Theater for the New City, founded in 1971 and known familiarly as "TNC", is one of New York City's leading Off-Off-Broadway theaters, known for radical political plays and community commitment. Productions at TNC have won 43 Obie Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. TNC currently exists as a 4-theater complex in a 30,000-square-foot (2,800 m2) space located at 155 1st Avenue, in Manhattan's East Village.
Through its Resident Theater Program, TNC produces 20-30 new American plays per year, providing a forum for both new and mid-career writers to experiment with their work and develop as artists. For newer writers, TNC offers an Emerging Theater Program that commissions and produces 10 plays by fledgling writers each year. The newest division of the Resident Theater Program, New City, New Blood, is a reading series for worthy plays in earlier stages of development. Scratch Night at TNC (works-in-progress) is a new program that invites artists to try out their ideas in front of an audience at any stage of development.
The Annual Summer Street Theater Tour is a free operetta-for-the-streets that tours 13 locations in all 5 boroughs of New York City. Begun in the early 1970s and embodying the grassroots ideals of that decade, Street Theater aims to raise social awareness in the communities it performs in, creating civic dialogue that inspires a better understanding of the World beyond the communities' geographic boundaries. Written and Directed by Crystal Field, TNC's Street Theater features a company of 50 and performs on Weekends in Parks, Playgrounds, Closed-off streets and the like.
The Presenting Theater Program is TNC’s vehicle to providing a showcase for performing groups without a permanent base. Each winter, the Presenting Program hosts Bread & Puppet Theater, the oldest continuing experimental theater company in America and the Thunderbird American Indian Dance Concert and pow-wow, which offers ritual and social dances from 17 tribes throughout the United States.
TNC’s Arts in Education program was developed specifically to foster communication and self-esteem in at-risk and limited English proficient students. It has served P.S. 20, JHS 64, the Regents Family Shelter and the Catherine Street Shelter, and currently consists of a free After School Theater Workshop for low-income Lower East Side children.
The Community Festival Program consists of two free annual events, the Village Halloween Costume Ball and the Lower East Side Festival of the Arts. The Halloween Ball showcases over 450 artists and performers at a multi-level theatrical event, with performances that spill out onto the street.TNC’s Art Gallery grew out of the annual art exhibit for the Lower East Side Festival of the Arts, and is now a year-round program of curated shows.
TNC’s permanent home is the former First Avenue Retail Market created in 1938 by Robert Moses to take pushcart peddlers off the streets. TNC purchased the building in 1986, but to its later regret, was not able to Purchase the air rights above the one-story facility. After moving into the space in September 1986. it created two interim theaters to continue production while raising the $2 million needed for renovation funds. The building currently consists of four theaters:
The Seward and Joyce Johnson Theater was the first theater to finish renovation in 1991. Funding for the theater was provided by sculptor John Seward Johnson II of the Johnson and Johnson family, and his wife Joyce. Johnson designed and created the silver archway into the theater.
One of the largest theaters Off-Off-Broadway, and the only space that can be used as a 99-seat Off-Off-Broadway theater or be transformed into a 240-seat Off-Broadway theater, the Johnson Theater opened in 1991 with Grandchild of Kings by Hal Prince. The theater is used for large-scale productions, including the annual Bread & Puppet nativity during the holiday season and an annual pow-wow coordinated by the Thunderbird American Indian Dancers.
The Cino Theater is named after Joe Cino and is the third space in TNC's history to bear Cino’s name. A long and shallow theater with 74 seats, the Cino Theater is TNC's most modifiable space, and has been at times arranged as a thrust stage and an arena stage.
The Cabaret Theater was renovated along with TNC's basement in 1999 and at 65 seats is TNC's smallest theater. An ersatz-Black Box type space, one-person plays and late-night cabarets often use this space, which as The Womb Room during the Annual Halloween Ball, showcases work by new performance artists and musicians.
The Community Space Theater was the last theater to be renovated in 2001. It has 91 seats and a sprung wood dance floor. Initially, this space consisted of risers and a stage concealed from the lobby by a heavy black curtain. During the renovation of 2001, an outer wall was added, and a formal dressing room was created as well.