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Off Broadway Theater Update, Part 3

As we continue to work through the reality of this new era in our lives, it’s important to remember the creative people in our world and our neighborhoods.  They are striving to make sense out of the constrained circumstances we find ourselves in, and still are finding and creating new ways to keep us thinking and engaged.

HB Studios on Bank Street

Our neighborhoods have long served as the incubator for innovation in the theatrical art form.  Now more than ever, in this time of isolation, we need engagement and support in our lives.   Theater remains a critical component of our shared human experience, especially in this time of isolation and uncertainty.  We hope to once again shine a light on the the Off-Broadway establishments in our neighborhoods so that you might consider taking part in their amazing offerings now during this time of pause, and of course in the future when we can once again come together to share the communal experience that is like no other.

Each of our theatrical neighbors have had different responses, according to their schedules and their resources. One thing that unites them, and has always united them, is their ingenuity and nimble natures.


Uta Hagen as Martha in Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

This year marks the 75th Anniversary of the HB Studio.  In 1945 Herbert Berghof, a noted Austrian Broadway actor and director and refugee from the Nazis, began the studio which he conceived as an artistic and working home.  In 1948, Berghof included the resources of his partner, the iconic actress and theater practitioner Uta Hagen.  Hagen originated the role of Martha in Edward Albee’s  1962 Broadway premiere of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  At the time, Albee called her “a profoundly truthful actress.” In the 1950s, Hagen ended up on the Hollywood blacklist, in part because of her association with actor Paul Robeson, and her film opportunities, once plentiful, dwindled in Hollywood.  She returned to New York to focus her career on New York theater and her teaching practice. She subsequently authored the  best-selling acting texts, Respect for Acting and A Challenge for the Actor, both of which have provided substantial contributions to theater pedagogy.

HB Studios has evolved as a sought-after haven for accomplished and aspiring theater artists. Their students, faculty, and alumni form a vibrant community of notable and emerging talents. Today, HB serves nearly 6,000 people annually. The studio welcomes artists from all across the globe. While the performance space is currently quiet, they have rolled out a suite of online classes and workshops. HB Studio has tailored their teaching  to the virtual space and is exploring that space creatively with their students. You can check out the list of online offerings here.


HERE Arts Center at 145 Sixth Avenue

A little bit further south in our neighborhood is HERE Arts Center. Founded in 1993 by four artists — Kristin Marting, Tim Maner, Barbara Busackino, and Randy Rollison — HERE was envisioned as a welcoming, safe environment that could attract and launch a variety of artists. Over the past 26 years, HERE has been home to such acclaimed artists and works as Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, Basil Twist’s Symphonie Fantastique, and Taylor Mac’s The Lily’s Revenge.  HERE has produced and presented over 1,200 original works.  In 2005, with the support of the City of New York and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, HERE purchased its 9,000-square-foot longtime home at 145 Sixth Avenue, in the Hudson Square neighborhood.  The facility boasts of two performance spaces, a lounge, and gallery.

In response to the current situation, HERE has pivoted rather quickly to create several fascinating offerings.

“Stairway to Stardom” photo by Maria Baranova

HERE@Home takes place each Wednesday at 7pm.  HERE is hosting a Facebook Watch Party to screen full-length HERE productions. They’ve opened  the HERE Vault to share favorite productions from the past 26 years. Following the online premiere, these full-length videos will be available for viewing on Facebook until their theater building reopens for live public performances.

Each Friday at 1pm, #stillHERE  invites you to join an artist from the HERE community for a short, informal visit to share in the creation of new work for the social-distancing age.  #stillHERE also includes daily postings by its staff and artists including Lindsey Abromaitis-Smith, Lenora Champagne, Yiru Chen, Lisa D’amour, Suli Holum, Maiko Kikuchi, Eleanor Kipping, Julia Levine, Spencer Lott, and Ruth Margraff.

And finally, they are offering #COVIDEO, a sequential community-built video of art-making in the time of the coronavirus, in which a community of artists and audiences come together to independently create ten seconds of video art. Each day, one section is created in response to the previous ten seconds.  You can check their Instagram or Facebook Story for the latest installments. After ten days, the sections are strung together into one video that is released on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

You can enjoy the first installment on the theme Social Distancing here! And the second theme,  Flatten the Curvehere!

You can email covideo@here.org if you interested in participating in the next one.

So many new and wonderful things are happening in the creative, fertile grounds of our neighborhoods.  We will keep you informed and up to date so that you can participate and engage with the work of our amazing, creative neighbors.

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