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Regional Spotlight: How NY Theatre Barn is Working Through The Global Health Crisis

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Regional Spotlight: How NY Theatre Barn is Working Through The Global Health Crisis


Now more than ever it is important to support theater and do our part to keep the art form that we love so much alive and as thriving as it can be during these unprecedented times. While the global health crisis has temporarily put the theater world on hold, pausing all live performances and large gatherings to help stop the spread of COVID-19, theaters around the country have taken a hit. During this time of adjusting to our temporary new normal, theaters are figuring out how to take care of their team, and discovering the best ways to virtually bring theater to audiences.

Through our regional theater interview series, we are checking in with theaters all around the country, talking to them about how they are handling these difficult circumstances, learning what they are doing to move forward, and discovering the best way for people to help regional theaters during this time.

Today, we're checking in with NY Theatre Barn, with Artistic Director Joe Barros.

First of all, I want to check in on the health and wellbeing of everyone at NY Theatre Barn. How is everyone doing during this difficult time?

We are happy to report that most of our staff and board of directors are all safe in their homes. We all remain excited about the power of live theatre and the extraordinary experience of developing new musicals in front of live audiences.

Unfortunately, one of our board members and her husband have come down with COVID-19. We will continue to check on them and we wish them a speedy recovery. This board member does so much for our company and the theatre community, so we wish we could do more for them and their family during this unfortunate time.

One of the actors in our upcoming virtual live presentation of the new musical Sueños, works in a hospital in New York City and is a first responder. Jason Hurtado is in healthcare management running a radiology site directly working with COVID-19 patients. He carries a letter with him stating that he is an "essential worker" in case he is stopped on the way to work. Jason says his main job is to make sure staff and patients are protected. We are thrilled that he will be able to join us next week to perform a song live from the new Latinx musical Sueños because he has been an integral part of the show's development since its inception.

What do the days look like right now for those who work at NY Theatre Barn?

We have found a way to evolve our live programming during this unusual time. Jen Sandler (Associate Artistic Director) and Daryl Eisenberg (Casting Director) felt strongly that we could and should invent virtual installments of our programming. While so many doors closed, we didn't have to. We could find a way to still develop new musicals, share untold stories with the world, serve artists, and bring people together. Jen and Daryl's enthusiasm was infectious, and because of it, our doors never closed.

New York Theatre Barn is keeping original live theatre alive during this unprecedented time. We will continue our mission of incubating new musicals in front of live audiences. From our homes to yours, we are excited to share and experience the magic of live theatre in development.

How much planning is going on both short term and long term for the theater? What are the immediate plans for the theater, upcoming productions etc., and what are you hoping/planning for in future months?

Since the "shutdown" began, we have produced two live virtual installments of our New Works Series and a virtual installment of our Choreography Lab. The programs are streamed live on our YouTube channel and Facebook page.

Our New Works Series, now in its 13th season, presents excerpts from 2 new musicals in an evening of what we call "pre-premieres". In the past five weeks, we have presented live excerpts to a worldwide audience of the following new musicals: Mommie Dearest (by Christina Crawford and David Nehls), HoT (by Lynne Shankel and Sara Cooper), Dimes (by Billy Recce), I Don't Want to Talk About It (by Ben Caplan), Borders (by Janine McGuire and Arri Lawton Simon), Sueños (by Jesse Sanchez and Jeff Chambers), Frankie! (by Elise Marra), and Agent 355 (by Preston Max Allen and Jessica Kahkoska). Next week, we will present the new musicals Sam's Room (by Dale Sampson, Trey Coates-Mitchell, Caitlin Marie Bell and Marc Campbell) inspired by real stories of nonverbal teens who find a way to communicate, and Small Town Story (by Sammy Buck and Brandon James Gwinn) which was conceived/commissioned by New York Theatre Barn about two families in North Texas who struggle with a community battle ignited by a controversial high school musical. 

Our Choreography Lab, now in its 7th season and curated by Avital Asuleen, was created to elevate and expand the use of dance in musical theatre, and is the only curated choreography platform where choreographers and writers collaborate to develop movement for new musicals during incubation. In last week's Choreography Lab, we had choreographers and dancers presenting live work from all across the country--and in various time zones! We presented four eclectic pieces from four very different choreographers: one piece was shot live from a dance studio - another was improv-ed live in the dark with a strobe light - another was a live Chinese fan dance infused with Duncan-inspired movement - and another was contemporary dance on a hillside deck, performed to a folk-rock reimagining of Sondheim's "Johanna" as the sun was setting in Southern California. It was truly a magical evening.

We will keep presenting live virtual installments of our current programming as long as we are confined to our homes. We look forward to returning to live performances shared in the same room, but believe that we are currently learning about new systems and new ways to communicate and create virtually so that storytelling and musical theatre development can continue to evolve.

Do you have plans to bring any previously filmed productions/upcoming events/classes etc. online?

We aren't planning to release any new previously recorded content, but we have many videos of past New Works Series' and Choreography Labs on our channel for viewing. In fact, we have amassed a catalogue of nearly 2,000 videos and over a million views on our YouTube channel.

For now, we will continue to produce live streamed versions of our programs.

What is the best way for people to help NY Theatre Barn right now?

Right now, supporting our work is the biggest compliment and joy you can give us. Spreading the word and letting people know about what we are doing means the world and will make a huge impact. We want to continue to support artists, and have been floored with the feedback. We are always accepting tax deductible donations on our website. We welcome them so that we can continue to give back to our community.

Learn more about NY Theatre Barn at Donate to the theatre here!


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