NEW YORK CITY: Ping Chong and Company has appointed artists Nile Harris and Talvin Wilks to join managing director Jane Jung and associate director Sara Zatz on the artistic leadership team as of Feb. 1. The team will steward the company through a three-year transition following the recent retirements of founder and artistic director Ping Chong and his longtime professional partner, executive director Bruce Allardice. Under this new collaborative leadership model, the artistic leadership team will work together to develop and realize a vision for the future of the organization that supports a new generation of interdisciplinary artists.
“I don’t know what exactly the future will bring,” said Zatz in a statement, “but I know we will continue to build and foster a holistic organization that is a truly welcoming home for artists—one that creates room for growth, risk, learning, and evolution. Talvin, Nile, Jane, and I will challenge and balance each other while asking, together, what stories need to be told, and imagining how we will make space for those stories in innovative new ways that evoke and honor Ping’s legacy while forging new paths forward. I feel grateful, hopeful, and honored to be part of this group, and to have Bruce and Ping’s blessing as we move, with thought, care, and intention, in new and unknown directions.”
This new model provides two artists who have deep connections to the company with integral roles to innovate alongside existing company leadership. Talvin Wilks has been a longtime collaborator of Ping Chong and Company since 1994. Wilks is a playwright, director, and dramaturg based in Minneapolis and New York City. He has served as a co-writer/co-director/dramaturg for Ping Chong and Company’s ongoing Undesirable Elements series and four productions of Collidescope: Adventures in Pre- and Post-Racial America. In 2022, Wilks directed the world premiere productions of Parks by Harrison David Rivers, Cannabis: A Viper Vaudeville by Baba Israel, Grace Galu, and Soul Unscribed, and the three-play saga The Till Trilogy by Ifa Bayeza. He also served as dramaturg for Camille A. Brown’s Broadway Revival of for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf and for the world premiere of Dreaming Zenzile by Somi at New York Theatre Workshop/National Black Theatre. Wilks is an Associate Professor in the Theatre Arts and Dance Department, University of Minnesota/Twin Cities and is a 2020 McKnight Theater Artist Fellow and 2022 McKnight Presidential Fellow.
“Ping Chong and Company has been a place for discovery, mentoring, and expanded artistry for me since 1994, when I first worked with Ping on Undesirable Elements: Seattle,” said Wilks in a statement. “I have grown and evolved and become a better artist—more visionary and more expansive—because of the opportunities provided by the company. Over a 50-year history, Ping and his many collaborators have built an incredible legacy that I’m excited to advance for future generations.”
Nile Harris was the recipient of a 2022 PCC Creative Fellowship, through which he was in residence with the company, engaging with the PCC archive and developing new work. Harris stages meditated confrontations between performer and audience that collage various modes of communication: choreography, reappropriated and scripted text, improvisation, spatial design, and clowning. His work has been presented at the Palais de Tokyo, the Watermill Center, New York Live Arts, Volksbühne Berlin, Prelude Festival, Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance, Otion Front Studio, Grace Exhibition Space, and Movement Research at Judson Church. As a performer, Harris has originated roles in works by Crackhead Barney, Jaamil Olawale Kosoko, 600 HIGHWAYMEN, Tina Satter, Robert Wilson, Young Boy Dancing Group, Nia Witherspoon, slowdanger, Lilleth Glimcher, Malcolm-x Betts, and Miles Greenberg. He is currently in rehearsals for the world premiere of Agnes Borinsky’s The Trees.
“When I look back on Ping’s singular 50-year career and Ping Chong and Company’s vast history,” said Harris in a statement, “I marvel at the depth of collaboration they have sustained among artists and cultural institutions worldwide. As we all navigate our way out of a treacherous past few years, the company is uniquely positioned to meet the moment by modeling new methods and systems that prioritize interdependence among artists and cultural institutions alike. Collaboration, which has always been a central tenet of this organization’s work, is essential to a sustainable future for the downtown New York creative community.”
Jane Jung and Sara Zatz will retain their current managerial, administrative, and artistic roles, in addition to taking on new responsibilities. Christina Bixland will continue to lead the company’s education programs.
Ping Chong and Company will pay public tribute to its outgoing leaders with All Islands Connect Underwater: a Celebration of Ping Chong and Bruce Allardice, hosted by playwright, author, and performance artist Jessica Hagedorn, and taking the form of a party punctuated by brief performances, on Wednesday, Jan. 25, from 6 to 9 p.m., at Chelsea Factory.
Founded in 1975, Ping Chong and Company is a New York-based performing arts organization composed of multigenerational interdisciplinary artists. PCC aims to center innovation, collaboration, and community engagement in performance while amplifying underrepresented voices. The company has now created over 110 original theatre productions, ranging from intimate interview-based works to large-scale multidisciplinary projects featuring puppets, performers, and full sound and projection scores. As of 2020, Ping Chong and Company had an approximate budget of $1 million.
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