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Congratulations to the selected 23/24 projects. Read more below.

The application window for the 2024-25 Season will open sometime in early 2024. Please check back here for more information closer to that time.

The Vanguard Arts Fund provides development support to diverse teams of artists interested in creating works - especially works that cross artistic disciplines - in a collaborative environment. From the seed of an idea for a new play, to a concept for a classic adaptation, to a first draft or first song of a musical, we provide intensive workshop time at various stages of the development process. We commit to these artistic teams in hopes of  producing their work at Olney Theatre Center in a future season. 

The Vanguard Arts Fund was launched in 2017 with a $350,000 endowment gift from the Eugene B. Casey Foundation; the Fund’s success in developing shows we’ve gone on to produce prompted the Foundation to add $1 million to the endowment in 2022.

What kind of projects are we looking for?

While OTC will consider text-based work that springs from the mind of a singular playwright, successful proposals for new work will more likely bring together more than one generative artist in an interdisciplinary fashion to explore new or classic stories. So, a director and videographer working on an off-beat immersive experience, or workshopping a new musical, or a number of designers or actors coming together with a playwright to devise something, or a playwright and director working jointly to create something, or a composer working with a bunch of musicians and a choreographer on an idea all are examples of exciting proposals. Directors, actors, playwrights, designers, stage managers - we want to hear from anyone with a great idea and a great plan to pursue their artistic visions.  

We are committed to ensuring the majority of projects we fund are led by BIPOC generative artists and intend to support at least one BIPOC-created musical each year. 

At this time, we are only able to consider artists based in the United States.

The 2023-24 Vanguard Arts Projects are:


The fierce world of competitive gymnastics is not for the faint of heart, and young women on the path to the Olympics face a seismic level of pressure and perfection. Enter Built For This: an athletic, feminist pop musical centering five fierce young gymnasts confronting inner demons required for top-tier competition, as well as a real-life demon preying on their youth, ambition, and vulnerability. Inspired by the gymnast survivors of Olympic doctor Larry Nassar and USA Women's Gymnastics, and conceived from interviews with gymnast survivors, non-profits, and the judge who sentenced Nassar to 100+ years in prison, this fictionalized show offers these young women a platform to speak their truth as they stand up to a man and a system seemingly determined to shove them down. Up until now, the development of this musical has been entirely virtual and long-distance, and the Vanguard Arts Fund workshop will mark the first time that the team is able to collaborate in person.

Key Artists: Lauren Gunderson (Book), Kira Stone (Music and Lyrics)


Based on the 1999 novel of the same name by Kiana Davenport, this jazz-filled epic brings us on an Odysseus-like journey of love, separation, and transformation over the course of 17 years. Beginning in a nightclub in Honolulu in 1935 and carrying us through the turmoil of World War II, Song of the Exile is a fascinating cultural collaboration bringing to light the plight of the Japanese Army’s “comfort women” in prisoner-of-war camps. This workshop will be used to explore the way that music is used to tell this powerful story, further the narrative, and enhance the artistry of the piece.

Key Artists: Kiana Davenport (novelist), André Pluess (sound designer/composer), Seema Sueko (generative director)

What does Olney Theatre provide?

  • Up to one week of workshop space
  • $900 per week for generative artists; all other artists are paid/contracted as required with union agreements
  • For out-of-town artists: Travel and housing with common kitchen.
  • Our rehearsal room or one of our three stages for up to one week (possible off-site space as well)
  • Olney Theatre staff support for casting and other personnel procurement (casting, tech, personnel, musicians, etc.) as  needed
  • Shared vehicles and gas paid by theater

What does Olney Theatre Center require?
Olney Theatre will ask for the right to consider and potentially produce the work within 18 months of the workshop. But we’re not asking for an exclusive right, nor are we asking for world premiere rights. If you get a Broadway production, awesome!  All we ask is that it doesn’t get produced in the DMV before we get a shot at it.

Will Olney Theatre Center own the work or idea?
No. Generative artists always own their ideas and the work they create. 

Is Olney Theatre Center open to partnerships?
Yes! In development, in production, in workshops, whatever. We try to operate from a place of abundance, sharing and transparency, and want what’s best for the generative artists and their work. We’re currently working with Somerled Arts on The Gifted Prince, and Denise Gray Productions for The Joint.

Ok, I’m interested, I’ve got an idea, what should I do?

Application Process


Please send the following information as a single pdf to vanguard[AT] We are accepting applications until May 12, 2023, and announcements will be made in June. Please include the following in your application: 

  • Project point of contact information (pronouns, email, phone number, city/state)
  • In 1-2 pages: 
    • About the Project
    • Point of View
    • At what stage of development is this project currently, and what is the project’s development history? 
  • In up to 1 page: 
    • What are your goals for a Vanguard Arts Fund workshop? How will this workshop support the development of this project?
    • How much time do you think you need to explore this project? 
  • Please also include:
    • The names and bios of the artists/collaborators involved in this project
    • Number of performers or other types of artists needed for a workshop (if known)
    • Any supporting materials (script draft, up to 3 song recordings if necessary, synopsis, orchestration, etc.)

How large are the support budgets for VAF projects?
Support for projects in the past has ranged from $2,500 to $15,000.  However, support of up to $25,000 will be considered.  

When do you need this and what’s the selection process?
This is the first year we are opening up the application process nationally. We are asking you to send proposals by May 12, 2023. Our selection process will be internal, with OTC’s full-time artistic staff. We’re going to aim to decide by June 30, 2023. Which will give us time to review, and ask questions if needed. 

I have more questions.
Write to vanguard[AT]

Box Office: 301.924.3400

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