What We Do
New York Theatre Workshop provokes, produces and cultivates the work of artists whose visions inspire and challenge all of us.
Founded in 1979, New York Theatre Workshop is dedicated to ensuring the robust and compelling presence of the artist in our society. This mission is manifested in two distinct but equally important focuses of activity: first through producing an annual season of productions in our 199-seat theatre in Manhattan’s East Village and second, by inviting theatre-makers at all stages of their careers to participate in activities that allow them to gain support for both themselves and their projects. This dual programming, on our stage and in our “Workshop,” allows NYTW to develop and produce theatrical experiences that reflect and respond to the world around us and re-invigorate the artists and audiences we connect with each year.
As both a laboratory for theatrical exploration and a producer of plays that expand the boundaries of theatrical form and address the critical issues of our times, NYTW has been able to support projects that are aesthetically, thematically and methodologically diverse. NYTW’s productions have received a Pulitzer Prize, 25 Tony Awards and assorted Obie, Drama Desk and Lucille Lortel Awards. Over the course of four decades, NYTW has evolved to become a significant force in New York City’s vibrant cultural landscape and is recognized as one of the leading producing theatres of original work in the United States.
While the productions in our theatre are the primary way New York Theatre Workshop is recognized by the public, what happens offstage in our Artist Workshop, allows us to connect with over 1,800 artists annually. The Workshop side of NYTW encompasses our commitment to facilitating critical response, most often connected to the reading of a draft of a project; offering residencies to companies and individual artists; awarding Fellowships and most importantly, building ongoing relationships with artists outside of the production atmosphere. Through a variety of programs dedicated to project development or career support, NYTW provides the theatrical community with a home for collaboration, growth and exploration.
The genesis of New York Theatre Workshop began with Founding Trustee Stephen Graham in 1979. Stephen envisioned an organization which would support and encourage outstanding new playwrights and directors outside the commercial area and to develop inventive new works for the theatre.
- The very first production was A Day in the Life of the Czar, by Frank O’Hara and V.R. Lang, directed by then-unknown artist Peter Sellars in one of his earliest professional credits.
- Incorporated as New York Theatre Workshop in February 1982
- NYTW signed a seasonal lease for the 99-seat Perry Street Theatre, giving the Workshop its first consistent performing venue
- 1984/85 season, NYTW inaugurated the New Director’s Project with Michael Greif, Lisa Peterson, David Esbjornson and Elizabeth Diamond
- James C. Nicola became NYTW’s Artistic Director in February 1988. With Nicola’s arrival, NYTW’s theatre producing activities and workshop activities became clearly separated and due emphasis was placed on developing and mounting theatre productions consistent in quality.
- NYTW inaugurated Mondays @ 3, a regular meeting place for NYTW’s large community of artists to interact and exchange ideas.
- Artists participating in the New Director’s Project became part of a group called the Curators (later the Usual Suspects)
- July 1990 NYTW began a summer residency program for new directors and writers at the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut (the program now takes place at Dartmouth College and Adelphi University).
- NYTW produced Athol Fugard’s My Children! My Africa!, directed by Mr. Fugard himself.
- In 1991/92, NYTW began the Writer’s Circle to support the genesis and development of a single work by a playwright and a select group of artists in a concentrated period of time. The Curators and Writer’s Circle combined shortly thereafter to become the Usual Suspects.
- NYTW produced Caryl Churchill’s Mad Forest, directed by Mark Wing-Davey, its biggest audience and critical success to date.
- NYTW undertook a capital campaign to purchase its current home at 79 East 4th Street in the East Village.
- In October 1992, Leo Bassi’s C. Colombo Inc. became NYTW’s first production in 79 East 4th Street.
- Jonathan Larson’s Rent began performances at NYTW on January 26, 1996. Rent had been developed intensively during two years of workshop activities
- Rent’s evolution from concept to readings, workshop, studio production and, finally, full production, is emblematic of NYTW’s commitment to nurturing artists and projects in a truly individualized manner. In a tragic turn, Jonathan Larson died the night before the first NYTW performance. His legacy, Rent, played a record-breaking engagement at NYTW, moved to Broadway’s Nederlander Theatre and won the 1996 Tony Award for Best Musical as well as the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
- Minority Fellowships for writers and directors
- In 2005, NYTW launched Learning Workshop
- 2006, a new series of Public Programs was inaugurated.
- In October 2005, NYTW was granted the vacant building at 72 East 4th Street, a former New York City storage facility, “as is,” by New York City’s Department Housing Preservation and Development as part of the creation of the Fourth Arts Block (FAB) Cultural District.
- With renovations completed, on September 24, 2011, the LEED Certificated space was officially opened and is now used as NYTW’s scenery, costume and production shop.