Flea seasons are provocative, adventurous and eclectic, winning consistent accolades from The New York Times and other media. A typical season features premieres by venerable writers taking wild risks along with younger writers forging their voice. Our performers also run the gamut of experience – audiences at The Flea witness captivating debuts along with electrifying performances by stars like Bill Irwin, Marisa Tomei and John Lithgow.
Flea productions are intimately scaled and our theaters are rarely dark. We present over 250 performances each year, from immersive epics to devised work. One of our best known is SERIALS, a late-night play competition: five plays enter and but only three survive, chosen by the audience. It has become a true phenomenon, playing to sold out houses and involving more than 1,000 artists since its first cycle in 2011.
But the real hallmark of The Flea is our support of emerging artists. First was our acclaimed resident company of actors, The Bats, formed in 1996. Next came ‘Pataphysics, our exclusive artist-led playwriting workshops. Our most recent program, Resident Directors, is now entering its 6th year. Artists learn on the job at The Flea, not in a classroom – we are a beacon for young artists ready to take a risk.
Music & Dance
Voted “Best New Music Venue” by New York Press, The Flea is known as a premiere venue for music and dance that pushes the envelope. Our small spaces let audiences experience the beauty of an unamplified voice or the thrill of an acrobat flipping mere inches away. Celebrated artists such as William Bolcom and Jody Oberfelder have performed at The Flea, as have many young companies just making their mark.
At our old home on White Street we offered two works-in-process series for emerging choreographers and composers. Professionally moderated feedback sessions followed each showing, and the series helped launch careers, foster collaborations, and inspire new insights on both sides of the footlights. Our new home allows us to provide even more sustained support for music and dance companies, primarily through our new Anchor Partners program.
The Bats and Resident Directors
These two programs are the backbone of The Flea. They provide a stepping stone for young artists to transition from the classroom to professional work, forming a network of peers along the way. Built on the principle that hands-on practice is the best way to learn a craft, both programs offer abundant opportunities for real work experience. Participants are volunteers, whose “pay” is the theater itself – The Flea exists to serve them.
Diversity is key to both programs and we have pursued it aggressively. Our current company comprises artists of color, nonconforming gender, and physical disability. Through these programs we are able to bring more artists from under-represented groups to the attention of casting directors, Artistic Directors and other decision-makers. Since 2009 the demographics of our Resident Artist programs has evolved from 10% non-white to 57% in 2017.
The Bats is our resident company of emerging actors. The program grew out of Flea founder Jim Simpson’s desire to create an alternative for young actors to practice their craft in a non-academic environment, free from tuition and other barriers to accessibility. Each year more than 400 people audition to be part of the company, which is cast anew each year. Once accepted, Bats perform in world premieres and work with leading artists. They become members of a thriving theatrical community, with the full producorial support of The Flea behind them.
“There is no better theater in New York for a young thesp who wants to cut their teeth and develop their chops. When asked for advice by young actors in New York, I always point them to The Flea.”
-Michael Gladis, Actor, Mad Men, Bertolt Brecht’s Baal
Resident Directors serves up to six aspiring young directors, chosen through a rigorous application process. Participants gain experience in all facets of directing, from stage management and technical design to script analysis and the art of collaboration. They assist guest artists, stage manage each others’ shows, review scripts for the theater, and direct short plays. Ultimately, they make their professional directing debut with a fully realized production at The Flea. Resident Directors have directed world premieres by Thomas Bradshaw, Ellen McLaughlin, and Luis Enrique Gutiérrez Ortiz Monasterio (LEGOM), among others.
Pataphysics Playwriting Workshops
Founded by playwrights, Pataphysics has been described as a “gymnasium for the writing brain.” Each workshop is a series of intimate four-session intensives led by a master playwright. Class size is limited to thirteen and admission is by application. Chuck Mee, Paula Vogel, and Mac Wellman are just a few of the writers who have led Pataphysics workshops at The Flea.
“I have thought and thought and I am sure there is no place like The Flea. For playwrights it offers the possibility of freedom in a structured and serious place. For young actors, it offers a superior alternative to epically overpriced graduate schools. There isn’t anywhere like it, even remotely.”
-Will Eno, playwright, Tom Pain (Pulitzer Prize nominee)
As part of our mission to support emerging artists, The Flea has always offered a home to smaller companies. These are companies with spectacular creativity and loyal audiences but no home base. Now that we have a new home, we came up with a new way to serve them, and that is Anchor Partners.
Each year we will select a handful of companies to receive consistent access to one or more of our spaces, along with the support of our entire in-house team. This will allow us to bring even more theater, music and dance to Flea audiences, but it is also our way of strengthening the arts community – many small spaces have closed in the past decade and left a gaping need. Anchor Partners is our response.