Delaware Shakespeare Receives NEA Grant and Welcomes Four New Associate Artists

Fall Community Tour postponed, but additional online programming on the way


The National Endowment for the Arts has awarded Delaware Shakespeare a $50,000 grant through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Delaware Shakespeare is one of eight hundred and fifty-five nonprofit organizations across the nation selected for funding to support staff salaries, fees for artists or contractual personnel, and facilities cost.

“All of us at the National Endowment for the Arts are keenly aware that arts organizations across the country are hurting, struggling, and trying to survive and that our supply of funding does not come close to meeting the demand for assistance,” said Arts Endowment Chairman Mary Anne Carter. “That said, I am enormously proud of the over-and-above efforts of the Arts Endowment staff to swiftly and professionally manage such a large amount of additional work in a relatively short period of time on behalf of the American public.”

A Portion of the NEA CARES Act award is being allocated to hire four Associate Artists to join  Delaware Shakespeare through the end of the year. Newton Buchanan, Bi Jean Ngo and Emily Schuman, three theatre artists with a combined ten Del Shakes productions between, will work with Producing Artistic Director to develop new online and, potentially, small-scale, in-person programming for Del Shakes to offer to the community. Wilmington writer Gail Obenreder will join Del Shakes as an Arts Journalist-in-Residence, documenting Del Shakes programming efforts in the time of COVID-19. An introductory Associate Artist event titled “Three Artists, Four Humors & Food!” is scheduled for Saturday, August 29 at 7:30 p.m. Bi, Emily, and Newton will share their love of food, Shakespeare, and Elizabethan history by sharing recipes that connect to various Shakespeare characters. The event is Pay-What-You-Decide. Patrons can register for this Zoom program for free through the Delaware Shakespeare website and will be sent a link immediately after the event inviting guests to pay what they believe the program was worth.

The addition of the new Associate Artists and the potential of new programming softens a disappointing development for Del Shakes and its nationally-recognized Community Tour.

Due to the ongoing public health concerns related to COVID-19 and feedback from Community Tour partners, Delaware Shakespeare has postponed its world premiere bilingual musical adaptation of Twelfth Night, originally planned for October 2020, until the fall of 2021. The Community Tour brings professional Shakespeare to audiences who may not have easy access to professional arts experiences. The productions travel throughout the state and play in non-theatrical settings such as multipurpose rooms, cafeterias, and gymnasiums and are scaled for those spaces, with live music, minimal sets, and whatever lighting is available.

“While we’re disappointed not to be able to bring a full production to our Community Tour partners in 2020, this was the only decision that made sense given the vulnerable nature of many of our audiences,” said David Stradley, producing artistic director. “The tour producing model is defined by an up-close and personal connection between actor and audience. We bring 8-10 artists and 40-100 audience members into small spaces, where the actor is only a few feet away from the audience. This sort of performance style is not possible at the moment.”

The writing team of the new musical will use the additional year to further refine the script and score, which reimagines Shakespeare’s characters of Viola and Sebastian as Latinx immigrants whose shipwreck brings them ashore in Illyria. Authors Liz Filios, Tanaquil Márquez and Robi Hager shared this statement:

“The postponement of this production due to COVID-19 allows us more time to write music and finesse the adaptation. Because actors have already been cast, we will be able to write specifically for the performers who will play the roles. The result, we hope, will be a powerful performance for audiences from across the state of Delaware that unites arts and activism in the name of social justice.”

The Del Shakes Associate Artists will work to develop virtual programming to connect with audiences at many long-standing Community Tour partners to build on a four-year history of increasing access to high-quality arts experiences.

About the National Endowment for the Arts: Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. For more information, visit

About Delaware Shakespeare: Now in its eighteenth season, Delaware Shakespeare creates year-round professional theatre and educational programs for residents and friends of the State of Delaware. At Del Shakes, people from all walks of life celebrate and explore their shared humanity through the lens of Shakespearean work.


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