When Broadway shuttered in 2020, and the “We See You, White American Theater” movement called for radical, industry-wide change, Tony Award-winning scenic designer Beowulf Boritt conceived how the design field could do its part. Boritt considered that if he and other theatrical designers, with shows running on Broadway (once performances resumed), set aside one week of their annual royalties, they could use the funds to support a more diverse pipeline of up-and-coming designers.
The result is the 1/52 Project, which awards grants of between $10,000 and $15,000 to seven promising designers from underrepresented backgrounds each year. Now in its third year, the organization runs with help from 20 volunteers in the theatrical design industry and receives varying levels of support from about half of the active designers on Broadway, Boritt said. An interview process with 14 finalists to select the winners allows the committee to get to know the artists and how the grant would impact their careers. The application window for 2024 is currently open until May 15.
“Part of the hope is to give younger artists breathing room to learn, so that when they get their Broadway project, they’re ready for it,” Boritt said.