Plays for Now

What act yet mightier yet imagineth
Thy venturous spirit?

The Odyssey, Book IX
(tr. Chapman)

Updated as of January 2021

The LOI deadline (December 18, 2020) has now passed. Please check back in Spring 2021 for info on future grant rounds.

We commend theater companies for the imaginative choices they are making in response to these uncertain times. Our “Plays for Now” grants support work that specifically embraces the current moment. These grants will support new work that: 1) is theatrical, however that may now be defined; 2) is created by or in close collaboration with playwrights; 3) contains live elements; and 4) is intended for NOW – the first half of 2021.

The Winter 2020–2021 round of grants will replace of our normal Venturous Capital Grant program for this cycle.

Ideas include but are not limited to work that embraces interactive digital technology; plays produced outdoors and in site-specific venues that accommodate social distancing; radio plays; plays written to be performed in part by an audience; durational projects involving or culminating in theatrical performance; hybrid works; etc.—you tell us.

Please note that these grants will NOT cover Zoom readings, gala fundraiser events, filmmaking, or video of plays filmed on stage before lockdown.

We are especially interested in supporting artist-generated projects. We will support projects that involve collaboration among companies, including sharing of resources, as long as all companies are eligible for funding under this program. Also, we will prioritize support for projects created for now, rather than plays written for the stage but adapted for presentation in other media (digital/audio/radio).

Furthermore, we will give strong preference to plays that are “venturous” as described in our Venturous Capital Grants program, i.e. challenging in form; controversial in subject matter; ambitious in scale or scope; audacious, irreverent; and/or experimental in concept. We will also consider projects that are ambitious in their use of interactive media.

Examples of projects supported by Plays for Now grants in Summer 2020 (partial list): 

  • P.S. by Teddy Bergman, Sam Chanse and Amina Henry at Ars Nova, New York, NY – a durational theatrical experience unfolding in real time in which audiences receive letters sent by mail between two characters isolated from each other during the pandemic, culminating with a live, in-person performance.
  • Karen, I Said by Eliza Bent (Bentertainment) – A three-part Zoom theatrical, beginning with an Instagram story, that embraced Zoom’s live elements—showing what happens when one white lady tries to out-woke another.
  • A Dozen Dreams at En Garde Arts, New York, NY (in development) – a socially distant, 360° immersive installation created by 12 writers working with a team of designers in a site-specific environment.
  • Lessons in Survival created by The Commissary, at the Vineyard Theatre, New York, NY – a multigenerational collective of more than 40 ​theatre artists reinvestigates the words​ ​of trailblazing Black artists​ ​and activists by channeling historic conversations, interviews, and speeches.

You can view the list of past Plays for Now grantees (projects that have been publicly announced) on our grant history page.

Grant Parameters

  • Size of grants: $500 - $15,000. Most grants will fall in the $5-10,000 range. Grants above $10,000 will be awarded only in extraordinary circumstances.
  • The grant may cover no more than 1/3 of the project’s production budget, excluding non-production costs such as marketing, etc.
  • Grant levels are determined according to the project, and are not related to any previous support.
  • Smaller, more focused requests are more likely to be funded at 100% than larger, general requests. 
  • Strong preference for text-driven projects that involve a playwright or playwrights among the lead artists.
  • Grants must support new work.
  • These grants are not intended to support commissions, or developmental processes such as readings, workshops, etc.
  • We do not support musicals.
  • All participating artists must be compensated.
  • Theaters, including all co-producers, must normally produce on a full Actors’ Equity Association contract. We will NOT consider proposals from companies that produce on the various AEA showcase codes or from non-AEA companies.
  • Theaters, including all co-producers, must otherwise be eligible for our Venturous Capital Grants. These grants are intended for small and medium-sized theaters, i.e., TCG budget groups 1, 2, 3, and 4 (pre-COVID).
  • Time frame: Projects that take place in Winter/Spring 2021 will receive priority, with work for Summer 2021 also considered.

The Application Process

Step 1: Letters of Inquiry

Application is by invitation only. However, we welcome theaters to submit unsolicited Letters of Inquiry (LOIs) that describe the proposed project and how our grant would be used.

The deadline for LOIs is December 18, 2020.

Each theater may submit a single LOI.

We will not accept LOIs for projects that we have previously considered for this program, or for our Venturous Capital grants.

The LOI is in two parts: a cover sheet and a brief narrative.

 1) LOI Cover Sheet

     Download and complete our December 2020 Plays for Now LOI Cover Sheet.

2) LOI Narrative

Please write us a brief letter of NO MORE THAN ONE PAGE addressing these questions:

  • What do you want to do?
  • What do you need in order to do it?
  • How does this work embrace the current moment?
  • How will this project support individual artists?
  • How does the project fit the mission of Venturous Theater Fund?

You may submit your LOI by email through December 18, 2020.
Email LOI to:

We acknowledge receipt of all LOIs. If you do not hear from us, please contact us promptly to make sure your LOI has arrived.
We expect to notify theaters in early January whether their LOIs will be considered for full application.

Step 2: Application

We do not accept unsolicited applications. Please see above for information regarding Letters of Inquiry.

After reviewing the LOIs, we will invite selected companies to submit a full application, including a playscript/treatment/outline and a detailed budget.

Our grant selection process is competitive. Our trustees base their funding determinations in part on their subjective responses to applications received, and the extent to which each application matches the parameters and values articulated on this page.

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Please note: These guidelines are subject to change.​

Revised 11/9/2020