Right after the Very Beginning: emerging self-production and SPACE

One attends a lot of artist talks and watches a lot of documentaries about art and artists, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s noticed that in the telling of their “career biography” artists always skip a chunk of time.

Vermeer, dying of malnutrition


They don’t skip the very beginning, they often romanticize that first night in NYC/Paris/Berlin/Tokyo, the thin sheets, the starved wandering through the streets staring at absurdly rococo cupcakes and one’s own reflection in the windows, passing out drunk in gutters, etc, but then the next thing you know they’re talking about how they rented the Guggenheim to produce their opera or some such thing.

Fetch me a cappuccino, assistant, no I said NO cinnamon!

But what about the concrete interim, the actual time spent at the beginning of the verb “emerging”? It’s a strange time, during which one is not sure if there’s even going to BE a “next stage”; what if this is it? Can an artist or ensemble remain teetering on this sharp edge forever? (Yes actually, unfortunately I know a couple of late-in-life artists who have spent their entire lives in a liminal phase between their university degree and their second grant…)

Because I am too impatient to do nothing but make work (I guess I’m speaking to an imaginary alter ego in this post, blog tone and context is difficult…) I intend to document this period, and the process of PPL producing these multi-disciplinary opera things in this in-between time, on an alternative route (alternative to Fringe, and for-profit production) while still starving but not doing that terribly in terms of actual audience (people seeing the work is really the only thing I can justify caring about). So without further ado…

Episode One: SPACE!

Wexner, sigh


We always get some space and legitimacy first so we can set up a project timeline and start gathering collaborators. Here’s a smattering of the best places to get spaces in NYC and Brooklyn, some we have worked in, others won’t take us (YET!) or we haven’t applied (YET!):

Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (development space, much of it on Wall Street, very inspiring spaces, helpful people)
chashama (storefront space, they let you do whatever you want and don’t bother/help you, depends on your attitude about that)
HERE Arts Center Residency Program (HARP) (space, development support)
Incubator Arts Project (performance weekend at St. Mark’s Church and some development assistance)
Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony (space in a quiet place to write or make video or whatever it is you do)
The Watermill Center (space and support out on Long Island with Robert Wilson)
Sundance Theater Lab (space, workshops, peer support, cowboys)
Brooklyn Arts Exchange (space, support for theater and dance, focus on women and dance)
The Performance Project @ University Settlement (space, support)
Tribeca Performing Arts Center (space and production)
LaGuardia Performing Arts Center (space in Long Island City)
IRT (they have a residency program called 3B but it costs money, about $500 a week)
Theaterlab (same deal as IRT, $250 per performance, ulp)

Some of these are easy to get into, some are not so easy. Some residency programs are pretty focused on financial support, so if most of one’s donations are in-kind rather than monetary (or if the project budget is under $3,000), I think one is better off directly contacting spaces such as these, usually they get half or all of your box office in exchange for space. Some have submission guidelines and deadlines, others do not:

Dixon Place (performance slots, special emphasis on queer, female-artist, and provocative experimental work, awesome people, great space, nothing but love in my heart for Dixon Place)
University of the Streets
Gathering of the Tribes Gallery
ABC No Rio
Surreal Estate
The Tank
The Brick

A lot of these are performance space only, but rehearsal space is a bit easier to come by; I try to think about rehearsing in awkward spaces as a healthy creative obstruction.

Jørgen Leth in the documentary 'The Five Obstructions' made with Lars van Trier

The next step, I think, is working in spaces nationally, and then internationally. Production beyond the bare basics of making it work in a space here in the city is beyond PPL’s reach at this point, hopefully this will be the next thing to change…if the space is there, we can make something happen in it without anything but other people’s trash and our bodies (the freegan approach to production is the next installment of this)!

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