NNPN Will Receive $550,000 Grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for 2020 through 2022

Dec 17, 2019

This support will fund a complete rebuild of NNPN’s field-altering New Play Exchange®, and support the development of several new and necessary features.

National New Play Network, the country’s alliance of nonprofit theaters that collaborate in innovative ways to develop, produce, and extend the life of new plays, is thrilled and grateful to announce it will receive a three-year, $550,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in support of upcoming innovations for the field-altering New Play Exchange. Since 2007, the Foundation has been a key partner in the growth of NNPN and the New Play Exchange in particular; now, this continued support will allow NNPN and its web development partners at Mosswood Creative to completely rebuild the site’s structure while also adding long sought-after updates and additional features for this revolutionary tool.

The New Play Exchange (or NPX®, as it is commonly known) is the world’s largest digital library of scripts by living writers. It includes almost 30,000 plays, many of which are available for immediate download. Launched in January of 2015, the NPX is a unique online tool that has significantly advanced the ways in which new plays are shared, discovered, and produced. The database features robust search filters, crowd-sourced recommendations, subscription levels for organizations and for both early-career and seasoned readers and writers, as well as the interactivity of a social networking site. Almost five years after its launch, the NPX has proven to be an overwhelming success, with almost 18,000 subscribers. In 2019, the addition of a Higher Education subscription level has made the NPX accessible to more than 380,000 students. Today, our subscribers range from non-practitioners with a passion for theater to directors, designers, producers, actors, and literary and artistic leaders in theaters around the world.

“The Mellon Foundation’s support is going to help us expand the services we provide to our existing users significantly, adding new features for writers, theaters, dramaturgs, and literary managers; shoring up the technology on which the platform is built; improving our interface design; and integrating new support tools. At the same time, we’ll also be able to open up the New Play Exchange for new users—actors, devising artists, translators, and composers—making it even more widely relevant and effective for theater professionals everywhere,” said New Play Exchange’s creator and Project Director, Gwydion Suilebhan.

Nan Barnett, NNPN’s Executive Director, said, “We are thrilled and thankful to renew our vital partnership with the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Visionary support like this allows NNPN to continue its work providing services not only to our 130 Member Theaters, their artists, and audiences but to the entire new play field. The support of the Mellon Foundation will allow even more theaters, theater-makers, and theater-lovers to share, find, read, produce and see new works that are exactly what they want. This grant will also help us introduce new features that will further our strategic goals of helping to create a more robust and equitable new play ecology.”

Work on rebuilding the New Play Exchange’s underlying framework and migrating the existing data to this new, advanced platform will begin in earnest in 2020. New features are slated to include: an Organization Pro subscription level that will more holistically support theaters and their literary-tracking needs; a module designed to connect actors with and compensate playwrights for audition material and scripts with roles just right for them; a module designed to help dramaturgs share and be paid for their research on new plays; and new identity filters that will allow playwrights to self-identify as writers with disabilities. The project will also include a significant change that will allow for multiple authors for any given script, a long-desired feature for musicals, devised texts, translations, and other multi-author works.

See the full release here.