Venturous Capital Grants
Next Deadline: June 1, 2023
Important Note: We have made a number of changes to our guidelines under “Requirements for Funded Productions.” Please see below and review this page carefully before you submit your LOI.
The goal of our Venturous Capital Grants program is to support writers of bold, experimental, and/or large-scale new plays by giving not-for-profit 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 those plays’ production, and which might otherwise make them difficult or impossible to produce.
Productions We Support
We make grants to support text-based, author-driven new plays that are:
- Challenging in form;
- controversial in subject matter;
- ambitious in scale or scope;
- unabashedly theatrical;
- (and/or) experimental in concept.
In short, plays that are venturous.
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
These grants support scripted, writer-driven new-play productions. Funded projects must be:
- Text-based, author-driven, full-length new plays only
- Produced in the United States by an eligible theater company (see below)
- Must offer reasonable compensation to the author via a royalty, fee, etc., exclusive of any commission or performance fees.
- Produced under an AEA collective bargaining agreement, with a minimum of TWO performers employed on an AEA contract. No showcases, no non-AEA productions.
- Full productions (no workshops) open to the general public for a run of at least 13 performances.
- Preference for plays written by authors who identify as American or who reside in the US.
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
- Extraordinary technical requirements
- Additional production elements
- Unusual casting challenges
- Puppets, video, etc.
- Other expenses—you tell us.
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).
Because these grants support extraordinary costs, 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
- Enhanced design elements
- Standard projection equipment rental/purchase
- Lobby display/decoration
- Non-production costs such as marketing/PR, outreach, education, etc.
These grants e do NOT fund:
- 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 or London
- Developmental processes such as readings, workshops, etc.
- Non-AEA performer salaries.
We do not support non-AEA productions under any circumstances. Furthermore, we will not consider support for projects that are produced on any of the AEA showcase codes or with uncompensated performers. Supported productions must be staged on an Actors’ Equity Association contract according to the requirements mentioned above.
Support is limited to small- and medium-sized theaters with an annual budget of under $5 million (pre-COIVD). Theaters must be professional, independent producing organizations located within the U.S. that produce plays on an AEA contract. They must be not-for-profit 501 (c) 3 organizations or be fiscally sponsored by a 501 (c) 3 organization.
We support co-productions. However, all involved producing organizations, producing partners, and above-the-title entities must meet the criteria described above in order for a project to be eligible for support.
We do not make grants to individual writers or non-producing organizations under this program.
Size of Grants
$5,000 - $30,000
Note: Grants above $25,000 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. Smaller and more specific requests are more likely to be funded at 100%.
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The Application Process
Any eligible theater may submit a Letter of Inquiry (LOI). We will invite selected companies to submit full applications from the pool of LOIs under consideration. We do not accept unsolicited applications.
For projects selected to submit a full application, the theater will submit a playscript for review by our selection committee for that grant round. The script may be in draft or final form. However, we cannot consider LOIs for plays that have not yet been written.
Step 1: Letters of Inquiry
We welcome theaters to submit unsolicited LOIs that describe the proposed project and the specific expenses a grant would cover.
Deadlines and Timing
We accept LOIs twice a year. Upcoming deadlines:
- June 1, 2023 (for productions in Fall 2023 and 2024)
- December 1, 2023* (for productions in 2024 and Spring 2025)
- June 3, 2024*
- ...and continuing onward in the spring/summer and late fall.
*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 Prepare Your LOI
The LOI is in two parts: a cover sheet and a brief narrative.
1) LOI Cover Sheet
Download and complete our current 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?
- What makes the project venturous?
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 your LOI via email.
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 (by Invitation Only)
We do not accept unsolicited applications. Please see above for information regarding Letters of Inquiry.
After our selection committee reviews 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 selection committee members will base their funding determinations in part on their responses to the playscripts. In addition, they will 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