Get Cultured — December 9, 2015 at 1:11 pm

NYC Spotlight: Mind The Art Entertainment and the Beauty of Collaborative Work

by

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New York City. When you see it from afar, you think of the bright lights that “blind” you or the fact that “if you make it here, you can make it anywhere.” The truth and deception in those statements live together like an old married couple that made it after some terrible years and realize they exist better with each other. For those that this truth applies, they’ve earn it through many years of hustling and networking, of heartbreaks and second guesses. At the end of the tunnel, there’s the bright light that will shine on you and blind those behind you. Not many new theater companies make it in the home of Broadway where every starry-eyed kid has come thinking that they are the best, that they deserve it more. Many of them end up living the fraud, not being able to deal with the facts of life that nothing good comes easy, and at the end go back to wherever they come from with horror stories about our wonderful, hustling paradise. Then there are those that create a space in which a community can thrive and find the dream they came chasing individually, but together. One of those companies is the highly imaginative, award-winning theater company Mind The Art Entertainment, which has taken this city by storm since 2007.

A darling of the indie scene, a fringe festival veteran, a collective of brilliantly creative minds, and a staple of the theater scene in NYC, Mind The Art productions are always a must see event. I got acquainted with their work a few months ago when I saw “Beware of The Chupacabra,” a stylish comedic musical which transported us to a pulp-ish jungle in Mexico where the creature from the title lives. I left that show with a huge grin in my face that followed me untill I saw their next production: A revival of their dark cautionary tale “Fatty Fatty No Friends.” I was not only impressed with their work, I was ready to talk to everyone about them. Ready to spread the word. So since I do have a platform to do that, I asked this dazzling group of thespians to answer some questions for us and get introduced to those that unfortunately don’t know them yet. Check their website http://www.mindtheartentertainment.com, get familiar, and read below why you should buy a ticket for the next show. Enjoy!

Talk to us about how Mind The Art came to be: how did it get together? What was it like when you started? Has the mission changed over time?

Mind The Art Entertainment was founded in New York City on March 7th, 2007 by four artists from varying disciplines, each brought together by the idea that art must remain a collaborative and ever-evolving medium. To this day, it remains our guiding principle, one grounded in a commitment that, as artists, rather than allowing ourselves to be bogged down by the limitations often found in our industry, we would instead seek to rise above them by joining together to self-produce original work.

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Your shows are very stylish yet accessible. How do you manage to do that?  How did you develop your quirky yet dark aesthetic?

We enjoy dark tales and stories, but more than that we like stories that are truthful and fun. Over the years, our aesthetic has changed and evolved and no doubt will continue to do so as we collaborate with new artists and find new ideas that we want to play with. And while some of our more recent shows may have a darker aesthetic, it is not something we generally set out to achieve unless dictated by the story we’re trying to tell. Rather, it is more important that the story itself be strong, unique, and accessible. Once that is established, then the rest simply follows from there

 

How does the process of choosing a new show goes? All of them original, how do you choose on what to work next and who is in charge of what?

It is in our mission that we only produce original work, and we feel very strongly that new work needs a place to be made.

In the case of “Fatty Fatty No Friends” and “Whiskey Pants: The Mayor of Williamsburg,” we have a three person writing team: Serrana Gay writes the book, Joseph Reese Anderson writes the lyrics, and Christian De Gre writes the music. We usually start with a concept that comes out of some sort of conversation and, in the case of those two shows, a title. We then talk and argue about what the show should be about and, once approved, Serrana goes off and writes a story. After that there is more debate about themes and ideas, and from that usually emerges the core of what we are trying to say with the piece. Serrana then outlines the moments/scenes that we need, and from that Joe writes some brilliant lyrics, which are then shaped both by Serrana and Christian as he writes the music and they figure out what works textually and musically.

Because we write operettas, it is very much a collaborative process of ebb and flow as the three of us really work together to tell the story. By contrast, “Beware The Chupacabra” is a book musical, a process with generally very defined roles on the creative end, and thus had a much more traditional writing process: Patrick Alberty wrote the book and lyrics and Christian wrote the music. “Chupacabra’s” creation was a little more straightforward as outline, book, and lyrics were finished before being passed on for musical composition.

 

Do you guys have a new show cooking for us? You’ve been doing great in Fringe for years, can we expect a new show in the next one?

We are currently writing a new show called “Moonshine in B Minor,” which will be premiering at the Kraine in March. It is a tragic love story set in the underworld, dealing with issues of hate, love, racial divides and what it is that keeps humans from being able to transcend them. The writing team consists of Christian De Gre, Joseph Reese Anderson, Serrana Gay, and our friend Chuk Obasi, who is a social political theatre writer, director, producer, and a spoken word artist.

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How can people get involved with your company?

There are a ton of ways you can get involved, and some of the best are also the easiest – send us an email, contact us via our webpage, or simply come out to one of our shows and say hello! We are always looking to meet new artists, no matter the discipline. If you’re a performer, keep an eye out for our auditions and let us see you in action. There are plenty of opportunities for non-actors, as well. In addition to musicals and operettas, we produce a number of projects in a variety of mediums, featuring artists from every corner of the creative world, such as our upcoming dance film series, as well as last year’s “The Dream Vault Cycle,” which utilized the creative talents of over 50 different artists – from actors, to painters, to musicians, to costume designers. For as many disciplines as there are, there are just as many opportunities and we like to help facilitate as many of them as we can.

 

Being that you guys are awesome, would you like to say something to those artists that have just arrived in this city and are struggling?

While NYC itself may be the proverbial “Big Pond,” the theatre community is far smaller and more tight-knit than you may think. For the thousands-upon-thousands of projects going on at any one time, everyone has a connection to each other (whether they realize it or not). With that in mind, it will ALWAYS behoove you to be as professional as you can be – be kind, be courteous, be attentive, and be respectful. Speaking for ourselves, we have a very strict No Asshole policy – theatre is one of the most collaborative forms of expression in the world and if one person is hindering that through a negative attitude or other actions that impede on the creative environment that we try to build with our artists, then that person has no place with us.

In addition to this, we have to say that this kind of life – one dedicated to a creative pursuit, more so in a city like New York – is not easy. The idea of the starving artist may be cliche but it is persistent for a reason. Very few of us can survive solely on our art alone, and for everyone there is a moment where you will ask yourself if you should keep pursuing your passion or let it go. Over the years we have seen many of our friends choose the latter, and while that is in no way a failure, it was plain to see just how difficult that decision was to come by. All of this is to say, if you love what you’re doing, are passionate about it, but aren’t seeing the critical or monetary acclaim come your way, don’t give up. The most important thing about art is that it is an expression of who the artist is, and when we let that fall by the wayside, we leave a bit of ourselves behind with it. Though the pursuit often seems scary, as we say in WHISKEY PANTS, it’s not so dangerous to dream. Just keep going – while the money or the acclaim may never come, you will always have that moment in time where you released your art into the world and stood above everyone else and declared, “This is me. I am here.”

Twisted Talk: Have you seen any of Mind The Art Entertainment’s shows? Do you support Off-Broadway shows? Discuss below!

2 Comments

  1. It”s a wonderful effort of Christian and Serrana. Congratulations. Eugenia Sarre

  2. Pingback: The Collaborative Mind - Boston Commons High Tech

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