The Indiana Repertory Theatre has received a $2.5 million donation from philanthropists John and Sarah Lechleiter, marking the largest individual gift in the theater’s 46 year history, the IRT announced Thursday.
John Lechleiter is the former CEO of Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Co. and Sarah Lechleiter is a board member for the IRT and Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.
The gift will be used to create the James Still Playwright-in-Residence Fund, which will be used to fund the James Still Playwright-in-Residence position in perpetuity.
The fund will “ensure a permanent home in Indianapolis for the next generation of playwrights—the Playwright-in-Residence and other living playwrights—to continue storytelling, as well as further any part of the creative process including commissioning, workshopping or producing new work,” the IRT said.
James Still is in his 20th season as the IRT’s playwright-in-residence.
“This surprise announcement is wildly humbling and exciting as it celebrates both the past and the future,” Still said in written remarks. “I am deeply grateful to the Lechleiters for recognizing the profound relationship between an artist, a theater and its community.”
The IRT said it received additional gifts from the Lacy Foundation and the Margot L. and Robert S. Eccles Arts and Culture Fund to help it fund a celebration of Still’s 20th season.
The celebration will include a series of free readings, an opportunity for Still to mentor two rising playwrights and a new commissioned play from Still.
The IRT is producing two of Still’s plays this season: “Appoggiatura” (March 7-31) and “Looking Over The President's Shoulder” (March 27-May 6).