Looking Back on a Year of Innovation

In the face of an unprecedented disruption to in-person arts and entertainment, we are proud that The National Theatre Foundation was able to create inspiring and engaging virtual content to an ever-growing local and national audience. We are deeply grateful to the many artists, patrons, and audience members whose contributions and support have helped us to innovate our approach and engage with our community in new and meaningful ways.

  • Online Innovation: We pivoted all our in-person programs to virtual, published five content rich newsletters, built an entirely new website and launched a new presence for The National Theatre Foundation on Facebook and Instagram
  • Audience Growth: When the pandemic began, we had never produced an online video or program. Now we’ve produced more than 55 free virtual educational programs and videos. Our online audience has expanded from zero to the thousands, with folks tuning in from across the country and the world! 
  • New Staff: This year, we were proud to welcome two new members to our team. Emily Schmid joined us part-time in September 2020 and full-time this past August as our Program and Office Administrator and Jamie Boller, our Associate Director of Development, joined us in March. Our success this year is in no small measure thanks to their many contributions.
  • Master Planning: With the forced intermission to live theatre due to the pandemic, the Foundation took advantage of this pause to pursue a Master Plan with renowned design firm SmithGroup. Made possible thanks to the generous support of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, the plan, which is slated to be completed later this year, will provide a detailed road map leading up to our 200th Anniversary in 2035 to inform phased renovations with targeted fundraising goals to support the Board and staff in our stewardship of our historic theatre. Read more here.

Saturday Morning Live! At The National: Our original community program, which celebrated its 40th anniversary last year, premiered 15 theatre for young audiences episodes over the season featuring an array of talented performers using a variety of art forms, from hip hop to animation, to share stories of resilience and the importance of self-care for children and youth, especially during difficult times. Saturday Morning Live! is made possible in part thanks to the generosity of the J. Williard and Alice S. Marriott FoundationCheck out a recap of the season here.

Teens Behind the Scenes: With the help of resident dramaturg Jared Strange, we created 5 fascinating, content-rich websites that explore different aspects of The National’s history using materials unearthed from our robust historical archive. These resources have been enhanced with unique activity guides thanks to a collaboration with Dr. Carmen White from Dramatic Solutions, Inc. We are extraordinarily grateful to Ms. Jacqueline Badger Mars for her generous support of our Teens Behind the Scenes program. Check out the websites and the activity guides here.

Community Stage Connections: CSC has continued, in spite of the pandemic, to provide audiences with limited access to the performing arts with inspiring artistic experiences. We worked closely with our artists and venues to build a virtual platform for performances and successfully hosted nearly two dozen programs since relaunching the program in its new format. Read more about CSC in this blog post from April.

Children’s National: We are especially proud of our recent collaboration with Children’s National Hospital, puppeteers Alex & Olmsted, and Community Stage Connections. Thanks to the generous support of the Washington Children’s Foundation we were able to produce a series of three puppet-making tutorials for children on the Dialysis unit at Children’s. Check out some photos of puppets and learn more here.

In a year of unprecedented challenges, we are incredibly grateful that our appeals received an unprecedented response from our generous community. 

We want to articulate special appreciation to Events DC, which generously awarded us a Cultural Institution Grant in June of 2020. Their support, in tandem with increased generosity from individuals and other grant-making organizations, provided the Foundation with a critical lifeline and helped us bridge a near 20-month closure without having to downsize staffing or payroll. We are forever grateful. 

Notable fundraising highlights of the past year include: 

  • Led by an outpouring of support from individual and leadership donors, we were able to shrink an anticipated budget deficit by 96%, putting us close to even for a year where we were unable to host a single Broadway performance. 
  • Grew our Friends of The National program by 327%, which now celebrates a membership of more than 600 generous individuals and families.
  • Welcomed 33 donors to the exclusive National Theatre Circle, including 21 new members. 
  • Conducted 4 successful challenge mini-campaigns, including our signature Ghostlight Challenge, which earned a total of $75,000 in Board challenge funds. 
  • Launched a reinvigorated Dedicate-A-Seat program in June and celebrated the addition of 10 new dedicated seats by August! 
  • Received a generous strategic alignment project grant from Compass Greater Washington to evaluate new and existing programs and strengthen our community impact.
  • Celebrated the continued and incredible support of our corporate, foundation, and grant partners: DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, Events DC, J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation, United Bank, Downtown Business Improvement District Corporation, The Kiplinger Family Foundation, Pinnacle West, City First Enterprises, Inc., and the Washington Children’s Foundation.