Our History


Two men on stage performing a skit for the audience.

Young audiences’ presentation of Bright Star Touring Children Theatre. Photo by Sharon C. Farmer Photography


  1. 1989

    The company is established by S. Robert Morgan with fellow alums Denise Baker, Michael A. Jacobs, Esq., Edwin L. Knox and artistic colleague Ed Bishop. 

  2. 1991

    The first full governing Board of Directors was assembled in southeast Washington, DC’s Congress Heights neighborhood at the Development Zones administrative office and focused on creating a designated home in Southeast Washington , DC .

  3. 1992

    Company launches first public performance through The New Play Reading Series, as a service program for Washington , DC area playwrights.

    A group of people sitting in chairs with microphones.
  4. 1993

    The Essential Theatre launches Children’s Program in Public Schools at Birney, Moten and Stanton elementary schools in southeast Washington , DC. 2,000 students received theatre arts instruction as part of an interdisciplinary educational curriculum.

  5. 1996

    Troy L. Patterson assumes the role of Executive Producer and held the position until 2002. He helped raise awareness in 1999 by producing, Miguel Pinero’s probing, “Short Eyes.” The company assumes residency in northwest DC.

    A man is shaving another mans face in the bathroom.
  6. 2000

    The Essential Theatre initiates volunteer programs for senior citizens and high school students throughout the DC metro area. The company began offering worksite job training to persons involved in the Federal Welfare to Work Programs based in DC and Prince George’s County.

  7. 2004

    The Essential Theatre launches the Women’s Works Program, intended to market to its target demographic women aged 25-64.

  8. 2007

    The Essential Theatre forms major partnership with Howard University Hospital and the Alzheimer’s Association, NCA  to produce the   Washington , DC premiere of, “The CARER,” by Alan Hopgood.

    A man sitting at the piano with his hand raised.
  9. 2008

    Partnership with DC Campaign established wherein company is allowed back administrative office space at $1 per year.

  10. 2008

    The Women’s Works Program, in partnership with Brown Girl Speaks Productions, presents its first performance. Titled, “Women, Words, Power!”

    A group of women sitting on the floor.
  11. 2008

    Publication of the inaugural issue of internet newsletter Down Stage Center.

  12. 2009

    Founder/Artistic Director, S. Robert Morgan is recognized by Helen Hayes Awards along with area Artistic Directors saluting Leadership in   Washington, DC’s professional theatre community.

  13. 2009

    Inaugural presentation in John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts annual Page-to-Stage Festival.

    A group of people sitting in front of a man holding wii controllers.
  14. 2012

    Company re-pilots new model of Children’s Program in Public Schools at Ann Beers, Garfield and Leckie Elementary Schools in southeast and southwest Washington, DC.

  15. 2014

    Women’s Works Program presentation, “The Resurrection of Alice” by Perri Gaffney nominated for the prestigious Helen Hayes Award.

    A woman is performing on stage with her feet up.
    Actress/Playwright Perri Gaffney(Alice) in Helen Hayes Award(registered trademark) “The Resurrection of Alice.”
  16. 2014

    Company establishes partnership with Howard University’s Department of Theatre Arts offering second year Theatre Arts majors internships.

  17. 2016

    The Essential Theatre relocates to southeast Washington, DC establishing an administrative office in the Anacostia Arts Center.

  18. 2017

    Company initiates Young Audiences Program at Charles Hart Middle School, first middle school to receive services. Relationship is established with Industrial Bank of Washington, DC to facilitate financial literacy instruction in coordination with performances of “Harriet Tubman: The Chosen One,” in celebration of historic icon’s image proposed for placement on the twenty-dollar bill.

  19. 2017

    Company establishes partnership with the Embassy of Trinidad and Tobago with His Excellency Anthony Phillips Spencer in the presentation of Lordstreet Theatre Company’s “Jean and Dinah…The Play.”

    Two women on a stage in front of a bed.
  20. 2018

    Company produces first world premiere of play from its Play development program, “People for Whom the World Spins and Turns,” by James J. Hsiao, MD . Presentation was produced in partnership with the Center for Social Innovation under the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to facilitate humanities outreach through the  Addiction and Recovery Program.

    A group of people standing in a room.
    S. Robert Morgan's Essential Theatre presents "People For Whom the World Spins and Turns" by James J. Hsiao, MD Wednesday, June 27, 2018 at the Anacostia Playhouse in Washington. (Sharon Farmer/sfphotoworks)
  21. 2019

    Company celebrates 30th anniversary of its founding.

  22. 2019

    Company establishes partnership with DC Public Library in the presentations of its Young Audiences’ Program.

  23. 2020

    Women’s Works Program’s Washington, DC premiere of “Vivian’s Music 1969,” by Monica Bauer, PhD receives two nominations for the prestigious Helen Hayes Awards.

    A woman standing on stage with her hands in the air.