History of The WorkShop Theater Company

In 1994 Sam Schacht, Michelle Bouchard and James DeMarse started a collective for theater artists to meet informally and read new plays. Eventually, the group secured a fifth floor walk-up on 42nd Street. It held regular meetings and began to offer staged readings and modest productions of projects created by company artists and established writers.

In 1997, a Board of Directors was elected (advised by Jerry Stiller, Anne Meara, Israel Horovitz and Joy Behar, among others) and The 42nd Street WorkShop Inc. received not-for-profit status. The WorkShop was gradually refining the process through which it developed projects. Monday and Tuesday evenings were set aside for in-house readings where company writers such as Murray Schisgal and Allan Knee received feedback on new scripts from working actors and directors from stage and film. A Sunday reading series with “talk-backs” was established to include the audience in the creative process. Outreach projects like "ACT-SO Evening of Theater,", in affiliation with the NAACP, became a regular feature of the WorkShop’s calendar.

By 2002, the redevelopment of 42nd Street was looming and programming had so grown in size and scope that a move was needed. The company responded by building a new home in what is now known as “The Theater Building” on 36th Street, thus pioneering the Off-Off Broadway scene in the Garment District. Company members constructed two new, handicapped-accessible spaces: the Jewel Box, a 30-seat black box for developing new work, and the 65-seat Main Stage, where full productions comparable to Off-Broadway are the final step in the development process. With the move came the change of name to the WorkShop Theater Company.

Today, plays begun at the WorkShop are seen across the country and around the world. A notable early success came in 2004, when the film "Finding Neverland", based on Allan Knee's play "The Man Who Was Peter Pan" (produced at the old location in March, 1998), was released, earning two WorkShop members Oscar nominations. More recently, Dana and Jonathan Goldstein’s musical “Liberty” has been seen around the country, most recently at the Warner Theater Center in Torrington, Connecticut. Both Ken Jaworowski’s “Interchange” and Eddie Antar’s “The Navigator” were named Critics’ Picks by The New York Times. In 2012, “The Navigator” received two Drama Desk nominations, for Best Leading Actor (Joseph Franchini) and Best Sound Design (Quentin Chiappetta/mediaNoise). Stages from the Michigan’s Detroit Rep to Singapore have hosted our writers. While the company has grown and evolved since its 42nd Street days, its basic mission has remained the same.