About Theater J 

History of Theater J

Theater J was founded in 1990 by Martin Blank as the professional theater of the DCJCC, which was incorporated as a non-profit in 1985.  During its first years as a 50-seat theater located in the DCJCC's rented townhouse, Theater J was committed to producing innovative Jewish theater. Now a 236-seat (incl. 6 handicap) Small Professional Theater (Equity, Tier 2) in the renovated historic JCC building at 16th and Q Streets, NW, Theater J presents four mainstage productions, staged readings and one-person performance pieces each year.

The DCJCC is dedicated to the highest level of Jewish arts and culture.  Theater J, in collaboration with the other components of the DCJCC's Center for the Arts, is committed to reclaiming a distinctive urban voice and social vision that are part of the Jewish cultural legacy, while addressing the moral questions and shared concerns of the DC community. The theater attracted over 7,000 patrons this past year drawing a diverse audiences from all parts of the Greater Washington Metropolitan Area. Audiences are comprised of Jews, African Americans, Hispanics, gays and lesbians, families with children, singles, seniors, and the District’s young artistic community drawn to the theater’s innovative productions.

Theater J offers free shows to DC public schools and Jewish high schools as well as a subsidized ticket program for senior citizens and “pay-what-you-can” previews.  Theater J partners with local groups such as students from Howard University, Seeds of Peace, Operation Understanding and City at Peace that not only attend performances but also participate in post-show discussions and panels.

In 1998, the DCJCC appointed Ari Roth as Artistic Director to bring a new vision and direction to Theater J. Under Roth’s guidance, the theater has increased its subscriber base dramaticaly, and attracted broader audiences. Productions have garnered highly favorable critical reviews. The Washington Times declares that “Theater J’s rise is spurred by a sense of mission that all but defines the world of the specialized theater.”  Past productions have included “Danger: Memory!” (three one-act plays by Arthur Miller), American-Moscow Fusion: A Festival with Neil Simon’s “The Good Doctor,” “Red Diaper Baby” (written and performed by Josh Kornbluth) and “Life in Refusal” (by Ari Roth and nominated for 2000 Best New Play, Helen Hayes Award). The current season offered a series called, “Voices From a Changing Israel,”  that explored the relevance of the Arab-Israeli conflict for a diverse audience negotiating its own way through ethnic and race struggles. The series was comprised of David Hare’s “Via Dolorosa,” Amos Oz’s “In The Land of Israel,”  and Motti Lerner’s new play, “The Murder of Isaac”.  According to The Washington Post, “the plays. . . in one way or another, speak to the urban Jewish experience. Since Roth’s arrival, the troupe has elevated its artistic standards so significantly that it blends in nicely with its theatrical neighbors a few blocks away on 14th Street."

Theater J has been nominated for a total of 37 Helen Hayes Awards.

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