April 2009: Apollo Theater Foundation


Artist of the Month     >    2009 Artists


NAME: Apollo Theater Foundation, Inc
LOCATION: 253 West 125th Street, New York, NY 10027
ORIGIN: New York, NY
ART: Performing Arts
MAIN GENRE: Live Music, Theater, and Comedy
ARTS AFFILIATIONS: NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, Carnegie Corporation of NY, Peter Jay Sharp Foundation, and many others.


Please describe your organization’s artistic themes
Since it opened its doors in January, 1934, the world-famous Apollo Theater has been a pioneer in presenting the cultural contributions of black and Latino communities and in launching and nurturing the careers of seemingly countless legendary performers, including Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Michael Jackson, Lauryn Hill, and Alicia Keys. It is a place where great talent has been discovered and returned time and again, serving as a home to artists across genres and generations.

To celebrate its 75th Anniversary, the Apollo Theater will present a range of special programming designed to illuminate the vital impact the landmark Theater has had on American culture and audiences nationwide, and to showcase its role as a creative catalyst for Harlem, the city of New York, and the nation.  

From January 2009 through the beginning of 2011, the Apollo’s 75th Anniversary Season will be celebrated in Harlem and across the country and will include special performances and programs as well as a wide range of national and community offerings.  The 75th Anniversary Season is made possible by The Edward and Leslye Phillips Family Foundation, Presenting Sponsor; Bloomberg, L.P.; American Express; The Carnegie Corporation of New York; and New Amsterdam Gin, Salute Sponsor.

Please describe your organization’s creative process
The Apollo Theater Foundation, Inc., a not-for-profit organization established in 1991, is dedicated to the preservation and development of the legendary Apollo Theater through the Apollo Experience of world-class live performances and education programs that, honor the influence and advance the contributions of African-American artists; and advance emerging creative voices across cultural and artistic media.

What are your organization’s artistic goals?
As part of the Apollo’s expanding role in the performing arts, as well as in the community, the programming department has broadened its scope in recent years to include musical offerings that are outside the mainstream.  The Apollo Salon Series institutionalizes the Theater’s desire to play an active role in the development of new works, not only presenting great talent, but providing valuable resources and exposure to some of the most innovative performing artists, helping them to develop their craft and to contribute meaningfully to furthering American performance.  This is a different direction for the Apollo, stretching the institution’s traditions by challenging it to become an integral part of contemporary arts culture.

The Salon Series includes productions that combine a variety of musical forms with other disciplines, including spoken word, poetry, dance, and theater.  Each participating artist or group receives one week of workshop and rehearsal time and presents two performances, usually on Fridays and Saturdays, on the Apollo Soundstage, the Theater’s black-box performance space that is designed for optimal acoustical experiences for audiences of up to 150.  Each performance concludes with a discussion and an audience question-and-answer session.

The following projects are slated for this year’s Salon Series: The Apollo Salon Series is made possible, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. Artistic Programs are supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York; the Peter Jay Sharp Foundation; New York State Assemblyman Keith L. T. Wright and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation; and the Lehman Brothers Education Fund at the Apollo Theater Foundation, Inc.

Tell us about your organization’s programming
Today, the Apollo presents a broad range of entertainment and artistic events.  Public programming activity is currently organized along several thrusts:

I. Entertainment Programming:
The Theater’s annual presentation roster remains dedicated to performances and events with broad commercial appeal. Apollo Amateur Night continues to feature varied amateur talent, guest performers, and comedic acts, attracting a diverse and infamous audience on a weekly basis.  The Apollo New Legends Series presents up-and-coming popular music performers, opening this season with a Musiq Soulchild concert in December.  In addition, the Theater presents special concert events featuring A-list entertainers, particularly Apollo Legends (stars whose careers began at this storied Theater).

II. Artistic Programming:
For several years, the Apollo has built its capacities as a performing arts center, presenting a range of artistic productions. The Apollo Salon Series, the Theater’s foremost artistic program, provides mid-career artists working in music, theater, spoken word, multimedia, movement, and other genres with opportunities to develop and present new works on the Apollo Soundstage, the Theater’s black-box performance space. In addition, Main Stage family programming presents annual productions based in music theater that engage topics meaningful to Harlem’s communities, such as celebrations of Kwanzaa. Moreover, institutional partnerships enable projects such as this season’s Honor! Festival performance event, presented on the Apollo’s Main Stage in partnership with Carnegie Hall. 

III. Education and Community Outreach Programming:
The Apollo uses its myriad strengths to benefit its diverse constituency.  The Apollo Theater Academy provides a range of career development programs for local students and young professionals in fields related to the performing arts.  Educational Resources and Partnerships develop resources for K-12 educators that use the Apollo as a lens to explore different subject areas in conformance with national, state, and local learning standards.  Apollo Historic Backstage Tours engage audiences from around the globe in a behind-the-scenes experience of the Theater, including, special Apollo Open House events—free tours and performances on select weekends as an introduction to the Theater’s 75th Anniversary Celebration.   Finally, Apollo in the Community provides broad access to arts programming to more than 10,000 people annually, and encourages a positive community identity.

What are your views on the industry?
The Apollo Theater was one of the first theater’s in the nation to integrate, and has championed diversity in American arts and entertainment for 75 years.  The Apollo is proud to continue play a vital role in the furtherance of American performing arts.

What advice could you give to emerging artists?
Continue and endure.

How can one get involved with or join your organization?
The Apollo has an active membership program.  For more information, visit:  http://www.apollotheater.org/develop_members.html

WEBSITE: apollotheater.org 

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