Starting next summer, fans of the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM)’s cutting-edge dance, music and theatrical performances will no longer have to trudge down to Brooklyn. Next summer, three artists participating in BAM’s 2018 Next Wave Festival, David Neumann, Kimberly Bartosik and Kaneza Schaal, will each receive a $10,000 stipend to develop, rehearse and present their work at Lumberyard Contemporary Performing Arts in Catskill. The three works by the artists – Neumann’s Because Science, Bartosik’s I Hunger for You (both are working titles) and Schaal’s Jack & Jill – will premiere in the village before being presented at BAM in the fall, meaning that Catskill will likely be host to some of the most exciting creative productions in the performing arts world.
The residencies and performances are the result of a new collaboration between Lumberyard and BAM. Based in New York City, Lumberyard Contemporary Performing Arts is a nonprofit organization that offers residencies and space to performing artists for the development of new work. In 2015, it relocated from suburban Washington, DC to Catskill as a way to lower its costs and help revitalize the historic-but-depressed Hudson Valley locale.
Lumberyard purchased four buildings – part of a former lumberyard – on the Catskill Creek waterfront, and in November will begin construction of a 5,500-square-foot theater in the cinderblock shell of a former garage. The theater, whose construction is being funded in part by a $5 million loan from RSF Social Finance (in addition to an Empire State Development grant and other sources), will be used to preview shows created by resident artists in the summer, which will open in New York for the fall season.
“It will be a flexible black-box space with all the technical capabilities needed to reshape the space to conform to whatever theater the work is going to next,” said Lumberyard’s executive and artistic director, Adrienne Willis. Because the theater, which will seat from 200 to 400, will not open until the summer of 2019, next summer’s three BAM resident artists will likely premiere their work at various performing spaces in the area, such as Club Helsinki, the Bridge Street Theater and the Opera House in nearby Hudson, according to Willis.
Meanwhile, Lumberyard is launching an afterschool program for Greene County school kids this fall in a collaboration with Catskill Community Center, fulfilling its parallel mission of bringing arts education to the community. Lumberyard Young Performers, a new series of free weekly afterschool workshops in the performing arts, kicked off in the Catskill Community Center’s gym on September 18. Every other Monday throughout the school year, Melanie George, a dance educator, choreographer and scholar who is a full-time employee of Lumberyard (she formerly directed the dance program at American University), will teach two classes: one for kids age 13 to 16 (at 4 p.m.) and one for kids aged 9 to 12 (at 5 p.m.), on movement, choreography, jazz dance and performance appreciation. New York-based performing artists with extensive teaching experience will travel up to Catskill on the alternate Mondays to teach a variety of workshops, including acting, puppetry, clowning, hip hop and African diasporic dance. The students will create choreography of their own toward the end of the school year, culminating in a performance at the Catskill Community Center next June. Once Lumberyard’s campus is fully open in 2019, the students’ work will premiere in the new theater and the Young Performers’ workshops will be expanded to include stage-managing, set-building and design, lighting design and tech work.
Besides the new theater, the Lumberyard campus will include housing for 20 resident artists, an artists’ lounge, administrative offices and a public courtyard. “We’re keeping the original lumber racks, to retain the feel of the lumberyard,” said Willis. Such details preserve the functionalism of the site, appropriate since “this is a place where art is made.” She said that the organization plans to rent out a portion of the campus to a restaurant or other appropriate commercial use. In the off season, the theater could be rented for film or TV shoots, and the organization is also considering rentals for private events, such as retreats or weddings.
Lumberyard recently dropped its former companion moniker, American Dance Institute, because the name “was misleading,” said Willis. “We do all forms of contemporary performing arts, including music, theater and performance art,” as reflected in its association with BAM. She curates each season, a process that involves “having a lot of open dialogue with artists about their presentations in New York City and the rest of the country. I want to know what work is premiering in the fall and whether it needs extra work.” She noted that the organization started out as a large dance school; the residencies and premieres evolved because “the artists wanted to stay longer and use the theater.”
Although Willis is based in New York City, she noted that Lumberyard’s director of production just bought a house in Catskill, and another staff member lives in Hudson. “We love Catskill,” she said. “They are the perfect partner for this new venture.”
Shindig at Lumberyard on Saturday
On Saturday, September 23 at 6 p.m., Lumberyard Contemporary Performing Arts will host its second annual summer shindig at 50 Water Street. Urban Bush Women will present excerpts from their new work, Scat! featuring composer/performer Craig Harris. There will be live bluegrass by Steve Lutke and the Appalachian Uprising. Beer from the Rip Van Winkle Brewery will be served, along with comestibles from American Glory BBQ and cocktails. Tickets cost $50. For more info, visit www.thelumberyard.org/shindig or call (212) 587-3003.