Arts and Culture

Emerging BIPOC Playwrights Project Accepting Applications for First Class

Jon Marcantoni, a creative of Puerto Rican and Corsican descent, became interested in theater at a young age and began performing with community-level productions. In his twenties, he switched to screenwriting, then segued into writing fiction; eventually, he became both a published writer and an editor in the publishing business. And in a return to theater, his play Puerto Rican Nocturne was produced last year at the Bug Theatre.

The man has skills.

Now Marcantoni hopes to share those skills with playwrights who might be struggling with social disparities while trying to secure their own time in the spotlight. He's actively soliciting participants for the Emerging BIPOC Playwrights Project, a mentorship program offering instruction in active play development and production, in collaboration with Control Group Productions. The first round will accept up to five playwrights living along the Front Range, from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs; the deadline to apply is Sunday, February 5.

“The whole process of getting produced is passive for writers,” Marcantoni notes. “This system, from my experience, benefits people with connections, usually white. We need a new system for black and brown writers to learn what they need to know.”

That’s where skills — and taking a more active part in bringing a work to the stage — come into play. “For the first two months, we’ll be meeting to go over scripts, and for the other half, we’ll be doing classes on networking, marketing and budgeting," Marcantoni says.

“We’ll talk about how to do interviews,” he adds, recalling his own sense of terror the first time he spoke to a reporter. “I learned how fast ten minutes goes by. It goes fast.”

Finally, one of the first five mentees will have the opportunity to stage their play for a three-week run that comes with a livestream element and video for their portfolio.
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The cast of Marcantoni's play Puerto Rican Nocturne at the Bug Theatre.
Courtesy of Jon Marcantoni
Marcantoni wants to remove the stereotypical model from BIPOC plays by encouraging playwrights to think outside the box. “I want writers to have an interest in plays that tell different kinds of stories, hybrids," he says. "We get lumped into a certain kind of story, and I want to get away from that. I would love to see comedies and plays in different genres: sci-fi, surreal, though not necessarily magic realism. I want to show the mainstream something different, to learn how to make that work.”

One key element of the program: Participating is essentially free. “We’re doing some fundraising, applying for grants through Control Group, plus we’ll have whatever income we get from the shows,” Marcantoni explains.

If the program proves successful, he hopes to expand the concept. “I would love to take the tenets of this into schools and work with other theater groups. I would love to take it outside of Denver, outside of the state,” he says, noting that technology has the power to change the way theater is made.

“The future of theater is self-producing, making use of social media,” Marcantoni adds with resolve. “I hope they like my work enough to call me. There’s a hunger out there for new material, but the companies have to pay bills and make profits, and they often end up risk-averse and decide to play it safe. I hope to embolden new voices, but hope to see it go outside of that structure.”

The deadline to apply for the first round of the Emerging BIPOC Playwrights Project is February 5; Marcantoni has all the details on his Flamboyán Theater website. The program is accepting applications from emerging playwrights with scripts ready for production that might require some touching up, or first drafts that show promise but need more development. Playwrights will be paid for the rights to develop their scripts, and production of shows will be fully funded.

The acceptance announcements will released on Tuesday, February 21. From 6 to 8 p.m. that day, Marcantoni will host an Emerging BIPOC Playwrights Project launch party at Raíces Brewing Company, 2060 West Colfax Avenue.