What are your names and where are you from?
GE: I’m Gabriel Evansohn. I’m from New York City.
MTG: I’m Mikhael Tara Garver and I’m originally from DC, but now I live in Brooklyn.
And you guys have been up to the farm multiple times, right?
MTG: This is our third year?
GE: Third year - yeah.
MTG: Yeah, and this was kind of a great week, because this is the first time I really feel like we’ve been able to – because we’ve been here before, we really knew - and we had like full access and time - we really know what is special about this place and so we were able to focus our time a little bit better.
What would you consider special about this place? How are you playing to those strengths?
MTG: Well, I mean I think as an organization running out of Brooklyn or out of New York, space and time is precious. It’s like the most precious thing you can have. Especially because we are a collective, so we try to make decisions together, or decisions that we want to figure out how we’re going to make better together. Having a space where - not only is there that space that kind of pulls us away and gives us distance, but also here I feel in the easiest way you feel like there’s structure and you’re taken care of and yet also not required to “show,” but encouraged and open. I think SPACE and Woodshed - we share a lot of those values.
MTG: I also think what’s super cool about this place for us - is because this is a space that has such history - and we are a company that makes work in spaces, and thinks about space that has history and a future - I feel like that’s a value here that we share.
GE: I think that’s true. I also think that just frankly the generosity that allows us to bring up as many members. And particularly when you make collective work you need the time when you have eight, ten, twelve people in the room and a lot of other residencies or retreats bring up four or five - which is great, and we’ve done some of those and done some of those very productively, but it’s a unique opportunity to get to be with the majority of the company for a period of time like that - and still have that structure and care taking that you were speaking of. You know- the “both, and” thing is very rare. And I think we’ve done various retreats this summer where we’ve had one or the other, but this is the only place that we’ve been able to find both of them.
MTG: Totally. And I think it feels like returning. I mean it feels like we’re returning to an artistic home for us now? And I think that’s also about our relationship that’s matured over time with Emily, and believing in her and looking at what she and this program have built. It’s something that I think is good to be around when you’re also in an organization that’s in the process of growing.
Right. How many people are in your collective right now?
MTG: Thirteen in the collective, but we also now have two managers, and one associate manager. So one person was up here who is an associated leader as a part of one of our programs - our solar program - and then two other - we have our associate producer up here and our associate managing director and we have our apprentice, so I would say ten - at some point - of the thirteen collective members were able to be here, which was super huge for us.
Can you talk a little about the Solar Project that you guys are working on?
MTG: Sure. It’s been a really interesting journey, because the idea actually came from last year when we were up here and sitting in the barn, and seeing the solar panels on the roof of Kay Hall and talking about what it would mean to take a production off-grid - and that idea then became a bigger idea. And we would then partner that with regional theaters around the country - in its first incarnation to kind of say, “here’s a way that we can think of new energy space, here’s a way that we can think of developing new work around new kinds of thinking.” So on the Woodshed side -what was really exciting about this time is this is the biggest leap we’ve taken toward some real clear creative steps about what the project on the artistic side will be.
How are you developing this project?
MTG: We are working with an engineer on the solar - on what this thing is going to be. That’s its own entity, the Shed. But the Shed actually - although a separate entity - a percentage of its ultimate profits goes back to Woodshed.
Oh awesome - that’s great.
MTG: I mean that’s what we’re in the process of building.
GE: I mean we hope so. We think it sounds great.
-it’s putting it into actuality-
GE: - We just need to make it happen.
MTG: Basically trying to both balance the work that we’re doing growing our nonprofit, while we’re being entrepreneurs in a for profit - which is like - it’s slightly insane, but could potentially be a new form of revenue.
And you guys are working on other projects alongside this project, correct?
MTG: So we were here working on - I would say our main goals while we were here ended up being to get some clear feedback and then feed-forward or plans forward -
GE: - Creation -
MTG: - Creation and ideation for a project we just finished, which was Empire Travel Agency. We just did - what we’re now going to rename as the first workshop of it - which we didn’t realize at the time. We were able to - only two weeks later be here, as we closed on October 4th.
GE: And to be honest, I think we talked about wanting to view this production as a smaller version - and as a very experimental version, both I think for us as artists and for the piece itself and - you know - the big thing I think we’ve been working through here is the processing of what was successful, what wasn’t, what we learned and how we want to alter that for a fuller, less experimental version. I don’t mean formally experimental, I mean literally it was an experiment for us - we were experimenting with certain things. Towards a sort of 2.0 version of it moving forward into next spring.
MTG: In July of 2015, yeah.
GE: I would also say that another big thrust this week, which is - I think - one of the things that I also really appreciate about SPACE, and seems to be a consistent theme for us is to really do a lot of institutional work. Both theoretical institutional work and then concrete season planning. That type of long range planning and strategic planning that both - again the critical mass is important for us and also the time away. And that it has been really a consistent advantage that we’ve had this time to kind of not just focus on a specific project, a specific task, a specific production, but be able to have that kind of space to have that type of planning. Because I think it’s easier in certain ways to do some of the production work or the conceptual development more haphazardly in the city - or with varying combinations of people. But it’s harder to have the space do some of that long range institutional strategy and planning. So I think that’s been a big component of this retreat as well.
MTG: And also you know- one of the things I would say is when we came here a year ago - that was our starting - In fact the May of that spring was really when I had just come on board in leadership and as a part of the collective, and we had brought on a brand new group of collective members and we’ve been - kind of in our journey with SPACE - in a process of really taking some growth and creative thinking around our institution - we’ve built a board in the time we’ve been - you know, all these things that in an organization take time and space. And I think that being here has been a marker - like if I look at where we were a year ago to now - that’s a helpful and exciting marker to say that we as an organization - this has been a place where we can see that growth. And I also think that the way these buildings are organized allows for that kind of work, because in other retreats you go on there’s a rehearsal room and only one kind of space. Whereas here for us especially as artists and as humans - that we can change spaces and still have open space - that we can be outside that we can be in an older building or a new building - that we can split up and there’s plenty of space - all of that. And there feels like there’s space both for privacy and collectiveness I think has really been important in making that happen.
Absolutely. And I think it’s rare for an organization to be able to step outside and ask “are we still hitting the goals that we want - are we still the organization we want to be?” And I assume that being able to get out of the space that you’ve been in can also allow you to -
GE: Exactly, exactly - let’s you step out of the frame a bit.
MTG: Absolutely and I think there are very few - I’ve been to a lot of residencies. I realized that in being in the professional theatre world for 15 years in different places, I’ve been in a lot of different residencies and the way that SPACE has grown into understanding what it means to support artists. And our particular relationship with Emily and with SPACE has been incredibly important to us. I mean, it’s how solar came to be. It’s a space where we’ve come together as a community, I think, and felt really supported to do that.
Interviewed by Jen Fingal.