In 2009, supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (AWMF), NEFA conducted a study which identified unrealized potential for theater projects that expand the boundaries of theater in the U.S. Multi-disciplinary presenters, theaters, and audiences nationwide demonstrated an appetite for artist-led, ensemble, and devised theater work.

Beginning in 2010, with support from AWMF, NEFA’s 2-year National Theater Pilot tested questions and assumptions about theater development and touring in the U.S. toward the shaping of a fully-realized program of grants and services. Through the Pilot, NEFA and a core group of Advisors identified 12 projects (six selected in each of two years) to help evaluate the National Dance Project model as one means of realizing that potential.

Central goals for the Pilot were to support developing productions to tour and to support presenters, ensembles, and producing theaters to take the work to different regions and audiences. Further research and evaluation of the Pilot at various stages assessed how to best support this developing field.

In 2012, again with the support of AWMF, NEFA launched the National Theater Project to build on the knowledge gained through the Pilot phase and provide a critical means of support of artist-led, ensemble, and devised theater work.

Program Goals

Modeled on NEFA’s National Dance Project, NTP not only provides funding but also animates an informed, interactive network of producing theaters, presenters, and ensembles that promote the funded projects and the development of the field as a whole. Projects are supported through Creation & Touring Grants, which fund creation and preparation for touring of devised projects and Presentation Grants, which are awarded to presenters by the artist and support up to 50% of the artistic fee for NTP projects.

NTP supports work that reflects the evolving environment for theater, including but not limited to projects that:

  • Support the creation/development and U.S.* touring of new artist-led devised, ensemble theater works that demonstrate excellence in the artists’ practice. NTP uses the following definitions in consideration of grant applications:
    • Ensemble: A group of two or more people committed to working together over time to develop a distinct practice and body of work.
    • Devised: A process of co-creation and joint discovery that prioritizes generative artists, which may include but does not prioritize playwrights, is iterative, and results in original work.
  • Support work that contributes to the cultural and aesthetic diversities of today’s theater. NEFA values an equitable, diverse, and inclusive world, which we interpret as all people having fair access to the tools and resources they need to realize creative and community endeavors. We acknowledge structural inequities that have excluded individuals and communities from opportunity based on race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, class, age, language, culture, nation of origin, and geography, and strive to counter those inequities in our work.
  • Reflect meaningful partnerships with presenters, producers, and other organizations that are involved in the development, promotion, and/or touring of the new work.
  • Offer the potential to deepen engagement because of the work’s relevance, originality, and/or timeliness.
  • Produce a viable plan for touring the supported work in multiple communities in the U.S. and its territories*.

*NEFA defines U.S. as all 50 of the United States, as well as Puerto Rico, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa.


The National Theater Project advisors provide critical guidance to applicants in proposal preparation and tour development. They also guide project selection and serve as consultants and ambassadors for the program. Advisors represent presenters, producing theaters, festivals, and theater artists. Selection of advisors takes into account geography, gender, areas of expertise, cultural and racial equity, and includes new and established leaders in the field. Learn more about how to become a program advisor.

A woman with long dark hair and a black shirt with red flowers

Pia Agrawal

Executive Director
Staten Island Arts
Location: lands of the Lenape people (Staten Island, NY)
A woman with long hair wearing a bold floral print dress using a cane. She is holding a microphone and sports green Chuck Tayolors.

Claudia Alick

She/Her, They/Them
Artistic Producer
Calling Up Justice
Jarvis is a bald, black man with a moustache. He wears a black hoodie under a jean jacket.

Jarvis Antonio Green

Founder & Producing Artistic Director
JAG Productions
Location: land of the Abenaki Peoples (White River Junction, VT)
Daniel is a bald man who smirks and squints a bit, while wearing a navy polo.

Daniel Banks

Co-Founder/Co-Artistic Director
Location: the unceded land of the Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek), Seminole, Kickapoo, Shawnee, Caddo, and Wichita, among others (Fort Worth, TX)
Natalie is a Black womxn with curly hair. They wear a red bandana as a headfband and a matching red sweatshirt.

Nathalie Nia Faulk

They/Them, She/her
Last Call Oral History Project
Location: land of the Bulbancha (New Orleans, Louisiana)
A man with short dark hair wearing a blue shirt with white polka dots

Edgar Miramontes

Deputy Executive Director & Curator
REDCAT (Roy and Enda Disney/CalArts Theater)
Location: land of Chumash, Tongva and Kizh (Los Angeles, CA)
Head shot of a woman with long dark hair and freckles looks at the camera.

Ronee Penoi

Director of Artistic Programming
I reside on the ancestral and unceded lands of the Wampanoag and Massachuset people, whose name was appropriated by this Commonwealth. I pay respect to their elders past, present and future, the traditional custodians of the lands on which I live and work
Amrita is an Indian woman with long dark hair. Outside, she wears a black shirt under a bright red button down.

Amrita Ramanan

Senior Cultural Strategist and Dramaturg
Play On Shakespeare
Location: land of the Takelma, Shasta, and Confederated Tribes of Siletz (Ashland, OR)
Mildred has ear-length wavy blonde hair. She smiles while wearing hoop earrings and a dark red lipliner.

Mildred Ruiz-Sapp

Location: currently standing on the ancestral homelands of the Shasta, Takelma, Latgawa peoples and their descendants (Ashland, OR). Born and raised on the Ancestral lands of the Lenape nations.
DeLanna has long brown hair with highlights. She smiles in a green cardigan over a gray t-shirt.

DeLanna Studi

Artistic Director, Native Voices
Autry (NVA)
Location: land of the Gabrielino Tongva People (Los Angeles, CA) and Cherokee Nation, OK: When we were forcibly removed, the removal displaced many people including the Osage, Kickapoo, Caddo, Quapaw.
A woman in a green top and bead necklace smiling

Leslie Tamaribuchi

Cultural Organizer, Strategist
Location: lands of the Chumash and Gabrielino-Tongva peoples (Los Angeles, CA)
Torange has short grey and white hair. She smiles, while wearing a purple, shawl necked sweater.

Torange Yeghiazarian

Location: the unceded territories of the Chochenyo Ohlone peoples (Oakland, CA)

The National Theater Project is made possible with lead funding from the Mellon Foundation and additional support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Mellon Foundation logo; a black free-form "m" next to the text Mellon Foundation in black letters
Doris Duke logo