Bushwhack Series at Bushwick Starr

Friday night took Culturebot out to Bushwick Starr for the Bushwhack Series. We’re almost embarrassed to admit that we haven’t been out to the venue before, but we had such a great time we are sure to be back.  Its a relatively quick trip to the Jefferson stop on the L train and about a half-block walk from there. The trip was so quick that we actually made it with an hour to spare before showtime, so we took a walk around the neighborhood and stopped for dinner at one of the Mexican restaurants in the area. After dinner we ambled back to the Starr where we met Noel Allain, artistic director, and got the lowdown on the space while watching the sunset from the roofdeck:

which comes complete with a hydroponic garden:

We chatted for awhile and Noel introduced me to Managing Director Sue Kessler who told me more about the history of the space and their plans for the future – which include a robot theater festival!!! The space started out in 2001 as a developmental space for the New York based theater company, Fovea Floods, Inc. In 2004, the company helped to fully convert the space to a black-box venue while producing a large-scale theatrical run. Since then it has been growing continuously, serving the performing arts community and, more specifically, Bushwick. I was really impressed with the facilities which, in addition to the roof deck/garden, include three (!!) toilets, a nice little bar/lounge area (with reasonably priced beer including a tasty home brew) and a spacious black box theater with nice flooring and a pretty impressive technical rig.

By now it was showtime, but the audience was mostly gathered on the roof deck drinking beer and watching the sunset. Everyone hung out and mingled until eventually the artists and audience were ready for the show and Noel herded everyone back into the space.

The show itself was kind of a mish-mosh of different pieces, excerpts and works-in-progress from emerging artists. Reggie Watts, as host, contributed some pre-recorded spoken word pieces which served as interludes. He was embodied by a puppet of a giant squid, humorously and ably puppeteered (?) by Matt Brooks assisted by Molly Light and Colette Nickola. Very cool.

The show started with a hip-hop solo dance to Nina Simone’s “Ne me quitte pas” choreographed and performed by Ephrat Asherie. This was followed by an ensemble piece by emerging ensemble Old Kent Road Theater which led into a brief intermission for more roof deck time and beer. (Yay beer!)

The second act included another piece by Ms. Asherie, this time a group hip-hop dance piece featuring her crew. This was followed by a more conceptual piece by emerging artist Chloe Bass. Currently pursuing an MFA in Performance and Interactive Media Arts, her piece, Mnemonic 1.0, included conceptual nods to Andrea Fraser and Alison Knowles, deconstructing how we remember.

The evening concluded with Jason and Jessica from Banana Bag & Bodice performing an excerpt from Space//Space, their new work-in-progress that showed last summer (I think) at the Ohio. I always enjoy watching those guys and am curious to see how this piece finally shapes up.

Afterwards people were welcome to hang out and enjoy the roof deck some more, drink some beer and socialize. I was kind of tired so I didn’t stay, but I can totally see making a night of it and meeting new people. Bushwick Starr just has a really relaxed, welcoming vibe and is sure to be a nurturing home for many, many artists.

I really enjoyed my trip out there and encourage you, if you haven’t visited there, to add it to your list of frequently attended venues. They really embody the DIY spirit in a great way. Like Brian and Sheila out at the Chocolate Factory, they’re artistically ambitious while still maintaining a real commitment to community – both artistic and geographic. For those of us who believe in the importance of small arts venues in the creative ecology of NYC, it is hopeful that places like Bushwick Starr exist and are flourishing.

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