Tips for applying to the McKnight Theater Artist Fellowship

From 2012-13 Fellow Christopher Lutter-Gardella
Notes from a February 11, 2013 info session at the Playwrights’ Center

Walk through the application

1. Artistic statement

  • Very important. The reader should get to know you as an artist.
  • “Where are you now? Where have you been? Where are you going?”
  • This is not a project grant. It shouldn’t speak only about what you want to do if awarded.
  • Be “big picture.”
  • Sound like yourself—the reader should be able to hear your voice.

2. Resumé/bio

Should contain the breadth of your artistic life. Don’t limit yourself with only a few years. Show the whole range. (You don’t need to go as far back as kindergarten, but go back far enough.)

3. Statements of working process

  • These are a bit more than letters of recommendation.
  • Choose someone who really knows you—who can really speak to who you are as an artist.
  • Remember that the panel is looking for excellence. Choose someone who can speak directly about this excellence.
  • Choose someone who is excited about the work you do as an artist.
  • A statement from a “big name” will not get you more points than someone who can really speak to who you are.

4. Work samples

  • Try to show a range of work.
  • If you cannot access video, still images are very strong as well.
  • Actors: Contact lighting designers and directors if you are having difficulty receiving what you need directly from the theater. Often times those designers have much clearer and better photographs.
  • Put your best foot forward in your work samples. Start with your strongest images/clips. Help the panelist want to watch the rest of your clip.

Intent to apply

Send your intent to apply as soon as you are able. You can declare your intent to apply through this form, or you can email your name, phone number, email address, street address (with city, state and zip code), and your theatrical medium to

Once you send your intent to apply you can add performances to the event calendar which is distributed weekly to the panelists. Getting your performances onto the calendar as soon as possible is the best way to ensure you are seen by our panelists.

It is not necessary to send an Intent to Apply in order to apply for the McKnight Theater Artist Fellowship, but it is strongly encouraged. It allows the panelists to see more of your work than the work samples.

Choosing your theatrical medium

It is possible to apply under more than one medium. In doing so, simply know that you will be evaluated alongside all other individuals in that medium. We encourage you to put your best foot forward. For example if you are a director and you act sometimes, and you apply as a director/actor, you will be evaluated next to individuals who are only actors, and have only been acting for many many years. We advise you to put your best foot forward and apply for where you are excellent.

Advice from 2012-13 Fellow Christopher Lutter-Gardella

“I had applied three years in a row for the McKnight Theater Artist Fellowship. In this last application I really took time to say ‘this is who I am,’ not ‘this is what I do.’ My application included my artistic philosophy, and I think that really resonated with the panel. Take the time to tell the panelists why you do what you do—don’t just show them.”

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