Venturous Capital Grants
Our “Venturous Capital” grant program aims to support writers of bold, ambitious new plays by giving theaters the ability to say “yes” instead of “no” to writer-driven projects perceived as especially challenging. We do this by funding specific extraordinary costs that are integral to the play’s production, and which might otherwise make the play difficult or impossible to produce.
Productions We Support
We make grants to not-for-profit, professional theater companies to support productions of text-based, author-driven new plays that are:
- Challenging in form;
- controversial in subject matter;
- ambitious in scale or scope;
- audacious, irreverent;
- (and/or) experimental in concept.
In short, plays that are venturous—with preference for plays written by authors who identify as American or who reside in the US.
Our support is limited to new plays, though not necessarily to world premieres. We welcome the opportunity to support second/third productions and other stagings of new plays with the playwright’s involvement, in which case we may ask that the theater provide a statement from the playwright.
Requirements for funded productions:
- Text-based, author-driven new plays only
- Produced in the United States by an eligible theater company (see below)
- Must offer reasonable compensation to the author (royalty, fee, etc.), exclusive of any commission fee
- Fully produced on an AEA contract (no showcases, no workshops)
- Open to the general public for a substantial run.
Specific Costs These Grants Fund
Our grants cover extraordinary integral expenses necessary for the production of a new play—specific expenses without which the play could not be produced. We do not support enhanced production values (see below).
These grants are intended to remove perceived obstacles to production by underwriting unusual expenses. Eligible extraordinary expenses typically include:
- Cast size—support for additional performers in large-cast productions
- Unusual technical requirements
- Additional production elements
- Musicians/dancers (but see note below about the kinds of productions we support)
- Puppets, video, etc.
- Other expenses—you tell us.
Specific examples of supported costs from successful past applications:
- AEA compensation and fringe for additional performers in large-cast productions
- Out-of-town expenses for artists in unusual circumstances
- Musicians and choreographers for plays that involve music, dance, movement, etc. as an integral narrative element, but that are not musicals
- Additional rehearsal time due to unique production requirements
- Costs involved in mounting multiple productions of individual authors’ works (plays staged in rep, commitment to produce 3-5 plays, etc.)
- Interactive technology for audience members’ use during performances.
What We Do NOT Fund
We do NOT provide funding for enhanced production values—expenses that enable the theater to stage the play at a higher level.
The expenses we fund must be integral (costs without which the production could not happen) and not supplemental (enhancements to raise the level of production). We do not fund routine production expenses. Examples of specific expenses we do NOT fund:
- Normal director/designer/actor salaries and other regular production costs
- Playwright royalty/compensation/travel and other standard author expenses
- Period costumes, wigs
- Individual scenic elements
- Standard projection equipment rental/purchase
- Lobby display/decoration
- Non-production costs such as marketing/PR, outreach, education, etc.
Our support is limited to scripted, writer-driven new-play productions. We do NOT fund the following:
- Plays for children/young audiences
- Solo performance pieces
- Plays authored by companies or collectives
- New plays that have already been widely produced, or that have received major productions in New York City
- Developmental processes such as readings, workshops, etc.
- Non-AEA performer salaries.
Because this grant is intended in part to fund projects that employ artists, we will not consider projects that are produced on any of the AEA showcase codes or with uncompensated performers.
Support is limited to small- and medium-sized theaters (generally speaking, TCG budget groups 1, 2, 3, and smaller group 4). Theaters must be not-for-profit 501 (c) 3 organizations or be fiscally sponsored by a 501 (c) 3 organization; be located within the U.S.; and produce on an AEA contract.
We do not make grants to individual writers or non-producing organizations under this program.
Size of Grants
$5,000 - $30,000
Note: Grants of $25,000 and above are awarded only in extraordinary circumstances. Grant amounts are based on the specific extraordinary expenses described in your application. They are production-specific and are NOT related to any previous support. In general, smaller and more specific requests are more likely to be funded at 100%.
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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 the specific expenses a grant would cover.
The LOI is in two parts: a cover sheet and a brief narrative.
1) LOI Cover Sheet
Download and complete our 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?
- What will be the impact of the grant?
- How does the project fit the mission of Venturous Theater Fund?
Deadlines for Letters of Inquiry
We accept LOIs twice a year, in June/July and December. Upcoming deadlines:
December 2, 2019* - for productions in 2020 and Spring 2021.
June 1, 2020*
December 1, 2020*
...and continuing onward.
*Exact deadline date TBD. The deadline will be no earlier than the date specified above.
Please do not submit your LOI more than 30 days in advance of the deadline.
We can only accept LOIs for productions that begin rehearsal at least 2 1/2 months after the LOI deadline date.
You may submit more than one LOI per round, but we will not consider more than two LOIs per theater in each calendar year.
How to Submit Your LOI
Please send us your LOI cover sheet and narrative via email to:
info [at] VenturousTheaterFund.org.
Or click here to submit.
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 usually notify theaters within 2-3 weeks whether their LOIs will be considered for full application.
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Step 2: Applications
We do not accept unsolicited applications. Please see above for information regarding Letters of Inquiry.
After reviewing the LOIs, we will invite approximately 8 to 12 selected companies to submit a full application, including a playscript and a budget enumerating the specific costs which the proposed grant will cover.
Our grant selection process is competitive. We generally fund 50% to 75% of those projects invited to submit full applications. Our trustees base their funding determinations in part on their subjective responses to the playscripts. In addition, they assess the extent to which the application matches the parameters articulated on this page.
Final funding decisions will be made within 2-2.5 months of the LOI deadline date.
We authorize disbursement of Venturous Capital Grant funds once the production has been publicly announced, but no earlier than 3 months before the first performance.
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For questions, please contact us.
VTF grants are made through Venturous Theater Fund of the Tides Foundation, a donor-advised fund. All grants are prospective until approved by the staff/board of the Tides Foundation. These guidelines are for informational purposes only, and contain no commitment, implied or otherwise, to make any particular grants. VTF reserves the right to change its funding philosophy and/or granting practice at any time without prior notification.
Supporting Risk-Taking, Experimentation, and Ambition in the Theater