Philadelphia Theatre Initiative Awards $942,000 for the Development and Production of Adventurous Theatre Work

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The Philadelphia Theatre Initiative (PTI) today announced $942,000 in grants awarded to ten producing theatres, three performing arts presenting organizations and three independent theatre performance artists. Five of the grantees are first-time recipients. The grants, which range from $10,000 to $120,000, are payable over one or two years; they provide the resources required to stimulate artistic development and to create or present theatre of the highest standards. With these grants, the program seeks to enhance the cultural life of the community and to further establish Philadelphia as one of the country's leading theatre centers. The Philadelphia Theatre Initiative is a program of the Philadelphia Center for Arts and Heritage, funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts and administered by The University of the Arts. The funded projects include 10 world premieres and 1 American premiere.

"This work is ambitious and original, and will greatly benefit Philadelphia-area theatre audiences. We are proud to support it," said Marian A. Godfrey, director of Culture and Civic Initiatives at The Pew Charitable Trusts. "These innovative projects help expand the range of high quality theatrical programming available to the local arts community while contributing exemplary work to the national theatre field as well."

Since 1995, The Pew Charitable Trusts has invested more than $7.5 million in the artistic development of the region's professional theatre through 152 Philadelphia Theatre Initiative project grants and frequent PTI-sponsored professional development opportunities for study, research, travel, mentor projects, and artistic consultancies.

The recipients of 2007 PTI grants are as follows:

  • 1812 Productions $100,000 over two years  
  • Amaryllis Theatre Company $50,000  
  • Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts $100,000  
  • Arden Theatre Company $100,000  
  • Asian Arts Initiative $28,000  
  • Bristol Riverside Theatre $120,000 over two years  
  • Emmanuelle Delpech-Ramey $10,000  
  • InterAct Theatre Company $50,000  
  • Lantern Theater $25,000  
  • Sebastienne Mundheim $10,000  
  • New Paradise Laboratories $32,000  
  • Philadelphia Live Arts Festival/ Philly Fringe $82,000  
  • Pig Iron Theatre Company $75,000  
  • James Sugg $10,000  
  • Theatre Exile $50,000  
  • The Wilma Theater $100,000

To qualify for application, theatres and performing arts presenters must be established nonprofit organizations based in the five-county Philadelphia region for at least three consecutive years; must have produced at least three seasons of plays; must have been evaluated by site reporters for PTI last season, and must have submitted an audit of the most recently completed fiscal year. For organizations, the maximum amount of a request is based on the preceding year's unrestricted expenses.

The independent theatre performance artist must have been a legal resident of the five county region for at least two consecutive years to apply, and must be based in the region during the year of the grant. The artist must have had one production s/he created and performed for the public at a professional venue for which admission was charged and must have had work seen and evaluated by site reporters for PTI during the past two seasons. $10,000 is the maximum grant to individual artists.

"PTI grants are awarded on a highly competitive basis following a thorough review of proposed projects," said Fran Kumin, director of the Philadelphia Theatre Initiative.

The grants are determined by a diverse panel of theatre professionals selected for their expertise and their breadth of knowledge in the nonprofit professional theatre. In addition to studying the applications, throughout the theatre season, these busy theatre professionals come to Philadelphia to review performances, meet with local theatre leaders and become familiar with the theatre community.

The 2007 Theatre Peer Panel included:
  • John Dias, Associate Artistic Director at The New York Shakespeare Festival/Joseph Papp Public Theater;   
  • Loretta Greco, director based in New York City;   
  • Kathryn M. Lipuma (panel chair), executive director of Writers' Theatre in Glencoe, IL;   
  • Morgan Jenness, dramaturg and creative director at Abrams Artists Agency in New York City, representing writers, directors, composers and designers;   
  • Brian Kulick, Artistic Director at Classic Stage Company in New York City;   
  • Steve Scott, Associate Producer of the Goodman Theatre in Chicago and freelance director;   
  • Molly Smith, artistic director of Arena Stage in Washington, D.C.

In making decisions, panelists considered several criteria including the importance, complexity and originality of the proposed project and the degree to which it signals artistic advancement for the applicant; the completeness and clarity of the application; the quality of the artists involved and the historic quality of the applicant's work as evaluated throughout the season. Projects also were considered for their ability to have a significant impact on the applicant's artistic development, on the audience served and on the field of theatre both regionally and nationally.

2007 Philadelphia Theatre Initiative Project Grant Awards

1812 Productions - www.1812productions.org
$100,000 to research and develop Cherry Bomb by Jennifer Childs, a new comedic play with music based on the infamous Cherry Sisters who were the worst act in Vaudeville: five sisters who couldn't sing, act or dance who made a name for themselves by singing, acting and dancing. The project includes Michael Hollinger as dramaturg, music by James Sugg, and voice and movement workshops with Adrienne Mackey and Nichole Canuso, culminating in a full production in 2008.

Amaryllis Theatre Company - www.amaryllistheatre.org
$50,000 to produce a dance/theatre production of Sophocles' Elecktra in hip hop jazz rhythms, with original music by John Stovicek. The production will feature artists with and without disabilities, including Pamela Sabaugh, a blind actress, as Elecktra. A shortened version of the production will tour local schools in the spring.

Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts - www.pennpresents.org (first-time grantee)
$100,000 to support the US premiere of Molora by the Farber Foundry of South Africa, a retelling of the Greek Oresteia trilogy set within the context of the South African post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings. Writer/director Yael Farber will be in residence throughout the project, and the Annenberg Center will conduct free master classes, talkbacks, lectures and concerts.

Arden Theatre Company - www.ardentheatre.org
$100,000 to support the production of Assassins by Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman for their 20th Anniversary season. In a time of national turmoil and in a city rampant with gun violence, this complex, richly textured musical will reveal uneasy truths about the dangerous sense of entitlement that can result from misguided pursuits of the American Dream.

Asian Arts Initiative - www.asianartsinitiative.org (first-time grantee)
$28,000 to support Beyond the 6th Borough, a three-month residency and creation of an evening-length show by Regie Cabico, a New York-based performance artist, poet, and director, and an ensemble of local artists. The project will be a keystone of the Asian Arts Initiative's inaugural season in its new home.

Bristol Riverside Theatre - www.brtstage.org (first-time grantee)
$120,000 to support the development and production of a new work based on Twelfth Night, created by Artistic Director Keith Baker and choreographer Donald Byrd. In collaboration with Grammy Award winning musician/hip-hop violinist Miri Ben-Ari and a company of 13 versatile performers, this project will explore Shakespeare's work with a contemporary hip-hop aesthetic.

Emmanuelle Delpech-Ramey (first-time grantee)
$10,000 to develop and produce an adaptation of Oedipus at Colonus, a site-specific work that reinvents Sophocles' Greek classic in a landscape of danger and urban tragedy: the concrete jungle of the FDR skate park in South Philadelphia.

InterAct Theatre Company - www.interacttheatre.org
$50,000 to produce the world premiere of Philadelphia playwright Larry Loebell's House, Divided as the centerpiece of a mini-festival of new and contemporary plays exploring American perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Lantern Theater Company - www.lanterntheater.org
$25,000 to support the production of Martin McDonagh's The Lonesome West as the 2007-2008 season opener. This project will enable the Lantern staff and artists to gain valuable technical skills in sculpture, casting and molding, as well as pyrotechnics.

Sebastienne Mundheim (first-time grantee) - www.sebastiennemundheim.com
$10,000 to produce Sea of Birds, "a melodic painting," a landscape of moving sculpture in sea of sound and voice, exploring portraiture, character encounter and departure, structured like the Odyssey, reminiscent of The Little Prince, with sculpture, dance, storytelling, projected video, and original live music.

New Paradise Laboratories (NPL) - www.newparadiselaboratories.org
$32,000 to research, develop, and create a new work called OurSpace that will premiere at the Children's Theatre Company of Minneapolis with a world co-premiere at the 2009 Philadelphia Live Arts & Philly Fringe Festival. A collaboration with young actors from both Philadelphia and Minneapolis, this project will be an examination of the phenomenon of online social spaces and how they are shaping young adult self expression.

Philadelphia Live Arts Festival & Philly Fringe - www.livearts-fringe.org
$82,000 to commission and present the world premiere of The European Lesson by Norwegian director Jo Strømgren, created in a five week residency with Philadelphia actors. The project will explore issues of perception, relation and identity between Europeans and Americans. It is the first international commission by the Live Arts Festival.

Pig Iron Theatre Company - www.pigiron.org
$75,000 to develop, create and produce a radically re-worked version of Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, entitled Isabella, for presentation at the 2007 Philadelphia Live Arts Festival. Set in a modern-day morgue, this production will be an unsettling and breathtaking work of human puppetry dealing with issues of death, desire, and the abuse of political and sexual power.

James Sugg (first-time grantee)
$10,000 to support the re-working and re-mounting of The Sea with director and videographer Lars Jan. Part electric opera, part rock and roll odyssey, this original work that premiered at the 2006 Fringe Festival will be re-visited and given new life with an extended narrative, new musical arrangements, and innovative technological advancements.

Theatre Exile - www.theatreexile.org
$50,000 to produce Roosters by Milcha Sanchez-Scott with underscored live guitar music. The production will run in conjunction with their outreach program, Paper Wings, which will bring theatre and education to the community of Norris Square.

The Wilma Theater - www.wilmatheater.org
$100,000 to support the production of Sarah Ruhl's Eurydice, including a commission to contemporary choral composer Toby Twinning. Twinning's composition will be performed live and incorporated as an additional character in this modern exploration of love, loss, and grief.