If you're like me, you're a fan of Don Henley and Patty Smyth's 1992 smash hit "Sometimes Love Just Ain't Enough." We'll table the veracity of this statement for another time.
But the sentiment rings true in the arts nonprofit world. Sometimes money just ain't enough. Or sometimes money given to an artist, while noble and wonderful and inspiring, isn't enough to lay the groundwork for a fruitful and sustainable career.
Foundations seem to be increasingly hip to this notion, particularly in the theatre space. Let's turn to the evidence, shall we?
We recently posted news that the Laurents/Hatcher Foundation announced its annual award recipient. The winner, playwright Rajiv Joseph, gets $50,000 in cash. But sometimes cash just ain't enough, right? And so the foundation's annual award also allocates $100,000 to help defray production costs of the play's premiere at a nonprofit theatre.
The effect of this one-two punch is clear. It financially rewards the creator of the work while also funding the production of the play itself. We're sure if you asked Joseph whether he'd prefer $100,000 in cash and no production support, or the current regime, which ensures his play sees the light of day, he'd chose the latter. (Just a hunch.)
And now the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation is getting in on the act, but with a twist. Rather than directly fund the playwright, its new 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 the same writer."
In other words, the initiative isn't a one-night stand kind of program. It seeks to build a long-term sustainable relationship between playwrights and theatres. This brings us to the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA) Theatre Company. It recently received a $125,000 grant from Duke to support its upcoming world premiere production of Benediction, a production written by playwright Eric Schmiedl based on the novels of Kent Haruf.
And to encourage the development of a long-term relationship with the theatre, the grant designates funds to commission playwright Schmiedl for his next play — his fifth at the Theatre Company.
We don't like to pretend to read the minds of artists and playwrights, but that's not going to stop us, yet again, from doing precisely that. We're sure if you asked Eric Schmiedl if he'd prefer $100,000 in cash and no production support, or instead, $125,000 allocated to the theater to stage the production of his most recent work, plus funding to support his next work, we guess he'd chose the latter.
(Again, just a hunch.)