Rec Room Arts Launches New Non-Profit Initiative
Longtime friends, theatre artists and HSPVA educators Matt Hune and Stephanie Wittels Wachs have joined forces yet again to launch Rec Room Arts, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that aims to provide artists of all disciplines a FREE platform to develop and perform new work.
Hune and Wachs initially joined forces in June 2016 to launch Rec Room, a unique performance space in downtown Houston where live performance and arts events of every sort are frequent, diverse, and accessible to all. The space was born out of conversation the two had at Café Brasil nearly ten years before about how cool it would be to create a multi-disciplinary art space in Houston. Having collectively lived in Chicago and New York for over 10 years, they both saw the absence of and need for such a space in Houston.
Clearly, they were on to something: Rec Room has only been open eight months but, in that short time, has cultivated a large and loyal following in the community. The company has garnered glowing reviews from many local publications and media outlets:
"If it sounds like a much less buttoned up theatre experience than you might experience elsewhere in Downtown-or Houston at large-that's the whole point. Wachs and Hune deliberately set out to create a place where weird and wacky pieces could be performed by some of Houston's most established...and emerging actors. More than that, they wanted somewhere that would be a beacon for collaboration." - Downtown Magazine Winter 2016
"In a city rich with theater, its co-founders, Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Matt Hune, hope to make the Rec Room a destination for people seeking a more casual theater experience, a place that celebrates innovative and interactive approaches to theater as well as the cultural nostalgia that binds us together through various pop-culture references." - Houston Chronicle, August 2016
"All [programs] push boundaries and allow for varying degrees of audience participation. 'We want to create a place that connects people, that's more like a social club.' Most exciting of all, they're only just beginning. 'We're going to constantly be redesigning the program.'" - Modern Luxury December 2016
Hune and Wachs finally had the space they'd always dreamed, but what they soon found is that the kinds of artists they were seeking out, those who also wanted to break boundaries and experiment with forms, were not able to afford rental fees, even though Rec Room deliberately offered lower rental rates than any competitor in town.
"One thing that's become overwhelmingly obvious since we started Rec Room is that our community is full of artists, thinkers, comedians, renegades, storytellers, innovators and creators," said Artistic Director Matt Hune. "And Houston is definitely home to tons of thriving arts organizations, but expensive rental fees seem to stand in the way of independent artists being able to get their foot in the door."
"It's problematic," Wachs agreed. "Artists have to continue to morph and change and reinvent in order for the arts to survive, but that's next to impossible without getting up in front of a live audience over and over again and seeing what works and what doesn't."
In order for this to happen, artists would need resources, support, and space. This was the germ of the idea to create an Artist Residency program.
In December 2016, Wachs approached four local performers-Kathryn Way, Hoja Lopez, Stacey Daniels and Britt Vasicek-about their interest in a new program Rec Room was considering that would bypass rental fees upfront PLUS include a 50/50 door split for performers. And it wouldn't just be a one-off or single-event proposal: "What if we offered you a show a month for free?" Wachs asked. The answer was a resounding, "YES!" The performers were thrilled about the opportunity to get their work in front of a live audience on a consistent basis and eager to get dates on the calendar.
After her first couple of shows at Rec Room, Kathryn Way tweeted: "Houston has never seen a venue as inclusive, creative, supportive & life affirming as @recroomhtx. See all those residents who are women?"
After her recent show, Laura Gutierrez posted on social media: "The Back Room happened!! Muchas Gracias to the cool leaders at Rec Room, Stephanie Wittels Wachs & Matt Hune, their super on top of it crew, my kind, talented & funny partner/collaborator Chun Wai Chan, and to our audience members, sharing that cozy space with you was unforgettable."
Seeing the success of the experiment, Hune and Wachs were eager to reach out to even more artists but realized fundraising would be an issue. In order to provide artists the resources they needed to create quality work, they would need an infrastructure: technical support, house management, steady rehearsal and performance space.
Hune and Wachs's newest non-profit venture that has one major goal: to be an affordable creative home for Houston's most creative people.
OUR MISSION IS TO DEVELOP INNOVATIVE WORK BY EMERGING AND ESTABLISHED ARTISTS ACROSS DISCIPLINES IN ORDER TO ENERGIZE A NEW GENERATION OF AUDIENCES FOR THE ARTS.
From established artists to emerging, fringe and up-and-coming artists, Rec Room Arts is interested in supporting individuals who work to bend and break the rules of conventional performance. We support the development of new work by inviting artists to propose, create, and present works of theatre, dance, music, opera, performance art, film and more - free of charge.
How? Artists are encouraged to apply to our Artist Residency program, which is open to individuals or groups of artists who are not part of an established company or professional organization. Accepted candidates will receive at least one, and up to 12, performances or exhibitions a year. Artists will also be provided daytime rehearsal space, technical support, artistic feedback, marketing/PR, and box office/front of house management plus a stipend in the amount of 50% of the box office for all performances. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.
Current Residents include comedians Hoja Lopez, Stacey Daniels, Kathryn Way and Britt Vasicek, experimental modern dancer, Laura Gutierrez, and global percussion music ensemble, Space City Performing Arts.
Residency performances thus far have included a site-specific dance piece called The Back Room by Laura Gutierrez featuring Houston Ballet's Chun Wai Chan, Britt Vasicek's Sell Your Body Show, So Like Basically With Kathryn Way, and Relationshit Live with Stacey and Hoja featuring Houston celebrity Fat Tony.
Rec Room Arts will also produce a mini-season of plays and musicals, including the return of Dead Rockstar Sing-A-Long Club this summer, a celebration of the music of George Michael and ShaRon Jones. Last year, the production honored Prince and Bowie. Season TBA pending theatrical rights.
The Board of Directors includes Abby Koenig (President), Ryan Leach (VP) and Cynthia Ogden (Treasurer). Stephanie Wittels Wachs serves as Executive Director and Matt Hune serves as Artistic Director. Tasha Gorel is House Manager, Gregory Starbid is Technical Director and Grace Cunyus is Administrative Assistant.
Rec Room Arts is currently performing at Rec Room, Houston's newest performance space nestled in the heart of downtown Houston. Ticket prices for Rec Room Arts events will typically be $10 and never exceed $20, ensuring that the art is accessible to everyone in our community.
UPCOMING @ REC ROOM ARTS:
Let's Get Physical: Rec Room Arts' 2nd Annual Beer and Ice Cream Social. At Rec Room Arts' first annual fundraising event, guests are encouraged to dress in vintage gym class attire. Good times will include live music and performances by Rec Room's Artists in Residence in a variety of non-traditional spaces over the course of the evening, hot dogs grilled by Chef Matt Marcus of Eatsie Boys fame, an indoor game of dodge ball, beer, ice cream and art auction. Saturday, March 25th at 8 PM. Tickets: www.universe.com/letsgetphysical.
Levels of Giving:
School Bus: $25 - A general admission ticket to all performances, one drink and an ice cream.
Mom's Station Wagon: $100 - 2 general admission tickets, 2 drinks + 2 ice creams.
Dad's Muscle Car: $250 - 2 general admission tickets, 4 drinks + 2 ice creams.
Smoking in the Bathroom: $500 - 4 general admission tickets and unlimited drinks and sweet treats.
Faculty Lounge: $1000 - 10 general admission tickets and unlimited drinks and sweet treats.
Principal's Office: $2500 - 10 general admission tickets, unlimited drinks and sweet treats, a plaque in our lobby and recognition on our website as being a top donor and general bad ass.
So Like Basically with Kathryn Way. This monthly comedy variety show hosted by comedian Kathryn Way is now FOR CHARITY. This month's charity was the ACLU of Texas. Admission is now pay what you can. Next show is on Saturday, March 18th.
ShitShow, a new monthly sketch show about finding love within yourself, but still looking better than your enemies while doing it. Hosted by Hoja Lopez with Special Guest Roxxy Haze. Featuring Stacey Daniels, Kathryn Way & April Brem. Friday, March 24th.
Relationshit Live w/ Hoja & Stacey with Special Guest Kam Franklin from The Suffers. A weekly podcast where, every week, the ladies dive into the hopeless abyss that is love and friendship. Friday March 31st.