The Artists of Colour Initiative (AOC) has launched a scholarship competition designed to provide financial assistance and industry support to six exceptionally talented theatre performers based in Australia that identify as Bla(c)k, Indigenous or as People of Colour (POC).
The initiative was born from the recognition of underrepresentation of these communities in the Australian theatre Industry. The aim of the scholarship is to ensure greater participation within the field of musical theatre amongst these marginalised communities.
“The AOC Initiative is a celebration of People of Colour – a community I am a part of – with the aim to come together, have important conversations and fight for change in the Australian theatre industry. I wanted to create an opportunity where I could support and celebrate artists who identify as Bla(c)k, Indigenous or POC by providing them with greater visibility and a stepping stone to a more racially inclusive theatre industry,” says founder of the AOC Initiative Tarik Frimpong.
Submissions for the scholarship will occur in three rounds with the first submission deadline on Monday 28 September. From there, a top 30 will be announced followed by a top six then ultimately, one winner. To assist in curating the semi-finalists and finalists, a panel of longstanding performers, choreographers, directors, musical directors, writers and activists of the theatre industry who identify as Bla(c)k, Indigenous or as People of Colour will lead the charge.
The 2020 panelists for the AOC Initiative are Barry Conrad, Bree Langridge, Callum Francis, Cessalee Smith-Stovall, Chenoa Deemal, Daniel J Puckey, Dean Drieberg, Fiona Choi, Kurt Kansley, Laura Tipoki, Leah Howard, Miss Cairo, Olivia Vasquez, Ruva Ngwenya, Sello Molefi, Sophia Laryea, Steph Tisdell, Tarik Frimpong, Thando Sikwila, Tim Omaji, Tyrel Dulvarie, Vidya Makan, Will Centurion, Yasmin Kassim and Yvette Lee.
“I am honoured to be a panelist for the AOC initiative. Growing up in Australia as an immigrant from a mixed raced South African background in the 80s and 90s and dreaming of being on the stage, I hardly saw anyone who looked like me being represented on stage or behind the scenes in the theatre. I had to work harder than my peers who came from caucasian backgrounds to be seen and taken seriously,” says Kurt Kansley.
To qualify for the AOC Initiative, applicants must identify as Bla(c)k, Indigenous or as People of Colour; be pursuing a career in musical theatre; be aged between 17 and 30 at the time of submission; be an Australian citizen or resident; not have previously secured a leading or supporting role in a mainstage musical theatre production, and not be engaged in or scheduled for performance-related work in a leading or supporting role at the time of submission.
“I am looking for young artists who have tenacity and perseverance to fight for their worth. Artists who are willing to learn and are open to play. Not only is the talent integral, but the willingness to work hard and believe in oneself is of utmost importance,” says Kansley.
Donations are being raised via GoFundMe with 100% of the prize money being awarded to the six finalists. So far, the AOC has raised over $10,000 with the winner receiving 50% of the donations; the runner up receiving 20% of the donations and the final four receiving 7.5% of the donations each. All donations support a step forward in the dialogue of inclusivity and social awareness.
“The AOC Initiative was created by People of Colour for People of Colour and we are fighting for change in the musical theatre industry,” says Frimpong.