Ars Nova (theater)
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|Address||511 West 54th Street|
New York City
|Designation||New York City Landmark|
Ars Nova is an Off-Broadway, non-profit theater in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. Ars Nova develops and produces theater, comedy, and music created by artists in the early stages of their professional careers. Their unique development programs are designed to support outside-the-box thinking and encourage innovative, genre-bending work. By providing a safe environment where risk-taking and collaboration are paramount, Ars Nova gives voice to a new generation of artists and audiences, pushing the boundaries of live entertainment by nurturing creative ideas into smart, surprising new work. Ars Nova provides an artistic home for emerging talent by cultivating a hive of creative activity, both on stage—through developmental programs and performances—and off—through the support and cultivation of a thriving artist community.
- 1 Notable alumni
- 2 History
- 3 World Premiere Productions
- 4 Programs and series
- 5 Awards and honors
- 6 Selected alumni
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Since Ars Nova's founding, they’ve launched the careers of luminaries like Lin-Manuel Miranda (Pulitzer-winning playwright/composer of Hamilton & In The Heights), Liz Meriwether (Emmy-nominated creator of television’s New Girl), Beau Willimon (Emmy-winning creator of Netflix’s House of Cards), Amy Herzog (OBIE Award-winning playwright of 4000 Miles), Dave Malloy (Richard Rogers Award for Musical Theatre winner for Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812), Annie Baker (Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of The Flick & Circle Mirror Transformation), Thomas Kail (Director of In The Heights and Hamilton), Alex Timbers (two-time tony nominated writer and director, recently directed Rocky, and Peter and the Starcatcher), Billy Eichner (creator of Funny or Die's Billy on the Street), Bridget Everett (comedian and cabaret performer), and Isaac Oliver (performer in "Showgasm"), among others.
Ars Nova was founded by Jon and Jenny Steingart in 2002 in memory of Gabe Wiener to provide a welcome home for young artists and audiences alike. In 2005 Ars Nova became a 501(c)(3) Not-For-Profit Organization. In addition to Ars Nova’s vast array of development programs for emerging artists, they’re also committed to commissioning new work and producing world premieres.
World Premiere Productions
Each year, Ars Nova commissions and hosts two large-scale productions, often drawing from work originally shown in their development programs. These productions vary and flux in genre, the only requirement being that the works be original and innovative.
Past World Premiere Productions
2017 included the world premiere co-production of Sundown, Yellow Moon, with WP Theatre. Sundown, Yellow Moon featured songs by the indie duo the Bengsons and starred Lilli Cooper and Eboni Booth, as twins who return home to find their father in crisis. The play was written by Rachel Bonds, and directed by Anne Kauffman. Sundown, Yellow Moon was a New York Times Critic pick, and New Yorker recommended.  
Up next in 2017 includes KPOP a world premiere immersive musical co-produced with Woodshed Collective and Ma-Yi Theater Company. KPOP gives the audience a first-hand opportunity to witness the cultivation and launch of Korean pop stars in New York City. 
2016 included the world premiere production of Underground Rail Road Game, created by Jennifer Kidwell and Scott R. Sheppard with Lighting Rod Special, directed by Taibi Magar. Underground Rail Road Game won a 2017 Obie for Best New American Theatre Work for Jennifer Kidwell and Scott R. Sheppard (tied with J.T. Rogers for Oslo at LCT). Underground Railroad Game will commence an international tour in spring of 2017. 
2015 included the world premiere production of Bess Wohl's intrepid, almost entirely silent play Small Mouth Sounds. Directed by Rachel Chavkin, the show garnered rave reviews and completely sold out its extended run.
Small Mouth Sounds was followed by the co-production of FUTURITY (music and lyrics by Cesar Alvarez) with Soho Rep, a beloved downtown New York theater with an eye for innovative contemporary work. The show was produced at The Connelly Theater in the East Village and was directed by Sarah Benson. The New York Times described it as "the most lovely and inventive music you can hear on a New York stage right now." American Theater dubbed the production a "triumphant realization of a new-model American musical."  The Fall production also completely sold out its extended run.
Ars Nova 2014 world premiere productions included Vinny DePonto's Charlatan and Jacuzzi by The Debate Society. Their 2014 season also included By The Water, a co-production with Manhattan Theatre Club.
Other past Ars Nova productions include Game Play,Eager to Lose,Core Values, The Netflix Plays,Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, The Urban Dictionary Plays,The Lapsburgh Layover, Be a Good LIttle Widow, The Wii Plays, Now Circa Then, Bloodsong of Love, Missed Connections NYC, Sax & Dixon: We Thee Wed, Mel & El: Show & Tell, Two Girls for Five Bucks and the Ten Dollar Heartbreakers, Playlist, Jollyship the Whiz-Bang, Boom, From up Here, Dixie's Tupperware Party, At Least It's Pink, 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother, Holy Cross Sucks!, Freestyle Love Supreme and The Wau Wau Sisters. 
After Dave Malloy first performed on the Ars Nova stage in 2010, Artistic Director Jason Eagan, was blown away by his originality, range, and rigor, which led to a curiosity of what else was swirling around his head. Malloy became Ar Nova's 2012 Composer in Residence, giving Malloy access to all of Ars Nova's resources for one year- time, space, money, writing retreats, and a commission to create a new music-driven work to be produced at Ars Nova. When Dave proposed a musical based on Tolstoy's War and Peace Jason knew it was beyond Ars Nova's typical resources, but the project was too good to pass up. Jason knew that Ars Nova could push Dave farther than he had ever been before, and Dave could push Ars Nova farther than they had been before. October 2011 commenced the first weeklong workshop used to further develop the characters, story, music, and explore the idea of mixing a concert party and theater into one event. As the workshop ended Jason knew that this production would take more resources than they typically put into each production, and would take Ars Nova's entire production budget, a budget usually reserved for two productions, to accomplish this lofty goal. In April 2012, the production went through its second workshop to explore how the piece would live on its feet in the space.At the conclusion of the second workshop designer, Mimi Lien was brought on and made the decision to elevate the performers on runways that would swirl around the audience, allowing the performers to move through the space in full view. August 27, 2012, marked the date for the first rehearsal at Ars Nova. It was a month of creatively fueled blood, sweat and tears by a tremendous group of artists giving their all. The show officially opened at Ars Nova on October 16, 2012, and by the end of that week, the entire run was sold out. The extension sold out within one hour. 
Programs and series
In addition to its World Premiere theatrical productions, the theater produces a number of series, festivals and programs.
ANT Fest is a four-week annual festival designed to showcase the next generation of theater artists, musicians and comedians. The festival works exclusively with emerging artists, giving them the opportunity to showcase their work in front of a New York audience. Each show is given only one performance in order to allow for greater risk taking and the development of as many new artists as possible over the 30 night period. In its premiere year (2008), the All New Talent (ANT) Festival ran from October 16 through November 24 and presented the work of 175 new artists.
In 2012, the festival was moved from fall to summer. ANT Fest is a prime destination for an eclectic mix of brand new shows and has proven to be an important first step in the lifecycle and development of new theatrical work. Through its open submission process, the festival offers a wide range of early career artists a point of entry onto the Ars Nova stage as well as into the greater New York City arts community. Vibrant, new musicians and composers, comedy artists, playwrights, puppeteers, variety acts and performers of all kinds are encouraged to submit!
The Play Group is a vibrant and eclectic group of emerging playwrights that gather twice a month at Ars Nova to share new work and get feedback. The group offers members the chance to develop their plays with peer support, form collaborative relationships and build a strong sense of community within Ars Nova. In addition, members receive dramaturgical support and artistic matchmaking advice from the Ars Nova artistic staff and development opportunities through public readings and workshops.
2016 Play Group Members: Kevin Armento, Sam Chanse, Milo Cramer, Michael Yates Crowley, Sarah DeLappe, Sarah Einspanier, Emma Goidel, Trish Harnetiaux, Tony Menses, Antoinette Nwandu, Erika Sheffer, Kate Tarker & James Tyler
Play Group Alumni: Joshua Allen, Sofia Alvarez, Annie Baker, Rachel Bonds, Mike Batistick, Chad Beckim, Liza Birkenmeier, Bekah Brunstetter, Sarah Burgess, Evan Cabnet, Jenny Connell, Kara Lee Corthron, Dylan Dawson, Kristoffer Diaz, Zayd Dohrn, Matthew-Lee Erlbach, Ron Fitzgerald, Liz Flahive, Sam Forman, Etan Frankel, Sarah Gancher, Nick Gandiello, Tasha Gordon-Solmon, Dipika Guha, Amy Herzog, Suzanne Heathcote, Samuel D. Hunter, Kyle Jarrow, Jake Jeppson, Nick Jones, Stephen Karam, Meghan Kennedy, Jon Kern, Josh Koenigsberg, Justin Kuritzkes, Steven Levenson, Barry Levey, Matthew Lopez, Liz Meriwether, Carly Mensch, Molly Smith Metzler, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Michael Mitnick, Greg Moss, Janine Nabers, Brian Otaño, Jonathan Payne, Daniel Pearle, Max Posner, Erica Saleh, Rachel Shukert, Mat Smart, Celine Song, Aurin Squire, Adam Szymkowicz, Kim Rosenstock, Sharyn Rothstein, Joe Tracz, Samuel Brett Williams, A. Zell Williams, Beau Willimon, Bess Wohl.
The Out Loud series is a play-reading program dedicated to supporting full-length new work from the second-year Play Group playwrights. Participating playwrights are granted a public reading forum, where their plays are presented with the help of leading directors and actors. Following the readings, the work is offered feedback and support from the Ars Nova artistic staff.
The Uncharted series is a forum to workshop and develop new musicals, connecting rising composers and writers to create original works. In 2013, the program expanded, modeling after the Play Group series. In this new development, Uncharted members take part in a two-year residency, meeting on a monthly basis to present their work and receive peer support and feedback. First year residencies culminate in public concerts offering the writers the chance to debut their new material in front of a live audience. During the second year of their residencies, the writers participate in weeklong workshops of their musicals with top-notch directors and performers, culminating in Out Loud readings.
2016 Uncharted members: Will Aronson & Sarah Hammond, Heather Christian & Rachel Chavkin, Greta Gertler Gold & Akin Salawu, Rebekah Greer Melocik, Jacob Yandura, & Victor Lesniewski, Michael McQuilken & Martyna Majok and Max Vernon & Jason Kim.
Uncharted alumni: Cesar Alvarez, Charles Vincent Burwell & James D. Sasser, Andrew Butler & Andrew Farmer, Ella Rose Chary & Brandon James Gwinn, Cory Finley & Jeremy Lloyd, Anna K. Jacobs & Michael R. Jackson, Landon Marcus & Chas LiBretto and Julia Meinwald & Gordon Leary, Joe Iconis, Justin Levine, Daniel Zaitchik, Andrew Lippa, Chester Gregory, Debra Barsha, Gavin Creel, Scott Mebus, Bob Stillman, David Clement, Daniel Cartier, GrooveLily, Johnny Hancock, Janice Lowe, Michael Longoria, Ben Birney, Rob Seitelman, Alan Zachary, Michael Wiener, Chris Miller, Nathan Tysen, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul, Pale Horse and Rider, Lori Michaels, The Davenports and Nick Blaemire.
Showgasm is a rowdy monthly variety show, designed to showcase fresh music, comedy, theater, burlesque, vaudeville and other independent acts. Hosted by John Early (Broad City, High Maintenance and Wet, Hot, American Summer) and House DJ Hamm Samwich, it showcases short works (five minutes or less) by young artists who have not yet developed a full-length show, as well providing a venue for veteran Ars Nova artists to showcase new material.
Makers Lab provides a dynamic group of generative theater artists with individually tailored residencies designed to holistically support their careers and develop their new works. Working in a range of category-defying forms and disciplines, these artists, collaborators, and companies use Ars Nova as a home base for twelve-month creative residencies. Through a wide range of supports, makers Lab residents are encouraged to think big, take risks and push their creative potential as they make work at Ars Nova. 
2016-17 Makers Lab artists include: Kevin Armento & Jaki Bradley, hanuralee, Emily Oliveira, Sammy Miller & the Congregation.
The Writer's Room
In 2012, the Manhattan Theatre Club launched The Studio at Stage II, a 150-seat Off-Broadway theater, with the intention of producing new works at the New York City Center. As a part of this program, the Manhattan Theatre Club teamed up with Ars Nova to create the Writer's Room. Together, the two theater groups jointly select four playwrights per year to receive Writer’s Room Commissions. The commissioned writers come together to participate in a program designed to encourage artistic risk taking and provide developmental support, ultimately aiming to have their work put up at MTC's Studio at Stage II.
Past artists have included: Adam Bock & Justin Levine, Rachel Bonds, Thomas Bradshaw, Frances, Ya-Chu Cowhig, Sibblies Drury, Samuel D. Hunter, PigPen Theatre Co. and Sharyn Rothstein.
The Artist in Residence program provides emerging directors, designers, composers, and playwrights with an artistic home for one year. Each resident has access to the Ars Nova staff and resources, in return for providing expertise and assistance with artistic planning and production. Residents are also often commissioned to develop new work for the Ars Nova stage. Ars Nova's 2014 Director-in-Residence is Andrew Neisler.
Past artists-in-residence include John Early, Isaac Oliver, The Debate Society, Portia Krieger, Shaina Taub, The Berserker Residents, Dave Malloy, Kim Rosenstock, Stephen Brackett, Amy Herzog, Steven Levenson, Bekah Brunstetter, Kerry Whigham, Geo Wyeth, Joe Iconis, Carly Mensch and Shira Milikowsky.
In Project Residencies, new projects are invited into residency at Ars Nova for a focused period of work and exploration culminating in a series of workshop performances. By providing space and resources for experimentation, artistic and production support, and the opportunity to refine new pieces in front of an audience, Ars Nova enables artists to develop new work on their feet.
Past Project Residencies include: I Heard Sex Noises created and performed by Andrew Farmer, Claire Rothrock & Ryann Weir, directed by Annie Tippe; Those Lost Boys created & performed by Frankie J. Alvarez, Nick Choksi, Damon Daunno, Gabriel Ebert, Brendan Spieth & Elvy Yost, Wing-Man created by Mark Gindick, directed by West Hyler; Isaac Oliver's Lonely Christmas created by Isaac Oliver, directed by Jason Eagan; Charlatan created by Vinny DePonto, directed by Andrew Neisler; Travis created by Zackary Grady, directed by Peter James Cook; The Other Baldwins in Haute Mess created by The Other Baldwins, directed by Peter James Cook; Eager to Lose created by Matthew-Lee Erlbach, Wes Grantom, Portia Krieger & Tansy, directed by Wes Grantom & Portia Krieger; Pepper 'N Sam: Whatever Possessed Them? created by Salty Brine & Justin Levine.
Each summer, the theater funds a group of artists to attend a week-long retreat outside of New York City. The retreat is divided into focused work sessions, group discussions and social activities.
Awards and honors
Ars Nova has been awarded the American Theatre Wing's National Theatre Company Grant twice, in 2014 and in 2017. The theater was honored with a 2015 Ross Wetzsteon Obie Award and a 2015 Special Citation from the New York Drama Critics’ Circle for their sustained quality and commitment to the development and production of new work.
Alumni artists from our development programs have gone on to become internationally produced playwrights, Academy Award nominees, MacArthur Genius Grant recipients and Emmy, Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winners. They’ve won Whiting Awards, Drama Desk Awards, OBIE Awards, Paula Vogel Playwriting Awards, New York Times Outstanding Playwright Awards, and Helen Merrill Awards, Lily Awards, and Lucille Lortel Awards.
In 2008, the Village Voice awarded Ars Nova its "Best Theater Concessions" honor, commenting that "Ars Nova satisfies those few disconsolate [theater concession consumers] among us: In addition to reasonably priced cocktails, it features snacks thematically linked with the play on offer."
Ars Nova's commissioned production of Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 won several awards and nominations, including the Richard Rodgers Award for Musical Theater, a Special Citation from the OBIE awards, and five Drama Desk nominations.
- Alex Timbers
- Amber Gray
- Amy Herzog
- Annie Baker
- Samuel D. Hunter
- Beau Willimon
- Bess Wohl
- Billy Eichner
- Bridget Everett
- Carly Mensch
- César Chavez
- Dave Malloy
- Jack McBrayer
- Jesse Eisenberg
- Jesse Tyler Ferguson
- Joe Iconis
- John Gallagher Jr.
- Lin-Manuel Miranda
- Liz Flahive
- Liz Meriwether
- Michael Patrick King
- Phillipa Soo
- Rachel Chavkin
- Reggie Watts
- Robin Lord Taylor
- Semi Precious Weapons
- Stephen Karam
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