2017 will be Treehouse Shakers' 20th Anniversary Season. Knowing this big anniversary is soon upon us, it has made me reflect on the incredible journey that brought us here.
|Emily Bunning & Mara McEwin, Benefit Ailey Citigroup Theater, 2013|
In 1997 Hell's Kitchen was still the place of drug lords, meth addicts, actors, and cross-dressing. Only a few blocks north of 42nd street, a street I refused to walk and would only ride the bus through. These were the days before Disney cleaned up. There were porn shops, strip clubs, and abandoned storefronts. There were hookers on corners, and drug sellers who whispered "candy" in our ears as we walked home from rehearsals. There were gangs of rats, people begging for money, and African goods sellers on every street corner. Broadway theaters, small non-profit theaters, and rehearsal studios, were our safe spaces. Young actors fresh out of college, well-known Broadway stars, song writers, conductors, musicians and dancers living a dream so big it had moved all of us out of small towns and into Hell's Kitchen. On most days it felt that the neighborhood's grime and history of crime, would devour us whole. Our dreams became our only lifeline.
|Outside of Kissing Rock, 2002|
(Bottom-Top) Emily Bunning, Mara McEwin, Lara Hayes-Giles & Karen Lee Pickett
Our first show was Off-Off Broadway at The Ensemble Studio Theatre.
Dance of My Daughter opened in 1997. We packed the house, albeit small, close to nearly full every night. And that was enough to want to continue the company. In 1999 I helped co-create Nino Nada with Adam Koplan of Flying Carpet Theater, under the guise of Todo Con Nada. Nino Nada was a summer festival of work for young people. No one in New York City was doing anything quite like it. We held a rock concert at the Bowery Ballroom just for families that received a wonderful NY Times Review. Treehouse Shakers also made our first work for young people for the festival, Flying Through Rainbows, a story about the letter O finding her way through the alphabet. We created the piece using dancers, actors, shower curtains and lots of paint. We were a young company, without much, but a great review from the Weekend Section in the New York Times, which brought a base of loyal audience members, and more reviews. We were growing.
|Flying Through Rainbows, 1999, Nino Nada Festival, NYC|
|Hatched at BAM/Hillman Studio 2016|
|Young Audiences Watching Hatched, our play for the very young, at BAM/Hillman Studio, 2016|