jakub | September 17, 2023

AMERICAN THEATRE | NEFA Releases Report on First Decade of National Theatre Project


Milta Ortiz and Jonathan Heras in ‘The Water Project,' a Borderlands Theater workshop production in collaboration with Cleveland Public Theatre through a National New Play Network Collaboration grant, in December 2018. (Photo by Cait NiSiomon.)

BOSTON: The New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) has released an evaluation of the first 10-plus years of the National Theater Project (NTP), an effort begun in 2010 by NEFA dedicated to supporting the creation and touring of U.S.-based devised ensemble theatre projects via direct funding and through the cultivation of an informed, interactive network of ensembles, artists, and presenters. The evaluation of the program’s success thus far was conducted by McNeil Creative Enterprises.

“This thorough evaluation includes recommendations that will enable NEFA to deepen the support of NTP grantees and the development of the field,” Quita Sullivan, the NTP program director, said in a statement. “The report demonstrates how the NTP model of artists, presenters, and advisors creates an ecosystem of continual growth and impact. I am grateful for the artists, presenters, and advisors who took time to participate in this evaluation.”

The evaluation looked to analyze NTP’s successes and identify areas for improvement, identify and track performance measures, and analyze NEFA’s equity, diversity, intersectionality, and accessibility commitments. The evaluation also includes an analysis of how grantees and project tours reflect the diversity of the field and the relevance of nationwide NTP gatherings.

The full report is available to read here. The report was initially intended to review the first decade of the NTP, which was established in 2010, but was delayed by the pandemic.

NEFA hired McNeil Creative Enterprises in January 2022 to document NTP’s impact since 2010. McNeil worked with NTP staff to understand the experiences of NTP stakeholders, such as grantees. In addition to meeting monthly with NTP staff, McNeil designed surveys and conducted interviews with grantees, funders, advisors, presenters, and artists who applied for but did not receive NTP funding. McNeil acknowledges in the report that logistical difficulties in scheduling, as well as inconsistent record keeping on various stakesholders, limited the work.

Image by McNeil Creative Enterprises and the New England Foundation for the Arts.

The report found that 55 percent of NTP advisors have held more than one role in the NTP ecosystem, including advisors who have been finalists for creation and touring grants and advisors who have been NTP presenters. The report also determined that as of October 2022, NTP had granted over $12 million in awards to artists and presenters, including travel grants and application honoraria.

Image by McNeil Creative Enterprises and the New England Foundation for the Arts.

Additionally, the report found that from 2015-2021, NTP awarded funds to 12 grantees who work with populations below the poverty line; eight grantees who work with disabled populations; four grantees who work with military veterans; 10 grantees who work with populations with limited English proficiency; 13 grantees who work with at-risk youth; and four grantees who work with institutionalized individuals.

Also from 2015-2021, according to the report, NTP awarded funds to four Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander grantees; 10 American Indian and Native Alaskan grantees; 16 Latinx grantees; 20 Black grantees; seven Asian grantees; 20 white grantees; and 20 grantees whose ensembles did not represent a single racial or ethnic group.

Regarding geographic data, the report found that from 2010-2012, most NTP pilot tour sites were in California and New York. From 2013-2017, most NTP tour sites were in California, New York, Illinois, Texas, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. From 2018-2022, most NTP tour sites were in California, New York, and Massachusetts. Survey responses indicated that the majority of NTP presenter venues were performing arts centers, followed by universities.

McNeil concluded the report with multiple new strategic considerations, including a mission to streamline and expand NTP’s record keeping practices; sending formal notices to NTP presenters about finalists and creation and touring grantees; establishing a resource bank and/or alumni network for NTP stakeholders; diversifying and expanding fundraising sources; extending the length of advisor orientation; creating a formalized guide for creation and touring grantees and presenters; and expanding grant monitoring and reporting measures to assist with documentation of the program’s financial, social, and intellectual capital.

The New England Foundation for the Arts invests in artists and communities and fosters equitable access to the arts by enriching the cultural landscape of New England and the nation. NEFA serves as a regional partner of the National Endowment for the Arts. As of 2021, NEFA had a budget of approximately $10.8 million.

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