The Flea announces new resident company and a focus on black and queer artists

The Flea, a notable Off Off Broadway company that halted its most important programs for emerging artists in December, effectively elimi...


The Flea, a notable Off Off Broadway company that halted its most important programs for emerging artists in December, effectively eliminating dozens of positions and angering resident artists, has announced a new model for its future and a new show. This model, unveiled Thursday, focuses on supporting the work of under-represented artists through autonomous and self-programmed resident companies.

“I’m really excited about this,” said Niegel smith, artistic director of Flea since 2015 and one of the few black artistic directors of a major New York theater. “Artists have total autonomy in carrying out their work, and we invest for the long term in a group of artists who are close to our hearts. “

The first resident company will be the newly formed Fled Collective, made up of many members of Flea’s former non-union interim company, the Bats. He will have a three-year residency with an unrestricted cash grant of $ 10,000 and $ 50,000 in rental space credits each year, as well as production and marketing support and resources. to develop new works. The company will have full control over its artistic production and will focus on the work of artists of color and queer people.

“Almost everything we asked for, Flea added to this partnership,” Dolores Pereira, leader of the Fled collective and former member of the Bats, said in an interview. “It has been a very collaborative process.

The theater will also begin a multi-year residency program for traveling arts companies. The first participant will be Emerge 125, a modern dance troupe led by a black woman who will receive creative, technical and production support, discounted rental space and access to office space for at least three years. The theater eventually hopes to support more companies in the program each year, Smith said.

Pereira said the Fled collective aims to be able to pay all of their artists and plans to build on the annual $ 10,000 cash grant and additional fundraising to do so. The company does not have a membership cap and currently has at least 50, she said.

The theater has also restructured its board of directors, with at least one seat now assigned to an artist from a resident company (board members remain volunteers, Smith said). He said Flea, which has three paid staff, aims to raise at least $ 850,000 to support programming and operations over the coming year.

Since 2017, the Flea has been operating in a new three-theater building in TriBeCa whose largest performance space holds around 100 seats. In the in recent years he has staged plays with a focus on police brutality, gun violence and other topical issues: “The Fre, a piece of Taylor Mac which is in part a strange love affair, was in preview when the pandemic forced it to shut down.

La Flea was also pushed back for its reliance on unpaid performers, which spilled over in June 2020 when a number of unpaid workers wrote a letter accusing the theater of “racism, sexism, gaslighting. , lack of respect and abuse ”. La Puce then undertook to start paying all of its artists. But in December, he dissolved his programs for emerging artists, citing the financial effects of the pandemic.

For months of almost weekly meetings, then a healing circle, and with the help of a black woman-led advisory group, CJAM Consulting, Flea and her artists set out to mend their relationships, Smith said. Theater staff also received anti-oppression and anti-racism training.

“There was definitely a lot of trouble,” Pereira said. “But now it looks like a new relationship.”

The first show of the new season (which is produced by Flea, not a resident company) will be “Arden: A Ritual for Love and Liberation”, scheduled for early 2022. This work was designed by five artists, including Carrie Mae Weems. and Diana Oh and takes inspiration from the Forest of Arden from “As You Like It” – reimagined as a place where “queers, feminists and intellectuals dare to create the world that centers their desires”. It will be followed in June by four public art commissions on June 17 that combine artists’ thoughts on the holidays with work that honors black culture. Additional productions will be announced at a later date, the theater said.

Pereira hopes that organizations like the Fled Collective – which focus on empowering underrepresented artists – can serve as a role model for other businesses and help artists “reclaim their power.”

“The harm done to Flea is not unique to Flea, but is presented throughout the theater community,” she said.

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Newsrust - US Top News: The Flea announces new resident company and a focus on black and queer artists
The Flea announces new resident company and a focus on black and queer artists
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