In 1998, a small group of theater leaders founded National New Play Network on the belief that the next generation of new play development should be decentralized, dynamic, and collaborative in scope and practice, and that there should be a pipeline for sharing new work between regional theaters.

Working with George C. White, Founder David Goldman, then serving as Special Programs Director of the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center, convened a group of artistic and managing leaders from organizations that had demonstrated a commitment to the development and production of new plays, launching NNPN’s legacy of sharing the work of the artists they and their audiences admired.

NNPN’s current 30 Core Member theaters can now be found among the glaciers of Alaska, deserts of New Mexico, in heartland cities in Iowa and Kansas, the mountains of Utah, the suburbs of New Jersey, and the hubs of theater metropolises like Miami, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Launched in 2012, the Associate Member category includes more than 100 theaters ranging in annual budget size from $50,000 to nearly $40 million, and in cities like Eugene, Oregon, Bloomington, Indiana and Weston, Vermont as well as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

By its tenth anniversary, NNPN had earned support from major foundations and become renowned for its innovations within the industry such as the National Showcase of New Plays, the Annual Conference, and the Continued Life for New Plays Fund. Other programs developed as NNPN’s membership grew, increasing the Network’s impact on theater-makers and theaters nationwide. These new programs include paid residencies for playwrights and producers, the administration of two annual commissions, a Collaboration Fund for projects between Member Theaters or Members and specific theater-makers, and a joint project with the Kennedy Center and the Stanford Center for New Plays to workshop new plays by writers at the MFA level.

NNPN’s newest—and widest-reaching—project was launched in 2015. The New Play Exchange® (NPX) is now the world’s largest and smartest database of new plays, allowing robust search-and-filter functions, crowd-sourced recommendations of plays, and the connectivity of a social networking site. The NPX is used by more than 7,000 theater-makers and includes more than 15,000 plays by living writers.

During 2017-18, NNPN celebrated its 20th anniversary of serving the new play field as innovators with impact, and the Member Theaters, Affiliated Artists, and multitude of connected artists and artisans who each year are creating the new American theater canon. In December 2018, NNPN launched a Strategic Planning process that was rooted in and centered on a shared committment to new plays and equity, diversity and inclusion in the new play field. This culminated in the 2020-25 Strategic Plan, which was ratified and adopted by the Board of Directors in December 2019.