The Five College Multicultural Theater Committee is charged with furthering multicultural perspectives in theater in our community. For more than three decades, it has done so by supporting visits from guest artists, five college productions, and workshops that foreground the experiences of people of color.
The Five College Multicultural Theater Committee is charged with furthering multicultural perspectives in theater in our community. For more than three decades, it has done so by supporting visits from guest artists, five college productions, and workshops that foreground the experiences of people of color. More recently, our efforts have included supporting in-depth residencies for artists of color to work and interact with students and faculty on specific performance projects.
Our work falls into three categories:
- WORD!: Our annual multicultural student play-reading festival designed to encourage student writers who engage multicultural themes in their work. Each year in the spring semester,up to 3 students per campus are chosen to participate in a series of workshops led by a professional playwright. After the workshops, participating students submit their plays to the committee, and up to five are selected to be presented as staged readings at the annual festival. Their authors receive an award from the James Baldwin Memorial Fund. A different campus hosts the festival each year. The host for 2021 was UMass Amherst.
- Mini-Grants for student-centered productions: The committee will award matching funds to support productions, newsletters, and honoraria for workshops and guest artists. Awards are normally no more than one half of the total budget for the event.
- Artist Residencies: Artists and projects selected by the committee will teach and present on at least three of the five colleges culminating with a public presentation of their work. (Please note that the Artist Residency program is currently on hiatus.)
Guidelines for Mini-Grants, and applications to WORD! are available from members of the committee and Ray Rennard, Director for Academic Programs at Five Colleges.
About the Word! Festival
Word! A Five College Festival of staged readings (of recently written short plays or excerpts from them) builds on a highly successful model originated by the University’s New World Theater. The primary goals of the festival are to identify and nurture student writers who are engaging in multicultural themes and/or aesthetics; to increase contact between the departments of theater and the communities of color on the respective campuses; and to further Five College exchange through the mechanism of a rotating festival.
The writers of the works selected to be presented each year receive an award of $100 from the Five College James Baldwin Memorial Fund. The American writer James Baldwin spent several years at the five colleges as a Five College Distinguished Joint Faculty Appointee. Following his death in 1987, a memorial fund in his name was established by the Five College community. To date, over 100 students have been recognized with this award.
Word! is hosted by a different campus each year. it’s one of several activities supported by the Multicultural Theater Committee, which was established in 1986 by the chairs of the theater departments.
Five College Multicultural Theater Committee:
Amherst: Ron Bashford, Associate Professor of Theater and Dance
Hampshire: Jonathan Dent, Assistant Professor of Theater
Mount Holyoke: Michael Ofori, Visiting Lecturer in Theatre Arts, 538-2834
Smith: Len Berkman, Professor of Theatre, 585-3206
UMass Amherst: Priscilla Page, Multicultural Theater Certificate Director and Senior Lecturer II in Dramaturgy
Five College Staff Liaison:
Ray Rennard, Director of Academic Programs