Joy Zinoman founded Studio Theatre in 1978 in a shared space two blocks from the current theatre complex. Three years earlier, she had established an acting conservatory, now known as the Studio Theatre Acting Conservatory, which celebrates its fortieth anniversary in 2015.
Joined by designer Russell Metheny and arts advocate Virginia Crawford, Founding Artistic Director Zinoman moved the Theatre into a permanent space on 14th street and began presenting bold, provocative theater, producing seasons of innovative plays. Attracting theatergoers to DC’s Logan Circle neighborhood in ever-increasing numbers, Studio helped lead the revitalization of the 14th Street corridor into what is today one of Washington’s most vibrant neighborhoods.
Studio's early seasons were eclectic and exuberant celebrations of style, ranging from Peking Opera and Greek Tragedy to classic realism and twentieth-century naturalism. By the early eighties, Studio produced plays that focused on powerful acting and emphasized the intimate relationship between actor and audience. As the Theater grew and developed, its seasons focused on contemporary playwriting in a variety of styles.
In the late 1980s, Studio added a Special Events series, which brings unique performances and one-of-a-kind events to DC, and created 2ndStage to encourage the development of actors and directors. This programming complemented Studio’s Subscription Series, broadening the work that Studio produced for its audiences. Studio Theatre also developed a strong artistic and managerial infrastructure and became one of Washington’s best-known theatres.
By the 1990s, Studio Theatre’s seasons were dominated by the work of important contemporary writers like August Wilson, Paula Vogel, Tom Stoppard, and Caryl Churchill, complemented by productions of modern classics by writers like Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter, and Anton Chekhov.
Studio Theatre has been committed to the Logan Circle neighborhood for more than 35 years. Beginning in a shared space at 1443 Rhode Island Avenue NW, Studio moved to a 100-seat theatre it built in a former hot dog cart warehouse in 1980. In 1987, Studio leased space across the street, building a 200-seat theatre, classrooms for the Acting Conservatory, and a scenery construction shop. Studio then bought this building and unveiled an expanded two-theatre facility in 1997 with more classrooms and an added costume shop. By the late 1990s, new stores, apartments, and restored townhouses were springing up in this previously desolate area. In 2004, Studio completed the purchase and renovation of the two adjacent buildings on 14th Street NW, creating its current landmark four-theatre performance and training complex that anchors the now-thriving 14th Street Arts District and Logan Circle.
Founding Artistic Director Joy Zinoman retired in 2010 after leading Studio for more than 30 years. Under the leadership of new Artistic Director David Muse, Studio is building on its history of offering stunning performances of remarkable contemporary plays in intimate spaces, while expanding its commitment to developing new work with contemporary writers and starting a long-term process to establish Studio Theatre as a home for international work in DC. Muse’s leadership has returned familiar writers, designers, and actors to its stages, while introducing new artists whose work builds on the core strengths of Studio’s work. His seasons have drawn continued acclaim for adventurous programming, sophisticated design, and stunning performance.
In 2011, Muse inaugurated a fourth programming stream at Studio: Studio Lab, which presents stripped-down productions of world premiere plays, giving playwrights in residence the ability to work in an environment of experimentation, collaboration, and discovery. In 2012, Muse began a commissioning program, commissioning new and established writers from the US and beyond. Studio produced its first play from this program in 2014, The Wolfe Twins by Rachel Bonds.
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. Studio X encompasses presented work, plays that benefit from particularly intimate or immersive stagings, and some of Studio’s world premiere projects.
Muse also bolstered Studio’s international producing and presenting, offering the US premieres of work from the UK, Germany, and Australia in his first four seasons. Muse has also hosted Studio’s first international touring productions, bringing Special Events by companies from Ireland, England, and Norway.
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 and educational programs reach 12,000 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 329 nominations and 63 Helen Hayes Awards for excellence in professional theatre. Since 1975, the Studio Theatre Acting Conservatory has trained more than 10,000 students, many of whom have gone on to acclaimed careers across the country. Studio Theatre serves more than 75,000 people annually and makes vital contributions to its neighborhood, city, and to the theatre field, nationally and internationally.