About Us

“Theater for a New Audience is one of America’s most admirable and exciting theatre companies…some of the best-acted and -directed work to be found on the American stages, engaging with the canon of world dramatic literature in a vigorous way.”

– Tony Kushner

Founded in 1979 by Jeffrey Horowitz, Theatre for a New Audience is a modern classical theatre that produces Shakespeare alongside major classic and contemporary plays with some of today’s most exciting artists. In 2019-2020 season, the Theatre is celebrating its 40th Anniversary.

An internationally respected producer of the classics, the Theatre mounts four to five productions each year that illuminate the contemporary significance of classic plays and modern dramatic masterworks, serving an audience of 30,000 to 50,000 each season. In addition to its world-class productions, the Theatre engages its community through free Humanities Programs for general audiences, extensive creative development opportunities for artists, and the largest in-depth arts in education programs to introduce Shakespeare and classic drama to New York City Public School students across the five boroughs. Additionally, the Theatre is committed to building a vibrant and diverse young audience through its New Deal program, which offers $20 tickets to patrons aged 30 or under and all full-time students.

Since its founding, the Theatre has produced nearly 90 masterworks including 32 of Shakespeare’s 38 plays. It has grown to become the second largest theatre dedicated to Shakespeare in New York and the sixth largest in the United States. It has earned an international reputation for innovation and excellence through its acclaimed productions that have received numerous nominations and awards, including the Drama Desk, Obie, Drama League, Outer Critics Circle, Lucille Lortel and the Tony.

In 2001, Theatre for a New Audience became the first American theatre company invited to perform Shakespeare at the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) in Stratford-upon-Avon. Its production of Cymbeline, directed by Bartlett Sher, led to ongoing artistic dialogue and exchange; in 2007, the Theatre was invited to return to the RSC with its production of The Merchant of Venice, directed by Darko Tresnjak and starring Academy Award-winner F. Murray Abraham. Other partnerships include co-productions with American Repertory Theater, Baryshnikov Arts Center, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, C.I.C.T./Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, Houston’s Alley Theatre, New York City Players, New York Theatre Workshop, The Public Theater, Shakespeare’s Globe in London and Soho Rep.

The Theatre has built ongoing associations with some of the world’s finest artists, including directors Arin Arbus, Peter Brook, Andre Gregory, Trevor Nunn, Bartlett Sher, Julie Taymor, Darko Tresnjak, Kate Whoriskey, Robert Woodruff and Evan Yionoulis; leading playwrights Edward Bond, Howard Brenton, David Greig, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Adrienne Kennedy, Suzan-Lori Parks, Wallace Shawn, and Jackie Sibblies Drury; and distinguished actors such as F. Murray Abraham, Christian Camargo, Bill Camp, Jessica Hecht, Kathryn Hunter, Elizabeth Marvel, Kristine Nielsen, Juliet Rylance, Mark Rylance, John Turturro, Michael Shannon, and John Douglas Thompson.

In 2013, after three decades of itinerancy, the Theatre opened Polonsky Shakespeare Center, its new home in the Brooklyn Cultural District, the first theatre built in New York City for Shakespeare and classic drama since the Vivian Beaumont at Lincoln Center in the 1960s. The inaugural production was Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Julie Taymor. Designed by celebrated architect Hugh Hardy, Polonsky Shakespeare Center combines an Elizabethan courtyard-style theatre with modern technology. The Samuel H. Scripps Mainstage is a unique performing space that allows artists to arrange the stage and seating in a myriad of different configurations (seating capacity ranges from 99 to 400 depending on the configuration). In May 2017, the Theatre announced the successful completion of its $69.1 million Capital Campaign. Now in its seventh season at Polonsky Shakespeare Center, since 2013 the Theatre has produced 23 major productions including many American, New York and World premieres, and served a diverse audience of more than 220,000.

MISSION STATEMENT
The mission of Theatre for a New Audience is to develop and vitalize the performance and study of Shakespeare and classic drama. In 2001, Theatre for a New Audience became the first American theater to be invited to bring a production of Shakespeare to the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon. Values and Strategies:
We are guided in our work by five core values: a reverence for language, a spirit of adventure, a commitment to diversity, a dedication to learning, and a spirit of service. These values inform what we do with artists, how we interact with audiences, and how we manage our organization. Language is at the heart of all we do. We focus on the language and ideas of writers. We believe that hearing great language powerfully expressed improves our listening skills, opens our eyes, and deepens our perception and understanding of the world around us. We infuse our work with adventure—provocative ideas, visual boldness, and a sense that we are on a lifelong journey with Shakespeare and classic drama. We are committed to diversity—diverse approaches to dramatic material, diversity in casting and audiences, and multifaceted relationships with uniquely different communities. Learning is a fundamental principle of the Theatre, and we value learning as a process that takes place over time—a process that depends on our ability to promote curiosity, reflection, study, research and dialogue in all our work. We are dedicated to service. Inspired by our civic role, we seek to create broad public access and to bond the diverse New York community through the language, pleasure and ideas of classical drama.To advance our mission and values, Theatre for a New Audience:

  • produces Shakespeare side by side with other plays of classic stature and major contemporary plays, creating a dialogue over centuries between Shakespeare and other authors about our contemporary world;
  • builds long-term associations with artists and offers programs for their growth and ongoing development;
  • promotes the humanities by presenting dynamic discussions with leading intellects in a variety of fields in conjunction to the plays we present;
  • plays for wide-ranging audiences—from connoisseurs of diverse repertory to young people who are seeing groundbreaking productions for the first time;
  • promotes access for diverse audiences by offering economically-priced tickets;
  • provides rich arts-in-education programs, including teacher training and the largest arts-in-education program in New York City to introduce Shakespeare to Public School students;
  • uses its facilities and intellectual resources to serve the local artistic, educational and social communities where the Theatre operates, and contributes to the international theatre community through touring, artistic exchanges and partnerships.

By Milton Glaser
Pictured above: Kathryn Hunter and cast members of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, photo by Joan Marcus.