Treehouse Shakers

Treehouse Shakers
Hatched, BAM Fisher, Hillman Studio

Friday, December 19, 2014

Happy Holidays:: A Time of Reflection

As the year winds down, I am reflecting on all of the accomplishments Treehouse Shakers has achieved this year, and grateful for all the people who believe in our work and have helped us grow.

Hatched Our Work for the Very Young * Photo Credit: Christopher Duggan
Company Performers: Miranda Wilson, Trey Mitchell & Katie Montoya
As you may know, this year marks Treehouse Shakers 17th performance season. I am truly amazed by our journey. It takes a lot of work, and dare I say hustle, to survive as an artist, let alone an arts organization which supports many other artists. It seems it is more of a struggle to be successful arts organization in America than in any other developed nation. Instead of letting this fact deter us, we are even more committed to the work we do. We see the impact our work has on the lives of young people. What a powerful change the arts can make. We have experienced it first hand over and over again. From our work with special need students, to students in challenging life circumstances, to those who have just moved to this country and have yet to learn the language and culture, we have seen these students excel in extraordinary ways through the powerful tools of the arts. We also know that the young people at our performances benefit through the joy, exposure, and imaginative spark that our original performances give.
Under the Tangle Our Work for 8+ * Photo Credit Cherylynn Tsushima
Company Performers from Left to Right: Ashley Ervin, Ashley Chavonne, Katie Montoya and Miranda Wilson
Recently, Treehouse Shakers was selected as a participant in the professional development program of Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), in partnership with the DeVos Institute of Arts Management. Chosen as only one of four BAM artists, this prestigious opportunity gives Treehouse Shakers the additional tools to continue our growth through the guidance of incredible professionals. This program has already been so beneficial to us, we are looking forward to sharing more of this work with you in the coming months.
We Love NYC! There is now a greater push, and funding for the arts in the public schools thanks to our new NYC Education Chancellor, Carmon Farina and the Mayor Bill DeBlasio.
*Photo by Mara McEwin
Thank you for supporting Treehouse Shakers and thank you for believing in the powerful tools of the arts!

Enjoy your holidays with your loved ones and families.

All the best,
Mara McEwin
Artistic Director

Want to Support Treehouse Shakers?
As we continue to strengthen as an organization, grow as artists, and empower young people through the arts, we need your support! This holiday season, we ask that you make a tax-deductible contribution to Treehouse Shakers, and help us continue our very important work. It is easy to give, and your donation is fully tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. 

You can send checks to:
Treehouse Shakers
Radio City Station
P.O. Box 186
New York, NY 10101-0186

Or make a secure credit card donation Here through our

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Review of Hatched:: Great Entertainment for Family Audiences

By Alex Greenberg
Whatever it is that makes a baby laugh and clap and smile for forty-five uninterrupted minutes, the Treehouse Shakers have found it. In their inspired production, Hatched, parents and children are invited to sit stage-side and experience a day on the farm. They have the chance to meet, pet, and feed all of the farm's furry friends from a lazy cow to some hungry chicks to a strong-headed rooster. Performed under the direction of Mara McEwin, this show chronicles the life of a newly-hatched chick, eager to explore the world he has awakened to. Along the way, the chick befriends the other veterans of the farm, forging strong relationships with everyone he meets. Through song and dance, the audience gradually joins in this beautiful camaraderie. A simple story of birth, growth, and discovery, this play is interactive and wholly in a child's mind.

Feeding the Baby Birds 
The troupe of actors here are skilled in both their craft and their connection to kids. They can be trusted to electrify the audience and to calm it down, to inspire a family-wide dance and to manage the excitement with a clever, “shushing” choreography. Each actor is a puppeteer, dancer, singer, and animal impersonator. Their personalities are expressive and easy-to-read, keeping the performance simple and captivating for the young’uns. It’s sometimes easy to forget that Hatched is in fact a show and not some family gathering. A day at the zoo with grandpa telling an anecdote from his past and the grandkids crowding around to feed the animals. Siblings helping each other, ringing the cowbell and dipping food into the chicks’ mouths. Even the director is on stage, leading the toddlers by hand around to meet the different animals.
Audience Members meeting Hatched
Hatched is a family production and especially worthwhile for toddlers who have never been to the theater before. The Treehouse Shakers are the only American company to be touring a piece for such young children, and yet the show’s rhythm and ingenuity make it a treat for older audiences as well. Perhaps what stands out most about this performance is the way it reinvents the concept of a stage. The kids are as much the stage as the actors in their costumes or the guitarist on his stool. It’s filled with warmth and a sense of youthful joy. Everyone is together as one, big family. For me, Hatched is the paradigm of entertainment for young people—or at least it ought to be. It has everything going for it and is a sure way to have a fun day with your kids.
Audience Member Meeting Lambie, Photo by Christopher Duggan
Hatched performed at BMCC's Tribeca Performing Arts Center on October 25, 2014. For a full calendar of upcoming performances, or to book Hatched in your community, check out our calendar of upcoming events.

Directed, Written & Conceived by Mara McEwin

Puppets by Patti Gilstrap
Set by Lauren Rockman
Lighting & Stage Management by Dan Ozminkowski
Farmer/Hatch by Miranda Wilson
Farmer/Rooster/Chicks/Cow by Trey Mitchell

Chicks/Cow/Robin/Lamb/Worm by Katie Montoya
Live Music by Anthony Rizzo

Music & Farm Assistance by Mara McEwin

*Performance Photos By Emily Bunning

About Alex Greenberg:

Alex Greenberg is a 15-year old aspiring poet. His work has been published or accepted for publication in over 20 literary journals, such as: Grist, The Cortland Review, Spinning Jenny, Able Muse, and decomP, among others. He was the recipient of the 2014 46er prize from the Adirondack Review and the 2014 Critical Pass Review Junior Poets Prize. Additionally, he is a four-time runner-up in the Cape Farwell Poetry Challenges, a Foyle Young Poet of 2012 and 2013, and a recipient of a gold key from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. He loves tennis, ping-pong, and the Zagat food guide. You can find out more about Alex at his website:  

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Meet The Treehouse Shakers' Teen Critic::Alex Greenberg

Please meet Alex Greenberg. Alex is an incredible young poet, who I have had the pleasure of knowing since he was two-years old. He has attended nearly all of Treehouse Shakers' performances. This past May we reconnected at our benefit. It was like meeting Alex again for the first time, as he has matured into an incredible human. I was thrilled to find out he was writing poetry, and writing successfully. Shortly after the benefit, I asked Alex to be our official Treehouse Shakers' teen critic. He will be reviewing our work, guest blogging, and submitting articles on our behalf. We make work for young people, we should have our work reviewed by the people it matters to the most. I am thrilled to reveal Alex's first blog piece.

About Alex:

Alex Greenberg is a 15-year old aspiring poet. His work has been published or accepted for publication in over 20 literary journals, such as: Grist, The Cortland Review, Spinning Jenny, Able Muse, and decomP, among others. He was the recipient of the 2014 46er prize from the Adirondack Review and the 2014 Critical Pass Review Junior Poets Prize. Additionally, he is a four-time runner-up in the Cape Farwell Poetry Challenges, a Foyle Young Poet of 2012 and 2013, and a recipient of a gold key from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. He loves tennis, ping-pong, and the Zagat food guide. You can find out more about Alex at his website:  

To all the Treehouse Shakers fans out there (and to anyone who was looking for a shaking treehouse and happened upon this blog fortuitously), Welcome! My name is Alex Greenberg, and I’m the new teen critic for the Treehouse Shakers. My job, beginning in October, will be to watch and review the Treehouse Shakers' productions. As many as I can get my hands on. Although, I suppose job is too formal a word to describe my role here; it’s a job in the same way that being a singer is a job, or an athlete. It’s more like doing something you love with an extra dose of commitment.
And how I love the Treehouse Shakers! This art company has been a part of my life since the very beginning. Its orchestra introduced me to some of my earliest melodies. Its choreography inspired me to twirl out of the theater not long after I learned how to walk. And its heartwarming parables were some of the first lessons I ever learned.
Coyote's Dance created in 2006, photo credit by Dan Ozminkowski
About three months ago, co-founder of the Treehouse Shakers, Mara McEwin, asked me if I was interested in reviewing some of their upcoming shows. I jumped at the opportunity. I thought, not only was this a chance to bring together a nexus of artistic genres—creative writing, theater, literary criticism—and put them onto a public platform, but who better to review a show for kids than a kid? I hope that as a teen who’s in the midst of struggling with all the pre and post-pubescent angst that the Treehouse Shakers tackle in their shows, I can bring honest and thoughtful reviews to the public eye.
Animal Rhythms. The first Treehouse Shakers' Alex attended. Photo credit by Mercedes McAndrew
Audiences and critics know the Treehouse Shakers by the visual allure and inimitable creativity of their performances. For me, the people I see on stage are the same people I see off stage. The directors and dancers are as ebullient in their crocs and t-shirts as they are on-stage in their costumes. I couldn’t be more excited to join the Treehouse Shakers in their artistic vision to help people “experience their feelings and their connection to the greater community.” It’s going to be a great time!
The writer as a young man.

Alex Greenberg
*check back on this website to find Alex’s reviews of our performances, starting with Hatched October 25, 2014 at Tribeca Performing Arts Center. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Telling Tales of Loneliness: Julia Morris, Early Childhood Specialist

This week's blog post is by one of Treehouse Shakers' wonderful board members, and one of my dear friends, Julia Morris. I recently asked her a few interview questions for the blog. Her answers are incredibly insightful into the world of storytelling, childhood, and making work for young audiences.

About Julia:Julia M. Morris, Ph.D. is a storyteller and early childhood arts consultant. For the past ten years, she has served on the board of Treehouse Shakers. This past May, Julia received her doctorate in Mythological Studies with an emphasis in Depth Psychology from the Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, CA. 
Julia Morris Growing up in Missouri
Treehouse Shakers' Under the Tangle, a tale of loneliness and abandonment. Photo Credit, Cherylynn Tsushima
Julia interacting with her audience


Briefly tell us about the work you do in the world with young people.
I tell participatory-based stories (folk tales, fairy tales, myths) to very young audiences.  Through an active engagement of body, voice, and imagination, we travel together into story's settings and discover components of narrative structure and plot.  I join the children as co- players in this storytelling experience. 

How did you begin the path you are on? Did your childhood influence you?

I began my work as a storyteller through the avenue of children's theatre. I worked as an actress for many years, and learned that the plays and narratives that most engaged young children required their active, full body and vocal participation. In my own childhood, I was constantly read to by both of my 'writerly' parents. Books were everywhere! By age 8, I was casting my brothers in original plays and I, of course, was the director and main character. Once I turned 11, I was directing my own version of story-theatre throughout my neighborhood.  Certainly, these early story-crafting experiences led the way for what I do today. 

Briefly tell our readers why you were attracted to the subject of childhood loneliness in your dissertation and what makes this subject so powerful for young people.
Regarding my dissertation, I think I have always been interested in the three domains of what I call 'creative isolation:' Solitude, Aloneness, and Loneliness.  It has always interested me that these three aspects of the psyche share traits and characteristics, but at the same time are very different. Adopting the archetypal psychology approach, I imagine them as three distinct sisters. Loneliness, as it shows itself in childhood and the stories of childhood, was of special interest.  It is a powerful theme in young lives because it is a universal domain that we all encounter - and children are no exception - at some point in our lives.  And I believe children can learn amazing coping and creative strategies whiles watching the heroes and heroines they admire grapple with this often-dark and dense state of being.
As a storyteller, and a lover of children’s literature, why is oral story so innately important for the young mind?

Oral story is crucial for all of us.  Humans, it has been proven, think and remember best in the 'once upon a time' story frame; and the oral tale, in particular, grabs all of us in unique ways.  It carries cultural truths, memories, poetic and rhythmic language, and engages the listener and teller 'ear to ear and eye to eye.'  Oral telling is our most ancient art form -- and it works! 
Treehouse Shakers' 13th Original Production, Under the Tangle: Photo Credit, Cherylynn Tsushima

For the past ten years you have served on the Treehouse Shakers board, what is about the work Treehouse Shakers creates that draws you to support our work?

I have been drawn to the work of Treehouse Shakers from the organization's earliest days.  I have never seen a company that so beautifully and seamlessly utilizes oral narrative in conjunction with the kinesthetic language of the body.  Young people in the audience not only get to stomp, jump, and chant along with the actor-dancers on stage, but they are invited to think imaginatively for themselves as each dance play is enacted before their eyes.  This form of theatre and storytelling is everything I believe in.
As a storyteller, you truly find magic and joy within the child listener. I have found it to be very different style of telling than other tellers, who tell stories primarily for adults. What would you say are the cornerstones in the way you tell stories for young people? When telling for children (vs. telling for adults), I cannot help but join these youngest adventurers in the magical-metaphoric world in which they live. They exist in a space where animals can talk and trees can dance; these things need never be 'explained, they just 'are!'  To be successful in telling for children, you must be willing to play jointly in this sphere with them without inhibitions, integrating rhyme, rhythm, and repetition inside a plot that is clear and concise.
Anything else you would like our readers to know about you, storytelling and or the subject of loneliness in childhood? I think we are too often, as adults, afraid of "sharing big themes" with young people.  These themes consist of fear, grief, loss, anger, abandonment, and yes, loneliness.  Children actually live closer than we do to the mysterious collective unconscious - a dream-like pool where all of these emotions simmer and bubble. They need to grapple with these ideas; and, truly, if we do not offer them in our teaching, parenting, and creative work, they will seek them out by themselves anyway. So why not be a part of integrating these powerful affective domains in the lives of children in the most creative and supportive ways possible? That's what I believe.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Logistics of Touring Hatched:: A Baby Drama

Two years ago Treehouse Shakers’ premiered our first exploration into work for the very young, Hatched. Created for ages 0-6, my intent was for babies in the audience to be enticed and delighted by the animal sounds, textures, and movements, while toddlers would enjoy watching and imitating their favorite farm animals as they come to life. Since premiering the piece in New York City in 2012, we have continued touring this work. Touring the show has brought this intimate genre to new audiences and has also faced some unexpected challenges.

Photo Credit Christopher Duggan
I made Hatched for smaller spaces, and for a smaller audience capacity. It is not a piece for large 2,000 + houses. I was adamant in creating work that wouldn’t overwhelm this very young age. I want every audience member to have a chance to explore the feedings of the animals, to have a complete tactile experience when petting the animals, and to watch the piece in an environment that feels safe and nurtured. This is not always an easy sell when touring the piece. Understandably, presenters worry about ticket sales with a smaller amount of audience members. We have performed at many wonderful theaters, and have found that touring can work with this genre, despite the initial hesitations we were facing. Some presenters have chosen to do the piece three times a day, with limited seating, others push the capacity to 120. And even some, who don’t have a smaller studio space, have moved the entire piece, and their audience members, onto their large presenting stages. The show has worked in all of these capacities.
Photo Credit Brent Hankins
Treehouse Shakers, is possibly the only American company attempting to tour a piece geared towards babies (we have, though, met other numerous artists making work for this age.) I have discussed at length with fellow touring International artists what problems they face when touring this genre, and was quickly stunned to realize Treehouse Shakers wasn’t alone in having to sell the small-sized audience idea. Many presenters have also told me that Hatched is bringing brand new audience members into their theaters. The plus side of a baby drama; it is a great way to hatch an audience.
Feeding the Baby Birds/ Photo Credit: Bob Bader

So for now, Hatched will continue on our baby tour, performing to selected audience members, and building this genre in the U.S. I am so pleased to see so many new presenting seasons featuring work for the very young, and can only hope this wonderful trend of theater will continue. It is my dream  that more young people will have the delightful opportunity to experience Hatched

Hatched Company with Krista Bradley,
Executive Director at BlackRock Center for the Arts in Maryland

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Under the Tangle: Behind the Inspiration

This week's blog piece is by Emily Bunning. Emily is Treehouse Shakers' co-founder, choreographer and the imaginative creator of our newest piece, Under the Tangle, for ages 8-13, which previews next week in Southwest Wyoming.
Under the Tangle: Behind the Inspiration
By Emily Bunning
Performer, Ashley Chavonne in Under the Tangle. Photo Credit Shula Frances

A labyrinth, dancing on a door, a swinging ladder, and a stark traveling girl were the images that had been dancing around my head for the beginning of a new piece.  Last June, I officially started creating Under the Tangle after years of dreaming and months of preliminary development.  We are nearly ready for the first workshop performance of the Treehouse Shakers’ thirteenth dance-play for youth audiences whom have been enthralled with our work throughout the years. I strive to continue to make quality work that is artistic and entertaining, with the intention to build understanding and appreciation for dance.  It is completely rewarding to see the pure awe with which the kids take in the performance and hear their responses as they leave the theater.  Under the Tangle is a dance-mystery about an adolescent girl journeying through a labyrinth.  Working with a new and ever-growing seventeen-year artistic process, I am thrilled to use images and dance to form the story on stage.  The cast has been integral to the creation and we have taken a magical journey together.  The visually vibrant piece melds dance, story, costumes, and setting to explore themes of loneliness and hope.

Under the Tangle Photo Credit Sarah Milosevich

I am making this piece because these images have inspired me to develop a full-length compelling work that is dance based.  I hope the performance inspires others to love dance and understand the power of body and movement.  I hope the story will intrigue viewers. I hope the production values will by admired and appreciated.  These are my intentions, but they come from a very primal artistic place. I am doing it for the youth, the presenters who present boundless work, and my own desire to develop, execute and present an adventurous new dance-mystery. 
Upcoming Preview Performances
Generously Funded by Sweetwater County BOCES

When:     Wednesday March 19, 2014 @ 9:30 AM School Performance
Where:    Green River High School Theater
                1615 Hitching Post Drive
                Green River, WY 82935

Tickets:   Tickets Free of Charge but Reservations Required for Public School Groups
                 Reservations Strongly Encouraged

Additional Information

Please Join Treehouse Shakers on March 20, 2014 from 5:30-7:30 PM for a Special Benefit at the Outlaw Inn. Support Treehouse Shakers, as we honor State Senator Bernadine Craft for her commitment to the arts in Sweetwater County.

Proceeds Help Fund a Scholarship Given to an Outstanding Student at Artistry in Motion Dance Studio, Located in Rock Springs, WY
Tickets: $25


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Ringing in the New Year!

Happy New Year! I can hardly believe 2014 is here. We have so many exciting projects to usher in the New Year at Treehouse Shakers and I can't wait to share them in detail in our upcoming blog posts.

This past year was a successful year for Treehouse Shakers. We had an incredible year of touring, facilitating school residencies, leading workshops, and so much more. We have enjoyed our second year performing our “baby drama” Hatched: Life on the Farm, which continues to play to sold-out houses.  Hatched has been featured on CBS-TV’s Live from The Couch and twice this year on NY1’s Parenting Report, among many online blogs, articles and listings. It has been an exhilarating process exploring a new genre. We have many more performances of Hatched lined up both in NYC and on the East Coast, so if it you haven’t had a chance to see the show, we hope to see you in the audience soon.

Under The Tangle Photo by Sarah Milosevich
Always seeking to expand both our repertoire and our style of work, we are currently in the midst of developing Under The Tangle, for ages 8-13. Visually vibrant, Under the Tangle, choreographed and created By Emily Bunning, tells the story of an adolescent girl lost in a mysterious maze using modern dance, absurd costuming, and minimal text. Throughout her journey, she twists along the wooded maze confronted with obstacles, finding numerous clues and meeting many unusual characters: a flock of black birds, the daunting labyrinth guards, and a crone who swings on a ladder dangling from a tower. Under the Tangle is a visual coming of age adventure exposing emotions of loneliness, otherness, and self-accomplishment. 

Looking forward to sharing our 2014 season with you!

Under The Tangle NYC preview 
For Ages 8-13
May 15-17, 2014 @11 am
The Ailey Citigroup Theater, NYC

Hatched: Life on the Farm Returns to NYC
Great for Ages 0-6
May 1-2, 2014 @11 am The Ailey Studio Theater, NYC
May 8 & 10, 2014 @11am Brooklyn Academy of Music, Fishman Space

Check our Calendar for Additional Touring Dates
For tickets to either show please contact us at 212.715.1914 or
via email us