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:

  • Expose audiences to artist-led, ensemble, devised theater work of excellence and originality. 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.
  • Push the aesthetic boundaries and/or reflect the cultural and aesthetic diversity alive in theater today. 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, and geography, and strive to counter those inequities in our work.
  • Nurture long-term, productive, and multifaceted partnerships between project and development partners, leading to the highest quality possible in the production of the completed work.
  • Have an understanding of touring devised work and strategies for creating a tour.
  • Offer the potential for deeper community engagement.
  • Enhance the creation of national networks of presenters, producing theaters, and ensemble theaters with venues and other organizations that will increase the potential for touring.


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. 

Byron Au Yong
Performing Arts & Social Justice 
University of San Francisco
San Francisco, CA

Keryl McCord
EQ: Equity Quotient
Alpharetta, GA
Alison Carey
American Revolutions:  the United States History Cycle
Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Ashland, OR
Robert Richter
Director of Arts Programming
Connecticut College
New London, CT

Patricia Cruz
Executive Director
Harlem Stage
New York, NY

Lisa Steindler
Executive Artistic Director
Z Space
San Francisco, CA
Candace L Feldman
Managing Director
Kinetic Light
Glendale, CA
Mark Valdez
Independent Artist/Consultant
Los Angeles, CA
Brooke Horejsi
Executive Director/Assistant Dean for Art & Creative Engagement
UtahPresents/University of Utah
Salt Lake City, UT
Clyde Valentin

Director, Arts + Urbanism Initiative
Meadows School of the Arts
Southern Methodist University
Dallas, TX

Todd London

Writer, Editor, Artist Gatherer, and Playwright Advocate
Co-Head MFA Playwriting
The New School
New York, NY

Jacob Yarrow
Executive Director
Green Music Center
Rohnert Park, CA

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