The Start of Something New

“The air is humming
And something great is coming!”
West Side Story

Welcome to A Brief History of The National Theatre!  This is the first of five microsites dedicated to the many people and events that have shaped this famous institution.  As part of the Teens Behind the Scenes program, this series aims to inform and inspire young theatre artists right here in Washington, D.C.  Each site will examine a key feature of The National’s past, including its proud record as a pre-Broadway tryout site and its many entanglements with local and national politics. 

This first site serves as an overview of The National’s nearly 200 hundred-year history. Each section examines that history from a different perspective, taking into account not only its physical foundations but its place in American culture. Periodically, you’ll find a From the Archives section that highlights prized materials drawn from The National Theatre Archives. You’ll maybe also see a section labeled Consider This, which invites you to put on your historical thinking cap with a comment or series of questions. Click on the photographs below or visit the menu at the top of the page to start your journey.


The Timeline presents significant events related to the founding, operation, and protection of The National Theatre alongside a number of national events that transpired during The National’s nearly 200 hundred-year history.

Through the Years

The National Theatre’s legacy is one of constant renewal. Through the Years recounts its many trials and triumphs while introducing major figures, themes, and works that will be explored throughout the duration of this project.

Brick and Mortar

Brick and Mortar considers the many iterations of The National Theatre building.

Early Washington, D.C.

Early Washington, D.C. situates The National within the unique history of Washington, D.C.

The National Theatre Corporation’s Teens Behind the Scenes program is made possible through the generous support of Jacqueline Badger Mars. These sites are curated by dramaturg Jared Strange. To learn more about The National Theatre and the Teens Behind the Scenes program, visit the About the Program page.

The National Theatre Corporation is the 501(c)(3) non-profit entity responsible for the continued operation and preservation of The National Theatre. Donations to the National Theatre Corporation help fund necessary capital improvements and maintenance to preserve this historic facility. Additionally, contributions support free community and educational programming, and make possible the management of a vast, content-rich archive. To make your tax-deductible contribution to the National Theatre Corporation, please visit our secure giving website, with our thanks. 

The Nederlander Organization manages and programs the theatre, including the Broadway at The National series. The name “Nederlander” has been synonymous with great entertainment since 1912. Led by James L. Nederlander, President, the organization continues the tradition of operating iconic, historic theatres, as well as producing and presenting the best in theatrical entertainment and concert performances. To learn more, please visit