The Ensemble Studio Theatre — commonly known as “EST”— was founded in 1968 by Curt Dempster on the belief that "extraordinary support yields extraordinary work". EST are an ever expanding group of artists committed to the discovery and nurturing of new voices and the continued support and growth of artists throughout their creative lives. The ensemble works together repeatedly over time to develop and produce new plays. With 589 ensemble artists concentrated mainly in New York City, EST has been under the artistic direction of William Carden since 2007.
EST fosters the creation of new works in part by hosting three groups of playwrights: Youngblood, EST’s collective of emerging professional playwrights under the age of 30; the EST Playwrights Unit, a diverse group of playwrights that comprises both EST members and non-members; and Going to the River, a group of women playwrights of color with distinct and powerful voices. EST also cultivates the development of plays during a three-week annual tenure as the resident theater company of the prestigious Southampton Writers Conference, in partnership with the SUNY Stony Brook’s MFA summer playwriting program.
The company received two 2013 Drama Desk Award nominations for Finks by Joe Gilford and one 2014 Drama Desk nomination for Bobby Moreno in Year Of The Rooster by Eric Dufault, who won the 2014 NY Outer Critics Circle John Gassner Award for a new playwright debut. Hand To God, originating at EST, was nominated for five Tony Awards for its Broadway run, and in 2015 EST received a special Drama Desk Award for its “unwavering commitment to producing new works” at the end of May.
EST has presented its new, short play festival, the Marathon of One-Act Plays, annually for over thirty years, and it is a public forum for new works by both well-established and up-and-coming writers. The Marathon has been credited for reviving the one-act play form, inspiring many similar festivals across the country. Past playwrights include Horton Foote, Tina Howe, David Mamet, Shirley Lauro, Jaquelyn Reingold, and José Rivera.
Since 1968, EST has produced over 6,000 new works and has helped launch the careers of many recognized playwrights, actors and directors. It produces approximately 150 projects each year, ranging from fully produced mainstage productions to a variety of in-progress workshops and readings.
EST has a membership of over 500 theatre artists, including playwrights, directors, actors, designers and managers.
Youngblood is Ensemble Studio Theatre’s OBIE-winning collective of emerging professional playwrights under the age of 30. Founded in 1993, Youngblood serves as a creative home for the next generation of theater artists. Youngblood provides artistic guidance, peer support, regular feedback and a fertile production environment which allows EST member playwrights to hone their skills and explore their craft. The group also provides exposure to the public and the press, professional outreach to the industry, and opportunities for production and publication.
Plays by current and former Youngblood playwrights have been performed at The Royal Court Theatre, Lincoln Center, Playwrights Horizons, Second Stage, Actors Theatre of Louisville, the Mark Taper Forum, the Vineyard Theater, the Atlantic Theater Company and Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, including award winners such as Annie Baker's The Aliens and Amy Herzog's 4000 Miles, and have been adapted by film and television companies, including alumni Lucy Alibar's Juicy and Delicious which was adapted into the Cannes Caméra d'Or-winning film Beasts of The Southern Wild.
Youngblood is currently run by Co-Artistic Directors Graeme Gillis and RJ Tolan.
The Ensemble Studio Theatre/The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Science & Technology Project is an initiative designed to stimulate artists to create credible and compelling work exploring the worlds of science and technology and to challenge the existing stereotypes of scientists and engineers in the popular imagination. The partnership between the Ensemble Studio Theatre and The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is the creative engine behind over 200 commissioned new American plays that challenge and broaden the public’s understanding of science and technology and their impact in our lives.
Beyond New York, the program now has a nationwide reach. It supports development and production of new plays in over 60 theatres across the country through a combination of seed grants and production incentives. These initiatives provide an extended life for EST/Sloan plays in subsequent regional productions, and the seed grants provide a broader base of artistic opportunity for communities outside of New York, allowing the program to cast a wider net for new work. Over the last 18 years, the EST/Sloan Project's reputation has been enhanced by the critically acclaimed productions presented on the theatre’s Mainstage every season under the banner of the EST/Sloan Project, including Anna Ziegler's Photograph 51, which later went on to complete a successful run on London's West End starring Nicole Kidman, as well as productions like Isaac’s Eye by Lucas Hnath, End Days and Informed Consent by Deb Laufer, Lenin’s Embalmers by Vern Thiessen, and Relativity by Cassandra Medley.