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The Chocolate Factory Commissions New Work Through The Pandemic Season

The Chocolate Factory Commissions New Work Through The Pandemic Season

Published on October 12, 2020
7 Daughters of Eve. Photo: Mathew Pokoik

Get To Know The 12 Artists Who Will Receive Support Over The Next 12 Months

Normally around this time, The Chocolate Factory Theater would be launching a “season” filled with “performances” for “human beings” gathering in “spaces”. Embracing the unknown unknowns* of the present (and unprecedented) moment, the performing arts organization has decided instead to announce the cohort of artists whose work they will support over the next 12 months:

Martita Abril, Justin Allen (with Taja Cheek and Savannah Harris, co-presentation with Issue Project Room), luciana achugar (co-commission with PICA), Laurie Berg, Leslie Cuyjet, Daria Faïn, Larissa Velez-Jackson, Millie Kapp + Matt Shalzi, Sibyl Kempson (co-commission with Abrons Arts Center), Andrea Kleine, Abigail Levine, Aya Ogawa (co-presentation with Japan Society), Angie Pittman, and David Thomson will each receive financial, technical and administrative support to conduct artistic research and/or create new work. Having invested in short term facilities upgrades to meet COVID safety guidelines, The Chocolate Factory’s current and (as yet unrenovated) future spaces will be made available to these artists on an ongoing basis throughout the next 12 months.

The Chocolate Factory’s commitment to these artists is open-ended and will extend into the coming year(s) as needed. More importantly - “results” are not the goal. Certain projects will manifest as films, publications, online performances, installations and outdoor events; others will live as research and/or will adapt to meet the artists’ changing needs and goals as public health and economic circumstances - and our shared realities - continue to evolve.

With major support from the Lambent Foundation, in 2020/2021 The Chocolate Factory will expand its pioneering commitment to addressing labor conditions within the independent performing arts community by paying all lead artists, performers, designers and technicians a fair hourly wage, on the books, for all rehearsal and production hours within our spaces - more than doubling our direct financial support for artists.

An extensive archive of The Chocolate Factory’s past performances is available at Launched in 2014, this unique (and completely free) resource has vastly expanded the impact of our work, reaching more than 75,000 viewers around the world each year.

Supported creative residencies for Martita Abril, Matt Shalzi + Millie Kapp, and Angie Pittman are curated by Blaze Ferrer. 

*Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, 2002

About The Artists

Martita Abril is a performer, choreographer, organizer, and teaching artist from the border city of Tijuana, México. She’s active in the NYFA Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program and has been a volunteer interpreter aiding families seeking asylum at Dilley Texas detention facility. Martita has collaborated with Lux Boreal, Kim Brandt, Yanira Castro, Yoshiko Chuma, Rebecca Davis, Daria Fain & Robert Kocik, Allyson Green, Mina Nishimura, Cori Olinghouse, okwui okpokwasili, and Will Rawls; and she was a performer in Simone Forti’s Dance Constructions and the Handles exhibition by Haegue Yang at the Museum of Modern Art. Martita is the Coordinator of Movement Research at the Judson Memorial Church and teaches at public schools through Movement Research Dance Makers In the Schools program.

luciana achugar (b. 1970) is a latinx immigrant from Uruguay; grew up mostly in Venezuela in political exile and developed her voice as a choreographer between New York and Montevideo, Uruguay. She makes work from the rage of being a LatinAmerican living in the belly of the Empire in a post-colonial world. She makes work as a practice of growing a new body; an uncivilized body, a decolonized body, a utopian body. She makes work as a practice of building a new theater, another/other theater, OTRO TEATRO, a utopian theater. I make work as a practice of growing as one would grow a plant. She makes work with a desire to escape the oppression of the arrow of time; to arrive at a place of beyond time, ritual time, body time...Since 2013 she has been developing her Pleasure Practice, a deeply sensorial embodied practice to allow for other knowledges to emerge from the knowing in the body, an embodied rebellion by practicing being in pleasure; a practice that she teaches internationally and that continues to inform her creative process and her relationship to making work as resistance and as a possibility for healing and mysticism. Her work has been shown in most contemporary dance venues in NYC and many venues across the US such as the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, MN and the Fusebox Festival in Austin, TX; as well as in a few Festivals in Europe, in Mexico, Cuba and in Uruguay. She was a two time Bessie Award recipient and once nominated; and has received many accolades such as the Alpert Award in Dance, the Creative Capital, Foundation for Contemporary Arts and the Guggenheim Fellowship.

luciana achugar in Otro Teatro. Photo: Ian Douglas

Justin Allen experiments with performance and writing. His work focuses on the ways aesthetic, structural, and conceptual features in art and language communicate social histories. He has performed at Performance Space New York and Brooklyn Museum with frequent collaborator Devin Kenny, and performed solo work at Movement Research at the Judson Church, BAAD! Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance, and ISSUE Project Room, among other venues. He has read his poetry, fiction, and nonfiction at venues such as The Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church, Kampnagel (Hamburg, Germany), and Artists Space. His work has received support from Franklin Furnace, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, and The Shed. He is from Northern Virginia and lives and works in New York City.

Laurie Berg makes work in a variety of forms including dance, performance, collage and jewelry. Recent works include EZ Pass(Roulette Intermedium 2019), scape: Times Square (co-commission by Times Square Arts and Danspace Project 2018), Ziegfeld Goes Down(as part of Charles Atlas Presents: The Kitchen Follies 2018), Terrifying Times Call For Terrifying Jewelry (Dixon Place 2017), and The Mineralogy of Objects (Danspace Project 2015/2016). Laurie is a 2020 Movement Research Parent Artist Resident supported by The Sustainable Arts Foundation. She is co-organizer of AUNTS (2009-present), was a 2016-17 LMCC Workspace Artist-In-Residence, the 2016 recipient of the Tom Murrin Performance Award, a 2013 New York Live Arts Studio Series Artist and a 2010 Movement Research Artist-In-Residence.

Leslie Cuyjet is most known as a performer whose body of work was recognized with a 2019 New York Dance and Performance "Bessie" Award for Outstanding Performer for sustained achievement. She has co-directed, designed, danced, and collaborated with a range of artists that include Will Rawls, Juliana F. May, Cynthia Oliver, Jane Comfort, David Gordon, Anohni, NARCISSISTER, Kim Brandt, and a canary torsi/Yanira Castro many among others. Her own work has been presented in venues across New York City including MoMA PS1, Roulette Intermedium, and La MaMa. She was a 2018/19 Movement Research Artist-in-Residence, 2019 AIR at Center for Performance Research, and a 2020 Dance and Process Artist at The Kitchen; with additional support by residencies at Yaddo, Marble House Project, and MacDowell.

Daria Faïn is a New York choreographer and director originally from the Mediterranean. Her work fuses her European cultural background with three decades of practice in Asian philosophies of the body, American dance training and theater. From this diverse background, Faïn has developed a unique movement and performance approach. She studied the classical Indian dance form Bharatha Natyam for five years in Paris with Amala Devi and in Madras, India with Swarnamuckie (State dancer of Tamil Nadu, 1982). In India she also studied the co-relationship between this classical form of dance and temple architecture. Additionally, she was deeply influenced by her work with the Butoh-based artist Min Tanaka.

Millie Kapp and Matt Shalzi began collaborating on performances in 2009. Over the last decade they have made eight major performances alongside numerous minor performances, audio projects, sculptures, drawings, and writing. They have had the honor of working with a revolving group of collaborators both in their work together and apart. They currently live and work in New York.

Sibyl Kempson/7 Daughters of Eve Thtr. & Perf. Co. Photo: Paula Court

Sibyl Kempson / 7 Daughters of Eve Thtr. & Perf. Co. Named for Brian Sykes’ genealogical theory on mitochondrial DNA, which posits that we are all descended along matrilineal lines from a very small number of original mothers, 7 Daughters of Eve unearths and contemplates – in contexts of live performance, ritual and installation – places in human and non-human history where science, religion, and feminism intersect. Sibyl Kempson began making performances at Little Theater and Dixon Place at the turn of the millennium. She launched the 7 Daughters of Eve Thtr. & Perf. Co. in 2015 at the Martin E. Segal Center at the City University of New York. The company’s inaugural production, Let Us Now Praise Susan Sontag, premiered at Abrons Arts Center in NYC the same year. Big Dance Theater’s production of Kempson’s play, Ich, KürbisGeist, premiered at the Chocolate Factory Theater in 2012. Other works have been presented by the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, The Kitchen NYC, New York Live Arts, the Walker Art Center, Salvage Vanguard Theater, Performance Space 122 and New York Theatre Workshop. Kempson was a resident of New Dramatists class of ‘17. Her second collaboration with David Neumann/Advanced Beginner Group, I Understand Everything Better, received a Bessie Award for Outstanding Production in 2015. Her plays are published by 53rd State Press, PLAY: Journal of Plays, and Performance & Art Journal (PAJ). Ugly Duckling Presse will publish “Invisible Horizon: A Religious Pamphlet” in December 2020. Kempson teaches performance writing at Sarah Lawrence College, Victoria College of the Arts/University of Melbourne, and through 7 Daughters of Eve.

Andrea Kleine’s recent evening-length performance works have been commissioned by The Chocolate Factory Theater and New York Live Arts. She is a five-time MacDowell fellow, a New York Foundation for the Arts fellow, and has received numerous commissions, grants, and awards for her work. Kleine’s essays and critical writing have been published in The Paris Review, Bomb, Critical Correspondence, Literary Hub, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Electric Literature, and PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art. She is the author of the novels Calf, described by Publishers' Weekly as "unsettling, scary, and often brilliant" and named one of their Best Fiction Books of 2015; and Eden, named one of "Summer's Smartest and Most Innovative Thrillers" by Vanity Fair and a finalist for a Publishing Triangle Award for LGBTQ fiction.

Abigail Levine is an artist working between New York and Los Angeles. Rooted in dance but moving across media—performance, text, drawing, sound—Levine focuses on the poetics of our body’s work, how we record and value it. Her latest work, the Restagings series, has been supported by Foundation for Contemporary Arts, New Music USA, and residencies at The MacDowell Colony, Center for Performance Research, Brooklyn Arts Exchange and Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts and presented at Fridman Gallery, Vox Populi (Philadelphia) and The Knockdown Center. Past works have been presented throughout the US, in Cuba, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela, Greece and Taiwan at venues including Movement Research Festival, Mount Tremper Arts Festival, Danspace Project, Roulette, Gibney Dance, Center for Performance Research, Knockdown Center, Fridman Gallery, Kennedy Center, Human Resources LA, Trinosophes Detroit, and internationally at SESC São Paulo, Benaki Museum (Athens), Hemispheric Institute Encuentro (Montreal), Prisma Forum (Mexico), Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (Cairo), Festival Escenario Urbano (Caracas), Días de la Danza (Havana) and Taipei Fringe. Levine performed with both Marina Abramovic (2010) and Yvonne Rainer (2018) in their retrospectives at the Museum of Modern Art and recently collaborated with composer Alvin Lucier on a staging of his Orpheus Variations at ISSUE Project Room.

Aya Agawa. Photo © The artist

Aya Ogawa is a Tokyo-born, Brooklyn-based playwright, director, performer and translator whose work reflects an international viewpoint and utilizes the stage as a space for exploring cultural identity, displacement and other facets of the immigrant experience. Cumulatively, all aspects of her artistic practice synthesize her work as an artistic and cultural ambassador, building bridges across cultures to create meaningful exchange amongst artists, theaters and audiences both in the U.S. and in Asia. The plays she created and directed include The Nosebleed (Incoming! Under the Radar), Ludic Proxy (The Play Company), Journey to the Ocean (Foundry Theatre), and oph3lia(HERE). Most recently she directed Haruna Lee’s Obie Award-winning Suicide Forest at The Bushwick Starr and its off-Broadway remount for Ma-Yi Theater. She has translated numerous plays by Toshiki Okada and numerous other contemporary Japanese playwrights into English that have been published and produced in the U.S. and U.K. She is currently a resident playwright at New Dramatists, a Usual Suspect at NYTW, and recipient of the President’s Award in Performing Arts, LMCC.

Angie Pittman is a New York based Bessie award-winning dance artist. Her choreographic work has been performed at The Kitchen, Gibney Dance, BAAD! (BlaktinX Performance Series), Movement Research at Judson Church, Triskelion Arts, STooPS, The Domestic Performance Agency, KnockDown Center (Sunday Service), The Invisible Dog (Catch 73), and Danspace Project (Food for Thought 2017, Draftworks, Platform 2018, A Shared Evening of New Work 2019). Angie has had the pleasure of dancing in work by MBDance, Ralph Lemon, Tere O'Connor, Cynthia Oliver, Anna Sperber, Donna Uchizono Company, Jennifer Monson, Kim Brandt, Tess Dworman, Antonio Ramos and many others. Angie has also been able to create collaboratively with Jasmine Hearn, Jonathan Gonzalez, Athena Kokoronis, and Anita Mullin. She holds a MFA in Dance and Choreography with a graduate minor in African American Studies, and is a M’Singha Wuti certified teacher of the Umfundalai technique. Her work has been supported by Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant and residencies through Tofte Lake Center and Movement Research. Angie is a founding member of Skeleton Architecture, a vessel of Black womyn and gender nonconforming artists rooted in the rigor and power of the collective in practice. Angie’s work resides in a space that investigates how the body moves through ballad, groove, sparkle, spirit, spirituals, ancestry, vulnerability, and power.

David Thomson is an interdisciplinary collaborative and performing artist who has worked in the fields of music, dance, theater and performance with such artists as Jane Comfort, Bebe Miller, Marta Renzi, Trisha Brown (‘87-‘93), David Roussève, Wendy Perron, Susan Rethorst, Ralph Lemon, Sally Silvers, Tracie Morris, Sekou Sundiata, Dean Moss/Layla Ali, Mike Taylor, Meg Stuart, Marina Abramović, Muna Tseng, Daria Faïn & Robert Kocik, Clarinda Mac Low, Alain Buffard (FR), Deborah Hay, Yanira Castro, Tere O’Connor, Beth Gill, Patricia Hoffbauer, Yvonne Rainer, Maria Hassabi, Fiona Templeton and Kaneza Schaal among many others. He has performed downtown, Off-Broadway and in London with the Drama Desk nominated a capella performance group, Hot Mouth, founded by Grisha Coleman, Jonathan Stone, Viola Sheely and Thomson. His own work has been presented by The Kitchen, Danspace Project at St Mark’s Church, Dance Theater Workshop, Roulette, Movement Research and Performance Space New York. Thomson was honored with a New York Dance and Performance Award (“Bessie”) for Sustained Achievement (2001), as part of the creative team for Bebe Miller’s Landing/Place (2006) and for Outstanding Production for his first evening length work he his own mythical beast (2018). Thomson has been awarded fellowships from United States Artists|Ford, NYFA in Choreography, MacDowell, Yaddo and The Rauschenberg Foundation. He is currently a LMCC Extended Life | Lifeline Artist (2018-21).

Larissa Velez-Jackson. Photo © The artist

Larissa Velez-Jackson (LVJ) is a NYC-based choreographer, movement educator and multi-platform artist. She uses improvisation as a main tool for research and creation; yielding dance, sound, internet art, humor and strategies of self-compassion in her original performance practice called, Star Pû Method (f.k.a. Star Crap Method). She was recently called “an adroit physical comedian” who “seems to be questioning entrenched conventions of contemporary performance” in The New York Times. She has been presented widely in NYC at: American Realness Festival 2011 and 2016, Chocolate Factory Theater 2014, The Museum of Art and Design 2016, Abrons Arts Center 2018 and in 2017 at New York Live Arts with Yackez, a collaboration with her husband, Jon Velez-Jackson. LVJ was nominated for a New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” award for Outstanding Emerging Choreographer and was awarded the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Grant to Artists award in 2016.

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