New WORLD Theater was founded at UMass Amherst in 1979 by Roberta Uno with the mission of presenting innovative works of theater by contemporary artists of color. Their goals included fostering creative communities, promoting cultural equity, and embracing diverse cultural backgrounds, social engagement, and a commitment to justice. For more than thirty years New WORLD Theater produced dozens of plays and other dramatic works representing new voices in the theater, as well as plays from the traditional multicultural repertory. They have supported the arts through performance residencies, conferences and colloquia, and a variety of initiatives aimed at the diverse communities they serve, youth, and theater professionals. After more than three decades of acclaim and recognition and contributing to national conversations on cultural equity, the theater was closed by UMass Amherst in summer 2010.
The bulk of the New WORLD Theater collection consists of administrative records documenting the day-to-day activities of the theater, however, it also contains an extensive and exceptionally rich archive of taped interviews, conferences, and theatrical productions. Taken together, the audiovisual material traces the history of New WORLD through the words and performances of artists who both contributed to and benefited from the theater.
The collection is open for research.
Background on New WORLD Theater
New WORLD Theater was founded at UMass Amherst in 1979 by Roberta Uno, a recent graduate of Hampshire College, with the goal of creating and presenting works of theater by contemporary artists of color. Their first play produced was "In the Rock Garden," an original piece by Uno which demonstrated their commitment to creating original works and providing an outlet for immensely talented playwrights and dramaturges of color. Their mission was to foster communities that encouraged creativity and comfort, promote cultural equity through activism, to embrace and welcome diverse cultural backgrounds, to encourage social engagement and a commitment to justice.
New WORLD Theater was active for over 30 years and created new works nearly every year through its "New Works for a New World" summer play lab, while still putting on productions plays of historical and contemporary importance by playwrights of color. New WORLD Theater supported this diverse set of goals with performance residences, conference and colloquia, and a variety of initiatives aimed at the diverse communities they served, youth, and theater professionals. Examples of these included, but were not limited to, internships over the summer for students interested in multicultural theater; the critically acclaimed "Project 2050!" a project aimed at helping students of color in the Amherst area find their voice on the stage; grants to bring in theater groups from across the country; and community action projects such as the Somalian Women's Project. New WORLD Theater was recognized across the country for its cutting edge techniques and to its contribution to the national dialog on race and culture, earning the support and admiration from sources as wide as James Baldwin, Chinua Achebe, and countless other lovers and creators of theater. After over 30 years of service to the community, acclaim and recognition worldwide, UMass Amherst abruptly closed the New WORLD Theater in the summer of 2010 as part of a series of budgetary cuts.
The majority of the New WORLD Theater records are composed of administrative records, budgets, and emails created and managed by the full-time and part-time staff over the 30-year existence of the theater. These include binders with the budgets of each fiscal year; grant requests and awards, purchase requests, as well as communication with the Fine Arts Center. Witnessed in sum or in part, these records allow one to appreciate the incredible amount of work necessary to run a theater of such scope and influence.
There is also a significant portion of the collection dedicated to the production of new plays and the staging of contemporary plays, including scripts, notes with directors, biographies of artists, email correspondence and publicity for individual productions. The volume and quality of these productions indicate NWT's commitment to excellence with regards to plays by artists of color. Of particular interest in this collection are the published works by local students through the Project 2050! Summer program, as well as documents detailing the planning and staging of the "Intersections" bi-annual conference held five times between 1998-2008.
A third essential feature of the collection is the audiovisual record, composed of interviews with artists, members of the community, taped production of original plays and videos from various conferences. Taken together, the collection documents nearly the entire history of the New WORLD Theater from 1979-2010, while demonstrating the immense impact it had on the Amherst community for over three decades--all through the words, performances and records of the artists and spectators who contributed and benefitted from the theater.
Acquired from New WORLD Theater, 2007-2010.
Processed by SCUA staff, 2012.
For materials related to Roberta Uno and to contemporary theater by artists of color, see:
Cite as: New WORLD Theater Records (RG 25/F2/N4). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.