Changing the face and consciousness of theatre and its audiences
Epic Theatre Ensemble is a company of artists and activists dedicated to creating theatrical events Off-Broadway and in the NYC Public Schools that inspire vital dialogue about social, ethical, and political issues.
Epic’s first official day of operations was September 11, 2001. Rather than be deterred by world events Epic’s co-founders were galvanized to work even harder to create a company that embraces theatre and theatre-artists as unique instruments for empowering diverse voices, fostering public dialogue, and inspiring social change.
THE WAY WE WORK
We are a company of bridge builders. Our artists wear many hats and by working Off-Broadway, in our residencies, and in our community programs, we establish a human connection between our stages, our schools, and our society. It is this dynamic of “that actor is my teacher,” “that writer is my mentor,” that we believe will spark a greater sense of inclusion in the theatre and help build more diverse and engaged audiences Off-Broadway and beyond.
We are a company of citizens. We empower voices and nurture citizenship by producing socially-minded plays and connecting these plays to ground-breaking, fully-integrated artist residencies in numerous NYC Public Schools. In response, our students create their own new plays and adaptations that we share with their classmates, teachers, administrators, families, neighbors, and our Off-Broadway audiences.
We are a company of theatre-makers. We originate, develop, nurture, and produce plays that make you sit up, think, laugh, shout, and make you want to take action.
We are a company of advocates. We champion the central role of the arts in a democracy by utilizing artistic engagement to foster dialogue on the complex relationships between individuals and their society.
ON OUR PROFESSIONAL STAGES
Epic Theatre Ensemble most recently produced the New York Premiere of Sarah Ruhl’s Passion Play. Previously we commissioned, developed, and premiered Nilaja Sun’s No Child . . . (prior to its commercial transfer and national tour), Palace of the End by Judith Thompson (Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Prize), A More Perfect Union by Vern Thiessen, and Beauty on the Vine by Zak Berkman (featuring Olivia Wilde). Other premiere productions include A Hard Heart by Howard Barker (featuring Kathleen Chalfant), Einstein’s Gift by Vern Thiessen (featuring Aasif Mandvi and Shawn Elliott), Hannah and Martin by Kate Fodor (featuring David Strathairn), and Habitat by Judith Thompson. We also have presented revivals of George Bernard Shaw’s Widowers’ Houses (adapted by Ron Russell and Godfrey L. Simmons, Jr.), Little Eyolf by Henrik Ibsen, and Time and the Conways by J.B. Priestley. These plays have received OBIE, OTTO, Lucille Lortel, Drama League, and Outer Critics Circle Awards.
IN OUR SCHOOLS
We believe that plays are ideally suited for helping students explore the connection between civic issues and their personal lives. Epic runs in-depth artist residencies in some of the most disenfranchised communities in NYC, including four full-school partnerships in three boroughs. Epic’s in-school programs at these high schools reach every student every year, with an emphasis on rigorous self-expression, authentic professional relationships, and college readiness. Students also attend Epic’s productions, receiving pre- and post-show classes and post-show discussions with the creative teams. Approximately 1,500 students will see this production of Macbeth and engage in surrounding programming at their schools. Shakespeare Remix is Epic’s signature after-school program, which won the 2009 national Coming Up Taller Award from the President’s Committee on the Arts & the Humanities.
ARTISTS' VALUE: A New Contract
It’s always been fundamental to our values that the same artists work in our classrooms as on our stages. This season we’re excited to be piloting a new contract with Actors’ Equity Association which guarantees that— and much more. We’ve forged an agreement that for the first time recognizes artist activity such as the work of our teaching artists within our Equity contract. It ensures a real living wage and at least a partial year of health insurance for the artists on the contract.
For Epic, this is not the easiest financial choice—but it’s the right values choice, and we believe in leading with our values rather than trying to catch up to them somewhere down the road.