Our Path Forward

Follow Long Wharf Theatre’s Path Forward

This web page will serve as a hub for Our Path Forward. We welcome you to explore our activities to date and check back often for information on our next series of community gatherings.

Use these links to explore the following sections:

About Our Path Forward

In February 2022, Long Wharf Theatre announced that it will be leaving 222 Sargent Drive to fully embrace creating theatre by, for, and with the Greater New Haven community. Over the next few years, we will produce in-person and virtual programming in partnership and collaboration with local civic, theatre, and public institutions. We will spend time listening to our neighbors, audiences, local and national artists, activists, and community partners. All this work leads toward a manifestation of how Long Wharf Theatre can best serve the Greater New Haven community—as part of a campus of civic and cultural, institutions, a permanently site-specific company, or something we cannot yet even imagine. We are grateful to the constellation of people who are celebrating, championing, and supporting our groundbreaking news. Take a look at what our community members had to say:

“I am proud that the humble theatre we opened nearly 60 years ago has grown to be a national force where hundreds of the country’s top talents have appeared. Innovation is always crucial to first-rate work and this new vision will maintain the Theatre’s position as a powerful center for creativity and community.”

—Jon Jory, Co-Founder, Long Wharf Theatre

“Long Wharf Theatre has always been a place of creative innovation, and the past two years have provided a unique opportunity to reflect, regroup, and reimagine. As the trailblazing poet and playwright Luis Alfaro said at our inaugural Artistic Congress, ‘The great pause has become the great possibility,’ and Jacob and Kit’s leadership and vision–closely held by the entire Board–are critical to fully realizing the great potential of this moment and making theatre for everyone.”

–Nancy Alexander, Board Chair, Long Wharf Theatre

“Since its inception, Long Wharf Theatre has been an anchor of New Haven’s cultural ecosystem. This new vision is a continuation of the spirit in which the organization was founded, as a means to harness the artistry, vibrancy and talent of our city, for our city. With this new direction, the Theatre is not losing a home, but rather expanding their community and their reach.”

—Adriane Jefferson, Director of Cultural Affairs, City of New Haven

“In difficult times, art is what elevates and connects us. This moment invites performing arts organizations to move beyond business as usual and invest in new business models that are values driven and sustainable. We applaud Long Wharf Theatre for accepting that invitation in a way that honors both its artistic integrity and its commitments to community. This evolution can serve as a model for others, and we support Long Wharf Theatre as it undertakes this historic endeavor.”

—Maurine Knighton, Program Director for the Arts, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation

“A great theatre is one that builds bridges between and within the communities they serve. Long Wharf Theatre’s new community-centered vision is fearless in its embrace of the voices that have long been overshadowed. Nothing is off limits and everything is possible.”

—Bill Rauch, Artistic Director, Perelman Performing Arts Center, currently under construction at the World Trade Center, and Director, The Good Person of New Haven, 1999-2000 season

“For almost six decades, Long Wharf Theater’s productions have helped us to know ourselves as individuals and to come together as a community. In these times of sweeping change, our community is changing dramatically too. I applaud Long Wharf Theatre for envisioning a new model for its work that will reflect and serve our community in new ways.”

—Will Ginsberg, President and CEO, The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven

“Jacob Padrón is one of the most talented and inspired young leaders of the American Theatre. Long Wharf Theatre is one of the most storied theatres in America, and as it enters a new chapter it is in wonderful hands. We are in a time of great change, and we must all work tirelessly to ensure that our theatres are embedded deeply in our communities. Only by spreading the power and joy of our art in a broad, inclusive way can we realize the promise of our theatre, the most democratic art form on earth. Long Wharf Theatre is putting that vision into action in a brave and thrilling way. We are lucky to have them among us; we will cheer them, be challenged and inspired by them, and support them always.”

—Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director, The Public Theater

“A theatre’s success is determined by its artistic and programmatic excellence brought about by its artists, audiences and staff—not by the bricks and mortar. I am blown away by Long Wharf Theatre’s commitment to non-traditional models of heralding artistic expression and inclusion. As a Long Wharf Theatre commissioned artist, I can’t wait to see how the project I am creating will benefit from this new itinerant model. As a member of the Theatre’s artistic ensemble, I am energized and ready to help them get to work.”

—Bryce Pinkham, Broadway performer and Long Wharf Theatre Artistic Ensemble member

“For decades, New Haven has been fortunate to have had Long Wharf Theatre as the backbone of the local arts community, and henceforth, the entire city will be their stage. This innovative model will benefit actors, artists, communities, and audiences in the region who for too long have been underrepresented by the conventional model of theatre.”

—Kica Matos, Initiatives Vice President, Vera Institute of Justice

“From its earliest days, Long Wharf Theatre’s presence at the terminal was meant to be temporary – its home has always been New Haven itself. This is a necessary new direction that comes at a time when our communities need it most. The pandemic reminded us of the importance of live theater and, now, Long Wharf Theatre will be more embedded in our city than ever before.”

—Charles Kingsley, former Board Chair, Long Wharf Theatre

“When launching my dance-theatre company, the feath3r theory, I intentionally pursued an itinerant model with the understanding that each work is unique and requires different, curated spaces to bring out the brilliance of each performance. I am spirited to be a part of this shift and the artistic community that will usher in this vision for companies and creators like mine and Long Wharf Theatre.”

—Raja Feather Kelly, director, choreographer, and Long Wharf Theatre commissioned artist

“Theatre activates our radical imagination and empowers the artists around us to be their boldest and fullest selves. This new vision will educate and inspire the next generation of playwrights and performers while honoring the rich legacy of Long Wharf Theatre’s past. More than a platform for the greatness of others, Long Wharf Theatre is a leader in amplifying the voices we may not otherwise hear.”

—Luis Alfaro, Associate Director of Center Theatre Group and MacArthur “Genius” Grant recipient

“New Haven has an incredible tenure as an incubator for some of the greatest artists, particularly in theatre. A large part of that has been Long Wharf Theatre who have built their reputation on nurturing creativity. But we all can do more and better for the New Haven community. We can engage better and find a commitment to meeting folks where they are, and I look forward to their continued investment in the city and in theatre as a vital mode of storytelling and making it more accessible for early artists and audiences.”

—Tarell McCraney, playwright and educator

Select Press and Publications

  • “A prominent Regional Theatre Will Exit Its Stage to Explore Its City,” The New York Times
  • “This renowned Connecticut theater will leave its building for good, to perform shows all around the city,” Hartford Courant
  • “Long Wharf is leaving home after 56 years – a sign of things to come?” The Stage (UK)
  • “Long Wharf’s New Home: New Haven,” American Theatre
  • “Long Wharf Theatre Transforms Business Model In Survival Bid” New Haven Biz

Frequently Asked Questions

We have received many thoughtful questions from patrons, donors, and community members about our departure from 222 Sargent Drive. The most commonly asked questions are shared here, and we welcome further questions by emailing lwt@longwharf.org or calling (203) 772-8265.

Why are you leaving 222 Sargent Drive?
Embedded in an industrial food terminal, Long Wharf Theatre’s founders intended 222 Sargent Drive to be a temporary space. Over many decades, our Board has considered leaving this venue, including a short-lived exploration of moving to the New Haven Coliseum space. Several factors led to our Board’s decision to not renew our current lease. First among them, in line with our vision of “theatre for everyone,” is the inaccessibility of the location to many people, especially those who do not drive. Following national trends, we have seen a steady decline in subscription revenue since 2001 across all types of programming and over the tenures of several leadership teams. Along with the cost of occupying a large building, this has led to recurring deficits. In our long-ago past, year-end losses were frequently covered by “angel” donors, a practice of philanthropy that rarely occurs today. It is imperative that Long Wharf Theatre develop a sustainable business model, and we have been unable to realize this sustainability at our current location. The coming years will center on building new audiences while deepening our relationship with our long-time audiences, bringing quality live theatre to the Greater New Haven community, and increasing revenue through innovative programming and partnerships to fully cover our annual expenses.

 When will you leave 222 Sargent Drive?
Long Wharf Theatre has rented its facility since 1965, and our current lease expires on June 30, 2022. We have asked for a modest extension of our lease, and we hope to begin producing plays in and throughout New Haven independently and in partnership with community organizations in 2023.

Is Long Wharf Theatre going out of business?
No. We will continue to professionally produce new plays and musicals and readings of new work, alongside meaningful investments in the commissioning of tomorrow’s canon of American dramatic literature. This is the next chapter in Long Wharf Theatre’s history, not its end.

What does “itinerant” mean?
“Itinerant” literally means traveling from place to place. Over the next few years, we plan to professionally produce captivating, live theatre in a variety of Greater New Haven spaces that best serve the creative needs of the play or musical, the artists, and the audience experience.

What are your short-term goals?
We will spend time listening to local and national artists, activists, audiences, and community partners to identify how we can be most relevant to New Haven and how our work, in turn, can strengthen and magnify the vibrancy of our hometown. Visioning and listening sessions in multiple neighborhoods and languages will allow Greater New Haven residents to help co-create the next chapter of Long Wharf Theatre’s history. Beginning in 2023, we will make the New Haven region our campus. We will spend the next few years producing new plays and musicals in partnership with local civic, theatre, and public institutions.

Will you be permanently itinerant?
Right now, we can’t say. Our work over the next few years will lead toward a manifestation of how Long Wharf Theatre can best serve the Greater New Haven community—as part of a campus of civic and cultural institutions, a permanently site-specific company, or something that we cannot yet even imagine.

Can you share some examples of what itinerant theatre could look like?
We plan to lean into the inspiration that our region’s many storied spaces can provide, selecting stages and locations that best support the artistic narrative of each play and musical we produce. Imagine Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, a musical based on the life of Billie Holiday, performed in the Dixwell neighborhood where Billie actually played. Imagine a play with music about being stranded on an island due to rising tides performed on one of the Thimble Islands or at Hammonasset Beach State Park. Imagine a classic work like Arthur Miller’s The Crucible being performed at the New Haven Armory, a space that we transform to highlight the themes in Miller’s chilling play. These are a few examples of ways that site-specific theatre can strengthen and heighten the production and audience experience.

Will a season of productions be scheduled and announced in advance?
Yes! We anticipate the next few years will be a combination of fully produced productions, readings of new plays and musicals under commission by Long Wharf Theatre, and special events. A menu of programming will be offered at the start of each season and additional projects will be added throughout the year, capitalizing on newfound opportunities with our artists.

Where will we park? How far will we have to walk to get to a performance space?
We deeply recognize the importance of free or affordable parking that is close to our performance venue. For every event, we will consider parking options, costs, and distance from the performance space. We will ensure parking remains financially and physically accessible to our patrons; possible solutions include parking subsidies, shuttle buses, golf cart transportation, and more. Information about parking and its distance from a venue will be clearly shared along with information on our productions.

Will productions remain accessible to individuals with disabilities?
Yes! Long Wharf Theatre is committed to ensuring that its performance spaces, lobbies, and restrooms are accessible to guests with wheelchairs or mobility loss. We will also continue to offer assistive listening services and open captioned performances for patrons with hearing loss.

What local organizations are you in conversation with for current or future programming?
When Artistic Director Jacob G. Padrón joined Long Wharf Theatre in February 2019, he dedicated the first few months of his tenure getting to know the Greater New Haven community, meeting with artists, activists, arts and community leaders, educators, and more. These relationships continue today and will be deepened in the coming months and years as we expand our productions to stages across New Haven.

We also plan to strengthen existing community partnerships with organizations like the City of New Haven, International Festival of Arts and Ideas (IFAI), New Haven Free Public Library (NHFPL), Shubert Theatre New Haven, Yale Repertory Theatre, and more. We launched our nationally recognized collaboration with NHFPL in 2013, bringing free production-connected programming into all five branches. Since 2017, we have co-produced the Next Narrative Monologue Competition, a national event for high school students that culminates in the opportunity to perform on a Broadway stage, with Yale Rep. As we returned to live performance in 2021, we partnered with the City of New Haven to produce Play on My Block, bringing the Broadway musical Passing Strange into public parks, and co-created an event on the New Haven Green for IFAI’s Festival.

How will producing in the community build and welcome new audiences?
For our entire history, we have been anchored to a building on the outskirts of New Haven, encumbering our capacity to offer accessible theatre and build new audiences. To make theatre affordable to most, we offer three simple prices—$59 general admission, $39 for Members, and $10 for students. If these amounts are out of reach, our neighbors may “borrow” a pair of tickets from any of the five NHFPL branches, removing the barrier of price. However, public transportation is not readily available at our theatre, making free and low-cost tickets useful only to those with access to a private vehicle. Minimal public transportation also impacts local artists without cars who are cast in our shows, increasing our production costs as we pay for private transportation.

In this new model, we are literally bringing theatre to the people—in venues that can be reached by foot, public transportation, and car. By reducing facility expenses, we can sustain affordable admission alongside free tickets through NHFPL. We experienced a small taste of the possibilities with last summer’s Play on My Block as residents sat on their porches tapping their feet to the music of Passing Strange. By bringing theatre out of 222 Sargent Drive and into new venues, we will create opportunities for more of our neighbors to connect with Long Wharf Theatre.

Where will your offices be located? How will you rehearse your productions?
At the moment, we anticipate the need for a warehouse-type space in New Haven for administrative offices and rehearsals. We are assessing available spaces and will secure a location when we know more about our current lease extension.

What will happen to all of Long Wharf Theatre’s stuff?
We are taking every care to archive and store 57 years of history, ranging from production photos to professionally constructed costumes and scenery. Local and national archivists have reached out to Long Wharf Theatre to help in this effort, and this process will take place over the next year. We also plan to continue using costumes, props, and furniture from our shop and are working to create a sharing arrangement with other Connecticut theatres.

How does this affect my membership?
Your membership continues to have the same benefits you enjoy today, including deep discounts on admission to Long Wharf Theatre productions and a few special perks along the way, while knowing you are financially supporting our organization.

I have gift certificates to Long Wharf Theatre. Can they still be used when you change locations?
Yes! Long Wharf Theatre gift certificates remain valid and may be redeemed for any ticketed event that our organization produces. You may redeem them by calling our Box Office at (203) 693-1486.

How can I support Long Wharf Theatre at this moment?
First, attend a show. We have several events scheduled at 222 Sargent Drive through June 30, including the world premiere of Madhuri Shekar’s Queen and our annual fundraising party The Big Tent. Second, make a gift or become a member. Financial support of any size is a meaningful investment in our daily work. Third, remain engaged. Attend a community visioning and listening session in the coming months or let us know your concerns. We are always eager to connect through conversation.

I have additional thoughts and questions. How can I share them with you?
Our first four Town Halls took place during March and April 2022 and we will be hosting community gatherings over the next year as we usher in the next chapter of Long Wharf Theatre in partnership with our many communities. Keep checking https://longwharf.org/our-path-forward/ for dates and locations. You may also email lwt@longwharf.org or leave a message at (203) 772-8265.