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The lobby of New York Theatre Workshop.

‘Artistic Instigators’ at Center of NYTW’s Non-Traditional Season

25 artists have been engaged to come up with a slate of new work, with forms and delivery methods to be determined.

NEW YORK CITY: New York Theatre Workshop has announced artistic and operational plans for the 2020-21 season, including an investment in artists and new work, a flexible approach to audience membership rather than subscriptions, and a statement of anti-racist core values. No performance dates or plans to reopen the theatre’s East Village venue are included in the announcement.

Instead, the theatre is putting its programming in the hands of a group of “artistic instigators,” including Ayad Akhtar, Clare Barron, Lileana Blain-Cruz, David Cale, Sean Carvajal, Victor I. Cazares, Rebecca Frecknall, Sam Gold, Aleshea Harris, Jeremy O. Harris, Modesto Flako Jimenez, Martyna Majok, Denis O’Hare, Lisa Peterson, Dael Orlandersmith, Rubén Polendo, Martha Redbone, Tina Satter, Geoff Sobelle, Celine Song, Theater Mitu, Aaron Whitby, Whitney White, Kristina Wong, and Doug Wright. These artists, according to a press release, will “imagine work in our present moment that creates community within the given circumstances of social distancing, celebrates the liveness that is inherent in a theatrical experience, and examines the relationship between theatre, distance, and technology.” Each artist is supported with a $2,500 grant, with additional funds designated to bring their projects to life.

NYTW audiences will be invited to witness this work in progress, with sharings and behind-the-scenes conversations with artists. Some events will be exclusively virtual experiences while others may take place in person—when it is possible to do so with appropriate safety measures. Memberships for the season, in whatever form it will take, will range from $10 to $50.

Shows that were remaining in the theatre’s 2019-20 season that were cut short or cancelled—including Martyna Majok’s Sanctuary City, directed by Rebecca Frecknall, which had just begun performances when the pandemic lockdown began, and Clare Barron’s adaptation of Three Sisters, directed by Sam Gold, which had not yet begun rehearsals—have been postponed but not abandoned, with NYTW committing to staging them “as soon as it is feasible and safe to do so.” The theatre’s Next Door at NYTW series has been paused and will stay on hiatus until public health guidelines permit a full return to onsite programming.

NYTW has also announced a new class of 2050 Artistic Fellows, diverse and early-career artists who are given support throughout the season. This year’s directing Fellows are Josiah Davis, Adil Mansoor, and Tyler Thomas, and the playwriting fellows are Nissy Aya, Ruth Tang, and David Zheng.

New York Theatre Workshop, founded in 1979, is an artist-driven mainstay of the Off-Broadway scene.

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