When I step off the elevator to the lower level of Jordan Roth’s West Village apartment building, I don’t know what to expect. I’m here for #MakingMondays. I’ve been told it’s a night of creativity, but I don’t know who the other guests are, what exactly we’ll all be creating or how I will be received as the only journalist at the artist party.
Hosts Jordan Roth and Robbie Roth (friends who seem like brothers, but, in fact, are no relation) welcome me with a warmth that feels like I’m hugging my grandmother after a too-long trip away. Scanning the room, I recognize a few Broadway faces—Ann Harada, Adam Kantor, Paul Alexander Nolan—but there are far fewer than I expected for a party at the home of Jujamacyn Theatre owner and producer, Jordan Roth.
#MakingMondays isn’t about Broadway. It’s not about names. It’s about experimentation, collaboration and inspiration—zero expectations. #MakingMondays is an experiment to answer the question: What happens when you put a bunch of artists in a room together and broadcast it live?
The room is a bit like a sophisticated adult preschool: a music station with songbooks on the couch, a drawing table with markers and colored pencils and watercolors, a playwriting station where Jonathan Bernstein perches on a table (well, via Skype, on a computer, on a table) ready to write an original one-act, a baking station and a beverage mixing station (putting the adult spin on the evening).
There are no rules. There is no schedule. “We invite you to see what emerges for you; we invite you to join in as things are happening,” Jordan says to his guests. “So whatever pulls you and inspires you and excites you, feel free to join in.”
Next thing we know, we’re live on Facebook and Periscope—Jordan wielding his handheld two-phone apparatus and welcoming viewers to officially join the party. He’s like 2016 Auntie Mame.
The goal is art in all of its forms, and Robbie and Jordan assemble the guest list accordingly. “We keep meeting the most extraordinary musicians, the most extraordinary visual artists, the most extraordinary creators who make their own media and continuing to expand how people express themselves” says Jordan.
Among the attendees that night: a fashion illustrator, a magician, a choreographer and his dancer, a photographer, six musical theatre actors, two storytellers, a playwright, a cartoonist, two fashionistas, two musicians, a baker and her sidekick, one MC and me.
Since the dynamic in the room is the most important ingredient in this creativity soup, the Roths balance returnees and newcomers and curate an array of artistic disciplines to simmer in the room that night.
The room buzzes with energy. It’s a creative oasis that at once feels alive and exciting, yet safe, homey and calming.
That vibe is crucial to liberate artists in the room. “I think that’s one of the ways that it gets out of the business and into the heart and love and creativity and expression because you come into this room and nobody is gonna make something that is then going to be ‘the thing they try to produce,’” says Jordan.
“We’re about the ugly,” asserts Jordan. The “just come and play” attitude immediately strips away any feeling of self-consciousness for the artists in the room.
“One of the distinguishing things about what we’re doing is that it isn’t under the lights and made up and costumed and everything,” says Robbie. “It’s just a party and we happen to be doing artistic things.”
It’s the coolest party in town, without any air or self-importance.
“I think this is the epitome of the New York City arts,” says Natalia Paruz. “You take a little bit of everything that New York City has to offer, and you throw it in one room. It gets the creative juices going.” A dancer turned musician, Paruz plays the hand saw—yes, the hand saw. Talk about art in surprising places.
But it’s more than creating in the room. “One of the things that we try to encourage is for [artists] to talk about your art and the process of making art [as they do it] and the failures and success of that, because I think for the people that are watching it’s lovely for them to be able to engage with people they respect but also to understand that it is a process, and it’s not always full of polish and gloss.”
Thanks to the “live” aspect of #MakingMondays, viewers become collaborators in this process.
At the bar, Harada makes up a drink—gin over ice with some limeade, a splash of tonic cucumber and mint—and the audience names it: “Lima Harada.”
Tom Gold, a former New York City ballet soloist and current director of Tom Gold Dance, took audience suggestions for the song that he would choreograph by the time #MakingMondays went off the air. “People were suggesting pop songs,” he says. “What I love to do is to mix high-brow and low-brow, so people can relate to it on all levels.” He hopped on the audience suggestion “Moves Like Jagger,” but twisted it and chose a string quartet cover of the song.
Within an hour, Gold debuts a two-and-a-half minute original work.
“I love that spontaneity and having to think on your feet and see what happens,” says Gold. Not to mention, Gold thrives on the teamwork of #MakingMondays. “If you just rely on your own kind of self-envisioned [idea], you can get stuck in a rut sometimes, and so you get outside influences, which I love—seeing other things, working with other people, collaborating—I think it just makes you a better artist and performer.”
“It’s live because your presence as a viewer is necessary,” says Jordan.
While the Roths create a new community each week with the talent at a particular #MakingMonday, they’re creating a global community of artists. They aim to inspire, and it’s working.
One viewer is now the unofficial designer of #MakingMondays theatre, illustrating a poster of the play written at each #MakingMonday and tweeting out the art on Tuesday. “People find their way into adding their piece and adding their voice and connecting their stories,” says Jordan.
“It’s just about [the viewers] feeling like anything is possible,” says Robbie.
Indeed, what began as some musicians hanging out and jamming on theatre’s dark day has become a reason for artists and art-lovers to gather around their screens and imagine: What can we make today?