“explosive energy and infectious love” talking BREAD Arts Collective with Kelly Klein

When Dave and I started Sticky lo these many years ago, one of the things we wanted to do was to elevate the bar play form to a level of high art. When I saw Kelly Klein’s announcement of RISE & FALL I immediately thought of the elevation of the bar play form. I know Kelly from Sticky, she’s a terrific actress, and I’m thrilled that she’s producing with the brand new BREAD Arts Collective, so I figured we should talk about it.*


You’re part of a new theater project called BREAD Arts Collective, the motto of which is “To do good work, With people we love, And make some dough.” Artists and theater companies have traditionally (in the late 20th-Century and early 21st anyway) shied away from including making bank as part of their goal. How did you guys decide to buck the trend and talk cash?


“To do good work, with people we love, and make some dough” is a motto that arose organically from many meetings we held in late 2014. As a group of multi-disciplinary and talented individuals, we want to create a collective that embraces all of our desires. The desire to work with a group of tried and true friends and collaborators, to create new work while continuing to re-mount successful past projects, to expand into new artistic forms such as web-series, short films, and podcasts, and to not go broke by doing it. 

It is unfortunate that in today’s climate artists are not expected to make any money from their work. And, to be honest, I don’t think any of us are expecting to be in a position to quit our day jobs anytime soon. But if we can continue to make work together and steadily accrue money, then we won’t be at the mercy of crowd-sourcing to fund our next project. We will simply have each project fund the next, while reimbursing members for time and expenses along the way. The eventual dream is for us to all be employed by the collective and to make a real stipend in exchange for our efforts. It will be interesting to see how this goal develops over the coming year. 


I’m so glad you’re considering the financial viability of your project! So many new theater companies anticipate that funding will come from someplace other than like selling the art. Do you think this is a model that other theater companies should adopt? Does this funding model impact the kind of work that you can make?


Our work is low-budget and DIY by nature and that is part of our charm and success. We thrive on a shoestring budget because it forces us to find creative solutions to seemingly expensive problems. As members we embrace the “multi-hyphenate.” That is, we each look to our strengths and implement them for the betterment of the collective. If BREAD did have more funds, then we would consider hiring a professional PR person, a stage manager, and pay our members a working stipend. These are all eventual goals. I can’t say what might work for other theatre companies but presently this model is working for us!


How do you guys all know each other?


The 11 members of BREAD have all come together within the mysterious social spiderweb that is the New York arts scene. We hail from Minnesota, Indiana, California, New Jersey, and South Dakota. We began working together in small groups and over the years added friends and collaborators from our hometowns, past productions, and college connections. We talked about officially forming our collective many times along the way. Then, with our last production of LONESOME DEVIL at Cloud City in Brooklyn, we decided to take the reigns, buckle down, and create this wonderful thing: BREAD. While in meetings about forming our collective, I was approached by a friend about a theatre residency at Peoples Lounge in the lower east side. BREAD crafted a proposal to submit to People Lounge and thus our weekly residency of RISE & FALL was born. 


Did you create RISE & FALL specifically for the space? Is this a form follows function idea?


RISE & FALL was not created specifically for People Lounge, but I knew right away it would be a perfect fit. Heinz Liu, from People Lounge, has been a dream to work with. He is just as emotionally invested as we are when it comes to RISE & FALL, which is such a rare and incredible blessing. Eric Powell Holm, our director, initially adapted the piece while at Columbia University. We made specific changes to the show for this space, but the beauty of the play is that it can truly be adapted and performed in any given environment. We kind of like to function like a rock-band: give us a space and and we’ll rock it out!


What is a punk-speed bacchanalian party show and how is it different from a like normal play?


We bill RISE & FALL as a “weekly punk-speed bacchanalian party-show” because that’s exactly what it is! The story is about a group of criminals on-the-run who decide to stop in their tracks and create a new, perfect society. This community happens to reside in a bar, People Lounge, so drinking is naturally built into the show. We have original music by our member Andrew Lynch that fluctuates between ballad and punk-rock sensibilities. And, as a troupe of performers, we immerse the audience in our world by direct interaction, creative staging, and DYI lighting. What we end up with is an exhilarating, funny, moving, challenging piece that encourages the audience to “do whatever the f*** they want,” one of the main tenants of the characters in the show. And, as a collective, we are greeting the audience as they enter the space and partying with them after the final song. The result is no walls between us and our audience. We want to create a community that welcomes and supports all and fosters new connections and relationships within our framework. We may not be reinventing the wheel with this model but we are certainly trying to turn it on it’s head and get a new generation of theatre-goers to come on out, have a drink, and see some pretty fantastic stuff. 


Of course I love the idea of plays in bars, and interacting with the audience in such a direct way. How does the audience react? Do you have people who feel intimidated by the bacchanal or does everyone get into it? When you do the show does it feel like you guys are a bright spot shining out from the darkest depths of downtown New York (that’s how Sticky always felt, and I loved it)?


I love that! We try to challenge our audience’s level of comfort as well as their expectations regarding theatre. Sometimes people don’t want to participate in the bacchanal and that’s OK. But we take care of our audience, guiding them through Jimmy Gallagher’s story and meeting them on the other side with a beer in hand. Several attendees have noted that our explosive energy and infectious love for each other is contagious. It feels great to share that with all of New York and all of our friends (new, old, and especially the ones we haven’t met yet)!

Here’s the deets to go check it out: you can see it tonight! Because it’s Sunday! And the show runs on Sundays.

Sunday’s from March 1- April 19

doors at 7:30, 8 pm show time

People’s Lounge

163 Allen St

New York, New York 10002

*apologies if this post looks a little odd. I’m traveling and something apocalyptic happened to my mac, so I’m posting mobile.

And Kelly Klein ^

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