The history of Studio

Now in its 41st season, Studio has carved out a distinctive place for itself by investing in excellence up close and by producing plays of big ideas on a human scale—plays that challenge assumptions, trigger conversations, and offer both surprise and connection. 

Joy Zinoman founded Studio Theatre in 1978, an outgrowth of the acting conservatory she had founded three years prior.  

Over its last five decades, Studio has expanded our operations while maintaining the signature intimacy of our theatres. From our pilot season in a rented space on Rhode Island Ave to eight years in a rented space on Church street to an expanding footprint in our current theatre complex on 14th and P streets NW, which we’ve occupied since 1987, Studio has expanded to operate four theatres, none of which is larger than 225 seats. In committing to excellence in small spaces, we allow for an immediate exchange between artist and audience member that is central to Studio’s commitment to creating intimate, relevant, and indelible theatre in Logan Circle.

Studio’s earliest seasons represented a broad range of theatrical style—from Greek Tragedy to Bejing Opera to classic realism. Since the early 1980s, Studio’s work has focused on an eclectic mix of work that reflects the contemporary world, offering a repertoire of provocative new and contemporary writing from around the world and inventive stagings of contemporary classics. In the late 1980s, Studio added a Special Events series, which brought unique performances and one-of-a-kind events to DC, and created 2ndStage as an extension of the Conservatory to encourage the development of actors and directors. This programming complemented Studio’s Subscription Series, broadening the work that Studio produced for its audiences.

Founding Artistic Director Joy Zinoman retired in 2010 after leading Studio for more than 30 years. Over the last nine seasons under the leadership of Artistic Director David Muse, Studio has built on its history of stunning productions of remarkable contemporary plays in intimate spaces, while expanding its commitment to developing new work with contemporary writers. In 2011, Muse inaugurated Studio Lab, which premiered plays at an affordable price, inviting living playwrights into the work of Studio Theatre. In 2012, Studio began to commission new plays, and in 2015, consolidated these project development activities into Studio R&D, an incubator for new plays and modes of creation that supports new writing from inception to first production.

Beginning with Lungs in the 2011-2012 Season, Studio has published all of the plays it has premiered, broadening the reach of these new works, and launching them onto the international stage. The work Studio has premiered has gone on to productions across the US, Canada, and Europe, playing Off Broadway, touring the UK, and entering the permanent repertoire of the Schaubüehne in Berlin.

In 2015, Muse introduced Studio X , a new umbrella for a wide variety of productions. Studio X is a consolidation and outgrowth of the type of work Studio produced in its Lab, Special Events, and 2ndStage programming streams, a home for projects that break new ground in their style or content. Its programming includes plays that benefit from particularly intimate or immersive stagings, presented work, and some of Studio’s world premiere projects—plays imbued with a spirit of inquiry, experiment, and discovery. At the same time, Studio shifted its Subscription Series to the Main Series, acknowledging the many ways patrons encounter our work—as subscribers, repeat attendees, or single-ticket buyers.

Under Muse’s leadership, Studio has augmented its accessibility initiatives and expanded its community partnerships with national and local non-profits whose missions connect with our productions to expand our audience, harness local expertise for our production teams, and give back to our community. Studio’s outreach, engagement, and educational programs reach 10,000 people every year.

Since the Theatre’s founding in 1978, the quality of Studio’s work has been recognized by sustained community support as well as with 394 nominations and 72 Helen Hayes Awards for excellence in professional theatre. Studio Theatre serves nearly 75,000 people annually and makes vital contributions to its neighborhood, city, and to the theatre field, nationally and internationally.

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Studio Theatre

1501 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20005

Box Office

Phone: 202.332.3300
Fax: 202.332.1187


Phone: 202.232.7267
Fax: 202.588.5262


Learn More

Explore Studio Theatre's 36-year Production History and archives.