NEW YORK CITY: The Fled Collective, made up of artists formerly affiliated with the Flea Theater, has announced their mission, first season plans, and a new reparative relationship with the Flea, which in turn has announced a new mission to “support and invest in experimental art by Black, brown, and queer artists.” Beginning in 2022, the former resident artists will be the inaugural key resident company at the Flea, a downtown mainstay founded in 1986 that moved into a new space on Thomas Street in lower Manhattan in 2017.
The remodeled company marks the continuation of partnership and further restoration of their relationship with the Flea after reports of racism and intimidation in 2020. This comes after almost 18 months of a restorative process on both sides, according to director and leading member Raz Golden.
“So much communal labor has gone into building the Fled in the hope that we can transform the American theatre,” said Adam Coy, actor/producer/leading artist of the Fled Collective, in a statement. “Transformation and reclamation are possible, and we are seeing this in our relationship with the new Flea.”
Beginning in February 2021, the Fled Collective and the Flea Theater engaged in a restorative process inclusive of facilitated conversations, mediated healing circles, and collaborative program design. The artist collective and theatre have since established what they call a positive path forward for a new partnership structure and mutually beneficial relationship.
Golden described it as “ultimately an experiment in reparations in real time.” Niegel Smith, the Flea’s artistic director, said in a statement that the Flea is happy to embark on this new chapter.
“We recognize this is absolutely the work to be doing right now,” Smith said. “They are artists we are invested in, who we care deeply about, and their artistry impacting the theatre. We also recognize that the practices, historically, at the Flea haven’t always uplifted these artists and their well-being. So working with the Fled, which is about the artist’s autonomy, and then turning out their own direction and interests, and having complete control over their artistic output, is completely aligned with where we want to take the Flea and our investment in these artists.”
The Fled’s inaugural residency is a reparative grant and partnership offered to a nascent company that centers Black, brown, and queer artists. The new artist collective will function as an autonomous company. Under a three-year residency, they will be able to present work and will be given $10,000 unrestricted cash support and $50,000 space rental credits each year. They will also receive production and marketing support and resources to develop their new projects.
Added actor and Fled Collective community leader Dolores Avery Pereira in a statement, “The collective is interested in finding solutions that offer alternatives to cancel culture and instead lean on restorative justice principles that may create lasting change. That is not to say we are ignorant to the fact that all wounds have not been healed. Acknowledging that is what keeps us in the room. Rather than putting our differences aside, we’ve put them on the table and intend to work through the hurt with empathy as our guide.”
The Fled is planning their inaugural season via experiments in community and democracy pioneered by Detroit Soup (and refined by gallery space Chinatown Soup) and methods developed by the Rude Mechanicals. The Collective’s three pillars of programming will be at the center of their upcoming work: artistic development, theatre production, and industry and community justice. More details on the upcoming season are forthcoming.
The Fled Collective identifies as an artist collective with non-hierarchical leadership practices, providing a radically equitable, anti-racist, anti-oppressive platform for theatre artists. Their present mission is to build community, expand their artistry, and make theatre that is actively engaged in collective liberation and the dismantling of colonialist practices and white ideals. The Flea Theater’s rebooted mission to invest in experimental art by Black, brown, and queer folks includes a commitment to “provide space, financial support, and producing partnership so that they may develop and share their vision in community with audiences.”
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