Supporting creative work by women
Works by Women caught up with Liz Carlson, the new artistic director of venerable theater company Naked Angels. She took over the role at a new juncture in the company’s history as it joined professional forces with The New School for Drama. Liz spoke with us about that very intriguing relationship, the upcoming benefit Angels Ajar and Naked Angels’ diverse programming.
WORKS BY WOMEN: Tell me about the partnership between Naked Angels and The New School for Drama.
LIZ CARLSON: Naked Angels and The New School for Drama have had an unofficial association for years–many of the original company members are on faculty in the Drama program, and alumni such as myself and playwright Bekah Brunstetter worked with Naked Angels early in our careers. In March 2013, former Naked Angels Artistic Director Andy Donald and Director of The New School for Drama Pippin Parker (also a Founding Member of Naked Angels), decided to formalize the existing organic relationship. As a result, Naked Angels provides Drama students a critical professional association with working artists in New York by offering curated participation within our existing core programming. In turn, Naked Angels is now housed within New School facilities and may enjoy the institution’s administrative, cultural, and intellectual resources.
WBW: What excites you about this partnership?
LC: Naked Angels and The New School for Drama are very like-minded organizations. Both operate with an ambitious energy, are dedicated to developing and producing rigorous and relevant theatre, and conduct all action while engendering a great sense of community and collaboration. We also recognize that there is a constant call to adapt to the changing tide of artists’ needs, and so together I believe we will only strengthen our respective services to the theater community.
WBW: You have an upcoming benefit – Angels Ajar. Tell me about it.
LC: Angels Ajar is the first event that Naked Angels and The New School for Drama are co-producing as new professional partners. The structure is modeled after Naked Angels’ renowned Tuesdays@9 program–a weekly cold reading series that presents excerpts from new work and values raw impulse and reaction as a developmental tool. And the featured artists represent a great cross section (and cross-over) of our respective communities. The playwrights include Jon Robin Baitz (Naked Angels Original Company Member, The New School for Drama Faculty Member); Janine Nabers (The New School for Drama MFA Playwright ’08); and Kirit Limperis (Gifted Participant of 3Thursdays–Naked Angels’ public high school outreach program). The acting company includes celebrated actors: Nathan Lane, Peter Jay Fernandez and Steven Pasquale; rising young talent: Shane McRae, Will Rogers, Debargo Sanyal and Sarah Steele; working professionals on faculty at The New School for Drama: Kathryn Rossetter and Cotter Smith; and current New School for Drama MFA actors: Kelsey Foltz, Brennan Lowery and Leif Steinert. The readings will be directed by the fantastic Daniel Aukin, who also recently joined the faculty at Drama. All proceeds from the event will support the professional theater artists, their new work, and the New School students participating in Naked Angels core programming during the 2013-2014 season.
WBW: I’m intrigued by your 3Thursdays program. How does that work?
LC: 3Thursdays is Naked Angels’ education outreach program that teaches New York City public high school students how to express themselves through playwriting and to collaborate with peers and mentors. Led by two Teaching Artists, students meet for three weeks in a row, learning how to format a play, pitch ideas, engage in collaborative discussion, share and revise drafts, and so on. For the final week, the students’ new work receives a public reading by guest actors in a professional setting. 3Thursdays is a beloved program and not only provides instruction on writing skill and technique, but also supports our belief that theatre can be a tool for self-confidence and courage when it’s needed most. Students need only submit an application in order to participate in 3Thursdays, and are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis; application materials can be found on our website.
WBW: What’s next for Naked Angels?
LC: This season, Naked Angels is operating our rich and diverse core programming–Tuesdays@9, 1st Mondays, Angels in Progress, the Naked Radio podcast, and 3Thursdays–while articulating the details of the new professional relationship with The New School for Drama and allowing me to get acclimated to the gig. We’re also taking this year to re-strategize how we approach production in order to implement a more viable and sustainable model for Naked Angels today. Almost all of the core programming is free and accessible to anyone, so swing by and join the fun–there’s always something going on!
WBW: What are the challenges facing women in American theater?
LC: I think there’s still a lingering trend within some organizations that keeps them in the comfortable cycle of hiring a majority of male leaders and producing male-centric work; however, I believe that this is actually dissipating quite rapidly. I’m more concerned about the lack of diversity amongst our industry’s leadership and commercial work.
WBW: What gives you hope for women in American theater?
LC: My own personal experience. In my pursuit of a vibrant and fulfilling career in the American theater I’ve felt respected and encouraged every step of the way. I don’t feel I’ve been denied access to my goals and at the same time I feel the accolades I’ve received have been earned through merit rather than a reflection of my gender. I have to conclude that gender equality of all types is to become the norm for our industry, and can therefore hope that soon it will no longer be an issue that needs to concern us as a community.
For tickets to Angels Ajar, visit http://nakedangels.com/ajar/.
Photos: Liz Carlson, Tuesdays@9, Naked Radio podcast