Pew's Philadelphia Theatre Initiative Awards More Than $900,000 to Artists and Organizations

Pew's Philadelphia Theatre Initiative Awards More Than $900,000 to Artists and Organizations

The Philadelphia Theatre Initiative (PTI), a program of The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, announced today grants totaling $938,000 to 15 theatres, presenting organizations and individual theatre artists in the Philadelphia region.

This year's grants range from a commissioned adaptation of Hemingway's great American novel The Sun Also Rises to the national premiere of Václav Havel's first new play since the time he was President of Czechoslovakia; from the regional premiere of the Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning play August: Osage County starring acclaimed actress Estelle Parsons to local artist Karen Getz's comic ballet about neurotic robots, a new work to follow her sell-out production of Suburban Love Songs.  Ten of this year's grants will support world premieres. Five awards went to individual artists. 

PTI's grants conclude the 2009 annual grant cycle at The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, which provided more than $6.6 million in funding this year to arts and culture organizations and individuals throughout the Philadelphia region.

The following projects have been awarded support:

1812 Productions ($65,000)
To workshop and produce the shared world premiere of The First Day of School, a contemporary farce from suburbia by Billy Aronson. 

Arden Theatre Company ($110,000)
To produce Sunday in the Park With George, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by James Lapine, and direction by Terrence J. Nolen, with an inventive visual approach, a cast of 15 and complete original orchestrations to give full dramatic weight to this large-scale musical.

InterAct Theatre Company ($60,000)
To produce the world premiere of The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity by Kristoffer Diaz in InterAct's most ambitious production to date.  The play uses the spectacle of professional wrestling to explore Americans' fears of terrorism and globalization. 

The Kimmel Center, Inc. ($76,591)
To present the regional premiere of Tracy Letts' Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning play August: Osage County at the Forrest Theatre.

New Paradise Laboratories ($30,000)
To develop and create the world premiere of Freedom Club, a sci-fi/historical riff on the American Civil War and a futuristic showdown inspired by the government's raid on white separatists at Ruby Ridge in 1992. The piece will be created in collaboration with Adriano Shaplin and the New York-based Riot Group.

Painted Bride Art Center ($25,000—first-time grantee)
To present Spalding Gray: Stories Left to Tell, a theatre piece compiled by Gray's widow from the known works, the unperformed stories, and the unpublished diaries of the late legendary monologist Spalding Gray, who performed regularly at the Bride. His work will now be part of Painted Bride's 40th anniversary celebration.

Philadelphia Live Arts Festival & Philly Fringe ($107,000)
To commission and present the world premiere of The Sun Also Rises, based on Ernest Hemingway's novel and created by Elevator Repair Service, a New York-based company internationally renowned for adaptations of well known novels.

Philadelphia Theatre Company ($110,000)
To produce the world premiere of nationally acclaimed playwright Terrence McNally's Golden Age, a backstage period work about opera composer Vincenzo Bellini. The production will travel from Philadelphia to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Pig Iron Theatre Company ($150,000 over two years)
To support a two-year investigation of A Midsummer Night's Dream, leading to the creation of new works and a fully-staged production of the play in 2011. This project marks the largest undertaking in Pig Iron's history and follows the acclaim of their revival of Chekhov Lizardbrain in New York. 

The Wilma Theater ($110,000)
To produce the American premiere of Leaving by Václav Havel, his first new play in 20 years. The play focuses on the difficulties that a former Chancellor of an unnamed European country confronts shortly after leaving power.

Madi Distefano ($14,520)
To research and workshop Meanwhile…, a two-person quick-change comedy inspired by vintage Crime Noir, which later will be premiered by Brat Productions at the 2010 Philly Fringe.

Sara Felder ($20,000)
To develop and produce the world premiere of A Queer Divine, a whimsical tale of a dancer during a time of war, to be performed in the lobbies of Philadelphia-area theatres and community centers.

Charlotte Ford ($20,000—first-time grantee)
To further develop and produce an absurdist three-person clown play called Chicken, which depicts living with our most intimate terrors, for world premiere at the 2010 Live Arts Festival.

Karen Getz ($20,000)
To develop and produce the world premiere of The AI Project, a comic-actors' ballet that explores human imperfections through the behaviors of artificially intelligent robots.

Thaddeus Phillips ($20,000)
To create, develop and perform Microworld(s), a two-part world premiere solo work that addresses the current economic and climate crises and the need for creative thought about sustainable lifestyles.  

“We are impressed by the ambition and scale of these projects,” said Fran Kumin, Director of the Philadelphia Theatre Initiative. “This year's PTI grants support a broad range of productions aimed at varied theatrical tastes.  At one end of the spectrum, audiences will see a revered musical performed with a full orchestra and a large cast; at the other, experimental works created using multi-media and innovative green technology. We are particularly pleased to support five individual artists—a milestone for the Initiative and an indication of the artistry in our theatre community.”

“We are proud to support this diverse array of projects that will bring high quality performances to local audiences,” said Gregory Rowe, Director of Culture Initiatives and Deputy Director of the Philadelphia Program at The Pew Charitable Trusts.

PTI grants are awarded annually on a competitive basis. Grant recipients are chosen by a distinguished national panel of theatre professionals with a broad knowledge of the field. PTI's 2009 panel included the following professionals:

  • Steven Cosson, founder and Artistic Director of The Civilians, New York City
  • Jeffrey Horowitz, Artistic Director, Theatre for a New Audience, New York City
  • Mara Isaacs, Producing Director, McCarter Theatre, Princeton, New Jersey
  • Melanie Joseph, Founding Artistic Director of The Foundry Theatre, New York City
  • Ralph B. Peña, Artistic Director of Ma-Yi Theater Company, New York City
  • Molly Smith, Artistic Director of Arena Stage, Washington, D.C. (non-voting panel chair)
  • Susana Tubert, co-founder and Executive Director of the Latino International Theater. Festival of New York, Inc. and Executive Producer of TeatroStageFest, New York City
  • Harold Wolpert, Managing Director of the Roundabout Theatre Company, New York City.

About The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage

The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage is dedicated to stimulating a vibrant cultural community in the five-county, Southeastern Pennsylvania region. Established in 2005, the Center houses seven funding initiatives of The Pew Charitable Trusts. Through these initiatives the Center supports area artists and arts and heritage organizations whose work is distinguished by excellence, imagination, and courage. Each year, the Center's grants make possible more than 800 performances in dance, music, and theatre as well as history and visual arts exhibitions, and other public programs for audiences in Philadelphia and its surrounding counties. In addition to its grantmaking, The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage functions as a nexus for the exchange of ideas around artistic expression and cultural interpretation. The Center also produces lectures, symposia, workshops, and publications that engage critical issues in the fields we serve.  For more information, visit

The Philadelphia Theatre Initiative (PTI) was established in 1995 to foster artistic advancement and excellence in the region's nonprofit professional theatre. The program represents The Pew Charitable Trusts' ongoing commitment to the theatre professionals that serve, entertain and educate the people of Philadelphia and the surrounding communities. For more information, visit

Homepage photo credit: The Wilma Theater by B. Krist for GPTMC.