Philadelphia Theatre Initiative Announces $863,000 in Grants

Philadelphia Theatre Initiative Announces $863,000 in Grants

The Philadelphia Theatre Initiative (PTI) today announced $863,000 in grants awarded to seven producing theatres, two performing arts presenting organizations, and three independent theatre performance artists.  The grants, which range from $20,000 to $110,000, are payable over one or two years and provide the resources needed to stimulate artistic development and to create or present theatre of the highest standards. 

PTI 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. 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 recipients of 2008 PTI grants are:

Arden Theatre Company$110,000
Brat Productions$  48,000 (over two years)
Sara Felder$  20,000
Gas and Electric Arts$  25,000 (first-time recipient)
Kimmel Center, Inc. $105,000
The People's Light & Theatre Company$110,000
Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe$110,000
Philadelphia Theatre Company$110,000
Thaddeus Phillips$  20,000
Pig Iron Theatre Company$  75,000
Geoff Sobelle$  20,000
The Wilma Theater$110,000

The funded works include six world premieres and two American premieres. Among them are a reworking of CANDIDE with a new libretto; a site-specific haunted house-tour hosted by Edgar Allan Poe; a genre-blurring extravaganza that combines travel writing, live cameras and mannequins; and a solo work that confronts our discomfort with mental illness through comic monologues, juggling, and a woman who thinks she's Abraham Lincoln.  Full descriptions of each project are attached.

“These recipients exemplify Philadelphia's growing national stature as a home for compelling and ambitious theatrical fare,” said Marian Godfrey, managing director of Culture and Civic Initiatives. “The grants will help provide a range of entertaining productions for local and national audiences alike.”

Since 1995, The Pew Charitable Trusts has invested more than $7.8 million in the artistic development of the region's professional theatre through 164 PTI project grants and frequent PTI-sponsored professional development opportunities for study, research, travel, mentor projects and artistic consultancies.

To qualify for application, theatres and performing arts presenters must be established nonprofit organizations based in the five-county Philadelphia region and must employ professional artists.  Independent theatre artists who apply for funding are also required to live locally. Each needs to have had at least one production that s/he created and performed, directed, or produced for the public at a professional venue. The work of both institutional and individual applicants must have been seen and evaluated by site reporters for PTI.

“PTI grants are awarded on a highly competitive basis,” said Fran Kumin, director of the Philadelphia Theatre Initiative. “To determine the grant recipients, we assemble a diverse panel of theatre professionals with a breadth of knowledge in the nonprofit professional theatre.  These peer panelists not only review the applications and site reports thoroughly, they also come to Philadelphia throughout the theatre season to review performances, meet with local theatre leaders and grow familiar with our theatre community.”

The 2008 theatre peer panel included:

  • Anne Cattaneo, Dramaturg of Lincoln Center Theater and the creator and head of Lincoln Center Theater Directors' Lab in New York City;
  • Casey Childs, Founder of Primary Stages in New York City;
  • John Dias, Producer of the Playwright's Realm Theater Company and a Partner in the Affinity Company Theater in New York City; 
  • Loretta Greco, Artistic Director of the Magic Theatre of San Francisco;
  • Melanie Joseph, founding Artistic Director of The Foundry Theatre in New York City;
  • Molly Smith (panel chair), Artistic Director of Arena Stage in Washington, D.C.; and
  • Harold Wolpert, Managing Director of the Roundabout Theatre Company in New York City.

Panelists consider 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.

Opened in November 2005, the Philadelphia Center for Arts and Heritage (PCAH) houses seven existing initiatives of The Pew Charitable Trusts. These programs are dedicated to assisting cultural organizations in the five-county Southeastern Pennsylvania region in developing high-quality public programs and effective management practices. PCAH is the home of Dance Advance, Heritage Philadelphia Program, Pew Fellowships in the Arts, Philadelphia Cultural Management Initiative, Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative, Philadelphia Music Project, and Philadelphia Theatre Initiative. The Philadelphia Center for Arts and Heritage is supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts and administered by The University of the Arts. For more information, visit

The Pew Charitable Trusts ( is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today's most challenging problems. Pew applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public, and stimulate civic life. We partner with a diverse range of donors, public and private organizations, and concerned citizens who share a commitment to fact-based solutions and goal-driven investments to improve society.

The University of the Arts is the nation's first and only university dedicated to the visual, performing, and communication arts. Its 2,300 students are enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs on its campus in the heart of Philadelphia's Avenue of the Arts. Its history as a leader in educating creative individuals spans more than 130 years. For further information about The University of the Arts call 215.717.6000, or visit

2008 Philadelphia Theatre Initiative Project Grant Awards

Arden Theatre Company— 
$110,000 to produce the American regional theatre premiere of John Caird's adaptation of CANDIDE.  Caird returned to Voltaire's classic satire for material to enrich the book of this musical, and Stephen Sondheim and Richard Wilbur supplied new lyrics for Leonard Bernstein's legendary score.  The production will feature 20 actors, 11 musicians and environmental staging in-the-round, with paths and walkways throughout the seating areas. 

Brat Productions—
$48,000 over two years to develop and produce HAUNTED POE, an immersive site-specific take on a traditional haunted house marked by the steady build of psychological dread that is the hallmark of Poe's work.  The production, created by a team including playwright Bruce Walsh, Poe-scholar Edward Pettit and Brat Founder and Resident Artist Madi Distefano, is scheduled to run during the bicentennial celebration of the author's birth and in conjunction with the International Poe Conference in October 2009.

Sara Felder— 
$20,000 to develop and produce MELANCHOLY, A COMEDY, a solo performance piece combining comic monologues, circus tricks, juggling routines and projections to probe the life of Abraham Lincoln and confront our societal discomfort around mental illness.  Characters in the piece will include Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav, Kitty Dukakis, Patty Duke, Winston Churchill, Sylvia Plath and a woman who thinks she's Abraham Lincoln.

Gas and Electric Arts——(first-time grantee)
$25,000 to commission and produce Kira Obolensky's CABINET OF WONDERS: AN IMPOSSIBLE HISTORY.   Inspired by the playwright's own recently uncovered Russian family history, CABINET OF WONDERS will be about the stories we tell in families and how they pass like genetic code through generations.  This piece marks Gas & Electric Art's first commission.

Kimmel Center, Inc.— 
$105,000 to present THE ANDERSEN PROJECT, a multi-media theatre piece inspired by the stories of Hans Christian Andersen and created by internationally renowned Québec-based artist Robert Lepage.  THE ANDERSEN PROJECT will mark the Philadelphia debut of the work of Robert Lepage and Ex Machina, his multidisciplinary company.

The People's Light & Theatre Company—
$110,000 to produce the local premiere of Ellen McLaughlin's adaptation of THE PERSIANS by Aeschylus with original music by Daniel Kluger.  A tale of war and national grief, this classic play tells the story of the Athenian defeat of the powerful Persian Empire in 480 BC.  After opening on the People's Light mainstage, the production will tour to local high schools.

Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe—
$110,000 to present the American premiere of OPERETTA by Witold Gombrowicz, a contemporary music theater work performed in Polish, produced by the Capitol Theatre of Wroclaw, Poland.  The work is directed by Swarthmore graduate Michal Zadara, one of the most promising young directors to emerge in Polish contemporary theatre in recent years, and features a new score by renowned Polish jazz musician Leszek Możdżer. 

Philadelphia Theatre Company— 
$110,000 to produce the Philadelphia premiere of the Tony Award-winning musical GREY GARDENS by Doug Wright, with music by Scott Frankel and lyrics by Michael Korie.  GREY GARDENS is based on a 1975 documentary of the same title about Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale (“Big Edie”) and her daughter (“Little Edie”), two relatives of Jacqueline Kennedy.  The musical tracks the Beales' progression from American aristocrats to isolated eccentrics living on their increasingly squalid East Hampton estate. 

Thaddeus Phillips—
$20,000 to develop and produce THE MELTING BRIDGE, the third and final part of Phillips' THE AMERICAS TRILOGY.  This solo performance, with live original music by Juan Gabriel Turbay, will explore the indigenous cultures of the Americas through a surreal story of a businessman looking for his missing archeologist father across the Americas with stops in Alaska, Arizona, Mexico City, the Yucatán Peninsula, and the Amazon basin in Brazil.

Pig Iron Theatre Company—
$75,000 to develop and produce WELCOME TO YUBA CITY, a raucous parade of eccentrics and misfits following a variety-show format and intended to highlight the vein of eccentricity that lies underneath the daily flow of American life.  The piece will be created by Pig Iron's ensemble in collaboration with songwriter Michael Friedman and master clown teacher Giovanni Fusetti.

Geoff Sobelle— 
$20,000 to premiere FLESH AND BLOOD AND FISH AND FOWL, a doomsday fairy tale about the limited perspective that humans have on their relationship to wilderness, developed and performed by Geoff Sobelle and Charlotte Ford.  The performance will use stop-motion animation and antique illusion to invoke a primordial world of crones and giant rats where humans are the hunted and taxidermied animals are the hunters. 

The Wilma Theater—
$110,000 to produce the second American production of SCORCHED by Wajdi Mouawad, translated by Linda Gaboriau.  Having received more than 100 French language productions, SCORCHED tells the story of North American twins who are bound, after the reading of their mother's will, to return to her Middle Eastern homeland, where they uncover devastating personal and national histories.  The production will include original music by Iraqi-American musician and composer Amir ElSaffar.