Theater J is a nationally-renowned, professional theater that celebrates, explores, and struggles with the complexities and nuances of both the Jewish experience and the universal human condition. Our work illuminates and examines: ethical questions of our time, inter-cultural experiences that parallel our own, and the changing landscape of Jewish identities. As the nation’s largest and most prominent Jewish theater, we aim to preserve and expand a rich Jewish theatrical tradition and to create community and commonality through theater-going experiences.
Founded in 1990 as a program of the Edlavitch DC Jewish Community Center (EDCJCC), Theater J has become “the nation’s most prominent Jewish theater” (American Theatre Magazine). Theater J began with a series of staged readings and in 1991 produced its first plays, under the leadership of founding Artist Director Martin Blank. Theater J’s initial home was a 40-seat black box theater at 1836 Jefferson Place, NW, the original home of the EDCJCC. In 1993, Artistic Director Randye Hoeflich took the helm, producing the first full season and preparing the theater to move to a larger, permanent home.
In 1997, the EDCJCC moved into its current space, the Irwin P. Edlavitch Building, at 1529 Sixteenth Street, NW, which housed a newly built 238-seat proscenium theater, named for Aaron and Cecile Goldman. Ari Roth was brought on as Artistic Director after the move, growing the theater during his eighteen-year tenure from an annual budget of under $100,000 to a budget of well over a million and a half dollars. During that time, Theater J earned an international reputation as the nation’s premier Jewish theater. In 2005, The New York Times recognized the quality of Theater J’s new play development programs, hailing it as “the premiere theater for premieres.” Theater J also became known for producing work from and about Israel and the Middle East, with the signature Voices from a Changing Middle East Festival.
Artistic Director Adam Immerwahr joined the theater in 2015. Under his leadership, Theater J strives to present a wide variety of recognizable, under-explored, and brand new works from the Jewish theatrical cannon, as well as non-Jewish works that investigate diverse stories about immigrants, language, assimilation, genocide, religion, otherness and other topics that resonate with a diverse set of communities. The 2016-2017 season was the first season under Immerwahr’s programming. 2017 is the inaugural year of the Yiddish Theater Lab, which aims to revitalize the great works of Yiddish theater and make them relevant to modern audiences.
Theater J draws audiences from all eight wards of the District, as well as Maryland and Virginia, and reflects the diverse residents of the metropolitan DC region including both Jewish and non-Jewish professionals, African-Americans, Arab-Americans, Asians, Hispanics, the LGBTQ community, students, and senior citizens. Theater J is committed to creating partnerships that deepen our connections to our community. Through our Passports Education and Access Program , we provide over 400 free tickets to senior citizens, clients of homeless and women’s shelters, and students throughout DC every season, reaching populations that are critically underserved by the arts.
Theater J has been honored with the DC Mayor’s Arts Award for Excellence in an Artistic Discipline, over 70 Helen Hayes nominations and nine Helen Hayes Awards. Notable productions include: Dan O’Brien’s The Body of an American, winner of the 2014 Horton Foote Prize for Outstanding New American Play; the world-premiere of Caleen Sinnette Jennings’ Queens Girl in the World; and Tony Kushner’s The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures.
Our building sits on the traditional homeland of the Nacotchtank (Anacostan), farmers and traders who lived along the banks of the Anacostia River. Beginning in 1608, European settlers decimated the Nacotchtank with disease, warfare, and forced removal. By the 1700s, the survivors fled to join other tribes to the north, south, and west, including the Piscataway Peoples, who continue to steward these lands from generation to generation. We know this acknowledgement is only a small step towards justice, and we ask that all of us learn about the past and present, and invest in the future of our country’s Indigenous communities wherever we are.