Cody Renard Richard. (Photo: Ronald "Rdot" Smith)

Stage manager Cody Renard Richard is launching a scholarship program for Black, Indigenous and people of color pursuing off-stage careers. 

Working in partnership with the Broadway Advocacy Coalition, the scholarship will provide a group of undergraduate students with seminars on leadership, social justice and community building as well as the possibility of one-on-one mentorship from a leader in the field. Richard’s goal is to help build a pipeline of BIPOC stage managers, directors and designers, while also providing them with the support needed to enter the field. 

“It’s a way of paying it forward,” Richard said. “We need to cultivate a space for the next generation.”

Each student will receive a $1500 stipend to use as needed. Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS made a $5000 donation, and Richard is soliciting additional donations from industry leaders and producers. The number of scholarship participants in the first year depends on the total amount raised. 

Richard, who has been a stage manager on Broadway shows including “Freestyle Love Supreme,” “Dear Evan Hansen” and “Hamilton,” started the scholarship program after his experience of coming up in the field with few mentors of color. 

“It’s really important because being able to talk to someone and interact with someone and gain knowledge from someone who has shared the same experience as you, not only helps build your confidence, but it lets you know that it’s possible,” Richard said. 

The Cody Renard Richard Scholarship program joins other programs aimed at diversifying the theater industry pipeline. The Black Theatre Coalition, for example, seeks to increase employment opportunities for Black theater professionals by 500% by 2030. 

In June, Richard spoke out about racism he has experienced while working in the theater industry. Many other members of the theater community shared their own stories and groups such as the Broadway Advocacy Coalition and “We See You” movement stepped forward to ask theatrical institutions to take actionable steps. 

Since then, Richard said he has seen many institutions taking steps in the “right direction,” including hiring people of color in leadership positions. Still, he notes that the real test of anti-racist policies and statements will come once Broadway reopens. Until then, he’s looking for institutions and individuals to support programs that combat racism within the industry. 

The first cohort under Richard’s program will begin this spring, after an application deadline of Oct. 25. After the first year, the goal is to provide seminars and mentorship opportunities throughout the school year.