Mission & History



Epic’s mission is to create bold work with and for diverse communities that promotes vital discourse and social change.

We accomplish this mission by

  • Inspiring students to be creative and engaged citizens
  • Presenting compelling topics that transform the way people think
  • Collaborating with artists, students and thought leaders to produce plays about key issues


Ron Russell, Melissa Friedman, Zak Berkman, James Wallert, Teri Lamm, Craig Rovere, and Shaheen Vaaz co-founded Epic Theatre Ensemble (then “Epic Theatre Center”) in 2001 with the assistance and guidance of numerous colleagues and friends. This collective of theatre makers and Teaching Artists steered the company during its initial years and established a new kind of artist-run theatre that built human bridges between school classrooms, professional stages, and civic centers. This integration of youth development, Citizen-Artist training, and the production of new and classic political plays reached its first apex in 2005 with the co-founding of the Bronx High School for Writing and Communication Arts occurring at the same time as the premiere and commercial transfer of the multi-award winning No Child… by Nilaja Sun.

Epic grew rapidly over the next few years under the Executive Leadership of Berkman, Friedman, and Russell in tandem with Producing Artists Wallert, Godfrey Simmons, and Sarah Winkler. This team pursued a five-year plan that led to deeper integration of Epic’s programming including: the 2009 Coming Up Taller Award-winning after-school program, Shakespeare Remix; an annual youth Summer Intensive, which has evolved into the Epic NEXT Arts Leadership Program; and, the festival-style New York premiere of Sarah Ruhl’s Passion Play.

In 2011, Epic entered a new phase of its evolution. As Berkman moved from the operational staff to Epic’s Board, Russell became Executive Director, Friedman was named Artistic Director, and Wallert, in his new role as Associate Artistic Director, assumed leadership of the Blueprint Series for development of new work. It was also in 2011 that Epic welcomed its first Managing Director, Robert Chelimsky. This leadership team now steers Epic’s growth as an industry frontrunner in transforming the lives of young people and building deep collaborations with community partners to produce bold theatrical work that re-imagines the critical role art must play in the fight for social justice.

View Epic’s Production History

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