AlterTheater Ensemble receives NEA grant to support commission of new play by Larissa FastHorse

DATE:  November 28, 2012

CONTACT: Jeanette Harrison


Grant one of 832 Art Works grants totaling $23.3 million in funding nationwide

San Rafael, CA 

National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chairman Rocco Landesman announced that AlterTheater Ensemble is one of 832 non-profit organizations nationwide to receive an NEA Art Works grant. AlterTheater Ensemble is recommended for a $10,000 grant to support its commission of playwright Larissa FastHorse.

To be developed in 2013 in collaboration between Larissa and AlterTheater’s ensemble of artists, Landless Tribes (working title) explores personal intersections of homelessness and the meaning of land in defining culture and self.  “Whenever I start a play, I like to begin by researching the original inhabitants,” says Larissa, a member of the Sicangu Lakota Nation. “For me, the idea of land is so important to identity, but the Coastal Miwok were landless for generations. What does that mean? Add the recent climate of foreclosures to the fact that AlterTheater is itself a nomadic company, and suddenly, we’re looking at homelessness in a different way.”

"I'm proud to announce these 832 grants to the American public including AlterTheater Ensemble’s commission," said Chairman Landesman. "These projects offer extraordinary examples of creativity in our country, including the creation of new work, innovative ways of engaging audiences, and exemplary education programs."

Founded in 2004, AlterTheater transforms storefronts along downtown San Rafael’s pedestrian shopping district into temporary performance locations, moving from storefront to storefront along Fourth Street, where passersby can look in and “window shop” theater.

AlterTheater has produced 12 world premieres, and this project marks its third commissioned play. Past commissions include Bay Area playwright Brian Thorstenson’s The Horses (2009), and Lauren Yee’s A Man, his Wife, and his Hat, one of 2 finalists for the USA Pen Award for Best New Play written west of the Mississippi (2011). In 2011, AlterTheater expanded its new works program to include a playwright residency program, AlterLab, which supports 3-5 writers each year. In addition to Larissa, 2013’s writers include Denmo Ibrahim, Marisela Treviño Orta, and Ann Brebner.

Larissa FastHorse is a playwright and choreographer from the Sicangu Lakota Nation. Tony Award winning Children’s Theatre Company of Minneapolis commissioned and produced her first play, AVERAGE FAMILY. Larissa’s second commission with Children’s Theatre Company, FANCY DANCER based on her life story, won the 2010 National Endowment for the Arts Distinguished New Play Development Grant.  An Equity production of TEACHING DISCO SQUAREDANCING TO OUR ELDERS: A CLASS PRESENTATION, was the first of three commissions with Native Voices at the Autry in Los Angeles, the country’s leading producer of new Native American plays.  In addition to AlterTheater, Larissa is also under commission with the Kennedy Center Theatre for Young Audiences for A DANCING PEOPLE, and with Cornerstone Theatre Company. Selected awards include the Center Theatre Group 2011-12 Writer’s Workshop, Aurand Harris Fellowship, a two time Ford New Works grant recipient, Sundance Fellowship, National Geographic Seed Grant and inscribed delegate to the UN in Geneva.  TV credits include two pilots; THE LINE for Fox and LAKOTA FALLS for Teen Nick.

In March 2012, the NEA received 1,509 eligible applications for Art Works requesting more than $74 million in funding. The 832 recommended NEA grants total $22.3 million, span 13 artistic disciplines and fields, and focus primarily on the creation of work and presentation of both new and existing works for the benefit of American audiences. Applications were reviewed by panels of outside experts convened by NEA staff and each project was judged on its artistic excellence and artistic merit.

For a complete listing of projects recommended for Art Works grant support, please visit the NEA website at 

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