Raja Feather Kelly

Behind-the-scenes: How LUMBERYARD brings new works to life

When patrons stepped into the theatre last week for Raja Feather Kelly new work, they were joined by LUMBERYARD’s resident dramaturg, Melanie George.

The opening marked the first time George saw Another Fucking Warhol Production, after months of working with Raja Feather Kelly and his dance company, the feath3r theory, to fine-tune the piece.

As resident dramaturg, George played a central part in the support structure LUMBERYARD offers emerging artists like Raja Feather Kelly, tracking script edits and rehearsal progress to shepherd an artist’s vision to stage.

Such a partnership solves a problem many artists face: funds go toward production, leaving little available for additional costs such as developing a work with a dramaturg before it debuts.

“Raja Feather Kelly is just a unique person. He doesn’t talk or move like anyone else,” George says. “LUMBERYARD is helping him extend his reach.”

As with five other pieces featured at this month’s LUMBERYARD in the City Festival, we’re delighted to be helping to bring new works to life.

What is a dramaturg?

A dramaturg consults with authors, artists and choreographers on the composition of a work, offering an outside perspective on how it’s coming together.

They edit, fact check, draw out important themes and challenge the artist.

Dramaturgs also lead conversations about the works with the public.

The artist: Raja Feather Kelly

We were introduced to Raja Feather Kelly by other artists whose respect he had won.

In 2016, LUMBERYARD’s Artistic Advisory Board named him the recipient our annual Solange McArthur Award.

This formalized our relationship, connecting him with new resources and us with the opportunity to champion an emerging, progressive and already prolific artist whose work we believe will engage audiences.

To date, each of Raja Feather Kelly’s works have been inspired by the philosophy of Andy Warhol and include signatures of the former’s experiential dance-theatre style.

The piece: Another Fucking Warhol Production

There’s often a crowd outside The Kitchen, at 10th Ave. and W 19th St., but last Thursday evening, patrons were also greeted on a red carpet before being ushered to their seats and into the feath3r theory’s creative orbit.

The piece was “billed as a “post-ballet theater musical” and a “docufiction performance” purporting “to reënact lost footage from an imagined Saturday Night Live episode featuring Kanye West.”

The process: What LUMBERYARD does

LUMBERYARD makes every effort to be a guiding but invisible support to its artists.

In advance of Another Fucking Warhol Production’s opening, George was in regular contact with Raja Feather Kelly.

Their collaboration took the form of meetings, phone calls, texting and observance of rehearsals including those at Gibney Dance for a week before The Kitchen debut.

To enable an artist to focus entirely on their creative work, LUMBERYARD also provides:

  1. a full technical crew
  2. equipment rental and development fee subsidies
  3. local transportation
  4. housing and meals
  5. marketing support

Catskill, N.Y. audiences will be first to see new works

When LUMBERYARD’s Catskill, N.Y. facility is complete, dance and theatre companies like those from the feath3r theory will be in town for weeks at a time.

They’ll stay at LUMBERYARD and take advantage of Catskill, N.Y.’s unique campus-like layout to eat, shop and socialize while on rehearsal breaks.

After up to two weeks of preparation with the full use of LUMBERYARD facilities, Catskill, N.Y. audiences will be the first to see our artists’ new works.

Each performance will include a pre-show talk, providing context on the work and its performers. We also look forward to our post show receptions where the audience is encouraged to share their first impressions.

That feedback shapes the works before their official national and international premieres.

What’s next?

The final show in the LUMBERYARD in the City Festival is at The Kitchen, June 28 – July 2:

DEAREST HOME is an interactive dance work developed by Kyle Abraham and performed by Abraham.In.Motion, focused on themes of loving, longing and loss.

Tickets are sold out but there will be an in-person wait list that starts an hour before the performance (7 p.m. for 8 p.m. shows, 1 p.m. for 2 p.m. shows).

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