The Emily List Fund for Performing Arts Therapy has been established by Emily's family to honor her memory as an actor, a dancer, a reviewer and a lover of the performing arts. The Fund will be used to support theater, dance and music projects aimed at helping the sick and disadvantaged in the interest of making their lives better and brighter through the performing arts.

Grant Recipients

messenger theatre

Emily Davis and the Messenger Theatre Co. in New York City received a grant to bring improvised mask performances to disadvantaged schools where students don’t have the opportunity to see or participate in theater—especially this kind of theater.

Messenger’s Very Serious actors in masks attempt to stage Very Serious classical theater, but as Emily says, the actors “inevitably fail,” much to the delight of the students who then help improvise the plot.  Romeo and Juliet were once killed by alligators.  Hamlet has met a princess.  And the actors dance badly and have to be corrected by the students.

The productions are designed to surprise, delight and spark “a little playful  revolution,” Emily writes. If students can learn to play through theater, “life and possibility can sneak in and transform.”  A likely venue for these grant-funded productions is the International High School in Queens, where students are 100% free lunch and include refugees from all over the world.

When we first heard from Emily, we were struck by the fact that she’s an Emily too, that she also is close to her mom and that both she and our Emily worked at the Arcola Theatre in London.  She talks about “pursuing magic, wit and beauty” and casts with a “women-centered sensibility.” 

She writes:  “We do this without making a big fuss.  We just quietly make women-centered theater as if it were normal, which it should be but decidedly isn’t.”  Throw in the ideas of “playful revolution” and “making administrators nervous,” and this could be our Emily talking.