James C. Nicola, whose tenure as artistic director of Off Broadway’s New York Theatre Workshop included the development of such prominent stage works as Rent, Once, Hadestown, What the Constitution Means to Me, Slave Play and David Bowie’s Lazarus, will leave the post next year, the company announced today.
“In July of 2022, I will reach the age of 72,” Nicola said in a statement. “In my mind, that has always been the moment to interrupt whatever patterns there might be in my life, and to leap off a cliff into reinvention. So that is my plan.”
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Nicola will depart NYTW on June 30, 2022. He has been the artistic director since 1988.
Under his stewardship, NYTW has cemented a reputation as an important force in the production and development of new theater work, many of which have gone on to Broadway runs. A partial list of important works developed at the NYTW includes Jonathan Larson’s Rent, Tony Kushner’s Slavs! and Homebody/Kabul, Doug Wright’s Quills, Claudia Shear’s Blown Sideways Through Life, Paul Rudnick’s The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, Rick Elice’s Peter and the Starcatcher, Glen Hansard, Markéta Irglová and Enda Walsh’s Once, Bowie and Enda Walsh’s Lazarus, Anaïs Mitchell’s Hadestown, Heidi Schreck’s What the Constitution Means to Me and Jeremy O. Harris’s Slave Play.
Kelly Fowler Hunter, President of NYTW’s Board of Trustees, called Nicola “a true visionary” and noted his “unique artistry” in “assembling a brilliant community of talents, providing them with the space and resources to expand the boundaries of the theatrical form, and connecting them with audiences eager to hear their voices and engage in meaningful conversations about our shared human experience.”
“His tireless efforts to ensure that artists are afforded the freedom to fail have led to extraordinary work, and his impact is felt far beyond the Workshop’s home on East 4th Street,” Hunter said.
Among the other artists championed by Nicola over the years are Caryl Churchill, Ivo van Hove, Mfoniso Udofia, Rachel Chavkin, Ayad Akhtar, Amy Herzog, Lileana Blain-Cruz, Anne Kaufman, Celine Song, Lucas Hnath, Elevator Repair Service. NYTW productions have gone on to win 25 Tony Awards and, with Rent, a Pulitzer Prize. Schreck’s What the Constitution… was a 2019 Pulitzer finalist.
“New York Theatre Workshop has been the greatest gift in my entire life and my proudest accomplishment,” said Nicola. “I have been honored to be a steward of this rambunctious, restless community for more than three decades – almost half my life – and I am deeply grateful to those who have given me this sustaining blessing for as long as they have.”
In addition to specific productions, Nicola has initiated an extensive series of initiatives and workshop opportunities, including the the 2050 Artistic Fellowship.
Prior to NYTW, Nicola spent seven years at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., first as a National Endowment for the Arts Directing Fellow and later as a Producing Associate, where he directed productions including Marsha Norman’s ‘night Mother, Christopher Durang’s The Marriage of Bette and Boo and Emily Mann’s Still Life.
“My departure will be over a year from now,,” Nicola said, “as I intend to see NYTW back to welcoming audiences into our theater and provide the theatre ample time to plan for a smooth transition.”
NYTW will be conducting a search for Nicola’s replacement over the coming months.
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