopher Myers and Kaneza Schaal flew to Munich, Germany, when 30,000 new people a day were arriving in that city, creating the largest migration in recorded human history. They spent hours listening to the refugees’ stories, shaping them into this stunning play. A combination of simple storytelling and interactive video technology, Cartography, taken directly from today’s headlines, exemplifies theater at its most relevant.
The creative team is led by author Christopher Myers (Caldecott Honor winner for his illustrations for Harlem, which was written by his father, Newberry Honor author Walter Dean Myers, whose works also include Somewhere in the Darkness, Slam!, Monster) and New York director Kaneza Schaal (2016 Creative Capital Award winner). Cartography is produced by ArKtype, led by Tommy Kriegsmann. ArKtype has produced work with Mikhail Baryshnikov, Peter Brook, Peter Sellars, Julie Taymor, as well as the U.S. premier of Tel Aviv’s Nalaga’at Deaf-Blind Theater production of Not by Bread Alone.
Cartography is produced with generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts and The Joyce Foundation. Additional support provided by The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The New Victory Theatre, The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi, Center for the Arts at Wesleyan University, and Young People’s Theatre of Toronto, Canada.
For more information on this National Endowment for the Arts grant announcement, visit arts.gov/news.