JAMES NICOLA, born in Manchester, Connecticut on this date, has been the artistic director of New York Theatre Workshop (NYTW) since 1988. Under his guidance, NYTW has remained steadfast to its founding commitment of nurturing both established and emerging theater artists, promoting collaboration and bold experimentation with theatrical forms.

Nicola initiated an extensive series of workshop opportunities including summer residencies and minority theater artist fellowships, and has forged a unique community of theater artists, the Usual Suspects, who form the core of NYTW’s artist development activities.

As Artistic Director, Mr. Nicola has been instrumental in the development of many NYTW world premieres and has mentored Elevator Repair Service and Noor Theater as companies-in-residence, inviting these smaller theater companies to receive support and resources from NYTW in order to further their growth and development.

Even if you don’t know Jim Nicola’s name, you know the titles: “Rent,” “Once,” Hadestown” and, in the past year alone, “What the Constitution Means to Me” and “Slave Play”. As artistic director of Off-Broadway institution New York Theatre Workshop, which celebrates its 41st anniversary this year, Nicola has been at the helm for decades, ushering some of the most seminal new works—and new voices—of American theater from the frays into its main (and mainer) stream. Since Day 1, Nicola’s mission to create work that impacts the field with the resources at hand has not changed, however, its manifestations have.

Before joining NYTW, Nicola spent nine years at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., first as a National Endowment for the Arts Directing Fellow and later as a producing associate. From 1975–80, Mr. Nicola was a casting coordinator for the New York Shakespeare Festival. He was a Center management panelist in 2010. 

In 2021, Nicola announced that he will retire from the workshop as of summer 2022. He received a Special Tony Award at the 2022 ceremonies, in recognition of his successful 34-year run as artistic director of New York Theatre Workshop, an Off-Broadway nonprofit with a reputation for incubating important new plays and musicals.

To quote Tony Kushner, “I think he is really one of the truly great modern producers of theater in my lifetime.”