NEA Arts Magazine

NEA New Play Development Program Selections

In October 2008, the NEA announced the seven inaugural selections for the NEA New Play Development Program, which is administered for the agency by Washington, DC-based Arena Stage. Launched in December 2007, the new initiative is intended to help the nation's nonprofit theaters bring more new plays to full productions. Two projects named NEA Outstanding New American Play selections will receive $90,000 each to support development activities in collaboration with the playwright, including a full production: McCarter Theatre's (Princeton, New Jersey) production of Tarell Alvin McCraney's trilogy The Brother/Sister Plays and Center Theatre Group's (Los Angeles, California) production of Rajiv Joseph's Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo.

Five additional theaters were selected to receive $20,000 each as NEA Distinguished New Play Development Projects: California Shakespeare Theater (Berkeley, California); The Children's Theatre Company (Minneapolis, Minnesota); The Foundry Theatre (New York, New York); Lark Play Development Center (New York, New York); and Rude Mechanicals (Austin, Texas). The NEA funding will support development activities in collaboration with playwrights, such as workshops and staged readings.

In December, the Arts Endowment released All America's a Stage, a research report examining developments in the growth, distribution, and finances of America's nonprofit theater system since 1990. The study analyzed nearly 2,000 nonprofit theaters, utilizing data from several sources, including the Internal Revenue Service, Theatre Communications Group member survey data, the U. S. Census Bureau's Economic Census data, and data from the NEA's Survey of Public Participation in the Arts. While the research revealed decreasing attendance rates and vulnerability during economic downturns, it also indicated broad growth and generally positive fiscal health for the nation's nonprofit theaters. The survey also quantified the catalytic effect of Arts Endowment funding on the theaters' ability to leverage contributions from other sources: each dollar in NEA grant support is associated with an additional $12 from individual donors, $1.88 from businesses, and $3.55 from foundations.