Minneapolis’ Jungle Theater has captured a unicorn. Potentially a $750,000 one.
The theater will receive a $250,000 grant for the 2018-19 season, with the possibility of $500,000 more from the Pussycat Foundation — created by the estate of the late Cosmopolitan magazine editor Helen Gurley Brown — over the following two seasons.
“These are unicorns. They do not appear often,” said Jungle artistic director Sarah Rasmussen.
It is the largest grant in the Jungle’s 27-year history. Rasmussen described the money as “transformative” for her theater, which has an annual budget of about $1.75 million.
While major grants typically are earmarked for specific programs or construction projects, this comes with very few strings. The Jungle, along with four other U.S. theaters, was targeted for support because it’s led by a woman.
The principal “string” is that the Jungle must use some of the money to hire a female associate artistic director. That woman will join Rasmussen and leaders of the other four theaters who received grants in a group called the Bold Theater Women’s Leadership Circle. Their charge is to build a network of female leaders and address issues that have kept the percentage of women in theater leadership positions at around 20 percent, according to a recent study by Wellesley Centers for Women.
“I can’t wait to work with these other women. They’re titans in our field,” said Rasmussen of the leaders of Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Ensemble Theatre in Houston, WP Theater in New York and Northern Stage in Vermont.
The fact that the grant comes courtesy of Brown — whose 1960s advice book, “Sex and the Single Girl,” was not exactly a model of empowerment — doesn’t faze her.
“If a foundation wants to support women, I say let’s do it,” she said.
When Rasmussen heard about the first-time grant in September, she said she immediately grabbed her laptop and began writing a required essay, one she said she rewrote “probably 200 times” before submitting it in November.
The grant won’t change what the Jungle does but will allow it to be more “robust,” said Rasmussen. She is currently working on the theater’s first commissioned play, one that fits the mission of the Bold Theater Women’s Leadership Circle unusually well — an adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women.”