Thursday Spotlight

Thursday Spotlight: Floral Designer Maria Christina Nino

Maria Nino of MC Nino Designs in her Greenpoint studio.

If you’ve walked along West Street on the way to Transmitter Park, you may have already met Maria Christina Nino of MC. Nino Designs (65 West St.) as she casually chats with locals and their doggos in front of her design studio storefront.

Not your average floral designer, Nino has a hand in all aspects of wedding and event production from the flowers to the lighting, linens and more. And now with her storefront, she’s open for retail. Here Nino shares how she thrives in the face of all obstacles including the coronavirus pandemic. Nino also speaks about what she loves the most—the personal relationships she builds with her clients (especially her brides!) as she brings their dreams into reality.

 

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Greenpointers: With so many weddings and other large events on hold, how are you adjusting to this strange time?

All of my weddings for my brides are postponed, so I had to adjust in order to keep the studio open. I’m not primarily a retail store; I design weddings and events all over the world. But I kept getting inquiries about Mother’s Day, so I went and got flowers. Then we did social media, and I said, “Okay! We’re open for retail,” following CoVid requirements. I got such a great response for Mother’s Day because all of my clients and walk-ins already know my work and were excited. I thought we’d only do it once, but now the word is out—Maria is open for retail! Now people are calling and placing orders: flowers for anniversaries, birthdays or just because. So that’s really nice. Even though the pandemic has cast a black cloud over my business for my events, this is the silver lining. I’m doing retail and giving people fresh flowers. It creates a sense of normalcy to have Mother Nature coming in. It makes them happy! And if I can make someone happy for a week or two weeks (my flowers last long—cha-cha-cha!), that gives me so much joy. Continue reading

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Thursday Spotlight: Masks In The Wild Commissions Artists and Promotes Public Health

Photo by Tayler Smith

In a time where public health and artists’ careers are at risk, Masks In The Wild boldly and resourcefully looks to uplift each of these vital entities. A grassroots project that provides aid to artists who want to create and distribute free masks to loved ones, healthcare workers, and those in need, Masks In The Wild is timely and, per its permit, an “essential business” aimed at removing the fear and stigma surrounding our new normal of mandatory mask-wearing in public. Through its mission, artists are commissioned to create, and the public benefits via the sharing of secure and free resources.

Launched by Wallplay and 25 KentMasks In The Wild symbolizes the innovative and community-centered ethos of Brooklyn creatives. All New York City artists are welcome to apply for a commission online, and to learn more, here is our Thursday Spotlight interview with Wallplay founder Laura O’Reilly.

Greenpointers: Your main work is with Wallplay, which based in the neighborhood. Can you explain the scope of your work there for those who may be unfamiliar? How has the company evolved in your time of leadership?

Laura O’Reilly: Wallplay is a hyperlocal platform that programs and operates vacant spaces with commercial pop-ups and art exhibitions until landlords secure permanent tenants. I founded the company with my best friend and cousin Alessandra DeBenedetti in 2013. Currently, Wallplay operates 14 spaces throughout New York City. In the summer of 2019 we partnered with 25 Kent to transform their ground floor spaces into “community hubs.” We strive for our spaces to be powered by the local community by facilitating the ability for locals to apply to program the spaces that inhabit their neighborhood.

New Yorkers model the distributed masks; see more on Instagram @masksinthewild

Talk to us about the genesis of Masks in the Wild — are you an artist yourself and/or did you want to utilize our creative community to its fullest potential?

I grew up in Manhattan in the performing arts community and the thing that has always stood out to me is the electricity in the street. You may see a man naked in a trench coat one minute and the most beautiful sax performance behind a piece of street art the next. Masks In The Wild was born out of a desire to help artists connect in a safe and essential way while bringing that same magic to the street that makes New York, New York. Instead of sterile medical masks artists can help create a new emotional response and bring a smile to New Yorkers who have been isolating. It’s been a traumatic experience for many. Art heals and we need to connect to art now more than ever.

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Thursday Spotlight: A Drink for All Seasons with Greenpoint Cidery

Nika Carlson, owner of Greenpoint Cidery

Settling into our third (!) month of the pandemic, many of us have moved from stockpiling the essentials to enjoying stress-reducing libations. Enter Greenpoint Cidery, the beverage whose effervescence is only matched by its diligent and ever-mobile owner, Nika Carlson. While a neighborhood staple for five years, Greenpoint Cidery is used to making transactions on the business-to-business level; now, the distribution is more personal as Nika shuttles between upstate farm and nearby neighbors to deliver goodies and make connections. As one of the beloved small businesses we’re highlighting in our Thursday Spotlight series, Greenpoint Cidery is both enormously affected by COVID-19 and also finding opportunity in a revamped business model. Here, Nika discusses the many hats she wears at Greenpoint Cidery and the upsides of operating an independent business amidst a pandemic.

Greenpointers: How have sales been doing during this time? And, on a similar note, is cider a drink that’s ever out of season?

Nika Carlson: Sales are good! I started doing home deliveries the first weekend the state allowed it just by posting on Instagram and taking orders via text and DM. That first weekend was mostly friends and acquaintances, but word has spread and at this point I even have regulars. It will be interesting to see how this evolves as our strange new world does.

As for the seasonality of cider, I’d say it’s always a great option. Cider can be a lot of different things, but I make it in traditional styles that are comparable to natural wine: low intervention, wild yeasts, and a long-aging process. It’s great for pairing with food, but also just for crushing on a hot day. The lower alcohol content means you can drink it without worrying about getting real tipsy, and because everything I make is totally dry, there’s less hangover there, too.

Your website states that you got your start in the Brooklyn bar scene. Can you talk about that time and how it acted as the springboard for Greenpoint Cidery?

I used to run a bar in East Williamsburg called The Drink, and we were always excited to sell anything unique. When we opened, all I knew of cider was sweet stuff like Woodchuck, but someone introduced me to Spanish cider, and my mind was blown. It was sour and funky and regional and just so cool. Cider was also experiencing a renaissance in New York around then, and I caught the bug. There’s a lot of really fascinating, beautiful history in apples and in cider in America. Now I’m a farmer-ish and cider maker (I’m also head bartender at Broken Land, at least in normal times, and wow I miss my regulars so much!)

No three words will get me jazzed more than Greenpoint, Hudson, and apples. Naturally, we all love Greenpoint, but Hudson may be one of my favorite towns in New York. What’s it like to shuttle back and forth between these two little havens for your work?

I feel super lucky to have the best of both worlds: nature and also the city I love so much. The cidery and orchard are just outside Hudson proper on about 80 acres some friends own. There are fields, forest, a creek to swim in, other dogs for my pup to play with, and friends to lend a hand when I need them. A dream that keeps me sane. I’m usually too busy working when I’m upstate to enjoy Hudson itself, but it’s a lovely town I’m grateful to have access to.

How long has your business been around, and how has it evolved? What are the challenges and rewards?

About 5 years? It’s changed a lot. I started the business with a partner, on a different property, with the goal of opening a cider-focused bar ASAP. Now I run it solo, and last year I moved everything onto this new space where I can focus on honing my craft, growing sustainably, and keeping an eye to opening a tasting room when the time is right. I do everything: build the fence, maintain the trees, make the cider, design the labels, clean the kegs, and, now, make home deliveries. It’s a lot for one person, but I love to work hard and to create something that brings people joy. It’s also been a wonderful lesson in patience and flexibility. Growing apples and making cider is a slow process, and Mother Nature doesn’t f*ck around, you know? You have to pay attention, and roll with the punches.

Do you distribute to bars and grocery stores, or just operate on a customer delivery basis? And what’s the best way that we can support you?

I do! But obviously bar and restaurant orders have died off. The state just started allowing home delivery in response to COVID-19, so that part is very new to me.

You can support me by placing an order! My delivery zone is literally the whole city, minus Staten Island. If you like it, tell your friends (or even order a few bottles to be sent to them). I’m working on adding shipping to the rest of the state, and you can also follow me on Instagram and/or subscribe to my mailing list. If you have a shop and are interested in carrying my cider, please reach out. I’m still taking wholesale orders and can do socially distanced tastings.

We’re so proud to highlight creatives in this series, and that absolutely includes culinary ones, especially those who represent our vital small businesses. As the leader of a small business, what’s something you’d like to share with our community at this time, or wish our community knew about managing a small business?

I know it’s a treat for customers to get home delivery, but it’s also a treat for me to meet everyone face-to-face. My cider work is usually very solo. All the positive feedback has really helped buoy me as I pivot and pivot again, planning for the short and long term, whatever that may look like. I’m not naturally inclined toward salesmanship, but I’m working on letting people in more on my process. People seem to like that, and they want to help, and that feels really good. So thank you!

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Thursday Spotlight: Tony Wolf on His Carmine’s Pizza Cartoon Tribute

Tony Wolf’s cartoon tribute to Carmine’s Original Pizza in The New York Times
Difficult times have often been a catalyst for resilient arts. As such, it will be interesting to see what is created after this enormously trying period. But already, Brooklynites are coming together to creatively express what we have lost: they’re making stages out of their balconies and serenading the community, snapping portraits of those in quarantine, and — in this Thursday Spotlight’s case — paying tribute to a lost neighbor.
Here, actor and illustrator Tony Wolf discusses his cartoon in The New York Times that was published earlier this month and pays homage to the life of Carmine Notaro, the late owner of the beloved Carmine’s Original Pizza. Learn about his process and reflections in our interview!
Greenpointers: To rewind a bit, what was your relationship to Carmine(‘s), as a pizzeria and/or neighborhood figure?
Tony Wolf: Shortly after I moved to Greenpoint in1996, I discovered Carmine’s Pizza, since my apartment was just a block and a half from it. I instantly loved the pizza and the vibe of the place. Over time, Carmine came to recognize me as a familiar face, as I’m sure he did with so many people and customers. He had a quietly reassuring, welcoming presence, and I noticed how many hours a day he worked. We talked occasionally and became friendly. I personally saw him extend such kindness to the homeless of the area, and witnessed the manner in which he treated all his customers.
Carmine sadly passed on April 2; less than a week later, your full page cartoon appeared in The New York Times. Did you immediately know, following the news of Carmine’s passing, that you wanted to create something? Or had you already had some kind of tribute in the works?
I had wanted to do a piece about Carmine as far back as 2014, when I started “Greenpoint of View.” As shown in the comic, I did try to interview him in 2015. Over time, I worked up a pitch, and was thrilled when the Times greenlighted it! The comic was completed in December 2019, and the editors needed to hold it for a few months, since they plan the Food section far in advance. Once Carmine passed away, we quickly made text edits to the last panel.
On Facebook you credit Thomas J. Gryphon with help with the execution. You artistically spearheaded this process, but can you discuss Thomas’ contributions?
Thomas aka Tom has been working with me for about five years now. He also invested me early on, by printing up my first physical minicomics. With my stories, I research, write, illustrate, and hand-letter everything, and Tom does all the coloring, plus lettering corrections via Photoshop, and other formatting work to get it ready for print or online presentation. With the colors, he’ll do a first draft, then I’ll give him notes on that draft, and we’ll trade drafts back and forth until I feel it’s done. If I’m the film writer/director, he’s the cinematographer and lighting designer I collaborate with. Tom also found a way to fit the entire comic on a broadsheet New York Times page, something I was afraid we wouldn’t be able to figure out!
Tony Wolf’s work in print in the NY Times
That picture of Carmine napping is so jovial; it really captures the tireless work of our community leaders, no?
Ha, yes! It was really fun to discover that many people had taken affectionate pictures of Carmine napping over the years, and I enjoyed going through instagram to find the ones I wanted to draw in that “napping montage” sequence. Long ago in the entertainment world, the phrase “The hardest working man in show business!” would be used to introduce James Brown and Elton John, and I often thought to myself in the early 2000s, “This guy Carmine must surely be the hardest working man in the pizza business!”, especially given his age.
Your work is such a lovely testament to our small and local businesses during this time. Do you have any words you’d like to share with our neighborhood locales during this difficult moment?
Thanks, that’s very kind of you. I can’t even imagine what it’s like for restaurant owners and workers during this extremely difficult time…and was saddened to hear about places like Cherry Point on Manhattan Avenue having to go out of business. So many wonderful restaurants have gone under; it’s heartbreaking. And we are all, around the nation, extremely grateful for the local businesses and food places that are doing delivery and working so hard to provide those services. The importance of essential workers at this time cannot be overstated.
Tony Wolf and Greenpoint of View
Anything else you’d like to add? 
I’m just really thankful that I got to tell the story of Carmine Notaro to the world. I’ve always loved the work that Greenpointers does in covering the community, and thanks for taking the time to speak with me. And Carmine’s two sons, Patrick and John, were really helpful with my research, and they gave me some extra information about their dad’s life story.
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Thursday Spotlight: A Podcast To Keep You Entertained While Social Distancing

Greenpoint resident and NEXT STOP writer and creator Eric Silver

Depending on how you’re looking at it, the entertainment industry is either in a crisis or renaissance. With no concerts, theaters, or venues to patron, we’re all seeing art that’s meant to be consumed IRL now translated to the digital sphere. But some stories are being created for a medium more native to staying home and listening.

Enter the podcast NEXT STOP, written and created by the neighborhood’s Eric Silver. A product of Greenpoint’s independent podcast collective Multitude, NEXT STOP is a serial podcast that is uniquely not a news program or an interview vehicle but instead a refreshing and — during this COVID period — necessary sit-com-set-to-audio-experiencing. Original episodes about trying to move forward as your friends move on will be released weekly, and the “pilot,” if such a thing exists in podcast land, is now streaming. As this week’s Thursday Spotlight, Eric shares the inspiration behind the series and the neighborhood bakeries, barbers, and buses he owes a thanks to for its creation. Follow the podcast on Instagram here, and enjoy the series!

Greenpointers: Talk a little about the genesis for this episodic podcast; I imagine it started pre-COVID?
I wrote the first drafts of NEXT STOP more than a year ago, February/March 2019. My roommate had just moved to LA and I had recently left my office job to be a podcaster with Multitude full-time. I poured my uncertainty with my job and life into these scripts and made them as funny as I could. Now that it’s coming out, jokes and affirmations of uncertainty are even more valuable.
It is produced through Multitude Productions — as in, is that your day job and did you create it as content for the company?
Yes! Multitude is a podcast collective and studio. The business has two arms: 1) a podcast collective where a group of podcasters lean on each other for ad sales, show promotion, and other help (we have a great Slack), and 2) the production side where we consult, make shows for clients, and create new original content like NEXT STOP. I’m the Head of Creative, where I shape the structuring, scripting, writing, and live show content.
Let’s talk about the world-building: why these themes, and who did you call on to collaborate with?
Audio fiction is a growing and vibrant genre in podcasting, but there is a looming hole of slice-of-life sitcoms — set in a modern and familiar world with lots of jokes, gags, and exaggerated hijinks.
Luckily, I have collaborators that I work with every day to bring this comedic world to life: Brandon Grugle, our director and post-production guy; Julia Schfini, our assistant director and casting director; and Amanda McLoughlin, Multitude’s CEO and the exec producer.
Do you live in Brooklyn/the nabe, and how has the artistic community treated you? What have your goals been in the city?
I live in North Greenpoint and our studio is right next to Transmitter Park! None of us worked for public radio or received formal training, and we found each other at NYU or while working in the city. When we can come together again, we want our studio to be a place for podcasting to grow and thrive. We hope to do more events and panels and open the studio up for all to record.
What do you hope for the future of NEXT STOP?
The ability to do a second season! We’re a small business funding this ourselves, and it’s a priority to pay artists what they’re worth, so we need to see how this season does before another one is greenlit.
We’re also releasing a massive resource about how to make a fiction podcast for free with Patreon, so I really hope it will be helpful for people diving into the genre.
Anything else you’d like to add?
The first episode of NEXT STOP is out now and continues weekly for 10 episodes! Shoutout Ovenly! Shoutout to Greenpoint Brewery for putting NYC breweries on their back! Shoutout Baddies, the best barber in Greenpoint and I wish I could have gotten my haircut earlier! Shoutout the B43 bus!
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Thursday Spotlight: The Generations- and Medium-Spanning Work of Eric Haze

Eric Haze in the Elaine de Kooning studio, East Hampton, NY

There’s a special nuance that comes with being a New York artist, and by that I mean a true New York artist: one who was not only born and bred here, but — like our great city — is a creature of change and advancement. Eric Haze is one such artist; his work has run the gamut, taking flight in typographic, graffiti, and even apparel-based realms. Recently featured in the show Beyond the Streets, Eric is a celebrated graffiti artist who — even as he approaches his autumn years — is now tackling new styles and concepts. As such, he has temporarily relocated from his Williamsburg studio to the prestigious Elaine de Kooning House in East Hampton where he’s completing a residency and painting faces and people for the first time. Elaine de Kooning painted Eric’s portrait in 1971; half a century later, he’s returning the favor. As we all should during our time away, be it at a renowned residency or while bunkered at home during a virus outbreak, Erik is casting inconsequential deadlines to the wayside to carve out a time made holy for creating, making mistakes, and beginning anew.

Greenpointers: You work in graffiti and started your career through that medium. I grew up in a more digital atmosphere, and I somehow wonder if people’s relationship to graffiti has changed in a less analogue world? I feel like people spend less time, while walking on the street, looking at public art and more time down at their phones. How have you seen the medium evolve?Eric Haze: Graffiti has evolved tremendously, it has now become married to what people consider street art. It’s been the rock and roll of the hiphop generation, and it’s not going anywhere. Obviously the internet has changed things from when I was a kid, once upon a time. If you wanted to know what was going on in New York or on the subways or in the Bronx you had to get on a plane or trains and come and see what is going on. Now the internet has created a level playing field, it’s not always the illegal activity it used to be but graffiti is in theory alive and well. Continue reading

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Thursday Spotlight: smallhome is Big on Dreams, Creativity, and Style

It feels funny to say we should welcome smallhome (100 Freeman Street) to the neighborhood, even though the brick and mortar storefront has only been around for a few months. But long beyond that period, its steadfast owner, curator, and artist Julia Small has been creating works and home goods at various shops and recognizable markets and pop-ups all over north Brooklyn. And while our Thursday Spotlight series often focuses on the denizens of the Pencil Factory and other kinds of fine artists, it feels important — especially during this tumultuous COVID period — to highlight the artists of many stripes who keep our vital small business scene thriving. Learn more about Julia’s diverse work and career below, and be sure to follow along on Instagram!

Greenpointers: Congrats on smallhome’s opening! How long have you been at 100 Freeman Street, and where were you beforehand?
Julia Small: I moved just down Franklin from Oak street last November. I had been in a pop up space I built out within the kid’s shop Flying Squirrel, and East Williamsburg (across from Artists & Craftsmen, Harefield Road) before that.

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Thursday Spotlight: Alison Clancy and Helping The Flying Dutchman Soar to New Heights

Photo of Alison Clancy by Andrew T. Foster

The press release for Greenpoint creative Alison Clancy’s new performance reads “post-punk mystic meets Wagner in ritualistic dance” — tickle me intrigued! A dancer, singer, and all-around-movement artist (and educator), Alison has worked in institutions big and small, from the Metropolitan Opera and Guggenheim Museum to dive bars and on Reality TV. And while her modern methods may seem to clash with the classical music she performs to, they are perhaps more aligned than one may think: Wagner, and his contemporaries, were the envelope pushers of their day; their charged, erotic, and emotional scores demanded more of their audiences, and performers, than what may have been the norm. As such, Clancy’s dance honors and uplifts these heightened states, creating a unified piece of singular performance. She recently made a prestigious solo debut in the premiere of the Met’s new production of Richard Wagner’s Der Fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman) Here, she speaks about this new show, which though sadly cancelled due to the coronavirus will also find a home on screens.

Greenpoiners: You’ve lived in Greenpoint for a number of years. What attracted you to the neighborhood and how has it treated you as a resident and artist? 
Alison Clancy: I moved here for a boyfriend, but I stayed because I love the mellow energy. It feels like a nice downshift from Manhattan, but there are still so many beautiful people and active culture.

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Thursday Spotlight: Alex Russell, the Artist Behind Greenpoint’s First Pictorial Map

Alex Russell with a dog!
If you made it to our recent Love Grows in Brooklyn market, you may have spotted a tall, friendly artist handing out maps like hot cakes. Sure, cartography is nifty and many a Brooklynite fancy themselves lovers of antiques, but this map was more personal to these buyers — some may have been able to even find their homes on it.

Alex Russell was selling his dynamic and delightful map of Greenpoint, the neighborhood’s first official pictorial as inducted by the New York Public Library. Affable and neighborly, Alex has been a Greenpointer for over a decade, carefully observing the ebbs and flows of the neighborhood from his home/studio above Moonlight Mile on Franklin Street. Those years here helped him craft this unique feat, but his time has been marked by more than just art: he took over The Brooklyn Label and, here, explains the many hands who have helped that business evolve. But after years in and out of the food business, he is now turning his attention to another map: he is now commissioned to create the The Great Map of Williamsburg. Learn more about Alex and his work here, and find out how to get your hands on one of his maps!

Greenpointers: Okay, you made the first pictorial of Greenpoint. That’s awesome! Let’s let you show off to begin: how did this come together, and how did you decide what elements to include?
Alex Russell: When I made the decision to move from Los Angeles to Brooklyn 10 years ago, my first choice was actually Williamsburg. I searched hard for an affordable apartment, but couldn’t find anything in my “starving artist price range.” That’s when someone told me to look just north of Williamsburg in an area called “Greenpoint.” I’ll never forget emerging out of the subway. It was February after a huge snow storm. I wandered through the streets and giant snow drifts. It seemed so desolate and industrial; I fell in love with it immediately. There was art and murals in every nook. I had stumbled into an old, forgotten, Polish, hidden secret. I secured the first apartment I toured, which would remain my home for the next decade. I snagged a server job at a “Mexican Street Food” restaurant called “Papacito’s” (now Esme). And I began my life trying to make it in New York City as an artist. It’s had its ups and downs, its triumphs and failures, but in between every gig I always allow myself time to explore new projects and new mediums in order to expand my skill set. The Great Map of Greenpoint started out as one of those projects.
When I began to create it, I sort of had in mind those tourist posters you find in bars and restaurants in tourist towns. You know the ones: super animated, cartoony, and colorful. I wanted to make one of those, but with the flavors I encountered in Greenpoint. I was spending a lot of time at places like St Vitus, Lulu’s, and Safehouse. The tattoo culture and art were strong. As I filled in the map with my local haunts, it felt akin to another one of my passions: scrapbooking. I’ve always enjoyed creating different kinds of time capsules. This was like that. And there was just something pleasing about the layout of the neighborhood. I liked how removed Greenpoint felt from the rest of the city, even though it’s so close it has (arguably) the best view of the Manhattan skyline. I liked that it was surrounded by water on three sides, like a castle with its moat, and McCarren Park capping it off at the bottom. I liked that the streets went in alphabetical order. But, like a lot of my projects, the map fell by the wayside.
Alex Russell’s pictorial of Greenpoint
In 2017, I opened my first restaurant, Brooklyn Label. Only one block from my apartment and one of my favorite brunch spots under the same name when I first moved in. It was the cornerstone of one of the oldest and most historic buildings in Greenpoint, “The Astral.” It was a dream. But to make a long story short, Brooklyn Label wasn’t for me and I left it to my partner in 2019. At the same time, my wife was going through some of our old things and found the map. She encouraged me to pick it back up and this time, finish it. That’s when I started reaching out to fellow business owners around town and getting everyone excited for the map. As far as I knew from my research, no one had done a map of Greenpoint since the 1980s, which you can find hanging in a few businesses. I wanted to make a map that you could find hanging everywhere, highlighting all of the places that were so special to me. Once I was finished and the map was released, Ian Fowler reached out from the New York Public Library’s Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, saying they would love to induct my map as the first map pictorial of Greenpoint in their archives. They would later partner with me on my next map, The Great Map of Williamsburg.

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Thursday Spotlight: Nicolás Noreña on The Million Underscores_ _, Collaborating with Your Husband, and More

A photo from a summer workshop of “Lapa” by Walter Wlodarczyk.

How to put the experience, creation, and witnessing of experimental theater into words? It’s not easy, which explains why it is such an innovative, textured, and vital art form. As a versatile theatermaker and educator in the city, Nicolás Noreña has often been at the forefront of this hard-to-define scene: he teaches at NYU’s ETW (Experimental Theatre Wing), is the artistic director of Brooklyn-based theater company The Million Underscores_ _, and is currently undertaking the herculean task of breathing new life into LAPA, a play written by the Russian absurdist Daniil Kharms in 1930.

All the while, Noreña builds community with his artists and plays with his husband (alongside other key collaborators). As his career will attest, no venue is too small and no story too untapped to be a transformative piece of theater — the most daring step on the audience’s part is to simply show up. And as Noreña testifies, there are myriad venues to frequent that support new work on our side of the East River. His is a career to follow to participate in some of the boldest theater being made today.

Greenpointers: You’re a multi-hyphenate creative and the artistic director of The Million Underscores_ _. Can you explain what this company values and creates?

Nicolás Noreña: Multi-hyphenate creative! I had to look that one up! (Laughs) I guess..? Technically I’ve never hyphenated I usually say I’m a theater maker. But yes that involves writing, scoring, directing, performing, producing, designing costumes, designing sets, and props building, and I think this is what gives our work a very specific identity — our full engagement with each aspects of performance.

The Million Underscores_ _ has grown over the years from our curiosity about how the different languages of performance and the languages of plastic visual composition interact. We make and perform our work with one foot in the theater and one foot in the visual arts, and that is fun because the visual arts have such deep, millennia-old, detailed conversations about the technicalities of art and the philosophy of what art is and what art can be that sometimes lack in the theater. But the theater has this living breathing thing between people as the material, and it has these spaces ran by communities that are very different from galleries, and have this ephemeral quality that make it so unnecessary and mysterious, so similar to life…so we have one foot on one and one foot on the other, but we come from the theater.

LAPA is our first show in which we are starting with a prewritten play, and this transformed the process from the very beginning.

You and your husband Timothy Scott often collaborate, as with this current project LAPA. I’m curious, if you don’t mind sharing, what it is like to work with your partner and what strengths you think each of you bring to the process?

Yes, Tim and I collaborate in different capacities, and with each project for The Million Underscores _ _ our way of collaborating changes. This piece we’re directing together which is as intense as it can get in collaboration. You know, working together is challenging and rewarding. I think it’s hard to keep the lines clear especially at home, our bedroom is our costume shop, prop storage, and sleeping area. Our car is filled with materials, more costumes, set pieces, etc. We go out on dinner dates while we plan rehearsal or design wings for the angels in this show. But we have fun doing this together!

Tim and I are very different and usually have nearly the opposite opinion about everything. So it’s always a process, we see one thing, then see the other and make compromises or find things neither of us imagined. I think particularly in this version where we direct together we try to see having different opinions as a way to make the world of the piece larger with more options of legibility.

I like very dramatic shapes and I’m pretty good with seeing a structure, setting the operative logics for a scene and coming up with ideas on the spot. Tim runs deeper and slower. He sees more subtlety, he’s better at directing the actors’ souls and making choices that are mysterious and strong. We’re directing this together because one day we showed up at home after buying the same book by Daniil Kharms. We had never heard of him before!

Photo of husbands Timothy Scott and Nicolás Noreña by Molly Gillis.

Daniil Kharms has a unique style. What has it been like to work with this text?

It’s been a wild ride we’re still on. Daniil Kharms said that he would like language to be so material that if it were to be thrown through a window it should shatter the glass. Now, how to perform that has been our question from day one. In LAPA we are attempting different ways of going at this question.

We are some times using both translations at once which is a very powerful way to make words very substantive (surprise!).

Some of the text is spoken live, some of the text is recorded in tape recorders held by the performers, some text is completely disembodied and just coming from the walls, some text is written in signs for the audience to read. So our version ofLAPA is in some way a journey of language, subject, and object.

We’re also working with an experimental violinist called Marija Kovačević who is scoring the text with noise and sounds and this has elevated the language to another operative level, it brings it closer to music, closer to sound.

There’s no one right path to make a living as an artist in New York. Can you talk about the jobs and opportunities you juggle in your career and what north star you keep in mind to bring inspiration to your work?

Well I think between Tim and I we’ve covered a wide area of jobs that have allowed us to continue working in the theater, including babysitting, retail, hospitality, farming, movie sets, and restaurants.

I currently teach at NYU in the Experimental Theater Wing, which I absolutely love but again it’s an adjunct position and that comes with its own challenges.

However, wether it’s babysitting or teaching at a university, I think my attitude towards these jobs has always been one of gratitude, giving thanks to these jobs for giving me enough money and time that I can maintain my curiosity alive in the studio, and have enough headspace to think about production etc.

It’s not easy, really making art is so much about making space for it in your life.

(Making space for art in my life, that is my North Star.)

The Million Underscores often presents at venues like The Brick, but fringier havens like The Brick have seemed to disappear over the years. Can you in any way eulogize the places you’ve worked, and sing the praises of companies/artist organizations audiences should support?

Well actually I disagree. After I graduated college in 2012 many spaces in downtown Manhattan closed. The Incubator, which used to be Richard Foreman’s Ontological closed to become an after school ballet studio, PS122 closed with promises of a future that played out quite differently… that was sad. As extremely early-career artists our only option then was Dixon Place (bless their souls!), and they’re still operating in downtown Manhattan!

The exodus of the experimental theater scene to Brooklyn has taken some years, but now I think there are some really solid venues in Brooklyn offering space for experimentation, performance, and community building. Beginning with the Brick; now under Theresa Buccheister’s artistic direction it is such a vital, vibrant, and diverse performance venue! There’s also Triskelion, Vital Joint, CPR in the neighborhood, JACK just moved to their new space, Target Margin Theater has an incredible gigantic theater in sunset park where we performed last Summer, Theater Mitu has a theater in Gowanus. And then of course there’s the Bushwick Starr that in some way paved the way for reviewers to take the L train. I think fringe spaces in Brooklyn are having some sort of renaissance, so we all need to support these spaces by going to see their shows, talking about them, chatting with people after, donating money or skills, making new shows for these spaces! This is what keep spaces and communities going!

Oh and of course, The Exponential Festival! It happens every winter and it is what connects all of these spaces. They have presented so many artists, we’ve been part of it twice! It really is very exciting what’s happening.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Come to see the show! We love meeting new people and chatting after the show over some beers. Some Kharms experts are coming and the conversation will be interesting!

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