Monday, April 30, 2012

Honorary Award Application Due 5/1

Every year, in addition to the production categories, the IT Foundation presents three honorary awards at its annual ceremony. These Honorary Awards are presented to individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to the Off-Off-Broadway community and are selected each year by the Honorary Awards Committee.
Applications are due Monday, May 1, 2012 @ 6pm

The Honorary Awards are:
  • The Caffe Cino Fellowship Award, presented to an Off-Off-Broadway theatre company that consistently produces outstanding work. This award also includes a grant to be used toward an Off-Off-Broadway production;
  • The Stewardship Award, presented to an individual or organization demonstrating a significant contribution to the Off-Off-Broadway community through service, support and leadership;
  • The Artistic Achievement Award, presented to an individual who has made a significant artistic contribution to the Off-Off-Broadway community*

* While there is not an application for the Artistic Achievement, we encourage community members to email suggestions to the committee at

Thursday, April 26, 2012

How to Create a Webseries or How We Created “OFF OFF”

Contributed by Stephen Bittrich.

Little tasks.  Big friends.
I would say that’s my secret in a nutshell.  That’s how the rather large and daunting project of creating Off Off, a webseries for people who never give up on their dreams was accomplished.
I wish the digital and Internet technology available now had been around 20 years ago … when all my friends were younger and little less jaded by life and the business, but then it wouldn’t be the same show!
Obviously you want to have the big dream, visualize the pie in the sky idea of what it can be, but “become rich and famous” is hard to check off on your to do list, and let’s face it, your series going viral would be a little like getting struck by lightening.
Little tasks bring you incrementally closer to the big dream. 
The first little task, the most important one is to write.  I’m a playwright/screenwriter, so that was something I was going to do myself, obviously. 
I’m a firm believer that it all starts with the story.  (Not just “idea” but “story.”)  That’s your foundation, so write the first season and have at least a good idea of where it’s going for three or four seasons.  Plan out way ahead, so you don’t write yourself into a corner. 
Some people say you should write only for what resources you have.  I think you certainly need to be very mindful of that, but allow yourself a few extra things that will take some work to find (locations or sets or costumes) as long as it’s adding to the story.  You want this to be special and look like some work was put into it!  Don’t just shoot your apartment.
When webseries first came out they were mostly 3-5 minutes of crude college humor, meant for a quick laugh, but now I see a lot of different lengths and genres.  The show SubmissionsOnly with the adorable and highly watchable Kate Wetherhead is about 22 minutes, the exact length, smartly enough, of a half-hour sitcom (without commercials).
Another task: find a location.  We thought we had a location, and it fell through.  But don’t give up.  Set your sites on one location.  Follow through.  If it doesn’t work out, on to the next location.  The next task.  Someone will say “yes.”
Task: cast the series.  You’ll be tempted to use your friends, and I think this is a good thing because you absolutely need your talented friends to pull this off for little to no money, but add some new blood in as well.  Cast SAG actors.  The New Media agreements with SAG pre-merger are doable and friendly to self-productions, and I assume the same will be true of the post-merger agreements.
Task:  director of photography.  What an important position!  I had an old friend from my Project Greenlight Contest days message me on Facebook (while I was talking the project up) and ask what he could do to help.  Turned out he had a Canon 7D (great camera – wonderful in low light), a DAT recorder, microphone, a few lights, and the know-how.  He could do a lot to help!  The digital cameras are so sophisticated these days that the lighting becomes less of a daunting task.  Get someone who really knows the camera to run it. 
With the digital technology such that it is today, you can even affordably edit yourself if you absolutely must with Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere.  I edited the first episode.  I’m hoping to hand that task off at some point.
The marketing campaign has its own series of mini-tasks – planning publicity shots or art (look beforehand at the sizes of images needed on various websites, so you can plan out dimensions ahead of time), building a great looking website (I happen to do this for a living), making cards to hand out, joining all the social networks, creating a youtube or vimeo channel.
At some point run a fundraising campaign on or
Bottom line is that you can do this for little or no money depending upon how many willing, talented friends you have.  Set your sites on little tasks and check them off one by one as you inch closer to your goal.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How a Playwright Caught the Webseries Bug & Created Off Off

Contributed by Stephen Bittrich.

So I was lying in the Critical Care Unit at Lenox Hill Hospital in October having just suffered a massive pulmonary embolism.  (That is blood clots traveling from your extremities, in this case the legs, up through your heart and into your lungs blocking your airways.  Rapper Heavy D died from one in December.)

And I thought to myself, “Okay, maybe I could die.  Possibly.  Hopefully we’ll get this under control, but there it is … my mortality staring me in the face.  What do you want to DO, Stephen?”

Webseries might seem like an odd thing to top one’s personal bucket list.  Others might choose jumping from a plane, climbing a mountain, or feeding the hungry in some impoverished corner of the globe.

I’d been developing an idea for about a year, a webseries about 4 guys in their 40’s running an Off-Off-Broadway theatre, and it seemed everywhere I went I had people telling me why I couldn’t do it, shouldn’t do it, or how I needed to change it.

We playwrights are often times beholden to someone else saying, “Yes, you are worthy.  We’ll produce you” or “We’ll read your play” or “We’ll develop this writing.”  That can be frustrating when you’re not in a groove.

And even after you are in a groove, you’re sometimes surprised at the response when you say, “I want to spread my wings … since we’re all doing this for little or no money.  I want to try something different.”  Surprised by a response like, “No, no, don’t spread your wings.  We don’t see you that way.  Keep doing what we already know you can do.” 

At least that’s what I was getting.  It was time to take charge of my own destiny!

I’m now going to give my friend, Michael Cyril Creighton a plug because he’s the reason I thought I could do it.  In mid-2009 Michael started a webseries called Jack in a Box about a bitter, snarky actor who works in a box office.  He happened to work in a box office in real life at the time.  I have no idea how bitter he really is.  He’s a pretty nice guy.  I became aware of his series about episode 6 or so, and I liked it so much I went back to watch the first, and I was amazed that at the time the pilot had about 3,000 views (it’s now closer to 34,000).

I started thinking about all the plays I’d done in 50-99 seat theatres over the years.  Had I even reached 3000 people?  I did the math.  Yes, I probably had, but it must have taken me a decade to reach that many people.

Now Michael’s case is unique.  He’s clearly got the mojo going now – just got nominated for a WGA Award for “New Media.”  I wasn’t under the impression that I’d get 3000 hits over night, but he inspired me to stop listening to the no’s and maybe’s.

By now my own series Off Off is not just talk anymore.  We’ve shot and posted our pilot episode and a behind the scenes look at the making of the pilot.  Saturday we’re shooting episode 2 and a mini-episode.  How did we make it happen?  That I will tell you in my next blog.

Will I stop writing plays and doing theatre now?  Of course not.  Nothing can replace the love of that live experience.

But I’ve really been enjoying working on Off Off.  It has been a lot of work, and it’s difficult sometimes to inspire the troupes, but probably not any harder than inspiring them to perform for free in an Off-Off-Broadway venue! 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Guest Blogger of the Week: Stephen Bittrich

We are excited that this week's guest blogger will be Stephen Bittrich.

Stephen Bittrich is a playwright/screenwriter/actor who has had over 30 of his plays (one-acts and full-lengths) produced on the Off Off Broadway scene.  He’s had several plays published over the years (Smith & Kraus, NY Theatre Experience, Dramatics Magazine) and just sold a screenplay based on his play Healer to an indie film production company.  Currently he is the creator/writer of Off Off, a new webseries about 4 guys in their mid-40s who run an Off Off Broadway theatre and begin to question if they’ve passed the age when doing so is still sexy.  Off Off is a webseries for people who NEVER give up on their dreams.  For more details visit or

Friday, April 13, 2012

It is time to come together

Contributed by Brad Burgess

It is time for artists to come together.  It is time for everyone to understand how important art is for communities of people.  It is time for everyone to realize their own art in life and how they can participate in the communities of which they are a part.

undergroundzero festival, and the direction it has taken into being a coalition/cooperative/collective/community of theatre groups and theatre artists is one of the strongest and most unique recognitions of this timing.  There are exponential benefits to sharing resources, connecting networks and finding perspective within the industry...amidst the new worldwide economic understanding about the instability of the monetary system...especially its utter failure to support the arts across the globe...undergroundzero festival, and other efforts like it are the way to sustainability.  It is the avant garde of what is being done on the national level like at TCG or NET, and on the local level in nyc, including NYIT, ART NY, LIT, LoMAL, and FAB.

It is indescribable, the feeling of going from handling the toughest challenges and questions, alone, to sharing responsibilities.  The feeling of sharing your best ideas to turn them into better ones, and finding new possibilities, together with others, is even more transcendent.  The experience of all that when art and theatre is at the center'll have to come find that one out in July.

Brad Burgess is the Executive Producer of The Living Theatre

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sign Me Up

Contributed by Connie Hall

In June of 2011, Paul Bargetto, artistic director of the undergroundzero festival, instant messaged me on Facebook while I was at the proverbial Day Job as a grantwriter.  It was a tiresome day, for a reason I cannot remember that involved a spreadsheet and a government form with its own internal maze-like logic, and I was cranky.  We met after work and he asked me a set of questions that it seemed to me he had asked others before. I told him, kind of like a zombie recounting someone else’s experience, about my life as an actor in New York, how I came here to go to grad school for acting at Columbia, how I balanced finances to support my life as an artist, when and where and how I started Conni’s Avant Garde Restaurant with a group of collaborators, how I structured that venture, and how I saw all of this continuing now that I had turned 40 years old.  The zombie haze lifted as it became my turn to listen.  Do I want to join a new cooperative of independent theaters? Do I want a slot in the annual undergroundzero festival?  Do I want to find ways to share resources and invent a new system of working that involves cooperating rather than competing or working in isolation?  Yup, yup, and yup.  I do.  Something’s not working the best way it could here, and letting it all go is not an option, not with the inspiring work I see fomenting in this struggling/thriving independent theater community I am privileged to be a part of.  Sign me up.

P.S. Thank you IT Awards for reminding us of all we have to celebrate every year!

Connie Hall is the Producing Director of Conni's Avant Garde Restaurant and Executive Director of undergroundzero

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

We’re Joiners! Will You Be a Joiner Too!?

Contributed by Connie Hall

In February 2012, eleven independent theater artists and companies joined together in a new cooperative structure to share their resources, networks, and combined talents. The founding members of the undergroundzero cooperative are: Paul Bargetto / East River Commedia, Anna Brenner, Jeff Clarke / Performance Lab 115, Alec Duffy / Hoi Polloi, Connie Hall / Conni's Avant Garde Restaurant, Daniel Irizarry & Laura Butler Rivera, Doris Mirescu / Dangerous Ground, Shige Moriya & Ximena Garnica / Leimay, Judith Malina & Brad Burgess / The Living Theatre, Jill A. Samuels, and Shannon Sindelar.

Brad Burgess, executive producer of the Living Theatre explains why the 65-year old company decided to join the cooperative, “Strength in numbers. I think the cooperative will bring stability that individual arts groups can't find on their own, and continued artistic excellence.”

Since 2007, undergroundzero has been operating as a summer festival (Collective Unconscious, PS 122) featuring the cutting edge work of New York City and international theater-makers. Artistic Director Paul Bargetto and Executive Director Connie Hall program the festival by investing in theatre artists, not selecting productions. The artists alone decide what to make and present. This year, participants from past festivals and other veteran experimental theater artists formed the permanent resident cooperative in order to share resources and improve the conditions for making new work. The cooperative’s aim is to secure for its member companies the core means of production including rehearsal space, performance venues, touring opportunities, promotion, management, advocacy, and funding.

This year the undergroundzero festival will be presented at The Living Theatre and Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center in New York City's historic Lower East Side June 26 - July 28, 2012. In addition, resident artist Shannon Sindelar will present an original piece in East River Park and the actors of Conni's Avant Garde Restaurant will present Little West 12th Night, a tour of the Chelsea Meatpacking District based on Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.

The opening of the festival will provide context for the time and place in which “hardcore downtown” NYC theatre makers are working by hosting a discussion with Arnold Aronson, author of American Avant Garde Theatre: A History and a panel discussion with members of the “NEA four.” Playwright Saviana Stanescu will present playgroundzero, a series of staged readings and works in progress about revolution and immigration. Artistic Director Paul Bargetto will bring together international theater artists and videographers to present Debt! a series of performative lectures about the concept, history, and meaning of debt. Visit this link for a sneak-peak:

There will be an exciting series of free events, meetings, “talk shows” and dance parties happening throughout the festival. Come join the conversation, get carried away and inspired, and get your boogie on out on the dance floor!

We have until April 17 to raise funds on Kickstarter. Will you help launch this exciting new possibility? Give $11 to support 11 theaters!

Connie Hall is the Producing Director of Conni's Avant Garde Restaurant and Executive Director of undergroundzero.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Ellen Stewart Award applications due May 1

This awards was named in honor of the renowned Ellen Stewart who was the very first recipient of this stewardship award.

The Ellen Stewart Award is presented to an individual or institution demonstrating a significant contribution to the Off-Off-Broadway community through service, support and leadership.

We need your help in recognizing the amazing people and organizations that are dedicated to supporting the Indie Theatre community. If you know someone like: The Field, The Alliance of Resident Theatres/NY (ARTNY), Martin Denton, Rochelle Denton & New York Theatre Experience, Materials for the Arts, Dixon Place or Horse Trade Theatrical Group, then please submit an application on their behalf [Ellen Steward Award Application].

Applications are due on May 1 @ 6pm.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Caffe Cino Fellowship Applications due May 1

Do you belong to an awesome, kick ass OOB theatre company like:  Inverse Theater Company, The Vampire Cowboys, Rising Phoenix Repertory, Boomerang Theatre Company, The Brick Theater, The New York Neo-Futurists or Flux Theatre Ensemble?
If so... apply for the Caffe Cino Fellowship.

Submit your application today [Caffe Cino Application].

Applications Due May 1 @ 6pm.

The Caffe Cino Fellowship is awarded to a theatre in recognition of outstanding work Off-Off-Broadway, and for demonstrating a commitment to continue to produce Off-Off-Broadway. The Award includes a grant to be used in an Off-Off-Broadway production.

This award is named in honor of the Caffe Cino, the first Off-Off-Broadway theatre, founded by Joe Cino in 1958. This theatre was an open arena for theatre artists of all disciplines to develop their craft, inspire and learn from one another, and present their work to the public.

The Caffe Cino Fellowship will be presented to the theatre company best representing this spirit.