Philadelphia Theatre Initiative Awards $870,000 for the Development and Production of Adventurous Theatre Work

Philadelphia Theatre Initiative Awards $870,000 for the Development and Production of Adventurous Theatre Work

The Philadelphia Theatre Initiative (PTI) today announced $870,000 in grants awarded to nine producing theatres, two performing arts presenting organizations and four independent theatre performance artists. Five of the grantees are first time recipients. The grants, which range from $10,000 to $160,000, 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 9 world premieres, 1 American premiere and 4 regional premieres. “We are proud to support such original and ambitious work for the benefit of Philadelphia-area theatre audiences,” 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 $6.7 million in the artistic development of the region's professional theatre through 136 Philadelphia Theatre Initiative project grants and 139 PTI sponsored professional development opportunities for study, research, mentor projects, and artistic consultancies.

The recipients of 2006 PTI grants are as follows:

  • 1812 Productions: $50,000          
  • Arden Theatre Company: $100,000          
  • Madi Distefano: $10,000          
  • Sara Felder: $10,000          
  • InterAct Theatre Company: $50,000          
  • Kimmel Center: $100,000          
  • Mum Puppettheatre: $80,000 over two years          
  • New Paradise Laboratories: $20,000          
  • Philadelphia Live Arts Festival/ Philly Fringe: $75,000          
  • Philadelphia Theatre Company: $160,000 over two years          
  • Thaddeus Phillips: $10,000          
  • Pig Iron Theatre Company: $75,000          
  • Theatre Exile: $20,000          
  • Geoffrey Sobelle: $10,000          
  • 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 income.

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 2006 Theatre Peer Panel included:

  • Casey Childs, founder and executive producer of Primary Stages in New York City;          
  • Kathryn M. Lipuma, executive director of the Signature Theatre Company in New York City;          
  • Abel Lopez, associate producing director of GALA Hispanic Theatre in Washington, DC and president of the Board of Directors of Theatre Communications Group, the national service organization for nonprofit professional theatres in the United States;          
  • Morgan Jenness, dramaturg and creative director at Abrams Artists Agency in New York City, representing writers, directors, composers and designers;          
  • Steve Scott, Associate Producer of the Goodman Theatre in Chicago and freelance director;          
  • Molly Smith (panel chair), artistic director of Arena Stage in Washington, D.C.; and          
  • Talvin Wilks, playwright, director and dramaturg based in New York City.

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.

2006 Philadelphia Theatre Initiative Project Grant Awards

1812 Productions –
$50,000 to research, develop and produce This Is the Week That Is: Political Humor for the Holidays. This world premiere production will combine a number of comedic forms to respond to current events in a unique theatrical manner, and to place them in an historical perspective.

Arden Theatre Company – $100,000 to produce the Philadelphia premiere of Caroline, Or Change by Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori. The production will be directed by Producing Artistic Director Terrence Nolen. The Arden will also collaborate with African American and Jewish heritage organizations to host a series of community building symposia to inspire meaningful discussion of the issues raised by the musical.

Madi Distefano (first time grantee)
$10,000 to support the development of a new play entitled Sweetie Pie, very loosely based on the story of Oedipus, but set in contemporary LA. Sweetie Pie, which will incorporate the use of film, examines love and vanity in a culture where people are dying to be famous. Azuka Theatre Company is committed to producing the world premiere during the fall of 2007.

Sara Felder (first-time grantee)
$10,000 to further develop and produce “Out of Sight: a blind comedy about God, Israel and My Mom.” A mother, nearly blind, and her adult daughter bond over their love of art but don't see eye-to-eye on Israel. Using juggling, circus moves, shadow puppets, a queer sensibility and other tricks up her sleeve, Felder's new solo comedy addresses family loyalty, faith and middle-east politics.

InterAct Theatre Company –
$50,000 to further develop and produce the world premiere of A House With No Walls by resident playwright Thomas Gibbons, directed by Artistic Director Seth Rozin. In A House With No Walls, Gibbons turns his attention to cultural identity and history. Following its world premiere in Philadelphia, the play will be produced at Curious Theatre Company in Denver and at Florida Stage in Manalapan.

Kimmel Center (first-time grantee) –
$100,000 to present Matthew Bourne's theatrical adaptation of filmmaker Tim Burton's gothic fairy tale Edward Scissorhands at the Academy of Music. Working with their educational partners, the Kimmel Center will offer subsidized discounted tickets and a master class taught by the cast and crew for the mid week matinee.

Mum Puppettheatre –
$80,000 to create and produce an adaptation of George Orwell's Animal Farm using an ensemble of five artists under the guidance of Artistic Director Robert Smythe and Playwright Andrew Periale. Over two years, through specific training, intense workshop periods, and public presentations, this group will develop a physical vocabulary of masks, puppetry, and space unique to this ensemble and project. The project will culminate in a fully realized world premiere during the spring of Election Year 2008.

New Paradise Laboratories (NPL) –
$20,000 to research, develop and produce Playtime by Playwright Alice Tuan and NPL Artistic Director Whit MacLaughlin in collaboration with NPL company members, the staff of Actors Theatre of Louisville and the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival. Part play, part sporting event, part anthropological study, Playtime will focus on the American Bachelor/Bachelorette party phenomenon, exposing the philosophical and mythological understructure of this pre-nuptial celebration.

Philadelphia Live Arts Festival & Philly Fringe (first-time grantee) -
$75,000 to present the Wooster Group's Emperor Jones during the 2007 festival. Directed by Artistic Director Liz LeCompte and featuring company member Kate Valk in the title role, Emperor Jones was exceptionally well-received during a recent sold out engagement in New York City. The production previously was presented in Vienna, Brussels, Munich, Frankfurt, Stockholm and Belfast. The Philadelphia Live Arts Festival will be the first American organization outside of New York City to present Emperor Jones.

Philadelphia Theatre Company –
$160,000 over two years to commission, develop, and produce the world premiere of a new work combining movement, music and projected imagery by leading theatre artist Bill Irwin entitled The Happiness Lecture. The project will be developed during a series of workshops in 2006-2007 and will be the highlight of the company's inaugural season in their new permanent performance home on the Avenue of the Arts.

Thaddeus Phillips –
$10,000 to support the development, creation and world premiere of Fuel, an original theatre work exploring cars, the US highway system, highway culture and mythology. The work will feature two gas station attendants who work at a lost gas station in the middle of nowhere. The attendants will have the ability to change characters and create an epic theatrical road trip about the US, gasoline, war, aliens and the changing weather.

Pig Iron Theatre Company –
$75,000 to create and produce the world premiere of Chekhov Lizardbrain, which explores themes from Three Sisters, viewed through the lens of animal psychologist Temple Grandin's “Triune Brain Theory”. Working with acclaimed production designer Anna Kiraly, Pig Iron Theatre Company will re-imagine and explore Chekhov's portrayal of the conflict between the human search for meaning and our deep-seated animal impulses.

Theatre Exile –
$20,000 to produce Philly Originals, a festival celebrating Philadelphia writers, featuring world premieres of short works by Michael Hollinger, Arden Kass and Bruce Graham, free staged readings of other plays and a symposium for young writers exploring career issues and craft. To celebrate Philadelphia's rich artistic history, three of the readings will focus on the work of celebrated writers, but the fourth reading will present the work of an emerging talent found through a comprehensive search for the city's next voice.

Geoffrey Sobelle –
$10,000 to further develop, build, rehearse and produce machines, machines, machines, machines, machines, machines, machines, a three-man absurdist play that marries kinetic junk sculpture and performance art in a satire of technology and American paranoia. This reworking of a piece originally presented at the 2002 fringe festival will feature Sobelle, original co-creator Quinn Bauriedel and “all wear bowlers” co-creator Trey Lyford.

The Wilma Theater –
$100,000 to support the Galileo Project, which will feature a production of Bertolt Brecht's Life of Galileo in the American premiere of an adaptation by David Edgar, two symposia based on the themes of the play, and readings of three new plays dealing with scientific themes. Also under consideration for the project is an art exhibit dealing with the themes of Brecht's play.


The Philadelphia Theatre Initiative is one of seven cultural initiatives funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, administered by The University of the Arts, and now co-located at the Philadelphia Center for Arts and Heritage (PCAH). Opened in November 2005, PCAH also houses the Philadelphia Cultural Management Initiative, the Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative, Pew Fellowships in the Arts, Dance Advance, the Heritage Philadelphia Program, and the Philadelphia Music Project. Together these programs assist cultural organizations and artists in the five-county Southeastern Pennsylvania region in developing high-quality public programs and effective management practices. For more information, visit

The Pew Charitable Trusts serves the public interest by providing information, advancing policy solutions and supporting civic life. Based in Philadelphia with an office in Washington, D.C., the Trusts will invest $204 million in fiscal year 2006 to provide organizations and citizens with fact-based research and practical solutions for challenging issues.

The University of the Arts is the nation's first and only university dedicated to the visual, performing, and communications arts. Its history as a leader in educating creative individuals spans more than 125 years. For further information about The University of the Arts call 215.717.6000, or visit the website at