Northern Stage to Charter New $1.25 Million Program

By: Sep. 18, 2017

The Pussycat Foundation and Northern Stage announce an unprecedented new program to support women artistic directors in professional theaters across the United States. The BOLD Theater Women's Leadership Circle, funded by the Pussycat Foundation and led by Carol Dunne, Producing Artistic Director of Northern Stage, will provide $1.25 million in support for Northern Stage and four other theaters run by women artistic directors during the 2018-2019 season. Each theater will receive a $250,000 grant. The BOLD Circle's mission is to create a network of women artistic directors in professional theaters across the United States and empower them to address the issues preventing women from advancing in theater leadership. The BOLD Circle will offer major support of artistic initiatives focused on women artists and will create a formal mentorship program to train and prepare future women artistic directors to lead, to create, to innovate, and to deepen the impact of theater on American culture.

Women have never held more than 27% of leadership positions in the American regional theater. A recent study commissioned by Carey Perloff, Artistic Director and Ellen Richard, former Executive Director of American Conservatory Theater, San Francisco and carried out by Wellesley Centers for Women, revealed that the dearth of female theater leaders is not due to a lack of candidates but a clearly observed glass ceiling preventing women from assuming the artistic helm of professional theaters. The study points to a lack of trust from Boards as they interview women candidates, a lack of mentorship focused on women leaders, a complicated work life balance that can dissuade women from even pursuing these leadership positions, and a lack of fundraising and producing experience.

The BOLD Circle will provide financial and leadership resources for women artistic directors as well as networking opportunities in semiannual meetings. It also provides for a woman Associate Director position designed to train the artistic directors of the future. "My own experiences as a woman artistic director helped inspire this program, and I am so grateful the Pussycat Foundation recognizes the need for major change for women in theater. I became an artistic director at age 42 after acting and directing for many years, and have worked to turn around two theater companies that were running out of resources and time. In doing so, I never had the budget to join national organizations like LORT or TCG, or hire an assistant, or focus on the development of larger new work like musicals, or even get away to see others' work because of the incredible pressures of running nonprofit theaters," says Dunne, who is entering her fifth year at Northern Stage and is also a Senior Lecturer in Theater at Dartmouth College. "I know countless women in theater who have felt disconnected from each other due to geographical distance and financial constraints. This grant will connect us all, support our vision and embolden us to take on some of the challenges facing women in the theater."

In the 2018-2019 season, this one year pilot program will allow the five BOLD Circle theaters to work together to document the program, convene the participants for shared creative opportunities, hire and mentor aspiring Artistic Directors in the BOLD Circle Associate Director program, and begin to address the issues preventing women from advancing to artistic director positions.

Artistic directors may apply who meet the following criteria:

· Hold the position of Artistic Director or Producing Artistic Director of a theater and identify as a woman.

· The theater must have been in operation for at least five years.

· The theater must have a working agreement with Actor's Equity Association and employ at least 2 AEA actors per show.

· The theater must produce at least 5 plays during the season.

· The theater must have a staff of at least two others in addition to the Artistic Director.

· The theater must have an annual operating budget of at least $500,000.

A panel of distinguished theater practitioners will convene to choose the recipients. The 2018-2019 BOLD Circle members will be announced on February 15, 2018. Northern Stage will administer the grants and the grant period will begin on June 1, 2018.

Applications and instructions can be downloaded at and are due by November 15, 2017.

The Pussycat Foundation is a Private Operating Foundation in New York, New York, and is the philanthropic legacy of the late Helen Gurley Brown, founding editor of Cosmopolitan Magazine. During her lifetime, Brown began giving her money to organizations focused on transforming the lives of underprivileged children. As a trailblazer and devoted feminist, she believed that every girl and woman should feel empowered to pursue an education and cultivate a fulfilling career. Since its advent, the Pussycat Foundation's charitable contributions have funded literacy and educational programs in various museums and universities. It is one of the largest organizations of its kind in the United States.

Northern Stage is a regional non-profit LORT-D referencing professional theater company with a mission to change lives, one story at a time. Located in White River Junction, VT, Northern Stage actively involves its audiences with ambitious productions and expansive educational programs in its new home, the Barrette Center for the Arts. Founded in 1997, the company has offered more than 120 high-quality professional productions of new works, classics, and musicals. The company is now in its 21st season and annual attendance is over 30,000.


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