Performing Arts

Theatre Commissioning and Production Initiative


The Theatre Commissioning and Production Initiative supports theaters with the production of a new work of scale by an American playwright and with the commissioning of an additional new work from that same writer. The intent is to recognize the undercompensation of playwrights, encourage long-term relationships between theaters and writers, and support the production of plays that serve a theater's nonprofit mission, even if such plays do not have immediate commercial appeal.

Grant Details

This is an invitation-only pilot program, which consists of two rounds and awards a total of $1.25 million to theaters to produce one new play of significant scale by an American playwright and to commission an additional new work from that same writer.

From each annual pool of applicants, a peer review panel recommends five grants of $125,000 each. Each grant awards $75,000 to the theater to support the production of the play, $25,000 to the playwright, and $25,000 to be shared by the theater and that same playwright to support a new commission and potentially a workshop and residency activity. Of that final shared $25,000, a minimum of $15,000 must be used to support a commission of a new project by the produced playwright. The remainder may support residency activities, including workshops and readings, associated with the new commmission.


The theaters invited to apply for the grant must:

  • demonstrate a history of commissioning work and producing premieres during the last five years;
  • demonstrate a history of transferring at least two commissioned pieces to full production over the last five years;
  • have an existing relationship with the playwright being produced;
  • obtain an agreement from the playwright to be named in the application and ensure the playwright submits the relevant materials;
  • be a publicly supported 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization;
  • employ or contract professional artists and compensate artists appropriately;
  • have annual expenses of at least $1 million over the past three years.

The play supported by the grant must.:

  • have been commissioned by the applicant theater;
  • be a work of scale (defined as a large cast or extraordinary technical demands);
  • be fully produced by the theater during the grant period;
  • not have received commercial enhancement monies to support the production of the play at the applicant theater.

Application Process

To apply for a grant through the Theatre Commissioning and Production Initiative, theaters must receive invitations to do so from the Arts Program at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Those invited then engage in a two-step application process, submitting an intent-to-apply message and then a full proposal.

A panel of experts in the field then meets to review the proposals and to recommend grant recipients. The review criteria include: strength of the play to be produced (60%), the theater's history of commissioning and producing work (20%), and the strength of the relationship between the playwright and the theater, as evidencied by statements from the artistic director and playwright (20%).

The invitation list for the second pilot round of the program has already been determined and it is yet to be determined if there will be a third round of funding in this program. Please do not call or email the foundation for general question about this program; rather, check back at this webpage for future information.