2020 Theatre Lab FAQ

1. What are the dates of the 2020 Theatre Lab?

The dates for the 2020 Theatre Lab are July 6–26, 2020. If you are traveling internationally, there may be additional days of travel. 

2. Who can apply?

Established and emerging playwrights, directors, composers, ensembles, performance artists, or choreographers from the U.S. and Arabic-speaking Middle East and North Africa countries may apply to the lab. We also welcome applications from artists making a transition from areas outside of theatre. Please note that the lab does not have a training component. It is a residency program for professional artists who are working on new projects for the stage.

3. What type of projects are accepted? 

Plays, musicals, dance theatre, performance art, and solo projects are all eligible. Submitted projects must be original works.

4. How are projects selected?

All submissions—generally between 700 and 900 annually—are read in their entirety and evaluated by qualified readers from around the world. Our artistic staff narrows the field to the top 25–30 submissions, which are then evaluated by an advisory committee composed of established playwrights, dramaturgs, designers, and directors. The curatorial team makes final selections and then extends personal invitations to join the lab.

5. What does Sundance Institute look for?

We look for projects that reflect originality and an independent vision and for artists who are interested in genuinely exploring their material. We’re particularly interested in provocative new 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 lab. Some projects aren’t suited to a highly collaborative lab environment, and projects that only need a polish before they’re ready for production are not for us. We aspire to have diversity and balance in our selections; crossover artists, ensemble work, political plays, and projects that defy categorization have all found a home at our lab. Theatremakers are welcomed to apply with any and all topics and in any genre.

6. Do you accept international submissions?

In terms of international submissions, our focus is now on applications from Middle East and North Africa artists who are creating new works in Arabic (classical or dialect). Theatremakers from Arabic-speaking countries who are working in English or French are considered too, and we welcome international submissions by artists from Arabic-speaking countries who are currently residing and working elsewhere.

7. What is an artistic statement?

Your artistic statement should include a brief description of what you’re writing and why and should tell us what your goals are for this development process. What specific questions do you have about your play, and what do you hope to accomplish by coming to the lab? We would like to see tangible artistic objectives. 

8. Do you accept work in foreign languages? 

Yes. Artists should write in the language in which they “dream”—in which they feel most comfortable. Traditionally, Sundance Institute’s main working language has been English; as such, English translations will be discussed for each selected project. Projects in Arabic (classical and all dialects) are encouraged, and artists from Middle East and North Africa Arabic-speaking countries who are working in English and French are considered too. 

9. Do I have to be at the lab for the entire time? Do my creative team members need to be at the lab the entire time?

Yes. If your project is selected, all core creative team members must be available for the lab for its entirety. If you have a scheduling conflict, we suggest that you do not submit this year and submit in a future season. 

10. Does Sundance Institute pay for my travel to the lab?

Yes. Sundance Institute provides economy round-trip plane tickets. Travel for the Theatre Lab will be to and from Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. We will also provide lodging and meals for you and the rest of the creative team attached to your project.

11. Will I receive a fee/stipend for my participation in the lab?

Yes, Sundance Institute provides a stipend for all full-time fellows. For the 2020 Theatre Lab, fellows will receive $1,560 USD by bank transfer at the end of the lab. 

12. Can I receive feedback on my submission?

No. Sundance Institute does not provide feedback on submitted projects.

13. I submitted last year, but I have done major rewrites and the project is much different. Can I submit again?

No. We do not accept projects that have been previously submitted, and we do not make exceptions to this rule.

14. I am a playwright, but I don’t have a director attached to my project—can I still submit?

Yes. 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. Please note: if a director is already attached to your project, Sundance Institute reserves the right to review your choice.

15. What if a playwright or a director is attached to more than one project?

Playwrights may only be attached to one submitted project. A director can be attached to more than one submitted project. However, if we accept more than one project that a director is attached to, the director will have to choose a single project to work on. The director cannot work on more than one project at the lab.

16. Can I send in a hard copy of my play, instead of submitting it electronically?

We require everyone to submit their projects electronically. However, we understand that some applicants may not have reliable access to the internet—if this is the case, contact us at theatre@sundance.org for an alternative submission process. 

17. Do you accept “blind” or anonymous submissions (submissions where the creator’s name does not appear on the script)?

No, we do not accept scripts that are blind or anonymous. 

18. My project is a musical—do I have to submit the music tracks electronically? 

There is a very strong preference that everything be submitted electronically, in accordance with Sundance Institute’s environmental awareness. Electronic submissions also make it much easier for our readers. If you would like more information about submitting your tracks, please contact us as theatre@sundance.org.

19. Can you waive the application fee?

Unfortunately, we cannot waive the application fee for U.S. applicants. The fee is waived for applicants from the Middle East and North Africa. 

20. Must I have the rights to the song, book, or other materials that my play or musical is based on?

Yes. If you are including any materials for which you are not the writer or creator, you must obtain the rights prior to submitting. If you do not have the rights, we cannot accept your project. 

21. What if my play is commissioned by a theatre?

We do accept plays that are commissioned by other organizations; however, you must obtain written permission from the commissioning organization stating that they support your application.

22. Can I bring my own dramaturg?

In most cases, no. Sundance Institute 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 Institute would consider a dramaturg who is already attached to 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. 

This lab is a time for the generative artists to explore their impulses as independently as they can—not in tandem with the needs of a future production. 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.

23. Can I bring my own actors?

Sundance Institute will work with each selected project on identifying the best actors for your project. If you have been working with specific actors during the development of your project, and you feel they are integral to the creation of the piece (if the piece was written for a specific performer, for instance, or devised with its actors), please indicate this in the “Other Collaborators” section of your application. 

24. 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 other developmental opportunities.

25. Can I submit a play that is not completed?

Yes. We accept plays in various stages of development. We do recommend that you submit more than just an outline of the project. An actual draft—even it’s incomplete—is most helpful in evaluating your project. If you are submitting a partial draft, we encourage you to also include an outline of how you think the play will end.

26. Does Sundance Institute produce my project after the lab?

No. We only provide developmental support. Sundance Institute is not a producer and is not committed to producing your project at any point after the lab. Sundance Institute is open, however, to a conversation with each alumni project about the continuing life of your project. 

27. Can I bring my children to the lab?

While Sundance Institute strives to provide a family-friendly environment, it is our experience that the responsibilities of parenting can be counterproductive to the work that this unique opportunity offers. We strongly encourage families with children to make other childcare arrangements at home during the lab. Please contact the Theatre Program if you have questions about families or guests. 

28. Can I bring my pet to the lab?

No animals are permitted at the lab.

29. I am an actor not attached to any submitted project. Can I be considered for the acting company during the lab? 

All actors are selected by our casting directors for the lab. If you are a U.S. actor who would like to be considered, please email your headshot and resume to theatre@sundance.org.

30. Who do I contact with additional questions?

U.S. Inquiries: theatre@sundance.org

Middle East and North Africa Inquiries: MENAtheatre@sundance.org