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New York’s Downtown Theatre Stars Find a Way to Give Back

Taylor Mac, Annie Baker, Lucas Hnath, and Dominique Morisseau are among those who’ve signed onto share material for the Trickle Up, new subscription platform that will donate to artists in need.

NEW YORK CITY: Broadway artists have had their living-room extravaganza to benefit the Actors’ Fund. But what about New York’s Off-Broadway, Off-Off-Broadway, and downtown artists, especially those living paycheck to paycheck, and in all too many cases below the poverty line?

That’s where the Trickle Up comes in. This new “grass-roots subscription platform” will feature a curated group of established artists, who will share videos of solo performances, conversation, and other behind-the-scenes goodies, and donate the proceeds to other New York theatre and performance artists in need. The project is the brainchild of Taylor Mac, Kristin Marting (of HERE), Morgan Jenness, Emily Morse (of New Dramatists), Niegel Smith (of the Flea), who have enlisted a group of over 50 other New York City artists, including Tony, Pulitzer, MacArthur fellowship and OBIE winners spanning numerous disciplines. The Trickle Up aims to engage 10,000 subscribers paying $10 a month, and thereby pass $10,000 each to 120 different artists in need (starting ASAP, and going through the year). The site launches today.

Among the 50 artists who have signed on: performance artist Penny Arcade, playwright Annie Baker, playwright/poet Sharon Bridgforth, theatremaker Rachel Chavkin, playwright Lisa D’Amour, performer Helga Davis, designer Machine Dazzle, theatremaker Lear deBessonet, actor Ty Defoe, performer Andre De Shields, musician Viva DeConcini, playwright Kristoffer Diaz, choreographer Faye Driscoll, makeup designer Anastasia Durasova, comedienne/singer Bridget Everett, musician Greg Glassman, playwright Lucas Hnath, musician Marika Hughes, theatremaker Mia Katigbak, playwright Lisa Kron, Yiddish culturalists Jeyn Levison and Joshua Waletzky, actress Bianca Leigh, musician Dana Lyn, theatermaker Taylor Mac, theatremaker Ellen Maddow, theatremaker Kristin Marting, burlesque performer Dirty Martini, performer/playwright Dominique Morisseau, choreographer Miguel Gutierrez, playwright Lynn Nottage, playwright/performer Diana Oh, playwright/musician Suzan-Lori Parks, choregrapher/theatremaker Annie-B Parson, desgner Clint Ramos, playwright Sarah Ruhl, theatremaker Peggy Shaw, composer/musician Sxip Shirey, theatremaker Niegel Smith, playwright Lloyd Suh, designer/club performer Darrel Thorne, actor/burlesque performer Tigger!, director Liesl Tommy, performance artist Adrienne Truscott, puppeteer Basil Twist, playwright Paula Vogel, playwright Anne Washburn, theatremaker Lois Weaver, and theatreaker Paul Zimet. These donating artists, and any others who join in the cause in the future, will select recipients of the $10,000 commissions.

In addition to these artists, 20 promotional partners have joined the cause: Brooklyn Arts Council, Brooklyn Arts Exchange, Beth Morrison Projects, Clubbed Thumb, The Flea Theater, HERE Arts Center, HowlRound, The Lark, Ma-Yi Theater Company, MAP Fund, NAATCO, New Dramatists, New Georges, New Ohio Theatre, The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi, On the Boards, Peoplmovr, The Play Company, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, and Times Square Arts.

An openness and flair for casual invention characterizes the videos the organizers have called for, with the option for artists to use a smartphone to film anything, including readings of portions cut from a play; displays of new designs; performances of new songs or dances; or any of the presumably many things that recently got canceled amid this crisis.

Taylor Mac has recorded, in many sections, footage of judy sitting on a rock, reading judy’s recent Tony-nominated play Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus. Mac explains, “The Trickle Up is a network where you would see stuff you would never otherwise get to see. When else are you going to see the playwright read their entire play?”

The artists aim to begin the project as a grassroots effort among New York artists—who themselves represent various corners of the country and world—and see if and how it might expand to artists elsewhere from there. Says Mac, “I was at a theatre and overheard somebody in the lobby say that yesterday she had three jobs and today she had zero jobs. This was a person living week-to-week already, and on my way home, I thought, ‘how is she going to survive, and what can we do to help someone in this position?’ As so many of us are people who currently or historically have lived below the poverty line, we know how hard it is to do basic things like buy groceries, and also we know how much a big lump sum like $10,000 can change your life.

“My first grant was $7,000 from the Peter S. Reed Foundation and was thanks to another artist, Elizabeth Swados, putting my name on the list of recipients,” Mac recalls. “At the time I had no money and was racing to pay basic necessities. Getting that grant changed everything. Our hope is that we can do the same for an unprecedented number of artists. Both in this time of heightened need and moving forward. Every year.”

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