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Theatreworks USA is a professional, not-for-profit theatre for young and family audiences founded in 1961. The company is based out of New York City, but has touring productions that run through forty-nine states as well as parts of Canada. Plays and musicals produced by Theatreworks, which are staffed exclusively by actors and stage managers who are members of the Actors' Equity Association, have reached over 90 million children, teachers and families since the company's founding. According to their mission statement, Theatreworks has three main programs: Class Trips, Touring, and Free Summer Theatre. They also help operate Chelsea Studios, a popular rehearsal space.
While Theatreworks is known largely for their touring shows, their seasonal roster also includes free theatre for families without the means to see live, professional theatre. The material the company performs ranges from the classical work of William Shakespeare to musical revues appropriate for young children. Theatreworks has been reviewed positively by The New York Times, The New York Post, Newsday, and The Village Voice among others.
Since 1989 Theatreworks USA's Free Summer Theatre has provided young people and families with original, professional theatre free of charge. Each summer, tickets are distributed to children in over 200 social service and youth programs throughout the five boroughs. To date, over 300,000 children have attended free productions of some of the company's most popular shows, including Junie B. Jones, Romeo and Juliet, and Sarah, Plain and Tall. According to their own literature Theatreworks believes "all children should experience the excitement of going to the theatre, regardless of their financial circumstances." Roma Torre, a NY1 reporter, has said the following of the program:
|"||TWUSA has done it again. Not only is the company's latest production yet another extremely delightful book adaptation for children--it's free. It's one splendid hour of music, laughter, life lessons and the art of putting on a show.||"|
The program has grown wildly, playing to packed houses nearly every day. Waiting lists are common place, and ticket demand continually outnumbers the supply.
Theatreworks USA's production of The Civil War made its Off-Broadway debut at the Lucille Lortel Theatre for the 2013 Free Summer Theatre program. The Civil War ran from July 15, 2013 until August 16, 2013.
During the fall and winter season, TheatreworksUSA tours its musicals and plays nationwide. The repertoire includes productions that fall into three general categories - history & biography, literary adaptations, and original issue shows, such as discrimination, peer-pressure, literacy, and substance abuse, among many others. These shows will usually perform over one hundred times each. The groups are usually made up of anywhere between four and twelve actors and one or two stage managers. Typically, each season consists of twelve musicals and four plays.
In addition to their plays and musicals, Theatreworks USA offers educational presentations by artists and groups, for school and public performances. Included are historical productions, as well as stories, songs and dance from many cultures featuring authentic artists who entertain as well as teach about their traditions.
Theatreworks has a history of giving young actors, writers, directors, and designers their first professional break. Amongst the alumni are four-time Tony Award winning director Jerry Zaks, Robert Jess Roth (Beauty and the Beast), Michael Mayer (Thoroughly Modern Millie), Gabriel Barre; writers Marta Kauffman and David Crane (TV's "Friends"), Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (Ragtime, Once on This Island), Jason Robert Brown (Parade), Larry O'Keefe (Bat Boy: The Musical), Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx (Avenue Q); Kristen Anderson-Lopez (Disney's Frozen, with Lopez); and Tony-winning actors Roger Bart, Chuck Cooper, John Lloyd Young, and John Glover. Esteemed performers Jesse Tyler Ferguson, F. Murray Abraham, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Henry Winkler, Kathryn Boule and Judy Kuhn also got their start with Theatreworks.
Theatreworks has won many awards in its long history. Some of these honors include:
In 2000, Theatreworks established Chelsea Studios, a rehearsal studio in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. In addition to providing a rehearsal space for Theatreworks's productions, Chelsea also rents its studios out to casting agents, touring productions, exercise classes, and various other clients.