Several Philadelphia theatre companies are doing their best to take the old Rolling Stones lyric to heart: "You can't always get what you want / but if you try sometime...you get what you need." For years, the theatres have been receiving grants from the William Penn Foundation, and they likely shall again. But this year, the Foundation is undergoing a broad review of its grant distribution policies, leading to a freeze on its gifts until everything's sorted out.
According to a Philadelphia Inquirer story (June 5), the Penn Foundation had hoped to finish its review in early spring, but now it looks as if the process will take until midsummer -- forcing companies anticipating funding to seek it elsewhere. The good news is that theatres were warned months ago that the Foundation would be undergoing a review, and that decisions could take longer than expected.
The Inquirer reports that last year, the Philadelphia Theatre Company, which has a $1.3 million annual budget) received $82,500 as the second part of a two-year grant from the Penn Foundation. The Wilma Theatre, currently staging Orpheus Descending, received the same amount last year. PTC had hoped to apply for funding again; the Wilma already assumed that this year would be a wash. "...When you budget, you have to assume funding from several different sources," Wilma managing director Teresa Eyring told the Inquirer. "You make a good guess that funding will come through, but we are really used to having funding...that doesn't come through."
For their part, spokespersons for the William Penn Foundation have expressed an understanding of how the revue delays are troubling local theatre companies while adding that the Foundation remains committed to supporting Philadelphia theatre groups.
-- by David Lefkowitz