Treehouse Shakers

Treehouse Shakers
Hatched, BAM Fisher, Hillman Studio

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.

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