Pioneer Drama Gives Theatre Grants to Improve Communities

May 17, 2011

Source: Pioneer Drama Service

In 2009, Steve Fendrich and his wife Debra, both retired educators, noticed the number of middle and high school drama teachers was dwindling – in many cases leaving many teachers without theatre backgrounds to fulfill their roles. In response, Steve reports, “We decided to start giving. We wanted people to recognize that the arts are important in schools.” Through Pioneer Drama Service, Steve and Debra have created an annual theatre grant program, Touching Lives Through Theatre Grants.

What are the Touching Lives Through Theatre Grants?

As many schools face budget cuts and are forced to cut or reduce their drama programs, some teachers are seeking outside funding to alleviate the strain. The intent of the Touching Lives Through Theatre Grants program is to support theatre in middle and high schools across North America. “We took on kind of a philanthropist’s role,” Steve explains. Steve is the publisher of Pioneer Drama Service, one of the largest play publishing services in America, which carries everything from musicals to full length plays, comedies, melodramas, and one-act plays. As the head of its grant program, Steve reviews applications and maintains the program’s eligibility criteria.

Now in its second year, the grant program gives up to $500 of credit for materials and royalties to stage at least 1 play. Any funds left after production costs may be used for teaching aids and makeup supplies carried by Pioneer Drama.

Steve notes, however, that the typical cost of a drama program may vary. For instance, a middle school planning to stage a melodrama may need around $300, while a larger-scale musical with a 25-person cast may hover around $400. “The objective for us,” Steve shared, “is that if [the applicant] spends $500 and gets the community involved and they are able to charge for it, they can begin a drama program that sustains itself.”

How to Make Your Application Stand Out

In 2010, Steve received 150 applications, and he found the most successful ones were the most thoughtful and passionate. “I looked for things that moved me and were personalized,” Steve recalls. “People told us about their community.” A particularly memorable application was submitted from a school with a large number of students, but no drama program. The proposal discussed how the school wanted to involve the surrounding community, which did not have theatres – not even a movie theater.

Overall, Steve and the other application judges look for a clear objective, the number of students involved, the impact on the school and community, and the proposed program’s sustainability. Applicants who do not follow directions or misinterpret the grant’s mission do not get past the reviewing stage. “[Some applicants] did not understand that it was $500 in materials, not cash. They would write, ‘I can’t wait to get the cash to buy the lights.’”

Bringing Together Schools and Communities

Steve believes that drama is a means to not only create a sense of pride and cohesiveness within the school, but also the surrounding community. Through the Touching Lives Through Theatre Grants program, Steve and his staff have truly created a way for schools and communities to come together through performance. “Overall, the play itself brings everyone together to share in a wonderful experience,” Steve shares. “It doesn’t have to be a Broadway-caliber show. You remember that everyone is happy and feels good about their accomplishment.”


Apply: Touching Lives Through Theatre Grants

Learn more: Pioneer Drama Service

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Grant Wrangler® is a free grant listing service offered by Nimble Press™. We make it easier for educators, school libraries, and parents to find school funding. We list grants for teachers, school grants, and money for arts, history, mathematics, science, technology, literacy, and more. We also help education foundations, community foundations, corporate foundations, and other grant-giving organizations more effectively promote their grants and awards to teachers and schools. To learn more about our grant management software, visit Nimble Net™.