This exciting new initiative supports artists in The Assembly's 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 Assembly launched the Deceleration Lab in 2020 with two new projects by Nehassaiu deGannes and Matthew Paul Olmos, and is now in its second year, supporting the ongoing development of pieces by Melisa Tien and Dante Green. The work of these artists is thoughtful, dynamic, and rich, and we could not be more thrilled that they are participating in the fledgling stages of this program.
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 Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.