When New York Theatre Workshop began renovations on its Fourth Street Theatre, it wasn’t just about turning the venue—which the company had acquired in 1995—into a more flexible and functional black box space. The organization wanted to support theatremakers in a more tangible way, with greater resources and by bridging the gap between the Fourth Street and NYTW audiences. And so, Next Door at NYTW was born, offering artists subsidized resources that range from publicity and marketing, to support in all box office and front-of-house operations. In the program's first year alone, there was a 25 percent audience crossover from NYTW productions to Next Door projects.
For Linda Chapman, NYTW’s associate artistic director, and Rachel Silverman, artistic producing associate, Next Door at NYTW is a natural expansion of the company’s long-running Artist Workshop—a roster of developmental opportunities that provide off-stage support to a community of artists. Once a year, they issue a call for proposals from NYTW’s community of affiliated theatre artists, along with other small theatre companies, ensembles and independent producers. From these submissions, the artistic staff select projects and work as many of them as possible into an annual calendar (more on the 2018–2019 lineup below!)
While most Next Door projects are the result of existing, long-standing relationships, Silverman says the series is an opportunity for NYTW to open its doors to a larger community of artists. “Collaborations with artists who are newer to us are certainly the beginning of longer relationships we hope to nurture and grow,” says Silverman, which speaks to the heart of NYTW’s mission to put artists first. “With Next Door, we hope to extend our value of supporting artists where they are in their process, and offer a new resource to our artistic community.”
“Where we have in the past offered our audiences four or five productions each season, Next Door made it possible to support ten more projects last season, with ten more slated for 2018–19,” says Chapman. “We have effectively tripled the number of annual opportunities for artists and audiences to come together in our quest to better understand the world we live in.”
The 2018–2019 Next Door programming kicked off in July with Michael Breslin and Patrick Foley’s This American Wife, followed by Jacob Brandt and Dan Giles’ musical 1969:The Second Man, directed by Jaki Bradley.
Below, check out the artists featured in this season's lineup on their shows.
RATED BLACK: An American Requiem
Name: Kareem M. Lucas, Writer/Performer
My show is: A solo show that weaves together original poetry and a cappella songs, sung by a small choir, to bury a young Black man and heal a country. The show is a part of a trilogy of solo shows; Black Is Beautiful, But It Ain’t Always Pretty (Under the Radar Festival at The Public Theater) and The Maturation of an Inconvenient Negro.
You’ll love it if…You love Black people.
I’m passionate about theatre that is…Immediate, relevant, absent of artifice, provocative, uncompromising, inspiring, healing, theatrical, truthtelling, beautiful, and really, really dope.
I’m making theatre right now because…I have to. The time is always now. We can’t wait for other people to tell our stories. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. Amen. Ashe. Wakanda Forever.
Dead Are My People:
Names: Hadi Eldebek, composer, and Ismail Khalidi, playwright
Our show is: A journey into the Jim Crow South in 1918 through the eyes of a Syrian Arab immigrant. We’re exploring themes and posing questions that were relevant to the era, but that are still relevant today. It’s a story about loss and finding home, about being a refugee and an immigrant, and about how everyone who sets foot on American soil has to contend with, survive, or navigate the perils of white supremacy. There’s also music; Arabic and southern/blues style—think banjos and 'ouds riffing off each other.
You’ll love it if you’re into…Historical drama, dark comedy, and the fusion of different languages and musical styles.
We’re passionate about theatre that is…HE: Challenging, thought provoking, and resonant.
IK: Unafraid and questions the status quo. I’m passionate about theatre that makes folks go where they have never gone before or step into the shoes of the other.
I’m making theatre right now because…HE: I believe in the potential of this play to help us confront the past and practices in this country, in order to understand the present.
IK: We are and have for a long time been looking away from what truly ails us and our world. As a playwright I am in total agreement with my colleague, the brilliant Naomi Wallace, who reminds us that we must "become detectives, inspectors and investigators into our own privilege and power, our culpability, our closing of the door. When we write, we can investigate the unseen, the disremembered. We can cultivate a hospitality toward dissent rather than a nurtured contempt for truth."
Name: Helen Banner, playwright
My show is: A semi-immersive encounter with three American women diplomats who, as part of a training exercise, are role-playing a high-stakes peace negotiation recently completed by one of them. As the peace settlement unravels overseas, the women’s role-playing becomes increasingly charged, pushing them deeper into the bodies and minds of violent insurgents, as they try to maintain their confidence in the power of diplomacy to change the world.
You’ll love it if you’re into…Strong characters, big ideas, and a play that traces out the theatre of real world politics. Intelligence asks us to question how we code and decode others and ourselves through our imaginations, and actively involves the audience in the rituals of story-telling. It's a high-energy show made by an all-women team.
I’m passionate about theatre….That is non-didactic, buoyant and thoughtful and takes on unexpected subject areas and characters. I love plays that are over-ambitious and try to pull big human institutions into a small black box. For me, the theatre is this vital space where we can take apart ideas and put them back together, but there's no set outcome and no-one has to "win" the argument.
I’m making theatre right now because…It feels like a brilliant way to understand how individuals build and adapt their world views. Characters come alive when they step out of stereotype and embody the idiosyncratic and complex mess of beliefs, fears, and stories we all carry. I want to focus my writing on the moments when people rise above the unseen influences weighing down on them and risk making conscious political choices.
Bonnie’s Last Flight
Name: Eliza Bent, writer and performer
My show is: A three-part play set on an airplane. Our audience makes the trip as passengers: sitting on a tarmac before take off, floating at cruising altitude, and buckling down for the wild and rocky descent back to land. On everyone’s least favorite mode of transit, we reckon with our crew’s dreams and regrets and ask ourselves: What is the best way to live and how?
You’ll love it if you’re into…Air travel, people who wax nostalgic, zany stage antics, pretzels
I’m passionate about theatre that is… As humorous as it is philosophical. I love theatre that messes around with genre and I never say no to a gentle moment of audience participation.
I’m making theatre right now because…It is delicious fun and the best way I know how to be alive.
Name: Michael Levinton, writer & director, artistic director of Little Lord
My show is: Based on the deceptively simple yet rich language in McGuffey's Eclectic Readers— a series of 19th-century American schoolbooks that taught generations how to read, think, and behave. Skinnamarink is part ritual, part recess, part recruitment. It’s like the most messed-up school day in a bizzaro one-room schoolhouse (attendance is mandatory). It’s like Dick and Jane meets the Marquis de Sade.
You’ll love it if you’re into… Irreverent, intelligent, queer, funny, disturbing works of experimental performance. Also, if you like peanut butter, corporal punishment, Flowers in the Attic, and the music of Sharon Lois and Bram.
I’m passionate about theatre that is… Big, bold, unapologetic, smart, short, and fearless in its weirdness.
I’m making theatre right now because… There is an excitement, vitality, power, and truth that only live theatre can harness.
Eh Dah? Questions For My Father
Name: Aya Aziz, book writer, composer, lyricist, and performer
My show is: An autobiographical story about a young Egyptia- American woman's exploration into her family history. Set in the U.S and the Middle East, this contemporary musical follows the lives of a family divided across continents, cultures, and expectations as it explores what it means to live in a post 9/11 world.
You’ll love it if you’re into… Musical theatre, rap, Egyptian folk music, pop, jazz, memoir, and autobiographical storytelling.
I’m passionate about theatre that… Inspires to us to imagine what’s possible! I love theatre that educates me, that sparks my self-reflection, that harnesses my empathy and pushes me to grow. I love theatre that allows me to laugh in the darkest places.
I’m making theatre right now because… I love people. And I love exploring the universal truths at the heart of our strangest experiences.
[Veil Widow Conspiracy]
Name: Gordon Dahlquist, Playwright
My show is: A play built around a story from 1922 Xinjiang in Western China: a political murder is firstly dramatized in a 2010 big budget Hollywood film, then secondly, amended via DVD extras detailing a censorship crisis with the Chinese government. Finally, two lovers in a futuristic, dystopian Brooklyn, without the means to watch the film, describe it to one another in the dark. The play explores how truth and fiction each have an angle, and how every metaphor comes with an agenda.
You’ll love it if you’re into…. Dense storytelling—how overlapping narratives illuminate social and cultural changes over time and geography. This is also style and voice—how stories are told, and the circumstances of the telling, can be as important as the stories themselves. It's very playful and also sharp.
I’m passionate about theatre that is… I like theatre that tries to grapple with how complicated our world has become; theatre that is devoted to sifting through the world and asking questions that surprise us but, once raised, seem necessary.
I’m making theatre right now because… Talking and listening to people in person seems like a really important thing to do, since we spend most of our time in a digital hive listening to people we mostly don't know. Theatre is a place for hand-to-hand effort; as necessary and granular as political activism, if with a different goal.