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Applying for Shakespeare in American Communities: Schools

Grants of $15,000 – $25,000 will be awarded to up to 50 theater companies to support performances and related educational activities for students.

People perform on a cement square outside with students sitting around them. In the center there's a person wearing a crown and Shakespeare era clothing, seemingly crying out as a person with a cane lays at their feet, appearing to be dead.
Photo Credit: Rachel Fey

About Shakespeare in American Communities: Schools

This opportunity is open to 501c(3) professional theater companies that have produced Shakespeare or classically-based repertoire within the last five years. Applicants should have a minimum of two years of experience providing both performances and related educational activities for middle and/or high school students. Grant awards of $15,000 – $25,000 will be awarded to up to 50 theater companies to support activities for students from five or more schools. These awards require a nonfederal match of 1 to 1. Programming dates: August 1, 2023 – July 31, 2024

How to Apply

  1. 1

    Read the guidelines

    Read the guidelines below or download a Word copy.

  2. 2

    Submit your Intent to Apply

    Submit your Intent to Apply by Monday, January 9, 2023. Visit our grants portal, SmartSimple, to begin this process. Click here for detailed instructions on how to get set up in SmartSimple.

  3. 3

    Complete and submit the application form

    Complete and submit the application form by Wednesday, February 8, 2023 at 11:59pm Central Time. If you are applying to both opportunities, an application for each opportunity must be submitted by this deadline.


Arts Midwest welcomes applications from all eligible organizations, including first-time applicants; organizations serving communities of all sizes, including rural and urban areas; and organizations with small, medium or large operating budgets.

Applicants must:

  • Be a 501c3 nonprofit, professional theater company located in the U.S. and the Native nations that share this geography.
  • Have a minimum of two years’ experience providing professional performances and related educational activities to middle and/or high schools.
  • Compensate all performers and related or supporting professional personnel at no less than the prevailing minimum compensation. (This requirement is in accordance with the regulations issued by the Secretary of Labor in part 505 of Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations.)
  • Agree to acknowledge Arts Midwest and the National Endowment for the Arts in all programs and press materials related to funded engagements.
  • Have a valid Unique Entity ID via SAM.gov (free to acquire).
  • Comply with Federal eligibility requirements.

Community theaters and university or college departments of theater are not considered a professional theater company for the purpose of this program do not meet the requirements to apply.

Arts Midwest is currently accepting applications for events occurring between August 1, 2023, and July 31, 2024. Applicants must:


1. Perform a professional production of a play by Shakespeare; an adaptation of Shakespeare’s text; or a production that incorporates scenes, monologues, and/or sonnets by Shakespeare.

  • All productions should offer students the opportunity to view Shakespeare’s text in performance.
  • The actors in the production must be professionals, paid at no less than the prevailing minimum compensation. (This requirement is in accordance with the regulations issued by the Secretary of Labor in part 505 of Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations.) It is not required that actors be part of an Actors’ Equity contract.
  • Performances may be held in a theater company’s facility, a school, a community venue, or virtually.


2. Conduct related educational activities with students that further explore and address Shakespeare’s work in modern context.

  • Activities must be led by experienced teaching artists, educators, or actors with strong credentials and training.
  • Examples include workshops, pre- or post-performance discussions/talkbacks, curriculum-based residencies, or other activities that offer interaction between students and teaching artists or actors. Study guides do not qualify as an activity.
  • Activities must be related to the production being performed for students.
  • Virtual and/or pre-recorded activities are eligible as long as students have the opportunity to interact live and in real-time with teaching artists in some capacity.


3. Reach five or more middle and/or high schools with a performance and related educational activities.

  • Activities must be facilitated in partnership with middle and high schools, rather than through summer camps, performing arts centers, universities, or other.
  • The majority of schools must educate students from underserved communities. Factors include but are not limited to:


Examples of eligible projects

  • A theater company hosts an immersion day in their theater for middle school field trips. This includes their mainstage performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a post-show talkback, and a tour of backstage.
  • A theater company tours a professional bilingual (English-Spanish) adaptation of Romeo and Juliet to schools in their metropolitan area, offering in-class workshops after the show.
  • A theater company offers an original virtual production based on Shakespeare’s Henry VI plays, followed by an in-school residency.


Examples of ineligible projects

  • A community theater offers Shakespeare in the park during their summer season and offers summer camps to youth.
  • A professional theater company casts high school actors in their production of A Winter’s Tale.
  • A theater company hosts a student matinee series for their production of Macbeth and offers supplemental study guides with no additional student instruction or interaction.
  • A theater company performs a play or musical inspired by Shakespeare’s characters or stories that does not utilize Shakespeare’s original language and/or does not retain the original plot (e.g. West Side StoryThe Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)Kiss Me KateRosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead)
  • Programs that are funded by another Arts Midwest grant.
  • Programs funded by another federal source.
  • Projects with a total budget less than $30,000. (See more under “Grant Awards”)

Applicants may request grant awards ranging from $15,000 to $25,000. These funds derive from Federal funds from the National Endowment for the Arts (CFDA #45.024: Promotion of the Arts_Grants to Organizations and Individuals).

An organization may apply to both the Schools program and the Juvenile Justice program. However, there must be no overlapping programming or costs between the applications and budgets.


Matching Requirement

Applicants will be required to demonstrate matching funds on a 1:1 basis for their requested grant amount. (For example, if an applicant requests a $15,000 Shakespeare grant, the total project budget must be at least $30,000.)

Federal funds cannot be used as match.


Examples of eligible expenses

  • Artistic fees for actors, directors, designers, choreographers, etc.
  • Production costs of props, costumes, set, etc.
  • Travel costs associated with touring productions or artist travel.
  • A prorated portion of staff salaries.
  • Printing and marketing expenses.
  • Bus transportation or other school subsidies.
  • Other direct costs associated with the production and educational programming.


Contact Arts Midwest at [email protected] with any inquiries about eligible expenses not listed above.


Examples of eligible expenses

As a Federally funded program, unallowable uses of funds include, but are not limited to:

  • Overlapping project costs between federal awards, whether received directly from a federal agency or indirectly, such as through a state agency or other entity.
  • Entertainment costs, such as opening parties, receptions, or fundraisers designed to raise funds for your own organization and on behalf of another person, organization, or cause.
  • Refreshments, concessions, food, and alcohol.
  • Fellowships or cash prizes.
  • Payment for facilities, purchase of capital equipment, or non-project related administrative expenses.
  • Programs restricted to any organization’s membership; programs must be promoted and available to the general public.

Applications are reviewed by an independent advisory panel composed of a diverse group of arts and literature experts and other individuals with broad knowledge of community programs. Panel composition changes annually.

Applicants are selected based on:

  • Artistic excellence and merit of programming. The panel will review the evidence of sound artistic decisions, the professional team of artists and staff, the rationale for choosing the play, the production’s viewpoint and themes, and the relevance of the play to today’s youth.
  • The quality of related educational activities. The panel will consider the content of workshops, talkbacks, and other activities; the credentials and experience of teaching artists or actors; the depth of engagement with students; and the consideration of the needs of students of different backgrounds, abilities, ages, and learning styles.
  • Diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. The panel will evaluate the applicant’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility as they relate to the proposed project. This could include commitment to racial, gender, and age diversity in the artistic team and cast; equitable pay for artists; relevant content and themes of the production and educational activities; accessibility accommodations; reaching schools from underserved communities; etc.
  • The ability and capacity to carry out the project. The panel will consider the applicant’s ability to manage and implement a federal award. This could include the feasibility to reach five or more schools with educational programming; organizational capacity; proven fiscal responsibility; the proven ability to adapt to unforeseen challenges due to COVID-19 and beyond; etc.

Submit your intent to apply and application via Arts Midwest’s online grants portal, SmartSimple. Please note, there is an option to save and complete the application later. You will have the ability to add collaborators in the grants portal so you can work on the application as a team.

Click here for detailed instructions on how to get set up in SmartSimple.

The online account registration and application process will ask for the following information:

Account registration information

Applicant organization information:

  1. Address information
  2. Contact information
  3. Employer Identification Number (EIN)
  4. Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) number: Registration for a UEI is free at SAM.gov.
  5. Organization mission statement
  6. Annual operating budget
  7. Other organization details (institution type, primary discipline, time zone, etc.)

Intent to apply information

  1. Plain language summary of your proposed project (1-2 sentences).
  2. Have you received a grant from Arts Midwest in the past?
  3. Your proposed program’s start and end dates.
    1. Programming must occur between August 1, 2023 and July 31, 2024.
    2. Note: Dates may be tentative. If exact dates are unknown, please provide a range of possible dates/months.
  4. Production title.
    1. Note: You will be able to edit/revise the production selection when you finalize your application.
  5. Grant request amount (between $15,000 and $25,000).
    1. Note: You will be able to edit this amount when you finalize your application.

Application information

Application details

  1. Anticipated adults served.
  2. Anticipated youths served.
  3. Venue(s) for performance(s) (select from list).
  4. Type(s) of performance(s) (select from list).
  5. Number of schools reached.
  6. Grade levels reached.
  7. Types of educational activities (select from list).
  8. Percentage of schools that will receive workshops or residency activities.
  9. Percentage of schools that will participate in pre- or post-show discussions.
  10. Number of performances for students.
  11. Number of actors in productions.
  12. Geographic areas reached.
  13. Streaming online accessibility (as applicable).


1. Organization description (2000-character limit)

  • Provide information about your organization’s mission, history, and achievements.

2. Diversity, equity, inclusion, and access statement (2000-character limit)

  • Please describe your organization’s efforts to further diversity, equity, inclusion, and access as it relates to your proposed project.

3. Description of production (4000-character limit)

  • Describe the selected production and why it was chosen, its relevance to today, and how if offers students the opportunity to experience Shakespeare’s text.
  • Explain the artistic viewpoint of intent that illuminates your company’s approach to the play(s).
  • Describe the professional artistic team (director, designers, actors, etc.), if known, and why they were chosen.
  • Provide the run time, and if shortened, why this decision was made and how the themes of the play will be maintained.
  • If you are providing a supplemental virtual (filmed or livestreamed) performance, explain how you will ensure engagement with students.

4. Description of educational activities (4000-character limit)

  • Describe, in detail, the content of each of the educational activities. Include where they will take place, the typical length, and frequency.
  • Share how these activities will explore and address Shakespeare’s work in modern context.
  • Describe the credentials and experience of teaching artists, actors, or other staff who will lead these activities. Explain your plans to deepen or broaden activities from previous years (if applicable).
  • Explain how you will address the needs of students of different backgrounds, abilities, ages, and learning styles.
  • If offering virtual or hybrid activities, describe how students will have access to the activities and how you will ensure participation and engagement.

5. Description of feasibility and capacity (4000-character limit)

  • Describe your company’s strategy to reach at least five middle and high schools.
  • Explain your organization’s background in providing performances and educational activities to students. Provide details about any existing relationships with schools/educators.
  • Briefly describe the fee structure of your educational programming (e.g. free tickets, bus subsidies, etc.) and how any subsidies are determined and funded.
  • Describe how your company has the ability to pivot the proposed programming in response to unforeseen challenges of COVID-19 or other barriers.
  • Describe your company’s ability to financially meet the required match if projected earned income from schools is decreased.

6. Relevant biographies (4000-character limit)

  • Provide brief details about key staff for your project, including the artistic director, education director, designers, teaching artists, etc.

7. Planned school partners

  • Provide a list of the core partner schools that are interested in ensuring that this programming is available to their students. This may include schools who have participated in the past or schools who have expressed interest for the upcoming year.

Budget details

1. Organization’s total revenue (current fiscal year)
2. Organization’s total expenses (current fiscal year)
3. Organization’s total revenue (last fiscal year)
4. Organization’s total expenses (last fiscal year)
5. Project Budget

  • Enter details regarding expenses related directly to the performances and educational activities that are part of the proposed programming and incurred between the period of August 1, 2023 and July 31, 2024.

Supporting documentation

1. Artistic Director or Education Director statement (one-page upload)

  • Note: In previous years, we have required a statement from both the Artistic Director and the Education Director. This year, you may choose one individual to write a supporting statement.
  • Describe your company’s mission and goals in relation to the production and the related educational activities. Explain what motivates you to carry out this particular project.
  • Provide your perspective on the relevance of the production and/or educational activities to students.
  • As applicable, provide examples of your company’s past experience with producing Shakespeare for student audiences.


Arts Midwest is now collecting applications through a new grants management platform called SmartSimple. Before you apply for a grant opportunity, you’ll need to register your organization in the system.

Get Started in SmartSimple

A person stands before an audience in the center of a circular outdoor stage, with mountains and trees in the background.
Photo Credit: Jay Yamada


Arts Midwest requests that all applicants apply online unless a disability prevents them from doing so. The platform we use, SmartSimple, has a dedicated Quality Assurance team that tests this platform, plus an outside consultant who does both accessibility and usability testing quarterly. They use assistive technologies such as the JAWS screen reader.

Arts Midwest works to ensure that grant guidelines, presentations, and any other written materials are created with accessibility principles in mind. Additionally, we are happy to provide materials in Braille, Large Print, or other formats with advance notice.

To ensure everyone has access to the application, Arts Midwest staff will work with applicants who wish to use other means to apply. Solutions we have previously implemented include filling out an adapted form in Microsoft Word and providing verbal responses that Arts Midwest will share via audio recording or transcription.

Contact us as early as possible to begin a conversation about how we can help make this opportunity accessible to you. Please contact Carly Newhouse, program & accessibility manager, at [email protected] or 612.238.8002.

Curious about what makes an activity accessible? Visit our Accessibility Center, especially the Handbooks + Checklists section, for resources and tips on accessible events, venues, and platforms.

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