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Flea Theater to Shut Down Programs for Emerging Artists

Flea Theater to Shut Down Programs for Emerging Artists
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Flea Theater to Shut Down Programs for Emerging Artists

Flea Theater to Shut Down Applications for Rising Artists

Months after promising to radically revamp the way it treats actors and different affiliated artists, the Flea Theater introduced on Thursday that it could do exactly that, however not in the best way these artists anticipated. The theater, a notable Off Off Broadway firm that lately moved into a brand new multimillion-dollar house, will get rid of its three most outstanding applications for rising actors, administrators and writers as a part of plans to “embark on a brand new mission.”

The announcement, in a letter from the Flea’s board of administrators, comes on the heels of the theater vowing to start paying all of its artists — addressing a longstanding criticism of its labor practices — in addition to complaints of racism and sexism that swelled this summer time. The theater has lengthy relied on volunteers who generally obtain meager stipends.

The information didn’t go down nicely with artists.

The transfer “feels instantly associated to our collective group and makes an attempt to carry the establishment accountable for exploitation of labor and a poisonous tradition, the place hurt typically fell on the shoulders of BIPOC our bodies,” Adam Coy, a resident artist and a member of the theater’s performing firm, the Bats, mentioned in an announcement.

The Flea’s letter mentioned that the transfer was a essential response to the monetary results of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Flea has a duty to behave in recognition of the financial realities of the second, which have a critical affect on programming, the breadth of our subsequent season (every time which may be), the variety of artists we’re capable of assist and each different facet of our operation,” the board wrote, noting that the theater now has simply three staff.

Consequently, three initiatives will finish as of Dec. 15: the Bats, with some 100 members; a residency program for administrators; and a “writers’ room” the place playwrights contribute to the continuing and fashionable sequence known as “Serials.”

The board famous that it hopes to develop a brand new, smaller artists’ residency program. Nona Hendryx, a musician and the interim chair of the Flea’s board, additional defined the plan in an electronic mail on Thursday night time.

“We’re working to create a brand new imaginative and prescient and objective for The Flea by means of a residency program through which artists can be paid,” Hendryx wrote. “This new program will present a venue for artist-driven concepts and supply monetary assist and different sources on to taking part artists.”

The board’s letter framed the strikes as a part of efforts to remodel the theater right into a extra equitable establishment. However many artists, for whom the announcement got here as a shock, seen it as a betrayal as a substitute.

“For months artists of all disciplines have been serving on committees, engaged on proposals and negotiating with management about adjustments on the establishment, together with artist illustration on the board, a residing wage, and artist illustration in season programming,” Coy, the resident artist, mentioned in his assertion.

Based in 1996, the Flea has introduced work by A.R. Gurney, Qui Nguyen and Thomas Bradshaw, amongst others. Since 2017, it has operated out of a brand new, three-theater constructing in TriBeCa that was estimated to price $25 million. Niegel Smith, its inventive director, is without doubt one of the few Black inventive administrators at a outstanding New York theater. He didn’t reply a request for touch upon Thursday; the theater’s producing director, Carol Ostrow, lately retired.

The Flea’s largest performing area holds about 100 seats, although all in-person performances have been on hiatus for the reason that pandemic started. Whereas the theater hires and pays actors for some reveals, it typically casts volunteer members of the Bats, contending that the expertise helps enhance careers.

Brandon Lorenz, a spokesman for Actors’ Fairness Affiliation, the labor union that represents some 51,000 theater actors and stage managers, famous that the Flea’s new constructing has proved a symbolic legal responsibility, as leaders attempt to exhibit they’re making good on pledges of equity and inclusivity.

“I hope {that a} new fund-raising plan for honest pay, honest remedy and a various office can be pursued with the identical vigor used to boost $25 million for a brand new theater constructing,” Lorenz wrote. “All actors and stage managers deserve an inclusive office and honest pay. We’ll be watching.”

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