Thursday, January 30, 2014

Figures of Speech Theatre Receives National Endowment for the Arts Grant

Preliminary set model for the little match girl passion.
Figures of Speech Theatre Receives National Endowment for the Arts Grant
to Support Development of the little match girl passion
Grant One of 895 NEA Art Works Grants Funded Nationwide
Freeport, Maine — National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Acting Chairman Joan Shigekawa announced today that Figures of Speech Theatre is one of 895 nonprofit organizations nationwide to receive an NEA Art Works grant. Figures of Speech Theatre is recommended for a $10,000 grant to support the development of its adaptation of David Lang’s the little match girl passion.
The performance will be a visual tapestry of puppets, objects and film projections surrounding the four singers called for in Lang’s extraordinarily beautiful composition.
Lang won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 2008 for the score, which refigures the Hans Christian Andersen story about the suffering and death of a young match seller as a Passion, drawing from the Andersen text and from the libretto of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. Of the piece, Pulitzer-juror and Washington Post columnist Tim Page said, "I don't think I've ever been so moved by a new, and largely unheralded, composition as I was by David Lang's the little match girl passion, which is unlike any music I know."
There are 5 phases to the entire multi-year project, which is currently in Phase 2.
Phase 1: Conceptual development (complete)
Phase 2: Creation of puppets, objects and projected imagery in 2014
Phase 3: Workshop production without singers in 2015
Phase 4: Full production with singers in 2015 or 2016
Phase 5: Touring the performance, beginning in 2016
Acting Chairman Shigekawa said, "The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to support these exciting and diverse arts projects that will take place throughout the United States. Whether it is through a focus on education, engagement, or innovation, these projects all contribute to vibrant communities and memorable experiences for the public to engage with the arts."
Figures of Speech Theatre’s Artistic Director John Farrell has had his eyes set on this production since first hearing the music two years ago. As he describes it, “I was deeply moved by the music when I first heard it, and the piece seemed to be a perfect vehicle for Figures of Speech Theatre’s visionary weave of puppet-and-actor theater. Composer David Lang has given us his enthusiastic permission to use his score as the musical basis for this performance,
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saying, ‘I know how much puppets can do in telling a story like this one.’”
The grant was part of the Endowment’s commitment to the development or production of new works of theater for American audiences, and Farrell is clearly pleased that his company received a significant award. “How big a deal is this?” he asks. “Of the 160 grants awarded nationwide in the theater discipline, only 2 were made to theaters in Maine.”
Art Works grants support the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence: public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and enhancing the livability of communities through the arts. The NEA received 1,528 eligible Art Works applications, requesting more than $75 million in funding. Of those applications, 895 are recommended for grants for a total of $23.4 million.
For a complete listing of projects recommended for Art Works grant support, please visit the NEA website at
Founded in 1982 to explore the interplay of puppets, actors, shadows, movement, and masks, Figures of Speech Theatre is a four-time recipient of the coveted UNIMA Citation of Excellence, the highest distinction in American puppet theater, as well as numerous grant awards from organizations including the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Jim Henson Foundation, and the New England Foundation for the Arts. Figures of Speech Theatre’s unique approach to theater, and especially to the interaction of actors and puppets on stage, has led to collaborations with other organizations such as Portland Stage Company, Heartwood Regional Theater, and the Portland Symphony Orchestra.
To find out more about this and other productions, please visit the Figures of Speech Theatre website at

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