By Aurie Ceylon Satterthwaite
February 4, 2020
Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-nominee Taylor Mac is no stranger to The Flea. Taylor and Flea Artistic Director Niegel Smith have collaborated on a number of creative projects, most notably Taylor’s radical Pulitzer Finalist, A 24-Decade History of Popular Music. In this exclusive Flea Chat, Taylor & Niegel discuss The Fre, The Flea, and what it means to get in the mud!
Niegel Smith: Here we are – in workshop! The Fre is finally happening!
Taylor Mac: It’s finally happening! I’m so happy.
NS: So, can you tell us what The Fre is about?
TM: The Fre has a lot to do with our polarization. I’ve taken two different worlds: a world of intellectual pursuit and a world of base sensuality and humanity, and I’ve squished them together! So, they’re trying to figure out how to exist with each other in this very rambunctious, filthy world. And, the entire play is set in a mud pit! It was really an opportunity for me to write a play that would have been useful to me to see as a kid, which I never got to see. It’s a Queer All-Ages Play!
NS: Where did you first start writing The Fre? Were you really in a mud pit?
TM: I was on a silent retreat in the middle of dry Texas, near San Antonio. It was on a beautiful ranch, and there was this swimming hole – it was a little like a quarry, with fish and lily pods. It wasn’t pristine, but it was the most gorgeous swimming hole I’ve ever been to in my life! There was something so healing; it felt like communing with the earth. I just found that by being quiet, I could listen to the writing and not the chatter of the world. So, I wrote the entire first draft in ten days.
NS: Why a mud pit? Why is the audience in the mud with us?
TM: I actually think it goes back to the ACT UP movement, and the idea that you do not need to ask permission to participate in the creativity of your own survival. I didn’t want to just comment on the world that is, or wish for a different world. I wanted to manifest a better world through the work I’m making. We have to rely on each other and we have to use our radical imaginations. Because we are all in the mud together and we have to find our way out.
NS: So, who are The Fre? What is The Fre?
TM: The Fre are Americans, but that particular part of America that is tied down to the narrative of anti-intellectualism.
NS: And you’re asking us to jump in the mud pit with them?!
TM: YES! Well, I guess what I’m saying is we are in the mud with them, already. Right now, you can’t turn on the news without feeling like the leading narrative is anti-intellectualism. I don’t think there has ever been a time in this country in which we fully embraced the idea of asking questions; there is too much assuredness here. I want to manifest a world in which people of all ages can participate in intellectual pursuits with total wild abandon. This play asks the audience to disobey all rules, and everyone is in the awkward position of having to participate in this strange universe we’re making.
NS: And we’re going to a ball pit tomorrow!
TM: YES! The play is written to have mud everywhere, but we’ve changed that to a ball pit. I think that’s really fun! It’s less messy, but also more accessible. A lot of people won’t go to see something where they get dirty. So, I thought, well that’s a nice creative solution: Metaphorical Mud! Everyone loves a ball pit.
NS: I want to take us to some Flea roots. You were a Bat!
TM: I was! I came to The Flea about sixteen years ago, and it opened up my brain. You can be conscious about social justice and the pain people are dealing with, and that can be part of theater! As a kid, it was the first time I had that thought. My time at The Flea was transformative.
NS: And now, you do it all! You direct, you act, you write.
TM: I do a lot. I think that’s the Act Up in me. I feel like I don’t need to apologize for surviving. I can chisel space for myself, and I learned that from the Flea artists that make the thing, rather than just commenting on the thing. We make theater.
NS: Our mission at The Flea – given to us by Mac Wellman – is to raise a joyful hell. I think about how it feels so right for The Fre to be at The Flea, in the bodies of The Bats. They are the kind of performers who will go anywhere.
TM: YES! The Bats are always ready to JUMP! I love working with people who are game to go BIG and find the intimacy within that, rather than starting small and trying to get them to jump.
NS: Your art has been downtown, it’s been in cabarets, it’s been on Broadway, it’s been in Opera Houses in Berlin! Why does it make sense for The Fre to be downtown?
TM: You know, I’m in it for the hang. I want to be where the artists and ideas and collaborators are. You were here, The Bats are here – and I wanted to hang out! I think it’s almost that simple, and that’s the authentic experience for me, in this play. The Bats are always going to say YES; they’re always going to try. I like working with people who want to say YES! There’s a youthful spirit in this play, and it needs young people to make it. I feel like the people here are genuinely passionate and excited to make work.
On Thursday, December 5, 2019, The Flea Theater unveiled the donor wall and revealed the naming plaques throughout the three theater performing arts complex, in an intimate ceremony to thank the donors who helped make the capital campaign possible and to mark the completion of a distinctive 10 year journey to build a new space.
The 23 year old Off-Off-Broadway theater known for “raising a joyful hell in a small space”, opened the complex in the fall of 2017. The new performing arts center was designed by ARO, Architectural Research Office and built by Westerman Construction Company, and features three small theaters under one roof, each space with a unique design and multiple uses.
Niegel Smith, The Flea’s Artistic Director, welcomed invited guests that included Flea board members, resident artists as well as special donors. In attendance were government representatives including City Council Member Margaret Chin, members of the staff of City Comptroller Scott Stringer and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation staff, all early contributors to the campaign to build a new Flea. The Flea was also happy to welcome the families of Sam Cohen, and A.R. “Pete” Gurney, both of whom have theaters named for them.
Says Smith, “Our theaters have been in constant action for the past two seasons, showcasing the emerging talents of The Bats, our resident actors, a team of Resident Directors and playwrights as well as invited artists who have all brought their diverse stories and myriad talents to our stages. Our theaters are infused not only with the memories of our founders but with a new generation of theater artists. “
Carol Ostrow, The Flea’s Producing Director, thanked supporters that included many foundations, among them Prospect Hill, Howard Gilman and the Ford Foundation as well as the individuals who stepped up early to help The Flea leverage larger contributions.
Says Ostrow, “To the many munificent, magnanimous, bounteous, big-hearted, generous and kind individual donors with us here today. Thank you for your giving spirit and please accept our gratitude for everything in this building including the box office, the lobby downstairs and upstairs, The Flea staff office, the green room, the stage door, the costume shop, the lobby benches and the dressing rooms. We simply could not have done any of this without your generosity. The Flea’s contribution to the cultural landscape of New York City has become permanent and rent-free.”
The morning included bagels and cream cheese as well as donut holes and apple cider and lots of holiday cheer for The Flea.
Last Monday evening, The Flea celebrated Flea Founder Mac Wellman and Flea board member Michael Graff at our 2019 gala! We enjoyed sweeping views of the city’s skyline and celebrated two of our favorite Fleaple. Thanks to everyone who celebrated with us
The Flea Theater hosted a Mac Wellman Symposium: THE ART OF STACKING THE DECK October 4-6, 2019. The three-day symposium was a rare opportunity for Wellman enthusiasts to gather to share stories and dig deep into the mysteries of Wellman’s writing.
Anne Washburn, Young Jean Lee, and David Lang were among over twenty artists from the fields of theater, dance, opera, and new media who gathered to celebrate mischievous master writer Mac Wellman.
Playwright Kate Benson said his writing, “exists to overwhelm you and provoke you into different states of being”, adding that acting in his plays, “is like trying to surf on a dolphin”.
Wellman is an OBIE-winning playwright whose body of work includes more than forty plays, texts for dance, an opera, a novel, and seminal essays on the state of theater. This fall, The Flea is producing five of Wellman’s plays as part of PERFECT CATASTROPHES, a festival of iconic works and two world premieres.
The Symposium featured four panels on Wellman’s writing and teaching, and a rare interview with Mac Wellman conducted by Helen Shaw. Guests were treated to a revival of Terminal Hip, showcasing the iconic OBIE-winning performance by Steve Mellor, one of the foremost living interpreters of Wellman’s work in addition to the opportunity to see, Bad Penny, Sincerity Forever, The Invention of Tragedy, The Sandalwood Box and The Fez, all five productions playing in repertory at The Flea.
The first day of the Symposium featured panels on approaching Wellman’s dense and free-flowing text. Lively discussions traced the agony and ecstasy of working with a writer who challenges his collaborators to tackle the impossible. Directors Meghan Finn, Paul Lazar, and Elena Aroaz compared strategies for making each moment in a Wellman play legible. Producer Annie Hamburger and performer Jan Leslie Harding shared memories from the original production of Bad Penny in Central Park. Composer David Lang explained how Wellman changed his writing style to fit the demands of opera. And Maria Striar, Artistic Director of Clubbed Thumb, remembered a poignant moment of Wellman’s generosity as a collaborator and friend.
Other panels featured writers who had studied with Wellman. Young Jean Lee credited Wellman with making her a playwright with a mission to constantly subvert and suggested that Wellman’s teaching has seeded the next generation of theatrical revolutionaries. Sibyl Kempson shared that Wellman’s biggest gift to her was to take her own playwriting seriously. Eliza Bent and Kristine Haruna Lee recounted cherished Wellman assignments that they include in their own teaching practice. Karinne Keithley Syers traced her path from being a choreographer to a writer, lead by Wellman’s unique approach to dimensionality and physicality. Alongside Wellman, Erin Courtney was celebrated for her invaluable contributions to the MFA Playwriting program at Brooklyn College.
Anne Washburn began the Symposium by expounding on the specific techniques and rigor required to succeed in a Wellman play. Audiences saw that rigor in action when Steve Mellor took the stage for two nights in Terminal Hip, Wellman calls it, “A spectral history of America through the medium of Bad Language”. In a virtuosic performance that hadn’t been seen in New York in nearly twenty years, Mellor uproariously made his way through an hour of found language, overhead conversation, and stand-up comedy.
As fits a writer whose work resists being pinned down, Wellman was hesitant to be interviewed. Drawing upon Wellman’s method of writing, interviewer Helen Shaw mischievously structured their conversation to cajole and provoke Wellman, enlisting the full audience as her co-conspirators in asking him questions. With the support of his community – and a glass of white wine – Wellman opened up, sharing stories of his maturation as a playwright and offering a glimpse into his writing process.
The Flea continues to honor Mac Wellman’s work with Perfect Catastrophes, A Festival of Plays running now through November 1, Thursdays through Mondays at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., with Sunday matinees at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Tickets start at $37. Perfect Catastrophes features plays Sincerity Forever, Bad Penny, the world premiere of The Invention of Tragedy, The Sandalwood Box and the world premiere of The Fez.
Photo Credit: Timothy Park
If you look at theater in the U.S. today, you’ll notice that a lot of it is weird. Annie Baker’s John, Clare Barron’s Dance Nation, Will Arbery’s Plano, Amina Henry’s The Great Novel: All of them contain eerie, restless, Lovecraftian energies. Before them came the influential playwright Mac Wellman, a fixture of downtown experimentalism since 1979 and the longtime head of the Brooklyn College playwriting program, where his students included Baker, Barron and Henry. (He retired this year.) Wellman’s linguistically complex comedies, pitch-black at their hearts, worked out how to put that uncanny throb of horror onstage, and a Wellmanian sense of unease pulses through American theater even now.
To celebrate Wellman’s contributions, the Flea Theater—which he cofounded in 1996—is throwing a festival called Mac Wellman: Perfect Catastrophes. Cast with the Flea’s non-Equity company the Bats, the plays run the gamut from absurdist adventure to political satire and back, with detours into sheer, language-drunk, poetic nonsense. Which ones are right for you? Here is our easy-to-use guide to the series, with a Mac-derived ratings system to help you find your algorithmically determined match.
On Monday, October 21 The Flea will honor Flea co-founder Mac Wellman and Flea board member Michael Graff. The festivities will take place at Manhatta, one of downtown’s hottest new venues on the 60th Floor of 28 Liberty Street.
The Flea Theater is proud to announce the addition of six new Resident Directors to its intensive practicum for early-career directors. Rebecca Aparicio, Jake Beckhard, Daniella Caggiano, Lauren DeLeon, Will Steinberger, and Raz Golden will join the current group of Resident Directors.
The Flea welcomes back Resident Directors Misha Chowdhury, Anne Cecelia Demelo, Kate Moore Heaney, Kimille Howard, Marina McClure, David Monteagudo, Yuriy Pavlish, Tyler Thomas, Ran Xia, and Dina Vovsi as they continue to deepen and broaden their independent directorial careers.
Says Artistic Director Niegel Smith, “The field is bursting with talent and the range of emerging directors looking to find a place to make theater was inspiring. The Flea is committed to widening their opportunities by giving these incredible artists a place to call home.” Adds Carol Ostrow, Producing Director, “We look forward to adding these young visionaries to the diverse voices already ensconced at The Flea. We are sure they will make a mighty roar.”
Modeled after The Bats, The Flea’s resident company of actors, this intensive residency program offers a small team of early-career directors the opportunity to work, train and direct in support of The Flea’s season under the supervision of Artistic Director Smith, Producing Director Ostrow and The Flea Theater staff. The Flea Resident Directors engage in the full spectrum of directing. They assistant direct and stage manage each other’s shows as well as those of guest artists, review scripts for the theater, direct readings and workshops of plays under consideration by the Artistic and Producing Directors and ultimately direct their own full-length production as part of The Flea’s season.
Rebecca Aparicio is a Cuban-American writer/director/producer. Directing credits: Radical (DUAF-Best Play Award), Paper Towels (New Works Series), World Classic (Parsnip Ship Podcast), Pedro Pan (FringeNYC), Prison Song (DUAF). Assistant Directing: Gloria: A Life (dir. Diane Paulus), Endlings (dir. Sammi Cannold); An Iliad (dir. Whitney White). As a writer, her musical Pedro Pan was developed by New York Musical Festival (2017 Reading Award, 5 Awards of Excellence), Rhinebeck Writer’s Retreat, Musical Theatre Factory, FringeNYC, the TRUF Theatre. Additional Writing: Legacy (Prospect Theatre), Sweet Tea and Jesus (Best Musical-SASF), Acceptance (SASF). Founding member of Nasty Women Unite Fest, now in our third year. www.RebeccaAparicio.com
Jack Beckard is a freelance theater director and Director of Performance at Chinatown Soup, a gallery in Manhattan’s Lower East Side (www.chinatownsoup.nyc). He is a theater artist who likes to fill challenging plays with spectacular delight, accessibility, and the enormity of being an alive person. He is a Drama League Directing Fellow, the 2016 Westport Country Playhouse Directing Fellow, and an alum of the 2017 Williamstown Theater Festival directing corps. Most recently: Peter Smith’s Diana. at Ars Nova with multidisciplinary artist Peter Smith; AIA (Ajax) at the Hangar Theatre; and Water by Celine Song at the Williamstown Theater Festival. Selected assistant director credits include work with Molly Smith, Trip Cullman, Danya Taymor and Scott Elliott. www.jake-beck.com
Daniella Caggiano is a freelance director and native New Yorker. She was named one of The Interval’s 2016 “Women to Watch” and is a former MTC Directing Fellow, 2018 Drama League Resident, and an alum of Lincoln Center Directors Lab. She has directed at Joe’s Pub, Dixon Place, MTF, Le Poisson Rouge, HERE, FringeNYC, and 54 Below among others. Favorite projects include Next To Normal (benefit presentation starring Tony nom. Christiane Noll), Vinegar Tom, Macbeth, All The Ways To Say I Love You (Assistant, dir. Leigh Silverman) and School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play (Associate, dir. Rebecca Taichman). MFA The New School, BA Sarah Lawrence College www.daniellacaggiano.com
Lauren DeLeon holds a BA in Theatre & Performance Directing and minor in Playwriting. Lauren has directed productions in support of organizations including Planned Parenthood, My Sister’s Place, Standing Rock, and a non-profit she co-founded, Mission Flint, who just partnered with The Public Theater for their production of cullud wattah. Credits include: City Theatre Next Generation (Adrienne Arsht Center), Men On Boats (SUNY Purchase), FM (SUNY Purchase), Let Me Explain… (SUNY Purchase), Austentation (SUNY Purchase), Ladies of the Land (Drama League, AD), The One Minute Play Festival (INTAR), SERIALS (The Flea), and Surely Goodness and Mercy (Theatre Row, AD).
Raz Golden is an East Coast-based stage director of new and classic plays. Recent directing credits: East of the Sun, In The Same Space, If You Want My Heart (Come and Take It) (Williamstown Theatre Festival). Assistant directing credits include: Long Lost (dir. Daniel Sullivan), Dangerous House (dir. Saheem Ali), Emma and Max (The Flea, dir. Todd Solondz), and Crowns (dir. Regina Taylor). He is a Drama League Directing Fellow, a member of the 2018 Williamstown Directing Corps, a Jonathan Alper Directing Fellow, and an alumnus of the McCarter Theatre Directing apprenticeship and the City Theatre Directing Observership.
Will Steinberger has developed new plays at Hartford Stage, the Drama League, Berkshire Theatre Group, the Wilma, 59E59, Judson Church, The Tank, Jewish Plays Project, Passage Theatre, Theatre Horizon, InterAct, FGP, Uglyrhino and several universities. Favorite productions include Sarah Pappalardo’s Cold (Quince), Hannah Van Sciver’s Marbles (FringeArts) and Fifty Days at Iliam (Greenfield Collective) and David Auburn’s Proof (Neumann University). He has assistant directed for Doug Hughes, Darko Tresnjak, David Auburn, Michael Wilson, Vivienne Benesch, Kip Fagan, Lee Sunday Evans and Robert O’Hara. His dramaturgy was recently featured in The Wall Street Journal. He is Co Founder of InVersion Theatre. Wsteinberger.com
Misha Chowdhury is a queer Bengali director, writer, musician, and performance-maker based in Brooklyn. He is currently a Resident Artist at Ars Nova, a member of the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab, and a New York Theatre Workshop 2050 Fellow. His work has also been seen or developed at SPACE on Ryder Farm, HERE Arts Center, NYMF, Vineyard Arts Project, the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, Barn Arts Collective, Cloud City, Vox Populi, Asian American Writers’ Workshop, and the CATWALK Institute. Misha is the Levitt Artist-in-Residence at Williams College, where he recently directed Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves and will be directing Aleshea Harris’ Beast Thing this fall. Other upcoming collaborations include Virginia Grise’s rasgos asiaticos (Soho Rep and CalArts Center for New Performance) and MukhAgni (Ars Nova), co-created with Kameron Neal. This past year, he assisted Jo Bonney (An Ordinary Muslim, NYTW) and Richard Jones (The Hairy Ape, Park Avenue Armory). Misha received his Bachelors in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity at Stanford University, his Master of Fine Arts in Directing Theater at Columbia and studied Lecoq-based physical theater at the London International School of Performing Arts.
Anne Cecelia Demelo is a bilingual Brooklyn-based director, musician, and translator. Her production of Ellen McLaughlin’s The Trojan Women was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Adaptation. Recent directing credits include Max Mondi’s House of Karen (Signature Theater x Columbia University) and Eli Nixon’s Blood Bag (Brown University, Barn Arts). Anne has also developed and directed work at JACK, The Bushwick Starr Reading Series, The Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Festival, Dixon Place, Rising Circle, The Brick, The Tank, Cloud City/The Freight Project, and Highways Performance Space, among others. B.A., Comparative Literature, University of Virginia. www.annececeliahaney.com
Kate Moore Heaney is a NYC-based director, producer, and dramaturg committed to promoting empathy and investigating social, political, and human rights issues through theatre. Kate is Artistic Producer at Noor Theatre, Co-Program Director of the Amoralists’ ‘Wright Club, and a Resident Director at The Flea. She has directed with the Amoralists, The Civilians’ R&D Group, The Shakespeare Society, The PIT, Theatre 4the People, Directors’ Gathering Jam, and more. She has worked, trained, and/or assistant directed with Ibex Theatricals/The New Vic, McCarter Theatre, Second Stage, Clubbed Thumb, CRY HAVOC, Yale Institute for Music Theatre, Théâtre du Châtelet, and 24 Hour Plays on Broadway. BA: Yale. katemooreheaney.com
Kimille Howard is a New York based director, producer, writer, filmmaker, and occasional sound designer from Carmel, Indiana. She is currently a Jonathan Alper Directing Fellow at Manhattan Theatre Club and a NYTW 2050 Directing Fellow for the 2019-2020 season. Kimille recently directed LOW POWER by Jon Kern in EST’s Marathon ‘19, BLACK GIRLS ARE FROM OUTER SPACE by Emana Rachelle at the National Black Theatre, Skeleton Crew by Dominique Morisseau at TheatreSquared and TRIGGERED by Gabriel Jason Dean at the Cherry Lane Theatre. Kimille was awarded Best Director at the 2016 Thespis Festival for It’s All About Lorrie by Joseph Krawczyk at the Hudson Theater and remounted the production for a commercial run at The American Theater of Actors in 2017. Her work has also been seen at The Flea, The Lark, MTC, Manhattan Repertory Theater, The National Black Theatre, JAGFest, NYU, Atlantic Acting School, and the Producers’ Club among others. Kimille is the assistant director to Des McAnuff on Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations, which opened on Broadway in spring 2019. She has worked with Ruben Santiago Hudson, Emily Mann, Stephen Wadsworth, Jessica Stone, Jade King Carroll, Niegel Smith, Lorca Peress, and Melissa Maxwell. She is the co-program director for the Amoralists’ Wright Club and has produced shows at the HERE Arts Center, FIAF, and more.
Marina McClure creates emotionally-charged theater, opera, and spectacles by fusing striking visual design and physical performance. She specializes in developing new intercultural work that creates space for exchange between artists and with the audience. Projects in development include Tear a Root from the Earth, a new musical that examines the legacy of American intervention in Afghanistan, with Qais Essar and Gramophonic (Creative Capital: “On Our Radar”, The Kennedy Center, BRIC, New Ohio’s Ice Factory); Letters from Home, a multimedia performance in collaboration with a Cambodian-American father and daughter team that explores the impact of the Khmer Rouge genocide on both of their artistic practices (UC Irvine; UCSD; Willamette; Independent Shakespeare). She directed Wing It!, a large-scale community performance for the Tony-winning Handspring Puppet Company in celebration of South Africa’s National Day of Reconciliation and collaborated on Casablancabox (2017 Drama Desk Nomination for Unique Theatrical Experience, HERE). Marina is a resident director at The Flea, where she recently directed the world premiere of Steph del Rosso’s Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill and an episodic adaptation of Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomics for The Flea’s new initiative for young audiences, Cereals. Other recent: The Unbelievers, a collaboration between playwright Hannah Rittner and Yazidi Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad (Theatre Centre, Canada); Leisure Labor Lust (The Mount). Her direction of Gao Xingjian’s Nocturnal Wanderer was awarded Dartmouth College’s Gurdin Prize. Last season, she was an artist-in-residence at BRIC Arts Media and a nominator for the Drama League Awards. She has developed new plays and musicals at the Playwrights Realm, Boston Court, ACT, Northern Stage, Peterborough Players, REDCAT, Independent Shakespeare, United Solo, JACK, Voxfest, Dartmouth College, Brown University, Columbia University, NYU-Tisch, and is an alum of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab. Marina teaches at The National Theater Institute at the O’Neill, and was a finalist for the 2018 Creative Capital Award. Upcoming: Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again (Willamette). MFA: CalArts www.marinamcclure.com
David Monteagudo is a Brooklyn-based director and producer. He has developed and produced work with The Flea, The Atlantic, Theater for the New City, and Ma-Yi Theaters amongst others. His project Under the Hoodwhich melds game theory and theatrical conventions was featured in the 2014 Come out and Play Festival and will be presented as part of The Best Games Festival in Pittsburgh. He is a founding member of State of Play.
Yuriy Pavlish is a Ukrainian-American artist based in New York City. A maverick director, actor, musician, and producer, he has had the opportunity to work and study with a slew of trailblazing American theater artists, including Emily Young (Fiasco), Ted Lewis (Bedlam), J. Allen Suddeth (SAFD Fight Master), Tara O’Con (Third Rail Projects), and many others. He is currently is the Executive Director of Shakespeare in the Square, an innovative classical theater ensemble, and works extensively with Roll the Bones Theatre company and Combative Theatre Company. Recent credits include: Coriolanus: From Man to Dragon (Director), Hamlet in the Golden Vale (Laertes), which won Best Feature at the Manhattan Film Festival in 2018, and Smith Street Stage’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Producer) in Carroll Park.
Tyler Thomas is a NYC-based theater maker, focused primarily on ensemble-driven, multidisciplinary work reframing marginal space, narrative, and event. Her work has been shown at Signature Theatre, The New Ohio, The Flea, New York Musical Festival, HERE Arts Center, Paradise Factory, and various theaters across NYU. She is a former SDCF Observer, member of the Lincoln Center Directors’ Lab, Visiting Artist at the Athens Conservatoire in Greece, and current Resident Director at The Flea Theater. As an assistant director, she has worked with Lear deBessonet, Taibi Magar, Jo Bonney, Niegel Smith, Lee Sunday Evans, Katie Brook, and as associate dramaturg for The Builders Association. Tyler holds a BFA in Drama and MA in Arts Politics) from NYU Tisch. She is a native of Louisiana.
Dina Vovsi is a New York-based director and theatermaker. Current and upcoming: The Only Ones (Working Theater 5 Boroughs 1 City commission co-created with Liba Vaynberg). Recent: Drive (The Civilians’ R&D Group), Iphigenia and Other Daughters (LIU Post), Untitled Parlor Play, or, For Home Amusement (Access Residency), First by Faith: The Life of Mary McLeod Bethune (United Solo, Best Educational Show), The Bastard (Dixon Place), Visiting Hours (TheaterLab). Dina has developed new work at The Culture Project’s Women Center Stage, The Barn Arts Collective, FringeNYC, Working Theater, Atlantic Acting School, Pipeline Theatre Company, Fresh Ground Pepper, Theatre 167, The Flea. Assistant directing: Broadway, off-Broadway, and regionally, with Roundabout, Playwrights Horizons, Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, Spoleto Festival USA. Dina is a Resident Director at The Flea and a member of the 2018-2019 Civilians R&D Group. She has been a Robert Moss Directing Fellow at Playwrights Horizons, the recipient of an SDC Foundation Observership, a member of the Lincoln Center Directors’ Lab, an O’Neill National Directors Fellowship Finalist, and a Mass MoCA Assets for Artists Grantee. www.dinavovsi.com
Ran Xia is a playwright, director, and interdisciplinary artist born and raised in Shanghai, China (aka soup dumpling dreamland). Her plays have been seen on stages around New York City, including Pomegrenade at IRT; Harmony at HERE Arts Center, [ai] at the Brick, and many more. Member of Pipeline PlayLab 2020. She is currently a Resident Director at The Tank (Inaugural Artist of the Year award), where she directed the world premiere of Ben Gassman’s Independent Study, and Ailís Ní Ríain’s The Tallest Man in the World. Ran is also a frequent collaborator of Exquisite Corpse Co. (Co author of The Enchanted Realm of Rene Magritte, audio/visual installation version of Echo at the Memory House on Governors Island). Assistant Directing credits include: Flea Fridays (The Flea), The Great Leap (by Lauren Yee, Dir. Taibi Magar at Atlantic Theater Company), Two Mile Hollow (by Leah Nanako Winkler, Dir. Morgan Gould at WP Theatre), and Refrigerated Dreams by Carrie Mae Weems, Nona Hendryx, Francesca Harper, and Niegel Smith at Joe’s Pub. A staff critic at Theatre Is Easy and Exeunt. ranxia.info
The Flea Theater’s HYPE MAN: a break beat play, written by Idris Goodwin and directed by Kristan Seemel, plays on a limited outdoor run next month as part of the Battery Park City Authority’s lineup of summer programs and events. HYPE MAN runs Thursday-Saturday, May 16 through 18 at Irish Hunger Memorial Plaza in Battery Park City.
In HYPE MAN: a break beat play we meet Verb, a young black man who hypes the crowd and Pinnacle, a white front man who writes and rhymes. They’ve been best buddies since they were kids, growing up together on the same mean streets. Now, with the addition of Peep One, a mixed-race, female beat maker, the trio is about to make it big as America’s next hip hop crew. But the shooting of an unarmed black man in their hometown throws them off their beat. Their friendship is tested. Their moral compass is challenged. HYPE MAN immerses audiences in a compelling conversation amongst the beats and rhymes of pulsating hip-hop.
The Flea’s Artistic Director, Niegel Smith says, “Idris has his finger on the pulse – taking the most popular music idiom in our culture and fusing it with a pressing social question. HYPE MAN is challenging and entertaining.” Adds Carol Ostrow, The Flea’s Producing Director, “The Flea is delighted to be a part of Battery Park City’s summer programming and to bring this wonderful New York premiere production that was a part of our Color Brave Season to the larger New York community. We hope it will be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
“The Battery Park City Authority is committed to diverse programming as we welcome everyone to enjoy our beautiful parks and public spaces,” said BPCA President & CEO B.J. Jones. “In that spirit we’re delighted to partner with our friends and downtown neighbors at The Flea Theater to bring HYPE MAN here to Battery Park City. We’re inspired by The Flea’s strong support of emerging talent and its bold approach to presenting stories that reflect our everyday lives and the world around us. We look forward to seeing you here!”
When Southern Promises premiered in New York in 2008, Barack Obama was on the brink of becoming the country’s first black President. That provided an optimistic backdrop for Thomas Bradshaw‘s incendiary play about slavery. Even though it featured raw scenes of rape and brutality, it had a somewhat happy ending, inspired by the real-life saga of Henry “Box” Brown, a Virginia slave who successfully shipped himself to abolitionists in the North in a wooden crate. “It was easy, in a way, for audiences to feel good about themselves after it finished,” recalls Bradshaw, noting that it ended with the former slave rejoicing in his newfound freedom. The dramatist decided that if Southern Promises were ever revived, he wanted to leave theatregoers shaken, not soothed.
The Flea may have just undergone a major renovation and acquired a new three-theatre complex in Tribeca, but its identity is still firmly rooted in its decades-old mission statement: To raise a joyful hell in a small space.
“We’re a downtown theatre, which means we can be aesthetically ambitious and push form,” says artistic director Niegel Smith, who took the helm in 2015. “The project is to support art for art’s sake. It’s about a community of people revealing rough truths and showing us ecstatic delights.”
Community is at the heart of The Flea Theater, which is home to a vibrant and large collective of resident actors known as The Bats; resident directors; and playwrights (members of the theatre’s SERIALS writers’ room). “It’s so inspiring to work here,” says Smith. “We are that unique place in the ecology of New York theatre that is a hotbed of young talent.” […]