What act yet mightier yet imagineth
Thy venturous spirit?

The Odyssey, Book IX
(tr. Chapman)

​​​Venturous Capital Grants

Spring 2021 Update

We have temporarily paused our Venturous Capital Grants program due to the pandemic and the suspension of most indoor theatrical performances nationwide. This summer we will focus on supporting new play production at select theaters, with application by invitation only. 

During the summer of 2020 and the winter of 2020-21, we offered Plays for Now grants to support theaters in creating work for the current moment.

We hope to resume accepting Letters of Inquiry for Venturous Capital Grants in December 2021. Please check back for info. 

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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, no non-AEA productions)
  • 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:

  • Musicals
  • 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
  • Commissions
  • Developmental processes such as readings, workshops, etc.
  • Non-AEA performer salaries.

Supported productions must be staged on an Actors’ Equity Association contract. 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. 

Theater Eligibility

Support is limited to small- and medium-sized theaters, i.e., TCG budget groups 1, 2, 3, and 4 (pre-COIVD). 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

Note: We have temporarily paused our Venturous Capital Grants program due to the pandemic and the suspension of most indoor theatrical performances nationwide. Please check back for info. 

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.

Deadlines for Letters of Inquiry

We accept LOIs twice a year. Upcoming deadlines:

  • December 1, 2021*
  • June 1, 2022*
  • December 1, 2022
  • ...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.

Step 2: Applications

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

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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