In the early 1980s, Jeffrey Horowitz looked up a then-unknown Julie Taymor in the phone book. He was building up his young theatre company, Theatre for a New Audience, and was looking for collaborators. Taymor is now among a long list of renowned artists—including American Theater Hall of Famer Sir Peter Hall, Tony winner Bartlett Sher, Drama League Fellow Arin Arbus, Tony winner Sir Peter Brook, and Tony and Oscar winner Mark Rylance—who call TFANA an artistic home.
Horowitz founded TFANA with the mission to develop and vitalize the performance and study of Shakespeare and classic drama. By next season, the organization’s 40th, TFANA will have produced 33 of the 38 plays that make up the Shakespeare canon. “We’re committed to finishing the canon, but an ongoing challenge is how to attract the next generation of audiences to Shakespeare—otherwise who are we completing the canon for?” says Horowitz.
Part of that exploration means producing contemporary work that is in conversation with the classic texts. Plays—like those of Edward Bond and Adrienne Kennedy— that grapple with universal ideas about life, death, love, and war, and are just as epic in scope. Like Shakespeare, language is also at the heart of the chosen texts. “[It comes from a] desire to do theatre that is telling central stories about a culture—in extraordinary language and with extraordinary ideas attached,” says Horowitz.
The company’s mission is further promoted through TFANA’s ongoing partnerships with other Shakespeare Theatres, both here and abroad. In 2001, TFANA was the first American theatre company invited to perform the Bard’s work at the Royal Shakespeare Company in the U.K.—a great honor.
Local partnerships with other Off-Broadway theatre companies are also vital to the life of TFANA. After presenting Soho Rep.’s production of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ widely acclaimed An Octoroon in 2015, TFANA will present an encore run of Soho Rep.’s Fairview this summer. Transferring Jackie Sibblies Drury’s Pulitzer Prize–winning work to TFANA’s Brooklyn home, Polonsky Shakespeare Center, means considerably more people will have the opportunity to experience the landmark new play in a fresh setting. The space features a uniquely flexible stage that is a fusion of an Elizabethan courtyard theatre and a modern black box. “[It’s] one of the world’s finest intimate homes for producing Shakespeare alongside other major authors,” says Horowitz.
With a robust education program, a commitment to diversity, and an ever-evolving spirit of adventure, TFANA is ready to usher in the next 40 years.