ART WORKS Guidelines: Theater & Musical Theater

The National Endowment for the Arts offers grants to the nonprofit theater and musical theater fields for the production or presentation of traditional or classical repertoire, new plays and musicals, development laboratories, showcases, artist residencies, work for young audiences, experimental work, community-based work, outdoor historical dramas, and puppetry. Projects funded by the Arts Endowment should help to fully realize an organization's mission and may provide support for organizations and artists in the creation and refinement of work, the public presentation of plays and musicals from all cultures and periods, and opportunities for professional development.


Art Works applications will be accepted under two deadlines: February 19, 2015, and July 23, 2015. Apply under the deadline with the NEA objective (in bold below) and project example that most closely corresponds to the primary focus of your proposed project. You will be asked to indicate the objective that is most relevant to your project in your application and on the application form.

February 19, 2015, Application Deadline
January 1, 2016, Earliest Beginning Date for Arts Endowment Period of Performance


  • Commissioning, development, and production of new work, translations, and adaptations.
  • Development programs and labs for new work, which may include the hosting of artist residencies, showcase productions of new work, development workshops, and festivals of new works or works in progress. 
  • Development of innovative new works that involve media, technology, or new models.
  • Creation, commissioning, and presentation of new work in a national park or in an adjacent community. 


  • Production or presentation of existing contemporary or classical work that is planned for the 2015-16 season (with project activities beginning on or after January 1, 2016).
  • Festivals and presentation of existing works in a national park or adjacent community (this may include performances, lecture-demonstrations, and workshops).

July 23, 2015, Application Deadline
June 1, 2016, Earliest Beginning Date for Arts Endowment Period of Performance


  • Production or presentation of existing contemporary or classical work that is planned for the 2016-17 season (with project activities beginning on or after June 1, 2016).
  • Local, regional, and national touring.
  • Community-based projects.
  • Documentation, preservation, conservation, and dissemination of America's theater and musical theater heritage.
  • Services to the field that assist organizations or artists in administrative, developmental, technical, and related areas.
  • Innovative methods of engaging audiences, including collaborations with other organizations, through new subscriber or membership models that have the potential to maximize resources and/or the impact on the audience, artists, or the field.
  • Collaborative arts/science/technology projects.
  • Festivals and presentation of existing works in a national park or adjacent community (this may include performances, lecture-demonstrations, and workshops).


  • Professional training including classes, guest artist residencies, workshops, and mentorship of theater artists.
  • Exposure and enrichment projects, including arts/science/technology projects, for youth, adults, and intergenerational groups. (If your project is for youth, see "Choosing the Right Discipline for Youth Projects" to help you in your discipline selection.)
  • High-quality, professional productions of Shakespeare's plays performed for middle- and high-school students in underserved schools.
  • Education programs connecting youth with the national park system. 


  • The development of plans for growth of the theater and musical theater sector in the local community.
  • The development of artist live/work spaces.
  • Festivals, performances, and other activities in public spaces that are intended to foster community interaction and/or enhance the unique characteristics of a community.
  • The engagement of artists and theater and musical theater organizations in plans and processes to improve community livability.
  • Community-based partnerships that integrate theater and musical theater with livability efforts.

(Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact staff if they are considering Livability as an objective.)

Applicants with questions about the appropriate deadline for their project are encouraged to contact the Theater & Musical Theater staff.

Project Reporting and Evaluation

We ask all applicants to define what they would like to achieve, how they will evaluate the degree to which it is achieved, and, upon completion of the project, what they have learned from their experiences. Such feedback need not entail large-scale or expensive evaluation efforts. You should do what is feasible and appropriate for your organization and project. When a grant is completed, you must submit a final report and answer questions on your achievements and how these were determined. Arts Education grantees who apply for a Direct Learning Grant will be required to describe the assessment methods used to assess learning, and they may submit tools used to assess learning with their Final Report. (Please note that assessment tools may be shared publicly. If your tools are proprietary and have copyrights or trademarks attached, you will be asked to note that in your application and Final Report.) Before applying, please review the reporting requirements for the objective that will be selected for the proposed project: Creation, Engagement, Learning, or Livability.

Beyond the reporting requirements for all grantees, selected Art Works grantees will be asked to assist in the collection of additional information that can help the NEA determine the degree to which agency objectives were achieved. You may be required to provide evidence of project accomplishments including, but not limited to, work samples, community action plans, cultural asset studies, programs, reviews, relevant news clippings, and playbills. Please remember that you are required to maintain project documentation for three years following submission of your final reports.

Application Review

This category uses the agency's traditional method of application review. Applications are submitted to the Theater & Musical Theater staff and are reviewed by a diverse group of experts in the theater and musical theater field.

Applications are reviewed on the basis of artistic excellence and artistic merit. For more detailed information on how artistic excellence and artistic merit will be evaluated, see the "Review Criteria." You can find additional information in the "Application Review" section of the "Frequently Asked Questions." See the "Application Calendar" for information on when we expect to announce grant awards and rejections.


Organizations with names that begin A through M: Eleanor Denegre, denegree@arts.govor 202/682-5509

Organizations with names that begin N through Z: Carol Lanoux Lee, or 202/682-5020