I'm a Joiner! For Selfish Reasons!
I was one of the first lucky recipients of the Economic Revitalization for Performing Artists program. Our project, Conni’s Avant Garde Restaurant, was essentially an experiment in marrying the artistic model of an actor-driven, collaborative ensemble theater company with a business model borrowed from the food service industry. We were on a quest for the illusive “sustainability”. Theater-as-restaurant. Self-contained. Replicable economic model. As time went on, over and over again in conversations with fellow recipients, the word “community” kept coming up for each of us, separately, as a key to economic and artistic survival. At the beginning I thought that “sustainability” was synonymous with “self-sufficiency”. By the end, “sustainability” had become synonymous with “community”. This moved quickly from an idea to a commitment in a surprising way for me, just as the grant period came to a close.
In June of 2011, Paul Bargetto, artistic director of the undergroundzero festival, approached me to see if Conni’s Avant Garde Restauarant wanted to join a new cooperative of independent theaters. Do I want a slot in the annual festival? Do I want to help come up with a new system of working that involves cooperating rather than competing or working in isolation? Yup, yup, and yup. This is for me the next stage of Economic Revitalization. It involves letting go a bit of the importance I place on my own carefully carved out individual aesthetic niche and hooking my future with others. Really committing to other theater-makers to improve our lot.
The Official Scoop:
In February 2012, eleven independent theater artists and companies formed the undergroundzero cooperative: Paul Bargetto / East River Commedia, Anna Brenner, Jeff Clarke / Performance Lab 115, Alec Duffy / Hoi Polloi, Connie Hall / Conni's Avant Garde Restaurant, Daniel Irizarry & Laura Butler Rivera, Doris Mirescu / Dangerous Ground, Shige Moriya & Ximena Garnica / Leimay, Judith Malina & Brad Burgess / The Living Theatre, Jill A. Samuels, and Shannon Sindelar.
Since 2007, undergroundzero has been operating as a summer festival (Collective Unconscious, PS 122) featuring the cutting edge work of New York City and international theater-makers. This year, participants from past festivals and other veteran experimental theater artists formed the permanent resident cooperative in order to share resources and improve the conditions for making new work. The cooperative’s aim is to secure for its member companies the core means of production including rehearsal space, performance venues, touring opportunities, promotion, management, advocacy, and funding.
This year the undergroundzero festival will be presented at the Living Theatre, Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center and outdoor sites June 26 - July 28, 2012.
Check out our website to see what is in the works and how you can get involved: www.undergroundzeronyc.org.