In a move without parallel in today’s theater ecosystem, two of the nation’s leading nonprofit theaters will collaborate in a new effort to bring work by living American playwrights to Broadway.
Second Stage Theater, an important Off Broadway company in New York, and the Center Theater Group, a vibrant and large regional organization in Los Angeles, said on Thursday that they will commission a series of new plays by American writers with the aim of producing the works first at the California theater and then on Broadway.
The theater companies have chosen six prominent writers to inaugurate their collaboration: the Pulitzer winners Lynn Nottage (“Sweat”) and Paula Vogel (“Indecent”); the Tony winner Lisa Kron (“Fun Home”); as well as Jon Robin Baitz (“Other Desert Cities”), Will Eno (“The Realistic Joneses”) and Young Jean Lee (“Straight White Men”).
The Broadway productions will be at the Helen Hayes Theater, which, with 585 seats, is the smallest on Broadway, and which has recently been purchased by Second Stage, which is now renovating it and planning to reopen it next Spring. The Helen Hayes — which could be renamed for a donor — is the sixth of 41 Broadway theaters now controlled by a nonprofit organization.
“I want to be at the forefront of bringing to Broadway a new audience and stories that haven’t been told,” said Carole Rothman, the artistic director of Second Stage.
Michael Ritchie, the artistic director of the Los Angeles theater, which has sent 50 shows to Broadway over the years, said that the new collaboration would benefit Los Angeles theatergoers, as well as playwrights.
“I will get a wider variety and a greater quality and quantity of good plays for my audience,” Mr. Ritchie said. “And it’s good for the playwrights in terms of financial recognition and a partnership that could and should lead to Broadway productions.”
While Broadway is flush with big musicals and British imports, many aimed at an audience of tourists, contemporary plays by American writers are harder to come by there.
Before the commissions are ready for production, Second Stage will open its Broadway theater next spring with a production of “Lobby Hero,” written by Kenneth Lonergan, directed by Trip Cullman, and starring Chris Evans (“Captain America”), in his Broadway debut, along with Michael Cera (“Arrested Development”). Mr. Cera’s Broadway debut came in 2014 in a revival of Mr. Lonergan’s “This Is Our Youth.”
“Lobby Hero” will be followed by Ms. Lee’s “Straight White Men,” directed by Anna Shapiro.
Second Stage also announced Thursday that it would present a production of “Mary Page Marlowe,” by Tracy Letts, in its existing Off Broadway theater next season.