In response to the unabated surge in violence against Asians, Asian Americans,and Pacific Islanders (AAPI’s) in NYC, the Obie Award-winning advocacy group, the Asian American Performers Action Coalition (AAPAC), announced a partnership with grant-making organization Indie Theater Fund/IndieSpace to create a fund and disburse grants to AAPI theater artists for car service or taxi fare if they do not feel safe using mass transportation to get to and from work. With generous funding from partners American Theatre Wing, The Actors Fund, and Dramatists Guild Foundation, the fund is launching with $35,000 and will disburse grants of $250—roughly the cost of 10 car rides— with the opportunity to re-apply based on fund availability.
AAPAC is calling for more donations to expand the initiative’s reach. AAPAC member Pun Bandhu stated, “We are so grateful that our theater community is coming together to help its own. We have to acknowledge that this situation has reached crisis levels. I know several theater workers personally who have been harassed or assaulted; most went unreported. Every institution needs to be thinking about how they can make it safe for their Asian employees to get to and from work. $35,000 is 140 people that we can help. Priority will be given to those who are the most marginalized, working Off or Off Off Broadway who do not have institutional support and who feel like they have no choice but to use mass transit, but we hope that with more donations, this initiative can help even more people as the need is dire. Please donate if you are able. This is one small thing we can do to help keep those most vulnerable in our community safe.” Tax-deductible donations can be made by credit card at bit.ly/AAPITransportationFund or by check to: Indie Theater Fund to 48-15 28th Avenue, Astoria NY 11103 with the memo “AAPI Transportation Fund.”
Indie Theater Fund/IndieSpace, who initiated a similar transportation fund a year ago in response to the murder of 6 Asian women in Atlanta, will be administering the grants. Executive Director Randi Berry said, “The recent uptick in violence towards the AAPI community, both on public transportation, and, in general, has been absolutely devastating. We are proud to partner with AAPAC to provide small stipends for safety, allowing artists to move in and out of the theater without fearing for their lives. This is only a bandaid, we know, and does not address the systems of oppression that have brought us here, but we hope it provides some peace and comfort, and practical support, in these most difficult times.” AAPI Theater artists can apply at: bit.ly/AAPITF_app
The American Theatre Wing’s President & CEO Heather Hitchens said, “I am very moved to see our community come together like this to protect our AAPI friends and colleagues. I am particularly grateful to ATW Advisory Committee member Clint Ramos who brought us all together.”
The NYPD released in Dec 2021 that anti-Asian hate crimes increased by 361% from 2020. Since then, violent crimes against Asians have continued unabated with many highly publicized attacks primarily targeting Asian women on the subway. While most of the incidents that were reported did not involve theatre workers, several did. A dancer on his way to a performance at the Public Theatre was attacked on Feb 25th in Seward Park, near the Chinatown apartment where Christina Yuna Lee was murdered on Feb 13th after she was followed home from the subway. A video taken by theater director Kat Yen on March 10th went viral depicting her standing up to a man on the subway who says in the video, “All Asians should die. All Asians.”
IndieSpace and The Indie Theater Fund were built to be responsive to the needs of the indie theatre community and to provide financial support to artists and workers navigating obstacles to creating their art. In 2020, The Indie Theater Fund gave over $325,000 to nearly 600 individual artists, small companies and indie venues. In addition to initiatives such as the Cultural Solidarity Fund (a coalition of cultural institutions that have distributed nearly $1M in microgrants so far), they are continuing a mission of supporting small companies and individual artists through unrestricted grants, professional development and more. https://www.indietheaterfund.org/
Dramatists Guild Foundation (DGF) is a national charity that fuels the future of American theater by supporting the writers who create it. DGF fosters playwrights, composers, lyricists, and lyricists at all stages of their careers. In response to the theatrical shutdown due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, DGF has distributed $3 million in immediate financial relief to writers during the nation-wide theatrical shutdown and continues to support writers through the recovery of the industry. The needs of theater writers during the shutdown also launched the Housing Assistance Grants to aid with rent payments, moving costs, and other housing challenges, as well as the Steven Schwartzberg Grants to provide financial assistance for mental health and wellness services. For more information visit DGF.org and follow at @dgfound.
The American Theatre Wing encourages the discovery of theatre by people of all ages, nurtures talent on stage and off, creates pathways for success for students and young professionals, and encourages the development of the art form itself by recognizing and supporting innovative and excellent work with awards and grants. Building a just, equitable and inclusive American theatre is a guiding principle of all of ATW’s work and programs. To learn more about ATW’s extensive programming and grant opportunities for students, theatre professionals, and audiences, please visit AmericanTheatreWing.org.
The Actors Fund fosters stability and resiliency, and provides a safety net for performing arts and entertainment professionals over their lifespan. Services include emergency financial assistance, affordable housing, health care and insurance counseling, senior care, & more. https://actorsfund.org
The mission of Asian American Performers Action Coalition (AAPAC) is to expand the perception of Asian American performers in order to increase their access to and representation on New York City’s stages. AAPAC publishes the only publicly available annual statistics report on racial representation in the NYC area of its kind, and has been a leader in discussions and forums on diversity with artistic institutions and the Broadway community. In 2020, the company was given an Obie Award for advocacy in the field of diversity, equity and inclusion. www.aapacnyc.org