Jeremy O. Harris And The Bushwick Starr Partner To Provide Financial Relief To Playwrights

May 26, 2020

On May 13, 2020, Jeremy O. Harris, stated, “Recently while watching our country’s commander in chief, he proclaimed that funding The Kennedy Center’s relief plan was the left’s attempt at bolstering their “pet project”. As a life-long theatre lover and maker, the thought that the livelihoods of theatre artists could be boiled down to a simple pet project filled me with the type of rage I rarely feel, and furthermore filled me with anxiety for the well being of many of my peers during this dark time. As many playwrights I know were supposed to open their first show, begin their first residency, enter or leave graduate studies, or simply be focusing on writing their second draft, many were paralyzed with fears for their health, the well being of their families, or how they might stock their refrigerator with groceries. After a year of surprising abundance from a mix of luck and dedication to the “pet project” of being a playwright, I thought it prudent to do my part to aid in some small way with the relief our government deems unnecessary for our community. So to that end, in order to make the most impact for the most people, I wanted to be able to give 500 dollars to as many playwrights as I could from the licensing fees and publishing royalties of my pet project, Slave Play, moreover I wanted the process of distribution to be as easy as possible with the hope and trust that those who were most in need would be allowed the chance to benefit first. I’m also thankful that I was able to do this with the facilitation of a small theatre who has always believed in the power of the “pet project”, The Bushwick Starr, and hope that if this inspires others they will send more funds their way so that as many playwrights as possible can maybe feel relief so many desperately need at this time.”


This grant will distribute 152 unrestricted cash awards of $500 each directly to US-based playwrights, of any employment and/or immigration status. To us, a practicing playwright is a person who generates live performance in a theatrical setting through the creation of text and action. Playwrights in need at any stage of their practice or career are encouraged to apply. Grantees will be chosen through a random lottery after submissions have closed.

To Apply:

Playwrights are asked to submit a piece of writing to demonstrate eligibility for this grant, which is designated for playwrights. Shorter plays and texts are acceptable as long it constitutes and translates into an evening of the performance. We ask for page numbers denoting an excerpt that you would like us to read. Although the grant process is not merit-based we are always interested in familiarizing ourselves with as many artists as possible, and will attempt to look at all writing that is submitted during summer 2020.

Awards will be granted by random lottery. The application will open on Friday, May 29 2020 at 3 pm Eastern time and remain open until we receive 1500 submissions. We will then randomly select 152 recipients from the pool of 1500 applicants (10% of the applicant pool). Submissions will be viewed and administered by The Bushwick Starr curatorial staff to confirm eligibility.

Grants will be issued in cash by electronic fund transfer or check, we aim to make payments no later than Monday, June 15 2020.

Writers do not need to demonstrate need, skill, or merit to be eligible for funding. However, we hope they will weigh their level of need when considering whether to apply. If their experience of need is not urgent or acute, we ask that they please consider stepping back and letting those who could most benefit from our limited resources access them first.

If they know someone who is eligible and would benefit, we ask that they please consider inviting them to apply.

For questions, please refer to the FAQs. All other questions or concerns from grant seekers may be directed to:

Values + Intentions:

This grant is inspired by and intends to inspire a sense of radical sharing and promote artistic enabling even while live theater is interrupted.

It also intends to be a way to pilot forms of relief and response that are led by and accountable to theater artists. They want to hear from you – What do you need? How can we help?

In making these grants with limited resources, they aim to create a process that is FAST, FAIR, and RESPONSIVE. Fast means that it should be quick for applicants to fill out the form and quick for us to respond. Fair means that they should establish as level a starting point as possible by announcing the application before it is open, and be transparent about our capacity and how decisions will be made. Responsive means that we hold ourselves accountable to artists – the fund was established by a playwright, for playwrights, and we will use playwright feedback to inform any processes or programs that arise from this grant.

They recognize that the enormous need of this moment cannot be addressed by any one individual or institution. But whatever we can do to mitigate harm, we must do, now. We remain committed to immediate relief and long-term recovery, and are grateful to be navigating the path forward with artists at the forefront.

Though initial funding is limited to $76,000, we will use lessons learned from this action to guide future grantmaking should we receive or raise more resources to distribute, and share back these lessons to the field.

People who would like to donate to continue to distribute relief funds to playwrights should contact The Bushwick Starr’s Development Director Lauren Miller at:

Photo credit: one of Harlem’s greatest playwrights Langston Hughes.

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