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Grant from American Theatre Wing Starts ‘a New Chapter of Excellence’ for Cardinal Stage by Julie Warren

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Gabe Gloden (fourth from the right), Managing Director of Cardinal Stage, traveled to New York to accept the National Theatre Company Grant. “We are the first company in Indiana to receive this honor,” he says. Gloden adds a bit of a reality check about the limited opportunities for the Hoosier arts: “There are no private foundations in this state that provide general operating support for performing arts organizations in our region. The performing arts funding ecosystem in Indiana is one of the worst in the country.” | Image courtesy of Cardinal Stage

Gabe Gloden (fourth from the right), Managing Director of Cardinal Stage, traveled to New York to accept the National Theatre Company Grant. “We are the first company in Indiana to receive this honor,” he says. Gloden adds a bit of a reality check about the limited opportunities for the Hoosier arts: “There are no private foundations in this state that provide general operating support for performing arts organizations in our region. The performing arts funding ecosystem in Indiana is one of the worst in the country.” | Image courtesy of Cardinal Stage


Cardinal Stage has worked to build its diverse repertoire and expand its role in the community over the past 12 years. That work has paid off. The National Theatre Company Grant landed them coverage in the November 2018 issue of American Theatre magazine. | Image courtesy of Cardinal Stage

Cardinal Stage has worked to build its diverse repertoire and expand its role in the community over the past 12 years. That work has paid off. The National Theatre Company Grant landed them coverage in the November 2018 issue of American Theatre magazine. | Image courtesy of Cardinal Stage

Each year, the American Theatre Wing (ATW), a theatre advocacy group that provides funding, research, and other services, also recognizes notable achievements in theatre through their annual awards like the Tony and Obie awards. Less famous but just as prestigious, they also choose 10 theatre companies to receive one of their National Theatre Company Grants. It’s a highly competitive grant, with over 100 companies applying for the award. Each applicant must meet various programming and outreach criteria that show their dedication to bringing quality and innovative theatre to their community. Looking at the full list of guidelines, it sounds like the award was made for Cardinal Stage. The ATW seems to agree: They awarded Cardinal with one of the $10,000 grants this year.

More than 100 theatre companies apply for the National Theatre Company Grant each year. “This grant recognizes Cardinal in the national theatre arena and shows our viability and sustainability as a significant company,” says Caroline Dowd-Higgins, president of Cardinal’s board of directors. Gabe Gloden (fourth from the right), Managing Director of Cardinal Stage, traveled to New York to accept the National Theatre Company Grant. “We are the first company in Indiana to receive this honor,” he says. Gloden adds a bit of a reality check about the limited opportunities for the Hoosier arts: “There are no private foundations in this state that provide general operating support for performing arts organizations in our region. The performing arts funding ecosystem in Indiana is one of the worst in the country.” | Image courtesy of Cardinal Stage

More than 100 theatre companies apply for the National Theatre Company Grant each year. “This grant recognizes Cardinal in the national theatre arena and shows our viability and sustainability as a significant company,” says Caroline Dowd-Higgins, president of Cardinal’s board of directors. Gabe Gloden (fourth from the right), Managing Director of Cardinal Stage, traveled to New York to accept the National Theatre Company Grant. “We are the first company in Indiana to receive this honor,” he says. Gloden adds a bit of a reality check about the limited opportunities for the Hoosier arts: “There are no private foundations in this state that provide general operating support for performing arts organizations in our region. The performing arts funding ecosystem in Indiana is one of the worst in the country.” | Image courtesy of Cardinal Stage

“This is one of the rare national awards recognizing professional regional theatre companies,” says Gabe Gloden, Managing Director for Cardinal Stage. “We are the first company in Indiana to receive this honor.” Cardinal is also one of four recipients this year that have never won the award before. Gloden states, “This honor is particularly meaningful for Bloomington and Monroe County as a rural, Midwestern community with a growing and sophisticated audience and a rising national profile.”

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Caroline Dowd-Higgins, President of the Board for Cardinal, echoes that notion. “This grant recognizes Cardinal in the national theatre arena and shows our viability and sustainability as a significant company,” she says. One of the criteria for the award is that the company must have produced shows for at least five seasons but be less than 15 years old. Eligible companies must be stable but still emerging and growing. Showing success in such a short amount of time is difficult, particularly in smaller communities. “This distinction puts us in a class with extraordinary national companies that produce diverse work, empower communities, and develop multi-generational audiences,” says Dowd-Higgins.

Another criterion for the award is producing diverse and innovative works, with further considerations for educational and outreach efforts. Since it was founded, Cardinal has produced a variety of shows, from classics like A Streetcar Named Desire to contemporary children’s shows like Elephant and Piggie. They have also placed a priority on collaborating with organizations and schools to create learning opportunities in conjunction with the shows. “Cardinal Stage has grown into Bloomington’s largest non-IU arts organization based on budget, exposing thousands of children to live theatre while also offering seasoned theatre-goers a broad range of old and new works,” says Sandi Clark, past President of the Board. She credits the new leadership of Artistic Director Kate Galvin with expanding the company’s vision while preserving its original mission. “We’re starting a new chapter of excellence that builds on the legacy of our founder, Randy White,” she says.

The National Theatre Company Grant is one of several grants and funding sources Cardinal goes after. Like most non-profit arts organizations, they rely on sponsors, donations, and grants to supplement income from ticket sales. Unfortunately, there are a limited number of grants and awards available in the region. As Gloden explains, “There are no private foundations in this state that provide general operating support for performing arts organizations in our region. The performing arts funding ecosystem in Indiana is one of the worst in the country.”

Cardinal Stage is the first Hoosier theatre company to receive the award, which attests to Cardinal’s diverse range of productions over the years. “This grant gives Cardinal the opportunity to further invest in its artists and programming,” says past board president Sandi Clark. Gabe Gloden (fourth from the right), Managing Director of Cardinal Stage, traveled to New York to accept the National Theatre Company Grant. “We are the first company in Indiana to receive this honor,” he says. Gloden adds a bit of a reality check about the limited opportunities for the Hoosier arts: “There are no private foundations in this state that provide general operating support for performing arts organizations in our region. The performing arts funding ecosystem in Indiana is one of the worst in the country.” | Image courtesy of Cardinal Stage

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Nationally, there are very few grants or awards available for theatre companies like Cardinal, which makes the National Theatre Company Grant that much more important. “This grant gives Cardinal the opportunity to further invest in its artists and programming,” says Clark. When Cardinal can raise funds through grants and donations, it lessens the burden to generate revenue from ticket sales. “Cardinal can continue to provide affordable tickets to theatre-goers in our region and extend our reach in the Midwest,” says Dowd-Higgins.

The purpose behind the National Theatre Company Grant is to support local efforts to bring theatre into communities. “Theatre gives us the opportunity to learn and consider different ideas, perspectives, and ways of being in the world,” says Clark. “Plus, its great entertainment! And as a business, Cardinal contributes significantly to the local economy.” That economic contribution is a point of joy for Dowd-Higgins as well. “Cardinal provides career opportunities and synergistic relationships with local businesses, hotels, restaurants, and shops. We are part of what makes Bloomington a destination,” she says.

The opportunities for actors and production staff is a tremendous benefit for the community. “With Bloomington’s vibrant multi-generational talent pool, Cardinal can hire and showcase local performers and production experts,” says Dowd-Higgins. “This enhances audience development and the symbiotic relationship with businesses in our community.” Because this grant funds operational expenses, it can help support wages for staff and actors.

The grant awards were presented on November 12 and Gloden was able to travel to New York to accept it on Cardinal’s behalf. In addition to attending the presentation, recipients were able to convene for networking, sharing information, and hearing from industry professionals at the ATW and other support organizations. “This grant is a tremendous honor as well as a great learning experience for Cardinal Stage,” says Gloden.

Learn more about Cardinal Stage and how to support the company at CardinalStage.org. Check out American Theatre magazine’s Q&A with Galvin here. More information on the American Theatre Wing and the National Theatre Company Grant can be found at AmericanTheatreWing.org.

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