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Innovative artists intent on ‘Bushwacking’ Brooklyn

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By Aaron Short

The pitter-patter of little feet from five different performance companies will invade the black box space of the Bushwick Starr (207 Starr Street) for the theater’s inaugural Bushwack Series on May 15 through 17.

“We really wanted to make it verbally clear that it is a Bushwick-based festival,” said Sue Kessler, co-curator of the Bushwick Starr Theater. “Artists coming form out here and winging it with their lifestyle, 'Bushwacking' their way through the process.”

Kessler and Noel Alain, a co-curator of the Bushwick Starr Theater, curated the festival to help artists develop new work and foment a growing arts community in Brooklyn.

“We want this to be a freeing work environment for these people instead of something that is final,” Kessler said. “They’re doing something in front of an audience that is more than just a reading. Hopefully the pieces will have a life beyond this series.

The five productions feature work from the National Theater of the United States of America, Ann and Alexx Make Dances, Amanda Maddock, Chris Ajemian, and ConLab, which will encompass theater, dance, puppetry, opera and a multi-media spectacle.

The National Theater of the United States of America will premiere a theatrical piece based on The Chautauqua Lectures, a humorous series of etiquette lectures which toured the country in the 1900s. The theater company is debuting the piece at the Bushwick Starr and then engaging in a national tour of its own afterwards.

Other pieces include Ann and Alexx Makes Dance: The Long Night, an environmental dance work that incorporates classic clowning; Chris Ajemian, who will be interpreting excerpts of the Opera Madame Butterfly; and Amanda Maddock Presents: Do Elephants Dream of Sleep, a puppetry piece of short vignettes exploring what is real and what is not and inspired by film noir and The Velveteen Rabbit.

Finally, ConLab, the avant garde, sports-theatrical group, which debuted some of its work at the Starr earlier this year, will be performing on the roof, enabling Kessler and Alain use every inch of the space for their production.

“Participat­ing in Bushwhack is an honor, because of the care they provide artists as we present new material,” said Rafael Gallegos, ConLab founder and a Bushwick resident. “By providing us with space and time, the Bushwick Starr has given us a golden opportunity.”

While the Bushwick Starr is built to provide the traditional amenities of a black box theater, the theater producers have been looking to expand their offerings to provide emerging artists with technical assistance for more unusual uses of the space. The space has featured music shows, experimental theater and dance, comedy and acrobatics in the two years that it has been operating on Starr Street. Kessler hopes the community of artists grows around the theater, making Bushwick more of a destination for experimental work.

“We are really interested in having a theater community in Bushwick and serving the community here,” Kessler said. “We want to bring the greater New York City area to Bushwick versus getting a bigger space in Williamsburg or the East Village and expanding outward.”

The Bushwack Series, taking place at 8 p.m. from May 15 to May 17, will be held at 207 Starr Street, just off the Jefferson Stop on the L train. Tickets are $10. For more information, visit www.thebushwickstarr.org.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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