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History

The Ensemble Studio Theatre (EST) was founded by Curt Dempster in 1968, and is a leading not-for-profit theatre company based in New York City. EST’s founding belief is that extraordinary support yields extraordinary work. Still today, we are committed to the discovery and nurturing of new voices, and the continued support and growth of artists throughout their creative lives. Through our unique collaborative process, we develop and produce original, provocative, and authentic new plays that engage and challenge our audience and audiences across the country.

EST's mission to develop new, American theatre has resulted in a record of achievement that rivals any American theater in term of quantity and quality of output, boasting a total of more than 6,000 plays developed and produced at EST. Each year, EST produces over 150 projects, including readings and workshops of works-in-progress, EST RoughCuts (studio productions of new plays presented to the public but not to critics), and fully-produced Mainstage productions, many of which are premieres in New York and the U.S., and even world premieres.

EST fosters the creation of new works in part by hosting three groups of playwrights: Youngblood, EST’s collective of emerging professional playwrights under the age of 30; the EST Playwrights Unit, a diverse group of playwrights that comprises both EST members and non-members; and Going to the River, a group of women playwrights of color with distinct and powerful voices. EST also cultivates the development of plays during a three-week annual tenure as the resident theater company of the prestigious Southampton Writers Conference, in partnership with the SUNY Stony Brook’s MFA summer playwriting program.

The EST/Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Project fuels artists in crafting credible and compelling works to challenge society’s preconceived notions about science and technology. The Project incorporates a nationwide commissioning program (over 200 plays commissioned so far), the First Light festival of staged readings, and one Mainstage production from the year’s best commissioned works.

EST has presented its new, short play festival, the Marathon of One-Act Plays, annually for over thirty years, and it is a public forum for new works by both well-established and up-and-coming writers. The Marathon has been credited for reviving the one-act play form, inspiring many similar festivals across the country. Past playwrights include Horton Foote, Tina Howe, David Mamet, Shirley Lauro, Jaquelyn Reingold, and José Rivera.

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