USA Theater Arts Panel for 2009

Ron Himes

Founder and Producing Director, St. Louis Black Rep, St. Louis, MO

Steve Scott

Associate Producer, Goodman Theatre, Chicago, IL

Rosalba Rolón (Chair)

Co-Founder and Artistic Director, Pregones Theater, and USA Fontanals Fellow, The Bronx, NY

Tim Dang

Producing Artistic Director, East West Players, Los Angeles, CA

Roberta Levitow

Associate Artist, Sundance Institute East Africa, and Co-Founder, Theatre Without Borders, Santa Monica, CA

Statement by Tim Dang

In these challenging times we continually search for new perspectives to help us reshape, reassess, and renew the way in which we live. It is vital that we invest in our artists and raise the value of artists in our society. Their artistry gives all of us an instinctual sense of originality, imagination, and discovery. Every day from the time we wake up we make choices. We prepare what clothes to wear or the way we’ll style or brush our hair. We’ll drive the car we’ve chosen because we’ve selected features and appearances on the model of what we can afford. We’ll also speak on a cell phone with a design and application we prefer, listen to music on our iPods that moves us as we go about our business or pleasure, tell an amusing story to our friends with dramatic flair at the “water cooler,” and doodle as we sit at a meeting.

Tonight, we’ll cook something from a recipe or create a new dish filled with tasty ingredients, or we’ll dine at a restaurant we’ve chosen for its quality and presentation. And before we go to bed, we’ll curl up with a book that will stir our imagination. Everyday we make hundreds of decisions that are necessary, smart, and, bottom line, they’re artistic choices. We simply don’t realize that almost everything we do in life contains an artistic aspect that keeps us moving forward.

I am proud to be part of the theater community, which gives us a sense of connection that continues long after the performance is over. Theater is a powerful tool in recognizing and celebrating America’s tremendous diversity and sharing it with a greater community. It is a collaborative experience that helps us see the world from another perspective and builds relationships of respect and mutual understanding with others in the process.

Today, theater takes many forms, from a performance initiated on a sidewalk, to a blackbox experimental space, to a grand hall, and from traditional to the avant-garde, which blends acting, movement, music, and technology. It is an artistic recipe that represents the community in which we live and feeds all of us with a pride and soul that keeps our society healthy.

This is not to say that we should not invest in needed health and human services, housing programs, and economic stimulus packages, etc. But we should include the arts as a necessity too. Our artists are the cultural innovators and inventors who continually push boundaries and provide fresh interpretations of our world today. The arts teach us how to think creatively, whether you’re an engineer building a rollercoaster, a business executive finding new ways to market a product, or a manager finding ways to efficiently supervise staff. Ingenuity has long been a driving force in any economy, and the arts can provide an unlimited fuel source for what’s yet to come. The theater artists chosen for USA Fellowships for 2009 are all master storytellers who explore, through language, movement, puppetry, and music, social and cultural issues and the human condition. It is their leadership that educates and enlightens the future generation of performing artists. The power of the arts provides an irreplaceable part of our education and development—and the creativity, vibrancy, and celebration of community.