Treehouse Shakers

Treehouse Shakers
Hatched, BAM Fisher, Hillman Studio

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Egg that Hatched

This month Treehouse Shakers begins making its 12th original piece, Hatched. Its a piece for our youngest audience members 0 to 4. Welcome to the genre of Baby Drama. These Baby Dramas were first introduced to me at the International Performing Arts for Young People. A few years later I began bringing my own daughter to see them. The ones I have seen have been European, spell binding, moving, and incredibly artistic.

It just so happens that for the past couple of years I have seriously been contemplating the direction of the company. I also have been wanting to write something new to perform, and wanting to work with new collaborators. I wrote the final version of Let's Talk About IT! shortly after my daughter was born, three years ago. I desperately needed a creative jumpstart. This happens to me a lot. I make something, send it off, and then get bored. Usually when this happens, I emerge myself in other mediums; visit museums, see a play, go to a reading. During my contemplative gestation period last fall, I went to see the new Albee play at Playwrights Horizons with a friend. Albee, one of my favorite playwrights, was my teenage obsession. I used to skip school just to watch Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf, I quoted him for any hardships that emerged, and would have kissed the pavement he walked on. So after seeing him interviewed one night, was ecstatic when I was given tickets to see his new work Me, Myself & I. The show was a huge disappointment and it didn't help that I was going through my own artistic turmoil. The piece was stale, the spontaneity sorely gone. The piece simply withered on the vine with each new scene. We left during the second act.

The next week though Chrissie (Piccadilly Arts), our kids, and my despondent self, experienced a gem of a Baby Drama at the New Victory. It was such a sweet, beautiful piece, and made the whole theater burst alive with magic. It was my much needed inspiration. For weeks after I couldn't stop thinking and talking about the piece. I began saying that perhaps Treehouse should make a Baby Drama. Suddenly, I had to make this piece. Then January rolled around with another IPAY. I started talking about making an American Baby Drama at the conference. I wasn't sure yet what I was making, but I had a few ideas brewing. Jim Packard of Long Island Children's Museum asked if I was serious about making the Baby Drama and if so he wanted to help the piece through development.
Initial Calf Sketch for Treehouse Shakers' Hatched. Puppet Design and Concept by Patti Gilstrap,
Sketch by Florence McEwin.

I came home and thought.

And thought.

And thought.

And then it came to me. The new piece came as an image, a vision, and then a title, and then we began writing grants for the piece. I called Jim again to see if he was serious. He was. Excited, I put together a proposal and brought it to him. His theater is the perfect place for this piece to be "hatched." Hatched is the story of a baby chick who discovers his world and meets many new baby animal friends onstage. It is in part a please touch museum, theatrical experience, and a petting zoo all rolled into one. The vision is to meld puppets, live music, and some movement. For the first time Emily is not choreographing the piece. Her own baby is arriving in September, and she is also branching out to start an acupuncture practice. I immediately knew who I wanted to choreograph, Roderick Jackson.

Roderick has been collaborating musically with Treehouse Shakers since 2001. He has worked as a teaching artist for us both in music and dance, and I can honestly say he is one of my favorite people. He is hard working, artistically inspired while being open to suggestions, but his work ethic is as strong as steel. When he agreed I knew this piece could be something amazing.
Roderick onstage during Coyote's Dance at Ailey Citigroup Theater 2011

Patti Gilstrap our longtime costume designer and the owner of Flirt boutiques stepped on board as the puppet designer, and we are currently in talks with a wonderful musician. Our performance company is already in place; Josh Tag, Amber Ford, Sarah Young and Myself (yes, I will always be an actor at heart).

This Friday began the first of our development rehearsals. My plan is to play with the vision during the summer and have something concrete by fall that we can then rehearse. We will present Hatched first at LICM in April and then in NYC in May. The show is already being shopped around for its touring season 2012-2013 by Piccadilly Arts.

Last fall I wanted to try something new, I wanted to try working with new collaborators (not that I don't love the collaboration process with Emily.) I was making plans to keep the company alive and thriving. It is thrilling to think that this idea is finally coming to fruition.

I will keep everyone updated as we begin this inspired artistic journey.


  1. Ah, so great to hear about this new project being born! Congrats on riding the waves of the changing company with such grace and creativity.

  2. What an exciting new undertaking! I can't wait to see the result!