Treehouse Shakers

Treehouse Shakers
Hatched, BAM Fisher, Hillman Studio

Friday, February 9, 2018

Meet Our Company Members: Miranda Wilson

Tell us about yourself and how did you become a part of Treehouse Shakers? How long have you been with the company? What is your role(s) with the company?

I am an actor/singer/dancer/puppeteer originally from Kansas City, MO and now a proud resident of New York City for the past 12 years.  I was at a gathering at a friend’s apartment in August of 2010 and I met Amber Ford and we hit it off. We were talking about all sorts of creative things and it came up that she was part of a dance-theater company that focused on work for young audiences. I was very intrigued. She then said, “We’re actually currently looking for understudies. You would be perfect. You actually look just like one of the founders!” She passed along my info, I came and joined a rehearsal and read through some parts, and the rest is history! It has been an incredibly rewarding and artistically fulfilling 7 years with the Treehouse Shakers and I am now a proud performer in each of the shows in the repertoire. I can be seen as Hatch in Hatched, Granny Pearl in Olive & Pearl, Queen of the Lost in Under the Tangle, Little Red in Let's Talk About IT!, and as one of the actor/narrators in Coyote's Dance, Animal Rhythms, and Desert Travels. And I am extremely excited to start working on the next show, which will premiere in 2019, The Boy Who Grew

Miranda Wilson (Left) in Hatched, with Cast Members John Noel & Katie Montoya (Photo by Christopher Duggan)

What has been your favorite role to play?
Each of the roles that I play are so different, I don’t think I can claim a favorite! Each role is my favorite role at the time I’m playing it.  Hatch is wonderful because I get a chance to utilize my marionette skills and the moments of interacting with the very young audience members is such a special and unique experience. Granny Pearl is an opportunity to do some specific character work and an Irish accent. The show is so incredibly heartwarming and as it is only a 2 person show (well 3 – our guitar playing gnome, of course), it is really is a special thing to share the stage with Katie Montoya (who plays Olive) each time we do it…her work is a joy to watch in the show. Queen of the Lost is probably the most challenging role in my Treehouse repertoire. I love the role because of that. Having something that challenges you and stretches you as a performer is a gift to be given and I’m so appreciative of Emily taking the chance on me to let me perform and develop that role. As being more predominately an actor, the dancing in this show was a challenge I loved.  I think I will have to say my favorite role to play is as a Treehouse Shakers company member and I am so incredibly thankful for all the opportunities Emily and Mara have provided me to perform.
Miranda Wilson as Queen of the Lost, Under the Tangle (Photo by Christopher Duggan)

Tell us about a favorite audience moment you’ve had as a performer.
Oh my goodness…way too many. When you have a show like Hatched where you interact with the audience all the time, the stories really add up.  We could probably write a coffee table book of all the funny, touching and sometimes strange audience moments that come out of that show! Most recently, we performed the show at a school in Bronxville and at the end of the show, a teacher with a little girl came up to me. The teacher told me that throughout the whole show, the only thing the little girl wanted to know was my name. So I knelt down and I introduced myself. She told me her name, we talked for a brief moment, and then she ran to her teacher “My new friend’s name is MIRANDA!”  After one performance of Olive & Pearl, there was a little girl who did not want to leave because I reminded her of her granny. The mom finally pried her off my lap and told her it was time to go home. “Okay, granny. Come on. It is time to head home!” This was one of our first performances of the show, and I knew we had tapped into the right feeling of this character, the show and that the young audiences would relate. I have recreated the “Moon Dance” with many a child after these shows, and that is also a really special moment. After our performances of Under the Tangle at GK Arts Center last year, I had two young girls come up to me to ask me why my character was so mean to the Little Girl. Was I her mother and if so, why was I so mean? We had a long conversation about how sometimes when you’re young, the things that your mother does or says may feel mean to you in the moment but what she is really doing is to help you learn, grow, and protect you. When you have a perspective on that as you get older, you realize she was just looking out for you after all. And that is truly part of the journey of the Queen of the Lost and the Little Girl in the labyrinth. Their eyes got really big, they thanked me, and as they were walking away they made comments about how they needed to talk to their moms. It was a moment where you realize how powerful art can be when translated into real life. 
Miranda Wilson (Right) with Katie Montoya in Olive & Pearl (Photo by Christopher Duggan)

What makes Treehouse Shakers work unique or different than other companies you might have worked with?
Thoughtfulness. Thinking outside the box. Dedication to quality art. The work that Treehouse Shakers does is quality work that does not talk down to the young audiences for which it is performing. To that end, the young audiences have a more fulfilling experience when watching the performances. Treehouse has a show for every age range from 0-18 and are constantly adding more to insure that there is a piece out there for whatever young persons need it. They are thoughtful creators. They are also extremely thoughtful to their performers. We feel like a family, we feel taken care of, and we feel respected. We as performers never feel taken advantage of because, even if it is just a small gesture, Emily and Mara do their best to make that gesture. This is a company that truly feels like an ensemble. I am about to embark on my 4th collaboration with them as a company member and I am thrilled because each time it is such a special opportunity and challenge to have as a performer.

Miranda in Hatched (Photo by Christopher Duggan)
What does it mean to celebrate 20 years with Treehouse Shakers?

What an incredible opportunity to be a part of such a special company! As someone who has also recently started their own theater company, I look at Emily and Mara and the Treehouse Shakers with absolute awe and respect for surviving this crazy non-profit arts world for 20 years! The drive and tenacity that these two women have is an absolute inspiration to me. The 20th Anniversary gala this year was so special and if you have not watched the video that was put together for that, you MUST check it out because you can really see the incredible journey this company has had up to this point. It is not an overstatement to say that I am a PROUD member of this company.  Mara and Emily always joke about how we’re not allowed to leave the company.  And while, you know, at some point, when I’m 60 years old, it may be REALLY difficult for me to dance on that ladder as Queen of the Lost in Under the Tangle, but otherwise, it is so special to know that they have created such a home for us and we have an artistic outlet for life. And hey, at 60, I REALLY will come into my own as Granny Pearl.

Anything Else You would like us to know?
When I came in for my very first audition with Treehouse Shakers, which was September 15, 2010 (I just looked it up in my email), I had the chance to sit in a circle with all of the company members who were there that day for rehearsal and chat. As we were going around, everyone was either from Missouri, or had gone to school there, and at that moment, I thought to myself “I think I’ve found a new home in NYC.” I have never lost that feeling. Thank you, Mara. Thank you, Emily. Thank you for creating an artistic bubble for us actors and dancers to have a home in NYC where we get to create and do quality work and make a difference in the lives of our young audiences. Everyone from the incredible Treehouse Board to the lovely interns that intermittently come and work with you are here to support you and are lucky to be a part of this company. Happy 20th Anniversary!

About Miranda Wilson
Miranda Wilson has been a proud company member of Treehouse Shakers since 2010 and can be seen in all of the current Treehouse repertoire. A native of Kansas City, MO, Miranda graduated with her BFA in Theatre Performance from the University of Evansville. As an actor, singer, dancer, and puppeteer in New York City, she performs in a wide variety of performances across the city. Most recently, Miranda appeared in the critically-acclaimed cabaret, The Rise and Fall and Rise (again) of Martha Stewart, which performed to sold out audiences at Joe’s Pub as well as in Los Angeles.  Other favorite roles include: Liz in the world premiere of Every Good Girl Deserves Fun (and other misremembered things) with Clutch Productions, Inc.; Lucy in Three-Day Hangover's Dracula; Anderson Cooper and Kim Richards in the critically-acclaimed cabaret, Watch What Happens Live On Stage (NYC and LA); and as Anna Wintour's Assistant in the popular cabaret Ryan Raftery is the Most Powerful Woman in Fashion (NYC, LA, Philadelphia). Miranda has also starred in a new short film, How You Are to Me, which will begin hitting the festival circuit this spring, and as the lead in the psychological thriller, The Eve, which one her a Best Actress award for her work. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Meet Our Company Members: Trey Coates-Mitchell

Trey Mitchell with Ashley Chavonne in Under the Tangle

Tell us about yourself and how did you become a part of Treehouse Shakers? How long have you been with the company? What is your role(s) with the company?  

I am a performer, choreographer, director, teacher, and clown living in New York City.  I have been with the company for six years.  I was working on a new play in New York when the playwright told me about Mara and all of the incredible work being done by Treehouse Shakers in both introducing theater to young audiences and also using theater as a vital educational tool.  I was initially hired to be Farmer/Rooster in Hatched (for ages 0-6) and Wolf in Let’s Talk About IT! (for 13+) and then went on to be a part of the creation of Under The Tangle as Bird Boy. 

What has been your favorite role to play?

Honestly, this was tough.  Rooster has quite an inner monologue going on…but I am going to have to say Bird Boy, in Under The Tangle. My base training is in acting, so the dance requirements of this show have definitely pushed me outside of my comfort zone. However, the best part is the synergy the five of us have together when we are telling this story. Building this production with Emily Bunning, the choreographer, and this ensemble has been so incredibly challenging and rewarding, and I feel unbelievably proud of the world we have built together.

Treehouse Shakers' Cast Post-Show Let's Talk About IT! (Show for 13+)
Tell us about a favorite audience moment you’ve had as a performer.

When Bird Boy stumbles upon Little Lost Girl near his tree, there is a great scene between the two of them that eventually lures both of these characters closer and closer to the labyrinth.  The power of the labyrinth eventually pulls them inside the adventure that lies ahead.  In deciding who will be the leader of this mission, Bird Boy holds council, not realizing Lost Girl has already entered the maze.  He nominates himself the leader, and asks for all those in favor to say “Aye.”  The theater space was exciting and cavernous, with hundreds of students in attendance that day.  And in that one moment, they all responded to Bird Boy with enthusiastic “Ayes” echoing and filling the space.  They were instantly on the team, a part of the journey, and they figuratively entered the labyrinth with us.  It is in those moments that we can all feel the true power of theater and its ability to transport our minds and

What makes Treehouse Shakers work unique or different than other companies you might have worked with?

Treehouse Shakers lives in the heart of creative town, right at the corner of young audience at the intersection of theater, dance, and imagination. The stories are built from the ground up, with a little seed of an idea becoming a fully realized artistic experience for audiences of all ages.

What does it mean to celebrate 20 years with Treehouse Shakers?

Trey with audience members during Hatched
I cannot help but feel incredibly honored to be a small part of Treehouse Shakers’ impressive twenty years of work.  Twenty years signifies perseverance and purpose, and it is clear to me the impact the company is making in the world.  This work is in important, and to see the clear voice and mission built over this time is truly an inspiration.

Anything Else You would like us to know?

Treehouse really has changed my life. I plan to spend all my years on this Earth creating theater that matters, and I learned this passion from working with this company of inspirational artists. I will be forever grateful.

Trey Coates-Mitchell is a New York City based Choreographer, Director, and Teacher, he has been a company member with Treehouse Shakers for 6 years. A Virginia native, he graduated from North Carolina School of the Arts before receiving his BFA in Musical Theatre from Shenandoah University.  Trey's acting career began on the road portraying Frank Lippencott in the National Tour of "Wonderful Town" and as The Cat in The Hat in "Seussical."  Regionally, he was seen as L.A. in "Gypsy" at North Shore Music Theatre (starring Vicki Lewis) and as Posner in the regional premiere of "The History Boys" at Northern Stage Company.  New York credits include "The Drowsy Chaperone" at The Gallery Players (Winner of four New York Innovative Theatre Awards, including Best Musical) and as Trevor in "The Jungle Fun Room" (New York International Fringe Festival). Currently, Trey is the Director/Choreographer of “Sam’s Room”, a forensics rock/pop musical experience, with Music by Mark C. Kay and Caitlin Marie Bell, with a book by Dale Sampson.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

My New Year's Commitment: Doing the Most Good

This has been a truly fulfilling year for Treehouse Shakers. We accomplished 20 years as a performing arts company in New York City. We were selected as the recipients artists of New York State Presenters Network, helping us reach audiences in rural parts of the state who normally wouldn't have the opportunity to see live performances. We grew our arts in education residencies, hired more teaching artists, and developed new partnerships in the schools. We premiered a new piece for the very young, Olive & Pearl, a story that has been living with me for nearly ten years, which finally came to fruition. We also announced our inclusion of *Relaxed Performances for the 2018 season, and had the opportunity to train with Include Arts, the leader in the Relaxed Performance model from England.

Olive & Pearl Premiere (For ages 2-5)
It will never be easy to run a non-profit company, let alone an arts non-profit company. There have been days when I am stuck in New York City traffic, with a van full of puppets, and a family I desperately want to see after being on the road, when I think, "Is this still worth it?" Or while families are spending their July on the beach, and I am stuck at a computer writing grants, I ask again, "Is this worth it?" Or when I have to ask, yet again, for donations, I think, "Is this crazy life fulfilling?" Or the many times I have gone without my own income, to make sure a program is paid for, "Is this worth it?" 

Audience at Treehouse Shakers' Hatched (For ages 0-6)
Student following a Storytelling Performance at F.I.T writing a story of their own

And my continual response to my own doubts, is a resounding "Yes! This is worth it." There is unmeasurable joy in watching young people experience a performance for the first time. A performance that was created specifically for them over years of trial and exploration. When parents write to us to tell us that their children haven't stopped playing Treehouse Shakers at home, or a grandparent leaves us a voicemail to tell us this was one of the most memorable experiences they have shared with their grandchild, I know our work is meaningful. This work is worth it when I am working in a school of primarily ESL students, and their teachers tell me that their English has improved since I began visiting. Or seeing a theater filled with children who have never left their NYC neighborhood take a school bus for the first time to see Treehouse Shakers. Seeing delight, wonder, creativity, joy experienced by young people, IS the good in the world. And I am so grateful that I experience this daily.

So with the New Year fast approaching, I am still committed both as an artist, and as the founding Artistic Director of Treehouse Shakers, to do the most good I can through the invaluable gifts the arts bring to young people. I promise to myself to make this a year of less doubt and much more of, "Yes! Let's make this happen."

*Relaxed Performances will be part of Treehouse Shakers' commitment to making our work accessible to all. Relaxed Performances are designed to welcome audience members who will benefit from a less restrictive audience environment, including (but not limited to) those with sensory processing conditions, Autism, and learning or intellectual disabilities. Everyone is invited to these performances.

To make a year-end tax-deductible contribution to Treehouse Shakers and support our programs you can make a secure online donation HERE or by mailing us a contribution to:

Treehouse Shakers
Radio City Station
P.O. Box 186

New York, NY 10101-0186

Friday, December 8, 2017

Meet Our Company Members: Ashley Chavonne

Ashley Chavonne (Center) Under the Tangle, photo by Christopher Duggan

As many of you know, Treehouse Shakers is currently celebrating our 20th Anniversary Season. 20 Years as a New York City arts company truly takes a village to survive. Over the next several months, I will be highlighting some of our current company members who make Treehouse Shakers the unique, beautiful and sustainable company that it is. This month, featuring Ashley Chavonne who has been a member of Treehouse Shakers since 2010. Ashley is featured in Under the Tangle as well as Coyote's Dance, Let's Talk About IT!, Animal Rhythms and Desert Travels. She will also be in our newest piece, The Boy Who Grew Flowers, which is set to open in 2019. 

Under the Tangle, Photo Credit Christopher Duggan (Featured Ashley Chavonne & Trey Coates-Mitchell

Tell us about yourself and how did you become a part of Treehouse Shakers? How long have you been with the company? What is your role(s) with the company?

I am a dancer turned actress with the company and have been a member for 7 years (I think…wow). I was introduced to the Treehouse Shakers by a former company member after a conversation we had at work. We both worked at a restaurant in the Meatpacking district. I was curious about a teaching residency she had and found out that it was through Treehouse Shakers, which led to a conversation about how they were looking for dancers. I attended an open rehearsal soon after and the rest is history.

What has been your favorite role to play?
Little Girl Lost, my character in Under The Tangle. It’s a challenging role because she evolves so much throughout the show. So much so, that I feel like three different girls in the show. There’s girl 1, who lives outside the labyrinth and is thrown into this strange place. Girl 2, who is trying to navigate this strange place with these other quite strange characters. And Girl 3, who has accepted her new surroundings and has learned to push through her fears to…well, you will just have to see the show.

Tell us about a special audience moment you’ve had as a performer.

My favorite on stage moment was during a performance of Under The Tangle. There is a moment where the little girl falls asleep in the middle of the labyrinth and her friend leaves her to rest. A very concerned audience member, sitting front and center, gasps as the Queen of the Lost approaches the little girl and loudly whispers, “Wake up…wake up!”

My favorite off stage moment happened after a performance in Cincinnati. As a woman and her daughter were leaving the theater, the little girl ran up to me to say, “You were my favorite on stage!” She pointed to her hand, holding it next to mine and said, “You’re my same skin tone.” It was a really special moment for the three of us. 
Under the Tangle, photo credit Christopher Duggan

What makes Treehouse Shakers work unique or different than other companies you have worked with?

The creative approach to the marriage of dance and theater. Also the expectations they have for the creative and intellectual capacity of young audiences are appropriate and admirable. The stories are brilliantly crafted without the messages being watered down or the lessons feeling contrived.

What does it mean to celebrate 20 years with Treehouse Shakers?

It means that for 20 years, there has been an understanding of the impact that early exposure to arts and culture can have on young minds and a generous outpour of support for it. To be a part and product of that mission is truly exciting!
Post-Show Coyote's Dance at Ailey Citigroup Theater

Anything Else You would like us to know?

I love Mara and Emily. They are two of the most creative, inspiring and encouraging women I know. Relentless in pursuit of creating quality art for young audiences and creating space for the company to be our best selves.

More About Ashley 
Ashley Chavonne was born and raised in Detroit, MI. She received her B.A. in Strategic Communication and B.F.A in dance from Ohio State University where she studied with such notable choreographers as Rennie Harris, Luam, and Sheryl Murakami. In addition to being a principal company member of Treehouse Shakers, she is also a dancer for SoulRebel Dance Company founded and directed by a former member of Rennie Harris Pure Movement. As a dancer with diverse training, hip-hop influences her movement choices across all genres.  She also performs with numerous other New York City choreographers and teaches around the city.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

It's Our Birthday! Treehouse Shakers Is Turning 20 Years Old

It's our birthday! Treehouse Shakers is having our 20th Birthday Party on November 4, 2017, and everyone is invited to celebrate. 

20 years ago, Treehouse Shakers was founded in New York City by myself and Emily Bunning. We grew up together in Wyoming, and as children often found ourselves inventing imaginative games, stories and dances, while spending most of our time outside amongst the arrowheads and desert rocks. When we were six, we began taking art classes with Emily’s great-aunt Susie.

Susan Young, our formidable art teacher
These art classes gave us a strong foundation in visual arts; we spent time painting, creating sculptures, and working on a potter’s wheel. For lunches, Susie would make lunch and we would spend the time deep in discussion about art, Wyoming and Susie’s childhood on their family homestead. As we grew older we spent our summers at performing arts camp, and eventually went onto college at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri to pursue our artistic passions. It was there, that we collaborated for the first time for a project I was creating for a Directing I class. I wanted to deconstruct poetry written by women, and incorporate movement within the poetry instead of blocking as the actors spoke.

Babies & Toddlers at our piece for ages 0-6, Hatched
Shortly after moving to New York City in 1997 we created our first piece together, Dance of My Daughter. Dance of My Daughter, written by Mara McEwin and Choreographed by Emily Bunning, which enjoyed a very successful two-week run at the Ensemble Theater, NYC. Since that first piece, we have made fourteen original shows, worked in countless schools, with arts in education residencies and workshops, and currently have 6 shows on a rotating tour.

Olive & Pearl, Our Newest Work for ages 2-5
We are thrilled to have experienced this adventurous 20 year journey as a company, and look forward to continuing to grow as a company, have an impact on the field of Theater for Young Audiences, and inspire young people through the arts. Please join us to celebrate this exciting company milestone.

When: Saturday, November 4, 2017

Where: BAM/Fisher
             321 Ashland Place
             Brooklyn, NY 11215

Tickets & Info:

This event is presented by Treehouse Shakers. BAM house and ticketing policies, including BAM membership benefits, may not apply. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Our 20th Anniversary Celebration

20th Anniversary Invite, Created by Appolllo Bey
On April 27, 2017, Treehouse Shakers celebrated our 20th Anniversary. We held a benefit at The Sixth Floor Loft in NYC and filled the space with supporters, teachers, executive directors, headmasters, friends, family, and company members. We also had the wonderful privilege to honor three outstanding organizations and people, all of whom have believed in the power of the arts for young people, believed in the importance of placing our resources with young people, and who have believed in Treehouse Shakers.

Brooklyn Kindergarten Society & James Matison
Thirteen years ago we partnered with an organization called Brooklyn Kindergarten Society (BKS). This is an organization that has dedicated itself to providing high quality early childhood education to children from low-income families for the last 125 years. They have six early childhood learning centers located in public housing in Brooklyn. Thirteen years ago, we invited these students and teachers to see our performances, through Treehouse Shakers’ then beginning subsidized ticket program. Many of these students were not only seeing their first performance, they were also leaving their Brooklyn neighborhood for the very first time. I’ll never forget, these students asking us if we lived in the theater, were we all sisters, and did we know that when you leave Brooklyn you have to take a bridge, OVER water. To this day we continue to partner with BKS, and it is still just as exciting as it was that very first time, for all of us, when BKS is in our audience.
Executive Director, James Matison of Brooklyn Kindergarten Society with John Anselmi,
Treehouse Shakers' Board Member
Margaret Murtagh, Director of Reformed Church Nursery School
At Reformed Church Nursery School classes are purposely kept small. The teachers are kind, friendly, intelligent and passionate. The arts are everywhere; there is music, dance, art, storytelling, creative drama, cooking and puppet making. The students are engaged, full of wonder, delight and thought. The woman who leads this school is unlike any school director or headmaster. Everyday, she sits, laughs and eats with her teachers at lunchtime. Her door is always open, bustling with parents, teachers and school staff. This is a school that the moment you walk into it, you don’t want to leave. It is a place of joy and incredible learning that is nourished in a way that has made this school a leader in education. We are so happy to have honored the director of Reformed Church Nursery School, Margaret Murtagh. And thank her for her continued partnership with Treehouse Shakers.

Margaret Murtagh, Director of Reformed Church Nursery School (Center), surrounded by the teachers and staff of RCNS

Ellen Kodadek, Executive & Artistic Director, Flushing Town Hall

And lastly, our 20-year journey has taken us to Ellen Kodadek, the Artistic & Executive Director of Flushing Town Hall, a beautiful historic theater that sits in the middle of bustling Flushing, Queens, a densely Asian neighborhood, in the most diverse borough in the world. Ellen curates work that reflects her global audiences. Ellen provides a wide variety of arts that are incredibly thoughtful, powerful and enjoyable. I often marvel at her ability to work with her community, local council members, government agencies and community leaders as she creates inspiring, sometimes challenging, and thought-provoking artistic programming. Ellen is an advocate for the arts, AND she is a leader in helping and supporting artists, giving generous space grants for developing new work. She nurtures artists through her space, but she also nurtures artists every day in conversation, love, and her own generous spirit. Over the years, Ellen has programmed our work, including Hatched numerous times, and has also given us a very generous space grant for the development and premiere of our new piece for the very young, Olive & Pearl.

Left to Right: Mara McEwin, Ellen Kodadek (Flushing Town Hall) & Emily Bunning (Treehouse Shakers' Co-Founder)

Check Out Our 20th Anniversary Video
Created by Nel Shelby Productions

Thank you to everyone who made this year's event, one to forever remember, and mark this exceptional time in our company's history.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Olive & Pearl Premieres For 20th Anniversary Season

We are happy to share some of our wonderful photos from our sold-out performance run of
Olive & Pearl at BAM/Fisher in Brooklyn. We had incredible feedback from parents, teachers and most importantly our very young audiences.

Katie Montoya (Olive) and Miranda Noelle Wilson (Granny)
Olive & Pearl
Photos By Christopher Duggan
"The children were enchanted. They were completely inside the story, and so enjoyed participating. The story of the grandmother and child is such a part of our students' Russian culture, they loved coming back to the classroom to write about their grandparents."
Julia Morris, Kindergarten Teacher, NYC

"Beautiful set, wonderful acting and story, perfect pace for my 2 year old son to follow along. Lots of familiar rituals of home, that thoroughly held our son's attention. Please make more of your wonderful 0-5 performances."
Parent of 2 Year Old, Brooklyn

Thank you to everyone who made our 20th Anniversary Season, a big and wonderful hit for our youngest members.