Vanguard Arts Fund Applications (up to $25,000)

Vanguard Arts Fund applications are now open for Olney Theatre Center’s 2023-24 season.

The Vanguard Arts Fund provides development support to diverse teams of artists interested in creating works – especially works that cross artistic disciplines – in a collaborative environment. From the seed of an idea for a new play, to a concept for a classic adaptation, to a first draft or first song of a musical, we provide intensive workshop time at various stages of the development process. We commit to these artistic teams in hopes of  producing their work at Olney Theatre Center in a future season.

The Vanguard Arts Fund was launched in 2017 with a $350,000 endowment gift from the Eugene B. Casey Foundation; the Fund’s success in developing shows we’ve gone on to produce prompted the Foundation to add $1 million to the endowment in 2022.

What kind of projects are we looking for?

While OTC will consider text-based work that springs from the mind of a singular playwright, successful proposals for new work will more likely bring together more than one generative artist in an interdisciplinary fashion to explore new or classic stories. So, a director and videographer working on an off-beat immersive experience, or workshopping a new musical, or a number of designers or actors coming together with a playwright to devise something, or a playwright and director working jointly to create something, or a composer working with a bunch of musicians and a choreographer on an idea all are examples of exciting proposals. Directors, actors, playwrights, designers, stage managers – we want to hear from anyone with a great idea and a great plan to pursue their artistic visions.

We are committed to ensuring the majority of projects we fund are led by BIPOC generative artists, and intend to support at least one BIPOC-created musical each year.

At this time, we are only able to consider artists based in the United States.

Past projects include:

The Music Man:  Deaf performer Joey Caverly pitched the idea of a Deaf-hearing production of this classic musical back in 2017. OTC gathered a directing team and ten actors to try out the idea, working on only two numbers. This led to a successful full-scale production in the summer of 2022. The production was nominated for nine 2023 Helen Hayes Awards.

A.D. 16:  a new musical by Bekah Brunstetter and Cinco Paul, about teenaged Mary Magdalene, was developed in 2019 via a Vanguard workshop.  The show got its world premiere at OTC in 2022. Commercial producer TBD Theatricals has obtained the rights and is planning a Broadway production.

The Joy That Carries You:  Pitched during the heart of the pandemic as a response to the murder of George Floyd and rising anti-semitism, co-writers Awa Sal Secka and Dani Stoller received two Vanguard Arts Fund workshops to develop this play, which combined traditional narrative and spoken-word poetry to tell its story.  OTC committed to producing the show after its first workshop, and produced it in 2022.  The production was nominated for five 2023 Helen Hayes Awards.

Currently in development: 

  • The Game – conceived, written and performed by Rhett Guter.
  • Okuni – Book and lyrics by Naomi Iizuka, Music and Lyrics by Lezlie Wade, directed by Lisa Portes.
  • The Joint – Book by Dominic Taylor and Curtis Jones, Music and lyrics by Timothy Graphenreed, directed by Kenneth Roberson.
  • The Gifted Prince – Music by Daniel Green, Book & Lyrics by Lezlie Wade, Directed & Choreographed by Darren Lee.

What does Olney Theatre provide?

  • Up to one week of workshop space.
  • $900 per week for generative artists; all other artists are paid/contracted as required with union agreements.
  • For out-of-town artists: Travel and housing with common kitchen.
  • Our rehearsal room or one of our three stages for up to one week (possible off-site space as well).
  • Olney Theatre staff support for casting and other personnel procurement (casting, tech, personnel, musicians, etc.) as  needed.
  • Shared vehicles and gas paid by theater.

What does Olney Theatre Center require?
Olney Theatre will ask for the right to consider and potentially produce the work within 18 months of the workshop. But we’re not asking for an exclusive right, nor are we asking for world premiere rights. If you get a Broadway production, awesome!  All we ask is that it doesn’t get produced in the DMV before we get a shot at it.

Will Olney Theatre Center own the work or idea?
No. Generative artists always own their ideas and the work they create.

Is Olney Theatre Center open to partnerships?
Yes! In development, in production, in workshops, whatever. We try to operate from a place of abundance, sharing and transparency, and want what’s best for the generative artists and their work. We’re currently working with Somerled Arts on The Gifted Prince, and Denise Gray Productions for The Joint.

Ok, I’m interested, I’ve got an idea, what should I do?

How To Apply

Please send the following information as a single pdf to hallie@olneytheatre.org. We are accepting applications until May 12, 2023, and announcements will be made in June. Please include the following in your application:

  • Project point of contact information (pronouns, email, phone number, city/state)
  • In 1-2 pages:
    • About the Project
    • Point of View
    • At what stage of development is this project currently, and what is the project’s development history?
  • In up to 1 page:
    • What are your goals for a Vanguard Arts Fund workshop? How will this workshop support the development of this project?
    • How much time do you think you need to explore this project?
  • Please also include:
    • The names and bios of the artists/collaborators involved in this project
    • Number of performers or other types of artists needed for a workshop (if known)
    • Any supporting materials (script draft, up to 3 song recordings if necessary, synopsis, orchestration, etc.)

Deadline : May 12, 2023

Sounds Interesting? Apply Now


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