Treehouse Shakers

Treehouse Shakers
Hatched, BAM Fisher, Hillman Studio

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Beginning

In 1997, I created Treehouse Shakers with collaborator, Emily Bunning, in NYC. I remember the moment I knew I wanted to have a company. I was in my junior year of college. I went to my theater advisor and asked if I could have an independent class in theater production. I wanted to know how did one own a thriving and professional theater company?  I never did get an independent study in the subject (I think we needed three willing students to put the study together). I had the dream. I knew it could be done, but there weren't any classes, and there weren't any textbooks. The only thing I had read was on the creation of Provincetown Playhouse (which made me want to reach my dream all the more more). I knew I wanted to write, act, direct, create, and produce. I wanted to have my own company.

After college I spent a year in Santa Fe working for Southwest Children's Theater Company. That's where I began to learn the ropes of owning a company, so generously guided by Artistic Director, Rebecca Morgan. A year later, under Rebecca's gentle urgings, I moved to New York City. The city was unlike anywhere I had lived before. It felt raw, unkempt, and I felt like I was standing on the edge of an urban cliff. The more productions I saw, the more my dreams began to blow up in size. After nearly a year pounding the pavement as an actor, with my headshot in permanent tow, being in performances where my friends were the only people in the audience, being cast by directors who reused identical blocking from previous shows (okay, only one director in particular, but boy was I scarred when she even made us do the Macarena to fill up the stage time), I knew that I wanted my own company. I had a vision. I had written a play while living in Santa Fe called, "Dance of My Daughter" and I began to envision it with dance. Dance-theater wasn't even a buzz word yet. It was 1997.

I remember the coffee shop, I remember the feeling on the city streets, and I remember thinking this is the moment. I was sitting across the table from one of my oldest acquaintances. Emily and I grew up together in Southwest Wyoming. We used to take art classes every Saturday with Emily's great aunt Susie. We were friends, had gone to college together, and had collaborated a few times mixing modern dance with poetry. Emily was seeking her life as a dancer and choreographer, and I was seeking life as an actor and writer. Surely, we could meld these forms together. And so without knowing what a backer was, without a business plan, with our newly acquired B.F.A's, we put our creative brains together and named our new dance and theater company, Treehouse Shakers. "Dance of My Daughter" premiered that same November at Ensemble Studio Theatre. We dove off the cliff together; head first, arms spread, and our hearts thumping so loud, we were sure the whole city could hear us.


  1. What a great story about Treehouse Shaker's beginnings. I love that you just jumped with only your dream as a parachute. Inspired!