Sunday, January 18, 2009

Indie Theaters in the Community: Profile #1 - Nicu's Spoon

One of the regular features I want to include here on the nytheatre i "Good News Blog" are profiles of indie theater companies that are making a difference in their community. I'm kicking off this "series" with a look at Nicu's Spoon, a very community-minded company based in Manhattan, headed by Stephanie Barton-Farcas.

Before I talk about how Nicu's Spoon serves a variety of constituents groups in its community, let me also mention that they've recently (in 2007) opened a new venue in Midtown, the Spoon Theatre. I went to visit it for the first time about a month ago. It's a charming, intimate black box on the fifth floor of an office building on 38th Street between 5th & 6th Avenues. It's in a terrific location--just a couple of blocks away from Bryant Park (to the north) and Macy's (to the south). One of the nice features I got to take advantage of was the rooftop "smoking lounge," up just one flight of stairs from the theatre, offering great views of Midtown. Nicu's Spoon puts up several shows a year in their home venue, plus they also rent it out sometimes. The Spoon is a lovely addition to the dwindling number of Manhattan indie theater venues!

One of the important contributions Nicu's Spoon has made to the community apart from creating this new space is the development of "co-playing," a new kind of performance for both deaf and hearing audiences. They have featured this style, in which sign language and spoken language are integrated within a single production, in several productions since 2006. They've also presented a series of free panels on working with disabled artists.

Nicu's Spoon has also implemented a new program (thus far done all by their volunteers) called ‘PLAY!,’ which introduces 2-8 year-olds to theatre arts at no cost to them or their schools. I asked Stephanie to tell me a bit more about PLAY!--here is what she said:
For 'PLAY!', mostly we have the groups come in [to the theatre], but not always; occasionally, we will travel to the school or group. We involve dress up and playing with makeup, if it is in our theatre we let the kids go into the booth so they can really learn how sounds and lights work, and they can make a short play. If we travel we keep the dress up and add puppet making of characters in the play, as well as letting them make their own play when they are done--thus letting them create art.

So that's the nutshell of it. We are, of course, always trying to raise funds (many schools cut arts and theatre programs so we hope to fill the gap) to subsidize the project.

You can learn more about Nicu's Spoon and its interesting and worthy programs at their website.

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