Support The Chocolate Factory Theater
Why, you ask? Setting aside the obvious – that The Chocolate Factory is a small organization punching well above its weight; and finances are a challenge that doesn’t, and won’t, go away – there’s a deeper story here; and if you have the stomach for it, I’ll explain (‘til I’m blue in the face):
We’re in the home stretch of our second full season of programming at our new permanent home (don’t miss Mallory Catlett’s DECODER: Nova Express, if you can help it!); and if I’m left with more questions than answers – which I am – it’s an exciting (though murky) pool to be wading in.
I have questions about what artists are doing now, and how to identify and foreground their relevance (and ours) in a distracted world; what artists truly need, so that they can more fully do what they are doing now; and how The Chocolate Factory might bend, flex and contort even further to meet those needs, now;
I have questions about the future of an experimental performing arts community – a community of weird, fearless dance/theater/indescribable-something makers that brought me to New York City in the first place, and kept me here, and made The Chocolate Factory what it is, and made this city undeniably richer, and more necessary, and more interesting – that is struggling and shrinking (and I fear, retreating) in frankly alarming ways. So:
I have questions. And no, I don’t have answers (sorry!). But I suspect that artists do – they always do – and at the very least, I DO know what WE’RE going to do, with your support:
Things are going to change. If you count the itinerant-artist-pre-venue years, The Chocolate Factory Theater will celebrate twenty five years of not-dying in 2024; and it’s time to look our programs, practices, habits and structures straight in the eye, and try like crazy not to blink; and – for lack of a better term – be (gradually!) different. But what does this even mean?, you ask (I know, so many questions!): it means (long term) succession planning; and programmatic-stock-taking; and making a few thoughtful, strategic, and (if I’m honest, and I’m trying to be) risky investments in support for artists, support for staff, support for the future of this gnarly little experimental performing arts field (more on this below, keep reading!).
Things are going to stay the same. We’re going to support artists more, and better, with an eye toward a future that is…slightly less unsustainable. As you may or may not know, for a few years now we’ve paid every artist – choreographers, dancers, designers, you name it – an hourly wage, on the books, for every hour worked within our spaces. This year, that wage is going up, to $30 per hour, for everyone. That’s in addition to commissioning funds; a rare and taxing (ha!) arrangement, to be sure.
Speaking of commissions: we’ll host premieres by Wanjiru Kamuyu, Takahiro Yamamoto (with PICA and On The Boards), chameckilerner, Michelle Ellsworth (with EMPAC), YOURS TRULY (my first new work since 2018!), Stacy Grossfield, Leslie Cuyjet, Ursula Eagly, Heather Kravas, Alex Romania, Angie Pittman, and jess pretty; PLUS a bunch of early-stage residencies and other events TBA. Each of the artists named here (with the possible exception of myself) is making boundary-pushing, searching, personal, unique, important work.
We’re investing in staff and board growth in the hope of continuing to not die for as long as possible. Regine Pieters (if you know her, you love her) will step up into the role of Associate Director of Development. Gerard Minaya just joined our team as Assistant to the Executive Director. Shana Crawford finally relented and will settle down (as if) as our almost-but-not-quite full time Production Manager. Jimmy Van Bramer (formerly our NYC City Council Member!) and Moe Yousuf will join the Board.
Needless to say, these changes (and not-changes) are very necessary, and objectively reasonable, and objectively expensive. I’ll say this over and over again, to anyone who’ll listen, because it’s true: The Chocolate Factory is a small organization, founded and run by artists, with artists, for artists. The work of artists – these artists – is important. Please support our efforts to not die with a gift of any size.
TEN commissioned premieres by Phil Soltanoff & Steven Wendt (with the Bushwick Starr), David Thomson, Dion TYGAPAW McKenzie (with ISSUE Project Room & Queens Museum), Ivy Baldwin, Aaron Landsman, Kathy Westwater, Juliana May (with Abrons Arts Center), Annie Dorsen (with New York Live Arts & Media Art Xploration), Yanira Castro / a canary torsi, and Mallory Catlett.
SIX early stage residencies and interdisciplinary happenings by Jasmine Hearn, Jessie Young & Iris McCloughan, Martita Abril, Linda Mary Montano (with ISSUE Project Room), Efraín Rozas, and Andrea Kleine.
We made new friends in the neighborhood! Our First Annual Mother’s Day Block Party & Open House, May 2023 (photo by Yuby Hernandez):