The Assembly’s Deceleration Lab supports artists in our broader community to lead new theatrical projects that use and experiment with multi-perspective, multi-disciplinary, and collaborative models of creation. These Labs are an invitation to develop new work outside the typical fast-paced style of production, to kick-start projects that take artistic risks, challenge traditional hierarchical structures, and create new professional opportunities for the participating artists.
The 2023-2024 Lab Cohort features five artists developing three new works: Minna Lee is developing an interactive installation Memory Bear (picture Our Town meets Build-a-Bear), Devin McCallion Fletcher explores the reationship between the brain and our sense of self in The Memory Game: A Ghost Story. And Lillian White, Erin Amlicke, and Marlena Ospina are collaborating on Thursday: a fantasia, which in true anarchist fashion upends everything you think you know about the days of the week, the people who count them, and what to do with the ones we have.
The artists will share in-process showings of their work at public events to be announced in the coming months. Sign up for our mailing list to find out about upcoming Lab performances, and future Lab opportunities. To support the Deceleration Lab, make a tax deductible donation to The Assembly.
Previous lab artists include Andy Boyd, Nehassaiu deGannes, Dante Green, syd island, Soomi Kim, Matthew Paul Olmos, Philip Santos Schaffer, and Melisa Tien.
2023-2024 LAB ARTISTS
Minna Lee: Memory Bear
Using an interactive installation of talking stuffed animals, Memory Bear invites visitors to witness a series of stories shared by Minna, their Hmong family members, and you. Over 100 customized plush toys with voice recorders will gently guide each visitor through this unreliable magic we call memory. Memory Bear insists that you slow down and notice as much as you can.
Minna Lee is a Hmong-Vietnamese American writer and animator living on Lenapehoking who enjoys sharing stories about South East Asian mythology and queer love. Their play, My Home on the Moon, will have its World Premiere at San Francisco Playhouse in January 2024. Minna is a 2022 Sesame Workshop Fellow and MFA Playwriting candidate at Hunter College (24').
Devin McCallion Fletcher: The Memory Game: A Ghost Story
The Memory Game: A Ghost Story is a multi-sensory, ensemble-based exploration of perception, loss, and identity that asks: who are we when who we are is suddenly changed? Drawing on experiential and environmental devising methods, Devin McCallion Fletcher and a group of artists confront the fallibility of memory, medical bureaucracy, and how to make sense of the mysteries of the human mind.
DEVIN MCCALLION FLETCHER is a theater artist and administrator based in New York City and the coast of Maine. Some credits include: The Bushwick Starr, Ars Nova, Lincoln Center Education, The Assembly, Joe's Pub at The Public, Two River Theater, American Repertory Theater, Trusty Sidekick, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Wildrence, Camden International Film Festival. She served as the Director of Programs at Maine Media Workshops + College from 2020-2022. Education: Emerson College. When not in a theater, she can usually be found reading a mystery or shucking oysters.
Devin McCallion Fletcher
Lillian White, Erin Amlicke & Marlena Ospina: Thursday: a fantasia
Thursday: a fantasia is an experimental response to G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday, a metaphysical thriller detailing turn-of-the-century anxieties around anarchism that still ring true today. This is a world where nothing is what it seems, identity is unstable, masks are removed to reveal more masks, and anarchist and police personae dissolve into each other. Drawing on the novella as well as historical research around political and artistic movements of the early 20th century, we are creating a visually striking, improvisational performance in which the audience participates with us in a sort of tender, irreverent rehearsal for more revolutionary living. Building on a previous developmental workshop at Burning Coal Theatre, creators Lillian White, Erin Amlicke and Marlena Ospina are thrilled to bring the next stages of this project to life through the Deceleration Lab.
LILLIAN WHITE (she/her) – Director / Deviser – Originally from South Carolina, Lillian makes theater in New York, the Carolinas and Peru. Her artistic perspective is shaped by rural roots and global travels, which inspire a passion for dynamic, elemental performance that stokes the imagination and asks big questions. Her work has been seen in and outside of traditional theater spaces at the BorderLight Festival, HERE Art Center, Dixon Place, Governor’s Island, Grafton Reintegration Center, Burning Coal Theatre, SETC, Asheville Fringe Festival, the Darlington GOPO, as well as La Alianza Francesa and El Galpón (Peru). In 2019, Julie Taymor sent her to Latin America to study theater, which opened the door to ongoing international research and collaboration. www.lillianwootenwhite.com
MARLENA OSPINA (she/her) – Writer / Actor –is an NYC-based "comedic horror folk" musician and a clown who performs disruptively/joyously. Her instruments are her body, voice, piano, and guitar. She performs and works as a stage manager as well, working for the National Queer Theatre’s Criminal Queerness Festival, Section 175 at HERE Arts Center, and the Exponential Festival. In 2021 she devised and publicly performed a street clown show unshrouding the classist and racist landscape architecture history in her hometown of Boulder, Colorado, and advocating to end the camping ban that targeted unhoused community members. With Ray Elizabeth Wilson, Marlena comprises the antifolk comedy duo Prettypretty. Together, they wrote and performed the musical Type Me Queer on the Dixon Place mainstage and are working on a new song cycle. See Marlena on guitar and vocals in the new hot girl rock band, Spare Feelings! She leads the trans audio drama from Musical Theatre Factory, The Doctor Is Dead, out now wherever you listen to podcasts! She is also turning into Bigfoot against her will. @billionairerecipes
ERIN AMLICKE (she/her) – Writer / Actor – is a queer playwright and actor, hailing from Nashville, TN and based in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn. Her plays have been produced by Burning Coal Theatre (Selene and the Dream Eater - staged production) and Dixon Place (& Light & Light & Light - staged reading). Erin’s work as a multidisciplinary artist began with Playtime, a subterranean, immersive play that she directed at Oberlin College. She continues working as a writer, actor, and deviser, making sometimes magical and often surreal plays in order to disrupt expectation, encourage childlike wonder and reveal the absurdities of late stage capitalism. She has also performed at Theatre at Monmouth, Hangar Theatre, Cherry Artspace, The Navigator’s Theatre Company, The Brick Theatre, Smart Mouth Theatre Company, and Juneberry Collective. She is a graduate of the University of Houston’s MFA in Acting program. www.erinamlicke.com
2022 LAB ARTISTS
Andy Boyd, syd island, Philip Santos Schaffer: Room, Room, Room, in the many Mansions of eternal glory for Thee and for everyone
Room, Room, Room, in the many Mansions of eternal glory for Thee and for everyone will be an acoustic hyperpop folk opera about gender, celebrity, belief, and slander exploring the life of Publick Universal Friend (PUF) - an American mystic who had a vision in 1776 in which they were told by two angels to preach the word of God. From the moment of their vision on, the newly reborn PUF refused to use gendered pronouns or presentation, and when asked what gender they were, would simply reply “I am that I am.” Room, Room, Room will incorporate experimental and contemporary queer music as well as ecstatic religious music and group-singing. The performance will highlight questions of queer history, and investigate the realities of intentionally antagonistic second hand sources. While problematizing the American vision of utopia, we aim to invoke a temporary genderless/genderful? utopia with our audience (even if just for a second).
Philip Santos Schaffer
ANDY BOYD is a playwright based in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. He is a graduate of the playwriting MFA at Columbia University, where he studied with David Henry Hwang, Lynn Nottage, Charles Mee, Kelly Stuart, and Doug Wright. His plays have been produced by Theater in Asylum, Naked Theatre Company, IRT Theater, and Epic Theatre Company. His plays have been developed or presented at/by Pipeline Theatre Company, The Gingold Group, Dixon Place, The Kennedy Center, Roundabout Theatre Company, Out Loud Theatre, Contemporary Theater Company, The Trunk Space, Columbia University, Marquette University, and Harvard University. He is the host of the New Books in Performing Arts Podcast and the co-host with Danny Erickson of the socialist theatre podcast Better than Shakespeare. His work has been supported by the New York Foundation for the Arts and the Rhode Island State Council for the Arts.
syd island (they/them) is a queer, nonbinary, Black, "biracial," performing, music, and visual artist currently based in Canarsie, Lenapehoking (so-called Sunset Park, Brooklyn, NY). as a vocalist and music creator, syd enjoys collaborating on various musical styles from improvisational experimental music to medieval sacred choral music. they have experience as a dancer/performer in devised and improvised experimental dance. as a visual artist, they document their life through colorful self-portraits and create digital and watercolor protest posters. syd has a BA in Music Theory, History, and Composition from Brown University and is a graduate of Arizona School for the Arts. they have performed at Roulette Intermedium, the Exponential Festival, Judson Memorial Church, and the Brick Theater.
PHILIP SANTOS SCHAFFER (they/he) is a playmaker creating interactive performances in intimate and unconventional settings. Philip’s work has been seen in bathtubs across the country, listened to over the phone, and found in a series of living rooms (as well as appearing in more traditional spaces). Philip’s work deals with politics, pop culture, intimacy and empathy through participation, humor, music, and more. Philip has a BFA in Directing from Hofstra University and an MFA in Dramaturgy from Columbia University. Philip is 1/5 of the creative team behind WalkUpArts, which they co-founded in 2015.
Soomi Kim: Body Through Which the Dream Flows
Body Through Which the Dream Flows is dance/acro theatre work about gymnastics in the time of the #metoo and #cancelculture movements and will feature veteran coach, choreographer and theatre artist Soomi Kim as well as 6-7 competitive gymnasts. It began in 2018 after the scandal broke about Dr. Larry Nassar’s systemic sexual abuse of 100s of gymnasts. The culture of gymnastics quickly unraveled as USAG was under fire for their role in enabling the culture of sexual and emotional abuse (and most recently. The FBI’s lack of action). Outraged, Kim felt it essential to merge her professions as a competitive coach and theatre maker. Through dance & acrobatics, text and ensemble devising work, Body.. will intersect Kim’s personal gymnastics history, the deconstruction of the governing body of the sport and personal stories from gymnasts (age 11-17) in order to help us to better understand the moment we are in now. This project is told from an insider’s lens and will explore original forms with non-actor gymnasts in this never before seen “downtown theatre style” performance.
Soomi Kim (Photo by Debora Lopez)
Theater maker SOOMI KIM (Lead Artist) is a New York City based actor/movement artist and has conceived (and co-devised with director Suzi Takahashi) a trilogy of work based on Asian American visionaries: Lee/gendary, dictee: bells fall a peal to sky and Chang(e). Chang(e) was developed through the HERE Artist in Residency Program (2012-2015). Dictee: bells fall a peal to sky (dance theatre adaptation of Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee) premiered at Culture Project's Women Center Stage Festival in 2012. Lee/gendary ran at HERE Arts Center’s main stage. Kim’s autobiographical dance theatre show, MLCG (My Little China Girl) was commissioned by Dixon Place (2017). Awards: HERE A.I.R. (2015), Dixon Place commission (2017), Orchard Project's Greenhouse Lab (2020-21), Marble House A.I.R. (2019), Hemispheric Institute (2014), Asian Arts Intiative (2012 & 2013), Mabou Mines A.I.R. (2014). In 2018 she was named Coach of the Year at Chelsea Piers, NY and is the founder of GymKim Choreo LLC. www.soomikim.com | www.gymkimchoreo.com | IG: @soomdawg
Ai Clancy, Madison Rodriguez, Lucy Meola, Shayna Wilson, Olivia Caraballoso, Nora Avci (Photos by Riley Dunbar & Soomi Kim)
Written and Choreographed by Soomi Kim
Co-directed by Meghan Finn and Soomi Kim
Movement generated by the company
Choreography Consultant Alexandra Beller
Dramaturge Sarah Gancher
Stage Manager Mars Neri
Sound Designer Zeke Stewart
Lighting Designer Amanda Ringger
Video Designer David Pym
Featuring Soomi Kim, Lucy Meola, Olivia Caraballoso, Ai Clancy, Madison Rodriguez, Shayna Wilson and Nora Avci
2021 LAB ARTISTS
Melisa Tien: Untitled Landscape
A project that Melisa has been developing with director Tamilla Woodard, Untitled Landscape aims to map out the common occurrences that, together, make up a human life. The project utilizes an audience-centered devised-work process that features audience input in the creation of the text as well as their participation in the presentation of the work. Building off previous collaborations with theater performers, they are inviting specific communities of non-actors to take part in participant-centered devising workshops, each one possessing its own unique, inherent theatricality. As with untitled landscapes in the visual arts, every human's existence has its own defining characteristics but also displays common contours that denote it unmistakably as a lived life.
MELISA TIEN is a playwright, lyricist, librettist, and producer. She is the author of the plays Best Life, The Boyd Show, Yellow Card Red Card, and Familium Vulgare, co-author of the music-theater works Swell, Daylight Saving, and Mary, co-producer of the podcast/audio series Acting Listening, and a participating artist in Post Theatrical, a national wave of plays by mail. She has been published in the anthology Theater Artists Making Theatre With No Theater (Tripwire Harlot Press, Spring 2020), and has authored essays for New Music USA and Innovations in Socially Distant Performance. A New Dramatists resident playwright, Melisa is a recipient of a grant from the NYC Women’s Fund for Media, Music, and Theatre, a commissionee of the Ensemble Studio Theatre/Sloan Project, and a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow in Playwriting/Screenwriting. She teaches experimental theatrical writing at Sarah Lawrence College. BA, UCLA; MFA, Columbia University. Her sporadically updated website: www.melisatien.com
Dante Green: Levi's Big Leap
A new musical by Dante Green. When little Levi's family is mysteriously forced out of their small-town home of Rural, Pennsylvania, he decides this is the PERFECT opportunity to escape capitalist imperialist society. He begins his own American Dream with his best (NOT) girlfriend Maddison and their mangy mutt Meatball. With twenty-four hours remaining, Levi encounters fear (and racism) on his journey and discovers deep dark secrets about his all too ignorant town along the way, including the reason why his family had to move in the first place.
DANTE GREEN (they/he/she) is a black, queer, multi-hyphenate artist. Their artistic endeavors dive deep into the cosmic condition of living and breathing in a world where everybody's just pretending to know what they're doing. Using sound as an artery for their work, Dante invents new, always magical, sometimes whimsical perspectives that the human ear might find familiar, and always want to linger. They are an alumnus of UArts with a BFA in Directing, Playwriting, and Production, focused on writing and directing for Musical Theatre, as well as Headlong Performance Institute. Dante is the Artistic Director of The Makers' Ensemble, a member of the Network of Ensemble Theaters, a member of FoolsFury, and an affiliate of Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble. Dante's work has been seen at places including Ars Nova, Painted Bride Art Center, Pig Iron Theater Company, and FringeArts. Dante has worked internationally with other companies such as The Public Theater, Virgin Voyages, Lantern Theater Company, Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, FoolsFury, The Assembly, and others.
2020 LAB ARTISTS
Nehassaiu deGannes: EBB & lo' (working title)
Nehassaiu deGannes in SEAGULLMACHINE
Photo by Theo Cote for La MaMa
What If Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s father forbade her & all her siblings (brothers & sisters) from marrying, because he knew there was a black Jamaican ancestor or two swimming in their blood? EBB & lo' is a devised exegesis of love & (Caribbean) blackness, race & repatriation, taboo, erasure, literary genius, distance & otherness.
Created by Nehassaiu deGannes
Digital theater director/co-conceptual artist Shoshanah Tarkow
In collaboration with Toree Alexandre, Peter Anderson, Adam Burnett, Debbie Bernstein, Kimiye Corwin, Kelley Faulkner, Lynnette Freeman, Robin Galloway, Lisa Green, Lian-Marie Holmes, LaWanda Hopkins, Cloteal Horne, Rosamond S. King, Kate MacCluggage, Tanya Anderson Martin, Antonio Miniño, Kate Mulley, Christianna Nelson, lisa nevada, Ravin Patterson, Erin Margaret Pettigrew, Cristina Quintana (CQ), Kerrie Seymour, Dorcas Sowunmi, Michele Shupe, Moira Stone, Cherry Lou Sy & Sandy York
NEHASSAIU DEGANNES is an actress and poet and has appeared at theaters in New York, regionally and internationally, including Stratford Festival of Canada, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Studio Theatre, DC, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Soho Rep, LaMama, Cleveland Play House and The McCarter Theater. She was cited as the "Best Performance In A Play 2017" by The Wall Street Journal for her portrayal of "Esther" in Lynn Nottage's Intimate Apparel at Shakespeare & Co. Her solo-show Door of No Return, originally produced by Rites and Reason Theatre at Brown University, has been presented at several theatres and colleges in NY and the Northeast.
Nehassaiu's first book-length collection of poems, Music for Exile, is being published by Tupelo Press in February 2021. Her publications also include Undressing The River, winner of the 2011 Center For Book Arts Letterpress Chapbook Award, and Percussion, Salt & Honey, winner of the Philbrick Poetry Prize for New England Poets. Her poems have appeared in Callaloo, Poem Memoir Story, American Poetry Review, Caribbean Writer, Painted Bride Quarterly, Tuesday: An Art Project, TORCH, Encyclopedia Project, After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery Anthology, ARAVA Review, and Cave Canem Anthology XII. Her work has been honored with poetry fellowships from Cave Canem, Vermont Studio Center, Rhode Island State Council on The Arts as well as The Berkshire Theater Critics Award for her 3-character “tour de force” in Liz Duffy Adams’ Or,. Her poem "To Find, To Be" was recently shortlisted for The Montreal International Poetry Prize. Nehassaiu received her MFA from Brown University, is a graduate of Trinity Rep Conservatory and this fall is teaching acting for Princeton University. www.nehassaiu.com
Matthew Paul Olmos: You Will Swim Oceans
Matthew Paul Olmos
You Will Swim Oceans is a theatrical piece in which a Mexican father attempts to teach a Caucasian mother a song for children, which was passed down in his family. Through the teaching of this song, we explore the perceived ownership of cultural identity and legacy, as well the fear which clouds the air between us as we attempt to embrace change as a country. The piece features an original composition by April Dawn Guthrie, is directed by Larissa Lury, and features Bernardo Cubria and Danielle Slavick.
MATTHEW PAUL OLMOS is a three-time Sundance Institute Fellowship/Residency recipient, New Dramatists Resident Playwright, Center Theatre Group LA Workshop Playwright, Oregon Shakespeare Festival Black Swan Playwright, Princess Grace Awardee, selected by Taylor Mac for Cherry Lane's Mentor Project, and La MaMa's Ellen Stewart Emerging Playwright Awardee; selected by Sam Shepard. He spent two years as a Mabou Mines/SUITE Resident Artist being mentored by Ruth Maleczech; former New York Theatre Workshop Fellow, Baryshnikov Arts Center Resident, Dramatists Guild Fellow, Primary Stages Playwright, INTAR playwright; and is an Ensemble Studio Theater lifetime member, Echo Resident Playwright, and Kilroys nominator. His work is produced internationally and nationally, published by Samuel French and NoPassport, and is taught in university. Currently developing We Walk Along the Christmas Bridge, with composer April Dawn Guthrie, in part through Center Theatre Group’s LA Workshop, and a new piece inspired by Samatha Power’s “The Education of an Idealist” through the Geffen Playhouse. matthewpaulolmos.com
Bernardo Cubria and Danielle Slavick in YOU WILL SWIM OCEANS
The Deceleration Lab is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.
The program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in Partnership with the City Council.