Off-Broadway’s Theatre Row Marks a Sea Change With New Kitchen Sink Residency

Interview   Off-Broadway’s Theatre Row Marks a Sea Change With New Kitchen Sink Residency
 
The Midtown theatre complex continues its evolution by welcoming five theatre companies to create never-before-produced work.
Sarah Hughes and Stephanie Rolland
Sarah Hughes and Stephanie Rolland Marc J. Franklin

“Theatre Row is in a question-asking phase,” says Stephanie Rolland, the company’s newly appointed Director of Theatre Operations, and part of an influx of new staff at the multi-theatre complex on 42nd Street. One of those questions is how the organization—already a home for a number of companies in residence—can become a more robust supporter of nonprofits. The answer: new initiatives like the Kitchen Sink Residency, a program spearheaded by Sarah Hughes, Theatre Row’s new Director of Artistic Programming, and co-run by Rolland and an artistic advisory committee.

Kitchen Sink, which launches this fall, offers five companies a two-year commitment of space and support, as well as a sustained home base, as they create and present new, never-before-produced work. With the goal of developing a single project over the extended timeline, companies will first have an opportunity to present the work in progress in front of an audience, followed by a festival showcase presentation and a cumulative world-premiere run co-produced by Theatre Row. The resident companies will also have the opportunity to be in conversation with existing, more experienced residents, allowing for natural collaborations and mentorships to take place.

Hughes, who has experience independently directing and producing, brings a distinctly downtown aesthetic and ethos to her position—which means both an eye for work that is adventurous and boundary-expanding, as well as a knack for non-traditional creative processes. A working artist herself, she is conscious of the kinds of questions and concerns artists are bringing to the table.

“A lot of the companies we’re targeting are deeply from the world that I’m from,” says Hughes. “Are they interested in seeing what it’s like to be in a larger space, uptown? Allowing them to try that out and grow without fully taking on the kinds of risk that come with renting out a space like this.”

“We’re thinking of multiplicity more than anything and trying to provide a variety of opportunities for people,” adds Rolland, emphasizing that growth will look different for each resident. Rolland, a manager and producer, has cut her teeth at the institutional level, having worked at Baltimore Center Stage and McCarter Theatre Center. While she understands how to navigate red tape, larger budgets, and an abundance of resources, she also knows how to produce a festival on a shoestring budget.

Kitchen Sink residency will emphasize diversity, but not exclusively through a racial lens. “In terms of performing arts, in terms of audience, in terms of artist and message,” explains Rolland. “For us, diversity means getting as many companies as we can to represent all of what New York is capable of.” While Theatre Row continues its transition, so too will 42nd Street, with the arrival of these new voices.

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