Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Powerfully Dramatic

In celebration of Indie Theatre Week (July 23 - July 29, 2012),  we asked members of the OOB community to share some of the Indie Theatre moments that inspired them.

Contributed by Rachel Klein

As this season draws to a close, I must reflect on how proud I am to be part of the independent theater scene. To see such visually outstanding, powerfully dramatic, and sincerely authentic work from my colleagues fuels my own creative energies and instills me with a sense of pride and community. In these days of multi-tasking and slashed budgets and a world that demands so much of us, I’m particularly enraptured by work that screams of innovation, effort, and a straight-up, intensive time commitment. Be it large-scale visual spectacle, amazingly adorned characters, carefully heightened dialogue, or labor-intensive movement, I always appreciate stylization that goes the extra mile. I applaud this especially in indie theater because the artists creating the work are making virtually nothing feel like a million bucks. I’d like to give notice to a few indie theater artists that I find particularly inspiring for their enormous visions pulled together this past year with the two most essential elements in my book: elbow grease and glitter.

The Love Show

Let’s begin with the gift of spectacle. One of my favorite troupes of glam geniuses is the Love Show. Choreographed by Angela Harriell, these classically trained dancers consistently put on shows that are clever, hilarious, and dynamic. Their work embraces both sexiness and silliness, but their moves are no joke. Their annual show, the Nutcracker: Rated R is always an amusing and beautiful depiction of the ballet, even featuring time travel to NYC in the 1980s for a little added Christmas cheer.

Kae Burke

Another example of awe-inspiring visuals comes from those renegade sparkle bombshells at the House of Yes in Brooklyn. This is a space built by two fiercely driven young women who put on magnificent circus shows, run an aerial school, and maintain their own performance company, Lady Circus. Kae Burke, the Co-Artistic Director of HoY, is also a fashion/costume designer (IT Award Nominated for Outstanding Costume Design in 2011) and she can literally spin straw into gold—I swear, I’ve seen it! I am so inspired by this designer, often using found and bargain materials and creating pieces that look like they came from a Broadway Musical (in a good way).

Sean Gill

Jaw-dropping wonderment doesn’t always have to originate from visuals, however, often it finds its basis in the backbone of dramatic content, and some artists choose to embellish their content with the sheer style of their words. Junta Juleil Theatricals’ Founding Artistic Director and Playwright, Sean Gill, has a tendency to simultaneously enamor and terrify his audiences with poetic bouts of hard-hitting social commentary and eerie sci-fi and horror motifs. His work is otherworldly, and the power of his dialogue takes to you another dimension—sometimes literally. 

Poetic Theater

 Another company that that is completely grounded in the strength of dramatic language is the Poetic Theater Company (run by Alex Mallory and Jeremy Karafin), who dedicate every moment to the integrity of language. They similarly are driven by social issues, politics, race, and other subjects that we aren’t supposed to talk about—and they not only talk about them, they rhyme, rhythm, rap, sing, and emote!

Chi Chi Valenti

This brings us to authenticity. The luminaries of downtown worked very hard to create a scene for us, an environment in which we can build art that is distinctly New York, that is distinctly subculture, that is distinctly ours. Chi Chi Valenti is a nightlife pioneer who ran Jackie 60, the Jackie Factory, Mother NY, and Wigstock. She currently produces Night of 1000 Stevies (yes, that’s right folks, we’re talking Stevie Nicks!) and LowLife @ HOWL Festival. Chi Chi handpicks artists that she believes in and has created a family of indie performers who feel safe to showcase their work. On a personal note, Mz. Valenti has been a beacon of good energy and an advisor for my theater company, motivating us to push ourselfs, be boisterious, and to (in her words) “take back the night”. 

Vageline Theatre
Other luminaries who do sincere, beautiful, and authentic work include dance and Butoh Master Vangeline of Vangeline Theater and visual/performance artist Rob Roth. Vangeline who’s grotesque and gorgeous production of Hereafter that recently ran at the Wild Project was a mind-blowing tribute to deceased artists, horror films, Victorian beauty, and human struggle.


Rob Roth’s tortured portrait of a wolf in Craig’s Dream is seriously like nothing else ANYONE is doing right now, or has done. Roth’s transformation into Craig is mesmerizing– with thin layers of fur all coating the performer’s face and body, you would never suspect there was a human within those woolly confines if not for the profundity in his sharp eyes.  

These artists truly set the tone for the rest of us, and I am consistently inspired by their steadfast conviction, their sheer commitment, and that ‘against-all-odds’ elbow grease that forms the foundation of their style.


Rachel Klein, Artistic Director of The Rachel Klein Theater Ensemble, is a director and choreographer, who has been developing original pieces of visual story telling since 2007. The Rachel Klein Theater Ensemble’s choreographic work has been presented all over the city at several venues, festivals, art galleries, and nightlife events including the Kitchen, Dixon Place, Theater for the New City, DUMBO Dance Festival, Night of 1000 Stevies, the Highline Ballroom, La MaMa, Banzai!!!!,  the Red Lotus Room, legendary rock ‘n roll club Don Hill's, the Hiro Ballroom, the Bushwick Site Fest, Bushwick Open Studios Festival, Galapagos Art Space, the House of Yes, HOWL Festival, and Off-Broadway at the Bleecker Street Theater. Miss Klein recently won Big Vision Empty Wallets’ “Biggest Balls” competition (!!!!!), is a recipient of the Mondo CanĂ© Dance Comission from Dixon Place this past June, enabeling her to debut her genre defying circus fantasia, Symphony of Shadows, was a recipient of an Emerging Artists’ Residency Grant from the Field in 2010, and was nominated for Outstanding Director of a Play and Outstanding Choreography/Movement for the 2011 New York Innovative Theater Awards. Upcoming projects include Gay Bride of Frankenstein Off Broadway (currently in develpoment at the iStar Theater Lab.) www.rachelkleinproductions.com

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