September 2, 2014
Rob Reese, Education Director of the new company Treehouse Theater, talks to nytheater now about the new space and the curriculum of their educational program. Rob is a director and playwright whose work is available on Indie Theater Now.
NYTN: We are so excited that there’s a new theater and theater school in Manhattan! Can you tell us a bit about how the theater came to be, and where it got its cool name?
ROB: Many people will remember the venue itself as The Former PIT (Peoples Improv Theater).
They outgrew the space and took over the old Algonquin Theater, and this theater lay fallow for three or four years. PIT owner Ali Farahnakian, caretaker of The PIT, decided to re-open the venue as a new theater, committed to the tenets of improvisation but branching out into all genres and types of performance.
What’s in a name? In May this theater opened as This Theater, which totally appealed to the Abbott and Costello fan in me, but it turns out not everyone wants to perform a vaudeville routine every time they’re pitching a show!
Since we’re so committed to collaborative theater, we opened the suggestions up to the public at large with our #namethistheater campaign. “The Treehouse” was a popular suggestion and it spoke to us as a playground, as being connected with our environment; it suggests growth, expansion, branching out (puns always intended) and it reflects the lovely hardwood floor and benches that decorate our beautiful lobby.
NYTN: You’re the Education Director for Treehouse Theater. What does that mean (what do you do)? What’s your vision for the educational program from the company?
ROB: I have the honor and responsibility of setting the curriculum for the program and for seeking out the appropriate, qualified teachers to execute that program. My two basic goals are:
The overall vision of the educational program is based in improvisational skills, techniques, and philosophies, but branching out into all genres of performance. We enjoy performers with wide skill sets who can consistently perform with spontaneity and joy.
NYTN: Do you want to mention a bit about your diverse background that prepared you for this gig?
ROB: Ali approached me specifically with this gig practically written for my resume. I trained in the “big three” improv schools in Chicago (I’m now one of the few NY-based teachers who studied directly under Del Close), and taught for Second City when they had their NYC Training Center. My NY company Amnesia Wars has performed in NY, the US, and worldwide, stretching the boundaries of improvised performance as well as mounting scripted and devised productions. I’ve directed and written in “straight” theater, classical, avant-garde and even opera (including Miranda, winner of the 2012 Innovative Theater Award for Outstanding Production of a Musical). On top of that I’ve worked in various capacities (including design and tech) for The Wooster Group, The Public Theater / NY Shakespeare Fest., Pilobolus Dance, Battery Dance, and many more. These jobs have not only afforded me great growth experience as an artist, but significantly expands the roster of people I can call upon as teaching artists.
NYTN: So what classes are on offer for the initial enrollment period? Who are the teachers?
ROB: I couldn’t be more excited about this initial slate of classes, the teachers are all amazing teaching artists with enviable qualifications and resumes:
For performing artist (and interested ‘civilians’) who are ready for their first improvisation class, our “Stage I” is being taught by PIT star Kaitlin Fontana, with whom I’m working closely to develop a syllabus in theatrical improvisation designed to benefit performing artists in all genres. Anyone who’s avoided an ‘improv comedy’ class in the past should be interested in this one.
For people who already have a bit of an improv background, I’m teaching a Scenework intensive, Second City veteran Pat McCartney is teaching a class in improvised characters, and Michael Gellman, Second City Mainstage Director and Training Center Director, will be stopping in to run a one-day workshop.
Just as exciting are our non-improv courses, designed to be accessible by improvisers and ‘straight theater’ students alike:
In addition to all of the four and eight week courses above we’ve got some single day classes, all taught by amazing teaching artists:
Single session, 4 hour classes are only $60 each.
4 Week classes are only $149 and begin the weekend of 9/13.
8 Week classes are only $249 and begin the weekend of 9/13.
Registration is open now at http://treehousetheaternyc.com/.