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Taylor Mac 2017 Melbourne Festival supplied image photographer credit Little Fang
Photograph: Courtesy Little FangTaylor Mac

NYC's downtown theater stars join forces to help other artists

Adam Feldman
Written by
Adam Feldman

Downtown artists are an essential component of New York City's aesthetic identity. But artistic innovation, as thrilling as it can be to watch, is not often lucrative. Writers, performers and other creators on the cutting edge struggle to make a living even in this best of times—and we are not right now in those times. That's where the Trickle Up comes in. This week, the sublimely freakish performer and playwright Taylor Mac and 49 other prominent theater makers have joined forces to launch a subscription-based video service to raise money for artists below the poverty line, a problem that is especially urgent amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The model is simple. Subscribers pay a small fee—just $10 a month—for membership on the site. In return, they get to see a wide range of exclusive content by some of New York's most exciting artists. Each of the 50 founding creators has agreed to contribute at least three videos to the site, and more are expected to join; the initial group of 50 contributors include winners of Pulitzer Prizes, Tony Awards, MacArthur Fellowships and many, many Obie Awards. 

Here are some highlights among the videos that have already been posted: 

° Playwright Lucas Hnath shares a monologue from a cut scene from his 2017 Broadway breakthrough play, A Doll's House, Part 2.
° The Amazonian singer-comedian Bridget Everett, an unforgettable NYC character, sings a new song from her upcoming album.
° Mac performs a solo reading of last year's Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus, Mac's first Broadway play, in its entirety.
* Pulitzer-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks (Topdog/Underdog) sings an original song, "Colored All My Life" 
° Director Lear DeBessonet shares germane thoughts about the the history of the Great Depression's Federal Theatre Project.
° Kickass feminist comedian and performance artist Adrienne Truscott offers a trippy excerpt from her solo show This.
° Playwright Kristoffer Diaz enacts an odd little microplay, Julia and Eric, using Lego people.

The fifty artists kicking off the project include Ellen Maddow and Paul Zimet of the Talking Band and Peggy Shaw and Lois Weaver of Split Britches; performers Penny Arcade, Helga Davis, Ty Dafoe, Andre De Shields, Bridget Everett, Mia Katigbak, Bianca Leigh, Dirty Martini, Tigger!, Adrienne Truscott and Weirdos.TV; playwrights Annie Baker, Sharon Bridgforth, Lisa D’Amour, Kristoffer Diaz, Lucas Hnath , Lisa Kron , Taylor Mac, Dominique Morisseau, Lynn Nottage, Diana Oh , Suzan-Lori Parks, Sarah Ruhl, Lloyd Suh, Paula Vogel, Anne Washburn; directors Rachel Chavkin, Lear DeBessonet, Kristin Marting, Niegel Smith and Liesl Tommy; choreographers Faye Driscoll, Miguel Gutierrez and Annie-B Parson; designers Machine Dazzle, Anastasia Durasova, Clint Ramos, Darrel Thorne and Basil Twist; and musicians Viva DeConcini, Greg Glassman, Marika Hughes, Jeyn Levison, Dana Lyn, Sxip Shirey and Joshua Waletzky.

The money raised will be distributed to worthy artists in need (decided on by the group) in relatively large amounts: $10,000 per artist, which is enough to make a substantial difference in these artists' lives.  “As so many of us are people who currently or historically have lived below the poverty line, we know how hard it is to do basic things like buy groceries, and also we know how much a big lump sum like $10,000 can change your life," says Mac. "My first grant was $7,000 from the Peter S. Reed Foundation and was thanks to another artist, Elizabeth Swados, putting my name on the list of recipients…Getting that grant changed everything. Our hope is that we can do the same for an unprecedented number of artists.”

Let the trickling up begin.

RECOMMENDED: Our daily guide to the best live theater you can watch from home today


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