The theater ecosystem in the United States is rooted in the rich, global history of ancient and collaborative performing art forms. Today, the field encompasses many unique styles of expressive dramatic practice and community engagement. From the largest Broadway stages to public parks, community centers and beyond, theater fosters empathy and builds stronger communities. The collective acts of sharing space and bearing witness to each other’s stories can spark transformation. Theater has the power to inspire all of us to work together toward creating a more equitable world.

Through funding to non-profit organizations, the NEA supports the many components of the theater ecosystem including playwrights, directors, actors, designers, technicians, choreographers, arts administrators, and the audiences whose lives and communities are enriched by the theatrical arts. While the non-profit and commercial theater fields are symbiotically connected, the NEA prioritizes its resources to support projects that would not otherwise be viable in the commercial marketplace, with an emphasis on providing more than just entertainment value to their communities. Moving beyond the silo of the arts sector, the NEA encourages collaborations between theaters and other sectors such as education, healthcare, technology, and social services. This can involve joint projects, shared resources, and cross-sector initiatives that demonstrate the value and relevance of theater beyond traditional artistic boundaries.

The NEA aims to strengthen the theater ecosystem through grants for the production or presentation of traditional repertoire, new plays, development laboratories, showcases, artist residencies, work for young audiences, experimental work, and community-based work. Projects funded by the NEA 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 from all cultures and periods, and opportunities for professional development. Supported projects will reflect the breadth of the theater ecosystem and its artistic, historical, and cultural significance.

Applicants may request cost share/matching grants ranging from $10,000 to $100,000.

For information on how to submit an application, see “How to Apply” on the left.

Project types:

Applications must be for projects only. A project may consist of one or more specific events or activities, and should not cover an entire season of programming. We do not fund seasonal or general operating support.

Project Types include, but are not limited to:

  • Commissioning, development, and production of new work, translations, and adaptations;
  • Production or presentation of existing contemporary or classical work that extends opportunities for public engagement;
  • Development, production, or presentation of theater work for young audiences;
  • Development programs and labs for new work, which may include the hosting of artist residencies, showcase productions of new work, development workshops, and curated festivals of new works or works in progress (the NEA does not fund festivals for which no curatorial judgment has been applied);
  • Local, regional, and national touring of theater productions to communities underserved by the arts;
  • Documentation, preservation, conservation, archiving, and dissemination of America's theater heritage, including capturing live performance;
  • Community-based projects that involve the creation and/or production of theater with community members;
  • Services to the field that assist organizations or artists in administrative, developmental, technical, and related areas;
  • Professional training for theater artists, including classes, guest artist residencies, workshops, and mentorship of theater artists;
  • Professional development activities for theater administrators, such as adaptive capacity-building, resilience training, and workforce development;
  • Projects that advance and/or sustain the creative work of and/or careers for people with disabilities through employment, industry training, technical assistance, and organization capacity-building;
  • Digital capacity-building efforts of organizations to create virtual programming, increase audience accessibility, and/or collaborate with other organizations using digital technology;
  • Collaborations between theaters and other sectors such as education, healthcare, technology, and social services;
  • Projects incorporating theater to advance the health and well-being of individuals and communities;
  • Projects that involve collaborations among theaters, new models for co-production, and other innovative and new ideas for rethinking the business model of non-profit theater.

Competitive proposals will address elements as stated in the application review criteria, and:

  • Clearly define the proposed project’s activities and outcomes and, where applicable, name the artists involved in the creation of the work;
  • Engage with organizational partners to strengthen and extend the reach of the theater project in the community;
  • Actively reduce socioeconomic and other barriers to access for artists, audiences, and community members of all backgrounds;
  • Extend the reach of the arts to groups/communities with rich and dynamic cultural identities that have been historically underserved;
  • Encourage the participation of artists, production staff, and administrators from a wide variety of aesthetic viewpoints, racial and ethnic backgrounds, cultures, disability perspectives, socioeconomic statuses, and/or geographic areas;
  • For projects that involve new work development programs or festivals, clearly define the selection process and criteria used, including measures to ensure participants from a wide range of backgrounds;
  • Advance the theater field and serve as a model to inspire the highest standards of excellence, innovation, and future sustainability.

In some cases, a project that involves theater may be better suited for review in another discipline. Review the Artistic Disciplines page for more information, including guidance on educational projects.

For questions, including help choosing the right discipline, contact NEA staff:
Organizations A - L: Ouida Maedel, or 202-682-5509
Organizations M - Z: Ian-Julian Williams, or 202-682-5020

Compliance Reminders:

The NEA is committed to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, and fostering mutual respect for the diverse beliefs and values of all individuals and groups. Please note the following:

  • Civil Rights Laws and Policies: As a reminder, in the federal-funding context, a focus on a particular group or demographic may be permissible, but exclusion is not. This extends to hiring practices, artist selection processes, and audience engagement. Your application should make it clear that project activities are not exclusionary. Please review the Assurance of Compliance, as well as NEA Civil Rights guidance on our website, including this archived webinar: Things to Know Before You Apply: Federal Civil Rights and Your Grants Application.
  • Accessibility: Federal regulations require that all NEA-funded projects be accessible to people with disabilities. Individuals with disabilities may be audiences, visitors, artists, performers, teaching artists, students, staff, and volunteers. Funded activities should be held in a physically accessible venue, and program access and effective communication should be provided for participants and audience members with disabilities. If your project is recommended for funding, you will be asked to provide detailed information describing how you will make your project physically and programmatically accessible to people with disabilities.
  • National Historic Preservation Act and/or the National Environmental Policy Act Review: Recommended projects may be subject to the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and/or the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance review. See more information about NHPA/NEPA review under Award Administration.


Grants for Arts Projects applications will be accepted at two deadlines. All project types (described above) are accepted at both deadlines. Apply at the deadline that most closely fits the schedule of activities or timeline of your proposed project. Generally, an organization is limited to one application per year in the Grants for Arts Projects category.

First Grants for Arts Projects Deadline:

Part 1 - Submit to

February 15, 2024 at 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time

Prepare application material so that it’s ready to upload when the Applicant Portal opens

Part 2 - Submit to Applicant Portal

February 21-28, 2024 at 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time

Earliest Announcement of Grant Award or Rejection

November 2024

Earliest Start Date for Proposed Project

January 1, 2025

Second Grants for Arts Projects Deadline:

Part 1 - Submit to

July 11, 2024 at 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time

Prepare application material so that it’s ready to upload when the Applicant Portal opens

Part 2 - Submit to Applicant Portal

July 16-23, 2024 at 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time

Earliest Announcement of Grant Award or Rejection

April 2025

Earliest Start Date for Proposed Project

June 1, 2025