Audience (R)Evolution is a multi-year program designed by TCG and funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to study, promote, and support successful audience engagement and community development models for the U.S. not-for-profit theatre.

TCG acknowledges that ticket sales are a significant measure of success, but participation and interaction with theatre takes many forms. As such, this program defines “Audience Engagement” and “Community Development” in the following ways:

  • Audience Engagement builds opportunities for dialogue between theatres and audiences and includes a full spectrum of goals, strategies, tactics and outcomes.

  • Community Development connects theatres and non-arts sector partners using artistic assets to build collaborative and mutually beneficial projects addressing community needs.

Both require deep long-lasting relationship-building, and listening to communities, audiences and potential audiences to determine what is relevant to them.

Round 3 Audience (R)Evolution grantmaking will focus on Audience Engagement and Community Development initiatives designed to engage “Youth” and “Multigenerational” audiences/communities. In the context of the Audience (R)Evolution program the terms “youth” and “multigenerational” are defined as follows:

  • Youth audiences/communities averaging 18 years of age and under.

  • Multigenerational audiences/communities consist of, relate to, and/or involve two or more generations.

Please note that proposed projects aimed at engaging multigenerational audiences/communities must include those defined as youth by this program.

Round 3 Updates

Round 2 Cohort Grant production of Paper Dreams by Imagination Stage, Photo by Jeremy RusnockRound 2 Cohort Grant production of Paper Dreams by Imagination Stage, Photo by Jeremy Rusnock

As effective audience engagement and community development efforts increase around the country, many theatres have expressed the need to implement strategies that more closely align with their communities. To circumvent working in isolation, and to encourage knowledge sharing across the field, TCG believes that the way forward is through collaboration with audiences, community partners, and peer theatre organizations.

In a recent TCG Fiscal Survey, it was found that regular attendance across TCG trend theatres (those that completed the Fiscal Survey over five consecutive years) has on average declined by 1.2 percent while children’s series activity (meaning productions for young audiences staged at non-theatre for young audiences theatres) has shown attendance growth of 12.9 percent during the same timeframe. Earned income from education/outreach programs (such as workshops and classes) was up for the fourth straight year, and reached a five-year high in 2014, as did the number of people served. In addition, numerous high-profile contemporary theatre artists including Taylor Mac, Ann Carlson, Jeanine Tesori, and more are beginning to develop work for young and multigenerational audiences, including the very young. While there is a large supply of theatre for adults, there is an undersupply of theatre for young people – the most diverse demographic in our country today.

Cross-discipline collaboration in the arts is not new and as reported by Helicon Collaborative in their 2014 study for the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Assessment of Intermediary Programs—Creation and Presentation of New Work, one-fifth of the 2,200 performing artists supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation from 2000- 2014 categorized themselves as multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary.

Artists have long worked across nonprofit, commercial, and community sectors, as Ann Markusen’s 2006 report Crossover: How Artists Build Careers across Commercial, Nonprofit and Community Work demonstrated. Artists continue to do this kind of crossover work today, and some of the traditional distinctions between nonprofit, commercial, and community-based forms are dissolving. At the same time, increasing numbers of artists are working as artists in other settings, as more sectors are recognizing the value artists can add to their work. This includes schools and afterschool programs, community centers, hospitals and religious organizations, city agencies, cognitive science labs, technology companies, senior centers, veterans’ facilities, and a wide variety of other industries and locales.

To reflect and support art-making and community-building, Round 3 grantmaking will have the specific focus of audience engagement and community development as they relate to theatre for youth and multigenerational audiences.

This round seeks to inspire and challenge theatres to develop meaningful partnerships and artistic work in an effort to better understand and fuel the apparent growth trend in attendance at events for youth and multigenerational audiences. This round also encourages applicants to consider the benefits of cross-cultural, cross-sector and/or cross-discipline ways of making theatre.

Audience (R)Evolution will provide support in two categories:

  • Exploration Grants of up to $5,000 will allow teams of TCG Member Theatre staff and/or community stakeholders to observe effective audience engagement and/or community development programs or consult with professionals who can advise on strategies to deepen relationships with communities served by the theatre. Grant activities will focus on peer-to-peer and field-wide learning as they relate to theatre for youth and multigenerational audiences. The program also encourages applicants to consider the benefits of cross-cultural, cross-sector and/or cross-discipline ways of theatre-making. These grants are intended to serve as a catalyst for deeper field-wide relationships between Applicant Theatres and those being observed.

  • Cohort Grants of $75,000 or $150,000 will allow teams of three or more organizations, one of which must be a TCG Member Theatre (that must serve as the Project Leader) to implement and refine ways to increase audience engagement and community development in theatre for youth and multigenerational audiences. Cohorts should share similar needs and interests to implement audience engagement and community development strategies. Cohorts can be based on budget size, region, aesthetic, or other common interests and collaborating partners may be cross-cultural, cross-sector and/or cross-discipline. These grants are intended to have a seismic impact on the participating theatres, as well as the field at large, by building audiences for theatre through projects that lead to new, more frequent, and increased audience and community participation.

Audience (R)Evolution embraces diversity across the board, including theatre size, mission, aesthetic, geographic location and communities served. At the core, this program supports risk-taking, reflection, experimentation, and collective action towards implementing new engagement strategies which will help theatres sustain and grow attendance and demand.

To apply for the program's Round 3 grants, please visit our Guidelines & Applications page. All application and project deadlines are outlined on the Timelines page, and program-specific eligibility requirements and selection process criteria can be found on the Eligibility & Selection Process page. Read about previous projects in the Audience (R)Evolution program on our Recipients page.

For more information on the overall Audience (R)Evolution program, visit the main portal. To learn more about the program's research and assessment, visit the Research & Resources Hub (of particular note is the Case Study Follow-Up Report). You can read about the history of the Audience (R)Evolution program by visiting this page.

Please contact for additional information.

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