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Front Porch partners with the Huntington Theatre with an aim toward becoming a sustainable Black arts organization

Maurice Emmanuel Parent (foreground) directed Davron S. Monroe (center) in a rehearsal of "Breath & Imagination," a 2018 co-production of Front Porch Arts Collective and Lyric Stage Company.Henry Lussier

The Front Porch Arts Collective on Tuesday announced a new residency with the Huntington Theatre Company, as the five-year-old Black company moves toward its goal of becoming a sustainable, independent part of the Boston theater scene.

“Starting a new venture is totally overwhelming,” said Front Porch co-producing artistic director Dawn M. Simmons. “We are looking forward to this relationship, where we can build our basic infrastructure, while also serve as a sounding board for the Huntington team as they build on their own racial equity and social justice efforts.”

Launched in 2016, Front Porch began as a resident company within Cambridge’s Central Square Theater, which also served as its fiscal sponsor. The company’s first season consisted of a series of readings by playwright Marcus Gardley, before collaborating in subsequent seasons on productions with the Underground Railway at Central Square Theater, Lyric Stage Company, Greater Boston Stage Company, and SpeakEasy Stage Company, garnering several Elliot Norton Awards along the way. During the upcoming season, Front Porch will co-produce two shows with the Nora at Central Square, including “Queens Girl in the World” (also a co-production with the Hangar Theatre in Ithaca, N.Y.), which Simmons will direct, and the Fats Waller musical “Ain’t Misbehavin’” (also a co-production with Greater Boston Stage Company), directed by Porch’s co-producing artistic director Maurice Emmanuel Parent.

“The work we do at the Huntington is so eclectic — with classics, musicals, and new plays — the more voices we have in the room the better,” said Michael Maso, the Huntington’s managing director. “At the same time, the geeky part of me is excited to be a part of the thinking that will help build resources that will sustain the Porch over time.”


While funding from the Boston Foundation initially helped to get the company off the ground, Simmons and Parent said its support allowed them to develop a strategic plan for the company moving forward. The company received its nonprofit status in June.


“We are calling this a bridge residency,” Parent said. “We have a three-year commitment with the Huntington and are flexible about expectations.”

Although Parent, Simmons, and Front Porch’s education director, Pascale Florestal, all moonlight with other theater companies, “the work we’ve done in the community is what helped us get here,” Simmons said. “We are going to try to make smart and strategic artistic choices, maybe pulling back on larger programming to support artists in their creative development.”

“Our goal,” said Parent, “is to make more space and create opportunities for more artists to work and be paid for that work.”

While the Huntington can provide infrastructure advice and mentoring, Simmons said the relationship will benefit from “multidirectional learning. We are looking forward to what we can learn from each other.”

“This is a grand experiment in collaboration,” said Maso, “but it’s grounded in the years of work the Porch team has invested. We’re excited about what new opportunities will emerge from this.”

Terry Byrne can be reached at trbyrne@aol.com.