"Since 1996, Culture Project has told stories as timely as the morning's newspaper in a way that cannot be matched by commercial media.
Through brilliantly conceived, expertly staged dramas, which blend prize-winning theater with urgent moral dilemmas, Culture Project sparks conversation and incites political action.
A venue for acclaimed, prize-winning performance, Culture Project is also a magnet for today's best talent including Meryl Streep, Danny Glover, Mary J. Blige, Robin Williams, Marisa Tomei, Bob Balaban, Rinde Eckhert, Montel Williams, Frank McCourt, Staceyann Chin, Lynn Redgrave, Sarah Silverman, and other artists who share a passion for theater and public justice.
In 1996, Culture Project was incorporated in a former piano restoration factory on East 91st Street by founder and Artistic Director, Allan Buchman. In 2000, Culture Project raised 1.2 million dollars and converted a lumberyard at 45 Bleecker Street into a two theater performing arts center: the Main Stage (199 seats) and 45 Below (99 seats). In the past decade, Culture Project has grown from a small theater impacting 12,000 patrons annually to a small theater impacting over 150,000 patrons annually. Over the years, Culture Project has consistently created theater that emphasizes social and political issues designed to inform and inspire contemporary audiences. Culture Project believes theater is an effective agent of social change and is dedicated to fostering the creative growth of artists.
Culture Project was first propelled into national prominence by its acclaimed production of The Exonerated which focused attention on six exonerates, wrongfully imprisoned, some for decades, and then released without recognition of wrongdoing or compensation. The Exonerated was later made into a movie by Court TV, starring Brian Dennehy, Susan Sarandon, Danny Glover and Aidan Quinn. Productions of The Exonerated were featured at the Edinburgh Theatre Festival in Summer 2005 and played to rave reviews at Riverside Studios in London in Spring 2006.
On the heels of The Exonerated’s smashing success, Culture Project and Meryl Streep co-produced Bridge and Tunnel, in which Sarah Jones brilliantly described and portrayed a diverse spectrum of immigrants meeting the challenges of living in America today. Sarah Jones' Bridge & Tunnel opened on Broadway at the Helen Hayes Theater on January 26, 2006, and she was awarded a special TONY for her performance.
With Guantánamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom, Culture Project shone a bright and dramatic light on the atrocities perpetrated in the Guantánamo prison camp in the name of freedom, a subject of intense on-going international debate and concern. In 2004, Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu performed in Guantánamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom and participated in two talkbacks following the performance. The story of the Archbishop’s participation in Guantánamo was covered by over 5,000 International news agencies.
Other noteworthy productions include White Chocolate, a play by renowned New Yorker cartoonist William Hamilton, which used humor to tackle the important issue of racial inequality in America. In Belfast Blues, Culture Project probed the human dimensions of political violence through the story of the “troubles” in Ireland. Culture Project also produced Staceyann Chin (Def Poetry Jam), in her provocative personal stage memoir Border/Clash, the heart-pounding story of a young woman’s journey to womanhood as a Jamaican-Chinese immigrant in America, and Index to Idioms, Deb Margolin’s personal performance that explored collapsible boundary between fiction and memoir. RFK, a new play about Robert F. Kennedy, detailed his fight for civil rights and the democratic inclusiveness of the American Dream. In 2006, Culture Project presented The Guardians, a searing satire of Anglo-American relations and modern political morality.
The 2005-2006 45 Below Theater season included: Karla, the riveting story of Karla Faye Tucker written by the legendary Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter Steve Earle, the Jacobean thriller The Revenger's Tragedy by RedBull Theatre, Naked Angels’ Mistakes Madeline Made, and P73 Productions’Elliot: A Soldier’s Fugue, which explores the military experiences of three generations. We’re proud to have regularly hosted Ma-Yi Theater Company, who’s plays have included Warren Leight’s No Foreigners Beyond This Point, set during the Cultural Revolution in China, and Trial by Water, the story of two Vietnamese brothers who escape their homeland and flee for America by boat.
In 2008 Culture Project moved from a theater to an office at 49 Bleecker Street. In the past 2009-2010 season Culture Project has produced an array of work including Nancy Harrow's The Cat Who Went to Heaven, a story in jazz for children and adults in May 2009, and 2 concerts at the United Nations General Assembly Hall, Breaking the Silence, Beating the Drum (March 2009) and A Tribute to Peacekeeping (October 2009). Culture Project has also started producing The War Against War, a full length documentary film following the story of UN Peacekeepers in the field. In May 2009 Culture Project launched its multimedia series, Blueprint for Accountability to address the question, “How can we empower ourselves to hold our leaders - in government, education and corporate institutions - accountable for the events of the past and the conditions of the future?" Culture Project also co-producedCounty of Kings an on-stage memoir by Lemon Anderson, in October 2009 with Spike Lee, Steve Colman, Jayson Jackson, Tom Wirtshafter and in association with The Public Theater, andA Cool Dip in the Barren Saharan Crick with Playwrights Horizons and The Play Company from March-April 2010.
In this past 2010-2011 season Culture Project presentedImagining Heschel at the Cherry Lane Theater, starring Richard Dreyfuss and Rinde Eckert. Imagining Heschel is a concert reading exploring the private conversations between Cardinal Augustin Bea and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel from 1962 - 1973, when Heschel was asked to aid the Vatican Council in formally exonerating the Jews for the death of Christ - a crucial repudiation of anti-Semitism. Culture Project also presented The Citizens Band's “The Past is a Foreign Country,” a show tackling the topic of displaced people and refugee support, with Press Here in partnership with USA for UNCHR. In March 2011, the 2011 Women Center Stage Festival took up residence at The Living Theatre, where it presented the work of more than 40 women artists over the course of one month. In May, Culture Project presented the next installment in its Blueprint for Accountability series, Gaza, Goldstone and the Crisis of Impunity, gathering a distinguished panel of experts, including a co-author of the report, to discuss the fallout of Goldstone's Op-Ed and the ongoing need for accountability for the crimes of Operation Cast Lead.
To kick off the 2011-2012 season, Culture Project's Women Center Stage presented MoLoRa, a re-imagining of the Greek Orestia to tell the story of South Africa's painful and extraordinary transition to democracy.
Culture Project's productions have garnered an array of Drama Desk, OBIE, and Outer Circle Critics awards. But they have also won unprecedented awards outside the sphere of theatrical production including the Champion of Justice Award and the PASS award from the National Association of Criminal Defenders. This recognition reignites Culture Project’s passion for its goal and reinforces its commitment to hard-hitting and provocative theater as a powerful ingredient in shaping our nation’s values and debates."