Theatre Production Guide: Business & Legal


Note: Information provided on this page is for general interest and is not a substitute for competent legal and business advice provide by accredited professionals.


General Legal Resources For Managing & Producing Theatres

Arts Organzations

Business Consulting & Fiscal Sponsorship

Copyright, Taxes & Licensing


Legal and Dispute Resolution Assistance

Federal Tax Exempt Status

General Legal Resources for Managing & Producing Theatre

501 Commons
Pacific Tower, Suite 1101
1200 12th Ave. S
Seattle, WA 98144


501 Commons was founded in 1989 as the Executive Service Corps of Washington and later renamed itself to reflect a changing role and broader range of services. In 2012, it absorbed some of the programs and services of the Alliance for Nonprofits and the technology services of NPower Northwest.

Forming a Corporation

A corporation is a form of business ownership that helps prevent personal liability for business debts. Here you can learn how to create a corporation, how a C corporation and an S corporation are taxed, and how to keep corporate minutes and records to preserve your business's corporate status. Nolo has books, forms, and online applications that can help you create your business.

How to Form and Maintain a Non Profit
Published by the King County Bar Association, 2009

Free PDF Download

This book explains what you need to do to form and maintain a nonprofit organization in Washington State.

How to Form a Nonprofit Corporation: A 50 State Guide

Online Resource

Forming a nonprofit corporation is much like creating a regular corporation, except that nonprofits have to take the extra steps of applying for tax-exempt status with the IRS and their state tax division. This page has the list of steps and links to the relevant filing offices for each of the 50 states.

The Stage Producer’s Business and Legal Guide
Charles Grippo
Allworth Press, 2002
256 pages, $19.95

Buy Online

From the publisher: "The entire range of individuals involved in entertainment—performers, writers, and directors to box office managers, theater board members, and theater owners—will find comprehensive answers to questions on every aspect of theater business and law. Written by an attorney, producer, and playwright, this book reveals hundreds of insider strategies for minimizing legal costs, negotiating contracts, and licensing and producing plays. It also features expert, practical advice on such topics as tax risks and liabilities, safety regulations, organizing the theater company, financing, box office management, not-for-profit management, and much more. Plus everything is explained clearly, written without a lot of legal jargon."

WA Non-Profits
1265 S Main Street #206
Seattle, WA 98144

(855) 299-2922
Contact form

Washington Nonprofits was founded in 2010 by a dedicated board working in partnership with philanthropy. Together these leaders recognize the importance of having an association watching the backs of nonprofits of all sizes. WA Non-Profits helps its members learn, connect, and transform.

Washington Nonprofits delivers on its mission through three main, integrated initiatives: learning programs, public policy, and engagement.

Arts Organizations

101 Prefontaine Place South
Seattle WA 98104

(206) 296.7580

Facebook: 4Culture
Twitter: 4Culture
Instagram: kc4culture

4Culture is a support agency for the arts in King County. 4Culture offers opportunities for all kinds of cultural funding and support in King County, with deadlines rolling out throughout the year.

It also offers project consulting services.

Business Consulting & Fiscal Sponsorship


National Network of Fiscal Sponsors


Directory Organized by State


A growing index of fiscal sponsors organized by state and alphabetically with detailed information on each based on a 10-question sruvey.


Washington and Northwestern States

Allied Arts Foundation
444 NE Ravenna Blvd., Suite 400
Seattle, WA 98115

Online Message:

Serving the Seattle community and beyond since 1967, Allied Arts Foundation provides support to artists for the enrichment of the local and national cultural experience. AAF nurtures emerging artists and arts groups through fiscal sponsorship on an ongoing and by-project basis, and makes direct grants to artists for projects of merit.

PO Box 30181
Seattle, WA, 98113


CascadiaNow! is dedicated to amplifying positive impacts across the bioregion of Cascadia. CascadiaStrong is the fiscal sponsorship program CascadiaNow! provides, which offers resources and administrative assistance to grassroots projects that share our mission to cultivate a resilient and inclusive Pacific Northwest community.

Accepts fiscal sponsorship applicants from Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon & Washington.

Columbia Basin Foundation
234 First Avenue NW, Suite B
Ephrata, WA 98823

(509) 754-4596

The Columbia Basin Foundation can hold a limited number of fiscal sponsorships and special project funds at any given time due to limited resources. CBF sponsors organizations within our service area of Grant, Adams and western Lincoln Counties only.

Shunpike: The Business of Art
815 Seattle Boulevard S Suite 215
Seattle WA 98134

(206) 905-1026

Shunpike was founded in 2001. Shunpike provides independent arts groups in Washington State with the services, resources, and opportunities they need to forge their own paths to sustainable success.

Whether you have questions about the relative benefit of different organizational structures, or want to learn more about fundraising, marketing, board development, managing money, events, risks, or people, Shunpike is a reliable, practical, and affordable resource for the creative community across Washington State. Programs include:

  • Arts Business Clinics are free, informal, drop-in clinics where Shunpike staff and ABC Advisors are on-hand to meet with attendees and talk about their arts business needs. Akin to a ‘speed date’ meet-up, artists and creative arts entrepreneurs are able to chat with supportive arts professionals about any aspect of arts business.
    • Arts Business Dates takes your relationship with Shunpike’s Arts Business Advisors to the next level. On an Arts Business Date you meet with one or two Advisors, in a mutually convenient location, at a mutually convenient time. On your ‘date’ you have the opportunity to discuss your arts business challenges with experienced arts professionals and ask questions specific to your arts project or creative enterprise.
    • In return, you pay a $20, non-refundable, booking fee (payable to Shunpike), and agree to buy a hot drink for your Advisors (maybe even a cookie!). Book dates with a call to the Shunpike office or email
  • Fiscal Sponsorship allows independent arts groups the ability to raise funds for their artistic projects using Shunpike’s tax-exempt status as a 501(c)(3) organization. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) gives 501(c)(3) status to non-profit charitable organizations which allows donors to receive a tax deduction for supporting a public charity. Under Shunpike’s fiscal sponsorship, arts groups and organizations can offer tax-deductible receipts to donors and may be eligible to apply for government and foundation grant programs usually only available to organizations with 501(c)(3) status. Shunpike offer two levels of fiscal sponsorship: Basic and Comprehensive. Visit their web page for up-to-date descriptions.

Copyright, Taxes & Licensing

Authors Registry
116 W 23rd Street
Suite 500
New York, NY 10011

(212) 563-6920

The Authors Registry is a not-for-profit clearinghouse for payments to authors receiving royalties from organizations. It was founded in 1995 by a consortium of U.S. authors' organizations including The Authors Guild, The American Society of Journalists & Authors, the Dramatists Guild and the Association of Authors' Representatives.

City of Seattle Admissions Tax

Admission tax is added to the ticket price or other charge that attendees pay to enter entertainment venues or events in Seattle. The City allows for some exemptions from this tax. Consult webpage for latest information.

US Copyright Office
101 Independence Ave. S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20559-6000

(202) 707–3000
(877) 476–0778 (toll free)

This web address is your starting point for all things related to the registration of copyrights.


State of Washington Business Licensing Service

State of Washington forms and agencies with links and other assistance to help you get with the legal steps to starting or renewing a business.

The Small Business Guide
The Governor's Office for Small Business Innovation and Assistance

The Small Business Guides provides helpful information, links to valuable resources, and outlines the steps for starting and operating a business in Washington state. The Small Business Guide is available in English, Spanish, Russian, Korean, Vietnamese, and Chinese.

The Business Guide includes sections that will help you plan, run, grow, or close a business in Washington State.

Seattle's Business License & Taxes
City of Seattle
Finance and Administrative ServicesSeattle Municipal Tower
700 5th Ave
Suite 5200
Seattle, WA 98104 Phone: 206-684-2489

From this webpage you can find, renew, or cancel a business tax license. You can also find links to search for a business and get business assistance offered by the city.

Legal and Dispute Resolution Assistance

Dispute Resolution Center of King County
4649 Sunnyside Ave. N, Suite 520
Seattle, WA 98103

(206) 443-9603

Organized in 1986, the Dispute Resolution Center of King County uses trained and supervised mediators who volunteer their time to help us solve over 1,000 disputes a year. Mediation is the most affordable solution for working out an agreement and avoid the expense and trouble of going to court. Dispute resolution centers are organized under state legislation that requires them to provide services on a sliding scale, and DRCs will never turn anyone away for lack of ability to pay for the service.

Kantor Taylor PC
901 Fifth Avenue, Suite 4000
Seattle, WA 98164


Kantor Taylor PC, is Seattle-based law firm. Kantor Taylor represents a large number of nonprofit and tax-exempt organizations. We assist with initial organizational activities—including drafting organizational documents and procedures, establishing governance structures, obtaining tax-exempt status and complying with federal tax requirements for exemption.

Neil Sussman
10751 Densmore Avenue N
Seattle, WA 98133

(206) 363-8070

Neil Sussman is a tax attorney available for consultation in all areas of entertainment law. Services including contract drafting and negotiation, income taxes and return preparation, foreign tax issues, copyrights and trademarks, and business licensing and formation.

Neil has experience working on all types of contracts including recording contracts, publishing agreements, licensing deals, film and television agreements and live performance agreements.

Neil's clients include musicians, artists, writers, photographers, film makers, performers, playwrights and many web based businesses.

The Unemployment Law Project
1904 Third Avenue, Suite 604
Seattle, WA 98101

(206) 441-9178
(888) 441-9178

Email: Ask A Question

The Unemployment Law Project provides low-cost representation and free advice and counsel to people in Washington State who have been denied unemployment benefits or whose award of benefits is being challenged.

With offices in Seattle and Spokane, Washington, the ULP offers services to anyone with a Washington State claim.

University of Washington School of Law Mediation Clinic
William H. Gates Hall, Suite 265
P. O. Box 85110
Seattle, WA 98145-1110


Since 1991, the Mediation Clinic has provided free and confidential mediation services. We mediate for the general public in the Greater Seattle area and for staff, students and faculty at the University of Washington. Students serve as neutral third parties to help individuals involved in a dispute negotiate a voluntary settlement of their case or conflict.

The mediators are second and third year law students who have completed an extensive mediation training through the Continuing Legal Education Program at the University of Washington School of Law, followed by an additional instruction and practice. They are supervised by a faculty member or professional mediator in all mediations they conduct.

The Mediation Clinic accepts cases from early October through May each year. Cases can usually be scheduled within one or two weeks. This service is offered free of charge as part of the public service program at UW Law.

Washington Lawyers for the Arts
Office Address:
701 5th Ave, Suite 4100
Seattle, WA 98104

Mailing Address:
PO Box 61308
Seattle, WA 98141-6308

(206) 328-7053

Founded in 1976, Washington Lawyers for the Arts (WLA) is a nonprofit service organization dedicated to supporting the arts in Washington state by creating alliances and making legal resources accessible to artists and arts organizations of all disciplines. Services WLA offers include:

  • Legal Clinics. Artists and arts professionals are welcome to make 30-minute appointments to meet with attorneys who specialize in arts and entertainment law. They may discuss topics, including contract review, copyright, trademark and other intellectual property issues.
  • Workshops. Arts Legal Workshops are 60-90 minute presentations for both artists and lawyers. Artists get an in-depth look at specific legal issues they encounter. Lawyers receive continuing legal education that focused on issues facing artist clients.
  • Lawyer Referral Service. Provides referrals to connect members of the public to qualified attorneys.
  • Links. A page with links to other organizations and resources.

Federal Tax Exempt Status

Links to IRS Pages


Exempt Organizations (EO) administers tax law governing charities, private foundations and other entities exempt from federal income tax.

* Also See Film Production Guide: Business & Legal