The Drama League’s Next 100 Years Preserving Theater in New York City


The Drama League of New York, since 1916, has been at the forefront of the American theater community. It is one of the nation’s oldest continuously operating nonprofit arts advocacy and education organizations, and today, there is still nothing like it. “The Drama League is the preeminent organization that supports directors—the visionary center of the creative process,” explains Gabriel Stelian-Shanks, executive artistic director. “We provide training, mentorship, and development for the artist who is often invisible.”

The early years were vital in establishing The Drama League as a professional force within the theater community, and the organization continued to evolve in the post-war decades of the 1950s through ’70s, and in the 1980s, returned to the founders’ inspiration with a new program: The Drama League Directors Project. Since its inception, more than 150 Off-Broadway and regional theaters have joined to provide a training ground for the selected directing fellows and residents.

Stan Ponte (PMC)

The Directors Project now boasts an expanded roster of 10 major programmatic year-round fellowship and residency initiatives, including specialized programs in artistic leadership, musical theater, classical works, and an active collaboration development initiative. “A lot of our alumni go on to success,” notes Stelian-Shanks. “About a third of the shows on Broadway are directed by our alums.”

The Drama League membership has always meant advocacy for the art of theater, and it continues to adapt with the ever-changing world of arts by pushing into any category that requires actors and a performance. “Now’ we’re branching out because the act of direction is changing,” Stelian-Shanks confirms. “We’re looking at direction in artificial intelligence and app design.”

To bolster the program’s success, The Drama League holds an annual benefit, honoring a different theater luminary each year. This fall, film, television, and theater icon Nathan Lane is the Honoree for the organization’s 35th Annual Benefit Gala: A Musical Celebration of Broadway. The black-tie evening honoring Mr. Lane—three-time Tony Award, Drama Desk, Outer Critics, OBIE, Emmy, and Drama League Distinguished Performance Award winner— will take place on Monday, November 5, 2018 beginning at 6:30 p.m. in New York City at The Plaza.

Dina Menzel (PMC)

Open to both theater professionals and theatergoers, membership offers price-subsidized reservations to over 100 performances on Broadway and Off-Broadway each season. The Drama League provides the insight, access, and flexibility required to make the most of all that New York theater has to offer. Plus, members get voting privileges for the prestigious Drama League Awards, which recognizes distinguished productions on both Broadway and Off-Broadway each year. According to Stan Ponte, President of the Board of Directors, “The Drama League today has embraced its past while continuing to grow and expand the impact of its programs and audience engagement.” He adds, “I speak with so many theater lovers who have either been members in the past or are members today, and I encourage anyone who has a passion for live theater to join our family, and I look forward to seeing you at the theater!” 

If you wish to learn more about The Drama League, please call 212.244.9494 or visit