Greetings from The National! As we approach the end of our 186th year on August 31st, we wanted to share some of our favorite moments with you.
What a difference a year makes! After a long and challenging intermission, The National is back! Thanks to the remarkable support of our patrons, donors, and artists, the theatre reopened to audiences last November with a terrific season of Broadway entertainment. What’s more, as we have throughout the pandemic, The National Theatre Foundation (NTF) has maintained its extraordinarily productive pace of improvements and growth, completing our first-ever Master Facility Plan, beginning deep research into our historical archives, and sustaining our array of engaging community and education programs.
Throughout this season our free education programs continued to thrive in virtual formats that have helped to increase audience diversity and program accessibility. Since the onset of the pandemic NTF has adapted and expanded its community programming, pivoting to produce 60 original virtual programs, including workshops for Children’s National Hospital, dozens of Community Stage Connections performances for underserved audiences, and 30 episodes of Saturday Morning Live! for young children and their families (available on demand). We’ve deepened our artistic partnerships to include talented national and local artists, as well as organizations like DC Public Schools and the DC Public Library. We also built five educational websites for Teens Behind the Scenes using unique material from the theatre’s rich historical archive and, with the help of Dr. Carmen White of Dramatic Solutions, Inc., created dynamic activity guides to accompany the websites. In March of 2022 the Foundation was pleased to host its first in person Teens Behind the Scenes event since the beginning of the pandemic.
Last summer we were extremely fortunate to receive a generous pro bono consulting grant from Compass Greater Washington to focus on issues of strategic alignment. Over the course of the last year the NTF team and Board has worked with an accomplished group of professionals who have volunteered their time to help us develop new tools to better evaluate the impact of our programs and how they align with our mission. The work has been energizing and we look forward to sharing some of the outcomes and recommendations in the months ahead.
NTF is committed to becoming a more just, equitable, inclusive, and anti-racist cultural institution. Following intensive DEI training in 2021, staff have worked diligently to develop a working plan and continued to meet bi-weekly to discuss DEI initiatives across all departments. Board members and staff are also working with DC-native and national DEI leader Dr. Kumea Shorter-Golden on additional training, and to update organizational values and priorities in advance of our next strategic planning cycle in 2023.
As the 501(c)(3) non-profit responsible for the continued operation and preservation of The National Theatre, the Foundation is laser-focused on the stewardship our beautiful and historic theatre. To that end, we are excited to share that, thanks to the generous support of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, we recently completed a Master Facility Plan with the renowned design firm SmithGroup. This important work provides us with a detailed roadmap that will inform phased renovations of this historic venue in the lead up to our 200th anniversary in 2035. In addition, NTF continues to oversee critical capital improvements, including the recent installation of new lobby safety doors and enhancements to summer air-conditioning systems.
Among the many efforts undertaken this year has been concerted work to catalog and understand the National’s rich and fascinating archive of historical materials dating back to the 1850s. Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, the Foundation has hired its first-ever processing archivist, Lana Mason, from the Winthrop Group. I encourage you to check out the interview with Ms. Mason in this issue. Her work over the past few months and the year ahead is sure to unearth new and exciting aspects of the theatre’s remarkable history and to advance the accessibility of this historical trove.
The National Theatre Foundation accomplishes a lot with a small team of professionals. Our success this year comes thanks in no small measure to their many contributions, as well as the countless hours of devoted service provided by our incredible Board of Directors. Earlier this year we were delighted to welcome four new members to our Board: private equity pioneer Daryn Dodson, longtime non-profit and arts leader Peter Jablow, innovative advertising and marketing executive Jean Komendera, and civic leader and two-term Washington DC Mayor, Anthony A. Williams.
On the fundraising front, the Foundation continues to break new ground. Welcoming hundreds of new donors into The National family, including a number of folks who attended The National’s first in-person gala event “Brunch & Broadway” in July. As ever, we are deeply grateful for their continued support.
The notable progress outlined here is only possible with the support of our Friends of The National Theatre, National Theatre Circle members, and, of course, our incredible artistic and community partners. To all who attended one of our free programs, made a gift, or otherwise supported our efforts over the past year, thank you. Your support fills us with gratitude and hope for brighter days ahead.
As a small nonprofit, we rely on dear friends like you to help us bring great theatre and community programs to Greater Washington. Before our fiscal ends on August 31st, we invite you to make a year-end contribution to support our ongoing educational programming and provide critical resources to ensure our ability to reopen safely later this fall (necessary?). Every gift makes a difference and gets us one step closer to bringing this challenging year to a successful close.
Thanks to you, our community and educational programs have never been stronger, our fundraising results have never been more promising, and our historic theatre has never looked better. Please know how grateful we are to have you as part of our National family. If you haven’t been to the theatre recently, we hope to see you soon. The Tony-Award winning, smash hit SIX continues with performances through September 4th, with an incredibly exciting season of entertainment to follow.
David J. Kitto
Executive Director, The National Theatre Foundation
P.S. I would love to hear from you directly. Should you have thoughts that you would like to share with me about The National and its programs, please email me at ED@nationaltheatre.org. I also encourage you to stay up-to-date with the latest news and programs on our Facebook and Instagram channels.