Front Row Productions to Establish Fellowship at Columbia

January 07, 2021

Founders of Front Row Productions and award-winning producers Stephen Byrd and Alia Jones-Harvey have announced the launch of the Front Row Productions Fellowship with Columbia University School of the Arts Theatre Program. The Front Row Productions Fellowship, a partnership between theater professionals and the University, is designed to support the development of gifted emerging theatrical producers and will be used to increase the diversity of participants and work produced within the professional Broadway theater industry. The fellowship will launch during the 2021-2022 academic year.

Modeled after the long-standing and highly successful T Fellowship Program, the Front Row Productions Fellowship will be supervised by an Oversight Committee made up of leaders working in the Theater industry and Steven Chaikelson, Head of the MFA Theatre Management & Producing Concentration. The Oversight Committee will select one or two fellows to participate in the year-long fellowship. Applicants who have demonstrated potential, achievement and/or leadership in and support for the African-American theatre community will be given preference during the selection process.

Stephen Byrd & Alia Jones-Harvey

In a joint statement Stephen Byrd and Alia Jones-Harvey said, “The lead producers, at the helm of every Broadway show, determine how diverse and inclusive it will be. As two in the shockingly small club of only five Black lead producers in the history of Broadway, our mandate has been to create opportunity for people of color on and off the stage. Recognizing the systemic hurdles to mounting Broadway shows, we have mentored many emerging producers of color. This fellowship draws on our experience as lead producers, on the collective experience of many lead producers who have embraced us in this industry, and on the renowned academic prowess of Columbia University’s graduate-level Theater Management and Producing program to equip future Black lead producers with the tools for Broadway. We believe that establishing this pipeline is vital for the inclusive Broadway we imagine.”

Steven Chaikelson added, “We’re honored that Stephen and Alia have chosen to establish the Front Row Productions Fellowship at Columbia. For the past several years, Stephen and Alia have made important contributions to our MFA Theatre Management & Producing Concentration as guest lecturers. I’m thrilled to be building on that relationship and partnering with them to help recruit, educate and inspire a new generation of creative producers for the commercial theatre.”

During their time participating in the year-long Front Row Productions Fellowship, each fellow will develop a new play or musical; receive a stipend and a separate budget allocation to cover development costs; receive one-on-one mentorship from Oversight Committee members; have access to the Columbia University resources including the library system, classes offered through the MFA concentration in Theatre Management & Producing, and selected courses throughout the University; and have the opportunity to participate in the Theatre Management & Producing Concentration’s Producer Exchange Program with Stage One in the UK.

Front Row Productions was established to bring major works to Broadway and the West End featuring diverse casts, creative teams and management. Additional application details, deadlines, and information will be announced at a later date.

Stephen Byrd is the President and Founder of Front Row Productions, Inc., whose primary purpose is to shine the spotlight on diversity, inclusion, and non-traditional casting on Broadway and London’s West End. Multi Tony Award Nominated, and Olivier Award winning producers Byrd, and his producing partner Alia Jones Harvey are the only full time African American Producers, both on Broadway and London’s West End, and they have been Partners for the past 14 years. Their producing credits to date, include, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, (both on Broadway and London’s West End where they won the Olivier Award for Best Revival of a Play), A Streetcar Named Desire, The Trip to Bountiful, Romeo and Juliet, Eclipsed, Paramour (with Cirque de Soleil), The Iceman Cometh, Smokey Joes Café, American Son and the current Broadway smash hit, Ain’t Too Proud the Life and Times of The Temptations. They are also developing the iconic Oscar and Palm D’Or winning Brazilian film Black Orpheus into a Broadway musical. Additionally, they are part of the Lead Producing team for Get Up, Stand UpThe Bob Marley musical, opening on London’s West End in Summer 2021, as well as MJ, The Musical (based on Michael Jackson. Byrd, serves on the Board of Governors of the Broadway League, and is a member of SOLT (Society of London Theatre), and on the Board of Directors of New York City Colleges Performing Arts Department,  Stephen is the recipient of numerous Awards and Honors, including the recent, Global Producer of the Year Award.

Alia Jones-Harvey is an Olivier Award Winning and 4-time Tony Nominated Producer, who, with producing partner Stephen Byrd, has focused on mounting productions with people of color on the stage, on the creative team, in management and as co-producers. As the only African American woman lead-producing on Broadway, she is extremely proud of Broadway & West End directorial debuts for Debbie Allen and Liesl Tommy; as well as debuts for Danai Gurira as playwright, Dominique Morisseau as book writer of a musical, and the many talented designers, stagehands, cast members, managers and new investors. Jones-Harvey serves on the Board of the Arthur Miller Foundation, the Advisory Board of The American Theater Wing, and is a Tony voter. Jones-Harvey and producing partner Stephen Byrd have been honored with numerous awards, including the Global Producer of the Year and AUDELCO Pioneer Awards.