Theatre Program

Labs & Retreats

The Lab environment is an atmosphere solely focused on artistic development in which mentors, dramaturgs, peers, actors in the Lab ensemble, and Sundance Institute artistic staff work with Fellows to address the compelling needs of each individuals text. These collaborations encourage a high level of risk-taking and innovation before projects proceed on to production, where audiences and producers often exert new pressures on the play. Likewise, our Retreats offer theatre artists the time and space to work on their projects free from commercial pressures. In keeping with founder Robert Redford's vision to connect artist support with the natural enviroment, our Labs are often held in remote, inspiring locations.


Theatre Lab at the Sundance Resort
Application Open Application; Deadline Nov. 15; Apply
Dates July 6-26, 2015
Size of Lab Up to 8 Projects
Location Sundance Resort, Utah
Eligibility US & International Playwrights, Directors, Composers & Librettists

The Sundance Institute Theatre Lab, the centerpiece of the Theatre Program, is a three-week play development retreat designed to support the creation of new work by playwrights, directors, composers and librettists, and to provide a place where that work can be effectively mentored and challenged. The Lab's unique day-on, day-off rehearsal structure affords each generative artist time to explore rewrites of his/her work without pressure of producing pages for rehearsals each day. The process culminates in a closed presentation of each work-in-progress for the Lab community followed by an intimate artist-led feedback session.

Acting Company

If you are an AEA actor and would like to be considered for the acting company during the Theatre Lab, you are invited to send your headshot and resume; to or to:

Sundance Institute Theatre Program
ATTN: Actor Submission
180 Varick St Suite 1330
New York, NY 10014

We will review all submissions with the Theatre Program casting directors. The Theatre Program holds Equity Principal Auditions once per year. Please refer to the Actors' Equity website for scheduling information.


Theatre Lab Application Guidelines


2015 Theatre Lab | July 6-26, 2015

Guidelines and application for the 2015 Theatre Lab are available below. The deadline for application is November 15, 2014 at 11:59pm EST.


The Theatre Lab welcomes applications for projects at any stage of development. Submitted work cannot have been previously produced, but may have received prior workshops or readings. In addition, projects scheduled to start rehearsals for a professional production before October 26, 2015 are not eligible due to our agreement with Actors' Equity Association. Commissioned work is eligible for submission; however, playwrights must obtain written permission from their commissioning organization prior to applying.

Playwrights, directors, composers, ensembles, performance artists, or choreographers may submit applications. Playwright/director teams are permitted and encouraged to apply together; however, if you do not have a director attached to your project, please note that Sundance Institute will help to match you up with a director if your play is selected for inclusion in the Theatre Lab. Director-driven projects are also welcome to apply.

Sundance Institute is interested in both established and emerging theatre artists, as well as artists making a transition from areas outside of theatre. We welcome solo performers and projects for young audiences.

NOTE: Artists may only submit one application. Previous applicants may re-apply, but not with previously submitted material.

Project Selection

Through open submissions, we consider an estimated 800+ projects. Sundance Institute looks for original, compelling human stories that reflect the independent vision of the theatre artist. We are interested in supporting a diverse and daring group of theatre artists who tell unique stories, present material in a new form, or conceptualize existing material with an innovative vision. We look for writers and collaborators who are interested in genuinely exploring their material. The Theatre Lab is more than a place to "rehearse"; it is an environment that encourages and supports risk-taking, experimentation, and rigorous re-writing and re-imagining. In order for Sundance Institute to fully evaluate your submission, we require a 1-2 page artistic statement as part of the application (see below for additional information).

What Sundance Institute Provides

The Sundance Institute Theatre Program provides professional actors, dramaturgs, rehearsal space, and stage management for the collaborative team working on each project. Projects rehearse on alternating days, giving writers the opportunity to rewrite or regroup when they're not in rehearsal. At the end of the Theatre Lab, projects will culminate in an informal presentation for the Lab community only, followed by an artist-led conversation with Sundance Institute artistic staff and/or guest Creative Advisors.

Each full-time Fellow (playwright, director, or other creative collaborator) receives a $1500 honorarium and a company of actors (if applicable), selected by Sundance Institute in collaboration with the Fellows, to support their project. Actors are selected for their professionalism, versatility, and suitability for the development process. Actors operate on a Special Agreement with Actors' Equity Association during the Theatre Lab.

Dramaturgy at Sundance is tailored individually to the needs of the play. Once a project is accepted to the Lab, the generative artists have an opportunity to discuss what kind of dramaturgical support (and how much) best suits them. Sundance dramaturgs, who have wide experience in the realm of new play development, are uniquely qualified to provide engaged, considered, and empowering guidance to the projects during the Theatre Labs, to offer fresh perspectives on the work at hand, and to ensure the privacy of the participating artist's independent vision. The Theatre Lab sees itself as a complement to, not a replacement of, any pre-existing developmental relationships participating artists may have on a given project, and is sensitive to the process of "passing the baton" at the conclusion of the Theatre Lab.

We strongly encourage that each rehearsal room is open to members of the Lab community for quiet observation. If you do not feel comfortable allowing colleagues to observe your rehearsal process, the Sundance Institute Theatre Program may not be the most appropriate place for you.

Giving Back to Sundance Institute

Sundance Institute was founded by Robert Redford as a way to give back, to support other film and theatre artists by providing them with an opportunity to develop their projects and skills. Sundance Institute does not accept royalties on projects supported by the Theatre Program. Artists own their work fully, but are required to publish Sundance Institute's logo, bio, staff listing, and credit:

"[Title of Project] was developed, in part, at the
2015 Sundance Institute Theatre Lab"

This credit is required on the title page of all printed materials of future readings, workshops, productions, recordings, and publications of their projects. This and other requirements are detailed in a Memo of Understanding that Sundance Institute enters into with the generators of each project. Please call the Theatre Program at (646) 822-9564 with any questions.

How to Apply

Complete the online application form and upload your materials electronically. After submitting your materials online, you will receive an email confirmation. Materials to include:

  • Script Draft of your play or musical (unprotected Word or PDF document).
  • Artistic Statement (If applying as a playwright/director team, we require a statement from both the playwright and director).
  • IMPORTANT: Describe the status of the project, including prior readings and workshops, and what you hope to accomplish at the Lab. Include comments on the content, style of the piece, and the team's objectives for the workshop.
  • Resumes/Bios for each member of the creative team.
  • Cast breakdown. Please make sure to include ages, ethnicities and any other information that would be pertinent to the casting process.
  • Letter of acknowledgement from a commissioning organization (if applicable).
  • Uploadable .mp3 files of music (if applicable).
  • $35 non-refundable application processing fee payable by credit card on the online application.

NOTE: If you do not have access to the Internet, please call the Theatre Program at 646-822-9564 and we will work with you to submit your materials using alternative methods. Please make every effort to utilize the online application as it ensures the safe delivery of your application and supports the Greening Initiative of Sundance Institute.



The deadline for submission is November 15, 2014 at 11:59pm EST. Applicants are generally notified by late April. Please do not call or email us to inquire about the status of your project.


Applicants can find answers to many questions on the FAQ page. If you have additional questions, please email

Still have questions? Read the FAQs

Theatre Lab FAQ

01. What are the dates of the Theatre Lab?
02. How are projects selected?
03. What does Sundance look for?
04. Do you accept international submissions?
05. Do I have to be at the Lab for the entire time?
06. Does Sundance pay for my travel to Utah?
07. Can I receive feedback on my submission?
08. I submitted last year, but have done major rewrites and the play is much different. Can I submit again?
09. Is it a problem that I don't have a director?
10. What if my director is attached to more than one project?
11. Can I submit multiple projects?
12. Do you prefer if I send in a hardcopy of my play, instead of submitting it electronically?
13. Can you waive the application fee?
14. Must I have the rights to the song or book that my play or musical is based on?
15. How do I submit music, or other additional materials?
16. What if my play is commissioned by another theatre?
17. Can I bring my own dramaturg?
18. What if my submitted project has already been produced?
19. Can I submit a play that is not completed?
20. There's already a scheduled production of the project I want to submit, is this okay?
21. Can I take my children to the Lab?
22. Can I take my dog to the Lab?


1. What are the dates of the 2014 Theater Lab?
The dates for the 2014 Theatre Lab are July 6-26, 2015.

2. How are projects selected?
All submissions – generally between 700 and 900 annually – are read in their entirety and evaluated by qualified play readers from around the country. Roughly a third of the plays are read a second time, and some receive further evaluation. Our artistic staff then narrows the field to the top 25-30 submissions, which are then evaluated by an Advisory Committee comprised of established playwrights, dramaturgs, and directors. The Artistic Director makes the final selections and extends personal invitations to join the Theatre Lab.

3. What does Sundance look for?
First and foremost, we look for projects that reflect an originality and "independent spirit.” We're interested in provocative new work from unheard voices and work that looks at familiar topics in an unfamiliar way. Once we have established that a project warrants our interest, we look for clues that applicants have strongly identified their objectives in the supporting materials-- both long-term and in the context of the 18-day Lab. Some projects aren't suited to a highly collaborative Lab environment, while others only need a polish before they're ready for productions. If your project is too far along, it's not for us. We aspire to diversity and balance in our selections, and cross-over artists, ensemble work, political plays, and projects that defy categorization have all found a home at Sundance.

4. Do you accept international submissions?
Yes, we do accept international submissions.

5. Do I have to be at the Lab for the entire time?
If your project is selected, you are expected to be at the Lab for the entire three weeks. If you have a scheduling conflict, we suggest that you do not submit this year, and submit in a future season.

6. Does Sundance pay for my travel to Utah?
Sundance provides lodging, meals and an economy roundtrip plane ticket for you and the rest of the creative team attached to your project.

7. Can I receive feedback on my submission?
Sundance Institute does not provide feedback on submitted projects.

8. I submitted last year, but have done major rewrites and the play is much different. Can I submit again?
We do not accept plays that have been previously submitted, and we do not make exceptions to that rule.

9. What if I don't have a director?
It is not a problem if you do not have a director. If selected, we will work with you to find a director that will best complement your project.

10. What if my director is attached to more than one project?
A director can be attached to more than one project. If both projects are accepted into this year's Lab, the director will have to select only one project to work on. The director cannot work on more than one project at the Lab.

11. Can I submit multiple projects?
You can only submit one project per year.

12. Do you prefer if I send in a hardcopy of my play, instead of submitting it electronically?
We require everyone to submit their projects electronically if at all possible. We understand that some international applicants may not have reliable access to the internet. If this is the case, please call Ignacia Delgado at 646-822-9564 so that we can determine the best way for you to submit.

13. Can you waive the application fee?
No. Unfortunately, we cannot waive the application fee.

14. Must I have the rights to the song or book that my play or musical is based on?
Yes. If you are including any materials for which you are not the writer/creator, you must obtain the rights prior to submitting. If you do not have the rights, we cannot accept your project.

15. How do I submit music, or other additional materials?
Please submit music and additional materials by mail. Our mailing address is:

Sundance Institute Theatre Program
Log Number:
180 Varick St, Suite 1330
New York, NY 10014

Please make sure that your log number (received after applying online) is clearly marked on the outside of your envelope and on all materials submitted.

16. What if my play is commissioned by another theatre?
We do accept plays that are commissioned by other theatres or producers, however, you must obtain written permission from the commissioning organization stating that they support your application.

17. Can I bring my own dramaturg?
Sundance provides dramaturgical support that is customized to each individual project, and once a project is accepted into the Lab, there will be an opportunity to discuss what model is best for your play. In some cases Sundance would consider a dramaturg who “comes with” a project, particularly if that dramaturg is one of the generative artists. We tend to discourage the practice of including dramaturgs employed by institutions that have commissioned or committed to a future production of a play.
Sundance is a time for the generative artists to explore their impulses as independently as they can, and not in tandem with the needs of a future institution. In the case of work that is commissioned or committed to production, we have done well with a process whereby the Lab dramaturg "passes the baton" to the dramaturg at the producing institution.

18. What if my submitted project has already been produced?
We can only accept projects that have NOT been produced. A produced project is defined as a project that has been reviewed by critics. We do accept plays that have had a previous workshop, or developmental opportunities.

19. Can I submit a play that is not completed?
We do accept plays in various stages of development. We recommend that you submit more than an outline of the project. An actual draft—even it it’s incomplete-- is most helpful in evaluating your project.

20. There’s already a scheduled production of the project I want to submit, is this okay?
We do accept projects that are already scheduled for a production, but only if the production’s rehearsal period doesn’t begin until on or after October 27, 2014. Because of our agreement with Actors Equity Association, there must be a period of at least 90 days after the final day of the Lab.

21. Can I take my children to the Lab?
Sundance Institute strives to provide a family-friendly environment. However, it is our experience that the responsibilities of parenting can be counter-productive to the work that this unique opportunity offers. We strongly encourage families with children to make other childcare arrangements at home during the Lab. An alternative is to consider a three-day visit during the Lab. Please contact the Theatre Program if you have questions about families or guests.

22. Can I take my dog to the Lab?
No. Animals are not permitted at the Sundance Resort during the Lab.

Theatre Lab at MASS MoCA
Application By Invitation
Dates November 30-December 14, 2014
Size of Lab Up to 3 Projects
Location MASS MoCA - North Adams, MA
Eligibility Musicals or Ensemble-Created Projects
Description In our annual collaboration with MASS MoCA , the Sundance Institute Theatre Lab at MASS MoCA (Massachusetts) supports 2-3 projects annually, focuses on the creation of new musical theatre and on work generated by acting companies or ensembles. Projects at MASS MoCA are cast individually and rehearse daily – affording musical productions the luxury of ongoing time to develop work without interruption. This Lab provides ensembles with ample time together to work on their unique, shared vocabulary.


Sundance Institute | LUMA Foundation Theatre Directors Retreat in Arles
Application By Invitation
Dates August 2015
Size of Lab 6 Directors
Location Arles, France
Description In 2013, the Theatre Program began program to exclusively support theatre directors for the first time in its history. This 12-day artist retreat in the ancient Roman city of Arles, France complements other initiatives of the Theatre Program by providing specific resources to directors in the field, including meeting the identified needs for more opportunities to exchange ideas and practices with other mid-career, freelance directors. In partnership with the LUMA Foundation , the Retreat takes place annually and provides a unique opportunity for Sundance Institute-supported directors from around the world. Artists are selected by invitation only. Artistic Director Philip Himberg, Producing Director Christopher Hibma and Program Associate Anne Kauffman lead the Retreat.
Playwrights & Composers Retreat at Ucross Foundation
Application By Invitation
Dates February 2-20, 2015
Size of Lab Four playwrights & two composers
Location Ucross, Wyoming
Description The Sundance Institute Playwright's Retreat at Ucross Foundation in Wyoming is an 18-day writing colony where five playwrights and two theatre composers convene each year to put pen to paper, and where a Sundance Institute dramaturg is on hand to respond to work at an early stage of the creative process. The Ucross Foundation Retreat includes both emerging and established artists, creating an environment of peer mentorship, professional growth, and unfettered, unpressured creativity under the ongoing guidance of Sundance Institute and Ucross Foundation Executive Director Sharon Dynak.
Alumni Writing Studio at Flying Point
Application By Invitation
Dates Studio A (October 19-26, 2014) & Studio B (April 12-19, 2015)
Size of Lab Five artists
Location Hamptons, NY
Description This writing studio, conducted on the Hamptons property of George & Joan Hornig, is an extension of Sundance’s dedication to its alumni. For two one-week sessions each year, Theatre Program alumni are given uninterrupted time and space to work on on their projects in a studio setting.

International Work

“It is a good thing to place different civilizations in contact with each other;
that whatever its own particular genius may be,
a civilization that withdraws into itself atrophies;
that for civilizations, exchange is oxygen.”
-Aimé Césaire, African poet and political theorist

Since 1997, the Theatre Program’s international activity has grown from a handful of international observers at the Theatre Lab in Utah to over 13 years of deep peer-to-peer intercultural engagement in six East African countries and, currently, in the Middle East & North Africa. Exposure and exchange foster the pursuit of artistic freedom, a celebration of diversity, a commitment to transparency and openness, and an appreciation of differences.

After nearly 13 years of investment in exposure and exchange activities with artists from six East African countries, Sundance Institute East Africa (SIEA) is excited to announce the creation of two African-led events taking place in East Africa in November 2014 and February 2015.

Kampala International Theatre Festival | Kampala, Uganda

The first event will launch in Kampala, Uganda and is led by longtime Sundance Institute Theatre Program staff member, Deborah Asiimwe. Deborah is partnering with Faisal Kiwewa, Founding Director of the Bayimba Cultural Foundation, to establish the first-ever Kampala International Theatre Festival scheduled for November 28-30, 2014. This historic festival will feature productions and readings with many of the East African artists and projects that have received Sundance Institute support over the years. In the coming years, the Kampala International Theatre Festival promises to become one of the most exciting theatre festivals in Africa. For more information about the festival, please email Deborah Asiimwe .

Crossing Boundaries | Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

The second event Crossing Boundaries will take place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and is led by a consortium of Ethiopian theatre-makers including Sundance alumni Surafel Abebe, Meaza Worku, Azeb Worku and Tesfaye Eshetu.

Occurring alongside a simultaneous Performance Studies International conference in partnership with Addis Ababa University, Crossing Boundaries will involve Sundance alumni from around the region and a performance of a newly adapted project into Amharic scheduled for September 24-27, 2015.

The depth of conversation and level of engagement will be profound during this extraordinary convening and we share the hopes of the organizers that Crossing Boundaries will lead to continuing East African collaborations centered in Ethiopia. For more information about this event, please email Surafel Abebe.

On-Going Work

We are thrilled that our East African colleagues are continuing the work of connecting the East Africa theatre-making community and supporting the creation of new work for audiences around the world who love live theatre.

We also look forward to creating opportunities for collaboration between East African artists and their counterparts in the Middle East & North Africa as we deepen our commitment to the MENA region in future years. For more information about activities in East Africa, please contact Deborah Asiimwe .

Middle East / North Africa (MENA)

Sundance Institute’s Theatre Programs has identified MENA as an artistically and politically crucial part of the world with a venerable storytelling culture, a wealth of theatre and film talent, and an emergent infrastructure of support. Artists from East Africa have experienced extreme isolation from the global conversation, and connecting them to their counterparts not only in the U.S. but also in the much closer MENA region will have meaningful impact on all sides. The MENA Initiative will advance Sundance Institute’s efforts to encourage original storytelling and support the discovery and development of diverse, independent theatre from around the world.

The Theatre Program visits the region regularly and will be visiting Beirut and Tunis in Spring 2015. To date, visits have been made to D-CAF in Cairo, the Arab Dramaturgy Conference in Marseilles and Hakaya Festival in Jordan. Additionally, theatre artists from Egypt and Lebanon have been Artists-in-Residence at the Theatre Lab at the Sundance Resort over the last two years. The Program is currently working with Senior Consultant, Moukhtar Kocache, on a five-year strategy to support MENA theatre artists both in the region and in the U.S.

For more information about the Theatre Program’s work in MENA, or to suggest festivals & happenings please contact please contact Christopher Hibma .


On going Project Support


The Theatre Program’s Pre- and Post-Lab Support provide a year-round continuum of resources that supplements the intensive interaction of the Labs. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation began funding Pre- and Post-Lab Support in FY09 and has supported these offerings exclusively since then. This season the Theatre Program is providing support for The Madwoman in the Volvo by Sandra Tsing Loh, The Good Book by Denis O'Hare & Lisa Peterson and The Last of the Little Hours by Annie Baker.

This funding has enabled the Theatre Program to further develop projects, introduce the work to decision-makers (e.g. producing theatres, future ticket-buying audiences), and engage more fully with Alumni, resulting in a number of events that otherwise would not have taken place.

The Program provides crucial Pre-Lab Support to all projects for the July Theatre Lab and the Theatre Lab at MASS MoCA. This support enables creative teams (playwrights, directors, composers, etc.) to meet in person or by phone with their Sundance dramaturgs prior to each Lab. Pre-Lab meetings help strengthen the creative partnership between the Fellow and the dramaturg, with a focus on gaining better knowledge of the material, preliminary goal and work plan articulation, and familiarization with each other’s work style and approach.

Time Warner Foundation Grant

The Theatre Program awards one grant each year in a partnership with Time Warner Foundation. This grant is awarded to a recent alumni of the Theatre Program’s Labs and Retreats.

Advice for Applicants

When submitting to the Theatre Lab, the Artistic Statement is one of the most important elements of your application (in addition to the script). Your statement should detail specifically how you hope to utilize three weeks of development time (e.g. What elements of the script are you struggling with? What would be your goals for the Lab? Why do you need this opportunity at Sundance?). We want your honest responses to these questions.

Support for the Theatre Program

The Sundance Institute Theatre Program is supported by an endowment from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, with generous additional support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; Time Warner Foundation; the John and Marcia Price Family Foundation; The Shubert Foundation, Inc.; LUMA Foundation; National Endowment for the Arts; The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust; Karen Lauder; Joan and George Hornig; The Carrie Louise Hamilton Foundation; The Tony Randall Theatrical Fund, Inc.; and USA for Africa.

The Sundance Institute  Theatre Club: is made possible by founding support from Joan and George Hornig. Additional support is provided by the following Sundance Theatre Club Founding Members: Mona Aboelnaga, Noreen and Ken Buckfire, Shawn Byers, Judy Cohen, Leslie Cornfeld, Margaret Crotty and Rory Riggs, Linda Gelfond, Rebecca Grafstein, Janet and Howard Kagan, Barbara Kalvaria, Francine Le Frak and Rick Friedberg, Douglas & Katherine McCormick Family Foundation, Laura Moore, Lori Ordover, Barbara Portman, Jane and David Preiser, Bob Seigel, Connie Steensma and Rick Prins, Roz Walrath, and Sheila and Wally Weisman.

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