Bethlehem, PA—National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu has approved more than $82 million to fund local arts projects across the country in the NEA’s second major funding announcement for fiscal year 2017. Included in this announcement is an Art Works award of $10,000 to Touchstone Theatre to support the Young Playwrights’ Lab, a literary arts program. The NEA received 1,728 Art Works applications and will make 1,029 grants ranging from $10,000 to $100,000.

“The arts reflect the vision, energy, and talent of America’s artists and arts organizations,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to support organizations such as Touchstone Theatre, in serving their communities by providing excellent and accessible arts experiences.”

Now in its 13th year, the Young Playwrights’ Lab is an eight-week arts and literacy residency originally developed by Touchstone Theatre and the Bethlehem Area School District. The program reaches elementary, middle, and high school students in Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton area school districts by using theatre as a “Trojan Horse” to improve student attitudes toward literacy and creative self-expression. Through theatre improvisation, writing exercises, and collaborative critique, each student writes their own original one-act play. Those plays are then submitted for consideration to be performed in the annual Young Playwrights’ Festival, to be held on May 12, 2018 at Zoellner Arts Center. Since the 2005-06 school year, the Young Playwrights’ Lab program has served 26 schools in the Lehigh Valley with 90 programs and has reached over 1,000 children and youth. The NEA first supported the program in 2008 and continued its investment with five additional grants over the last ten years, ranging in support from $10,000 to $20,000.

“Touchstone is honored to receive NEA support for Young Playwrights’ Lab,” said Mary Wright, Young Playwrights’ Coordinator and Touchstone Ensemble Member. “I’ve seen firsthand how this program can transform a student, from the reluctant writers who suddenly beg, ‘Please, Miss? Five more minutes?’ to the shy and withdrawn students who proudly find their creative voice and tell their parents ‘I wrote that!’ Young Playwrights’ plants seeds of creativity and self-expression that flourish and bear fruit for years to come."

To join the Twitter conversation about this announcement, please use #NEASpring17. For more information on projects included in the NEA grant announcement, go to

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