Treehouse Shakers

Treehouse Shakers
Hatched, BAM Fisher, Hillman Studio

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Election, Arts, and Healing

It's no secret, I am a political junkie. I always have been. I was raised in a household where we talked (sometimes yelled) politics around the dinner table, when driving to school, when visiting family. I am a child of free love parents. Of a father who took me to the anti-nuclear rallies, to stand in union picket lines, to work on local campaign elections. My uncle was a union leader and organizer. My dad and his brother were themselves raised on the picket line, traveling around the United States. My grandparents fought for unions, and the ideals of the union. We were the Irish American family that worshipped John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. I was taught that equality for all was a necessity in the prosperity of all people.

Get Out The Vote Campaign Ad (AIGA)
I was raised to do good. My earliest memories, even when my father was out of work, was of him paying for groceries for the people in line who didn't have enough for what was in their cart. We had less for dinner sometimes, so we could share with others. My mother, an artist, and a college professor, constantly took me to exhibitions of political artists, to artist lectures, performances, parties where the talk was always on how we, as a nation, progress. It is no wonder, I am always thinking and discussing the political climate and politics.

This election cycle has been brutal. The face of misogyny, racism, bigotry and sexism constantly rearing its ugly head. But the ugly part of humanity cannot, and will not win.

Daughter Making Signs at Hillary Campaign Office
I am focused on the election, and at the same time I am also focused on what will heal our country;
the arts. Art instills beauty, empathy, kindness, nurturing, intelligence. As the Artistic Director of Treehouse Shakers, I am proud of the work we create and our commitment to making sure every child has access to great art programming no matter their income.  All things the human race could use more of. And despite our small arts company, we have served thousands of young people all over the country. Our annual virtual auction will close in a few days. It has been lost in the noise of the election with fewer bidders and fewer donations than in years past. I will be happy once the election is over. I hope then, we can once again focus on doing good.

Students at Hatched, NYC Photo Credit, Christopher Duggan
Can You Make A Difference Today?
Check Out Our Virtual Auction, so we can continue to serve young people through the arts.
Thank you.
Treehouse Shakers' 20th Anniversary Virtual Auction

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Summertime Living

Sunset Watch in Fire Island, New York

At the beginning of the summer I created a bucket list for my family. Things to accomplish, enjoy, and experience. With my daughter home from school, I work hard at balancing her activities with getting in my Treehouse Shakers' work load. Even though it's summer, grants still have to be written, contracts signed, rehearsals attended, and performances still take place. But like most mothers, I want to make sure that summertime has long and lasting happy memories for my family.

Summertime Selfies

Our Summertime Bucket List:
  • Visit the Beach
  • Lemon Ice King of Corona
  • Enjoy An Unexpected Adventure in NYC
  • Swimming Lessons
  • Have A Sleep Over 
  • Go Bike Riding
  • Create Project At Local Pottery Studio
  • Take Sewing Classes
Project from the Local Pottery Studio

I added a few just for myself 
  • Make a Challenging Meal From A Cookbook
  • Catch Up on My Book List
  • Visit the Museums
  • Watch The Sunset
  • Work in My Garden
Walking onto the Beach
And although summer is not yet over, we've done a pretty good job with our lists and even added onto them. The fall is fast approaching. Treehouse Shakers has a busy calendar of performances, rehearsals, touring, school residencies and even finishing making our new show, Olive & Pearl. For now, I am content making summer memories, that we can savor long into the winter months.

*Photo Credits, Mara McEwin, iPhone6


Monday, March 14, 2016

The Changing Artistic Landscape

With so much happening in the world, it almost seems unfair to talk about the plight of the artist in New York City. And yet, artists in New York City are facing a real estate struggle. Artists, as a whole, have made NYC a cultural capital, which has brought in millions of dollars in tourism every year. We fill the theaters, the galleries, the schools, the streets, with art. We create jobs. We help to nurture neighborhoods into thriving communities. We give to our community, we create for our community, we bring passion to our communities. We spend countless hours working on our crafts, painstakingly trying to survive an overpriced city. We live here because it is more connected and easier to be an artist than any other city in the U.S. We are surrounded by other artists we can collaborate with, there is a large talent pool to hire from, and overall, we are supported by the general population.

Sunset in Long Island City, Queens
And yet, for as long as I've lived in New York City, artists have been pushed out of their neighborhoods.

Lower East Side.
Chelsea.
SoHo.
Williamsburg.
Red Hook.
Dumbo.
Hell's Kitchen.
Fort Hamilton.

The list goes on and on.

And to be fair this story of change, is the story of NYC. The old is torn down for the new. The poor are pushed out for the rich. The artists move. And the neighborhoods change. And then the pulse of the neighborhood itself, the very heartbeat, disappears.

Green Space. The Building itself is a converted Silk Factory Building.
Long Island City, Queens, is now the place to live. New buildings on every corner, construction trucks blocking the smaller roads. It is a traffic clogging headache. In terms of development, it is one of the busiest neighborhoods in all of New York City, according to data from the Long Island City Partnership.  So, it was not the biggest shocker when Green Space, the studio we have been rehearsing at for the past ten years in Long Island City, increased in rent by 70% this year. The choreographer and Artistic Director that manages the studio, Valerie Green of Dance Entropy, negotiated the rent to an increase of 44%. Which is still a substantive amount. Most of the companies who rent space at Green Space, are dance companies, and have small shoestring budgets. They have already chosen Green Space for its affordability. And space. Treehouse Shakers left Manhattan's overpriced rehearsal spaces; without storage, with noise streaming into every rehearsal wall; for this beautiful light-filled space. When we moved to Green Space, it was a bit farther out, across from the refineries, but completely worth the extra walk from the subway. It still is.

The Refinery Across from our Rehearsal Space
For now, Treehouse Shakers continue to rehearse here. Nervous about where we will be creating in a year from now. Green Space will need to have a big increase in revenue in order to keep the studio doors open. Once again, we are feeling the strain of being an arts organization in New York City.








Thursday, February 18, 2016

My Hometown: Green River, Wyoming


Where I grew up, the high desert mountains of Wyoming, I was shaped by the landscape, the freedom of being outdoors, and imagination. As a child I would play for hours outside; making homes for my dolls within the sagebrush, bringing blue-bellied lizards home as playmates, skipping rocks along the Green River, collecting arrowheads and fossils. This world, this safety of nature, raised me. The imprints of those Palisade mountains, the solitude, the howling winds, have made me. 
Green River, Wyoming : Blue Skies & Palisade Mountains
This month, Treehouse Shakers held its 12th Wyoming tour, sponsored by Sweetwater County BOCES. Under the Tangle performed in Green River, my hometown, and the company also led arts in education workshops with students from elementary elementary schools in Sweetwater County, Green River High School, and Western Wyoming Community College. Although, I didn't join the company this year, due to other commitments, it didn't stop me from contemplating growing up in this world, and missing it dearly. 
Treehouse Shakers' Production Under the Tangle (Photo Credit, Christopher Duggan)
Palisades and the Green River (Photo Credit, Florence Alfano McEwin)
Green River is a small, idyllic railroad town. With a population of a little more than 12,000, the town is surrounded by beautiful palisade mountains. Known for its Trona mines, which creates baking soda and glass, and for being the starting point for John Wesley Powell's expeditions, the town itself is fairly quiet, and everyone knows one another. 

When Treehouse Shakers works with the students in Wyoming, our company members always remark at the openness that the children possess. Like the land itself, people are wide-open, independent and curious. Even though I've lived in New York City longer than anywhere else, I am proud to have been raised in Green River. It is truly a pleasure to return to this welcoming community and give back to the place that raised me.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Happy New Year!








Happy New Year from Treehouse Shakers! 2015 was a wonderful year for Treehouse Shakers. We celebrated our 18th performance season (Wow). We also had a wonderful year full of touring, facilitating school residencies, performances and exciting awards. Most recently, Treehouse Shakers was selected as roster artists for New York State Presenters Network, a distinguished honor that will increase our touring for the 2016-2017 Season. We have also been selected as the recipients of the CUNY DanceInitiative for the work of Under theTangle at BMCC’s Tribeca Performing Arts Center this December. FlushingTown Hall in Queens awarded us with a space grant for the creation of our new work for the very young, Olive and Pearl. We are also proud of the prestigious New York Emmy won by Alex & The Kaleidoscope television show, in which Treehouse Shakers created and performed the dance segments. What an extraordinary year!
Ashley Ervin, Miranda wilson & Katie Montoya in Under the Tangle, Photo by Dan Ozminkowski
Now that it is the new year, we are gearing up for the Brooklyn premiere of Under the Tangle at the beautiful BAM/Fisher January 21-24, 2016. The work is being presented as the culmination to the BAM PDP that Treehouse participated in for 2014-2015. After a full fall of touring the work, I love witnessing Under the Tangle's artistic evolution. With each new run, Emily Bunning, the creator and choreographer, adds another level of artistic excellence to the show. This is one of those pieces that feels incredibly nourishing for our children's aesthetics. I applaud Emily and our beautiful company members for their dedication and hard work to this piece (and to the overall vision of our company). If you are in the New York City area over the performance run, I truly hope you will come to see this wonderful work, either by yourself, or as a family. Performance details below.

 Miranda Wilson & Ashley Chavonne in Under the Tangle, Photo by Dan Ozminkowski
Here's to a wonderful 2016. May this year bring much creativity, love and happiness to your lives.

When:                         January 21 & 22, 2016 @ 11AM
                                     January 23 & 24, 2016 @ 1PM
Where:                        BAM Fisher (Fishman Space)
                                     321 Ashland Place
                                     Brooklyn, NY 11217

Reservations, Tickets
& Info:                          $20-$35 Group Rates Available
                                       bam.org/underthetangle16
                                       718.636.4100 Ext. 1
                                       treehouseshakers.com
Under the Tangle is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York Legislature and Individual Contributions to Treehouse Shakers. This event is presented by Treehouse Shakers. Regular BAM house and ticketing policies may not apply.


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Work in Play: Creating For The Very Young


For the past two weeks we have been working at Flushing Town Hall (FTH) developing a new work for the very young, Olive & Pearl, for ages 2-5, through a very generous space grant. How I loved consecutively going to the same beautiful theater. Normally, we have performances at multiple theaters in between rehearsals, or arts in education residencies, and travel to many different places during the week. You can imagine the excitement of having two solid weeks at the same space, every day. And then top that routine with a very friendly, helpful, and nurturing staff. That combination, helped to formulate a productive two weeks.
Company Members Miranda Wilson & Katie Montoya, explore sounds and rhythms
Over the years our creative process has changed. In the beginning I traditionally wrote and developed the script ahead of the first rehearsal and then as a company we delved into it, exploring movement within the language. During Hatched, the performers and I created the piece together. I had a story skeleton, but not a script. During rehearsals we layered the story, created our puppets, and collaborated with music and dance. For Under the Tangle, Emily Bunning choreographed and directed the piece, and with a long development process, the company helped to layer the story.
Knitting
With our newest piece, Emily and I have been discussing the vision of the piece for over 6 months. Olive & Pearl, is seeded from an idea that began peculating even before Hatched. Centered on the thematic elements of home, and what a home means, young audiences are invited into a cozy and gentle world, rich with sensory experiences. The story follows young Olive throughout her day, as she is lovingly taken care of by her Granny Pearl, and the adventures both real and imaginary that they embark upon. There is puppetry, original music, and one of our most visually appealing sets to date. 

String Dancing

From these two weeks of play, I have written a first drafted script that I was able to have the actors read and play with the language. We were able to ponder questions and ideas, and what we want our very young audiences to experience. Emily developed and played with movement phrases. And although we have much more layering to do, we have the beginnings of a wonderful new piece that I am looking forward to sharing.

Over the next year, we will be rehearsing, developing and showing different sections in development on audiences throughout New York. For those of you in Long Island and New York City, I hope you can join us for feedback at one of these first showings. Olive & Pearl will premiere for our 20th Anniversary Season in 2017.

About The Flushing Town Hall Space Grant:
Since 2009, Flushing Town Hall has offered Space Grants to emerging and mid-career artists who are developing or completing new work. Free use of the facility, such as the theatre, is available, with hard costs the responsibility of the artists. Space Grants have run from 1-6 weeks, depending on the artists' needs and facility availability. Choreographers, Puppeteers, Film Makers, Circus  Artists and Dancers have been awarded a Space Grant since 2009. Space Grant recipients are required to offer a culminating activity, such as a public performance, workshop or lec/dem. 

In conjunction with the space grant, Treehouse Shakers will return to Flushing Town Hall, October 18, 2015 for workshops and performances of Hatched.  Tickets in advance are encouraged. For more information check out Flushing Town Hall.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Village

I often like to say it takes a village to raise an artist, to raise an arts organization. In 1997 I co-founded Treehouse Shakers with collaborator, Emily Bunning. Since then it has taken a lot of village members, and many different villages, who have believed in us, and helped us to grow.
Coyote's Dance, in performance since 2006. Photo by Dan Ozminkowski
When we began, there was very little theater for young families in New York City. The theater that was presented was mostly based on out dated models. The most common model included the obligatory best-selling children's picture book, music, and actors who didn't really care about the child audience, but instead were paying their dues until they could move onto performing for adults. We were interested in creating exciting work for young people. In the beginning, much like we do now, we experimented with our work. Without a model of our own, we began to figure out what was our artistic model. We tried new things. We mixed modern dance into everything. We collaborated with other artists: musicians, painters, even therapists. We developed our own form of dance-theater. In the beginning we were supported by our friends. They gave us their bars for benefits, they brought in their bands and played our benefits, they showed up to our shows, clapping and smiling, buying our tickets. Soon we had the press, who brought in family audiences. Our village expanded. Those young families, our first audience members, became our next circle of supporters. They joined our board, spreading the word, and introducing us to new families. Most of these village members remain with us today. Over the years we have continued to expand our circle, growing our family.


Hatched audience members at BMCC's Tribeca Performing Arts Center, NYC
One of these family members is Flushing Town Hall's, Artistic and Executive Director, Ellen Kodadek. We met Ellen after she booked Animal Rhythms, our show which includes two African folktales, into her First Night Series in Binghampton, New York, twelve years ago. The First Night Series included diverse and wonderful artists. When Ellen moved to Flushing Town Hall in Queens, Treehouse Shakers had the pleasure of performing our piece for the very young, Hatched. In fact, Ellen was one of the first theater presenters to truly get behind this work for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. To this day, she is inquisitive about what we are making, and loves listening to the process and the inspiration. She truly supports artists.
Hatched by Mara McEwin, a Piece for babies. Photographer Christopher Duggan


Flushing Town Hall is an extraordinary place. Located in the heart of Flushing, Queens, in a densely Asian neighborhood, in the most diverse borough in the world, the programming perfectly reflects this global audience. Flushing Town Hall provides a wide variety of arts that is incredibly thoughtful, powerful and enjoyable. I often marvel at the inspiring, sometimes challenging, and thought-provoking artistic programming. It is one of my favorite theaters to attend as an audience member, to bring my own family, and also one of the most welcoming and supportive theaters to work as an artist, thanks to Ellen’s incredible kindness and the welcoming of her colleagues.

Beginning on September 14, 2015 Treehouse Shakers has generously been given a space grant by Flushing Town Hall. This space grant allows us the opportunity to play, explore, and begin the development on a new experiential piece for the very young, Olive & Pearl (ages 2-5.) It is the opportunity to work in a beautiful and inspiring space, without having to worry about the expenses. Although we are being slightly mum about the new work, we already have performance inquiries for when the piece is ready. We will begin touring in 2017, in time for our company's 20th Anniversary. Over the year, we will be documenting the creation of the new work. As artists, as a company, it is people like Ellen, theaters like Flushing Town Hall, who have helped us continue to survive, succeed, and grow. Flushing Town Hall has become a wonderful part of our Treehouse Shakers' artistic journey. We are truly appreciative of the village's support.

About The Space Grant:
Since 2009, Flushing Town Hall has offered Space Grants to emerging and mid-career artists who are developing or completing new work. Free use of the facility, such as the theatre, is available, with hard costs the responsibility of the artists. Space Grants have run from 1-6 weeks, depending on the artists' needs and facility availability. Choreographers, Puppeteers, Film Makers, Circus  Artists and Dancers have been awarded a Space Grant since 2009. Space Grant recipients are required to offer a culminating activity, such as a public performance, workshop or lec/dem. 

In conjunction with the space grant, Treehouse Shakers will return to Flushing Town Hall, October 18, 2015 for workshops and performances of Hatched.  Tickets in advance are encouraged. For more information check out Flushing Town Hall.