The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre has been a major force in American theatre and theatre education since its founding. The Neighborhood Playhouse was founded in 1915 at the forefront of the American theatrerenaissance. Created by two philanthropic sisters, Alice and Irene Lewisohn, with the help of Rita Wallach Morgenthau, the original Playhouse was located in the famous Henry Street Settlement House. The Neighborhood Playhousewas one of the first Off-Broadway theatres. Committed to community and devoted to renewing the roots of drama, the Playhouse mounted works both classic and modern.
In 1928 The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre opened its doors. The first class of only nine students had the privilege of being taught by theatre luminaries Martha Graham, Louis Horst, Laura Elliott, and Agnes DeMille. In 1935, Sanford Meisner joined the faculty. Over the years, this founding member of The Group Theatre developed and refined what is now known as the Meisner Technique: “To live truthfully under given imaginary circumstances.” The Meisner Technique is a step-by-step procedure of self-investigation for the actor now widely recognized as one of the foremost acting techniques taught today. Sanford Meisner retired in 1990 and served as Director Emeritus of the Acting Department until his death in 1997. All of the current members of the Neighborhood Playhouse acting department were trained to teach acting by SanfordMeisner.
The Neighborhood Playhouse School moved to its permanent home on East 54th Street in New York City 1947. The school’s rich heritage is visible in the building itself. The building houses a proscenium theatre, classrooms, amodern two-story dance studio, student lounge, dressing rooms and an annex for scenery and costumes.
The Neighborhood Playhouse School library houses over 6,000 volumes and 20 periodical subscriptions. Students have access to the library’s extensive collection of modern and classical plays as well as books devoted to therelated arts of dance, voice, literature, history, and biography. The library’s archives are a rich source of material covering the history of the theatre in America.